Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas and Caga Tió

Figure 1. Caga Tió
There are many things I miss about Barcelona—the food, the beach, the barrel-like grannies who sideswipe you for a seat on the metro. But apropos to this time of year, I miss one of the most fascinating Christmas traditions I’ve ever encountered: The Caga Tió (the Poop Log).

Instead of leaving cookies for a round, jolly Santa plopping down the chimney, some Catalan families place a log (traditionally near the fireplace, but it could be elsewhere), which gets “fed” little snacks starting on December 8 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), until Christmas. In modern times, this shit log stands on four legs and has a little smiley face drawn on one end. (See Figure 1.) The Caga Tió is covered with a blanket to keep it warm. The reason it's fed is so it will later “poop out” presents.

On Christmas Eve, or Day, the family serenades the Poop Log, invoking it to drop a load (of gifts) while hitting it with a stick to move things along. The song has several variations, one of which goes as follows:

caga tió,
caga torró,

avellanes i mató,
si no cagues bé,
et daré un cop de bastó.
caga tió!

Translated from Catalan as:

Poop Log
Poop out torrone (a Christmas cake)
Hazelnuts and cottage cheese
If you don’t poop good
I’ll hit you with a stick
Poop log!

Figure 2. Caganer.
The Catalan fascination with feces doesn’t end here. In their intricate and detailed nativity scenes, there's one figurine that stands out from the rest: the Caganer, or town shitter. This figure has pants dropped and is in the process of defecation (See Figure 2).

For all of you who think I’m smoking hectic weed, or that I’m just obsessed with excrement—you’re partly right! I do love a good poop story. However in this case what I say is true, as confirmed by the gospel (Wikipedia). To purchase your own poop log or town shitter, click here.

And, I’ll end this little lesson in culture (and caca) with an old Catalan saying:

Menja bé, caga fort i no tinguis por a la mort!" (Eat well, shit strong and don't be afraid of death!)

Merry Christmas (Bon Nadal) and Happy Holidays (Bones Festes) everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Let the Cattle Call Commence

I was at the dentist this week when one of the assistants asked me about my plans for Thanksgiving. “Eating,” I said, already imaging the feast that I’d missed over the past 10 years while living overseas. Having divorced parents gives me two such spreads, and I was picturing the delectable meals when the girl said, “What about Black Friday?”

Suddenly visions of turkey and gravy morphed into 300 pound Walmart shoppers jockeying for position at the “starting line” at 4 am, a whistle blowing and a stampede beginning, a string of trampled casualties left underfoot (or underhoof).

“Who the hell would go shopping on Black Friday?” I asked, wrinkling my nose in disgust. “Like, who is so desperate that they have to wake up at 4 am, stand online with a bunch of loooosas and risk their life for a 20% discount at Toys "R" Us? I can’t think of anything I’d like to do less! Who does that? Seriously, who?”

“Um, I do,” the girl said, swiftly walking away. Crap. I felt like I'd just over complained to my waiter and was about to get my food spit on, in this case, my retainer tampered with to ruin my $4,000 smile.

“Oh, I guess it can be fun though!” I said, halfheartedly attempting to rectify the situation as she ignored me.

But seriously folks! Who does do that? Why do we let marketing and advertising and consumerism take over and convert us from human beings into savage beasts who will KILL other human beings just to get a few dollars off of shit we don’t need anyway? Do we really want to be part of that machine?

The answer is simple. Yes. We do. Cause we are all losas. But instead of buying a cattle prod and taking your chances out there, why not do what we do for every other aspect of our social lives nowadays? Do it virtually. We farm online, we chat online, we date online, we publish our every fartin move online – so this year, I will just Christmas shop online. Screw the masses.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Weather Genius, otherwise known as the moron behind me at Duane Reade

Photo by Eric Skiff, via Flikr

On the eve of the arrival of one of my BFFs, who's flying in from sunny Barcelona, New York City is a shitshow. It’s cold. It’s windy. And the heavens are spewing ice pellets.

When I got off the subway and blew across the street as I fought to keep my umbrella right-side-in while dodging other armed and dangerous pedestrians, I quickly nipped into Duane Reade to get honey for my tea. I was on the massive line waiting to pay when idiocy unraveled behind me in the form of an annoying couple. Obviously tourists, they’d stopped in to buy an umbrella and hats.

“I can’t believe it’s hailing,” the girl said.

“Hailing? It’s not hailing. It’s raining. It’s too warm for hail,” her boyfriend said. I sighed loudly. I had just been pelleted by the “non” hail myself.

“Looks like ice balls to me,” the girl continued. “Look, the girl in front of us has ice balls in her hair.” My hand automatically reached to pat my wet, and yes, ice-laden, head.

“Ugh. It is NOT ice balls. It has to be 32 degrees or below for ice. It’s too warm. Don’t be so stupid,” the annoyer continued. I held my breath and counted to ten.

“But look at her hair.”

“That’s just a water droplet. It’s not ice.”

I turned around. “OK, let’s get something straight. There IS ice in my hair,” I said.

The girl cracked a smile while her boyfriend turned red in the face. I ignored his ‘tude and continued. “Ice forms up there…” I said, pointing up. “So it doesn’t have to be 32 degrees or under on the ground for it to form in the clouds. Pah-lus, I was stuck in a hailstorm in Barcelona last year, where golf ball sized ice took chunks out of my plant leaves and left my garden looking like a war zone – AND it was summer. So it obviously doesn’t need to be freezing for hail or ice balls. Mmmkay?”

I left the baffled couple behind and paid for my honey. As soon as I got to work, I googled ice pellets and hail to make sure I was right. Nothing worse than fighting an idiot by being a bigger idiot. Luckily Wikipedia, a sound source if ever there was one, backs me up:

Ice pellets form when a layer of above-freezing air is located between 1500 meters (approximately 5,000 feet) and 3000 meters (approximately 10,000 feet) above the ground, with sub-freezing air both above and below it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Mysterious Practice of “Who’s last in line?”

I was at Kmart (I know, I shop there way too much) this past weekend, gazing forlornly at the lack of staff at the checkout counters—only one line was open—and watching the zombie consumers waiting for their turn. I wasn’t happy at the prospect of losing crucial minutes of my life while the easily distracted cashier waded through the queue slower than shi-at rolling uphill. But I conformed and took my place. Periodically the person at the customer service counter would shout “Next person on line IN ORDER step to the customer service desk.” This resulted in momentary mayhem, as the more anal variety of customer staunchly refused to move from their position, while the annoying customers jostled to steal the spot. The line undid and redid itself accordingly.

Suddenly a multitasking woman approached (she was juggling items in her hands, fishing her wallet out of her purse, and talking on her cell phone by using her shoulder to hold the phone to her ear. “What am I supposed to do?” she whined at the cashier. “Which line?” The cashier repeated that IN ORDER people could switch to the newly opened check out. “But nobody is moving!” she complained, all a flutter, in a self-important voice.

“You’re in Kmart,” I reminded her before shaking my head and moving up one place in line. As I watched the line slowly crawl forward, I was impressed by how, despite a few hiccups, it stayed in form. While my fellow Americans, and perhaps the Brits reading my blog, may take for granted that a line (or queue) is generally an organized formation of people who stand one right after the other in the order they arrived, there is a strange and chaotic alternative system that people use in Catalonia, Spain, where I lived for much of my adult life.

The system has no name that I’m aware of, but I like to call it ¿Quien es el ultimo? (Who’s last in line?). This is how it works: you walk into a store, bank, bakery, post office, doctor’s office, etc. Instead of a line, you see a shambles–people all over the place, some sitting, some standing, some sneaking a cigarette outside. You shout “Who’s last in line?” A few people answer at once and you determine who’s telling the truth. You then remember that you go after that person (I’m after the teenage girl with her buttcrack hanging out of her unreasonably tight pants, for example).

I learned about the system the hard way my first year living in Barcelona. I had gone to the post office to mail out chapters of my novel to some publishers (I was still optimistic back then). There I was with stacks of huge heavy envelopes, waiting my turn for over a half hour and antsy about getting back to work. Just as I was about to place the envelops down on the counter, an old lady jumped up and c-blocked me.

“Hey, it’s my turn,” I shouted in Spanish.

“No, I was next.” She insisted. “It’s just that I was sitting.”

“You snooze you lose,” I said. Well actually, I don’t think you can translate that into Spanish, but it was something along those lines.

“No. I was next. I was after her,” the woman said, pointing to the person who’d just finished in front of me. Baffled and about to go postal (no pun intended), I left in a rage and had to ask a local friend to explain the bewildering concept to me.

The system gets even more confusing when in a doctor’s office and you have to take a number as if at a deli counter. Instead of quien es el ultimo, you have to check your number and then ask who has the number before you. So basically you walk into a waiting room and shout “¿quien tiene el numero 36?” for example, while everyone digs in their pockets to find their crumpled number and someone finally shouts “yo!” (Ok, I’m after the barrel-like woman with purple hair.)

Problem with the practice: there’s a specific type of person who takes advantage of the system—defies it, lies, and usurps you every time: the old, rotund, Catalan woman. These elderly women are large, in charge, as wide as they are tall and don’t take crap from anyone. They are not fragile, vulnerable grannies who get their purses snatched on the street. They’re not frail—they can and will knock you on your ass while trying to get on or off a train and they’ll pretend to be the “ultima” even when they’re not.

So while I was annoyed to be waiting on line in Kmart, and even more annoyed at flutter woman and her stupid cell phone, I actually cracked a smile at the prospect of standing in an organized fashion, and not having to submit to the chaos and mysterious inner workings of the phenomenon quien es el ultimo.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thanks, But No Thanks

Lately I’ve started thinking that I’m going soft. My anger towards fellow commuters, children and humans in general just doesn’t seem to be up to snuff. At first I thought perhaps in my "old" age, I was starting to chill out and be “tolerant.” Then I pondered that maybe commuters are just getting better (boy was that wishful thinking). I began to panic: what the crap will I blog about if not my general distaste and angst with the world?

But just as I was trolling through the New York Times on the train for something to spark an observation—while reading about how sloths have an extra few vertebrae in their necks (wtf?)—annoyance struck. How could I even doubt it would?

