Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mele Kalikimaka

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

11 Days of Fail: Day 3

Aaaand I'm back, having been run over by a reindeer named either "Stomach Virus" or "Food Poisoning". I'm not sure which is to blame, but after four days subsisting on toast, ginger ale and equally unpalatable reruns of Married...With Children, I'll never again be eating any food described as 'Jumbo' nor anything that a menu upsells with the phrase 'bigger than your head'.

So the Days of Fail continue and will run through the end of the year rather than stopping at Christmas because it's more than fitting that even chronicling my failures is littered with...failure. Anyway, today's installment is about one of last summer's painful attempts at conjuring a personal life. Sadly, my longest relationship in 2008 was with my plantar wart, The New Boyfriend running in second place by six months and two cartons of Compound W.

Day 3: The Pick Up Artist

Note: Originally published in 2oSB Blog Swap (6/08)

Last Monday* was my friend’s birthday which meant that I invited several people over, made poorly mixed drinks, served store-bought spinach dip and a variety of toothpick pierced treats–because everything from melon to McNugget tastes better with a splinter of wood jammed through its center–and hoped no one would notice that I’d already licked the salt from most of the pretzels. When my sad little plates of crappetizers were gone, we decided to walk down the street to the kind of restaurant that doesn’t mind a party crowd, especially since I frequently see a member of the staff fishing some shitfaced customer out of their koi pond.

We had to wait for a table and took turns staring at the couples slowly picking the crust from their salmon steaks, debating whether they were more likely to speed things up if we gave them pitiful, practiced “Man in the Mirror” expressions or if we just glared, with the facial equivalent of a Harrumph when they stopped chewing long enough to steal a sip of sweet tea.

While were waiting, a guy walked in and signed his name to the waiting list, circling the single digit he left on the notepad to draw extra felt-tipped attention to the fact that he was a party of one. He had an outfit straight from the Jeff Spicoli Starter Kit–a tight Ocean Pacific tee, well-worn khaki cutoffs, and a couple of days worth of stubble. He was mid-to-late thirties and incredibly hot, wearing biceps that said “I could pull a tree stump out with my hands” and a slightly bewildered expression that responded “But I never learned to read”.

My friend A and I started talking to him in that drunken sort of way where you ask a question and immediately respond by giggling and twisting your hair into tiny spikes. He was just in town for a few days, he said. We expressed delight because WE LIVE HERE! IN THIS TOWN! WHERE YOU ARE! He said he’d just stopped in for a burger and a beer, a revelation that made A squeal and me yank my hair into a style last seen on Sonic the Hedgehog because WE WERE EATING AND DRINKING THERE TOO! THIS IS SO GREAT! HOLY SHIT! He laughed cautiously, keeping one hand on the handle of the door and a fishbowl full of business cards between us.

Someone called for our party–mangling the mess of consonants I call a last name–and guided us to a table safely away from the other patrons. We quickly settled in and within a single inning of the Braves game flickering silently on Fox Sports South, we’d had enough beverages to start referring to the waitress as ‘Special Angel’. Spicoli had been seated at the bar, but he would occasionally turn around to cast a sidelong glance to our table, either because he was interested or because he’s never heard someone use the phrase “ballsack” that loudly in a dinner conversation.

As other customers grabbed their things, leaving after swapping a tip for an Andes mint, it was pretty obvious that Spicoli was hanging around for us. Or– I liked to think–for me, even though every time he would look at us, I’d give him a jazz hands-y wave, fluttering my fingers like windchimes before burying my face in my bowl, listening to my laughter echo off the porcelain.

The next time I looked up, he brushed the side of his face, a gentle gesture that meant ‘you have sundried tomato stuck to your skin.’

When Special Angel started stacking the chairs upside down on the tables–the universal sign for ‘You’re not getting another vodka tonic’–and the rest of the waitstaff rolled the silverware tightly up in paper napkins to make little spoon-filled spliffs, Spicoli threw a couple of bills on the bar, hopped from his stool and headed for the door, throwing us a peace sign as he walked by.

“WAIT!” A shrieked, “Pull up a chair!” And–for whatever reason–he did, taking the seat with the sort of guarded curiosity you use when a park ranger asks if you’d like to touch the copperhead he’s been holding.

“So.” she began, slapping his knee like he wasn’t a complete stranger. “Do you like dogs?”

She didn’t start by asking his name, his business, whether or not he’d ever set any children on fire. No, she was most concerned how he felt about domesticated mammals. Excellent.

Spicoli cocked his head a bit, imitating the animal he was being asked about. “Um, yeah, sure.”

“GREAT!” A shouted, clapping her hands. “BECAUSE J-MONEY HAS A DOG!”

She continued to interrogate him for the better part of thirty minutes, asking all of the important questions, like whether he was married (He wasn’t.), whether he had a job (He did. With benefits, he added, perhaps anticipating the next question), and whether he had been to Australia (He had not). We were about to find out whether liked Tom Petty songs, when he sat up and announced that he was getting cold and was going to go grab a change of clothes.

We assumed that he’d decided not to spend any more time in our lives or, quite possibly, had gone to call the authorities, when he knocked on the just-locked door, already back and wearing a pair of blue jeans in less time it took me to wipe the remaining tomato bits off my face.

“Wow, you must be staying close to here!” I said, jumping into the convo for the first time since discovering that neither he nor I had ever been pregnant, another excellent sign as far as our compatibility was concerned.

“Kind of,” he said, shrugging and giving us a blank expression like a carved pumpkin whose candle had been blown out. “My stuff is in my van.”

“Heading to your hotel?” I asked, pleased that I could even follow the conversation at this point since I was pretty sure I’d given myself fetal alcohol syndrome.

“Nope. I live in my van.”

We stared at him. If we’d been in a cartoon, you would’ve heard the sound of a single percussive tinkle as we all blinked in unison.

A spoke first. “Wow.” She rebounded. “Do you have curtains?”

He did not.

And that was when she decided that the night was over.

She turned around to face the half of the restaurant that was shrouded in darkness. “Well. I guess Special Angel isn’t going to refill your pilsner.” In response, another bank of lights went out, followed by the rhythmic click of the back room breakers being turned off.

We all walked out together, unsure of what to do next. We hadn’t anticipated this plot twist, which was passable in a Debra Messing mini-series but not in my life. I don’t have high standards (see: Boyfriend, My Former) but somewhere on my wishlist between ‘two distinct eyebrows’ and ‘aversion to sweater vests‘ is the hope that his permanent residence doesn’t have a dashboard or a cardboard evergreen dangling from the rearview.

I wanted to say something–to ask for his VIN number maybe?–but instead we just waved, returning his peace signs with ones of our own. We started stumbling home carefully, hoping to avoid the koi pond and wondering when it had gotten so cold.

* Again, this ran in June and doesn't reflect an attempt to double dutch The New Boyfriend. I tend to be more monogamous than most tapeworms.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Eleven Days of Fail: Day 2

Day 2: The Payless-ening

Last month, I flew to LA to attend a friend's wedding. The day of the ceremony, my friend Clare and I got together to spend the day wandering around West Hollywood, eating Japanese novelties and buying imported energy drinks. Since she'd rented a Nevada-tagged Volkswagen and I was at the mercy of the 'Suck It, Tourist' Cab Company, she kindly offered to drive me to the wedding. I agreed, she dropped me and my Diet Jolt Cola off in front of the hotel and said she'd be back in an hour.

