Sunday, April 24, 2011
Hopefully today has been a wonderful and relaxing day full of peace and love and chocolate eggs for everyone. My Girl Scout Cookies emerged from the freezer this morning and have been a delightful addition to my day. I've also thrown in a few chocolate pretzels for good measure. And I won't even get into all the stuff I took down at my friend's very smorgasbord-y Easter brunch. Yep. I've been eating a lot! And though it is Easter, I hilariously did manage to get my usual Sundays - the dread of the week to come, what I need to do, what should have been done. So yes, yes I am squeezing in a few loads of laundry and working on the other writing project I am terribly behind on (surprise surprise), but now I am once again bolstered by the option of eating myself into a food coma by way of Tagalong cookies. Ah, spring. Easter renewal at its finest.
It seems this is my standard Easter fare, - yay Easter! yay thanks for reading! yay, but I'm not going to write much today but maybe I will another time...and then I don't.
We'll see. I feel like I have had a far more phoned in crockpot this go-round, and it's not a proud feeling. Maybe there will be some cookie-fueled inspiration. We'll see.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Guys, as it turns out, I've got a lot going on today! A lot of stuff needs to get done and happen and occur. The time frame available to write something new and spicy here that is not just space-taking jibber jabber is not large. So, I've decided to attempt to share a piece I'd written (fiction!) that was then scooped by real life. Here's the real life story that appeared in The Atlantic maybe a month after , but take your pick about whether you read real life or the fake life I constructed first. I might read real life second, as it totally trumps my fake life description.
From the unauthorized autobiography of the Verizon Guy
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there here to hear it, does it make a sound? There was a time not so long ago when that tree would have asked, without hesitating, “Can you hear me now?” And you know what? That tree would have received smiles of acknowledgement. That tree would have been one of the funniest in the forest. That tree would have never been asked to leave (see, I’m still capable of being funny). But at the end of the day, it still would have fallen.
I suppose it is ironic that being the spokesman for a product promising universal connectedness with people all over the country and all around the world led me to the loneliness and isolation I feel today. I must admit, when I signed the contract for my first national t.v. ad, I did not see that coming. But I wasn’t wearing my glasses at the time, so I guess I can’t point fingers. But it doesn’t mean I don’t want to.
Being not quite that famous is not without its drawbacks. I achieved a status of recognizability that came with all of the life-disrupting personal invasion but none of the respect afforded to that of mega-stars. Eventually dinner in a restaurant rarely occurred without interruption from a stranger, but usually involved semi-mocking discussion of why the stranger knew my face. And my dinner was never paid for. Never. I assure you Matt Damon is never approached for being “that guy from the Bourne franchise I see on billboards and bus stop ads.” He is approached for being Matt Damon. I’m here to tell you that a rose by any other name – or worse, without a name – does not always smell as sweet.
I do have a name though. I was not born “the Verizon guy.” I was Paul.
My parents wanted me to be an accountant. Really. Seriously. Maybe Paul was the name of someone careful and conscientious? Though the Bible would have us believe otherwise. How careful are you if you’re falling off of horses? Accounting was not an idea without merit, though. When I was young, I loved math and numbers and still believed in the thrill of learning. Addition and subtraction were the mountains I could climb. Each math test that was returned to me with a sticker on top became the flag I planted at the summit of a new chapter in the math textbook. I could do it. I was impressive. Then I met pre-algebra, and it all went away.
I got fat, not just from pre-algebra, but more so because about the time the kids in my neighborhood ended their open invitation policy for joining in the fun and running around outside, my mother was toying with the idea of becoming a pastry chef. Suddenly just being in the same age range no longer meant you could walk outside and approach your peers and be assured of an invitation to do whatever they were doing or not doing – cool or not cool. Social stratification hit my block as my mother hit the butter cream frosting chapter in her cookbook. There was no escape. No batch was good enough. No batch buttery enough. No batch creamy enough. And until the literal crème de la crème was isolated in its purist form in the ugly 70s-orange mixing bowl that suffered the brutal beatings and mixings of my mother’s spatula-wielding mania, I was expected to support her progress and indulge in her failures by consuming any number of cupcakes and pieces of cake. My mother suddenly had arm muscles like Popeye from hours spent churning and folding ingredients in efforts to achieve the perfect icing consistency while I sat idly by, blowing up like Bluto. And as my frustrations at social isolation were compounded (multiplied, actually, but damn it all if I could figure out the equations to know that at the time) by my inability to isolate variables and proclivity for being foiled the wrong way by quadratic equations, my mother was encouraging me to indulge in the fruits of the labor that was frustrating her most. Batch after batch of perfectly acceptable and delicious baked goods were thrust before me to consume only to serve as confirmation that something was lacking. Can you tell nothing was ever good enough for my mother? You would perhaps then be able to guess that acting was not on the same level as accounting in terms of professional aspirations of an acceptable ilk for my mother, but my fate was sealed by the discerning eye of Brother Francis, and it was my mother herself who had insisted I attend Catholic high school.
I was culled from the crowd in fourth period study hall. Brother Francis was in charge of the theatre program at St. Simon Boys Preparatory, and I had absolutely no interest in being a part of his show. But that did not stop Brother Francis from working on casting with the cunning of a Hollywood agent and the ruthlessness of a mob boss. He knew that to get the talent, he’d have to offer something they’d want in return – point out what was in it for them, how they could overcome their weakness. For me, it was being excused from gym class.
