Thursday, June 29, 2006

Madonna! Madonna!

Through some sort of divine intervention, I scored a free ticket to the Madonna concert at Madison Square Garden tonight. It's most definitely a gift from above, as I received an office-wide e-mail in my inbox last week that said, "Anyone want Madonna tix for Hartford, Connecticut? Only $360 apiece!!!" I stared at my work computer screen and muttered under my breath, "I could start a small conservative mutual fund with that kind of money."

So, by the grace of God, I went tonight, and it was fantastic. I've never been to a big-production concert before. I like smaller venues where the unwashed masses aren't constantly stepping on your shoes. But Madonna's setup was great: the dancers were amazing, the video screens were huge and plentiful, and the costumes were understated and beautiful. I ate up the Saturday Night Fever riff during "Music," and I friggin' loved the Ring-esque quasi-creepy horse theme at the beginning. Because this is not that serious, people, no matter what Madge and her crucifixion/Bible-quoting/AIDS-in-Africa montages would have you believe. It's just damn good entertainment, and Americans will pay top dollar for that.

Afterward, I was so keyed up that I bounced along 32nd street alongside my friend Red and said, "Can we go dancing later? Daaaancing."

"Daaaancing...," she humored me. "Not tonight."

"I know," I said, looking down at my shoes, a little disappointed.

All of this got me thinking. If Madonna's is the highest-tier concert I've ever seen, what else have I been going to all of these years? Here's a list so you can either mock me or compare and contrast.

Concerts I've Attended:**

- Tori Amos (June 1996)*
- Tori Amos (November 1996)
- Fleming and John
- Ani DiFranco (1999)
- They Might Be Giants
- Wesley Willis
- Ben Folds Five (with Train and Fleming and John)
- The Smashing Pumpkins (minus D'Arcy, plus Melissa Auf der Maur)
- Sheryl Crow (with Semisonic)
- Garbage (with Lit)*
- George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars*
- Beck (with Hank Williams III*)
- Ani DiFranco (2001)
- Moby
- Sleater-Kinney
- Tori Amos (2002)*
- Tori Amos (2003, with Ben Folds)
- Lionel Richie*
- Tori Amos (2005)*
- Debbie Gibson (2005)*
- Madonna***

Concerts I'd Like to Attend:

- Hole (it's a little too late for that, it would seem)
- No Doubt and/or Gwen Stefani
- More Tori Amos concerts (because there can never be enough Tori)
- Something retro, like Springsteen or Billy Joel

*Asterisks denote my favorite shows.

**(I am not a huge concert-goer, which explains why this list is so short. In fact, I kind of hate live shows. The waiting time, plus the standing time, plus the lack of being able to see anything, plus the lack of being able to really hear anything makes for a largely unpleasant time. *sigh* I'll never be a hipster at this rate.)

***I'm not counting local acts that I've seen and loved, including (but not limited to) The Information, American Popular, Dr. Zhivegas, Nell Bryden, the Siren Festival at Coney Island, and tons of others I'm sure I'm forgetting.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Zero Weddings and a Funeral

Up until Monday morning, I hadn't been to a funeral since 1999. So the one I went to on Monday was a different experience for me. You know, compared to my extremely important day-to-day New York life: dodging Murray Hillettes in their Vuitton and Razrs, speaking reverently about Gawker, and drinking...heavily.

There aren't that many complimentary things that you can say about funerals, other than, "The funeral home did a nice job" or "Wasn't that a nice eulogy" or "Those flowers are very tasteful." But what I loved this past weekend was sitting with the old folks in the back of the room at the visitation. I chose a seat next to Grandma G., a sprightly blue-haired woman with piercing gray eyes and a quick wit. She introduced me to everyone she knew, ending each mini monologue with, "She flew here from New York." We sat among her two older brothers and their wives.

Before I go further, here's the thing about funerals: The old folks know the score. After all, they're veterans. They've been there, done that. They don't need no stinking hanky. Chances are, many of their friends have died. So they're the ones sitting in the back, making quiet jokes with one another, and probably mentally noting that the casket isn't nearly as nice as Francis's was back in '98.