I’d chosen the “three seater” because sometimes you get lucky and the seat between you and the other passenger remains free. I glanced over to see what I was dealing with. It was a bleached blond, middle age, rotund woman with furrowed eyebrows and a pair of chins pulling down the corners of her lips. I rolled my eyes and opened my Nook. She pulled out her traditional “book” and started reading. Every time a passenger around us spoke, moved, shuffled or tittered, my seatmate would tsk, shake her head and even get up to stare the person into submission. Apparently it was “reading time at the zoo” and she didn’t want to be interrupted.

I immediately put my phone on silent and turned down my music so that I wouldn’t get the stare down. The train was filling up, and just before we pulled out, a teenage girl hovered over me and asked if I could move in a seat.

Admittedly, I was annoyed. I even sighed in passive aggressive anger. But before I could consent and slide over or deny her, my angry seat partner opened a can of whupass.

“Are ya kiddin me? That’s just great. Haven’t heard that one befoa. Who the hell do ya think you are?” she said in a horrible Long Island accent. The teenager, clueless as they tend to be, blushed.

“What?” She asked timidly.

Chubs continued to shake her head uncontrollably. “You neva ask someone to slide in. She was hea first. That’s RUDE.”

“Um, why is it, like, rude? The train is packed.”

“Why is it rude?” (More twitching, make-up laden eyes opening wide) “Because it’s common knowledge that the middle seat is the worst seat on the train. And this girl…” (pointing to me) “…is too nice to say no, so she’s just gonna move ova and suffa.”

Half of me wanted to tell her to F off and mind her own fartin business, that I’m certainly not too nice, just too tired to care, while the other half of me reveled in the apparent discomfort of the poor teenage girl—teenagers having long been on my list of people I don’t like.

“Well what am I supposed to do? Stand?” the sulky teenager whined.

“No, YOU sit in the middle,” my defender said, leaning over into my personal space and using my legs as a boobrest.

By this time the girl was close to tears and I was tired of being silent. “Oh just sit down,” I said sliding over next to my aghast neighbor. “Jesus none of the seats are good anyway.” I sighed loudly a la Napoleon Dynamite, cranked up my iPod, and shut my eyes to block out the indignant look of the angry woman who'd tried to plead my case. So now not only am I going soft, but I am defending the very species (the annoying commuter) I abhor so much.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The 'Club'

As a 34-year-old commitmaphobic train wreck, I’ve sworn off reproduction. Why pass on all sorts of neuroses to my offspring? And besides, kids, for the most part, annoy me. I don’t think their bratty antics are cute or squeal-worthy. I don’t feel the need to hover in a circle around a coworker’s newborn. And I can’t relate to anecdotes about how endearing they are. Exception to the rule: My three BFFs’ adorable children who I TOTALLY LERVE and brag about as if they are my own.

So last week, I was called upon to babysit one of my Bff’s newborn. Despite the fact that I'm the last person on Earth who should be trusted with a child (kidding), I accepted with delight. It started off easy enough. I met my friend close to a park on the Upper West Side, and was told that all I had to do was wheel the little angel around in her carriage for an hour while my friend attended an appointment. I started off down a tree-lined path when suddenly I noticed something weird. Whereas usually New York City residents walk briskly by with barely an acknowledgement, I suddenly had like 40 new friends.

It all started when the baby began to cry and I lifted her out of her carriage to comfort her. Two women immediately approached with a pair of golden retrievers and hovered.

“What a beautiful baby,” one gushed as I smiled proudly, as if the mother.
“Thanks, isn't she?” I said smugly (any attention is good attention!).
“How old is she?”
Oh shit! I froze, trying to calculate the weeks since she’d been born. “Errmmm…”
“You don’t know how old your baby is?” The woman said, her eyes suddenly narrowing. Uh oh. I was a bad mother.
“Ugh, fine. She’s not mine. I’m just the babysitter,” I said, crestfallen.
“Oh. Well still, she’s gorgeous. Soulful eyes.”

I continued down the path where similar incidents occurred. Everyone and their mamma literally crawled out of the woodwork to greet me, smile, coo and wave. I’d become a part of some strange sect. The Mother’s Club.

“How old?” one mother barked, turning her own baby to face me so that I could size it up and provide a compliment. “Looks just like you,” another one said as I shouted thanks, hijacking my friend’s reproductive success. When the baby cried, I got looks of sympathy, shrugs and eyes that said, “I know what it’s like.” Even the preggos wanted to be my friend, smiling at “my” baby and rubbing their bellies in anticipation.

When the baby started to cry again, I took out a bottle and fed her. As she slurped down the milk, an old man approached. My faux mother brain instantly thought: friend or perv?

“Did ya get enough gin in there to get that kid to quiet down?” he asked. I couldn’t help but laugh.

As the hour began to wind down, and she was still crying, I knew I had to go where I’d never gone before. The diaper change. Frantically searching through the diaper bag (root of all evil and clutter), trying to get the protection pad under her butt, and unsnapping her little outfit, all without staining anything, had me in a panic. I actually had to remove my jacket, as I was sweating. I had no idea what the etiquette was for changing a child. The club members passed me with sympathetic nods.

Finally I picked her up by the feet and hung her upside down like a Thanksgiving turkey. As I cleaned her, she smiled away, ignoring my poor technique and probably just happy that I finally figured out she didn’t want to lie in her own poop anymore.

Alas the babysitting session ended and I reluctantly handed her back to her mamma. I felt like we’d been through a lot together and thought for a split second…maybe it would be nice if…but alas, I quickly regained my sanity and happily resumed my position as faux aunt rather than future mamma.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Clamor in the Garden

The other day, as I was sitting at work pondering why the men in the office seem to use the bathroom (which is directly in front of me) so frequently, I couldn’t get this catchy tune out of my head. “Party baby, get on the dance floor, cos partly maybe, I wanna dance with you…” along with an intoxicating mix of instruments and sounds. WTF could it be? The last time I was in the music “know” was in college when I swayed to Pearl Jam and the like in my flannel grunge shirt and ripped jeans while trippin’ on shrooms (Just kidding, Mom). Living in Spain for ten years may have broadened my horizons, but it dampened my music taste, as only crappy American songs made it over there. Mysteriously, Dire Straits was HUGE among young folk (must be a David Hasselhoff in Germany phenomenon).

But I digress. It suddenly occurred to me where the song came from. It was the Subterraneans—my brother’s band—a cool fusion of indie rock and poetic rap vocals. He’d recently played me the demo of his new album, Clamor in the Garden (Pollen Records) and it was literally implanted into my head "Inception" style. (You can buy it here on itunes, mmmkay?)

Anyone who knows the Subs, and believe me, I do, knows that their music is hypnotic, intense, chill, inventive and intelligent. Rather than the “F Yo Mamma” style of rap, the word mincing is amazing. Here’s an excerpt from my fav of all time, “Climbing, Falling” from The Now That It’s Sinking In EP:

When you’re climbing…
And your face is in amazement and the pace of finger placement all relates to how you chase things
But when you fall…
Everything gets assorted, so when it hits the floor you need to sort it

Clamor In the Garden differs from the Subs’ first two albums (A Bellow Below and The Now That It’s Sinking In EP) in that it’s a bit faster paced and even more inventive then the first two (there's one song that has a country influence. Country and rap you say whilst wrinkling your nose in disgust? I swear, it works!) My fav songs on the album are: “Partly Maybe” and “Beautiful Encounter.”

So for the love of Hasselhoff, buy the freakin album—and while you’re at it, spread the word to anyone else you know who would like to rid the world of the Biebers and the Jonas and the Montanas and all the other crap that the young whippersnappers call music these days!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Vacation Etiquette

I just got back from a vacation—two whole days on the Jersey Shore (not with “The Situation” and Snooki, TG, I’m talking about the somewhat classier Long Beach Island) with my family, where blue skies, warm coconut-drenched salty air and lapping waves lulling me to sleep were just a few of the pleasures I experienced. If only there were no “people” there to spoil it. As my brother and I complained on the drive home, maybe we should just move to like East Buttcrack, Wyoming, or something. Somewhere where people don’t flock and annoy. But is that a mere fantasy? As the Countess Olenska cries to her lover in The Age of Innocence, “Oh, my dear—where is that country? Have you ever been there?”

Seriously People! It’s hard enough to escape and get a few measly days of rest and relaxation in today’s cah-razy world. So if you happen to go on vacation, follow these five simple steps to ensure that you don’t F up my (or someone else’s) only days of annual happiness.

1) Talk not on your cell phone loudly on the beach for over an hour while people like me are trying to read. Nobody cares about your mundane, boring, unnecessary conversation. Aren’t you worried about the sand and grease infiltrating your precious iPhone? Get over yourself. You’re. Not. That. Important.*

2) Let not your horrid rugrat invade my golf space while I’m trying to tee off. It takes an extreme amount of concentration to get my hole in one. Yes, I know it’s only miniature golf, but I take it very seriously! You know you have crossed the line when your kid:
     a. steps on the green I’m playing on
     b. rolls around on the green I’m playing on*
     c. enters the cool cave green I’m playing on and walks around screaming oooh and ahh.

3) Butt not your annoying face into my conversation with the maitre d’ at dinner to ask “How long’s the wait?” in your shrill voice while I am trying to secure a table. FYI: I don’t have to wait because I made a “reservation.” So step off.

4) Spread not your belongings across the beach at 7 am, making it impossible for anyone else to sit down. You don’t own the fartin beach. You can’t reserve a spot. You don’t need five hundred beach chairs and you certainly don’t need a family-size tent!

5) For the young, cutesy waitress at The Marlin: Ask not for my ID to make sure I’m of age to drink, only to lean closer to me, squint your eyes, and then say ‘never mind’ when you realize I’m “old” before I’ve even had a chance to fish my license out of my bag. You broke my MOFO heart!

Thanks for your attention to this matter. If you can’t abide by these simple rules, do me and everyone else a favor and stay home. Or barring that, I hear East Buttcrack, Wyoming, is good this time of year!