Determined to be on time and to look like I didn't live in storm gutter, I immediately started getting ready. I used an entire fun-sized bottle of shampoo, brushed my tongue, and painted my toenails--in some cases all the way down to the knuckle and also on the carpet and maybe just a little on the baseboards. Within thirty minutes, my eyeliner had reached emo levels and I'd twisted my hair into perfect tiny peaks. I was ready, save for actually zipping myself inside my dress, which I refuse to do until the last minute because I am the Lewis and Clark of finding trouble. Even if I did nothing but crawl into the dry cleaning bag with it, within five minutes I'd be wrinkled, ripped, and on fire.

When Clare called to say she was on the way, I yanked it--carefully yanked it--off the hanger and swapped my bath towel for my good bra, the one that makes me look like I have actual breasts and not just a pair of mealworms crawling across my sternum. After safely securing myself and my store-bought B cups, I reached for the stilettos I'd packed, one of the few pair of shoes I own that weren't purchased in a store that also sells sweat-wicking underwear.

After false-starting on my first attempt to fasten the shoe's ankle strap, I circled for a second try and the buckle went rogue, ripping entirely off and skidding away under the desk. I couldn't find it, but it didn't matter. I had one shoe on and one dangling impotently from my toe, with no way to secure it to my foot. I didn't know what to do except panic. And call Clare. "Hey," I said, swatting at the aneurysm stirring in the back of my brain. "What would you say if I said I'd just broken my shoe?"

"What? I'd say put on another pair and be downstairs in five minutes." I could almost hear her regretting her decision to play Hoke to my version of Miss Daisy's Declining Years.

"What if I said my other pair had laces and could be worn in a 10K?"

"I'd say 'oh shit'." The turn signal clacked in the background. "I'm almost here. Come down and we'll figure this out."

I couldn't stroll through the lobby barefoot. My hotel was too trendy for that, overrun with woman wearing sunglasses the size of welding masks and men with impractical scarves and improbable haircuts. Earlier that same day, I'd sneaked out the back terrified that someone would smell the outlet mall on my t-shirt and smother me with a Fred Segal bag. Unfortunately, Option B was equally unattractive. I had no choice but to walk through the packed lobby wearing these shoes:

With this dress:


Until I got to Clare's car, I looked like a hooker who decided to mall walk on her lunch break. Luckily Clare is both brilliant and owns a GPS. I'd barely dropped my ass into the passenger seat when she said, "I plugged 'shoe store' into the Garmin and there's a Payless two streets away!" She merged into traffic, hit all the green lights, and before I could realize I had nail polish on both ankles, she was idling in a handicapped space outside a strip mall.

I burst through the door, caught the eye of a woman wielding a pricing gun and asked "What do you have that goes with this outfit?"

"These is our evening shoes," she said, giving a lazy gesture toward the aisle closest to the register.

Within thirty seconds, I'd crammed both paws into a black and silver pair that didn't look like they were purchased within 15 feet of an AutoZone. "Is that it or do you want to BOGO?" asked the cashier, whose name tag was decorated with a picture of a knife-wielding devil. Perhaps sensing that I didn't know if 'BOGO' was a game or a sex act, she continued with "If you buy one, you get one half price".

"No, I'll just BO, I guess, and hold the GO," I told her. "And I won't need the box."

I teetered back to the car--one sneaker in each hand--and vaguely remember high fiving Clare as she typed the wedding's location into the GPS. If that Garmin had been a person, I totally would've let it touch my boob.

Believe it or not, we rolled in on time. Clare parked the car, I double checked for price tags and we walked in with a couple I'd met at dinner the night before. We'd taken two steps into the brightly lit courtyard when I looked down and noticed I'd somehow streaked myself with ball point pen. I was trying to discreetly lick my own dress when someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was the woman from the parking lot. "Nice to see you again," she said, "Looove those shoes!"

"Doesn't it feel good to pay less?" I told her and headed for the bar.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

11 Days of Fail: Day 1

In order to properly recount the 11 Days of Fail, I've had to reexamine 2008 and there are so many suck nuggets to choose from. I earned less than ten grand this year, got fired from a job that required a name tag, and--until September-ish--my personal life was emptier than my bra cups. You need more? I've fallen down three flights of stairs on three separate occasions. I threw up in a canoe. I LISTENED TO FALL OUT BOY. Obviously Oh-Eight will go in the books as a giant casserole of Ugh. So let's dwell on it, shall we?

Day 1: The Credit Card Shredding

The first installment is also the most recent. This time last week, I was in Arizona with The New Boyfriend (TNB) who won't be given a different nickname until he loses that 'new boyfriend' smell. We spent two nights in Tucson at the Hilton El Conquistador* and--as I noted before--after spending 99 miles on the interstate, we just wanted to toss our bags in our room and head for the nearest bucket of tequila.

That was salt-rimmed mistake number one, not because I drank a lot, but because I have the alcohol tolerance of an earthworm. After one drink, I'm in love with you.

Two, I'm licking your face and may have proposed.

Three, I'm naked and arguing with a Rent-A-Cop about why I can't go down the waterslide again.

Anyway, I was buzzed enough to decide to do something thoughtful and pick up the tab for TNB, his sister, and INSANELY ADORABLE niece (who was not drinking). I stumbled toward the bartender, plunked my card on the counter, and she tried to convince me that I should just start a tab. Shaking my head, I insisted that I just wanted my check and possibly a receptacle to vomit into, so she gave me a receipt to autograph and--pleased with my overpriced round of generosity--we all headed back upstairs.

Luckily, I saved my receipt because that's the last time I'll do anything nice for anyone, ever.

The rest of the evening was uneventful. TNB and I had dinner at the hotel's Dos Locos** restaurant, because nothing is more appetizing than associating mental illness with the people who handle your food. We had a couple more drinks. We watched college football. Yes, I think I would like one more. We went to the outdoor hot tub tepid pit*** and then one of us may or may not have fallen asleep mid-sentence and awakened with the imprint of the nightstand on her face.

The next morning after breakfast, we stopped by Target to pick up a couple of things and when I whipped out my wallet there was...nothing. No ATM card, just my license, a couple of withering business cards, and my perpetually maxed-out Visa which I keep handy in case I need a bookmark. I rewound the night and realized with a shrug that I'd probably forgotten it at the pool bar. No worries, unless someone had drained my bank account by ordering a plate of nachos.

When we got back to the hotel, I made a frantic trip to the front desk where a helpful employee wearing a polyester vest and a permasmile told me not to worry, that he was sure the bar staff had either locked my card in the cash register or turned it over to hotel security. "No se preocupe," he said, although at that point, I was pretty fucking preocupe'd.

He smiled, patted my hand and made a call to the security station. Three sentences in and his expression started to darken. "Oh really?" he said, eyebrows jumping to high five his hairline. "You're kidding...we actually do that? Maybe you should tell that to her" He placed his hand over the receiver before passing it across the counter. "He wants to talk to you. Lo siento."

I took the phone warily, having complained about enough undercooked Mexican meals to realize that lo siento doesn't mean "Here's some really awesome news".

"Is this J-Money?" the heavily-accented baritone on the other end began.