I met Grandma G.'s brother, Uncle Hiney, and the first thing he said when he saw me was, "Hey, good lookin'!" A grandson of his whispered conspiratorially in my ear: "You have to watch out for Uncle Hiney. He likes young ladies." Uncle Hiney immediately asked me how old I thought he was. I paused. I didn't know whether to offend him or flatter him. Frankly, I had no frame of reference for ages past 55, other than my mother's parents, who are still alive well into their 80s. "Seventy-five?" I asked, aiming way low. Uncle Hiney positively laughed. "I'm 89!" he said. (Everything Uncle Hiney said was jubilant, thus the exclamation marks. Grandma G. chimed in: "And he still farms." Sure enough, Uncle Hiney, in his flannel shirt and skin mottled from the Oklahoma sun, rides his tractor every day. "That's what keeps me young," he said.

My crew of old folks got especially rowdy when they discovered I looked like another young woman at the visitation. "She favors Chad's wife," they all murmured together, nodding and repeating it to each other. And even after they all agreed that I looked like her, they wouldn't let well enough alone. "Chad!" they called. "Bring your wife over here." A slight blonde woman around my age holding the cutest fat baby I've ever seen approached us. I thought she was pretty. "Let's get a picture!" Uncle Hiney said. And his wife took our picture -- me and this complete stranger who happened to look somewhat like me -- in the middle of my uncle's visitation. They all clapped and cheered. I loved it.

I thought that was the end of my Uncle Hiney experience until I saw him right before the funeral the next day. We recognized each other and waved. He called me over to him. "How am I going to send you that picture if I don't have your address?" he asked, pulling a tiny notepad and pen out of his shirt pocket. I opened the note book to find a few numbers written on the first page. "Should I write it here?" I asked. Uncle Hiney looked away and then back at me. "I do a little gambling," he said. I laughed out loud and wrote my address on the next page. I know Uncle Hiney will write to me, and frankly, I can't wait to get his letter and send him one in return.

I recounted this story to the Boyf yesterday, to which the Boyf replied, "He got your digits!"

He's right. At 89 years of age, Uncle Hiney managed to finagle an address out of a cute blond thing at a funeral. And that's the positive memory about this past weekend that's guaranteed to make me smile, in the midst of everything else.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Uncle Loren

A good man died today.

My Uncle Loren died today.

I just saw him last week in the Midwest, and we played cards together. I fetched him a wine cooler from the garage because he didn't want all the alcohol from a regular beer, and I slid it into a can cozy in front of him, on the dining room table. The next day, before Aunt Shirley and Uncle Loren left, Uncle Loren and I both ordered the same thing at the pancake house: honey wheat pancakes with syrup. I gave him part of my butter because the waitress didn't bring him any at first. "They're good, ain't they?" he asked me, about a fourth of the way through them.

Uncle Loren is -- was...I'll never get used to referring to him in the past tense -- short and round, with a round face and round head. His skin was bronzed and a little leathery from checking Oklahoma oil wells for years. That was his job, and he got the biggest bonus this year because he did his job better than anyone else. He was prone to wearing a crimson Oklahoma University T-shirt with gray sweatshirt-material shorts and sneakers unless we were in church. I remember him wearing suits to services and singing hymns with vigor, but that was years ago, when I still lived down south, where I was born and lived until I was nine.

Uncle Loren was fiercely conservative and fiercely Christian. I learned not to talk politics with him after I began college. "This separation of church and state is bullshit," he'd say, or something like it. He liked to hunt. He sometimes began sentences with, "Well, hell!..." Uncle Loren was a guy's guy, a straight-edge "son of a buck" (he loved that phrase). But Uncle Loren had a soft side that was as steadfast as his morals. He loved peanut-butter chocolate milkshakes from Braums, big plates of my mom's spaghetti, and Louis L'Amour western novels. Or any western novels. And he loved me and my two sisters.

He was there when I was a baby, and he was there as I was growing up. He gave me bucking-bronco piggyback rides as my sisters and I giggled and egged him on. He was a jokester, and he loved to make us laugh. He'd hide our dessert at dinner when we weren't looking, until we'd figure it out and yell, "Heeeeeyyyy!" He brought out our wit, even when we were young girls. He was there in the stands at my elementary-school softball games, cheering me on. When I was nine, Uncle Loren would take me out in his Datsun pickup to collect soda dn beer cans from farm roads. When we'd spot a few, we'd both jump out -- me in my little navy windbreaker -- and put them in a garbage bag. When we cashed them in back in town, we'd split the money. But I think Uncle Loren probably gave me more than my share.