Surprising to no one, it turns out that taking years off from playing with other children thanks to social shunning by one’s peer group makes a kid not that great and confident in gym class. Especially when the same boys that had done the social shunning were in that gym class, using their well-practiced, hard-earned nicknames for one another while calling plays in any variety of sports in which the rest of the gym class interlopers were now forced upon them and royally fucking things up with their unpracticed ways and terrible fear of physical failure, borne from their already-achieved social failure. Not that it was hard to go to gym class, or anything.
Brother Francis must have seen the dread in my eyes any number of times as I un-wadded my gym shorts from my bag as study hall ended, looking ready for a death march in fifth period gym, because that is when he approached me that one fateful day toward the end of study hall.
“Hey, Paul. How would you like to help me with something and skip gym class.”
I looked up at him, stunned and doubtful. I didn’t even have him for a class. How the hell did he know my name? And what on earth could he be offering?
This was back in the days before sex scandal was synonymous with the Catholic Church, so “help me with something” rang no alarm bells of suspicion in my teenage head at the time. This guy probably just needed help. What he needed, I was about to find out, was more convincing guidos.
While not a child molester, I would guess that Brother Francis was a member or a different subset of people who disproportionately seemed to find themselves in service to God, but this time to acceptably, to substitute for some lifestyle choices they dared not act upon but which are not morally reprehensible, unlike child molesters. At a different time, in a different world, born to different parents, I have no doubt Brother Francis would be at Elton John’s Oscar parties every year with his own super-hot boyfriend, sucking down bellinis and talking about the injustice of alterations to couture gowns that weren’t pre-approved by their designers. He’d be Broadway royalty in any number of capacities – choreography, directing, costuming, all of the above. But, unable to live that life, he came as close as he could by making production values at St. Simon Prep as close to the Great White Way as he could. Big on realism, he could not stand to put on a production of Guys and Dolls with such an obvious grease-head in the audience uninvolved in gambling, grift, and most of all, glorious, glorious choruses. I was too close to typcast not to be cast. So – in exchange for relief from the indignities of gym class – I became a member of the gamblers’ gang, and the theater bug did bite.
The fates did align. By the end of Guys and Dolls rehearsals, my costume had to be altered before opening night. Freed from hours with my mother after school (she was onto the soufflé chapter by then), I lost weight. I hit a growth spurt too. I was actually a pretty good-looking little gangster. And when the lights went up, suddenly there were girls. Googly-eyed girls from Elizabeth Anne Seton High were looking at me in ways I’d never seen before. It might have been the pinstripes and the fedora, but it didn’t matter. I was suddenly worth a look. It was enough for me to become a theatre kid.
Just a sophomore when Brother Francis plucked me from obscurity and misery, I went on to bloom a bit in the theatre world. I even gained enough traction and, let’s be frank, body hair to not care about gym by senior year. I had my own thing. And my grades were still good enough to keep my mom happy enough as they were good enough to get me into college.
Mom and Dad were of course waiting for college to snap me out of my dreams in the pretend worlds of theatre. The song and dance routine could get you to third base maybe, but they couldn’t feed anyone, in their opinions. I promised I’d take an accounting class my first semester just to appease them. After getting a D on the first exam the day before the add/drop deadline, I realized I was being given a sign. I did the math on that one, and dropped the class. And any illusion that I’d become an accountant. You would think my parents’ expectations would have also dropped accordingly, but it was not so.
I became a theatre major with a minor in communications. Yeah, it should have been cellular communications if there were a true force of fate at work there. But I really did kind of anoint myself in college for the role that would make me who I am today.
My parents never really got on board my theatre leanings, though they did come to see a few productions when we did plays they’d heard of that weren’t “too sexy,” as my mom considered anything by Tennessee Williams to be. But when I graduated and decided to take a coffee shop job in order to audition, they made no secret about the fact that I was taking the “actor” role a little too seriously, preparing for it a little too method for their comfort. No nice girl would ever want to marry an actor, much less date one. She’d starve!
I dated a few girls who I actually think were into the expectation that they’d starve with me. They hated food. It made them fat, which was just one more way they would not be cast in roles they wanted. Actors themselves, my lack of interest in buying them dinner was all too enticing for them, as was my lack of stability, long-term planning, and matching furniture. But eventually I realized a girl who hated food probably wouldn’t let me eat much of it, and with decades of baked goods under my belt, literally, I was not prepared to settle. Also, nothing was worse for an actress than a familiar role that required nothing from their dramatic range. A boring, normal girlfriend, which eventually became what I wanted, was not a coveted role.
I flew solo for a while. I got a little fatter. My mother worried about me. And fed me more.
It was never the Verizon gig that made my parents feel ok about me. It was Alex. Always Alex.
I met Alexandra at the coffee shop. I made her an Americano and she took the time to come back and tell me it was really good. I thanked her and said I hoped she would come again. She did. Soon I found myself pouring every ounce of my dramatic skill and flair into the preparation of her daily dose of caffeine. I started doing my hair before work and wearing better t-shirts. When I wore the shoes I usually wore to bars that were trendy and cool tennis shoes rather than my crappy tennis shoes that were brown-blotched from coffee spills, I realized I was in trouble. I really liked her. My shoes would undoubtedly be ruined by a day’s-worth of foam overflows and coffee drips. But I didn’t care if it would impress her. I had to do something.
I had a moment of panic wherein I realized that this girl might really just like the way I made coffee and have no interest in specifically seeing me every day, but rather whomever was holding a cup of addictive substance with her name on it. I was deeply into at least the fourteenth level of hypothetical scenarios and rationalization about what an idiot I was to think she gave a shit about me, much less liked me, when she spoke.
“New shoes? What’s the special occasion? You always wear the gray ones,” Alex said absent-mindedly, as she meticulously stirred her drink.
“Would you go out with me sometime?”