*denotes hypocrisy.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Rise and Fall of Captain America

When I was a student teacher at college, before I realized I couldn’t teach because I don’t like kids, we learned the tactic of studying by association. The idea was to associate a word or idea with the thing you were trying to remember. But the mind works like this naturally. One word can make your brain leap to another place and time. This happened to me this weekend while watching an all-day "Beauty and the Geek" marathon on TV (yes, somehow I still had brain waves while watching it). For those of you who don’t watch mind-numbing reality shows, the concept in a nutshell is a house full of socially awkward but mega-smart geeks paired with ten “beauties” who share three brain cells between them. They have to interact with each other, the idea being that the beauties get smarter and the geeks get…well, less geeky. Each episode, the geeks/beauties take a pop quiz (for the women, something “intellectual” and for the men, style or fashion). The question for one of the women was—hold your laughter Alex Trebek—what are the three colors in the comic book character Captain America’s uniform?

At the name Captain America, mind association kicked in and I had an instant flashback to nine years ago. I was working in Spain for a family-owned publishing company that hired American ex-pats who would later morph into angry, miserable, bitter “lifers,” wasting away their talents and intelligence for 800 bucks a month. The place had an amazing capacity to turn even the most upbeat person into a paranoid, negative psycho. One by one, I’d see a "New Guy" come into the cushy office full of hope at a real job in a foreign country, only to be broken by the backwards office politics, the miserable, jealous lifers, and the “Dr.,” the 70 year-old company patriarch who ruled his kingdom with an iron fist. The worst of the lifers was a woman who took it upon herself to do a CIA-like background check on every new employee (she’d check the history on their computer, refuse to give them the code to the office door and could be heard saying to anyone who’d listen that the newbie might steal the company’s secrets). We called her “Paranoid Wendy”* or PeeWee for short.

Then came Mark Hardy.* From the American Midwest, Mark quickly became known around the office as Captain America or Mole. He was christened Captain A after I’d had the misfortune of witnessing one of his soapbox speeches about how George Bush had every right to invade Iraq, and how it was NOT for the oil, but for the noblest cause of all—to free the Iraqi women! Mole, his second nickname, came about partly because of the way he continuously scratched himself due to an unfortunate dermatological condition, and partly because of his ability to infiltrate a group in an attempt to “network.” He first shook things up when he started to go through lunch buddies with a vengeance, changing his group of friends several times, leaving a string of casualties in his wake as he burrowed his way to the top. He quickly became the Dr.'s henchman. He could often be heard complaining to his friend of the week about how negative everyone else was.

“I don’t get what’s wrong with everyone here…you gotta take the bull by its horns,” he’d say, ever the King of Positive Clichés. Or his catch phrase: “I always say if life gives you shit, eat shit sandwiches.”

But as much as his popularity and positivity threatened the evil kingdom, PeeWee knew better. She told me one day, whispering in the hallway, the pink creeping across her angry face as she twitched in rage, “His star may be rising. But it will fall.”

And fall it did. While I never learned of the specific torture he must have gone through, within six months Captain A could be seen slouching down the hall, all traces of his usual scurry erased. His scratching became more intense, and red splotches emerged across his face and neck. Instead of smiling, a pained grimace spread across his wholesome face (too many shit sandwiches for lunch?). Rather than changing lunch buddies again, he started to dine alone. He stopped shaving. We lifers gave each other knowing looks. He’d been broken. After a few weeks of this, we never saw or heard from him again.

Flash forward nine years. The question on TV rattles me…I instantly picture Mark Hardy and wonder where he is…did he ever bounce back to his cheerful deluded self? Did he get a job where he could actually use his talents? Did he stop scratching? Dismissing Captain A, I concentrate on the question. What THREE colors (they actually have to give a hint) are in Captain America’s costume? Jesus, if only I’d studied more in school. The “beauty” pauses and wrinkles up her face. Using that one brain cell. The seconds pass. I’m sweating. But Thank G she finally answers: Red…White…and Blue. And she's right!

*Name changed to protect the person I'm exploiting to get a chuckle on my blog.

Monday, August 16, 2010

College Girls In Washington Beware - Cocky Dork On The Loose!

This just in: Freshmen college girls who go to school in or around the vicinity of Union Station, Washington D.C., beware. There is a cocky dork on the loose, “collecting” any female who will fall for his pathetic pick-up lines. The boy was last seen on the Metro North train where he was visiting a friend from New York. He was dressed in a blue button-down Ralph Lauren shirt and freshly pressed (by his mamma) beige dockers, complete with untamed fro and a scattering of angry zits. While travelling from Chappaqua to Manhattan, he tried to convince his equally nerdy, but rightfully humble, pal to visit his college dorm in Washington in the fall. First, cocky dork tempted his friend with drink.

“Dude, if people aren’t going to your parties at your college, it’s cause you’re doing something wrong. You see, you can’t just lay out beer. You gotta get a handle of vodka, a handle of whisky, a handle of rum, and a handle of Everclear.” (Note to self: WTF is a handle? Or Everclear for that matter? Must Google.)

When this didn’t tempt the friend, who admitted that his university, Brown, wasn’t a big party school, the brazen geek turned to women.

“You get a great cross section,” he said. “You got the ‘Southern Bell’…the ‘I’m a Cute Artsy girl’…In fact, I work on a three-girl rotation. At least three. Definitely have to always have a brunette in there.”

Still not convinced, the cocksure dweeb pressed further. “There’s a 60/40 ratio of girls to guys. They go out in ‘packs’ of like 25…looking at it that way, someone has to bite.” And, if visiting in the summer, the odds are “literally” better, according to the nerd stallion. “Dude, we can sit at the outdoor pool. There are literally…LITERALLY 500 girls clad in bikinis, all just waiting to be banged. Hell, you could have ten of my girls and I’d still have a 100 left over.”

The nerd sometimes goes by the name “the closer.” (“Dude, if you can’t seal the deal, call me in…I’ll close it for you). He frequents a bar called “Turtle,” where he usually starts off his night and gets “retarded” before heading on to Faye’s. He is most likely harmless and a virgin, despite his outrageous tall tales of being attacked by a swarm of women every night.

“The only problem with coming to visit me is…you’ll want to come back. Everybody does,” he was last heard saying as he exited the train.

So college girls, if this sounds like anyone you know, be on red alert. Tell all your friends to run the other way if the nerd is seen approaching in an attempt to “close” the deal. Gently remind him that he is full of shit and has no experience whatsoever, regardless of his claims of “wanting to get into some really funky sexual shit…taking it to the next level” (note to self: assume here he means taking it from his own hand to an actual person). Also be aware that this behavior is rampant in college frash frat boys, and the profile can probably be extrapolated to other colleges and boys of this age group.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Confidence Lessons from Big Bob

As cocky and self-assured as I can sometimes be, I am, at times, a neurotic, self-critical, anxiety-ridden girl who has extreme bouts of insecurity further fed by fashion magazines and the media and all that other crap. I worry as much as (or a helluva lot more than) the next psycho regarding superficial BS like wrinkles, aging, weight, my career etc (see my posts about public meltdowns and braces).

But this weekend I had a lesson in confidence from the most unlikely of teachers. I was at Walmart* with my mother picking out a piece of furniture. It was heavy, and as we struggled to wheel it down the aisle towards checkout, Big Bob* blocked my path.

“You’re going to need some help with that,” he said, sauntering over with an easy smile. Everything about him, from that smile, to his mannerisms, to his stride suggested he was the MOFO King of the ‘Mart. Before I could answer, he said, “When you check out, ask for Bob.” He pointed to his name tag proudly, nodded and swept past me, an entourage of geeky coworkers in his wake.

But Bob was no Brad Pitt. His ego wasn’t the only thing large about him—he was packing at least 350 pounds. His hair, which might have been, at one time, a fro, was blow dried out into a wavy pompadour. The folds of his face threatened to ingest a pair of square-framed glasses. His red Walmart shirt looked like a family sized tent.

At checkout we asked for Bob, but he was busy talking to his groupies. As my mother went to pull the car up to the door, I tried, unsuccessfully, to navigate the shopping cart onto the slanted sidewalk, where it struggled to break free from my birdy arms and wreak havoc on the parking lot.

“Allow me,” I suddenly heard in a Barry White voice. I turned, and there was Bob, gently taking over the carriage with his mammoth arms. “I think,” he said, raising one eyebrow,” I can hold this just a LITTLE BIT better than you.”

I felt tongue tied and mumbled a dorky “yeah.”

“It’s OK,” he said, chuckling. “It probably helps that I’m a huge, massive MONSTER.” He guffawed a loud smoker’s laugh and my eyes widened.

“Man,” he continued, sniffing the air. “What’s that smell? Something smells GOOD.”

I sniffed tentatively and hazarded a guess. “Pizza?”

“Yes!” he shouted “It’s gotta be garlic knots.” And with that he threw back his leonine head and practically growled. He was large and in charge AND shameless! And this was not the false bravado of the secretly insecure. This guy loved himself.

Well why the F not? I thought as we drove away after his seductive “Have a nice night, ladies.” Why not be a huge massive monster and love yourself instead of a scrawny annoyer complaining about a millimeter of flab and the shadows of crows feet? Insecurity is so tiring. In fact, I might go to the ‘Mart next weekend and get another lesson in ‘how to think I’m the Eva Livin Shiat.’

*Although also in the “mart” family, this specific evil American superstore name has been changed to protect the employee, whose name has also been changed.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Crack Kills

Photo by rumblemumbles / Elisha, via Flickr

I know, I know. It’s been several weeks since my prolific meanderings about annoying people have graced the screen. I’d like to say that my lack of witty bloggage was due to some extravagant vacation in Dubai. But, alas, the cause of my absence was pure laziness. As in, when I get home from work and my two hour commute, my new leather reclining couch beckons my bum, and it’s all over. I guess what I needed to jumpstart the creative flow was a little crack.