"Yeah, you have my credit card?"

"Had.", he said, coughing before he continued. "We had it. Our bartender turned it in to my office, we checked for your name on the guest registry and when we didn't find a match, we destroyed the card."

"Destroyed? Like...just put it on a high shelf and waited for me to come pick it up?"

"Destroyed as in shredded. As in it's gone. Lo siento."

I handed the phone back across the counter and realizing I didn't know enough Spanish to say "Thanks so much, lunkhead" I gave a very American "Shit, shit, shit, shit, SHIT." I had no ATM card, no checks, and a worthless credit card, so I'd have to survive for another week on $52 and three McDonald's Monopoly pieces.

Stomping back upstairs, I immediately called my bank**** who was less than helpful. They wouldn't mail a replacement card to any address that wasn't stamped on my checks, despite the fact that I provided my SSN, date of my last transaction, and promised to send them a basket of candy. I hung up, paced around the room, then called back when I realized that my neighbor was collecting my mail so he could get the card and overnight it to Arizona. But, of course, the bank still wouldn't play nice. They wouldn't overnight it--their first offer was a glacial 7 to 10 business days--but they could send it Three Day Priority for an ADDITIONAL FIFTY DOLLARS because they apparently use envelopes made of BluRay discs.

Fast forwarding a bit, I survived by paying part of my Visa bill so I'd have enough available credit to cover eleven days of airport parking, spring Pigpen out of the kennel, and buy a chocolate peppermint milkshake at Chick-Fil-A. Now, of course, I'm maxxed again because trying to pay that card off is like trying to fill the Grand Canyon by peeing in it.

Ten days later, and Godot will probably show up before my ATM card. When I called to check in with them on Saturday morning, they hadn't even mailed it so I had no choice but to fork over fifty bones. I hope like hell it's in the box tomorrow...I could really use a drink.

* Official Motto: "So Long & Thanks for All The Smallpox".
** It can't be a good sign when the first thing mentioned in a review is the restaurant's fabric selection.
*** No, not for that. Just to relax. Because doing that, outside in full view of the hotel would be lewd, irresponsible, and can also give you a nasty yeast infection.
**** Their name sounds exactly like BB&T.*****
***** Which is an acronym for Bend over Bitch & Take it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Arrival and Cross Check

So I made it home from Arizona, scoring Boarding Class B tix for the flight back which meant instead of perching on a tray table, I had an actual seat--an aisle seat, even--giving me easy access to the flight attendant's snack basket* and an un-worked crossword in the inflight mag. I also got a nasty cold, courtesy of the Human Microbe beside me, a man who spent three hours and thirty-six minutes coughing, sneezing, and being as aggressively contagious as he could without actually licking his hands and wiping them on my face.**

When I wasn't checking the pretzel package to see if they had enough Vitamin C to protect me against Lord Rhinovirus who insisted on draping his diseased limbs on my armrest, I was taking notes about the other passengers and jotting them on the back of my air sickness bag. My fave transcontinental friends this time were:

-- The fortysomething woman with skin like a baked potato and oversized breasts so new she'd barely peeled the price tags off. Her entire outfit was inappropriate, from her skinny jeans that were bedazzled with skulls on the back pockets to the pastel hued UGG boots that made her look like she'd gotten each foot stuck in a Care Bear's ass. Creepier still, she was carrying a cardboard crate from Build-A-Bear. While we waited to board the plane, she periodically opened the box and pulled a stuffed rabbit out by its ears. I initially assumed it was for the same kid whose closet she'd raided, until midflight she grabbed it out of the overhead bin and smothered it in her equally overstuffed cleavage while she slept.

-- The cockdragon behind me held up our takeoff because he refused to get off the phone. The flight attendant urged him to turn his Treo off--a request he repeatedly ignored, waving her away as he dropped the words "anywho" and "co-inky-dink" in the same sentence.*** When she threatened to yoink him off the plane, he hung up with an exaggerated sigh, and busied himself for the duration of the flight by kicking the back of my seat. Anywho, the second the landing gear kissed the runway, he immediately dialed someone so they could have the same exchange that EVERYONE ON EVERY SINGLE EFFING PLANE HAS TO HAVE:

Hey, I just landed!
[pause]
No, I'm on the plane!
[pause]
WHAT?... I'M ON THE PLANE!
[pause]
I'M STILL ON THE PLANE...WHAT?
[pause]
WHAT? I'LL HAVE TO CALL YOU BACK.

-- The couple across the aisle spread a miniature version of Scrabble across their tray tables, a game that becomes an unintentionally hilarious spectator sport when neither of the participants can spell. Right before my Xanax kicked in, the male half plunked down the word "BABONE" which he described as "that monkey with the blue ass". She nodded, marked his score, and triumphantly built the word "CARRIGE".

-- A couple with three kids got on the plane arguing with each other, probably because she was pregnant again with--from the size of her stomach--what was either a litter of golden retrievers or a golf cart. They took their seats, each struggling to staple a child in beside them. Everything was quiet as we taxied down the runway when she yelled, "You know, your dad has really gotten racist since he moved to South Carolina."

He responded with nothing, so she continued. "Seriously, I always thought your mom was the racist one, but no, it's him. And he's gotten even more racist lately."

Her husband--who I'd already christened Johnny Applesemen due to his K-Fed levels of fertility--unfastened his seatbelt, stood up, and whispered something to her, possibly along the lines of "I'll get you pregnant twice next time" before calmly taking his seat. She didn't say another word.

* Not a euphemism.
** As a result, I've spent the better part of two days shuffling around in my pajamas. That's not entirely different than my regular workweek, except my t-shirts are stained with cough syrup and chicken noodle soup instead of just Diet Coke and my own tears.
*** Another personal tenet of mine? I refuse to have sex with anyone who uses the word "co-inky-dink". Consider yourself warned.
__________

But I made it back, despite my airborne disease, and I'm trying to get back to work. Starting today and continuing until I forget about it Christmas, I'll be posting the Twelve ELEVEN DAYS OF FAIL, recounting some of this year's more spectacular personal disasters, the ones that haven't already been written about. When I told The New Boyfriend about this idea, he said that this list was already 100% Fail because the real 12 days of Christmas didn't start until December 25, but whatever. That makes it even more Fail-icious.

Look for the first post later tonight. No, really.
__________

One more quick programming note... I haven't forgotten about LOLHouse! I'm just technologically barren right now, like the MacBook version of Jennifer Aniston. I had to replace my old PowerBook a few weeks ago and was unable to transfer my copy of Photoshop because, um, it wasn't exactly purchased at a local retailer. What? DON'T JUDGE ME. Anyway, hopefully I'll get my mitts on another copy of said software and can fill in the missing episodes before the season resumes in January.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Putting the "I" in Arizona

Greetings from geriatric Arizona, home of the giant Saguaro cactus, supermarkets that sell liquor, and a large chunk of John McCain's face. I’ve been here since last Wednesday to see The New Boyfriend, who picked me up at the airport, tossed my bag in the back, and immediately took me to an In-N-Out burger. The fact that he watched me eat a Double Double with cheese without recoiling in horror or abandoning me in the non-smoking section with meat juice dribbling out of both sides of my mouth means that he's a keeper on a number of levels.