I blurted it out. If she noticed the shoes, I had to gamble. We could go on and on with our coffee gauntlet for years without knowing if there was more between us. I did not have time for that. I did not have time to wonder if I’d just lost a good tipper and steady customer. I was about to ruin my shoes and I damned better know if there was any reason for it.
“Sure. We don’t have to get coffee though, do we?” she replied.
“No. Definitely not.”
Just like my parents, I often marveled myself that I had managed to get someone as great as Alex to like me, or even tolerate me. She was fun and generous and tolerant of theatre and my underemployment. She hated hammy performers, especially if they were my friends, and would always give me fair and honest criticism of my own work. She liked eating. She hated how long her full name was and thought it sounded pretentious. She was the one who encouraged me to audition for some commercial gigs. She was the one who said I’d be a great cell phone guy. And inevitably, she was the one I hurt the most.
It didn’t happen overnight. It happened over 1 month, 2 weeks, and four nights. At first I was just on t.v. a bit more than before. But then Verizon’s ad team realized I really worked. America liked me. America wanted me in their living rooms. America wanted to hear me now. So why not make now as often as possible? And why not put me everywhere? Bus signs. Bus stops. Billboards. Afternoon t.v. Sports programming. Cable. Jeopardy! Jeopardy!! The time slot of the elderly! Even the elderly liked me. I was a nice young man who understood cell phones could be problematic. I wanted to fix that for Americans – young and old alike.
Relatives called when they saw me. Friends called. Friends I wasn’t friends with any more called. And then it happened when we were out to dinner. The night of our two-year anniversary. We were talking about what might come next for us. We were talking about how excited we were that we could pay all of our bills. We were talking about getting a dog.
“Your that ‘Can you hear me now?’ guy!” a woman passing our table on the way back from the bathroom said.
“Hi,” I said. I let go of Alex’s hands to extend mine toward a total stranger, a fact Alex would tell me about in the eventual breakup not quite a year later.
“You look just like you do on t.v.! Are you doing a commercial here?”
“No, he’s eating dinner here,” Alex said, trying to remind this woman of the boundaries of television.
“Oh! Are you pretending to be his girlfriend?” the woman said, even more excited at the prospect my commercial character might evolve to include a love story with someone or something other than just the fantastic service coverage provided by Verizon Wireless.
“Something like that,” said Alex.
Her retorts never lost their sting in the months ahead. A girl who was always able to keep things in perspective, Alex never thought I would be a guy who couldn’t. But part of her must have had some sort of animal premonition at my capacity to fail her. Something led her to ask me.
“Are you going to become that guy? I’m not going to be the girl dating the Verizon guy, am I?”
“Alex, can you hear me now?”
“Oh, fuck you,” she said smiling.
“Hear me. No, you will not be dating that Verizon guy. No.”
I was, unfortunately, wrong about that.
“It just happened. I don’t know what else you want me to say, and no, I can’t fix it. Yes, I’ve already tried, mom. I know she was a great girl. Don’t you think I know that?”
I didn’t know what to tell my mom when we finally broke up any more than I know what to tell myself now about all of it. It did just happen. It happened too fast and it happened without my being able to control it and it happened hard enough that I went along with it. I was suddenly someone everywhere I went, and my options were either to enjoy being recognized as a character and not myself, or go crazy being unable to just be myself. I chose the first. It seemed escapist. It seemed like a way to deal with it all. It did not account for my susceptibility to gaining an inflated ego from being liked by strangers.
When it did just happen, it just happened fast. Suddenly I was filming new commercials all the time in locations across the country. I stopped wearing glasses so people would stop saying “Can you hear me now?” to me, but then the contacts bothered my eyes so much I had to go back to glasses. Even with different frames, it didn’t matter. People knew I was the Verizon guy. “Can you hear me now was everywhere.” I was looking at posters of myself asking myself if I could hear myself as I was getting onto the subway. And coming out of the subway, there I was again. Waiting for myself. Asking if I could hear myself. There was so much potential for an identity crisis, I decided to own it.
I learned to say it in fifteen languages for filming. I traveled around the world. And eventually, I decided I was the Verizon guy. I made him cool, because there was no him without me. If there was no me that was not him, I would take credit for him. I was his look.
I was cool glasses before they were a thing. Tina fey owes me money for thinking glasses can make you a superstar. They can, Tina, and guess who got there first? Suddenly dudes everywhere were wearing plain uniform jackets to be sexy. Hipsters were looking at me – on their televisions, on their billboards, and in their mirrors. I was everywhere and I was them. And that’s where I lost me. Somewhere in there.
At parties, I was still him. I spent one party recording voicemail messages on the phones of everyone there in between taking pictures with people and prank calling others. We pretended there was a Verizon contest and got people to tell us they could hear me. It was fun. It seemed harmless. I hadn’t really noticed Alex was hanging out in the kitchen all night. When I found her coming inside after having smoked a cigarette on the fire escape with a few moody single dudes, I was worried. She didn’t smoke.
“Hey are you o.k., Alex?”
“Listen, Paul, there’s a big difference between hearing me now, and listening to me now.”
“Hun, are you drunk? What are you even talking about? That’s the slogan.”
“I know. And I am drunk. Just remember what I said.”
“O.K., I will.”
“Good,” she said. And she seemed to mean it.
Then another thing just happened that she swears she forgave me for, but I will go to my grave believing that was the final straw for Alex. I was rich. I was happy. I wanted to go buy a ring to propose. It was New Year’s Day, and I could not believe Alex had gotten out of bed early. We had gone to a media company party the night before that had been stocked with incredibly good, incredibly free champagne, and I could tell that, despite my optimism for the year to come, I was going to have a hell of a hangover.