Noooo, not that crack. Buttcracks. And plenty of them. All one need do is go to the closest park, in my case, Madison Park on 26th and Broadway, to see the abundance of behinds escaping the confines of people’s pants, skirts, shorts, etc, while they lounge on the grass eating their lunch, taking a nap or sunbathing. I guess the heat is bringing everyone—including the tops of their tushes—out of the woodwork. And while I suppose a little ‘plumber’ is innocent enough (although, can’t they feel the draft?) and having lived in a country where topless on the beach was not only acceptable, but the norm–and while I hate to be the typical nude-a-phobe American–I’m growing a little weary of seeing certain body parts around town.

Take said park for example. While some amount of muffin top and ass spillage is expected, why do some guys insist on stripping down to their Speedos (complete with not so discreet chub) while napping in the park? And since rampant obesity has leveled the playing field, men can now flaunt their sagging (bigger than mine!) breasts in the sun. But why is that OK when there’s all the hoopla about women exposing theirs a la Ms. Jackson?

That said, I suppose a park is somewhat like the beach where everything goes. But the train is not. I had to laugh the other day at a flier left on the train seats by MTA, which had an amusing “Courtesy Corner” section listing some tips from Mr. Manners, George Washington. (Primp not yourself in the sight of others nor gnaw your nails, for example). As I glanced across at the woman next to me, my mouth dropped in horror as I saw her remove a shoe and unleash her naked, mangled, bunioned foot, which she wriggled around in ecstasy before planting it on the seat in front of her. I thought she was just rude, but the following day, as I crossed four cars in search of a seat, I saw several other people with their bare, nasty feet stretched out across the seats, where I could have been sitting. This included a guy (bald with one single Rasta braid hanging down his back [wtf?]) in a business suit, who actually took off a pair of black dress socks before depositing his feet (and toe jam) onto the opposite seat.

If only George could see us now! He’d have to update his tips to include spread not your smelly, dirty feet where others may choose to sit, air not the crack of your butt in the presence of others, and flaunt not your manboobs in public parks.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Earwig's Delight: Underwear Partay

I was sitting on the train attempting to read, when an overly loud (but fascinating) phone conversation assaulted me and everyone else in a two car vicinity. The offender was a thirty something man, with big cushy headphones over a baseball hat and a cell phone ear attachment. It went something like this:

“Dude. What are you doing this weekend? Nothin? Well I’ve got three words for you: under…wear…party.”
“Five floors. Girls in underwear. Ten bucks to get in. You in?”

“I don’t know man, my girl got VIP passes or some shit.”

“Ummm, it’s an underwear party dude. It’s ten bucks, half naked girls, five floors…F*ck yeah, I’m going. Now what about you?”
“So…what you’re sayin is, you’d rather sit at your boy’s house instead of going to an underwear party and get p*ssy. I’m talkin’ insane p*ssy. Crazy amounts of p*ssy.”
“OK, lemme put it to you another way. Dude…SHUT UP. Let me put it to you another way. You know how crazy it is when I go out in White Plains and have like three drinks? FIVE FLOORS SON.”

“Ten bucks…p*ssy!”

(here the conductor swiftly approached and asked him to keep it down, as the morning commuting zombies were actually defrosting and twitching in rage at this burst of immoral, dirty debauchery. After pausing and asking two 12 year old boys next to him if they had fake IDs and were interested in attending the party and showing them photos of his ‘girl’ from last year’s underwear fest, he called his friend back, much to my delight).

“So. Underwear party. You going? Dude, that’s why you drink before you go. We’ll get a bottle. We’ll get a few forties. We’ll get on the train. We’ll get RI.DIC.U.LOUS.”

“Why is everyone having such a problem with this? It’s ten bucks. Underwear. P*ssy dude. It’s going to be out of control!”

“Fine. Don’t go. I guess I’ll just take a load of pictures so you can say…John…you were right.”
“So, wanna get some beers and go fishing?”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Triangle of Love

Haha, what a cheesy title for a blog! But cheesiness is this phrase’s most minor offence. It’s also been used, I have learned from hovering over Kindle/Nook readers on the train, as the most private of places for a woman.

An avid reader, I have long been fascinated with the advent of the e-book and, before recently getting one myself, was drawn to people on the train using them. And just like when the person next to you is spreading their newspaper onto your lap on the train, one can’t help but eye-wig on a neighbor’s reading—especially if one has forgotten their own, obviously superior, reading material. e-books are no different, and perhaps attract even more personal space invasion. Curiosity is not only for the device itself, but for what the person has bought and downloaded onto their crystal clear, easy to read (even from a distance) screen. (As a side note, a woman recently snapped her newspaper shut in disgust at my invading eyes on the subway. I was so hurt!)

So for the last few weeks, I’ve been hovering over any e-book in my immediate vicinity, and have observed a most fascinating result: of the ten or so people I have space invaded, at least eight have been reading romance novels (aka: soft porn!). The first time I glanced across the words “triangle of love” (followed by penetration, repeatedly, by a [insert: manhood, love sword, pulsating member]) resulting in WAVES and WAVES of ecstasy (apparently in romance novels, the multiple orgasm is not a myth), I blushed to the gills. WTF? This is what my grandmother enjoyed reading all of these years? No wonder you couldn’t pry Daniel Steele out of her hands! Mildly disturbed and slightly intrigued, I quickly glanced away, lest I be caught reading the racy text by the reader who is clearly in a ‘private moment’. But this was not a one-off event, and in the days that followed, I kept seeing more and more people reading romance, and more and more triangles of love being infiltrated! Weird but true. NYC commuters LOVE their trashy lovefest novels!

But why would anyone want to read romance novels? They’re terribly written, cliché ridden (he was as hard as a rock), hopelessly chauvinistic (the feisty young woman always being tamed by the rugged, demanding man)—or so I’ve been told. I guess I wrongly assumed that for someone to shell out the near $300 bucks for an e-book (or more if you are so savvy and hip as to get the iPad), they must be readers of a certain level of taste and quality. Well, my conclusion is that it’s an escape like anything else—like bad TV. How can I scoff at pervy prose when I watched Rock of Love season 1, 2 and 3 for shitsake.

Now that I have my own Nook, and am the victim of other space invaders hovering to get an eyeful, I feel even more obligated to only read good literature or classics. Nobody is going to get their cheap five minute commute fix off my Nook! And FYI: yes, it does annoy me when people hover over my shoulder (ever the hypocrite), but since getting the newspaper slammed shut in my face last week, I’ve been ensuring that I share, and always position my book just so, so that my neighbor can enjoy a little Wharton on their way to work.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Aging Bites

Warning: after a very “selfless*” blog last week all about my talented brother, let me take a moment to talk about me. Who are we kidding, it won’t be just a moment. This is going to be a virtual therapy session and long rant (minus the 125 bucks and not so subtle yawns, of course), so you may want to feel invested before you continue. The fact is, tomorrow is my birthday.** And I feel SO MOFO OLD (waaahhh).

But seriously. Why does aging suck so bad? And why does it creep up on you out of nowhere? Just last week I was ten, gangly, brace faced and sporting a mean mullet. OK, so I’m still brace faced. You see, that’s how desperate I am to return to my youth. And now suddenly I’m approaching my mid thirties and have nothing to show for it but gravity’s cruel joke.

So here’s a lil’ story that some people might find amusing (if public meltdowns are funny to you, that is). Several years ago when I hit the big 3-0 I had a mini breakdown at the mall, at the French-based face care product store Yves Rocher to be exact. After a long period of daily self-scrutiny, I discovered that the Barcelona sun had kick started my downward spiral into sprouting what people kindly refer to in Spain as lineas de expresion. Better known here in the States as “wrinkles.”

So, I took myself to the mall without a second to spare. I dashed into Yves Rocher and started grabbing every item I could find that said anti-wrinkles, leaving a trail of rejected products along the floor at my feet. In typical Spanish fashion, the women working in the store ignored me with barely disguised disdain. I was, after all, a guiri (derogatory word for foreigner). The more I was neglected, the more angry I became, until I finally approached a shopkeeper, a woman in her 50s, tubes of creams falling out of my arms and cried “Can you help me?” as if seeking treatment at the emergency room. The woman told me that her shift had just ended, and I’d have to wait for someone else. And then came “the meltdown.”

“I can’t wait for anyone else!” I screeched unbecomingly, throwing the creams into the attendant’s arms. “Which one will work? I have wrinkles and I need to stop them, now!”

The woman frowned and grabbed the products from me. Looking at the evil creams with her face scrunched up in disgust, she shook her head at me and said, “Pero, estas LOCA?” (embellished translation: But…are you FN CahRAZY?)

She then proceeded to reprimand me, told me I was clearly insane, that there wasn’t a wrinkle to be seen, and asked me if I was 17 years old, while I stood there hanging my head in shame. I left the store with mere sunscreen.

Well, that was four years ago. What will happen tomorrow? Will I terrorize the streets of New York, scouring stores for La Prairie creams and holding up spas at gunpoint? Should I go to the hairdresser and ask them to “cut and feather” my sides and let the back taper to a long point? Wow, bet my friends and coworkers didn’t know I was this psycho. FYI: I am.

But it’s society, man. Have you ever seen those trashy celebrity magazines that adorn all newsstands, where they actually circle wrinkles or blemishes on famous women’s faces and have a field day? We’re not supposed to let it affect us, but who isn’t somewhat disturbed by society’s demands on women? We’re supposed to be beautiful, flawless, skinny, and have a great personality and not complain about wrinkles to boot. All the while people say silly things like “men age like fine wine” (FYI: last summer I went to my 15 year high school reunion and discovered a secret: they don’t).

*Is it really selfless if I enjoy the praise I got for being such a nice big sister?
**Thinly veiled desperate call for happy birthday wishes.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Word to My Brother

This week’s blog entry is going to be a little different. Since personal blogs are, by definition, often self-absorbed and self-serving (i.e., listen to meeeeeee, it’s all about meeeee) I thought I’d change things up and give props (did I really just say that?) to another very talented person. My brother. And no, it’s not his birthday, I don’t owe him money and he’s not paying for this spot—but he and some friends did just win Best Music Video at the Cannes Independent Film Festival, and I thought that deserved a mention.

