06 December, 2011

I am not hungover anymore.

I am a half Irish, 20 something young woman with many years of imbibing under her belt, who also possesses much more faith in her liver than her liver probably merits. I used to be able to drink. Maybe I couldn't drink as much as a frat boy at Ole Miss, but for a 5'5" 130 pound woman, I could hold my own.

My first real drinking experience came when I was sitting on a wooden log around a bonfire in the woods off the old train tracks in my hometown. We called it Beaver Pond. Every Friday afternoon, a mass text message would come through on the cell phone that I shared with my twin sister, usually when I was in statistics. It was pretty much the only thing that got me through those Friday afternoon statistic classes.

At Beaver Pond, I had my first taste of Goldschlagger, a peculiar cinnamon-flavored schnapps that I haven't seen since I was 17. Maybe it's only sold to underage kids, I don't know. But on nights around the bonfire, where my friend Paul would play Oasis songs on his guitar, we slowly sipped at the cheapest alcohol our part-time jobs could afford. Milwaukee's Best ("the beast"), Pabst Blue Ribbon, Popov in its clear plastic bottle. It was a simpler time, then. But those formative drinking experiences ingrained in me that if I was not a good drinker, at least I kind of decent at it.

In college, I pretty much drank anything that anyone handed to me out of one of those ubiquitous red solo cups. It is the exact opposite of what the lectures proselytized to us during "First Days," my college's equivalent to freshman introductory week. There weren't any classes, there were lots of lectures about life on campus and how to avoid date rape (tip: don't be drunk! ever!), and then at night we'd party. It was camp college, and to us, it made perfect sense. Though alcohol is often framed as a sinful, motivating factor behind everything indecent, the worst things I ever really did during this time was to race around campus with my friends, hopping from gathering to gathering and laughing a bit too loud. I danced on a couple of tables and allegedly stole two boxes of Trix from a dining hall after it had closed. In my defense, if they didn't want people to steal the Trix, they shouldn't make them so delicious.

The night before I graduated from college, my friends held a meet and greet for their family and friends on the porch of my senior housing. It was a barbeque, with tons of good ol' fashioned family fun. There were hot dogs and hamburgers, corn husking, and games of beirut. It was there that I played my first (and last) game of beer pong with my mild-mannered, alcohol-abstaining mother. My mom was the MVP of the game. I would like to throw in the caveat that the night of the barbeque, I had an undiagnosed case of Swine Flu and a raging fever, but the fact of the matter remains that my mother sunk more cups than I. And it was awesome. Clearly I got my liver from one side of the family, and I have my suspicions as to which side it was.

That night is important for a few reasons. One, I was one of only a handful of kids at my school to actually contract Swine Flu, or as we called it, "the swine," because that is a story in and of itself. But that night is also significant because of a conversation I had with my friend's father.

We were talking about everything you'd expect on the night before graduation: graduation itself, life, my plans for next year, and then he got kind of quiet for a moment. And with a kind of passive longing, he looked at me and said, "You know, you won't be able to drink like this forever." Then he gently placed his arm around my shoulder in a fatherly way, as if to impart such great knowledge in a more delicate manner. "You get hangovers like that." He said, he snapping his fingers. And the moment was gone.

Upon reflection, I remember thinking, "Huh. That'd suck." But the rest of the night was a feverish, beirut-y kind of blur. I was told I graduated the next day, but I only recollect some flashes of the hot sun and my fever finally breaking around 10am. Then I went home and slept for 4 days.

When I awoke, I could no longer drink.

It's not that I didn't drink, it's just that I couldn't. Suddenly after only two drinks, I would just get rather sleepy and the next thing I know my body would be steering itself around the party, trying to find the most comfiest place to nap. "That's a nice tuft of grass," my mind would tell my feet, urging me to plop down. "Just for a moment!" I tried to fight against those urges, and sometimes it was successful. It's kind of been like that since graduation. Oh sure, I go out at night. But when you live in a sleepy New England city where the public transportation shuts down a full hour before the bars have last call, it's kind of like everyone just wants you to go home, anyway. So why fight it? When I did drink, I would get hangovers at the drop of a hat. It was like a big switch was flipped (most likely by my mother) after graduation. You like partying? Well, too bad! WHA-BAM. Now go to bed.

This past weekend was one of my best friends in the whole entire universe's 25th birthday. Twenty-five years, a full quarter of a century. Such momentous birthdays can and should be celebrated with all of the joy and wonderment that one can muster. To celebrate, we decided to go out dancing. We settled on one club that had so many wonderfully distinctive characteristics it was the clear winner. It had: soft red lighting, reminiscent of what I envision it must have been like to be in the Moulin Rouge (only Baz Lurhman's cleaner, Ewan McGregor-ier version); a mechanical bull pit; and 4 (4!) stripper poles lining the dance floor.

That night, we drank. And we danced. And it was good. Soon, we had had enough of the drinks and the large-ish women who seemed to be the only ones hopping up to display their talents on the stripper poles and the sweaty men gyrating anonymously behind us for an hour and a half. It was like college, only much more expensive. So we went to a different bar. There, we drank different drinks. Then we went back to her apartment and continued with the drinking in ways in which neither I, nor my liver, were fully prepared for.

Then, suddenly, it was Sunday morning. Between the bouts of nausea and cursing at the sun's rays for so existing so brightly, I remembered the words of my friend's father, all those years back. With every fiber of my saturated psyche, I wanted to rue his name. But I couldn't. The fault lay mine, and mine alone. That was a bitter pill to swallow, much harder than the rum and cokes (which, by the by, were free and delicious).