Alex came into the bedroom in running clothes, sweaty despite being bundled for the cold. She had bought a beautiful new dress for the party last night, which was still thrown over a chair in the corner of the room. It had been a splurge, but she looked amazing in it, and we’d had such a great year, it seemed fitting that she should have a new party dress to celebrate. At first I thought her cold attitude was from seeing the dress again and feeling guilty about spending so much money on one dress. A paralegal, Alex was not a big spender on that which was not deemed a necessity. I tried to lighten the mood to see why she could already be so tense while I was so hungover.
“You’re really ushering in the new year, already giving it the runaround, I see,” I said, aware that I hadn’t made that much sense.
“Yeah, wanted to get some air,” she said, not looking at me as she moved around the room faster than I would be able to do all day.
“It’s January. It’s freezing outside.”
“Well, it’s still a nice day.”
“You looked so good last night,” I said, trying to take a different tact.
“Thanks,” Alex replied coldly, not looking at me, as she grabbed the dress slung over the chair and crumbled it into a laundry bag.
“Whoa, don’t be so rough with a dress that hot!”
She pivoted faster than most NBA centers, turning to me with a look of pure rage.
“You don’t remember, do you?” she nearly whispered.
“You don’t even. Fucking. Remember,” she continued as she threw the bag, dress hanging sadly out of the top, into the corner with our other dirty laundry.
“I was pretty drunk, Alex. Might still be. Can I get a little help here?”
“Alex, what did I do? I can’t fix it if I can’t remember.”
“Oh you can’t fix it is right, Paul.”
“Alex, tell me.”
“No. It’s too degrading.”
“Fine.” She tapped her foot a few times before leveling the blow – the depravity of which I still could not fathom, given her state. “You said it.”
“What? Said what, Alex.”
She was crying. I could see that she was just at the beginning of tears that had been forming throughout her entire run, and probably the night before, and who knows how long before that, and that they were all going to come gushing out now.
“What do you mean ‘what?’? What do you always say?”
“That I’m the luckiest man alive to be with you?”
A sob. My last attempt to salvage this without a full-blown metldown was met with a sob. She was crying so hard that her shoulders were shaking as she tried to get out more words.
“Nooo-o-o-o-o,” came with the heaves of her tears. The next was whispered. “You said ‘Can you hear me now?’ to me.”
I was out of bed now, trying to grab her shoulders to comfort her and pull her toward an inevitable forgiveness hug.
“Honey, I say that sometimes when I get wasted, of course I’m sure I said it to you once or twice last night.”
I could not have said something much worse than that. She wriggled away from my touch, her entire face reddened, and screamed.
“NO! Not just at a party! NO!!! You asshole! You said it during sex! When you…UGH!!! You disgust me! You said it. You said it to me. You said it to me.”
“Oh my God, Alex, I am so sorry, you know I never would want to – ”
The slam of the bathroom door saved me from having to say something good enough to make things right, as it was clear at that moment, nothing I could say would make it right. She went to a friend’s that day to watch football. All day. I stayed home with my hangover and felt the worst I had ever felt in my entire life, and wondered what her friends were saying if they were hearing the story behind why she was taking her own hangover on the road, sans live-in boyfriend, and wondered if I’d still be awake when she came home, if she came home.
Flowers. Dinner. And I took her on a daytrip to ice skate on a frozen lake that she’d always wanted to do. But it took some time to recover, and still some signs that she hadn’t really let go. Drunk once, a few months later, after margarita night with work friends, she laid into me.
“You know, you don’t really have an entire flock of people behind you all the time. You don’t have that network. That’s not a real thing.”
“I know. How about a snack before bed? I could make you some nachos,” I said, hoping to change the subject.
“I’m your network, Paul. I’m the one who’s got you covered, ya know?”
“I do. You’re certainly my favorite contact.”
That worked at the time, the urge for drunken snacks being overtaken by the urge for drunken sex at the mention of contact. But her words still stuck with me.
I had already picked the ring, but not yet bought it, when she ended it. One Wednesday, I came home with Thai food and she had her coat on.
“I can’t anymore, sweetheart. I love you, Paul, but I can’t. I can’t.”
“What? Wait, Alex, where are you going? What are you saying? Take your coat off.”
She was already crying. After talking, screwing, reheating thai food, eating, crying, talking, and screwing again, Alex called in sick to work, and we were officially broken up. It was amazing how quickly we were able to apply the clinical remove to our situation that we needed to be able to make decisions about moving and the apartment and whose stuff was whose. Like everything else, it was sudden. It just happened. But I never stopped thinking it was my fault.
It took a while, but I eventually got to the point where the combination of self-loathing and self-pity became so potent that I decided to use the Verizon guy persona to get laid. I would wear clothes that made me especially Verizony. I’d add extra gel to my hair so I looked so shiny that I was noticeable to strangers. I’d look puzzled on the subway or talk on my phone just so people would make the connection. If I noticed someone checking me out and recognized the look of someone wanting to talk to the Verizon guy, someone I wanted to bang, I’d ride extra stops just to give them the chance to get the bravery to strike up a conversation with me. And it worked. Surprisingly, disgustingly, it worked. Chelsea Handler even did me after a fundraiser just for the punchline, though really, couldn’t she have done a joke without the sex to legitimize it? I really doubt Larry the Cable Guy is out there installing cable boxes in his off time just for the act. But whatever, I took the sex. I used the image that I felt had used me up and made me drop the only connection I really cared about. The only person who liked me in glasses before my notoriety as an ad man, and that includes my mother.