Artist, musician, writer, indie record label cofounder, and blog comment comedian extraordinaire, my brother’s multiple talents know no bounds. I could write a whole blog about him and his work (but one blog is hard enough to maintain and anyway, he already has one, so check it). Instead I will focus on this amazing Cannes award recently bestowed upon One Stuck Duck Productions for their animated video (Watch it here!) featuring the song ‘Test’ by the Subterraneans (that’s my brother’s cool and unique indie band formed with bandmate Josh Powers). Seriously…the Cannes Film Festival. How FN cool is that?

Music by the Subterraneans is a cool fusion of indie rock and poetic rap vocals. My bro and other Subs front man Josh Powers make all the music themselves with whatever instruments are lying around (be it a water bottle or a melodica!). The Subs have two albums (both available on their Web site and on itunes) and they are feverishly recording a new album as I type. Sometimes they even grace us with their presence by playing live in NYC and Boston.

Also, while I’m bragging, check my brother’s incredible artwork (and buy a painting while you’re at it, thanks). Hey, I’ve got no shame peddling my lil’ bro’s talents. I'm a big annoying older sister after all. So, check out the video, the songs, the artwork and send it to everyone you know, mmmkay?

Now, back to Meeeeeee.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Who Does That?

I was reading an article in the New York Times this morning about some New York City bus drivers who are taking extended leaves of absence because they're being abused by disgruntled public transport users. Now I’m not talking about yelling, arm waving, eye rolling, frothing at the mouth, heavy sighing, foot stomping or any of the other displays of anger that I myself am guilty of committing. As I wrote last week, we are one angry city. But this new phenomenon is worse. It’s spitting.

I know this isn’t very eloquent of me, but all I can say is EWWWWAAA. Seriously? Who does that? Spitting has to be one of the most vile things a person can do. Already, far too many people hawk it up in public, spitting on the sidewalk and forcing pedestrians to dodge not only ubiquitous dog droppings, but their germafied spittle as well, or on the train tracks where they cough up their cigarette-induced morning phlegm. Some do it discreetly and quietly into a tissue (t.g.), while others feel the need to really crank it up with an accompanying rumbling gurgle that makes me wanna puke. FYI: use the bathroom and do it out of earshot, people, not on the train next to me.

But this is worse than the semi-innocent and seemingly necessary part of life that is clearing one’s throat and expectorating. To actually launch your unwanted bodily fluids at someone else is just lame. And it spreads illness…nobody wants your swine flu or tuberculosis, mmmkay?

In the article, Nancy Shevell, the chairwoman of the authority’s bus committee, suggests that going home and taking a nap might help solve the drivers’ post-traumatic stress of being spit on, and that leaves of absence may be excessive. Sorry, sleeping it off doesn't cure being spitballed. It's not just a matter of brushing it off and going on your merry way. It’s humiliating, gross, dirty and unnecessary. For someone who goes to work every day and has to haul around all of New York’s demanding, irritating, and now rabid, commuters, I too think I’d say why the flying F should I go to work today and put up with this shi-at? I can just imagine angry authors coming in to my journal and spitting on me because I put an en dash in place of a hyphen.

The article also had some interesting insight. Apparently all this time I was writing angry posts about commuting, I didn’t realize that I was suffering from a syndrome called “Aisle Rage,” which Alan E. Pisarski writes about in his report “Commuting in America.” I feel so much better that it's an actual condition and that I'm not alone.

While I can certainly understand the annoyance evoked by declining mass transit and increased costs, drivers are not to blame, and can’t be anywhere near as horrible as us passengers, so we’d do better to show a little more appreciation. Let’s grow up a little, and keep our saliva to ourselves.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Anger Management

Warning: I'm about to become the world’s biggest hypocrite. If you’ve read my blog before, perhaps you might suggest that I rename it “The Angry Commuter.” And I won’t attempt to deny that people irk me on a daily basis and that yes, it makes me angry. But today I witnessed an outburst on the train that made me question our extreme level of uptightness. Yes, my friends. I'm now defending the “annoying commuter.”

I was sitting quietly, editing a snoozefest medical paper, only mildly annoyed at the guy sitting next to me who smelled like a stomach turning mix of coffee and rotten cheesedoodles. Suddenly an irritating voice broke the silence as a young girl in front of me began talking on her cell to who seemed to be her headhunter about a job interview. Within 15 minutes, I knew her life story: she was a bartender and a temp, had a job she just accepted out of desperation, but really wanted a potential new job in advertising and was hoping for a salary “above 30.” Should she wear a “full suit” (as opposed to half?) or something more casual to the interview? Should she tell the job she just accepted that she had another interview? Should she tell Jessica? No, but really, like, should she tell Jessica?

As I sat sighing loudly with passive aggressive angst, thinking to myself “shut the helladeria up,” someone suddenly did it for me. A man actually leapt out of his chair across from us and shouted “Shut the Fuck Up Already!” The girl immediately lowered her voice, but continued to talk for the rest of the train ride, while the angry man across from us slid down into his seat, red faced and shaking, wiping a froth of saliva from his mouth.

At first I thought, thank the holy heavens someone else said it. But then I started to feel bad for the annoying talker (this is where I become a raging hypocrite). Is it really so bad to talk on the phone for a few minutes? Especially when it's a necessary call like one from a headhunter? Why are New Yorkers so angry about cell phone use? I mean, yes, it’s annoying when one has to overhear inane conversations from a teenager bragging about how wasted he got last night or a husband snapping at his wife that she was the last one to hold the freiken keys so she’d better find them. But is it a reason to jump up and curse and froth like a rabid dog? Should there not be some kind of intermediate action taken, i.e., “Hey, do you mind keeping it down please?”

When I lived in Barcelona, the train going to the city was an assault on all of the senses. When the doors opened, people would literally fall out because it was so jam packed. If you were brave enough to squeeze in, you’d encounter people talking to each other animatedly; kids swinging from the rafters; dueling ring tones clashing with each other; people chatting on their phones with reckless abandon, screaming no me digues! or que fuerte, tio!; old people with scowls on their face stating the obvious (huele de cabra aqui, eh?); music (an occasional belting out of a song while listening to an ipod); and street performers playing the awful accordion. You were lucky if you got a seat; instead you’d be smashed up against people, feeling an old man’s groin in your butt and smelling the smoke breath of the person in front of you. But there was something alive about it.

After the man's cell phone flip out on the train, I looked around and saw three out of four people with laptops, working away. The only background noise was mechanical typing, the conductor’s call for tickets, and the clicking of the ticket puncher. It felt like a classroom after a teacher's reprimand. My office at work is louder. Yes, it was quiet…but it seemed so wrong…like a sterilized lab room.

I’ve witnessed manic train explosions before. Once a kid was playing his music without headphones and a businessman jumped up, got two inches from the kid’s face and said “Shut. It. Off.” Hell, I once yelled at a shrew who was complaining to the conductor. But we should ask ourselves what it is that we're all so pissed off about. If someone speaking on the phone can make us blow like the Eyjafjallajokul volcano, maybe we all need a session in anger management.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

They’reeee Baaaackkkk….

No, I’m not talking about those wily, technology savvy spirits who poke through the television as in the horror movie classic, Poltergeist. I’m talking about something way worse…a million times more frightening and horrific. I’m talking about caterpillars, people. They’re in, and my sanity is out.

Surely one of the “World’s Dumbest Fears” (right up there with Pogonophobia, or fear of beards), I developed this absurd phobia when I was around six years old, the year of the “Plague” on all of the houses of upstate New York. That summer I lost my innocence (not THAT innocence) as the Gypsy Moth variety of caterpillar descended upon us with a vengeance like the wrath of locusts in Egypt. I remember stepping out of my house to play in the sun, when suddenly I was turned into a gruesome victim a la “When Animals Attack,” and half a dozen squirming, hairy, pulsating ‘pillars began to make their way up my legs at an alarming speed (well, OK, in reality you needed a time-lapse camera to see their actual movement, but that’s what it seemed like “in my head”). I immediately began flailing around like an ape on crack and ran into the house. I never went outdoors during caterpillar season again.

But seriously, folks, it was bad! Their mass munching in the trees could be heard all around…their droppings sounded like a hail storm…they made hideous carpets across driveways; neighbors were sweeping them away with brooms. All of this formed in my young brain a serious phobia that persists today and gives me an animal-like radar for sensing when one is in my presence, even if miles away.

A year later, in the second grade, my school decided to add torture to the curriculum. We were each given a clear film canister complete with green mush and a baby caterpillar and had to track its growth into a hideous beast and then a ‘beautiful butterfly’…Yay! (FYI: butterflies are NOT beautiful. They are caterpillars with wings). The experiment almost gave me a nervous breakdown and probably started my path towards later neurotica. Luckily I met a girl who was equally scared and we became fast friends. Unluckily, at seven she was too “smart” for her own good and told me we had caterpillars living in our arms (she had misunderstood the word capillary). We started punching our arms at recess and came home with bruises.

But I’m not seven anymore, and in my mid-thirties, it's no longer acceptable to scream annoyingly and jump around spastically just because a caterpillar is inching its way across the neighbor’s lawn three doors down. As my brother once sneered, “It’s not like it’s going to catch you.” Still, what can I do? I don’t want to waste my already ridiculously expensive therapy sessions overcoming this phobia when there is so much more to ‘work through’! And I don’t think I can succumb to the shock treatment my brother once recommended (being tied up in a chair while he pelts them at me). Plus I am an “outdoors girl” now. It doesn’t fit my profile.

Yet as I rode my bike recently on the local bike trail, my radar was on red alert, as gauzy sacks laden with larvae threatened to burst open from the trees above and shower down on me as I sped by. Should I resort to cycling and hiking in a full body net? I don’t have the answer to that yet. All I know is…don’t be surprised if you don’t see me till mid-July.

Monday, April 26, 2010


When I was a young, I used to sit in front of my mirror with a hairbrush for a microphone and a faux British accent and pretend I was an MTV VJ announcing the next Cindy Lauper or Boy George video. I was also ‘forward thinking’ in that I used to pretend that my ten-year-old life was so exciting that a camera crew would follow me around and tape me as I narrated in my head (an early reality TV show, if you will; “My So Called Brace Face Mullet Mania Life”). Man, if only I’d pitched that! And apparently, I’m not alone – although I eventually grew up and realized that nobody gives a flying rat’s ass about the mundane details of my life.