It is now Monday night. As the last throbbing ebbs of my headache recede, I am sitting quietly on the floor of my bedroom, reflecting on how good it feels not to be hungover. I think you should, too. This is a feeling that I would like to hold on to for longer (but maybe while avoiding the process of the actual hangover). I'd like to wake up every morning, look in my mirror, and think, "Gosh, does it feel good to be not hungover today!" And I want to really mean it. I want to mean it so much that I'll remember it come dance time when I find myself at a red-lit club somewhere downtown with expensive drinks and loud top 40 blasting out from behind the mechanical bull.

But, in all honesty, I'll probably have a glass or two then, too. Because drinking is just one of those that,as long as you don't take random solo cups from strangers and you feel comfortable and you're friends, you should probably do. Shake loose that repressive side before the subway shuts down. Maybe dance on a table every once in a while and rediscover how tasty Trix are. There are always more birthdays to celebrate and mechanical bull riders to make fun of. And, on the bright side, at least this hangover gave me material to get me blogging again. But more importantly, at least I'm not hungover anymore.

25 August, 2011

Boredom

Boredom is a pervasive problem for much of America’s youth. Sure, there are wars and shit, but that’s all going on somewhere else. Did you know that we had an earthquake two days ago? Boy, was THAT news. Thankfully twitter was there to report on the situation a full 17 minutes before other “news” outlets broke the story. The first I read online about the earthquake came from twitterer @Reefa_LeGrand  with “Sorry for the earthquake yall... I dropped my wallet! #MyBad  lol.”  Hard-hitting news, indeed. Thanks, Twitter!  

The word “boredom” was first recorded in a Charles Dicken’s novel in 1852. Now there's a guy that knew about boredom. First of all, he lived in 1800s Britain. And then he worked as a child laborer pasting labels onto shoe polish. ‘Nuff said.

But back to boredom. Boredom is an affliction most notably carried by the American teenager who has been coddled all of their lives: they have had food on the table, a roof over their heads, decent medical and dental care, and all technology to keep them entertained up the wazoo. I was one of those teenagers. And now, with the passage of time, I am one of those adults.

We have grown up being told that boredom is bad, very very bad indeed. “Idle hands are the devils playground,” say our Puritanical friends. “Go outside and do something!” said my 6th grade English teacher, Mrs. Goodrich, when I just wanted to sit inside at recess. And then there are the lyrics that haunt me to this very day: the song is “Flagpole Sittah” by the band Harvey Danger. The lyrics go, “…but if you’re bored then you’re boring.” Dear God, no one wants to be boring! And I always try to take advice from bands who got their name from a phrase graffitied onto the side of a building. They know what's up.

In my short time playing around in this age called “adulthood,” I’ve gone through some ups and some downs. There was that time when I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life or myself. There was that long time when I was 60 dollars too rich for food stamps (damn you, third job!). But it’s funny. After the basic needs are met (food, clothing, etc.), and before one settles down to create miniature replicas of oneself to feed and clothe, one finds oneself with an unnatural amount of free time.

I think it's important to state here that: I am not complaining. I just wonder what other normal adults do with their time. And, because I’ve been been wondering this question for some time, I've observed some rituals  I'd like to share with you. The vast majority of adults that I interact with on a regular basis seem one of three things: attend trivia night, discuss politics, or drink. All of which are usually accompanied by more drinking.

Trivia matches around Boston are wildly popular. There are so many things to love about trivia! For one, with the exception of the drink you have to buy to avoid getting the stink-eye from the waitress who was hoping for a 6-person dinner party, trivia nights are free. Then there’s the fact that you can finally put all those bad song lyrics and pop culture facial recognition skills to work for you, since they are so woefully underutilized in your daily desk life. Lastly, there are the prizes. In regular life, you would never go out of your way to purchase a yellow muscle tee with the logo for the fifth Fast and the Furious movie emblazoned in glitter puffy paint across the chest. But on a Tuesday evening, surrounded by other fully-formed adult-like persons getting slowly drunk off a drink that splices two seemingly unrelated words together (i.e., "Bostonjitos") while thematically appopriate 80's music wafts in from the background, that muscle tee embodies everything you could ever want from life, and more. And don't forget about the already opened copy of the soundtrack to Ashton Kutcher’s movie “No Strings Attached?” It has Leona Lewis on it!! And, before you know it, you (I) are (am) hooked on trivia.

Politics is another pastime that many people seem to engage in as a past-time. In a magical world where everyone is an open-minded and rationale citizen, engaging in political discourse over drinks will lead to the those involved walking away with a renewed sense of their own beliefs that have been enlightened and improved because of that night's exchange. But in the real world, you end up arguing the ideological beliefs of a party that you don’t actually vote for, on a Friday evening after you’ve had one too many "Bostonjitos." and the conversation ends with everyone involved slurring the phrase, “I know, but listen,” at each other about forty times before someone jumps in with a, “It’s just what I believe!” Ninety percent of the time, you’re not going to change anyone’s mind in events like this, because you lack the specific facts, figures, full names, and sometimes even the very talking points of the issues you’re trying to argue. And yet, week after week, I see people enter into this dangerous game with Fox News and Daily Show clips at the ready on their smart phones.

The most popular adult activity is drinking, which is sometimes (but not always) done in the presence of other people. You ever think about the fact that we spend so much time at our jobs longing for the second the minute hand strikes 5pm, only to have a whole mess of us immediately seek out the very thing that makes time pass more quickly and memories float to the background of our consciousnesses? I do. You’d think people would want to remember those free moments and stay sober more, but no. Humans are weird. 