And that’s how I ended up fat again. I ate a lot of cupcakes again. My mom is a sympathetic baker, and it worked. I tried to not be him. It was a win-win situation. Heal my pain with cupcake medicine. Get fat to the point of only moderate public recognition. “The Verizon guy got fat.” Try having that be your new Twitter claim to fame. Or finding a picture of yourself online as a result of searching that sentence. It hurts. The phones I sold to you are how you tell the world that I am fat. How you post it on facebook. You’re so connected you’re connected to who I was, who I am. I hear you now - always. I hear the voice of my ex girlfriend, my mother, the kids in school. I get it. Now community theater is back to being my basic plan. Just great. But I feel a little better. At least Alex doesn’t have to stare at giant versions of my face all day any more. I mean so far they don’t want the fat Verizon guy for iPhone print ads.
It’s hard to be asked to come back to be the guy I’ve been running from to introduce the Verizon iphone. That’s great that Verizon is up to speed, but I don’t know if I’m back yet. Mr. Whipple came back years later for Charmin, but I’d still have to wait decades for that kind of traction. And the worst is I have to see stuff like I saw last weekend. I saw this guy using his new iPhone on his fun hot hip date with a hot little indie girl. You know what he’s wearing? Glasses. Bigger than mine. My hipness is now obsolete. Pretty soon Jared will be asking me if I’d like to cross promote Subway sandwiches and accompanying weight loss with some sandwich app that lets you count calories like a text plan. Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Is Fogle in the phonebook? Maybe I’ll ask my agent, if he’ll even take my calls. That’s the hardest part of all this you know. Networking.
Friday, April 22, 2011
3. 9 p.m. - Crosswalk of a Prince concert – Despite there being an actual crosswalk painted on the ground, an estimated 15 pedestrians in the crosswalk, and a traffic cop directing said pedestrians across the street, a gentleman in an escalade began accelerating into the crosswalk so that he could, presumably, snake the traffic that accumulates when everyone is trying to park for a Prince concert. The traffic cop used a very firm, stiff-armed "STOP" motion to let this guy know that was not going to happen. The gentleman proceeded to roll down his window and ask questions about where to go to get in. As if the giant 2 lane line of traffic he was stuck in all flowing in one direction wouldn't answer the question. When the cop explained that he was currently physically next to the parking lot, that was visible to all, to the right, the gentleman tried to then motion and agree to that location as if trying to trick the cop into letting him DRIVE THROUGH A CROWD through a hole in a gate to park. The cop was not falling for such shenanigans and indeed gave him a look of "Oh hell no, sir." It was astounding. Yet I am confident that gentleman does similar self-serving feigning of ignorance on the reg. Just a hunch.
4. Noon – parking lot near bank – speaking of hunch, I did a double take while spying a gentleman who was driving with his dog slung across his shoulders just beneath his headrest. It was as though he was wearing a live mink stole. But the stole was a dog. And actually not a stole, but more of a travel body pillow. Like, if he covered it in stretchy fabric, he could take his dog on planes and sleep with him wrapped around his neck. I've seen birds on shoulders and cats on backs, but this was my first driving pillow dog sighting.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
At one pool location, there is typically an intense 10-15 minute period in which anyone in the women's locker room is unable to escape the social circles, and accompanying distresses and joys, of 11-14 year old girls. As a former 11-14 year old girl myself, it is both enlightening and challenging every time. It is hard to remember ever acting that way, but I am certain I did as, well, everyone of them pretty much IS acting that way. Or trying to get in on the action of the alpha girls who are really good at acting that way. Or trying to escape the notice of the alpha girls who are acting that way.
What do I mean by "acting that way"?
Well, high-pitched shrieking for no reason. Very loud discussions of absolutely mundane matters for no reason. Inquiries about vacation days, workout schedules, siblings, school topics, school projects, school papers, school boys, school girls, mothers, fathers, birthdays, parties, iPhones, cars, backpacks, teachers, life as they know it. All at VERY loud volume levels. Especially if someone needs to interrupt someone else to make sure their point is conveyed.
There's also a certain hysteria of activity as everyone tries to do the same thing at the same time and be a part of the communion of shampoo that occurs - regardless of how many adult outsiders are waiting to use a shower - all at once. The water wasted alone would make anyone who actually pays a water bill or watched an episode of "Captain Planet" insane. These girls are too young for both. Too loud for adult ears to hear, especially amplified in the damp echo chamber of a brightly tiled shower room, all nozzles blazing. The only way to get silence and downcast eyes (though occasionally you can catch curious eyes, if you're fast enough), is nudity.
These young women are at an age where they are unable to stop staring at the bodies of adult women, and completely mortified to be seen naked themselves. Never mind that their main recreational activity involves bearing most of their skins' surfaces by way of swimsuit coverage only. These girls would rather be burned alive than have you glimpse their naked flesh.
The adult women take off their bathing suits and let it all hang out. And yeah, it hangs in a lot of cases. The not quite adolescents - mortified. They stay bolted into their suits like superhero action figures.
So today, it was completely fascinating to overhear political discussion by these young women. President Obama is coming to Los Angeles tomorrow and will be approximately 25 yards from the location of the pool. The obvious topic of discussion was, in fact, Obama's visit. Traffic would be a mess. Things would be crazy. Oh my God. Oh my Gahd OhmyGAWD.
Derivations and varieties of "Oh my God" are quite popular with that age group.
One girl, it was determined, would be going to Obama's appearance in person (OHMYGOD!). One lucky girl? That depends on who you ask.
Below, my closest recollection of verbatim girl talk:
Girl 1: Yeah, it costs like, a hundred dollars to see him and it's tomorrow, I DOUBT there are any more tickets. It's a fundraiser.