He came to the Midwest in time for him and Aunt Shirley to buy me my first prom dress -- a black velvet off-the-shoulder discount number. He knew how to make me feel beautiful. "Your butt looks good, too," he said as I spun in the dress. He smiled and looked off into the distance. I remember him saying that because it might sound odd to anyone else, but it was probably the only compliment I got from a guy that year. Every time he saw me, he'd tell me I looked good. He made me feel beautiful. I could always count on that. If he had a seat between one of my sisters and me, he'd say, "And I get to sit between two good-lookin' girls."

He loved my Aunt Shirley. You could tell just by the way they looked at each other. He'd pinch her sometimes when she wasn't looking and make her squeal and laugh. "Loren!" she'd say, pretending to be appalled.

He used to wrangle cattle on Oklahoma farms. And he used to be in the Army. He loved that I'm strong for a girl. He told me once that push-ups are the one exercise that will strengthen your whole body. For that reason, I do at least 30 every time I go to the gym.

He used to chew tobacco and spit it into a Solo cup. He used to wear cowboy boots. He liked to get a toothpick from the dispensers at diners as he paid his bill and leave it in his mouth as he walked out to the car. I used to mimic him sometimes, getting a toothpick of my own. His knees got bad later. He gained more weight than they could handle, and he had to have surgery on them. He started moving slowly. He couldn't walk very far or very fast. He'd hobble along next to you, but he thought he would recover, gain strength, and get better.

The last time I saw him, we talked about New York. "I don't know how you live among all them people," he said, sitting back in his chair and laughing. Aunt Shirley chimed in: "The only way you'll get him out there, Newbie, is if you get married out there." I laughed at all of it. "We'll take you to Central Park, Uncle Loren. You'll like it there."

Uncle Loren never had much use for beaches, either. He and Aunt Shirley went to Mexico with their daughter and her family, and he was so bored he'd take long walks on the beach with his grandson at 6 a.m. to pass the time. "I'd rather be on a ranch and look at all the cattle," he said last week, motioning with his hand in a way that made me think he was seeing them right then.

I'm not even engaged yet. But on the day I get married in New York, I'll look at Aunt Shirley sitting by herself in the church pew, and I will try not to cry. But then I'll picture Uncle Loren in Central Park, sitting on a bench, looking at "all them people," and wishing he were on a ranch, looking at all the heifers and the steers and thinking about his niece, all grown up and here, in the big city.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Bloglines Blurred

I want to preface this post by saying that I am not trying to be catty by blogging about Brooke Parkhurst, author of Belle in the Big Apple. But, since I know at least some of you are going to reach the obvious conclusion, let's get down to brass tacks: Of course I'm jealous of her. She's completely beautiful (see picture below) and seemingly above the realm of mere mortals, as evidenced by the fact that she's blogging her way through an interview to work at the New York Post's Page Six and hasn't been booted out of their offices yet. Um, has no one at the Post figured this out yet? Or have they figured it out and they're just enjoying the free publicity? Do they expect her to blog about the interview? Or don't they care? And, more importantly, why would anyone blog about work, especially a potential job? Do people not have bills to pay, rent to make? And more important than that, why do some people who do blog about work and subsequently get fired seem to come out just fine -- if not better -- on the other side?

When did it become okay -- savvy, even? -- to be stupid and arrogant? I'm guessing that most people who tried what she's doing wouldn't make it through Interview One. I guess being beautiful and having a successful blog and book deal erases a lot of lines in the sand on this island. I'll bet that having money helps, too.

And maybe that's why, more often than not, I feel like I don't belong here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Generic but True

I discovered something today:

If you're with me in an Irish pub, and I'm drinking a pint of Yuengling, and the song "With or Without You" by U2 comes on, I'm 85 percent more likely to either fall in love with you or remember you fondly than if that song never played.

The more you know...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Summer Reading

Okay, one more Midwest story: This past Thursday, my parents took me and one of my sisters to a resort-type pool. My pasty-white New York skin was in heaven. Well, except for the burning, but it was great to lie in the sun next to water rather than tar and a rooftop safety railing.

A few hours into our excursion, my dad pulled out the book he had been reading. "I'm reading this because it was cheap," he said, and I looked over and saw a yellow "$6.99" sticker on the back of his trade paperback, possibly hailing from Wal-Mart or Borders. That was fine and all, but then I looked at the cover. My father was reading Going Topless by Megan McAndrew.

"Dad!" I hissed/shrieked. "That's chick lit!"