Wednesday morning marked the first time in recorded history that I made it to the airport on time, lugging my 48.7 pound suitcase to the Southwest counter and reveling in the fact that they allow me to take ten days worth of ironic t-shirts across the country for free. The only downside to Southwest is the lack of assigned seating. I was slapped with passes marked Boarding Class C, which means "Please fold yourself into one of the overhead bins and someone will extract you before we continue service to San Jose".

On
Thursday, we drove from Phoenix to Tucson to check out the course for the Holuaualaouaua Tucson Marathon, which he's been training for longer than we've been dating, although our relationship has probably been more painful. The course was mainly downhill, starting in the mountains and snaking through the small towns of Oracle and Catalina whose major industries seem to involve woodcarving or selling puppies. We stopped for lunch at the historic El Charro Cafe, the restaurant that invented both chimichangas and ambiguous bathroom labels. When forced to choose between a door stenciled with 'Charros' or one with a drawing of something that looked like a retarded goat, I selected the former and learned that while I'm apparently not a Charro, those who are freak out when you barge in and watch them pee. We came back to Phoenix, did a workout with his track club then went out for hot wings, which combined with the salsa at lunch to ensure that my colon would spend the next 48 hours weeping.

Friday morning, we drove back to Tucscon to check in at the fabulous El Conquistador Resort and Collection of Kokopelli Statues to hang out (and try to keep him from clawing his face off) before Sunday's race. We dropped our stuff in the room and immediately took off toward the pool bar for the El Conquistador Margarita which is a $9 glass full of Patron and bad decisions. I got Conquistador'ed enough to forget my credit card at the cash register--a mistake which ended with me sobbing to four different nametags at the front desk (and one that will be detailed in my upcoming TWELVE DAYS OF FAIL series). We had more margaritas at dinner, a couple more while watching ESPN's coverage of the Who Knew SUNY-Buffalo Had a Football Team Game so I woke up on Saturday morning facedown in the Arizona Vistor's Guide beside hastily scribbled directions to a Hopi Indian village.

Breakfast on
Saturday was at a buffet that specialized in ambrosia salad and elderly lesbians. Unfortunately, we were two bargain-priced plates in before realizing that any restaurant that classified Sunkist as 'juice' probably wasn't an optimal pre-race meal. The rest of the day was spent doing pretty much nothing, other than eating more excellent Mexican food and watching his niece be adorable. She has more Cute in one ringlet that I've accumulated in 100-something pounds. Also after a week here, I've gotten fluent in speaking 3-year-old, which is a language the Rosetta Stone people should look into, especially the translations for "I am on the verge of pooping", "Seriously, I'm about to unleash this right now" and "OK, I may need a wetnap and a change of pants".

Sunday--Race Day--began at 2:45 a.m. Neither of us could sleep and we had to be in the lobby before 5 to catch the buses to our respective start lines, so I ignored my 'Never Let My Skin Touch Hotel Carpet' rule by spending half an hour doing several stretches I remembered from either yoga DVDs or porn. We strapped the timing chips to our shoes, chugged our final bottles of Gatorade, and said goodbye as he got on the marathon bus and I took the ride to the half.

They dumped us off before sunrise in the middle of the desert, within a mile of the Biosphere, that scientist-designed ecosystem of the early 90s that spawned an unfortunate number of Jay Leno jokes and--even worse--a Pauly Shore movie that I refuse to link to. I had a pretty good day on the course, running a PR of 1:33:17 and crossing the finish line without soiling myself.

There were supposed to be showers at the end but that proved to be a myth, so I had to break my OTHER life rule of never being naked in a portajohn, where I changing clothes before finding The New Boyfriend's Family and waiting for him to finish his 26.2. His time of 3:24:48 was also a personal best (and his incredibly detailed race recap is posted here).

Since then we've been in Phoenix, spending our days moving slowly around the house and our nights trying not to accidentally touch each other's sore spots, which is sadly not a euphemism. Because of the course's Black Diamond-level downhills, I've winced every time I've gone up and down the stairs and have had serious internal debates with myself about whether I had to pee bad enough to justify the pain of sitting on the toilet. If I hadn't been draped across someone else's upholstery, I probably just would've let it go, which--based on the prominent displays of adult diapers in the Fry's grocery stores--seems to be a popular option here. We felt mobile enough on Tuesday night to venture out for some stellar sushi at Sushi Eye and
yesterday I got a sewing lesson from his mother, which means that in some cultures he and I are now officially married and he owes my family a head of cattle.

About this time tomorrow, I'll be heading back to Slappytown, still a bit sore and sad to say adios to him and his family. All I can hope for is that I'll see them again...and that next time I'll be in Boarding Group A.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

This Space Available

Hello, interwebs! I'm in Arizona visiting The New Boyfriend, spending quality time with his awesome family* and recovering from the Tucson Half Marathon**.

Anyway, I'd written more words about my stay in the Land of Enchantment The Constitution State The Arizona State*** and my new-yet-still-prone-to-sucktastic-freakouts MacBook ate my post. I'll be re-writing it and tossing it online later today. I've missed you all.

* Who quickly forgave me for breaking a towel bar on the first day.
** He ran the full marathon. Showoff.
*** I think the actual motto is Don't Touch That, It's a Scorpion.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Tastes Like Disappointment

Because my body is a Temple (of Doom) and also because my monthly income is less than a subscription to US Weekly, I frequently find myself idling in the drive through lane, waiting to suckle from Wendy's bargain-priced, bacon-covered teat. Tonight, I broke from my 'Double Stack and Child's Size Frosty' habit to sample Her heavily advertised Gourmet Mushroom Swiss Burger. Unfortunately, the item that was thrust through my open car window looked nothing like what I'd seen in the pictures. Instead of this:

I was given this:

Yes, I still ate for under a fin, it still had the fat-tastic flavor I've come to depend on, and it still made my car smell like a hobo's pants, but I can't help but feel cheated. It's like falling for someone's cover model-caliber eHarmony picture but when you meet them, they look like a rotting squash.

And they don't have nearly enough mushrooms.

Suck It, Oxygen Network


After a sleepless Saturday night involving an endless parade of Hugh Grant movies on cable, I've finally developed a healthy loathing for him, his sleepy eyes, floppy hair, and delightful personality.

The opposite of "Thank You" goes out to Lifetime, Oxygen, We, and any other uterus-based television network* for shoving his upper class accent and stammering speech patterns into my retinas AND for somehow rendering me incapable of changing the channel, even when confronted with 124 minutes of Notting Hill, in which Hugh woos, spurns, and re-woos Julia Roberts and her creepy lip cuticle.**

*Collective Motto: "Because Sometimes Midol Isn't Enough".
** And through the magic of HD, I could actually see her growing rows of new teeth. Like a shark.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Slower Traffic Keep Right

In the next hour or so, I'll be heading to my folks' house for Thanksgivin'. So far this morning, I've done two loads of laundry, lugged Pigpen's travel crate toward the elevator, and decided that it will take four cases of Diet Coke to make it through the next 48 hours.