Girl 2: A fundraiser? Fundraiser for what.
Girl 1: The election and stuff. So he can run for president again.
Girl 2: (incensed) What?! He wants to be president again!??
[author had to keep head down to not look at the girl to be like, are you serious? There's an age that does not know that's what happens politically? Yes, and she was it]
Girl 1: Of co-oourse.
[author was relieved that this girl was also shocked the other girl didn't get it]
Girl 2: Oh. I don't really like him.
Girl 1: What? Why
girls 3-7 descend on the conversation. clearly Girl 2 has a minority, and unpopular opinion
Girl 2: I just liked McCain better. I'm a republican.
[author tried to remember whether she claimed party affiliation at that same age and tried to ponder whether this girl had any idea that she was blindly adopting the stance of her parents, while also noting that the other girls too clearly knew Obama was cool and, to their perspective, RIGHT]
Girl 1: Oh.
Girl 3: I love Obama. I'm going tomorrow.
Girl 4/5/6: You're GOING?!?
Girl 3: Yeah. (to Girl 2) Why do you not like Obama?
Girl 2: I just liked McCain better. I'm not even that political. I just liked him better. Why do you like Obama?
Girl 3: Because he's black and I'm black. And he's awesome. No, you know what? Actually he's biracial and I'm biracial. And I'm a democrat. Why do you not like him, exactly?
Girl 2: I dunno, I just don't. I don't like the things he says.
Girl 3: So you mean, you don't like his politics? Like, it's not that you don't like him as a person, right?
pregnant pause in which girls 1,4,5, & 6 wait for girl 2 to answer correctly. [author also waited through the tension]
Girl 2: No, it's his politics. I don't like those.
Girl 3: Ok, yeah.
Girl 1: It's going to be so crazy tomorrow.
Girl 3: I know and I'm going!
[author nearly falls over while trying to make stealthy escape when shoe gets caught, ironically, in a no-slip mat]
Girl 1: (to author) Are you ok?
Author: Yep! My shoe got stuck!!! Ha!
[author flees in horror at her own clumsiness and is in awe at witnessing a political discussion that was both about young girls upholding the viewpoints they'd been taught in their homes and by friends' opinions (and probably Jon Stewart or their favorite celebrities) as the right ones to have, and Girl 3 simultaneously using a discussion about politics to ask her friend if she was racist. Because that is what her eyebrows and face implied. And what the whole room waited to hear her answer to - it's not personal, right???]
Even if Girl 2 had a well reasoned argument about Obama's moral failings as a person and had a picture of him kicking a puppy dog, she could not have said any of that without confirming the subtext that ehhhh maybe she didn't like him just because he wasn't a white dude like her parents hang out with. Remarkable unspoken interaction to see.
Also, I feel like I remember having pseudo-intellectual arguments at that age just to try to seem smart and mature. Not that any smart mature people I knew were having debates in sitting rooms or town halls. Just funny that it seemed to be both completely par for the course of events in the locker room, and yet had a remarkable weight not usually found in the conversations of these girls. And it was also interesting to see how deeply some of the girls personally identified with a political side. Um, duhhhh, I'm a democrat!
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Palm Sunday is one of the longest masses of the year because the readings tell the story of the end of Jesus's last week once he gets to Jerusalem. For this occasion, the congregation is usually allowed to sit because - eh, it takes a while. Today however, I also noticed Palm Sunday is the only day where everybody is kind of given a toy to play with. Not really, that's probably sacrilege, but the Palm fronds that are blessed and then waved to reenact the adoration of Jesus as he rode into town really are a great source of distraction and fidgeting for young and old alike. Today the frond action was intense. A small girl, I'd guess she was maybe 4, used hers to try to tickle her mother's nose ever so slightly while her mother was kneeling to observe the death of Jesus. The girl was understandably confused when her mother did not find her joke tickles as amusing as they indeed were. I liked this girl. And so too did the man in the pew in front of me who made her a cross out of his palm frond. The girl was surprised and, well, completely tickled. A new toy of a sort made from the toy she had too. She showed her mom and aunt her new palm cross with surprise and pleasure. An unexpected gift from a stranger. But as cute as the little girl's face was in showing off her cross to family, it was nothing compared to the man in the pew behind her. Her delight was his. Pretty good stuff. He made her another one before the story was over!
Friday, April 15, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
You Scream, I scream we all scream for ice cream! (and can you believe there's another Scream movie?)
Monday, April 11, 2011
Sunday, April 10, 2011
So, as I stared at this blog's homepage wondering what to write about, I found myself becoming totally entranced in the motion of the fish at the top. Like a cat staring into a virtual fishbowl with the top open, I sat silently staring, trying to detect a pattern in their behavior. Though they definitely are not as enchanting as real fish (and have been described by more than one person as "looking exactly like sperm"), it's still amazing how long fish in motion can be of interest to the eye.
Considering this sent me to the archives of childhood to consider great fish tanks in days of yore. My pediatrician had a huge fish tank. It was positioned high enough in his waiting room that you could stare up and see all of the fish moving, floating, and swimming among the green plants that were stuck in there without actually being able to paw all over the glass or do anything that might result in injury to fish or child. A great way to pass the time if other kids were playing with all available toys or reading all the Highlights for Children magazines. My pediatrician also gave you a pretzel stick when you were done with your appointment. Good times.
Mr. Rogers also had a fish tank that figured into childhood. He let us watch him watching the fish. It was confirmation that yes, yes that curiosity you have IS ok. They are interesting to watch. Go right ahead. And, he also took special care to feed them, providing us lessons in what it means to have a pet. Gotta take care of them! Responsibility and curiosity - no wonder he was such a good neighbor.