The term did not register with my father. (I do not come from the most literary of families unless we're talking about the NIV, King James, or RSV versions of the Bible.) I might as well have said to him, "Dad! That book is written in English!" because as a reply, he gave me a plot summary: "It's about four sisters. One is..." he began. I didn't know what else to do, so I let him continue talking and thus continue reading it. I later encouraged him to buy the mass-market paperback version of Memoirs of a Geisha because at least that wouldn't cause passersby to challenge his heterosexuality.

That aside, I spent my vacation reading the following three books that had similar threads running through them: New York, career choices, a perceptible hum of self-absorption, and the mishaps that befall the authors:

1. The Joys of Much Too Much by Bonnie Fuller:

-Okay, stop laughing. Heck, yes, I read it because who wouldn't want to be the most sought-after and highest-paid magazine editor in the world? I waded through the snappy, hyper, you-go-girl prose in less than three hours and learned a marginal amount about succeeding in life that I didn't already know from the reviews. Clearly, this book is for the post-college, pre-career set, but that doesn't make it bad, necessarily. I'd have paid 10 bucks for it, but probably not $15, which is what I bought it for on Amazon.

2. Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs

-This book is so good that -- nerd that I am -- after I finished it I actually went to Augusten's website to find his e-mail address so I could tell him how much I love his work. (Um, he didn't have his e-mail address up, probably so stalkers like me can't get in direct contact with him.) I've now read most of Augusten's work: Running with Scissors, Dry, Magical Thinking, and now this, and all of them are well worth the time spent reading them. I. Cannot. Wait. for the Running with Scissors movie coming out this fall starring none other than my girl Gwyneth. OMG. Okay, I have to calm down now.

3. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

-I read this book when I was about 17 and retained absolutely none of it. Reading it with a somewhat wiser perspective is completely different and wonderful. It reminds me a lot of one of my favorite novels, The Best of Everything, but in mostly superficial ways -- setting, age range of characters, etc. In my opinion, it's every woman's duty to read Plath at some point in her life.

Here are a few other things I've really enjoyed this past week:

>> I read this from Forksplit today, and I found it beautiful and engaging. I enjoy her writing so much, and I love that she writes long, something that the blogosphere seems to discourage.

>> My friend down South made me a mix CD of songs I had never heard of, and I found I love the song "Dakota" by Stereophonics. After a little Googling, I found that this song came out in early 2005, but I am okay with that because I am okay with the fact I am not cool. I'll leave that to the hipsters.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Back in Black

Aaaaaaand, I'm back. Back on solid concrete in New York. Scent of Koreatown on trash day, how I've missed you. Overpriced deli sandwiches housing a day's protein allowance in turkey slices, I've missed you, too. And trash trucks idling outside my window at 6 a.m. and making this "p-toooo!" sound every 15 seconds like clockwork? Don't think I've forgotten about you.

You might think I've waxed a little too poetic about the Midwest based on my last couple of posts. But that's going to change right now. Gather around, everyone. Get your mats and your bug juice and sit Indian-style in a circle. Newbie's gonna tell you a little story about why she left the Midwest:

On Friday night, while I was still in the Heartland, my middle sister, the big-shot working girl with her own office and file cabinet and three-hole punch, took me out to her favorite watering hole. (Clearly, it had to be Friday because she's too responsible to go out on a weekday.) It was a nice bar, and I say that unironically. Exposed-brick walls, new tile-and-stainless-steel bar, long tables for hanging with your crew (as it were), and an $8 all-you-can drink Coors Light special. As soon as the bartender told me that, I had a 10-spot on the table and a thirsty look in my eyes. He then set a giant white-plastic Coors pitcher/mug receptacle in front of me that was filled with beer. I looked around for someone to snicker about the mug with, but no one made eye contact. That's because it is not at all unusual to drink out of a giant white-plastic Coors pitcher/mug receptacle in the Midwest.

So drink it I did, and, similar to the visions people must have after consuming peyote, then saw written on the wall (well, more like a chalkboard) that it was karaoke night.

