Monday, September 30, 2002
LAY, LADY-FRIEND, LAY
You strike me as the kind of female type lady who has had to wrestle with that great kick-in-the-crotch of a male friend who, quite accidentally and entirely unavoidably, falls palm-sweatingly in love with thou. Don't fucking deny it, it's half your demographic.
So I come out to my female lady-friend. And, as per her behavioral patterns with other level-jumping friends (patterns I was quite aware of beforehand), well, she has cut me right off. No returned emails or calls no more. (There is also a physical distance element as well, she no longer lives in my city. She moved out due to a messy breakup with a long standing boyfriend - also a mutual friend. Sure, this may be germane, but is too complicated to get into really.)
Which doesn't seem quite exactly fair, you see, the whole breaking off of communication - as much as life should be fair. Because I was under the impression that I wouldn't be risking our five plus year friendship by doing as such. And, see, not to inflate my own place in her life, but she is expert at closing out people. All sorts of people, friends etc. I know she is running short on people. And I, regardless, want to be at least a friend, somebody there for her, in the noblest sense. Right? It's noble right?
So, I guess the question is: How do I get that fucking stupid cat back in the bag?
Dear Cat Herder,
Hmm. Five years of friendship, and suddenly she's cutting off all contact? There must be something sort of creepy about you.
You mention falling palm-sweatingly in love. Do you have unusually sweaty palms? You also use the words "accidentally" and "entirely unavoidably". Are you exceptionally uncoordinated? Do you collide with furniture and bruise your shins almost constantly? Do you do this because it's tough to keep your balance when there's a great deal of very course hair growing on the tops of your feet?
When my male friends quite accidentally fall palm-sweatingly in love with me, do I cut off all contact? Fuck no! I keep them around for decades, in the shadows, in the corners of the screen, there but not there, like a half-dead mouse, breathing heavily but not dying after hours of being tossed around by a malicious feline. Why do I keep them around, you ask? Why, so I can torture their girlfriends, of course!
Sorry, private joke. No, I don't really believe in maintaining touchy, flirtatious relationships with men with whom I'm not involved, and I really, really don't like being the kind of friend who seems like a threat to the male friend's girlfriend, who is in so many cases so much smarter and lovelier than me that it's kind of amusing, in a deeply depressing way. In fact, I just went to an exboyfriend's wedding, and saw his whole family for the first time in ten years. It was really cool. They thought I was swell and everything, but his new wife bestrides the narrow world like a colossus. She's beautiful, speaks several languages, runs her own literary journal, has an unbelievably nice old house, an incredibly interesting, cool family... It warms the heart, really. I mean, when you see a chumpy exboyfriend hit one out of the park like that, it does you proud. We're not talking just any chumpy exboyfriend, but the chumpy exboyfriend who was the basis for the Mr. Flinchy character of Filler's second annual Men To Avoid issue. That's right: Mr. Flinchy, married. Better sell those stocks, because the walls are coming a' tumblin' down.
Now, where the fuck was I? Something about your so-called friend cutting you off... People who cut other people off without warning are often the kinds of people who can't weather the slightest emotional change in climate. I should know, because I used to be one of those people. It's like this: everything is cool with her. And then, suddenly, she feels weird. She's not sure why, but something about you liking her makes her really angry and grossed out.
This is indicative of a couple of things, both of which, conveniently enough, make her a huge waste of your time. First of all, she's got a lot of free-floating anger that's drifting around inside her, just waiting to settle on the nearest victim. Many women are like this, myself included, and most are unaware of it. The unaware ones are the most dangerous - keep them away from sharp things and dogs small enough to punt. Secondly, the fact that she's so creeped out by you wanting to fuck her indicates that she's in denial about the fact that every third jerk on the street wants to fuck her, including the mailman, the guy that waters the lawn, the kid who made her cappuccino, her best friend's dad, and her accountant. Women who don't notice that men spend most of their time imagining fucking every woman they know, read about, see on the street, etc. waste a lot of their time and energy protecting their naive brains from this simple fact, time and energy that might be spent on more important things, like eating chili cheese fries, and trying out new anti-wrinkle creams.
It makes no sense, when you think about it. I mean, there's her best friend's dad, jacking to the thought of her for weeks - actually, he's probably moved on to the cashier at the Piggly Wiggly by mid-week, but anyway - there he is, wanking away, and you, her very close and special friend of five years, happen to mention that you'd sort of like to buy her coffee one day if it's not a huge inconvenience, and maybe you say it in a way that means you might like to buy her dinner after that, and maybe you might want to kiss her months later, and boom! She's disgusted and sickened and can't stand the sight of you. Granted, part of her disgust may lie in the realization that you've been fantasizing about her for half a decade, but then, shouldn't she be thrilled that she's got so much staying power, relative to the girl at the Piggly Wiggly who, while she's the star of countless fantasies, rarely stays in anyone's rotation for more than a day or two, unless they buy groceries three or four times a week, often during the same hours of her regular shift?
She's nuts. She's nuts and you're better off without her. Either that, or you have unusually sweaty palms and should look into some form of treatment immediately.
Friday, September 27, 2002
A SINCERE DISGUISE
Subject: I have friends like you...
...and I sometimes question if they understand their problems. I read research reports about people like you. Yesterday, as an example, I read a long research study by a U. of Georgia psychology professor on why some gays willingly have unprotected sex with partners they know are HIV positive.