But, wait a second, I blog! Well, yes, I do! But I like to think that blogging, and writing in general, is more creative than say, tweeting about my gym or bathroom schedule. I don’t always talk about myself of course, and I put minimal personal details in my posts. In fact, my abhorrence for the lack of privacy and stalker facilitation in these Facebook Frenzy times led me to disconnect from all social media sites. I just don’t need people knowing that I recently made a move in Mob Wars or seeing a tagged photo of myself in pyjamas (complete with muffin top) that my mother couldn’t help posting.

So when I read in the New York Times about some new scary social media sites that are starting to creep up (AKA Blippy, which broadcasts news of your credit card purchases, and Foursquare, which publishes your precise location) all I could do was laugh at the pathetic need for people to literally publish everything they do. What’s next? Crap.com (as in, I just took one)?

According to the article, Blippy, both a ridiculous name and concept, even went so far as to side step Amazon (who was blocking Blippy to keep customers' buying info secure) by asking customers to let them access their Gmail accounts in order to take the purchase data from the receipts Amazon had e-mailed them. Does this not scare anyone?

Anyway this got me thinking…if they start taking your purchasing info from your credit card, sites you use or your e-mail account, what if you accidently forget about the Meatloaf CD box set you bought in a moment of weakness, or the Jelly Pleasure your friends convinced you to buy at Ricky’s after a few too many cocktails? There is a whole slew of things people should not know you are buying (Depends undergarments, a recent boob job, Porno, Preparation H, lame work out videos like Tae-Bo, self-help books about being co-dependent, super plus tampons, half-baked desperado wrinkle cream purchases from late-night infomercial, a man bra…the possibility for embarrassment is endless!)

One man was quoted in the article saying he wasn’t worried about the lack of privacy with these new sites because: “I simply have nothing to hide.” FYI: Sure you do, Guy. Everyone does. Even if it’s only your midnight run to CVS for Ex-Lax (extra strength) or your recent online pharmacy Viagra purchase.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An Unfortunate Sighting

The other day, as the train pulled into Grand Central Station, something happened that nobody should ever have to suffer. I saw My Worst Date Ever hovering in the aisle right next to me as he waited to exit. Immediately put on red alert, I sunk down in my seat, slid on a pair of sunglasses and lifted my collar like a high school preppy, hoping this makeshift “disguise” would let me be incognito. Sneaking a sideways glance, I checked to see if it was really him. It had been eons since I'd suffered through several dates with this joker. And oh yes, it was. He looked worse for wear, dishevelled and unkempt. Ha! I thought before the train doors opened and I bolted.

Man, Worst Dates Ever. We’ve all had them, and I hope you’ll share yours in the comments section! And FYI: my friends can forgo the “Amy has always had dubious taste” comments. That was a long time ago. And while there is obviously a complex, multilayered labelling system and varying levels of “WTF was I thinking?” for anyone who has ever had an awful date, I will admit that in this case, we could tag it as: I must have been smoking hectic crack and even then it’s no excuse.

While I could write a book about WDE, as we will affectionately name him, his many shortcomings and perplexing plethora of bad qualities, I will instead provide an outline. (You see, high school does come in useful!)

I. "Cheap" does not do justice to his level of stinginess.
a. While I’m a modern girl and like to pay my part, this guy took splitting the tab to new levels of nuclear fission. He once insisted I split a bill for two sodas (it was like 5 bucks). He also refused to pay for snacks at the movies even though I’d paid for the tickets, because they ‘work out as more expensive.’
b. Once bumped into him and his old school Italian fam in a pizza joint and they invited me to eat with them. At the end of the meal, I grabbed my wallet, as was the Custom of the County with WDE, and tried to pay. I was immediately accosted by shouts of disgust as to how I could even conceive of paying. I couldn’t help but say “Oh, don’t worry. With WDE, I’m used to paying.” I suddenly felt a sharp kick under the table while the family proceeded to rip him a new one for being so miserly. His defence: “I’m for Women’s Lib.” Paaa-lease.

II. He was a Shit Stirrer – Literally.
a. On the few WDEs we had, his conversation moved around his bowel movements like food through an intestine. The first time he brought me to dinner he said “I didn’t eat all day cause I was worried I’d let one rip in front of you.” FYI Guy: you might as well have.
b. On another occasion he left in the middle of a movie with no explanation. He later said “Sorry, I had to leave. I was shitting in my pants.”

III. Freakfest
a. A horror buff, he took me with a group of friends (think Big Bang Theory cast) to a Halloween haunted hayride, where he a) forbade me from hiding behind him in the haunted house, pushing me out in front of the abundance of scary ghouls lurking behind every corner; and b) spent the night with his hobbit-like best friend acting out scenes from superfreaky sci fi movies that I’d never even heard of .

IV. A Christmas Story
a. This gets a category of its own. For Christmas he gave me a fairy night light (from Hallmark cards or the like). At first I thought it was thoughtful (I’m scared of the dark) until he a) told me he picked a fairy because I have pointy ears; b) insisted several times that it was real porcelain and very expensive; c) I later found the price tag: $19.99.

Now comes the part where I tell you how I dumped his cheap, bad date ass! Except…erm…he dumped ME! I knew something was wrong when, on something like our fourth and final date, he took me to lunch and PAID. He then tried to “let me down gently” by saying that while I was awesome, gorgeous and unbelievably fun (hey, I'm for Ad-Lib), he needed to focus on his career and move to California to pursue it. I later discovered he never moved, so it was just an excuse! If only he knew what a favor he did me, and how much my friends and I laughed when I told them that he opted out! Oh WDE! May you find your equally WDE soulmate! And thank you for giving me something to write (and laugh) about!

Now come on, come on! Tell me yours!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

National Filter Free Day

One of my favorite comic moments is when Ben Stiller, playing the seemingly friendly old age home orderly turns into a geriatric's worst nightmare after Adam Sandler leaves his grandmother’s room in Happy Gilmore. The poor old granny asks for a cup of milk, to which Stiller replies: “You can trouble me for a warm glass of shut-the-hell-up!”

Man, sometimes I wish I could throw my inner filter to the wind and say what I really want. Like when I was hired in a family-owned company in Spain as an editor but was treated like a secretary by my superiors. The boss’s son, with his permascowl that we coworkers dubbed his ‘constipation face,’ constantly called me into the office so that I could “put him through” to some bigwig on the phone and make him look important. Instead of a pathetic “Si, claro!” and nervous giggle when he leaned forward with that irritating frown and asked, “Can you do that for me?” I could have said: “Actually, I can’t do that for you Jose. What I can do is ask you to bend over so I can manually insert this phone into your rectum…loosen things up a bit.” I spent many an office daydream imagining this scenario and laughing out loud at the thought of his shocked face and mouth agape.

Or yesterday, it happened twice in the elevator, which I pray each day will get me to or from the 19th floor in anything fewer than ten minutes. When one girl got in and hit floor two, I wanted to say: “Are you FN kidding me? You can’t walk up one flight of stairs ya lazy piece o'...?” And again when we hit floor 15 and two wide loads insisted on squeezing themselves into the already crammed space…how I longed to say: “get the hell outta hea!” Instead, both times I said a meek hello.

And oh, how I would love to cut the Office Tidbitter off at the chase when, after telling him I can’t talk due to my workload, he insists on giving me vital information such as “I drank a beer last night.” If I had no filter, I could interrupt and say “upupupupup…I said I’m busy. Zip. It.”

I won’t even bother opening the can of worms of what I’d say to my fellow commuters…

Anyway this train of thought came about because one of my BFFs in Barcelona is moving flats, partly because of her inconsiderate noisy upstairs neighbors, who, although having been asked diplomatically to keep it down, continue to drag furniture around and stomp with shoes on well past midnight. We recently came up with lame revenge techniques for when she moves…putting a bag of steaming crap on their doorstep, breaking a toothpick off in their lock, ripping their name off their mailbox and replacing it with something nasty. But wouldn’t it be great if instead she could just run upstairs, knock and yell “I’m moving. Lata muthhhhaaa F**CKAASSS" in the style of Ken Jeong in The Hangover?

I’m proposing that we make these fantasies a reality and declare a National Filter Free Day. Why not? It’s not any sillier than April Fool’s Day or Valentine’s Day. So in the words of “Seven Minute Abs” guy from Something About Mary...You in?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fidget Fest

And March’s Most Annoying Metro North Commuter Award goes to…

Um, what? Not another annoying commuter post, you say? Oh yes, folks. You got a happy, feel good blog last week—filling my monthly quota. Saaarry. It’s angry blogger time (moohahahaha *holds pinky to mouth a la Dr. Evil*).

Now where was I? Oh yeah. Annoying commuter. So I’m sitting on the train minding my own business and trying to edit a dreadfully boring paper on business models, when “Fidget Woman” scrambles onto the train with an air of flustered self importance and dives into the seat next to me. She was all a flutter, trying to get herself “settled,” manically arranging and rearranging her several bags and zipping and unzipping her purse while simultaneously slurping the dregs of ice coffee from her plastic Starbucks cup, as if she was so busy and important that she had to multitask to sit down (even though she had an hour-long train trip ahead of her).

After finally achieving the appropriate balance for her pile o’ bags, she unzipped her purse and took out her cell phone. Aghast, I realized she had the key pad tones activated, and began to obsessively dial every contact in her phone while projecting a loud string of R2D2 beeps and chirps. After each call and subsequent irritating voicemail, she put her phone in her purse, zipped it, and took out a book, only to read maybe three lines and start the whole bewildering sequence again.

At one point, someone finally answered. The call went like this:

“Hi sweetheart? How are you my love?” (pause…)
“Wait…what? No…No…NO! Absolutely not. Why? Why do we have to? I just…NO. I can’t. I just can’t. I said No. Why can’t we do this tomorrow?” (pause…)
“Oh thank you. Thank you darling. Thank you so much for doing that.”