So I wowed the crowd with a little "Bette Davis Eyes" (yes, I'm bragging, but dammit, I'm good), and then I turned back to my second pitcher/mug receptacle of Coors Light. Only one other person had been singing karaoke that night: a large-ish man with a dark mustache and red T-shirt. He sang Metallica's "Turn the Page" first, but it sounded more like Bob Seger's version, and then he sang another lame country jam. (Natch; we are in the Midwest.) As I tried to enjoy my adult beverage and talk to my sister at the same time, Red Shirt Guy came up to me and said, "Are you going to sing another one?" "Ohhh, I don't know," I said, at this point far more interested in my pitcher/mug receptacle than anything else. Red Shirt Guy put his hands together in a mock prayer pose. "Please?" he said. "You have a great voice." I turned back to my Coors. After a few minutes, another pitcher/mug receptacle had been placed in front of me. I thought about doing another song, but the place's menu (songbook, for the uninitiated) sort of sucked. They didn't even have "Like a Prayer," for Pete's sake. Plus, for artists whose songs they should have had five or more of, like Journey, for example, they had one random tune that I had never heard of. I mean, what respectable karaoke establishment doesn't have "Don't Stop Believin'"?

As I contemplated singing another one, I thought of George Costanza in "Seinfeld." "Go out on a high note," my brain said. "They loved your first one. Don't do another one. You have to stay number one in their eyes!" It was at this point that I should have listened to my inner George. But the Coors felt differently. If the Coors had had its way completely, I would have hopped on the lap of the goateed post-college burnout sitting on the next barstool and asked him to take me to the nearest NASCAR race. But instead the Coors settled for me singing Christina Aguilera's "What a Girl Wants." Good song. Really. Unless you're in a Midwest bar with college students and a cut-rate karaoke machine.

I put in my request and went up shortly thereafter to sing my Xtina song. As I walked up, a gaggle of bleach-blond, straw-haired, tanorexic sorostitutes from the nearby community college all turned around simultaneously. "She's serious!" one of them said. No, you bitches, I was not "serious." I was walking up to a microphone to sing karaoke. If that makes me Dan Rather doing a wartime news bulletin, then maybe you should give daddy's Amex a rest and click on over to some CNN Headline News every now and again rather than watching reruns of "The Simple Life" all summer for tips on poise and diction.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, the crappy karaoke machine. As my song began to play, I knew I was in trouble. This version of "What a Girl Wants" that was playing can only be best described as the "bossa nova" setting on early 1990s Casio keyboards. I had no idea how I was going to sing over this crap. As I strained unsuccessfully to keep up with the "oooooooohs" and "yeah, boys" of this inferior recording, I looked to my Red Shirted karaoke companion. Surely, he'd understand how a lame recording can affect one's voice. Mid-song, completely ignoring the fact that I was supposed to be singing, I bent down and motioned to my ear in Red Shirt Guy's direction: "Does this sound weird to you? Strange? It seems off." Red Shirt Guy said nothing. After 30 seconds more of the torture and strange looks, I left the microphone stand while the song was still playing. Finally, Red Shirt guy came up to me. I immediately said, "That recording was awful. I couldn't sing with it." He looked me straight in the eyes and said, "That's what you get for singing something you don't know," and then he cocked his eyebrow toward the ceiling and tried to buy me a shot, which I not-so-politely declined.

I think this story illustrates two points in New York's favor:

1. Sure, there are sorostitute bitches in every city, but at least in New York, they wouldn't be caught dead in the bars I frequent.
2. In New York's bars, I would say that roughly 80 percent of patrons are completely unaware that karaoke is even going on in their chosen place of debauchery. Of that 20 percent of people remaining, half of them are only marginally aware that there's a human singing instead of a recording, and the other 10 percent is made up of the following people:
a.) The karaoke DJ.
b.) Your friends.
c.) The guy at the bar who will most likely try and ask you out/buy you a drink/invite you home to sleep with him.
d.) People who are just damn glad not to be either at work or melting into a human ooze puddle on the overcrowded sidewalks.

People have a misconception about the Midwest. People are not nicer there. People just smile more. And then they say nasty, unnecessary, derogatory things to your face, as if the smile negates it somehow and makes it okay. New Yorkers are blunt and in your face, but they'd never put down a sister just trying to sing some late-'90s pop classics.

So, kids, that's why Newbie left the Midwest. And she's never going back.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Who Wants to Play Old Maid? Anyone? No?

Against my better judgment, I called the Crush. Yep, just balls-out called him, repercussions be damned. And? Well, I shouldn't be surprised by this, but he's engaged to be married. The wedding is scheduled for September. He brought that up pretty darn quickly in our conversation, maybe in sentence three or four.