The best part about drinking- besides the fact that it is SUPER FUN!!!?!- is that you can combine it with almost every other adult activity. There's Trivia nights and drinking, discussing politics and drinking, Monday night football and drinking, taxes and demure glasses of wine, being awkward in bars while holding bud lights, dealing with a bad boss by sneaking a little something special into your coffee mug, watching your kid’s sporting activity behind a beer cozy, playing a sporting activity yourself in between sips of the Rockies, recouping after you injure yourself because you were drinking whilst engaging in a sporting activity with a cold one, watching other people lead their lives on reality television by playing a drinking game based off specific catch phrases... the list goes on and on and on. Drinking is so darn accommodating!

But that’s the problem with people my age, a 90-year old version of myself would say to today’s version of me, if time travel and/or dark magic did exist. The conversation would take place on an old wooden porch with a creaky rocking chair, and there would be a stern look in 90-year-old-me’s eyes as she’d say “You drink, you idle away your time with nonsense engagements. You can do anything, and yet you choose to do nothing!” And then she’d spit, for ninety-year-old-me is a straight shooter. I also imagine her having a Russian accent, which I have yet to acquire but have high hopes to do in the future. 

There is a lesson here somewhere. Puritans would say it’s time to put those idle hands to good work. Jimmy Buffet would say it’s five o’clock somewhere. I say maybe it’s time for me to get a real hobby. Something that doesn't involve drinking on a Saturday afternoon. Or rewards me for knowing the lyrics to "Never Gonna Give You Up." Something that 90-year-old-me would enjoy from her porch.

01 July, 2011

A Daisy in Starbucks

Many people throughout time have adopted aliases. The Beatles wore technicolor ensembles when they transformed into Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Mary Anne Evans’  took on the nom de plume of George Eliot to get her literature published in the 19th century, Clark Kent took off his black plastic frames and saved Metropolis as Superman, Dr. Jekyll morphed into Mr. Hyde to live out his deepest and most dangerous urges, and W. Mark Felt tipped off Watergate investigators under the guise of “Deep Throat.” An alias can be a very useful thing to have.

In the history of me there has been no real reason to create an alias. I wasn’t looking to escape any kind of religious persecution, or unveil the true state of corruption in the quest for political freedom, or start a new life free of my past and damning indiscretions. I created an alias because I was just kind of bored. Boredom is the plague of a simple girl in a small town.  

Sometime during my tenth year on this planet I decided I was going to go by a new name and identity, Abigail. Abby to my friends. For nearly a week, I told family members, friends, next door neighbors, and random strangers I that passed on the street to call me Abigail if I happened to be wearing jean overalls and pigtails. “Abby” always wore overalls and pigtails- it was her poker tell.

Me, pre-"Abby" days
One would think that being a twin already I would have been content to switch places with her and call it a day, but no. The large part of my seemingly constrained ego felt that it wanted to forge its own path and entirely re-imagine who “I” was. So from a mild-mannered 5th grader in a ponytail and jean shorts grew an an outgoing, bossy 5th grader in jean overalls and pigtails with a “come-get-me-world!” attitude. It was a big change.

If I had been older this kind of behavior might be classified as “insufferable” or “schizophrenic.” But on a 10 year old, these grandiose displays of ego seemed “imaginative” and “endearing.” Unlike little ol’ me, Abby didn’t do her homework- she hung out with the boy next door until way past her bedtime instead. Abby sat in the back of the bus and talked back to her teachers, or as she called them, “teach,” when she felt that there were some wrongs that needed to be righted, classroom-wise. Abby was a short-lived concept. She spluttered and faded away amid a generous dose of after-school detentions and a month’s worth of groundings.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I even thought of re-adopting an alter-ego. It just sort of came out of nowhere. It was a Tuesday.

I was at a Starbucks in Chicago, buying an iced soy latte, a drink that I thought and still think is equal parts adult-like and delicious. At this particular Starbucks I was asked to give my name in order to retrieve my drink. I’d never been to a Starbucks that had asked my name before, and I was intrigued by the opportunity. Seconds passed, the sort of seconds that might indicate that someone has either had a severe bout of memory loss or someone is concocting a dastardly plan. I was undergoing the latter. In those moments, I was searching for a name that sounded creative, as though my parents were brilliant artist-types who didn’t want their youngster to be constrained by a common or predictable baby name. I needed something that was grounded, yet free-spirited. Uncommon, yet accessible. Above all, it needed to be plausible. It was down to the wire and I knew it. So I told the cashier, “Daisy.” He looked me square in the eyes and responded, “Whatever.” And that was that.

As I waited for my latte, I ruminated over how easy it had been to lie about who I was. Why hadn’t I done it before? No one was fact checking me here. No one cared if I was Emily, or Daisy, or Henrietta, or Marguerite. I could be from any city, any state, and concoct an entirely new backstory about who I was in this world. Sure, I wasn’t very good at accents, but that didn’t negate the idea that my parents could be born in exotic lands and had relocated to the United States to start a brand new life for their baby, me. There were so many new possibilities that, waiting for my latte, I lost track of time.

It took a full three times for the barista to call out my name before I realized that "Daisy" was "me." When I walked toward the counter to retrieve it, I was a little hesitant that some passerby would see through my rouse and call my bluff. They’d start cackling in that truly maniacal way that many devious cartoon villains and middle school queen bees have, that can make you feel two feet tall. Social ostracization, even if from a stranger, still sucks.

The long walk to the counter put me face to face with the barista, and there was a long moment when she looked me up and down.  "Yeah, you look like a Daisy." She remarked, to nobody in particular. She wasn’t necessarily looking talking to me or co-workers; to her, it wasn’t a big deal. To me, I was Thomas Crown and I had just stolen the San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk. It felt good, real good.