After this, she snapped her phone shut and returned to her book, where she must have ingested all of three words before unzipping her purse and grabbing her phone again.

“Really?” I finally said, turning to her. “You need the key pad tones blasting with each tap of your finger? You can’t just read your book? Why are you so fidgety? Read. Your. Book.”

OK, No, I didn’t say that. I just shook my head and tried to ignore her. And to put the literal icing on the cake, she then began to scratch her head profusely, a shower of powdered sugar scattering towards me and settling on my shoulders like freshly fallen snow.

Anyway there is a larger point to this rant. As in, why are people so fidgety? Are we so overstimulated by mixed and multimedia, the flickering lights of phones, computers and television sizzling our nerves, so that we can’t stand even one second of quiet solitude? A book doesn’t blink and beep enough so we get bored reading it? Man, I even know people who bring their phone into the bathroom to text (NOT me *cough*). Do all of these children really have ADD or is it just that they can’t sit still and focus unless being bombarded by the bright lights and loud noises of Call of Duty? In my opinion we all have freakin ADD! We can’t even sit on a train and read three lines from a book.

I suppose I should just carry a video ipod with me on the train. I could have put it on in front of Fidget Woman, and she, like a psychotic just given a shot of Haldol, would have settled into a quiet and zombie like state of submission.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Have a Nice Day

A cheesy Bon Jovi lyric to some, a staple American phrase to others, but ah…sometimes it's really nice to hear!

This weekend as the sun radiated warmth for the first time in months, I took my bike out on the local trail. No sooner had I started pedaling when I was bombarded by a steady stream of “Hi,” “How are ya?” and “have a nice day!” from the multitude of sun seekers who had crawled out of the woodwork.

Even the disgruntled teenage youths slouching down the path with hoodies and streams of cigarette smoke trailing behind them waved as I raced by…as did small children, already trained in the art of polite greetings. Time and time again I found that I had to turn back and shout “uh…oh…yeah…you too!” all too late, surprised and impressed at the unexpected friendliness that I’d missed in ten years of living abroad in a country where the best I hoped for was a cluck of the tongue and a scowl from other pedestrians.

And even though I was born and raised in the U.S., coming back after all these years, I still can’t get used to it…the friendliness. I remember staring in dumb confusion as a check out girl at the supermarket said “Hi, would you like paper, plastic or both?” in a chipper sing-song voice, or feeling slight shock at the waitress at Applebee’s who bellowed “Hi, my name is Wendy, and I’ll be your server today! Can I start you folks off with some drinks or appetizers?” or the unfounded suspicion that slides over me when people strike up convos in the elevator at work or tell me to have a good one as they step out onto their floor. What a difference from Spain, where, even in the most uppercrust of restaurants, it wouldn’t be shocking to merely get a bored “dime” (tell me) as a salutation, and where I was never greeted by any passerby, anywhere, except in annoyance.

“Yes, Americans say have a nice day, but it’s fake…superficial,” several Spanish friends said when they defended my comparison of New Yorkers to Barcelonians. And maybe that’s true. One had to work hard to break the ice in Barcelona, especially as a guiri (derogatory term for foreigner). In shops, I found I had to be aggressive and sometimes rude to get any respect, or speak Catalan instead of Spanish (instant bonus points from those shopkeepers who got a kick out of foreigners learning their language and not just Spanish!). But once that ice was broken, people tended to open up and really let you in. We in the U.S. may say have a nice day to anyone who will listen, but do we mean it?

I like to think that it doesn’t matter. When someone says it to me, it forces me to smile and say it back, and I get an instant “high” that lasts for a few minutes or sometimes longer. Does it matter if it’s superficial or fake if we start someone’s day off right? Make them feel important for a second? And my personal favorite—get someone to smile?

As I passed a family sitting by a pond on the bike trail, I suddenly heard a deafening chirping all around. The father, decked out in knee high baseball socks looked up and said: “I think it’s attack of the frogs!” followed by a dorky laugh. My first reaction was to make a face and say “Herdeeherrr” under my breath (thanks for that trait, Dad). But instead I let myself get drunk off the good vibe. “Yeah!” I said, smiling. “Crazy! Who knew there were so many frogs this season!” And even on the way home, when I met the same guy at the same pond, and he repeated verbatim his earlier comment about the frogfest, I smiled in acknowledgement and said “Yes, wild! Those crazy frogs! Have a great day!”

Monday, March 15, 2010

Chop You, Scott Conant!

Is anyone else getting tired of the “mean” judges on reality TV? Alright, I know, it’s reality TV, in and of itself a tiring but unfortunately inescapable part of life. Deconstructing all of its evils would be as useful as undertaking a literary criticism of Dan Brown or Ken Follet. Like anything the first time around, Simon Cowell’s brash, rude and painfully honest critiques on shows like American Idol used to be funny. Back in 2002. After all, people are morbidly fascinated with other people getting put down on national television—why else would Jerry Springer have become famous in the 90s?

Even over in Spain, where I lived for a decade, they have a version of Cowell on Operacion Triunfo, a sort of “Spanish Idol”. His name is Risto Mejide, called “Risto” as if Madonna or Cher. Always decked out in a leather jacket and big, designer, lightly tinted shades, his fights with the host and his tantrums on set are so pathetically planned and scripted that it's embarrassing to watch. He once told this poor, sweet, young (and pretty) girl that she had the most boring face he had ever seen. Is that really necessary? Simon Cowell is often funny because he hits the nail on the head with why a person's singing sucks…Risto is just a dick. Anyway I digress…back to America.

As we know, nowadays even quirky, random YouTube videos are eventually brought to the mainstream and beaten like a dead horse until there is nothing new or refreshing about anything, and Cowell, as with anything else, has become a product meant to be replicated…a string of pathetic, wannabe “bad ass” judges have followed in his wake. Enter Scott Conant.

Admittedly I only watched a recent episode of The Food Network’s Chopped for one reason: one of the chefs, Hannah Hopkins, is from Dish, my favorite local restaurant—a slice of funky Brooklyn in my one horse town. Everything from the mouth watering menu to the ever-changing local art adorning the walls, the dark mood lighting and the half price wine Wednesdays make Dish a divine dining pleasure. So when I read that Hannah would be on Chopped, I looked forward to her winning with ease.

The show, hosted by an apologetic Ted Allen, challenges four chefs (in this case Hannah, two cocky American men and one older French chef) to make a starter, main dish and dessert using a basket of random ingredients (a chicken liver, raspberries and asparagus, for example). With each round, the judges pick apart the dish, pointing out merits and mistakes, and remarking on how creative it is before axing one of the contestants. During round two on this particular episode, the chefs were charged with making a pasta dish with mackerel. This is where Scott Conant really became the raging a-hole he is. The chefs, racing against the clock to create the dish, all committed the deadly sin of undercooking their pasta.

Conant immediately began twitching in annoyance, as if having some kind of epileptic fit or allergic reaction. “Is this a joke?” he barked several times, muttering about how it “pissed him off.” He proceeded to humiliate and yell at the chefs, who stood with hanging heads and flushed faces as if in the principal’s office at school. When Chef Hannah was "chopped" in the second round, she left the show teary and defeated. My question is, why is this necessary? Are these chefs in boot camp with the U.S. Marines? Do the judges have a right to rip contestants to shreds and make them feel like complete shit just to feed their own bloated egos? As I angrily Googled Scott Conant later, I saw blogs and news feeds alike dedicated to his “cantankerous” rants. One was because a chef decided to include raw onions in his salad, something Conant apparently hates (the chefs not only have to throw together a meal with bizarre ingredients in limited time, but also have to read his mind as to his likes and dislikes). Another was because a chef had dared to serve string cheese and celery whole.

All I have to say is what a fah-reiking Divo. Anyway, I know today’s blog post is a personal one…not many of my (five) readers will have been to Dish or care about Conant’s treatment of one of my favorite chefs. But I'm sure you can commiserate on these cookie cutter judges that really need to get a hold of their rampant self-importance—or any such ego maniac (a few of my university professors were just as bad!). There is a difference between knowing your stuff and giving constructive criticism to push people and make them be better at what they do—and just being an annoying, bitchy, fartbag.

P.S. Despite my hatred for him, I plan to go to Scott Conant's restaurant on West 14th street, Scarpetta, to see if all of his hauteur is warranted and to make sure his pasta is fully cooked. If it is as good as the reviews say, maybe I’ll forgive him and become a flagrant hypocrite by raving about him in my next post.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shiny Happy Blogger

It’s come to my attention from a “fan” or two whose names shall remain anonymous that I am, at times, an “angry blogger.” My first reaction to this was: “WTF Mofo!” I mean, angry, moi? No, no, no, no. Admittedly, I'm occasionally impatient, once in a blue moon irritated, and, rarely, antisocial, but most people who know me would say I’m almost always friendly, fun and kindhearted. Besides, it’s not my fault that people suck.

So this blog is going to be a happy blog. Yay! After all, what’s there not to be happy about? The sun is shining and it’s broken 50 degrees two days running! Yay! Two articles I've recently read suggest that red wine makes women gain less weight and might aid in digestion.** Perfect! Mamma needs a bottle o' wine! I’ve been in such a good mood, in fact, that last night on my train ride home, I did not awaken the chubby, sweaty, bald, snoring man who decided to lay on my shoulder for an hour and fifteen minutes, lifting his dome only to cough in my ear or as backlash from an extra violent snort. Anything for a fellow commuter! Nor did I scoff at the screaming babe whose wails pierced my ears as I commuted in this morning (I do believe, after all, that the children are our future).

And there are other reasons the glass is half full! The Olympics are finally over, I no longer have to pretend to be interested when people talk about them, no more ‘O Canada’, and my couch potatoism and crappy nighttime television programs can resume their rightful place in my life. The office tid-bitter is keeping his distance (for now). And, in possibly the best news of the week, my favorite actress, Sandra Bullock, who is so deep and multilayered, finally got the recognition she deserves at the Oscars this year! Whoohoo Sandy! Now if only James Cameron would be recognized for his killer dialogue...all would be well with the universe!