The comparison, I realize, between someone who whines daily on a public website and someone who wants a double shot of HIV infected cum is exaggerated, but the point is the same: you both consciously engage in behavior that you know is against what you want (unless you're suicidal or enjoy being published in Salon).
In any case, I don't know how serious you are. You seem incapable of expressing anything sincerely or seriously, except when writing about your family or the break-up with your boyfriend. So, I have a hard time determining if this is an elaborate and pathetic disguise, or if you are really lonely and screwed-up.
I suppose, to conclude, that I continue to read once a week because I keep waiting for that moment when you write about something wonderful and satisfying, something that you've wanted to accomplish, to fall in love, bowl a perfect game, apply toenail polish in a small, unventilated bathroom, or whatever it is you want, has happened.
Maybe next week.
I don't have friends like you, nor do I read research reports about people like you. I rarely read research reports at all, and my friends tend to be people who are less concerned with academic attempts at dissecting human behavior and more concerned with expressing themselves, honestly and entertainingly. Many of them are in conflict with themselves, and can artfully outline this conflict. Many of them have lost the vast majority of their creme-filled crullers. Many of them whine daily, on a public website or elsewhere. The reason their websites are "public" websites is because people read them. The reason people read them is because they're entertaining. The reason they're entertaining is because conflict is at the heart of any good narrative.
You are an incredibly serious person, and as such you mistake my shifts from giddy to sullen to critical to lethargic to elated to self-loathing, and you paper over all of it and call it insincere and not serious. It can't be serious or sincere because it's foreign to you, because you can't imagine changing your mind 12 times a minute, or writing it down as it happens. You imagine that anyone who would do so must be insane, or must be consciously engaging in behavior that they know is against what they want - what they want being what you want, of course: to know the Truth with a capital T, to maintain your dignity, to remain positive and optimistic, to keep your private thoughts behind closed doors, where they belong.
To me, and to the people I know well and spend my time with, positive experiences and negative experiences are one and the same. We can take sunshine and flowers and make them oppressive and repugnant. We can take smog and crusty eye goo and make them glorious and uplifting. We do this all day long, and it drives us crazy, and it drives us. It makes us interesting to each other and annoying to each other. We are simultaneously impossibly light and heavy, sincere and insincere, cynical and pretentious, jocular and melodramatic. We contradict ourselves every second of the day, and we're not about to apologize for it, but then, we are actually willing to apologize for it, and we do so almost constantly. We have a lot of courage of conviction, except when we're chickenshits.
But I should speak for myself: I'm both incredibly happy and healthy and lonely and screwed up, and these things are in conflict. If I were only lonely and screwed up, don't you think you could tell that? Don't you think things would seem sort of gray and lifeless around here? If I were entirely full of shit and completely lacking in seriousness, would anything here be worth reading? If you could tell exactly what I was, would you keep reading? Do you read short stories featuring clearly defined characters who fall in love, bowl a perfect game, and emerge unambiguously happy? Or do you read about conflicted characters who have mixed experiences and aren't sure how they feel, in the end - and neither are you?
There are plenty of blogs filled to the brim with the wonderful, satisfying experiences of their authors. They don't entertain me, personally, but I would never label such people as insincere because they choose not to include all the ambivalent experiences and rough edges that I do. Plenty of things make me happy in my life - there are countless opportunities to look on the bright side, to say something upbeat or kind, to wax poetic about the joys of this or that. America is the land of enforced cheer, we swim through cheery messages all day long, holding our ambivalence and conflict in like holding our breaths. There are few opportunities, in day to day life, when you're interacting with living, breathing people who have agreed to sing the same happy song in unison, to be sullen and weary and nihilistic or even to be conflicted or indifferent. We are individuals! We look on the bright side! We know what we want from life, and we're gonna go out there and get it! When I'm writing, I have the freedom to zoom in on the rough edges. When I'm writing, zooming in on the rough edges is what makes me happy.
Do I seem morose? Did I contradict myself just then? If I were worried about those things, I wouldn't be able to write at all. Sincerity isn't optional. If it were, you wouldn't keep coming back to this blog.
Either that, or you're consciously engaged in behavior that you know is against what you want.
Thursday, September 26, 2002
LIGHTEN UP, BABY, I'M NOT IN LOVE WITH YOU
I could've sworn that I said one or two irreverent or witty things during that interview. Someone should've had a few shots of toilet bowl cleaner before she started droning on about her place in the world - or rather, her lack of a place in the world. Yes, I understand the confusion this article must have stirred up. "Who is this creep and what does she do again?" Ah, well, it's just another weekly navel-gazer. Nothing happens here in LA, really, so they have to invent fictional people, places, and things to give the natives the illusion that they're not living on some Sony back lot. It's hot and stinky on the Sony back lot, after all - the food sucks, the rents are high, and the extras don't look nearly as good without their makeup.
Well, OK, some stuff happens in LA - like the shit you read about in InStyle magazine, that's all true. You know, Sarah Michelle Gellar's interior decorator finds an old set of chairs at the Pasadena Flea Market and has them refinished to match her buffet, and Sarah comes home from getting a seaweed facial and finds the chairs, and she's, like, so psyched. That stuff's all true.
And hey, don't believe that shit about me not having a relationship with my readers. You know and I know that we have a wonderful, deeply fulfilling relationship, little squash blossoms. You know Mommy loves you in a special way. It's just that we can't tell other people about our special, special love because they wouldn't understand. If I told them the truth about us, they would haul me away in the paddy wagon. You know Mommy loves you, though, don't you? Now don't pout. You know. I know you know. I know you know I know you know.