With that, Daisy was born. Birthing an alter-ego is much like birthing a real child, I suspect. Once it’s out there you can’t exactly shove it back in or pretend it didn’t happen. There it is, ripe with opportunity and waiting for you to cut the metaphorical umbilical cord and let it develop on its own now.

Since that Chicago latte, having an alter ego in my repertoire has done nothing but good for me.  Daisy is my handle of choice for coffee retrieval, nametags for events that I’m not particularly keen on attending, and boring bar conversations in need of some salvation. When I’m being bothered by an over-eager bro intent on striking up a conversation at a bar, I just defer to Daisy’s wide-eyed naivete. But to make myself feel better about openly lying, I like to imagine that these people’s lives have somehow been changed for the better. Perhaps later on in the evening, if Daisy is still fresh on his mind, that frat bro might try to facebook her and inadvertently message the wrong person. From there, they begin a tentative yet flirtatious conversation, and eventually decide to meet in person. She makes him want to rip off his puka shell necklace and become a better person. They start dating. One thing leads to another and they get married and produce lots and lots of little babies. Sure, I might not get invited to the wedding because I haven’t given any real contact information, but who says lying can’t be beneficial? I get to be entertained, and people find true love. You can’t prove that they it hasn’t not happened. And that is air-tight logic.

28 June, 2011

Tape Is Reusable


This one goes out to my friends that work in the environmental movement. I say this with the utmost love and respect from the deepest trenches of my adoring heart: you’re crazy.

Hitchhiking in the middle of a lightning storm with an umbrella crazy? No. But definitely wacky Uncle Al type of crazy who is always a good time at Thanksgiving but doesn’t exactly warrant an invite to meet your girlfriend’s family. Nuts crazy. Loony crazy. A screw is loose somewhere and probably won’t be found crazy. But well-meaning and fun-loving enough to earn him a seat next to your Aunt Martha and right by the cranberry sauce year after year.

Full disclosure: I work in the environmental sciences, so this includes me as well. I am ok with that.

I’m coming up on the end of my first year at an environmental nonprofit in Boston. I’ve acquired many skills and life lessons including but not limited to: nonprofit strategy, networking tips, the ability to be on two phone calls at the same time, and enough business cards to make an ugly and uncomfortable quilt for a 2-D man. I’ve met incredible people, made some amazing friends, and at times felt as though I was living in a tv documentary about wacky offices and their workers, or as though Ashton Kutcher had given up punking celebrities and decided to target an ordinary young woman. This ordinary young woman was especially concerned last Tuesday that there had been a full 20 minutes of a company meeting spent talking about Justin Bieber, a topic of which she was uniquely and ashamedly equipped to contribute.

It goes without saying that as an environmental organization we are a bit more plugged into the sustainability movement. I’ve always considered myself qualifiably crunchy. I went through a long vegetarian phase, a laughably short vegan phase, a tendency to unplug all the appliances not in use phase, and, like other plaid-loving hippies, developed an undying devotion to the Discovery Channel’s “Planet Earth” series. But this last year I’ve come to realize that I can’t hold a candle to some of the people in my line of work. In my mind’s eye I thought I was Captain Planet, but really I was just a cuter version of Hoggish Greedly.

This past year, I have been yelled at for throwing away adhesive sticky tape because, and I quote, I could “use it again.” I’ve had my nostrils overtaken with the rich aroma of fruits and veggies being broken down by the office vermiculture bin. (For those of you who don’t compost, vermiculture is composting with worms.  You’re welcome.) I’ve been questioned about the amount of water I use while washing dishes, and I’ve been openly chastised for using a space-heater in the middle of winter even though the building’s heat had given up somewhere around the middle of February.

One especially enlightening event happened the day I walked into work and realized that the office garbage can was missing. After asking around, I soon discovered that it had been recycled. Not our garbage, mind you- the garbage can itself. I was told that it had been a "health hazard"and that by not having a garbage can so readily available would help me reduce the amount of waste I produced.

For the next week, I grew a rebellious pile of my leftover food and assorted sundries on the corner of my desk. Part of me wanted to make a social statement , and the other part was too lazy to walk it to the trash can next door. There were stacks of stained plastic coffee cups from the times I had forgotten to take a mug with me to the coffee shop, individual greek yogurt containers- because buying a large container and dishing it out every morning seemed to be too much of a hassle-, gum wrappers and candy wrappers and banana peels and foil from lunches and scraps of paper that were filled with many underlined and circled words and small pictures of stars. 

There is nothing like feeling righteously indignant until you realize that, hey, the other person was kind of right. I do consume a lot. Maybe getting rid of the garbage can was a touch extreme, but I rarely ever forget my coffee mug now. For some situations, it really can’t hurt to drink the kool-aid.

Perhaps we’re all a bit nutty because we care too much. There’s a strong sense of pride in being over-worked and under-paid, of caring passionately about something and actively trying to change all those bad things that keep you up at night. Does getting rid of a garbage can or stacking banana peels on your desk so you can feed your plastic bin of worms at the end of the week really make a difference? I’m not sure. But even if I have to walk outside to throw my trash away, or use my beloved space-heater less often in the harsh Cambridge winter, I like to think it’s all worth it. I’m a little less bright-eyed and bushy-tailed than when I first began. But, at the end of the day, come hell or high-college-loan interest rates, I love what I do. If I have to be a little crazy to do it, then yee-haw.

24 May, 2011

The Reformed Vegetarian


I have become a traitor to the animal kingdom. Though once a vegetarian, I now eat things that used to be living creatures. And I am trying to come to terms with it.