In teen years, my dermatologist had a rather large fish tank. This one made the pediatrician's fish tank look like child's play. And, thinking about it now, made dermatology seem like an obviously lucrative choice for medical specialty. She had tropical fish. Not only was the tank bigger, but the fish in it were bigger. And exotic colors and shapes and sizes. Electric yellow and luminescent blue fishes would make their black eyes unmoving and stop their swimming all together, hoping that I wouldn't see them there if I were a predator. Well, the cruel joke was that they were on display and trapped. Yes, yes I could see them. But I guess they had the upper hand in not having out of control acne. The other fish probably weren't making fun of their awkward teenage years. And, safely exotically out of reach to human hands, they were not in danger of being caught, even as they were definitely being seen.
I don't know why it's fascinating and spellbinding to watch water creatures move. I even like lobster tanks. Though I guess because maybe I've never chosen one to eat? I dunno. Just neat to watch the underwater world.
I should probably look into scuba diving, huh. Snorkeling at least.
Or, barring that, go to a doctor's office.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Well, after discussing "Law & Order" a bit yesterday, and a bit more with loyal crock reader and entertainment connoisseur Den, and further reflection upon my real and true love for the original (and best!) version of the show, I decided to go ahead and share my review of ABC's new series "Body of Proof," a show that ehhh, I'm going to say stole a character model from "Law & Order," then expanded a bit and borrowed some Grey's Anatomy themes to make a one-hour drama I'm giving a C. But do recall that I have exacting television standards (though I watch a great deal of crap) and also that my loyalty to "Law & Order" makes my reviews of anything that might borrow from it a bit harsh. For instance, my take on "Law & Order Los Angeles"? Abomination.
Really. Talk to me, Dick Wolf. Why the melodrama?
Dana Delaney stars in "Body of Proof" as a neurosurgeon turned medical examiner who takes to solving murders based on the clues the dead bodies themselves give to her about the lives they lived and the emotions they felt, which in turn lead her to the real killer rather than the easiest target and most obvious choice of individual on whom to pin the murder and call the case closed, which is invariably the tact taken by the, we're to presume, donut-loving schlub of a detective who doesn't respect the medical examiner's powers of deduction, because aren't you just supposed to slice up dead people and not be a mouthy broad anyway? Yeah. Looks like he's learning a lesson or two about powerful women! And our hard-nosed coroner had to start working with dead people to let her own emotions come to life! Quite a twist!
I have seen 2 episodes of this show, the pilot, and episode 3. I gave the show a second chance after watching the pilot and saying out loud to my television at several points "This show is so bad!" because I had initially had a so-so reaction to the pilot episode of the Fox cop show "Chicago Code," but now have added it to my DVR list as a regular. Also, television is currently in that doldrums period before May sweeps but after shows air their regular episodes in which I am scrambling for new blood on the boob tube. "Body of Proof" did enough advertising for me to give it a shot, but this new blood, like the blood on the show, is, unfortunately, cold.
Dana Delaney is ok and apparently remembers all of the basics of putting on rubber medical gloves for dramatic effect from her days on "China Beach," but her character on that show was far more charming for seemingly having nuance as a human being, which this new character is still struggling to establish. We're to believe that this super type-A hardnosed, take-no-prisoners-or-B.S. coroner only became one after literally wrecking her own career, marriage, and relationship with her daughter by way of driving and fighting with her ex-husband while on her cell phone and ending up T-boned by an oncoming car, which put an end to her days as a neurosurgeon. Now, I'm even willing to take the leap that a neurosurgeon would become a coroner, but she's seemingly the coldest fish in the morgue, stiffer than the stiffs she slices and dices, only finding redemption by slowly realizing she should connect with other people around her, all of whom are wowed by her brilliance yet put off by her icy attitude. List of coworkers who are impressed and puzzled and loving and hating her includes:
- Curtis, a character who is, in my opinion, the male Jackee of this series. He's sassy and African-American and eh, I'm going to go ahead and say I find him moderately insulting in the flatness of his character. He doesn't get the respect afforded Dr. Hunt (Delaney), and everyone calls him Curtis, even though he's a doctor. Trying to prove himself on part with Dr. Hunt and not threatened by her as a person has, thus far, failed miserably and comically, but don't think he's not bringing the sass as he learns the hard way she is not one to be trifled with. Sigh.
- The young nerdy guy who wants to learn all he can from her and is also helplessly inept at dealing with human beings
- Jeri Ryan, an inexplicably hot boss who I still can't determine whether she's a cop or a medical examiner or a city official? Somehow she's a hot, self-assured boss who wears the business clothing that characters on soap operas wear to show they're businessy yet sexy, and is slowly trying to chip away at Delaney's tough exterior while still being in power above her (in a position I don't understand). I'm still hoping that her character ends up being a lesbian, because otherwise I am confused about the instances in which she shows tenderness to Dr. Hunt that to me seem to also be slightly like she's trying to seduce her. Someone let me know how that storyline plays out!
- The schlub cop who is, much like the sassy black man, right out of central casting in his annoyance and schlubery when confronted with the no-nonsense sophistication and troublemaking of this new coroner who'll NEVER back down when it comes to avenging the deaths of the bodies she's given. I could not figure out why the actor playing schlub cop looked so familiar to me and in a role that was so different from schlub cop or at least way more likable. I kept thinking of the guy who was the Dude's landlord in The Big Lebowski. Turns out this guy was Margie Gunderson's wife in Fargo. Lovable. Adoring. Into his stamp art. That guy in a very small movie part in which I'm guessing he had about 12 lines total was completely and totally a well-rounded and real and believable character. This? Not so much. We get it. He's going to have to learn to work with and appreciate Dr. Hunt. And vice versa. But is it really going to be a "tell me what killed the guy and then beat it!" conceit every episode? Looks that way.