But, man, do I come across as a humorless fuck, or what? So self-serious and sullen. Jesus. And the picture! Fortunate online readers won't be able to see it, but those who do will feel sure that there's Apple payola involved. It reminds me of one of those terrible ads featuring awkward mortals with their jittery, self-loathing affectations prattling on about how converting from PC to Mac gave them thicker, shinier hair and more time to play with themselves. Readers of Filler who spot that grotesque photo will confirm once and for all that my head is, indeed, shaped just like an end table. More like an anvil, actually.
What happened to the shots of me in the cut-off shorts, grinning and frolicking in the grass? "Splendor in the Grass!" could've been the headline. What about those, sunshine? What about the ones in the 400-gallon fish tank with the gold crocheted bikini? David LaChapelle is going to be pissed.
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
HOT HOT HOT!
It's hot here in LA today, and the air is thick with smoke and smog and things that can't be good for you. Serious brush fires in the hills over by Pasadena are making everything look grayish and the air smells bad, the way your clothes smell when you've spent the last few hours standing close to the hot dogs, making sure they're blistery and warped like you like 'em. Of course, charred meat is purportedly carcinogenic, according to something someone at a party read somewhere, but I can't back that up because my factchecker took a leave of absence.
Meanwhile, I feel like I've taken a leave of absence this summer, what with all these fucking weddings, one after another, like some bizarre ritualized season of torture for those of us whose lives are messily assembled, unpredictable, and only very loosely organized around meals, sleep, and the occasional paying of overdue bills. During this sadistic season of matrimony, we're regularly sent on missions across the country, landing in one locale after another, only to be given an up close and personal tour of the new and improved lives of our friends, lives which are mapped out neatly and cleanly, lives which are centered on an ever-deepening appreciation of each other, featuring not just a strong handle on the practical and the day-to-day, as evidenced by pretty houses, vibrantly painted walls, good solid furniture, clean kitchens, timely hairdos, healthy gardens, and bills that you just know get paid on time, in full, without fail, but also a firm grasp of abstract concepts, like commitment, independence, personal fulfillment, good communication, a strong link to family, etc. etc.
Week after week, I leave my own barely-functioning life behind to go on these guided tours of my friends' micromanaged happily-ever-afters, only to return to half-finished projects, editors who wonder if I'm ever in town or want to work at all, blog readers who claim that I'm triggering their abandonment issues, plants that claim I'm doing irrevocable emotional damage by calling forth long-buried traumatic memories of that time I left for a week without sending anyone over to give them water and they almost died of thirst, and if not for the rallying of the kalanchoe, who insisted they all sing "1,000 bottles of beer on the wall" to keep their spirits up, they all surely would have perished.
"Do you consider the kalanchoe a hero?" I asked them. I was just curious, that's all.
"Not really." they said. They're not very romantic, my plants. They're secular motherfuckers. All they care about is sun and water. They're meat and potatoes types.
The grass explained that the kalanchoe isn't a hero because kalanchoes like to be really bone dry before they drink again. Delaying gratification is sort of their whole raison d'etre. Grass, on the other hand, needs to drink almost constantly, especially when it's 110 degrees outside. "Maybe you didn't know that," said the grass. "I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on that one. I mean, I realize that I can't expect you to read my mind or anything. But now you know, right? And I'm not even touching on the emotional effects of going without water for a week. I mean, it's not just that I prefer to drink water almost constantly, see? It's necessary for my emotional and spiritual well-being. But now I think you can at least begin to understand the issues at hand, so maybe you can recommit yourself to fulfilling your side of things."
"I'm pretty sure that Craig and Olivia, who have a fabulous Victorian and a beautiful garden and a nuanced appreciation of the intricacies of commitment and love and marriage and the ability to pull off one of the most artful yet unpretentious marriage ceremonies I could possibly imagine, I'm pretty sure that they don't have grass with complicated issues," I said to the grass.
"I don't care what Craig and Olivia are doing! If Craig and Olivia jumped in a lake, would you do it, too?" the grass screeched. Grass is not known for its ability to turn a phrase.
"Probably! Maybe! Yeah, I probably would!" I screamed, and stomped off to my room and slammed the door.
Ah, the ambivalence that the season of matrimony brings! We feel simultaneously footloose and fancy-free, and irresponsible, sullen, and out of sync with other adults, those adults who have decided to act like adults, making tough decisions, working hard at their careers, painting bathrooms, and sending thank-you notes for sophisticated weaponry from Williams-Sonoma and porcelain soup terrines shaped like gourds from eclectic artsy stores that they certainly never registered at - but they're adults, see, so they're real gracious about it.
Recently, someone said to me, "I guess I'm just jealous of your life." This made me snort coffee out of my nose. I said, maybe you should've come to the grocery store with me today, while I ranged the isles in search of cheap food.
Anyway, my mom's in town, so we're going to eat Mexican food and drink margaritas, effectively delaying my adult life for yet another day.
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
I'LL BE YOUR FREAKAZOID, COME ON AND WIND ME UP
This is only a test. In the event of a really serious problem, you will be tightly wrapped in a cozy white cotton jacket and escorted to the nearest empathetic, non-judgmental, and neutral TRAINED PROFESSIONAL.
I tested "Moderate" for Borderline and Avoidant, and "High" for Histrionic, Dependent, and Narcissistic. Don't admit that you like your friends and enjoy showing off your tits! And enough with the histrionics already!