My first foray into the world of bean sprouts and protein product came during that time of great social and personal experimentation: college. As with many colleges, my junior year was a time to travel the world, to jump off cliffs in Fiji, to down a chocolate brioche and espresso on a romantic morning in France, and to test out some special brownies in a shady cafe in Amsterdam (from what I have heard). Instead of doing those things, I signed up for a maritime studies semester based out of the wildest of all American cities: Mystic, Connecticut.

In that small town I lived with a motley crue of young adults interested in questioning the impact they made on the local environment. Because of this, the overwhelming majority of kids did not eat meat, and hadn’t for many years. But I had. I was an outsider.

Yes, please.
You see, I didn’t just eat meat- I relished eating it. It is embarrassing how much I had. My family would tell stories to new boyfriends about that time in Outback Steakhouse when I ordered a full rack of ribs and inhaled it before my dad had even finished his salad. My friends consistently notified me via text message any time corned beef was offered in our campus dining hall. There are some traits that one just cannot deny in themselves, and before Connecticut, eating meat was one of mine.

That’s not to say I wasn’t open-minded. I listened to my new friends as they talked about the evils of the meat-packing industry, and animal cruelty, and the dangers of antibiotics in the foods we eat. It sounded awful. But that didn’t stop my friend Dave and I from sneaking out to the local grocery store to buy contraband bacon and stuff it into the back of the freezer with a tape label that said "?" with the hope of warding off curious housemates in search of that frozen tofu dog.

But slowly, over the course of the semester, I started to change my mind. Maybe I did not need to order three sides of bacon or double-stuff my turkey melt. After considerable thought, I decided to give up turkey for Thanksgiving, and right then and there I knew I was a changed woman.

When the semester ended, I gave a considerable amount of thought to my role in the food chain. When I went back to campus, I reunited with my friends and found that many people had changed in significant and substantial ways. I was a vegetarian, my friend Katie had a rediscovered a fear of heights, and my friend Sarah adopted a rather convincing French accent. While many of these attributes faded faster than the tans of those who “studied” in Australia, my vegetarianism stuck. And I was rather proud of it.

But I suppose that, deep down inside, I knew the whole Not Eating Meat phase of my life would not last; there were signs. It began with a dream. 

For most people, dreams are a way for their subconscious to work out issues that one encounters during the day. (Or is a random series of unconnected events that mean nothing to your waking mind. Whatever you're inclined to believe.)

I started to dream of ham sandwiches. And not just any ham sandwich, it was the mother of all ham sandwiches imagined in exquisite detail: the “how did you get them so thin” slices of ham folded back perfectly onto itself, the way it does in Hormel commercials on television; slices of Land ‘O Lakes cheese delicately layered with pieces of the freshest of lettuce greens, drops of moisture clinging to each and every verdant leaf; whole wheat bread, and, to top it all off, Hidden Valley ranch dressing. The weird part is, when I started to make this sandwich, it was wholly at odds with the rest of the dream. Previously I had been flying from roof to roof, trying to find some missing gem that was really important to me. And then- BAM. Ham sandwich time. It was as though my brain was like, “ho hum, let’s give her the standard boring life metaphor, I guess… no wait. Wait. What if we have her make a ham sandwich!? Scrap that first part, we’re doing this!”

Blissful ignorance
The kicker is, before going meat-free, I had a take ‘em-or-leave’ em  attitude towards ham sandwiches. But remove my conscious desire to eat them? Suddenly I was fiending for them in dream form. I could no more control these dreams than one control the direction of sand blowing in the wind.

This is apparently a fairly common phenomenon amongst vegetarian types: you end up craving the foods you didn’t even think about before. I have a friend who talks about cheeseburgers the way one might talk about an old boyfriend. Sure, it may have been a few years, but when the timing was right… anything could happen.

Once the ham sandwich dreams started coming monthly, I knew it was time to start eating meat again. My family was delighted, and no one more so than my twin sister. She decided the best way to celebrate was to dive right in and hit up this classy little BBQ place in downtown NYC where they sold ribs by the pound and offered tiny plastic umbrellas in their pomaritas.

I knew I shouldn’t have done it.  But there I was, tiny umbrella in my hair, country music wafting in the background, 34 different options of ribs and sauces and all-you-can-eat cornbread, blissfully ignorant of the havoc I was about to wreak on my intestinal system. Twelve hours later, after the migraine had worn off and I was able to stomach more than just triscuits and gingerale, I became a vegetarian again, temporarily.

If there were to be a lesson here, it would be that maybe you should declare the first day of the week “meat-free Monday,” and think more about your behaviors and how they shape the state of food in America. Be a conscious consumer! The other, more obvious, lesson would be not to eat 3 pounds of ribs after a few years hiatus. I cannot be the first reformed vegetarian who has learned this lesson the hard way. But at least now I can wear this shirt, purchased for me by a high school friend during my veggie stint, non-ironically. And I no longer dream of ham sandwiches.

20 March, 2011

Love Me Some SkyMall

One of my favorite parts of a plane ride, aside from the body scanning by TSA, is SkyMall magazine.