I haven't taken a road trip since last month when it took 14 hours roundtrip (the equivalent of seven Lifetime movies) to get to Ohio to see my sister Runtie. I rolled out of here before 4 a.m.--the crack of 'Kill Me Please'--and was well into West Virginia before my central nervous system sputtered to life. I spent large swaths of I-77 gnawing the heads off of Sour Patch Kids, wondering if I was the first person to ever laugh at a local bank's "Get Your Money For Nothing & Your Checks For Free" billboard, and deconstructing my new relationship using nothing but the lyrics of early Tom Waits songs. These are all reasons why I should never be left unattended.

Driving tends to make me sleepy so I have to find things to keep me entertained, like changing lanes without signaling or trying to make other drivers think I'm having a seizure. I also pay attention to license plates, keeping track of what states have passed me and which have the shittiest mottos (I'm looking at you, America's Dairyland). I also enjoy the quiet war between North Carolina and Ohio for the affections of the Wright Brothers. Ohio's prisoner-etched plates say that they were the Birthplace of Aviation because Orville and Wilbur were, um, born there but North Carolina claims to be the First in Flight because the WriBros actually launched their plane at Kitty Hawk, a place that has probably seen its share of wretched high school field trips.


Sorry, Ohio, but you lose. You may have courted Aviation but North Carolina totally banged her and built a memorial to the money shot.

OK, the dryer is dinging which means it's time to empty my ironic t-shirts into an overnight bag and merge onto the interstate. Safe travels to everyone, whether you're on the roads or in the skies.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Premature Evacuation

I just found out that this went on at the Grove in LA on Sunday night, the same Grove that was RIGHT ACROSS THE DAMN STREET from my hotel.


You'll note that the Band from TV performed, a supergroup of television stars (and Terri Hatcher) that does the occasional live gig. The other members are HUGH LAURIE, James Denton, HUGH LAURIE, House's own Jesse 'Dr. Chase' Spencer, HUGH LAURIE and some other people that I wouldn't be interested in mashing faces with.

So yeah. I could've been within my tongue's length of Hugh Effing Laurie but instead at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time (10:30 EST) I was standing in my kitchen, eating a tray of grocery store cornbread.

I'm not kidding when I say I would've changed my flight for this. I lamented my rotten luck to my mother, which lead to this conversation:

Mom: I'm sorry, honey. That's probably the only time you'll be that close to Hugh Laurie.
Me: You mean until we start dating and eventually get married.
Mom: Um. Like I said, that's probably the only time you'll be that close to Hugh Laurie.
Me: DON'T YOU OPPRESS ME, WOMAN.
Mom: <Deep heavy sigh>

Confidential to Hugh Laurie: If I'd stayed, this could've been us. Obviously, you would be the donkey and I would be me.

I will be doing my annual Artificial Tree Unpacking, Lighting and Cringing Over Photo Ornaments With My 10th Grade Face on Them next Sunday night in the corner of my living room. Are you available? I'll save you some cornbread.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Upright and Locked Position

I'm just back from four days in Los Angeles and I don't remember another time when so much awesome was crammed into 96 hours. My friend TheStarterWife's wedding was incredible--she looked insanely gorgeous--and getting to hang out with Holly, SignaltoNoise, and Clare bordered on splendid. Yes, I realize how odd it is that my friends are a collection of pseudonyms and links, but whatever.

The only downside was the fact that getting across the country involves my arch nemesis, Air Travel. Somehow I fell prey to the Travelocity gnome who made a 6:45 a.m. flight sound awesome, but when my alarm went off at 3:15, the I Hate Myself fairy violently disagreed. The only upside to a predawn drive to the airport was that my eyes weren't fully open when I ingested my St. Christopher medal and purchased a TSA-approved $3 bottle of water to throw down enough Xanax to ensure that even in the event of an air disaster, I'd be twitching my leg often enough to make the rescue workers wonder if I was chasing rabbits in my sleep.

Yes, I'm terrified of flying and have to be heavily medicated before I can even consider stowing my belongings in the overhead bins. Last summer on a trip to Monterey, the staff at the [Name Redacted] Inn--which offered a quaint in-room fireplace that harbored bats and had the kind of smoke reflux that made my belongings smell like RJ Reynolds' bronchial tubes--helped themselves to my anti-anxiety meds so I spent the duration of the return flight clawing at my own face. During a layover in Minneapolis, my travel companion suggested that I have a drink to calm my nerves and obviously didn't anticipate that I'd slug so much Patron that I'd try to tongue kiss the Snoopy statue in the terminal.

This trip I didn't take any chances. I packed two bottles...and a suitcase lock.

I flew Continental, partially because they were the cheapest and partially because in my past life as a comic, I racked up enough trips in their shoddily embroidered seats to earn Silver Elite flyer status which means...nothing, really, except my inflight magazine may not have been dusted with MRSA and I get to stand on a special mat while they search for my reservation and mispronounce my name.

None of my four flights (including stops in Newark and Houston's George "Not the Shitty One, We Promise" Bush Intercontinental Airport & Armadillo Shaped Novelty Store) were full but I still was surrounded by all manner of Freakshow and have collected some of my favorites for you:

-- My seatmate on the flight to Newark was a woman rocking a double-braided hairstyle last seen on Willie Nelson and an oversized nylon tote bag full of string cheese. I get freaked out by dairy products that don't require refrigeration but she seemed to enjoy it and--based on the amount of peelable wrappers that accumulated in the seat pocket--she wasn't planning on having a bowel movement at any point during her vacation. She started reading a book with a Bible and a quill pen on the cover, so it became immediately obvious that we had nothing in common. I put my headphones on, realized I have enough Replacements music to be incorporated as a Minneapolis suburb, and went to sleep. I woke up in New Jersey with tray table creases on my face and "Kiss Me On the Bus" lodged in my head.

-- I spent the six hour trip to LA beside a couple who played 'Get to Know You' Games with each other until we were somewhere over Iowa. "So what's your middle name?" she asked as he stared intensely at the upholstery like it was a magic eye poster. "Joseph," he grunted, "Um, what's yours?" She mumbled something that sounded like "Cicada", thumbed through a few pages of one of those Vampire novels that double as Hot Topic catalogs, before asking "So...like...what's your favorite food?" I swear he said "Steak-Umms", an answer that delighted her so much that they made out until the wheels kissed the runway. After listening to them quiz each other, I couldn't figure them out. The only things they seemed to have in common were over-the-counter hair color, a fondness for leather goods, and a willingness to give/receive a fumbling-but-brief handjob beneath one of the complimentary blankets that I sincerely hope was incinerated upon our arrival. I spent an hour (the duration of the extended edition of Don't Tell a Soul) convinced that they'd committed some kind of heist and were fleeing the Jerz to start a new life in SoCal with the contents of the cash register from the House of Plants.

-- Across the aisle was an Asian teen with a demon face airbrushed on his hat who refused to turn his Zune off, even after the flight attendant nudged him. He nodded, pulled one earbud out, and promptly replaced it as she moved up the aisle collecting empty ginger ale cans. I tried to stare a hole through his skull and--if we'd had any mechanical difficulties--I would've blamed him and the Insane Clown Posse.