Thinking about this personality disorder thing is really confusing. I suppose the point at which you're not functioning in your life, or are suicidal, that's when you need to worry about it, right? Or maybe the weird little dramas playing out in my life are signs of a larger problem that has yet to fully develop? I love weirdos...and I certainly am one, at least by the standards of the average person (...is that narcissistic?), but how do you know if you're just a relatively healthy weirdo, as opposed to being a person with an actual personality disorder? And should you compare yourself with your complicated, strange friends and lovers and family members, or with people in your office who are really into sports and are sincerely touched by hallmark greeting cards and who work at their desks all day and then go home and watch television and then go to sleep and then do the very same thing, very happily, the next day and the next and the next?
Miss Probably Not That Freaky, Really
I'm really into sports, and while I'm not sincerely touched by hallmark greeting cards, once I got choked up just from glancing at an ad in the paper for "The Joy Luck Club." It said something like "Love stands the test of time." or "Their bond was unbreakable, their lives forever changed." Something fucking stupid. Or how about that new movie with Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon, about their dead daughter and her boyfriend? There's this last scene in the preview where Dustin H. says something, tearily, to the boyfriend, like "Maybe I can say some things to you that I never got to say to her..." Oh my god. I've seen the preview twice and I've cried twice. Dustin emotes so prettily on the big screen.
Anyway, the point is, I don't necessarily equate being easily manipulated by mainstream shit with being normal. Those of us who are slightly disturbed need distractions like football and melodramatic movies even more than those who have less confusion and egg beaters and flying monkeys swirling around in their heads. Sure, I don't sit at a desk all day, but I'd be making LSD from the lemons life gave me if I trumpeted my laziness as a virtue.
As for sensible, normal, sane people: Personally, I don't have a problem with the mentally healthy or those with steady work or even those who show a marked lack of originality. A lot of seemingly bland people have the strangest shit going on - it's just a matter of letting them surprise you. The only thing I dislike in certain non-weirdos is a disdain for any behavior that parts with convention. I have trouble with: self-consciousness, adhering to social norms to the point of stiffness, an extreme focus on tact, an unbending submission to some unwritten code of behavior that rules out all weirdness or spontaneity, passive-aggressiveness, strictly enforced gender roles, lack of flexibility mixed with a resentment towards those who are more flexible than thou.
In fact, I encourage all the peoples of the world to join me in my embrace of Anal Expulsiveness.
We, the Anal Expulsive, seek to spread the good word of spontaneity and unselfconsciousness through bad jokes, offensive anecdotes, malodorous shoes, confrontation, shrieking, pointing, placing foot in mouth, rolling around on the floor with the dog, demeaning oneself in front of children, trying on ugly hats, exposing one's ignorance, indulging in self-deprecation, hashing it out over drinks, breaking into loud applause, playing games that require silent, manic acting-out of strange scenarios, guffawing, mutual insults, and the eating of raw onions.
The most important thing for those of us who've partially lost our doughnuts to remember is that silence is death. Gracelessness is the air we breathe. If we can't blurt out inconceivable things, we shrivel up and refuse to grow. We need to make grossly inappropriate comments or rash judgments or wildly inaccurate sweeping generalizations in order to live in peace and harmony with other, less confused, more stable humans.
Plus, offending and upsetting those around us has the added bonus of giving us a lot of leeway in the area of personal hygiene and manners. Of course she shows up late wearing bad glasses and a 5-year-old cheap-ass sundress from Old Navy! Of course she parks her beat-up car five blocks away and sweats through her cardigan on the walk to the restaurant! She's a fucking lunatic! What do you expect?
But hold on for just a second, Freaker. You seem to think freakers are better than non-freakers, and that, frankly, concerns me. Setting aside self-consciousness and haughtiness for a moment, non-freakers are often a lot happier than freakers, for one. What's better than being happier? Nothing, Freaker. Nothing is better than happier. Number two, non-freakers have good hygiene, and they get their cars detailed, and they valet. All positive things, Freaker. Like it or not. I hate to say it, but there are non-freakers who speak their minds, too - maybe they don't have as much to say on strange and offensive topics, but that's only because they can focus on topics that might seem boring to you and me, but that are actually relevant and pressing and important, and are embraced by other normal, happy, contributing members of society. Non-freakers often discuss things that have to do with making the world work, things related to making the wheels of progress turn. True, we know nothing of such things, and would rather allocate the time spent on such discussions for other purposes, like making tuna sandwiches or napping or picking the lint off the carpet. We'd prefer to discuss the point at which coffee becomes too lukewarm to drink (never) or whether or not Tamyra will become a big star (reply hazy, try again). But that doesn't make us cool, Freaker. That makes us sick.
Anyway, I'm getting bored now. Time for that tuna sandwich.
Thursday, September 12, 2002
BUILT TO DRILL
"Compared with the British, who have a marionette-like regularity and dignity as they drill, and march, and mount guard, these American forces are farcical chawbacons."
- Robertson Davies, "Murthur and Walking Spirits"
Old Bobby Davies sure can turn a phrase. Farcical chawbacons! The best writing always seems to teeter on that thin boundary between wildly inventive and totally nonsensical. It takes confidence to steer into that nonsensical territory.
Or a huge amount of caffeine. I've been restricting my caffeine intake lately - I can't remember why - and it seems to be muddying my perspective. The triple latte launches me into that neverneverland of frivolous absurdity and heedlessness. When I drink strong coffee, I feel capable of writing masterful volumes, but have more fun playing in the sand. I am the unselfconscious whimsical moron. It's about the means, not the ends. The journey is much more fun than the destination - although at the time I'm entirely sure I'll reach my destination, I know that the real aim is to enjoy the bumpy ride, like a happy drunk on an overcrowded bus packed with happy drunks, barreling through the jungle.