THE TELEKINETIC OBSTACLE COURSE                        I know no one who has ever purchased something from SkyMall, and yet, everyone, at one time or another, has definitely wanted to buy something from SkyMall. How, you may ask, are they still in business as a company? Its because they have cornered the market on the unusual and the exotic. And, if you do end up buying those things, they charge you a pretty penny for the privilege. Case in point: the Telekinetic Obstacle Course. A hundred dollars to test out my psychic prowess? Thanks, I think I'll stick to the spoon-bending thing. But with a name like Hammacher Schlemmer, the people who single-handedly introduced the world to the transparent kayak and the dogbrella, you know you can trust them. Even if their company name sounds like another way to say shiksa. ("That little hammacher schlemmer has got a lot of chutzpah going after our David!")
THE WASP TRAP

SkyMall also sells the Wasp Trap. Wasps are scary, that much is true. They don't die when they sting you, which means that if you are unfortunate enough to disrupt their nest, their scariness is both painful and infinite. So this product makes sense to me in its real-world applicability. (At least it does, compared to the Telekinetic Obstacle Course.") 

What causes me pause is the Trap's tag line. "Wasps Traps double as yard art." Perhaps I don't understand art yet.. Yes, they seem to be pretty to look at, but so are many other things that don't double as death tombs for the local nature. I find the trap's dual- functionality of art/death tombs to be a bit unnerving for my vision of backyard suburbia.



THE RELAX 'N NAP PILLOW

In the bedroom comfort category, SkyMall offers customers the "Relax 'N Nap" pillow.

It must be very hard to be a pillow model. Not only do you have to look both alluring and asleep, you have to look natural. Judging from this photo, it is especially hard if you have to be lying in the prone position like one of the victims in CSI. Do you add a photo like this to your portfolio? What sort of constructive criticism can you expect from your modeling agency if they can't even see your face? "You really worked a good shoulder angle, Betsy. Keep up the good work and you could be a great pillow model one day!"

Naming a product must be difficult, too. For me, a lowly consumer, the "'N" in the Relax 'N Nap Pillow seems more than a little forced. Why is the "n" capitalized? Why couldn't they just have written the whole "and?" Would that have taken away from the name in a substantial way? Or they could be trying to target the young 'N hip crowd who is too cool for anything but abbreviations 'N acronyms. And also is secure enough in themselves to be able to fall asleep knowing that you were hit in the back of the head with a lead pipe.

There is the Comfort-U Pillow, which allows you to "rest face down in blissful comfort." There are a few problems with this photo.

1) The model is not face down, which is the very first line of the product description. Did you think we would not notice, Comfort-U? Well, we did! Egg on your face.
2)  How many times have you fallen asleep in your rose-colored nightie clutching a single rose in your hand? Too many to remember? Then this pillow is probably for you.
3) Barring the fact that this woman supposedly fell asleep by herself while clutching a rose, just how are we supposed to believe that those rose petals fell off so very far away from the actual rose? Did she bang it before slipping into this supposedly graceful sleep? Did she gingerly space them evenly on the pillow next to her to make her feel a little less alone? So many thoughts, and so many questions left unanswered.


THE SARESS:

There is nothing wrong with sarongs. In fact, I think they can be kind of pretty. But to claim that traditional sarongs are both "difficult" and "awkward" is slightly melodramatic. You don't often hear about the difficulties of sarongs as a trending topic on Twitter, and since that's where everyone goes to complain, I think we can safely say that no one feels this way.

Sarongs are a niche market. They are worn by a select few of women who fall into two categories: women who grew up in tropical places that warrant the carefree nature of the sarong, or rich women who travel to those same areas on vacation and come back with a tan and a lot of island-style clothing. In spite of its blatant exaggeration, the Saress is the product I would be most inclined to buy. If only I had a SkyMall gift card!

STATUES!

Statues are unique way to add a certain je ne sais quais to your yard. They can really class up a joint, like if you wanted to incorporate a little greek mythology into your outdoor experience and place a statue of Artemis in your backyard. Then people would be able to see just how cultured, intellectual, and accepting of archaic, polytheistic beliefs you are!

But erecting a statue in your yard can send an unintended message, too. For example, let's say you wanted to purchase the "Meerkat Gang" statue. What kind of a message would that send your neighbors and the assorted passing motorists? It would say that you have a love for the unusual, are whimsical and fun, and probably have seen every episode from seasons 1 through 4 of "Meerkat Manor" on the Discovery Channel. Which is maybe something you don't, or shouldn't, want to share with the world.

To the meerkat's right is the "Bigfoot- the Garden Yeti" statue, which retails for for $98.95 plus $15.95 for shipping and handling. But how can you put a price on pricelessness?

The Bigfoot- the Garden Yeti says one of two things,"I have no problem shelling out big bucks for a statue of a mythical creature that for all intents and purposes probably does not exist" as well as saying "I enjoy terrifying the small neighborhood children." If you believe the hype, Big Foot and Sasquatch are different names for the same thing. The abominable snow man and the Yeti are different names for the same thing. But Bigfoot and the Yeti are not the same. I, too, cannot believe I made an argument about that.

This statue is heralded in its product description as having, "startling realism," because can be more realistic than an artists sculpted depiction of a mythical man-beast? Nothing.

Lastly, there is the "Zombie of Montclair Moors" Statue. This is either a) the most expensive Halloween decoration (90 bucks!? Oh hell no.) or a really effective way to scare an ex-girlfriend by installing it in her front yard in the middle of the night. The kicker is that the statue arrives in multiple pieces. Just like a real zombie! Boy, was that company committed to the whole idea. Sadly, Montclaire Moors does not appear to be a real place.






THE PASSENGER SEAT OFFICE
Because texting while driving has just lost that dangerous edge.

Look, I know we live in America. Where, if you were to believe our movies and television show plot lines, our career ambitions have the tendency to push away friends and family in the pursuit of the big year-end bonuses and sandy beach houses, but the idea of a passenger seat office still seems dumb. If you have a passenger seat office in your car, this also means that you have a car with which to drive back to your office or even hit up one of the 9 Starbucks in the half-mile radius. There is no need for the passenger seat office. No need.