Getting home yesterday was a disaster from the wake up call on, when I rolled out of bed reeking of wormwood and regret thanks to the absinthe I'd had at the Edison (but I got to keep my lightbulb-shaped glass!) and only got worse when my cab got rearended on the way to the airport. The Cliff's Notes version is that I got to the Continental counter at 7:40 for my 8 a.m. flight and had to bat the fuck out of my eyelashes to the ticket rep so I could get on the plane. The phrase "I could so make out with you right now" may have been used, which probably violated several TSA regulations. I didn't check a bag so after getting my boarding pass, I had to hustle to gate C-62, burdened like a sherpa beneath the weight of all the $4.99 used CDs I bought at Amoeba music because I go across the country to stock up on the kind of out-of-print acoustic shit I could've gotten for $0.02 from Amazon sellers.

-- My seatmate was a woman wearing a catsuit who had already commandeered all three pillows and refused to get up to let me move to the middle seat because she'd swaddled herself in two blankets like baby Jesus with highlights and a blowout. As we taxied toward the runway, she loudly announced to everyone that she was going to Las Vegas, even though she was on a flight to Houston. During the flight, she repeated the same repertoire of three moves: taking her shoes on and off, frequently sponging makeup on the scarab beetle sleeping on her cheek a mole on her face, and applying a roller of perfume to her wrists. Yes, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but on an airplane the scent lingers and drifts. She also had at least nine cups of coffee and with every refill she would touch the steward's arm and say "You do make it so good" in the kind of heavy accent preferred by Carmen San Diego villains. Her entire cultivated persona reminded me of a game of charades where you were trying to make the other players guess "sexy!" but part of her definition involved chewing with her mouth open.

--The family in front of me had a toddler who was wholesomely adorable in a Family Channel sitcom-kind of way. Both parents doted on him and suggested a game where they'd pretend that the airplane was a giant roller coaster, which was cute in theory until we hit massive amounts of turbulence over Middle America and he'd throw his hands up and scream every time we kicked through a cloud. For three consecutive hours. At one point, his mom turned around and sheepishly apologized to us, staring at me because I assume I looked the most pissed. I managed to muster a smile and told her not to worry because I had headphones and enough drugs to turn Keith Richards' blood to sludge. That was apparently the wrong way to begin a relationship, because when we landed, she shielded the kid's face from me as I reached into the overhead bin to grab my backpack.

I shrugged, threw a bag on each shoulder and took off to the next gate, "My Little Problem" echoing in both ears.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Actual Conversations, Vol. 1

My friend Andrew and I went to see Quantum of Shaky Camera Work Solace the other night and--as we have a tendency to do--sat in the parking lot deconstructing, um, everything until the place was deserted save for us, a stray dog, and what was either a drifter or a Chupacabra. We also had the following conversation that I thought needed to be documented, just in case such technology becomes available.

A: If I had a time machine, I think I'd go back in time to kill Thomas Wolfe before he wrote Look Homeward, Angel. Actually, I'd schedule each trip a day earlier and chip away at his life in 24-hour increments.
Me: That's ridiculous. If I had a time machine, I'd take it back to the 8th grade so I could pass the Presidential Physical Fitness test.
A: Oh, right, that's a much better use of resources.
Me: It is. Back then I couldn't run the mile or do a pull-up, so I didn't get a laminated certificate with a replica of Ronald Reagan's signature on it. So obviously I want to go back and kick ass.
A: Wait...so you'd be 11-year-old you but have the strength of 29-year-old you?
Me: Maybe we're not going to put it that way, but yeah, it would be me at 11, with my perm and pink and teal braces and also with a sub-6 minute mile.
A: Part of me wants to encourage you and part of me should remind you that you'll be depriving some other kid of their moment of glory at the parent-teacher conference.
Me: Whatever, you'll be depriving Asheville, North Carolina of a tourist attraction.
A: And I'll be depriving myself of having to read, like, 40 pages about a dining room table. I think we're even.

Monday, November 17, 2008

LOLHouse: Season 5, Episode 6

So I'm ridiculously behind on LOLHouse but am determined to catch up before Tuesday night, starting with Episode 6, the one that I've calmly subtitled "HOLY EFFING SHIT HOUSE AND CUDDY RUB TONGUES".

This week's Adventure in Misdiagnosis involved a guy who lost huge chunks of time because he'd effectively fall asleep but somehow could still drive a car, work as a product tester, and occasionally buy drugs. No shit, he sleep-scored some cocaine which led House to direct his team to procure their own blow (after breaking into the patient's house, of course). Within the first thirty minutes, Taub n' Thirteen had committed two felonies and I started to wish I'd gone to med school.

Anyway in keeping with the grand tradition of this season, the Patient of the Week (tPOW)was largely ignored in favor of other plot points involving Cuddy's uterus. He and his freaky emotionless kid were eventually diagnosed with Familial Mediterranean Fever, a conclusion that seemed to have been extracted from House's ass. Somehow he figured out that tPOW and Li'l tPOW were really of middle eastern descent but had spent the last ten years pretending to be white, just like Will Smith.

The other forty five minutes of this ep were devoted to Cuddy's quest for a baby. She meets Becca, the mom-to-be who couldn't have been more white trash if she farted cheeto dust or married Kevin Federline. Before they've even finished chatting about baby names or past drug use, Cuddy notices that Becca has the kind of creeping rash that requires her to be hospitalized against her will. After several tense ultrasound scenes, the baby has to be delivered by C-Section which means that Becca will earn fewer tips if she ever returns to dancing at the Gutterballz Strip Club N' Bowling Alley. Eventually she decides to keep the baby, leaving Cuddy with a newly painted nursery but the same echo in her womb.

Enter House who swings by her place to either console or mock her--and does a little of both--before they end up mashing faces long enough to get several camera angles. Then he leaves, perhaps spooked by the audible squeals from the entire viewing audience.

Obviously this is something that will be addressed--or tapdanced around--for the rest of the season and honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about a potential House/Cuddy pairing. The fumbling sexual tension seasoned with a dash of animosity has carried us through five seasons and I don't know whether to fear change or embrace it. What do you guys think?

I also don't know whether it's funny or creepy that I spent an entire afternoon trying to Photoshop my own face beside Hugh Laurie's open mouth.

Episode 6: "Joy"

























Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cocktail Reception to Follow

So my sister Runtie is newly engaged which is both awesome and terrifying because it means that my little sister is grown up: responsible, self-sufficient, and old enough to get married without appearing on the kind of TLC program that would air between Say Yes to the Dress and Reggie Gets a New Head. It also ensures that for the next year our conversations will frequently involve words like bodice and fittings and no, your dress won't have a dinosaur on it.

Realizing that she's reached this point in her life makes me even more apprehensive about my own. I probably have enough sweater coats and dog breed fridge magnets to be an honorary member of Miss Havisham's Li'l Spinster Club but, honestly, I'm just not racing to wrap myself in someone else's last name. Despite being ensnared for seven years in a now-defunct relationship, "Git Hitched" wasn't something I ever wrote on the to-do list after "Regrout Shower" and "Buy Ant Traps", and we were both fine with it, partially because he'd been married before, because we didn't need any more specialty appliances and because we both had insurance.

Our unmarriage meant that when the O-ring on our relationship blew, I could fill the back of my car with laundry baskets full of Christmas decorations and cracked CD cases without having to call the smirking attorney on the back of the phone book. It also meant I didn't get fitty percent of his stuff, which I'm cool with because I didn't need forty books about the Civil War or half of the slutpuppet he left me for.