Crush: Yeah, I wanted to invite you to my wedding, but I couldn't get you to return any of my calls.
Me: (Hmm, the boy has a point. Was it my fault I found it odd that he suggested flying out from the Midwest to New York to see me after we hadn't spoken in years? He had no business in my life at that point. Okay, think fast.) Oh, yes, well, I changed my phone number.
Crush: Aaaaaahhhh.
Me: Yes. So.
Crush: Well, can I get your address? I'll send you an invitation.
Me: Great! That would be...great.

I hung up after a few more awkward bits of convo and stood, silent in my parents' living room. I wasn't necessarily sad that he was getting married; most of my high school friends/acquaintances are married, sometimes with kids. It's just that hearing him go on about his teacher fiancee, his quality-control job for vending machines, and the house he's building and really absorbing the excitement and security in his voice made me realize how important and in vogue it is out here to nail down a family life as soon as humanly possible.

I told my married best friend from high school yesterday, "I should stop being shocked that people my age are married and having children. At my age, it's perfectly acceptable."

And it is. For them. I just don't want that now. Or maybe for a long time. Or maybe ever. And in my mid-twenties, visiting the Midwest, that makes me an old maid.

So onto the more important question: Am I supposed to send these people a gift? What do you give the guy you crushed hard on your sophomore year of high school, the guy who borrowed your beloved Tori Amos Under the Pink album and tried hard to decipher its true meaning because he knew you loved her so much? The guy with whom the timing was never right? The guy you really wanted to go to senior prom with? The guy you kissed twice and then unceremoniously dumped and then had two phone conversations with and then dissed again and then called back to find out he's getting married?

Tiffany vase? Bed Bath & Beyond gift card? Applebee's gift certificate? Some indication of what he could have meant to you if it had all worked out better back then? So, BB&B it is, right?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Heartland

Playing cards while drinking beer: Check.

Losing $7.75 at penny and nickel slots at the casino on the way home: Check.

Trip to pancake house: Check.

Lying in the sun in my backyard: Almost check. (I'm going to do that now.)

Seeing my best friend from high school: To be checked tomorrow.

It's warm and sunny and lush with actual vegetation here. There are real houses everywhere I go. New brick mansions cost $300,000, and that alone is enough to make me consider moving back. Maybe. Okay, maybe not. Beige stucco mini-malls have the run of the land here. Chain restaurants. Furniture stores. Highways. Half-full apartment complexes advertising "FREE RENT." Seeing that, I knew I wasn't in New York anymore -- as if I needed an actual sign.

I'm going to get mushy for one second, so bear with me: I miss who I was when I lived here. It's simple enough here that above-average goals and intelligence seem just that: above-average. I went to the supermarket yesterday, and the high-school bag boy flirted with me. I'm actually attractive in this town, and I half-miss that kind of superficial attention. I know, though, that the charm of a comfortable, conservative, suburb-like town wears off real quick. I felt it the entire time I was here. The dating pool is shallow; tolerance levels are low. But for this week, I'm going to pretend it was always perfect and revel in not having to book it to the subway and to this or that function or appointment every waking hour of the day.

Midwest, I've missed you.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Going Back Home

I'm packing for the Midwest tonight, bringing three pairs of heels I probably won't use since everyone wears flip-flops there, even to the clubs. (I use the term "clubs" lightly.) I pick the big suitcase and put too many piece of clothing there for just that reason: I don't know what I'll be wearing there, I don't know what I'll be feeling there. What if I run into the co-captain my old cheerleading squad at the mall and meet her two-year-old daughter and try to explain to her what I'm doing in New York? Will she have a point of reference? A job of her own? Will she care? Will she be scrutinizing my highlights and my weight, just like everything was back then?

Should I call my old Crush and have lunch with him even though I'm in a relationship with the Boyf? Is that a recipe for disaster or a useful tool for seeing how far I've come? I remember sitting with my old Crush at 18, when the two of us were just friends, in the Barnes and Noble cafe in our hometown, and he bought me a piece of tiramisu -- the first I'd ever had. He was cute and crazy at the same time. (Aren't they all?) He worked at McDonald's in his free time, after school, and bought at least two cars for himself in two years, which he promptly wrecked. I never understood the logistics of the accidents: He "slid under a truck" in one of them. He was just imperfect enough for me not to begin dating him when he confessed his feelings to me my freshman year of college. He brought me one dozen pink roses, and we kissed, but I'd already committed myself to my college boyfriend, a three-year-long mistake if there ever was one. I was confused and frustrated. "Date him, too!" My dad yelled from the living room as I was putting the flowers in water. "Date lots of guys!" My dad ended up being right. I chose my college boyfriend over my Crush, I didn't hear from him again for five years, when I was living in Jersey and miserable but on the verge of starting a relationship with the Boyf. Our conversations dwindled because I was coupled. I know my Crush was engaged but not married. I know he went to some sort of community college for computer engineering. I don't want to start drama (okay, maybe I do, just a little....), but maybe I'll call my Crush. Just to see.