My guess at inspiration point for this show is, because she was fantastic, the M.E. on "Law & Order," expertly played by Leslie Hendrix in a recurring and stone-cold way. Sure, her hair color changed, but her wry smile and emotionless delivery of terrible news about victims that then sent our favorite detectives down the right path toward the perp was consistent and delightful in its cold remove. What if she were the principle character? What would her home life look like? What if that icy exterior had left her cold and alone? Dead in her own life, in a way? Now of course I could be wrong. The inspiration for this show could have just as easily been Doc Hollywood or Mrs. Doubtfire. But unfortunately for me, it has not established a character likable or believable enough that I care about her redemption, or a crime drama believable enough that I don't groan when the case is solved by the coroner asking the guilty party enough questions about their morally reprehensible crime that finally the guilt and the pressure make them break and admit they did it. Jessica Fletcher and Matlock could get away with that because they were unexpected super sleuths and lovable old people. Somehow the totally unlovable science-based yet heart-driven crime solver does not, to me, inspire the same degree of gut-spilling from the guilty. But that is how the show resolves itself. Usually then ending with Dana Delaney considering her own life, and learning lessons from the dead. And her coworkers, of course.
I think "Body of Proof" will be a success.
But much like Dr. Hunt is too driven to have prevented alienating her own child and husband from her life, I am too damned invested in the quality of crime drama presented season upon season by "Law & Order" original to settle for a reductionist and unbelievable version of a powerful woman solving crimes of the heart with the cold heart she's finally warming up to.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Do not drop a 27/28ths full jar of jelly on your toes. It will hurt. You will use a bad word that your upstairs neighbors will probably hear. Even if your toes probably saved you from cleaning sticky shards of glass off of your kitchen floor and sticky blackberry splatter from at least 3 of your 4 total kitchen appliances, it will still not quite seem worth it at the time.
Do not eat another fiber plus not quite food flavored bar chocolatey product as you wrote about yesterday and then be expecting to go out of your apartment without the gastrointestinal side effects advertised on product, even if it is nighttime an now you would like to be able to socialize with others without farting obviously and repeatedly.
Do not give any type of charitable funds to anyone who might profit from selling your address to other non-profits who somehow think that if they send you a glossy enough package, you will spend the money you don't have to save their whatever-needs-saving, unless you're prepared to receive a barrage of mail reminding you how many people need helped and also how much time and effort goes into marketing, even when it's marketing third-world poverty. Right now I'm staring at a giant envelope that says "Tibetan Prayer Flags Enclosed" and then tells me there's "A Message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama Inside
YOUR PROMPT REPLY REQUESTED."
First of all, that seems a little bit pushy from His Holiness, no? And second of all, Dalai Lama, aren't you taking a page out of the Catholic playbook in sending a gift that will in fact make me feel guilty for enjoying it without helping your cause unless I send you money? I can only hope my good friends at Oxfam are as efficient with distributing the pittance I send them to those in need as they are in reminding me how much my support is needed by those in need. Pretty
sure we might only be covering the cost of postage of what you send me with what I send there, Oxfam. Then sending me 3 to 4 insistent notices that I help more (all giant, glossy, photo-laden, many-colored thick printed page notices, by the way), only makes me wonder - huh, did they not process that? That was it, Oxfam. Please don't sell my information to the Dalai Lama or the Women's Cooperative or the Smile Train. Oh, you did already? Great. Hope it was more than my contribution to you was so that you're at least doubling my gift. And do you have any partners concerned about conservation? When the Sierra Club sent me junk mail and a membership sticker, I felt REAL weird about it and did not affix the member sticker to my vehicle. Which is not electric, in case they were wondering. Not even a hyrbid. Not even American! Oy. Does the Sierra Club even want me???
It is funny the names that the organizations have, and also funny to consider that I'm sure a year's worth, minimum, of meetings and consulting group presentations, and board member votes went into properly branding these non-profits for the most donor-centric appeal. And yet I'm throwing their hard work in the trash, thinking I need to look up how to get off of their lists, wondering if there's a separate non-profit dispensation for junk mailing.
It's also funny the ways in which their misspelling my name from time to time provides just enough indignant remove that I can tell the Dalai Lama to get enlightened somewhere else (not really, I'd imagine it's quite worthwhile to spend time with him...). But let's just say I'm tossing the junk mail and getting myself free.
Best non-profit junk mail? I got an envelope, addressed to me with return address? Sam Waterson.
That's all it said. The actor who plays Jack McCoy on Law & Order was sending me mail. I assumed he had been receiving the fan mail I'd mentally been sending but not writing, or that someone had somehow heard me talk to my television during every episode when I say things like "oooh I love Law & Order," but then, realizing that was probably a bit far-fetched, I assumed he was writing me on behalf of Ameritrade, the investment stuff he sells on t.v. It wasn't! He was actually representing the Southern Law Project? See, this is terrible, I don't even remember the name of the group, but I know they work for justice, and here was the television embodiment of the guy who works for justice when he could make a boatload of cash in private practice but he's just too damned principled for that RIGHT IN MY MAILBOX.
Unless some of the profits from syndication of the show are going to the cause, I'm afraid Sam Waterson will have to come to my door himself.
Which would maybe only be outdone by the Dalai Lama working the Publisher's Clearinghouse prize patrol.