Why "the jungle"? Had I just consumed a 24 oz. Black Forest Ice Blended with an extra shot of espresso, I wouldn't even ask. Or I would've come up with a more suitable word, like "the veldt." But "the veldt" sounds pretentious to me right now, and besides, why would a bus load of cheerful drunks be barreling through the veldt? Maybe they're on a Club Med Kenya "Nighttime Safari Booze Cruise!" type of thing, which one would imagine is only slightly less litigable than the Club Med Maui "Swim With Sharks Mai Tai Extravaganza!"
What exactly is the veldt, though? Grassy area where lions like to nap? I got the word from that short story in The Illustrated Man, to be honest. Would I second-guess my choice of "veldt" if I were jacked up on three shots of espresso? Maybe, maybe not. Right now, it's impossible to tell, because I'm my usual caffeine-free flatlining self.
Spoken like a true addict. I'm just glad I never got into the habit of taking smoking breaks, or smoking while writing (like that squirrel friend of mine), or throwing back jugs of cheap wine while writing, for that matter.
I guess I miss caffeine because it makes me feel like a farcical chawbacon, like those cursed, scrappy Americans, fighting for their own tangled, scrappy country, heedless of dignity and the rules of war. I never wanted to be a marionette, carefully adhering to the rules of "good" writing. Sure, I care about grammar and spelling, a little - but that's just knowing how to load your gun. Great writers get loose and take liberties and get sloppy - not too sloppy, mind you - but sloppy enough to veer into new terrain.
Then again, shitty writers get loose and sloppy, too.
If I were wild-eyed and clench-jawed and sucking down a quadruple iced Caramel Macchiato right now, I would know the subtle differences between great writers and shitty writers. Actually, I think I do know these differences anyway, but I'm too dignified and regimented and repressed and marionette-like to write them down here.
RUE THE LOOKING GLASS
Some of my marionette-like behavior may be related to the fact that I just got an awful haircut. It's not technically awful - the guy who cuts my hair is extremely skilled. But he couldn't remember me from last time, and he confused me when we were talking. He wanted to know, did I really want a bob - long in front, short in back? He made it sound like one of those awful '80s haircuts with the shaved neck and long strands in front. Not wanting to look like the keyboardist for Duran-Duran, I told him no, not a bob, really.
So then - here's the good part - I take off my glasses (I can't wear my contacts this week due to pesky eye infection), so that I can't see what he's doing. But I trust him, because the last haircut was probably the best haircut I've ever had. It felt like the haircut I wanted. And yet, there I am, 20 minutes later, putting on my glasses to see helmet head of hair. Turns out, I did want a bob.
I guess someone somewhere wants me to feel extreme humility right now, because between the ugly glasses and the helmet head, I look like a less-cute version of Harry Potter. Damn that farcical chawbacon of a hairdresser!
And now I remember that "You're So Vain" was playing while he was chopping away! Could that possibly be a coincidence? I mean, I am so vain!
What demon spirit has come to haunt me now?! Is this some kind of a fucking lesson? Am I supposed to stop caring about important stuff like not looking like a preteen boy, and start deriving my self-worth from totally arbitrary things like my work or my generosity towards others? Am I to pull a Regarding Henry here? Because I'm not that lovable when I'm fallible, and I can't fake adorable imperfection nearly as well as Harry Ford does.
Maybe that's the task before me: Learn to appear lovable in your fallability. It's a skill that will stand you in good stead as you age and become less and less lovable. Just look where it got Harry. I mean, who doesn't want to sleep with Skeletor McBeal?
Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Do you honor the dead by doing symbolic things, like visiting their graves or creating memorials? Or do you refuse to think of them as dead? Would they like you to cry and think about them only when you're depressed, or would they want you to talk about them when you're laughing? Do they want to eternally be a part of your darkest, lowest moments, or do they want to be included in your fun?
When I was about 7 or 8, my dad ran in a 10k race. He decided - privately, I assume - that the best way to prepare on race day was by drinking two big bottles of Gatorade. He reasoned that most fatigue is caused by dehydration, and with enough Gatorade in his system, he wouldn't feel tired at all. Gatorade was relatively new at this point, so maybe this seemed like a cutting-edge approach at the time.
My mom and my brother and sister cheered as he ran off, then drove to the halfway point and stood there with a big bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of water, straining for a glimpse of my dad. I remember feeling that my role was very important: As he ran by, we were to hand him the bottle of Gatorade and the bottle of water, so he could continue hydrating through the second half of the race.
When my dad finally ran up, he pushed the bottle of Gatorade away and said, "Don't give me any more of that shit! I threw up once already."
He grabbed the bottle of water, and, opened it, poured it over his head, and threw the empty bottle on the ground as he ran off.
If you were expecting a heartwarming anecdote, you might be sorely disappointed. But these are the kinds of stories about my dad that make me laugh. He wasn't always practical. It was better to go out on a limb and experiment, even if you were going to fail spectacularly. My dad was not boring, and his life was never boring.
I never really gave a shit about whether or not my life was boring until fairly recently. I'd always put a lot of emphasis on having decent relationships and doing worthwhile work. If that work demands that I stay in the same spot in my apartment for several months, so be it.