My family is taking me to their timeshare in a ridiculous Midwest country music paradise (I use the term "paradise" lightly), and I'm to bring my swimsuit, my mom says. I love that. I love the idea of sunbathing in a landlocked state at some condo-surrounded pool, drinking bottles of Miller High Life with my dad and playing cards whenever I feel I've had too much sun.

Of course, as soon as I heard the word "swimsuit," I paraded in front of my full-length mirror and checked out my abs. They're not in bad shape. I looked up to my shoulders, face, and hair, and I had a mini-realization: I'm not 18 anymore, and this is not high school. I'm a twentysomething-year-old woman, and I'm going back to the Midwest to be with my family and nothing more. The thought is extremely grounding. Crack open another Miller High Life. I'm reading for some poolside-sittin' and card-playin'.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


America has been bothering me lately. The concept of America, the image we portray to other countries. That statement feels too simple for what's been going on lately.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is dead, and the world is most likely better for it. But is it necessary to take a picture of his lifeless head and broadcast it, surrounded by a gold frame, for everyone in the U.S. and the world to see? Is it appropriate that enticed readers to "watch" the deadly safe-house bombing today, complete with real video? To me, it's disturbing that we've adopted this savage warrior mentality. We are -- with 2006 technology -- essentially spearing al-Zarqawi's head on a pike and riding on horseback around the torched village. "Look at what we've done. Look at who we are. We're stronger. We're bigger. Watch out for us."

Especially as a New Yorker, and especially post-9/11, I am not denying that al-Zarqawi is an awful influence who needed to be trapped and killed so he can't orchestrate more attacks. But how we went about reporting it is so intensely American to me -- so boastful and arrogant -- that it made me ashamed to live here. As I read the news today and heard both my gut and how sickened everything made me feel, I wondered if I've become too liberal. Should I be rejoicing along with the rest of the country and the media? Should I spit on al-Zarqawi's lifeless image and anticipate a swift end to the Iraq insurgency like it seems the Bush administration wants us to do?

But then I read this intense interview with the father of Nicholas Berg, an American businessman who was beheaded on-camera by al-Zarqawi himself, and I thought, "Thank God someone else is seeing the big picture."

There are no easy answers to our terror, to our government problems, to obesity, and to the growing stratification of the rich and the poor in this country -- not even simply electing a Democrat to office after the culmination of all of those things. I'm going to be in the Midwest visiting my immediate family this week (so I probably won't be updating this blog unless I can find an Internet connection that doesn't run on tin foil and rubber bands), and although my family isn't political, per se, they are religious. And I'm hoping that they and their friends will see past the conservatives' rallying cry of hatred for homosexuals for what it is: a last-ditch effort to win back the power they never deserved in the first place and that got us into this horrible mess where American soldiers are dying. Dying.

I'm going to wait for the rest of the country to be horrified -- by something little or something big, and I'm going to wait for the consciousness shift that crosses party lines. That (and vote, I guess...?) is all I can do.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

For the Attention-Span Challenged

Here's one of my new favorite sites:

It's a subscription-based online library of magazine and newspaper articles ($4.95/month, $49.40/year), but several of their stories are free. I don't subscribe, but if I ever find some more free time lying around to devote to reading, I'll consider it.

The coolest part, though, is that if you sign up online and give KeepMedia an e-mail address, they'll send you weekly "Week in Review" and "Editor's Picks" e-mails. I've found that it's a nice way to scroll through different takes on the most-talked-about stories in the media and keep somewhat apprised of what's going on in this country.

Or, more accurately, what idiocy and intolerance is going on in this country.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ooof. Ouch.