So…hmm…how bout them Mets? Look here--it’s just no use. Sometimes I like to vent, is all. And where better to do it? I started this blog for two reasons. One was to get my creative juices flowing. I do write other stuff you know. Novels and whatnot. And they’re not angry. The second was to catalogue observations that I thought might amuse or resonate with others. So, I observe a lot of annoying people. The world is full of them. Is annoyance too in the eye of the beholder? Do other people walk around smiling all day? Is it really just me? I guess what I'm trying to say is that I am an angry blogger, mmmkay? And while I most certainly will have happy blogging days, for now I just feel like bitching. Deal with it!

**Excuses to drink up:



Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Experts: Who needs 'em? No really...who?

The world is full of “experts” who are chomping at the bit to educate their fellow humans—from the annoying commuter who feels the need to explain to tourists that the Times Square Shuttle only has one stop, to the grandmother who feels it's her calling to tell you to shower before entering the pool at the gym, to the third time vacationer who insists on helping you navigate the hotel buffet. But did I ask you?

Last summer I went to watch Shakespeare in the park at Boscobel, a 19th century mansion overlooking the Hudson River. It was a gorgeous day, and before the sun sets and the play starts, ticket holders can picnic and enjoy a bottle of wine in the lush gardens. As I did just this, already embarrassed at the fold up table and chair I was assured was needed by another expert—my mother—I noticed a couple who had really gone all out. They looked like a Monet garden scene, with the woman in a long cotton dress and straw hat, a blue and white checkered tablecloth complete with mouth watering feast, and the backdrop of colorful roses exploding behind them. To my annoyance, they sat next to me when the play opened and the woman leaned over, invaded my personal space, and asked if I came here often. After admitting it was my first time, a look of flushed satisfaction came over her face as she proceeded to let me know “how things were done” here. She listed the plays she'd seen as if applying for a job as a Shakespeare analyst, described how the actors were quite raunchy and even made the tragedies seem funny, gave me the Cliff Notes version of the play we were about to see and provided the intricate details of her picnic dinner. I couldn’t even bother (lest I act as an expert myself) to correct her assumption of my literary ignorance—I had spent a full semester at University studying the complete works of Shakespeare and knew the plays inside and out. “And you might want to shrink down in your seat, because they pick people from the audience to help them act out!” she squealed unbecomingly. What intense satisfaction I felt, then, upon the realization later on that the people “picked out” of the crowd were obviously actors and had their lines scripted, so my overenthusiastic friend would NEVER be picked, raise her hand and whinny as she may.

Flash forward to this weekend. I decided to try Pilates for the first time at a local gym. An unsocial person by nature, my plan was to go 15 minutes early to get a good seat and to avoid having to talk to the regulars. Foiled again. As I sat minding my own business, a middle age woman expert came over to me and said “You got the wrong rubber band.” I wanted to say "And you have a thorny rose tattooed to your leg, but I'm not complaining." Instead I gave a half-hearted thanks and exchanged my rope for the correct, plastic Thera-Band. I resumed my position when I heard: “Oh, and, we usually turn our mats vertically.” Swinging my head to the right I scrunched up my face and said: “What?” to try to ward off her unwanted advice. “Otherwise there won’t be room for everyone else.” Before I could move, an older man (think Chris Elliot from his Get a Life days, but gray) came in and shouted “Oh boy, a Newbie!” to my distress. Walking over to where I was sitting, he circled around like a lost dog trying to pick up his poop scent. Finally, the woman expert leaned towards him and in an obvious whisper, said: “She took your seat.” I stood up dramatically, moved my mat into vertical position and gave her evils while Chris Elliot squeezed in next to me.

At that moment I vowed that I would kick some Pilates booty, Newbie or not! And boy, did I. As Chris groaned to my right and the lithe, scrawny ass teenager cried to my left, I pushed myself to the limit, with a smile (grimace) on my face. But with every move we made, Chris felt the need to give me a tip (You may not want to use the band on your first day, I betcha don’t know what we do with the pole…), or ask if I was regretting my decision to join the class.

At one point as we lay on our sides, facing each other, doing leg lifts, Chris’s gelatinous belly fell out of his shirt and sank onto the floor like a half filled water balloon. “Gonna come back for more?” he said through clenched teeth as sweat slipped off the remaining “island” of hair on his head and invaded his eyes. I ignored him and kicked my legs higher.

At the end of class, Chris slinked over to me and again asked if, being new, I would dare to try the class again. Looking around I noticed he was the only man, and picturing his lame attempts at the moves and his obviously out of shape physique (despite being the mayor of the class) it occurred to me that he was only there to meet women. “Bring it on,” I hissed.**

**Actually I said "Yes!" followed by a dorky giggle but I thought my other ending was more dramatic.
***As a side note, it’s been several days since I can walk. But we won’t mention that to Chris or any of the other experts in the class.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Fall of a Dictator

Jobsworth: (almost strictly British) A low ranking official who follows their instructions and procedure to the letter. Often just to piss you off and to make them feel important.

For years he had me shaking in my boots every time I wanted to seek a little entertainment. Sometimes I would actively avoid his domain, either sending in reinforcements or going without on desperate nights of boredom. His fascist rule and unreasonable policies were unyielding. He was the manager of Hollywood Video, and he scared the pants off of me.

The first time I met Dan* I made the mistake of trying to rent a movie without a card. As I lived abroad and was only in town once in awhile, I used my parents' account. Before I had the chance to explain he barked: “license please.” I fumbled in my wallet, giggling nervously as one tends to do in the presence of intimidating people. But why was he so intimidating? He was as short as he was wide, had a mouth full of braces, a pale face riddled with raging zits and freckles, curly red hair and couldn’t have been more than 25. Yet something about his stern features and his inability to fold beneath my charm disturbed me.

He grabbed the license out of my hand, screwing up his face as he said my name. “Doesn’t match anyone’s name in the system,” he said. “But my name is different than my parents…so my license won’t…” I started to say. Sighing loudly, he rolled his eyes and said: “Primary account holder name?” Prickles of heat pranced across my shoulders as a queue of anxious parents and children tinkered behind me.

“It’s Fitz*, but my parents are divorced, so my last name is different, can you just use my phone number to look it up?” I said. Dan shook his head as if I’d just asked him to submit himself to Chinese water torture. Finally, he succumbed, mumbling about how it wasn’t supposed to be done this way.

The next time I went to rent a movie, I made sure to go at a different time, hoping it wasn’t Dan’s shift. I slipped into the shop, smiling at the harmless older woman at the front desk, and happily took my time making a selection. As I sauntered up to the desk to pay, grabbing a box of jujyfruits to celebrate, I heard: “Card and license please.” My eyes flashed up as the woman stepped aside and Dan resumed his rightful position.

“OK, look. I don’t have a card, and last time it was a real hassle so can I just get a new card?”
“Name and license?”
“Well, it’s under my parents’ account, so their name is…"
“Account holder has to ask for their own card.”

Crooking my jaw and holding onto the counter I prepared for the Mount Vesuvius of anger in me to blow. But it didn’t! Where was all of the aggression and bravado that usually helped me to tell people to stick it where the sun don’t shine? My hands were actually shaking. I took a deep breath.

“My parents want a new card. I promise you. They asked me to get one tonight.” I said.
“No can do. Tell your parents if they want a card, to come in themselves.”

A few days later I was cycling on the local bike trail when through the mist ahead a large looming figure emerged. As I got closer I saw it was Dan. He was walking quickly and tensely, as if a pole had literally been inserted into his ass. Across the large expanse of his man boobs, I saw the Hollywood Video logo sewn onto his shirt. We were miles from the video store. It suddenly dawned on me: yes, Dan was a big douche, but he had to walk miles to work, every day. Suddenly I felt a rush of sympathy. Who wouldn’t be a little annoyed after walking miles, covered in sweat, through rain or shine, to get paid minimum wage and deal with morons like me who had no card? And no wonder Dan hated me so much, I probably reminded him of all those bitchy girls in high school who'd never give him the time of day. How could he know that I was the champion of all nerds, dorks and the generally down and out? Next time I would bring my new card, and I would be so nice, he couldn’t hate me if he tried. Kill him with kindness.

“Card please.”
“Hey Dan! Here you go! I finally got a new one,” I said, smiling widely, piling popcorn and soda on the counter to surpass the ten dollar minimum needed to pay with a credit card.
“That will be $11.50” he said, still frowning.
“Cool. Thanks so much. Here’s my card.”

Dan swiped it, while I grinned stupidly, despite the fact that his eyebrows were still furrowed.
“You know what? Your card just froze my whole system. GREAT!” he said, his voice raising dangerously. He looked like a three hundred pound time bomb ready to blow.

“Ok, Ok, I have cash.” I said, starting to sweat, and digging around in my wallet. To my horror, all I had was a pile of dollar coins that the MTA ticket machine had spit out at me the other day.

“What are these, is this some kind of joke?”
“Um, they’re dollar coins.”
“Dollar what? I’ve never seen these in my life.”
“They give them out in all of the New York City subway and ticket machines. I swear they are legal tender.”
“Well, I wouldn’t know, I never go to Manhattan.”
No shit, I thought.
“Look, I promise they’re real, OK?”
“OK, fine. Now step aside, you’re holding up the whole line.”

Two years passed until I attempted to go into Hollywood Video again. This time, I brought backup--a friend who I'd prepared with horror stories of Dan. We both laughed and said that he couldn’t possibly still be working there. But as we stepped in, there he was, bigger and angrier than ever. I came prepared with my card and the more common paper variety dollar.

As I stepped up and handed him my goods, he said:

“I see your account has had no activity for two years. Looks like you have to pay the reactivation fee.” Oh for the love of all that’s holy!

What a surprise it was, then, this weekend, when I drove by Hollywood Video and saw "Going out of Business" signs and "Everything Must Go!" all over the dusty and forgotten windows.

My first thought was: HAHA! F*ck you Dan and your FN Rules! Whattaya gonna do now? Walk to Blockbuster two towns over?

My second thought was: Guess I have to take the plunge and use Netflix like everyone else.

My third and most annoying thought (which shows you how crazy and wussy I am) was: Poor Dan (seriously on verge of tears).