Then, last year, I was assigned a piece by Glamour that involved going to see a psychic. I didn't really want to see a psychic at all, but since someone else was picking up the tab, I tried to ask around so that I wouldn't end up with some Madame Cleo in a turban telling me that new love was just around the corner. A friend of a friend sent me to a house in the Valley, where a 50-something woman would hold my jewelry and tell me what the "voices" were saying to her.
The first thing the psychic said was, "Your life is very boring. I'm sorry, but it is."
And my life was pretty boring, when I thought about it. I didn't really get out that much, I didn't do new things very often, my relationship was stagnating. I thought, my dad would definitely want me to be doing more, to be experiencing more. The psychic went on to say a fair number of impressive things, but whether or not she was actually clairvoyant, I came away from the experience wanting to shake things up in my life, at the very least just to honor my dad's memory, and what he would want for me.
You can't really live a full life by deciding, in a vacuum, what's best for you, and then doing those things. Part of my recent happiness has definitely grown out of being open to other people's ideas and perspectives on what makes them happy, and what might, therefore, make me happy, too. I never would've thought I'd enjoy half of the weird things I'm into now, a year later. I went whale watching, I took yoga, I watched soccer on TV in the middle of the night, I'm learning to play tennis... If I had adhered to my dusty old notion of what kind of a person I was (a stick in the mud with mildly entertaining perspectives about why it's imperative to sit in the same place and watch other people do stuff that's not worth doing), I never would've tried this crap.
I still don't do a hell of a lot, really, but my life is much less boring.
Anyway, that's how I honor the dead.
1. How do you honor the dead?
a) I honor the dead by watching memorials honoring the dead on TV.
b) I used to honor the Dead by following Phish, but then they broke up. Now I don't know what to do.
c) I wasn't sure how to honor the dead, until I found this guy online.
Tuesday, September 10, 2002
ONE YEAR AFTER SEPTEMBER 11TH, AMERICANS FEEL JUST AS INDECISIVE ABOUT WHAT TO EAT FOR DINNER
I can't decide anything right now. I can't decide what to write about, whether to write or turn off my computer and watch the news. Maybe I should just read a book. I feel like reading, not writing. Or should I go see One Hour Photo with my neighbor?
But then I start reading these ominous news articles online, and I wonder, Should I batten down the hatches for tomorrow's Code Orange?
Ken Layne writes:
"I spent half a second trying to remember if orange meant 'run for your life' or 'hide in the closet and cry,' and then I remembered none of it means anything... Homeland Security: Garanimals for grownups."
Thursday, September 05, 2002
CHAP MY ASS AND CALL ME JUDY
What is the proper, thoughtful way to convey the sentiment, "You're right, I'm wrong, but the way you rake me over the coals for my mistakes really chaps my ass?"
See, many times when I have a disagreement with the mizz we get two fights for the price of one. The first one I'll concede ("Yes, I shouldn't have said that to my mom") but the second one... well, if I swallow it, my concession is obviously sullen and fails to satisfy her. But if I spill, there's the whole new topic of me avoiding the issue, being oversensitive, and not allowing her to express herself. Can this be avoided, or are we doomed to a lifetime of double dipping our quarrels?
The Guy Who Transparently and Anonymously Tries To Get Other People To Win His Arguments for Him
Every argument between lovers, significant others, married people, etc. consists of two separate and distinct sub-arguments: The argument about something small and irrelevant that is interpreted as reflecting the total lack of concern one partner has for the other, and the argument over how each partner argues. If a couple has been together for a while, they can skip swiftly over the first part, the overblowing, overreacting, and misinterpreting of the facts, and move right to arguing about arguing. This enables the couple to generalize in all the most familiar ways, replaying their usual criticisms of how the other party communicates, argues, reacts or overreacts, soothes or fails to soothe, speaks or remains silent, picks a fight or avoids a fight, is brutally honest or lies. Over time, couples cut down on the time wasted by these reruns by learning to lie to each other in small ways, thereby sidestepping confrontations that once seemed unavoidable (apparently you've utilized this strategy with reasonable success). Unfortunately, once this process of smoothing over fights with little lies has begun, it becomes more and more difficult for each partner to tell the truth, or to trust that the other is telling the truth. Eventually, through this process of lie inflation, both partners have trouble acting authentic or being themselves, either inside or outside of the two-headed monster of the relationship. Eventually, all you can really do is lop off that extra head and move on.
Needless to say, I'd be glad to win your argument for you. The trouble is that you can't win, Rock. You're doomed to a lot worse than double-dipping, so enjoy those vivid salad days of coal-raking while you still can.
But wait. Let's see. Does she overreact all the time, or just about, say, once a month, around roughly the same date each month? If she picks on you once a month, that's just proof that she isn't actually a man who's undergone a smashingly successful sex change operation. If she picks on you all the fucking time, often about shit that's none of her business (what's this about your mom?), then you might consider finding someone else to argue with, lie to, and eventually dump.
Good luck, Guy!
Wednesday, September 04, 2002
Just in case The Anna Nicole Show isn't enough proof that American audiences can generate enthusiasm for people with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, you might want to tune into Fox tonight for the finale of one of the most painful yet transfixing shows in television history: American Idol. The show is a disconcerting mix of the very best and the very worst that television has to offer, and the contrast seems to build each week. On a live stage each Tuesday and Wednesday over the past two months, the remarkably awkward have stood shoulder to shoulder with the breathtakingly gifted, and apparently America can't tell the difference.