When I was about 14 years old, I went to the mall with my friend Angela, and my parents agreed to pick us up at a predetermined time right outside the food court. During the two hours that Angela and I were shopping/wandering/buying $6.50 bottles of Victoria's Secret lotion/eating 7-Layer Burritos, there was a sudden torrential downpour outside. When Angela and I finished our loitering, walked out of the mall, and got into my parents' minivan (toldja I was from the Midwest), they were cackling maniacally and pointing out the window. Of course, I was horribly embarrassed, especially when I realized what they were laughing at:

There was a giant, inky puddle of rainwater indistinguishable from the blacktop of the parking lot right in front of their van, and they were watching unsuspecting person after unsuspecting person step/fall into it and drench themselves from the hips down. Again, at 14 I was humiliated beyond belief, but now I see how hi-freakin'-larious it is to simply sit back and watch (other) people bite it.

So, in memory of that rainy Midwestern night, here are my favorite old-but-timeless videos of people falling:

1. This recent one from "So You Think You Can Dance" (via Lindsayism)

2. One word: numchucks

3. Two words: trap door

And, as a bonus, this still shot, via Planet Dan:

Yes, that is Tony Danza.

Wait. I'm Supposed to, Like...Work?

You mean people actually do work at their jobs? I'm just kidding. I do work at my job, but reading about what other New Yorkers do all day at their jobs in this fun article made me tired. Especially the sous chef part. She sounds like she kicks ass and takes names -- even when she's gossiping about a waiter with two publicists.

I think the thing I love best about this article is how intensely specific and sometimes menial the tasks are that everyone has to do at his or her job, like send thank-you e-mails to clients or "discuss suite dry bar counter installation," but in no way -- come hell or work emergency -- is that ever going to interfere with them checking their stocks, reading Gawker, or e-mailing their cousin about her new baby.

Thank God New Yorkers are still human. I was starting to wonder.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bring it, Blogstein

So, apparently, over in a dark, moldy corner of Internet-land lurks a shadowy, nerdy figure who calls himself "Dr. Blogstein." (Doctor of what remains to be seen , but I'm thinking his alma mater has to be the University of Phoenix online.) Today, he had the gall to compare me to my archenemy: Kaavya Viswanathan. *Shudder.* Them's fightin' words. (Or, in the words of Steve Zahn in Happy, Texas before he opens up a 10-gallon drum of whupass: "The light is GREEN.")

Here's what he says I ripped off from his blog:

Typing Pool, May 31:
"I have to admit I've really enjoyed seeing spammers' tactics evolve over the past few years or so."

Dr. Blogstein, May 23:
"I have to say that I am impressed with this Spammer Scammer...Behold a breakthrough in the art of spam."

Hey, Blogstein, for something to be considered plagiarism, doesn't more than just one non-arbitrary turn of phrase have to match up? And, by the way, if you're calling me out, you should also call out Andy, Steph, and Nahrissa because, according to you, they're totally stealing your ideas, too. Kaavya's influence is everywhere!

But I won't hold your misjudgment against you. The University of Phoenix might not have covered that in Quackery 101.


I Heart Spammers

Again, spammers seem to be attempting to make real sense out of of their subject lines and succeeding...well, sort of.

Here's the subject line of one e-mail I got in my spam inbox today, from "Laurel Farr ":

sexy baby and bad erection?

I think something was lost in translation with this one, but still. They're trying.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I Love the '80s...Aerobics Edition!

Continuing my obsession with the New York Times and its gym stories, I read this Thursday Styles gem today. The story was fair enough: These days, gym-going New Yorkers would sooner shove hot pokers into their eyes than actually interact with other human beings while blasting Fall Out Boy on their 'Pods and hitting level 7 on the elliptical trainer -- let alone meet other young singles. (Well, unless they're gay, and then that all goes out the window, the article says. I knew there was a reason the mean gay guys at my Chelsea gym look sort of mad as they watch me walk to the locker room by all the weight equipment.)

I also learned -- as I was not a New Yorker in the '80s -- that gyms in the city two decades ago were pickup scenes rather than workout means. (Oh, yeah, that line was all me.) But what really cemented my love for the article was this picture:

Now that is comedy. The guy still looks like he'd be right at home on a 2006 Men's Health cover, but, oh, Christie, that hair! I'm thinking her hairspray residue alone would be acidic enough to bore through the fake leather of a weight bench. And could someone please explain to me what the function of that tiny turquoise belt is?

I'm glad it's not the '80s anymore: If I manage to remember a pair of sweatpants, a sports bra, a T-shirt, and a ponytail holder for my workout, it's an accomplishment. If accessorizing were involved, I'd definitely be flushing my $50-a-month membership down the toilet.