THE FACE TRAINER

Aside from looking like you've escaped from the psych ward, the face trainer can double as a bandit mask next time you decide to hold up a convenience store. So that's cool. But this needs to be said: you should not buy products from a company with a name that can be an answer to the question "should I really buy this product?" That is why Chevrolet's Nova was not popular in spanish-speaking countries. Would you buy a car who's name literally meant "no go?" No, no you would not. There you go- now you can't say this blog never taught you nothing.

Though those were the products that peaked my interest, there are countless more whimsical oddities that Skymall offers the general public, many of which can be found here can be found here. No need to thank me now, you can just feel free to send this along as an early Easter present. You can't tell me you wouldn't want one, too.

20 February, 2011

New Frustrations in Old Chinese

I do not know Chinese. Most of what I know about Chinese culture I learned about in my kindergarten classroom's Chinese New Year lesson. We threw a big party and said "Gung hay fat choy!" to each other while wearing crudely-taped together paper robes with crayon dragons drawn on them, which I'm sure was adorable if you were a parent and pretty offensive if you were actually Asian. But growing up in my small town, we only had one Asian person, and she was only half. So everyone seemed ok with this because we were "learning." (If I dressed up as a paper Inuit now, would everyone be cool with this? Probably not. It's cute if you are 4 and ignorant, less so if you're 24.)

I open with this statement because I am writing a novel. Or rather, I am working on my third novel that I shelved about a year ago, and recently decided was good enough to dust off, re-work, and see what could become of it. My first two novels did not merit such a dusting, the first focusing on the story of a lifeguard that I wrote in high school when (surprise!) I was a lifeguard, and the second that I wrote as a satirical memoir when I turned 23. Every person that I have told this to so far has laughed. Apparently you have to be older to write a memoir, even if it's humorous. I disagree.

I am writing this novel on my trusty mac computer. This computer has stayed up with me many a late night, writing brilliant college essays that, including myself, a total of two people have read. This computer has traveled to the West Coast, the South, and many mid-western cities on a 30 day road trip seeing the sights of America 2 years ago. It has stored numerous terrible poems and short stories, and a laughingly large amount of haikus from back when I thought that people could become real writers by working within the constraints of 5-7-5 syllable form. This computer came with me to the Bahamas one winter where I half studied renewable energy and half worked on a different story on the beach and learned the hard way that salt water, sand, and technology are not the best of friends. This piece of technology has kept me looking busy on innumerable commuter rail and subway rides across the city. This computer has run the gamut with me, but it has seen better days.

While dusting off this most recent of novel endeavors (double entendre!) I was going back through some old stories when I came upon the delightful discovery that my computer, no longer able to process word documents properly, had started to interject Chinese characters into the text after certain word and punctuation combinations.

Exhibit A:

   "泥epends on where you were when you died, I guess." I told him. He laughed.
    展hat would be the worst place to die?" He asked, glancing over from the driver's seat.
    溺ini-golf.”
    展orse than the Dairy Queen?”
    泥epends. Was I eating a Blizzard?”
    哲ah. Unless you were choking on it or something.”
    泥id I choke on an oreo, or butterscotch?”
    的t'd have to be butterscotch, right? That shit is sticky.”
    展ell I'm not really a butterscotch kind of girl. So I guess that'd be pretty bad."


Barring the clearly meaningless conversation and the blatant Dairy Queen reference, I did not write this. I do not know what it now means with it's new Chinese characters. Does it make more sense now? Is it offensive? And yet I'm tempted to keep it because maybe this is an opportunity to explore the creative boundaries and new frontiers of bi-lingual writing!

Or maybe my computer is just dying.

Either way, at least my writing has improved. I would never write about Dairy Queen anymore. I've grown up, and am a Cold Stone girl, through and through. 

19 February, 2011

Bruno Mar's "Marry You" Lyrics


Peter Gene Hernandez (aka Bruno Mars to all you radio listeners out there) is an enigma. He has proven to be a prolific songwriter, able to write sweet, fun-to-sing-along-to songs about being yourself (Just the Way You Are), loneliness (Talking to the Moon), and the throw-yourself-in-front-of-a-train sentiment when your love goes unrequited (Grenade). He co-wrote K'Naan's "Waving Flag" as well as Cee Lo Green's super-hit "F**k You," the song that Time declared the top song of 2010. So this "Bruno" clearly has the talent and the accolades to mop the floor with pop music's super sexxxified auto-tuned atrocities that seem to be clogging the airways nowadays. (C'mon, no one listens to Ke$ha for her singing ability.)

And then he made "Marry You."

Many artists have attempted songs about marriage, but only a select few have succeeded. There is Darlene Love's classic "Today I Met the Boy I'm Gonna Marry," B.B. King's soulful "Marry You," Martin Sexton's sultry-folk tune "Marry Me," and even Train has gotten in on the action with their own song of the same name. Despite Bruno's excellent track record (hehe, music pun), his attempt to tackle this most illustrious of genres left much to be desired. What it lacks in classic appeal, soul, and sultry-folk, it makes up for in saccharine-sweet melodies and tinkly church bells. Lots of tinkly, tinkly church bells. Let's explore.

(A big thanks to astute reader and fellow pop-music critic, Katie Frances, who forwarded me "Marry You" for a quick lyrical look-over. I'm sure the world of pop culture thanks you as much as I do.)

"Marry You" by Bruno Mars

It's a beautiful night, we're looking for something dumb to do. 
Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you. 