In the beginning, American Idol seemed bad in a really dull way - not nearly bad enough to be worth our time. The slew of wannabe pop stars performed self-consciously flat numbers straight out of a Teen Star Search audition. The predictable stable of paint-by-numbers R&B hits with that leaden Muzak accompaniment, the shameless hucksterism of those "Coca Cola moments," the Real World-esque montages of the contestants acting zany by the pool added up to patently stupid TV. Even the judges were tedious - Randy Jackson was blandly egotistical, Paula Abdul was blandly positive, and Simon Cowell's snippy little British insults were merely cute, like the predictable grumblings of that awful woman on "The Weakest Link."
Certainly the most amusing aspect of the show has always been the vapid bedheaded hosting duo, Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkelman. Presumably chosen in order to prepare the viewer at home for the disappointingly bad taste of the American people, Seacrest and Dunkelman have gone beyond the call of duty to demonstrate that they are two of the most painfully untalented humans ever to step in front of a camera. Alone, each is a caricature of the empty hip imbecile. Together, they function as a two-headed monster, shellacked in hair gel and twitching self-consciously, tittering and grimacing and attempting to play off each other while neither seems game to the other's initiatives. And why would they be? Seacrests' idea of a good time seems to be jerking his head robotically, barking non sequitors, and leaping around the stage without warning. Dunkelman's charm consists of glaring at the camera, droning in a inaudible monotone, and occasionally guffawing loudly or winking greasily at teenagers in the audience. The two function as a team about as well as a pairing of a male college cheerleader on speed and Beeker from the Muppet Show afflicted by Tourette's Syndrome.
Now, the purpose of cheesiness, as a host, is to smooth over those rough moments where no one has anything to say. But, amazingly enough, Seacrest and Dunkelman manage to pull off the impossible, coming across as both hopelessly canned and lame and tragically stilted and awkward. They have a hard time reading cue cards, they're disconcertingly terrible at ad-libbing, they seem to dislike interacting with the finalists, they're not good at walking, really, or smiling, or announcing the commercial breaks... They're basically bad at everything. Spending time with these two is about as relaxing as a Brazilian wax.
And lately, things have only gotten weirder. A few weeks ago, possibly in order to draw attention away from their own impossibly leaden performances, they started taking cheap shots at judge Simon. Simon, however did not take the bait. Instead, he generally quite calmly points out their utter lack of talent, the silly way they dress and act and talk, all with the manner of a bored parent charged with watching someone else's dimwitted children. It would all seem a tired attempt at drumming up controversy and thus, viewers, if not for the fact that the animosity clearly isn't feigned. The hosts seem to genuinely hate Simon, and he clearly finds them just as pathetic and tiresome as we do. After weeks of suffering through Seacrest and Dunkelman's chafing banter, watching Simon treat them with bemused disdain amounts to a cathartic experience.
But the fear and loathing doesn't end there. Paula Abdul, who's likable enough but not the sharpest knife in the drawer, appears to detest Simon with every inch of her being. Still, she's forced to sit next to him week after week. While Simon can hardly be bothered to comment on the hosts, he really seems to enjoy making Paula look foolish each week, and her flaccid responses ("You wish!" "Yeah, right!") are worth the price of admission. Naturally the producers knew that their ornery judge had the power to stir things up, but since the middle of the season the show often seems to be swerving wildly off any charted course. Between exuberant attempts at building suspense and taking cheap shots at Simon, host Ryan Seacrest has taken to dashing around the stage without warning. Presumably attempting to illustrate his child-like enthusiasm, Seacrest manages only to make us feel vaguely uncomfortable and unsafe in his hands. Suddenly it's not clear if there are any rules or even rough guidelines to the show. Mutual disgust cut with spontaneous bursts of insecurity on live TV? This is why we own a television in the first place.
Unfortunately, one of the contestants, Tamyra, proved to be a legitimate talent, and America promptly thanked her by voting her off the show. Meanwhile, the clearly talentless but hip Nikki was voted back week after week. Not that we need a reminder that we, as Americans, have terrible taste in everything from presidents to crappy pop stars, but somehow it's still mesmerizing to witness such shallowness in motion.
Sadly, the two remaining contestants, Justin and Kelly, are unbearably bland. Kelly probably has the best shot at winning. She's got your basic Christina Aguilera or Jessica Simpson level of talent, a stronger voice than either but with a lot less flair. Get her into a Pilates class, call a few wardrobe people and a stylist, get a choreographer on the scene, and she'll be Britney'ed up enough to have a decent, if snooze-worthy, pop career. Justin, on the other hand, would probably be better suited for an off-Broadway run of "Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."
Of course it doesn't help that the two so-called "hits" that the show is going to use to "break" the new pop star are repetitive, watered-down averages of every bad R&B ballad that's hit the top 40 in the past five years.
Still, given all its flaws, the show does a decent job of creating the illusion that we're moving closer toward some palpable victory - a pop star is born! - when in fact we're still just slumped in the same place on the couch every night, covered in potato chip crumbs, sampling the newest flavor of mediocrity. And assuming that the producers of the show do, somehow, have the power to make their winner a star - and we'll be more than happy to suspend our disbelief regardless - should we really be the ones who'll decide which of these kids breaks wide? According to the current state of popular music, we the people should be the last to decide such a thing.
Like any good reality show, American Idol has given us a weirdly unsettling and nauseating pop cultural ride, like eating a bag of Salsa Verde Dorritos, taking a spin on that Free Fall thing at Magic Mountain six to eight times, then vomiting all over our green suede Pumas. That makes a silly little thing like talent seem utterly beside the point.