Anyway, Runtie's big day isn't until April of 2010, right after the Groom-Elect finishes med school* and possibly purchases land in the type of gated community that sells its own merchandise. He is a great guy and they're adorable together, probably because there's a certain amount of comfort in the fact that the person you love could catheterize you.

Even though the wedding is two more Paula Deen desk planners away, our mother is fast approaching a level of excitement last seen when Jessie Spano OD'ed on caffeine pills. She's already selecting fonts for the invitation, pricing swans, and would've carved the ice sculpture if she had a place to store it. By contrast, the only thing our father is concerned about is that if Mom combusts before the big day, no one will know where the place cards go.

Runtie did name me her Maid of Hono(u)r, which--according to the ten pounds of wedding related literature I've been given to peruse**--means I'll have actual responsibilities during the planning stages, like scheduling her bachelorette party,***accidentally smudging shiny things, and giving myself a beard made of cake icing.

Despite my inability to walk in heels without looking like a wounded deer, my name has been printed in a couple of wedding programs before, including for my former roommate**** and my high school BFF. Before that, I was the peach-hued blur in the corner of several pictures from my cousin's first wedding. I was four years old and cast as the flower girl, which I didn't want to do because it wasn't a speaking part. The day before the wedding, I saw a shampoo commercial that showed animated flowers flying out of a woman's hair every time she tossed it over her shoulder. I spent the rest of the afternoon shaking my skull like a cup of Yahtzee dice but my own head never spawned plant life, probably because her hair was all one length and I had bangs. For some reason, I'd been left unsupervised long enough to get my plastic Sesame Street scissors and chop off my oppressive bangs before carefully gathering the clippings, which I hid under the rug so no one would notice.

My mother noticed. And she was pissed, as was my cousin who freaked out and insisted that I wear a garland of flowers around my head like one of the garish cherub figurines that she collected and (I'm assuming) contributed to her eventual divorce. Before the ceremony, I stared at my wreath-headed reflection and decided I had to make it clear to the wedding guests that despite my force-bloomed dome piece, I was no effing cherub. So I responded by taking two perfectly timed steps into the aisle before dumping the basket of petals and stomping to the front of the church where I stood with my arms crossed, scowling.

Despite my DIY style I never did learn how to make my flowers sprout from my scalp. I did, however, learn that ruining a wedding means your Big Wheel would be placed on a high shelf for the rest of the summer.

I haven't given up though. I have another 17 months to figure it out.

* By contrast, I'll spend the next year and a half trying to finish this Hannah Montana jigsaw puzzle and counting how many consecutive days I wear sweatpants.
** It seems that "peruse" does not mean read the first page then use the others to make paper hats for you and your dog.
*** Not that I'm bragging, but I reserved our hometown's cleanest Chuck E. Cheese.
**** At one point during the rehearsal, her retired Navy Admiral father stopped the priest to ask which side he should wear his sword on. Sadly, the bridesmaids did not get swords. I'm not even sure I was trusted with a bouquet.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Tidbits

Here's the latest batch of thoughts that were hastily written on scraps of paper and gas station receipts. They've slowly colonized one side of the kitchen table so it's time to either post them* or use them to make a very small papier mache animal.

-- Some friends and I were out on Saturday night** and we decided that the best possible way to find out where you stand in a relationship is to casually ask your partner if you can smell their scalp. If they agree, they're obviously worth keeping for a number of reasons; if they don't, they may have problems with boundaries or trust, issues that should be discussed in loud voices while dining in a small restaurant.

-- Yesterday morning, my upstairs neighbors got into a violent argument over who left the television on all night, which meant I had premium seating for their original one act play, "NO, YOU DID". Their fight went on for a solid thirty minutes and at one point, there was a shriek followed by an impressive thud, like she either launched herself Ultimate Warrior-style off the back of the sofa or he tried to hit her with their border collie. The teevee in question could be heard the entire time.

-- I cooked dinner last night--actual meats and stuff--instead of my usual diet of foods advertised with a jingle or a possibly drug-addled cartoon character. Thanks, roasted garlic, for making it smell like I live in one of Emeril Lagasse's molars.

-- Everyone in my building was given a free month's membership to the bright shiny new gym down the street and I've intermittently been cheating on my old gym because I was curious what it would be like to work out with equipment that wasn't riddled with tetanus or that didn't have the overwhelming stench of armpit and old shellfish. Also, there's a hotdog stand between my apartment and the New Gym. It was late when I went last night and my street was dark and deserted enough for me to feel an itch of uneasiness on the walk. Rather than pick up my pace or clutch my membership card like a flimsy plastic weapon, I instead tucked the book I was carrying under my jacket, like the fact that I could read made me look like an easy target.

-- I spent an hour on the stationary bike rereading a book*** that I blew through a couple of summers ago. At the 59:59 mark, I started to turn down the corner of the page and noticed that I'd creased that corner before. For the entire walk home, I wondered if that meant that my one hour read speed is set at EXACTLY 103 pages because I feel certain that the last time I thumbed through these chapters, I was frantically pedaling a bike that was bolted to the floor. I typically do most of my reading on exercise equipment and more than once I've been at Borders debating between which of two books to buy and I've selected the one I thought would more easily balance on the display of the elliptical machine.

-- The other day, I checked out Borders' clearance bins and they were stacked with multiple copies of the last three hardback books I purchased. This means either 1) I'm an early adopter and ahead of the curve or 2) I read crap.

* I had high hopes that I'd successfully complete NaBloPoMo this November but instead I'm aiming for JMoBloPoWee--J-Money's Blog Post Week--where we'll learn if I can manage to write something for seven consecutive days. Baby steps...
** I'm not sure which aspect of that sentence should be more surprising: the fact that I have friends willing to be seen with me in public**** or that I had a Saturday night that didn't involve me sitting alone on the couch watching infomercials for hair removal products.
*** The Simple Art of Murder, a collection of Raymond Chandler stories and essays. My fondness for 1930s detective novels, elastic waistbands, and soft foods make me sometimes wonder if I'm secretly approaching eighty.
**** We went to see Gravel Truck, a Let's Active cover band that happens to feature Let's Active's original frontman and lyricist, legendary producer Mitch Easter. The band itself was an important--if sometimes overlooked--piece of pop music history and probably deserves its own post. Until then, and the incomparable Kleph has just posted his excellent interview with Mr. Easter. Also, enjoy this video which is two minutes and 50 seconds of awesome. SPOILER ALERT: There are sleeping puppies.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Rock the Vote

I woke up on Saturday morning eager to go do my civic duty, which meant throwing sticks at anyone playing Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” loud enough for me to hear through the open window of their Corolla. Then I wanted to go to my nearest polling place to tick some boxes and snag an “I voted” sticker before the Tuesday crush. After swiping my neighbor’s paper, I learned that the polls would open at 10:30 and since you’re not assigned to a particular precinct if you roll in early, I selected a location in a strip mall on the fringes of the county where directions to people’s homes involve phrases like ‘turn left at the stack of burning tires’.

Assuming that no one else would take a break from my their Saturday morning ritual of watching infomercials and softly weeping, I thought all would be cool if I pulled into the parking lot around 11 a.m. I was wrong. The line had already reached a length that required profanity to describe, so I tossed my iPod and some Nick Kent into my backpack and took my place at the end. That put me directly in front of the automatic doors of the grocery store that anchored this shopping center, so every time I impatiently shifted my weight from foot to foot, the doors opened with a whoosh and a cold blast of bleach-scented air. This kept me entertained for the first thirty minutes.