Things that rank high on my list of dumb things to do on a beautiful night: find a big fountain to run through drunkenly. Go streaking in a public park. Try to bribe a city cop to get a free ride around town with nothing more than the five dollars in my pocket and pure sex appeal. The idea of holy matrimony falls very far down this hypothetical list, ranking somewhere above "voluntary colonoscopy" and below "self-inflicted kidney trauma." Maybe that's just me. Or maybe I just don't want to contribute to an already high divorce rate. (Happily, the U.S. only places twelfth internationally, ranking behind such divorce-riddled nations as Belarus, with 68%, and Moldova, with 52%. Oh, those Moldovans with their tempestuous love-affairs!)

Is it the look in your eyes, or is it this dancing juice? 
Who cares baby, I think I wanna marry you.

Mars' lyrics makes me ponder: what is this dancing juice? Is it like Lil' Wayne's sizzurp? The Clovers' "Love Potion No. 9"? Regardless of the ingredients, under the right circumstances I think I would try some. Though I might ease up on it before it gets strong enough to induce any personal desires to be randomly wed to the person who happens to be sitting in front of me that night.

Secondly, he thinks he wants to. He's like, almost really sure you guys. After all, it's only marriage- what's the big deal? What's the worst thing that could happen, divorce? People get divorced practically every second, especially for weddings that follow a night of boredom-induced drunken-ness, with the lethal combination of "dancing juice" and the knowledge of a little boulevard with a chapel on it. 

Well I know this little chapel on the boulevard we can go. 
No one will know, come on girl. 
Who cares if we're trashed got a pocket full of cash we can blow.

 Shots of patron, and it's on girl.

Girl, I'm not so sure you should believe Mr. Mars here. "They" will know; parents always do. It's like they have this weird 6th sense. Not the Haley Joel Osment kind but the kind that says, "I'm sorry, did somebody have some of that dancing juice and get married around here? It sure smells like a freshly signed marriage license.*" (*Because marriage licenses smell like commitment and the shattering of youthful ignorance.) But I suppose the "they" could also refer to friends. Maybe even society? Not sure why they'd care, unless it was because they knew you were drunk on Friday night. But who cares, there's patron!

Unless you're in the city of sin (aka Eugene, Oregon) there are very few boulevards with 24-hour drive-thru chapels. But at least they are going to take shots of patron. Because, yay marriage! Celebrated with the #1 drink in rap songs! (Besides sizzurp.) Do you think it's because the word patron is just so easy to rhyme? I do. Beefeaters just doesn't quite have the same ring to it. (But the icon sure is cute.)

Don't say no, no, no, no-no; Just say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah; 
And we'll go, go, go, go-go. If you're ready, like I'm ready. 

I may not be a fully credentialed detective (yet...the online form said it would come in the mail next week!) but that sure sounds like an awful lot of peer pressure. Just listen to his what he is saying: the fast talking, the repetition of words that go in one ear and out the other before you're all like, "Where am I? What is that a marriage license? Darn that dancing juice!"

Cause it's a beautiful night, we're looking for something dumb to do. 
Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you. 

Because the chorus is repeated so many times, it's made me contemplate other dumb things I could do on a beautiful night: try a cheap indian restaurant with no food critics ratings, go to the airport and buy the next plane ticket to who-knows-where and hope that your credit card company won't cancel your line before you're able to call them, go shopping-cart racing. The options are limitless. Marriage still ranks low.

Is it the look in your eyes, or is it this dancing juice? 
Who cares baby, I think I wanna marry you. 

I care, Bruno. I can't be the only one.

I'll go get a ring let the choir bells sing like oooh, 
So whatcha wanna do? Let's just run girl. 

Excuse me, Mr. Mars, but bells do not "sing". They make a sound that's sort of like, "F'TAAAANG" depending on the size of the bell, the type of instrument that is striking the bell (a mallet? the meatier side of your fist? a small child who happens to be nearby?) and who is striking it (Bruno? Quasimodo? Snookie? LOLJK those last two are the same thing!)

If we wake up and you wanna break up that's cool. 
No, I won't blame you; It was fun girl.

If you're gonna marry the boy, at least stick around through breakfast. What if there were waffles?? At least Bruno redeems himself here by confirming what we all were suspecting: that the dancing-juice fueled wedding was a meaningless bond to carry him through one boring night. I'm not saying his morals are in the right place, but his self-awareness is not entirely lacking. So that's... good.

Don't say no, no, no, no-no/Just say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah; 
And we'll go, go, go, go-go/ If you're ready, like I'm ready. 

Since Bruno has to coerce her that much, she might not be feeling it. I wish they followed this up with a reluctant, "....okay-ay-ay-ay" from the girl's point of view. Maybe Rihanna could sing it? 

Cause it's a beautiful night/ We're looking for something dumb to do. 
Hey baby/ I think I wanna marry you. 
Is it the look in your eyes/ Or is it this dancing juice? 
Who cares baby/ I think I wanna marry you. 
Just say I do/ Tell me right now baby, 
Tell me right now baby, tell me right now baby

Cause it's a beautiful night/ We're looking for something dumb to do. 
Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you. 

Is it the look in your eyes, or is it this dancing juice? 
Who cares baby, I think I wanna marry you.

I think we all need to give Mr. Mars a big round of applause for just being so real. So he gets drunk sometimes and wants to marry the pretty woman who happens to be in front of him on some beautiful summer's night, who cares. You can't tell me you haven't been there at least three times in the past ten years. Stop being such a prude, American public.

I always envisioned my first proposal as being ever-so-slightly more romantic than this. But if the majority of my age group is singing this song so fervently, maybe I need to start lowering my expectations.