Anyway, it's on tonight at 8 pm on Fox. How much is your time worth? If my comments have managed to save you the hour you might have wasted watching this crap, then you can deposit the approximate dollar amount that I saved you into my Pay Pal account. Have I mentioned that, after a summer of leisure, I'm incredibly broke?
Yeah, don't cry for me Argentina. The truth is, I never posted for you.
But I'm posting now, right? That's right, I'm posting now, you ungrateful maggots.
Less Grateful Than Thou,
WE DON'T NEED ANOTHER GYRO
You touch, you tease me Shwerma, and it's getting so hard, ohhhhh!
I've noticed lately that Dave Matthews is sort of picking up where Phil Collins left off in the realm of horndoggy/corndoggy singer/songwriter. I like Mr. Matthews, don't get me wrong, but you have to admit, Phil and Dave have more than a few traits in common. Both are balding, which I think can reasonably be associated with strong sex drive, even in later life. Both have sort of a sweaty aspect that belies a little inner slice of Aqualung. Both sing about Mama this and Mama that, suggesting that unresolved mother issues are not out of the realm of possibility. Both are vaguely cheesy, but in good, melodramatic ways that make their songs sound all the more gut-wrenching and epic. Both are actually extremely skilled and talented musicians, which is rarer than generous junkies in this day and age. But the main thing is, both are really horny all the time, and they like to write songs about it.
As opposed to the rest of you men, who are never ever horny. You men are so mysterious! You can gaze at pretty pictures of Anna Kournikova online for hours! Why? Why?!! I guess you're just much more philosophical and contemplative than us, and looking at Anna helps you to concentrate on your big, lofty ideas better.
Back to Greek food. But what's there to say about Greek food, other than the moist stuff is good and the dry stuff is bad? Pita bad, unless accompanied by moistness. Moist falafel good, dry falafel bad. Hummus? It's moist, but I'm fucking sick of hummus. I wish you hippie fucks would stop serving it everywhere I go, it's so boring, and a sorry-ass substitute for your butter, your cheese, or even your olive oil. Roasted red pepper dip, now that's more like it. Mango salsa? Si! Feta cheese? Oh yeah, baby. I could be the Dave Matthews of moist food, easy.
Speaking of moist Greek things, can you believe how many times those spunky old folks are going to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding? I love it when a cheap, low-key movie like that makes millions of dollars, particularly when a non-mutant human-looking woman is the star. See, average looking people can find love and live happily ever after, too - if people actually do live happily ever after, which implies some endpoint roughly akin to death. But casting such questions aside, it's a damn fine movie. Most of all, it's well-written and well-casted. God, I hate that Northern Exposure dude, too, but he's perfect in this thing. Who knew this would be the Full Monty of... what year is it again? 2002?
I have to get to work now.
Every day I'm psychoanalyzed, for my shwerma, for my shwerma.
Monday, September 02, 2002
TINY LITTLE FOREIGN DIGNITARY
May I briefly introduce myself. I am Kolman Tombe of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) and the former aide de camp of the Late President Laurent Kabila of blessed memory.
I am presently living in Nigeria on asylum. In case you are wondering how I got your contact, I got your contact from my Country's Embassy here in Nigeria.
The events of the past one year in my country has been very unfortunate. The Late President Kabila successfully toppled the very corrupt government of the Late Dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and ruled justly and peacefully for a few months. Unfortunately, the Tutsi from Goma, the Northern part of the country rebelled against his government and since then my country has been at war.
I am very dedicated and committed to winning the war against the rebels until recently when to my shock I found out that Senior Army Officers and Government officials were stealing public funds and looting government treasury and sending them to foreign countries. They have exploited the war situation to bring back the lawlessness and corruption of the Mobutu days.
After the late President Kabila was assassinated in very questionable circumstances, I knew I was in danger of losing from both ends. Due to this development and as a way of survival, I have joined the train. I have in my possession funds amounting to US$15.5Million. In the usual manner of conveying such funds, the money is in defaced form in a trunk box for security reasons. It is now in the safe custody of a security company. The company is however not aware of the real contents of the trunk box.
My problem is that the Financial Laws of Nigeria does not give asylum seekers any financial rights. And because of the economic instability and religious crisis, I have decided that it will be unwise to attempt investing the funds here. The climate here is very unfavourable and as a result, I have not disclosed even to my hosts anything about this fund.
Now I am seeking foreign assistance to transfer the funds overseas. If you can assist, I am willing to give you 20% of the funds, that is US$3.1Million. You will understand that my entire life and future depend on this money and I shall be very grateful if you can assist me. The major thing I demand from you is the absolute assurance that the money will be safe and you will not sit on it when it is transferred to your account.
If you are ready to be of assistance, please contact me immediately by e-mail, so that I can furnish you with the modalities for the transaction and what is expected of you. I shall be most grateful if you maintain utmost confidentiality and keep this message entirely to yourself.
I'd love to help you out by taking your money. Maybe I'm just being paranoid or cynical, but I do wonder why so many wealthy deposed rulers are anxious to deposit money into my account lately. Why look a gift horse in the mouth, though, right? I mean, I guess I can understand why a number of foreign embassies have been passing along the inside word that email@example.com is the best contact for those in such a predicament. I can hardly complain, and should feel honored that my good name has been mentioned in such esteemed company.
So anyway, what do we do first? Should I go ahead and send you some routing numbers, some full account numbers, maybe a few pins, my social security number, my address, my mother's maiden name, my pet's name, and my favorite secret word?
Tiny little soon-to-be millionaire,