The guy standing front of me was clumsily unpacking a folding chair screenprinted with the Harris Teeter logo and wearing a sweatshirt embroidered with tiny black bears folding themselves into letters of the alphabet that spelled out 'Gatlinburg, Tennessee', a city that looks like what would happen if a Cracker Barrel came to life. He stared at me, open mouthed, as I assembled my Eff Off Starter Kit and I’d just popped both buds in when I saw his lips moving. Sighing, I removed one just so he could say “Is it hot enough for you?” It was barely 55 degrees so, no, it was not. He was going to be a treasure.

I pressed play on some remastered Elvis Costello and tried to read, periodically rotating myself like a hot dog on a gas station rotisserie, ensuring that my neck tan would look equally ridiculous from all sides. Eventually, we were all shuffling forward every fifteen minutes or so, giving someone else the chance to fuck with the grocery store. I managed to get through three consecutive paragraphs when a woman wearing a sweater swiped from Bill Cosby’s dumpster and a smile that made me crave corn niblets tapped me on the shoulder. “You’ll want to read this,” she said, shoving a pamphlet into my hands and clutching both of my paws between hers for a time period that balanced uneasily between comfortable and creepy. I took the unevenly trimmed sheet of paper as she gave me a solemn nod and a thumbs up before moving to the next person in line. The handout was about the candidates for Agricultural Commissioner.

This,” Gatlinburg said, waving his copy in the air “Is the most important race on the ticket if you ask me.” I’m pretty sure he was serious. “Yessir, if you ever been to the State Fair, you’ll want to think about who you give a vote to.” Right, since only one of these men can maintain the integrity of the Jack Daniels mirrors they give away at the balloon dart booth. I thumbed through it and, even though the word mosquito was used several times in the opening paragraph, I lost interest when it didn’t tell me which candidate would promise to bring back Whack-A-Mole.

The line shambled another four steps forward--which meant in the past hour I’d moved from the S to the I in the words Harris Teeter—when someone squeezed my shoulder. It was Niblets again, holding a Kinkos bag spilling a bigger stack of papers. “Hi, would you like a pamphlet about the—"

“Agricultural commissioner?” I asked?

She paused, giving me a look of genuine surprise. Or maybe fear. “Yes! Yes, that’s it exactly! Would you like one?”

I shook my head and she moved to Gatlinburg, who took a second handout. Before this was over, I would be given enough paper to choke The Lorax. There were handouts about judges, the attorney general, and a coupon for a free oil change from the non-partisan mechanic across the street whose hastily-drawn ad showed an oil can impaling both an elephant and a donkey. The only upside to my paper pile was that I’d have enough to start a fire if I was still in line after dark.

Eventually I moved past the Teeter to the Day Spa on the other side. The door was open far enough that I could see a whiteboard behind the register that said "Ask us about going bare DOWN THERE!” beside a cartoon bear with an expression that suggested mild retardation. Given the zip code this place operated in, I assumed that they’d wax your pubes less for the eroticism of it and more because it prevents weevils.

By the time I could see the door to the polling place--at around the two hour mark--my iPod’s batteries were dead, my distended bladder was thisclose to making me McCain in my pants, and Gatlinburg was singing “Onward Christian Soldier” loud enough to make the Day Spa close their door. I considered scrapping the entire deal and going to collect my free oil change but No, I told myself, this is too important and your voice needs to be heard.

I was rewarded for this decision by being stung by a yellowjacket.

Spraying a string of words that gave Jesus some creative surnames, I clawed at my swelling Achilles tendon and Gatlinburg—who was now wearing a hat that looked like an umbrella—turned around and said, dismissively, “Aw, that’s nothing. I’ve been stung by badder things than a little ol’ bee.” He started listing insects but I ignored him because sadly they’d all been nonfatal.

He was trying to think of the name of a particularly venomous waterbug when a tired-looking woman opened the door to the polls. “Next six, you’re in”, she said, ushering in the remaining people in front of me and Gatlinburg. I was SO INSANELY CLOSE but somehow another sitcom’s worth of time ticked by. My now-misshapen right calf looked like John Merrick’s skull and I was hungry enough to buy a slice of pizza from a guy who was selling Papa John’s out of a shopping cart. It tasted like pennies and failure. “Oh, I forgot all about the spider bites!” Gatlinburg said, attempting to drape an arm around my shoulder but missing wide right. I was about to birth my pee baby on his Crocs when the door opened. It was go time.

The room was cramped and crowded with weary volunteers who looked as overworked as Aretha Franklin’s undergarments. One of them led me to a computer and asked my name, gave me a printout to sign, and then directed me to the final line. Not only were there just six stations, but you had to wait for the Voting Valet to personally guide you to your machine and loudly explain THE HISTORY OF THE ENTIRE ELECTORAL PROCESS before he'd leave you to your ballot. I listened with all the patience I could scrap together and--finally--it was my turn.

It took me less than five minutes to select my candidates, confirm my vote, and drag my bloated leg back into the midday sun. I limped past the line, which still wrapped past the cart return of the grocery store. “I’m just not used to standing in lines like this,” a sixtysomething woman said to no one in particular. Her oversized bangles rattled against each other as she punctuated her words with either theatrical gestures or a seizure. “I’m just not sure I can make it.” She turned to see if anyone was listening and I noticed that her sweatpants said JUICY across the ass, even though DUSTY may have been more appropriate. “Sure you can,” I told her, leaning close and slipping my stack of papers into her hands. “Just read these pamphlets and you’ll be fine.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

LOLHouse: Season 5, Episode 5

So the point of last week's episode of House seemed to be that actress Olivia Wilde ("Thirteen", for you heathens who don't tune in every Tuesday) is totally cool with making out with women. Oh, and to further elaborate on the fact that Thirteen has Huntington's Disease and will eventually die but not before she plows her way through several more chicks on camera. The Patient of the Week (tPOW) was Thirteen's Flavor of the Night who had a seizure immediately after sex. Personally I'd take that as a compliment, since all I've ever contributed to is a pulled hamstring and my own tears. No, not at the same time.

After sixty-one minutes of being told she had an incurable illness, House somehow figured out that tPOW couldn't produce tears but with some eyedrops and antibiotics, she'd be cured and ready to resume sleeping with strangers.

The episode also featured two of my favorite recurring improbabilities, including House and Foreman breaking into Thirteen's place to look for clues since doctors always leave work to play Harry and Marv. Also, Thirteen got fired after coming to work drunk and giving herself IV fluids but she--of course--continued to stay at the hospital afterwards because the only difference between being an actual employee and being shitcanned is whether or not you still wear a white coat. As someone who has been fired from several jobs every job, I assure you that they don't just let you hang around the premises. Explain to me again why I'm not a writer for this show?

Finally, it seems like Wilson is back at Princeton-Plainsboro for good, the Private Investigator made a brief appearance, and Cuddy is getting ready to adopt a baby because, despite trying to find a sperm donor, her empty womb is dustier than most Steinbeck novels. We'll see if that actually happens since TVGuide's synopsis for tonight involves phrases like "Cuddy's baby mama" and "gravely ill". Until then...

Episode 5: "Lucky Thirteen"