Tuesday, September 30, 2008

See You At Seven

"Nice legs," he said. There's no way that comment was aimed at me so I ignored it, choosing instead to focus on tricep pressdowns and the power pop jangling out of my earbuds. "I said, you have nice legs", he repeated, surprising me with an elbow nudge. He was wearing a Titleist hat, khakis, and a weathered skin tone that comes from either a lifestyle involving fairways and divot repair or prolonged periods of unemployment. "I'm Mike," he said, extending a hand and giving me an overeager smile borrowed from one of the less photogenic Home Shopping hosts.

"J-Money", I replied, politely wiping the sweat on my shorts before shaking his hand. I was wary of him already because he was obviously a liar. Complimenting me on my scrawny pins--which give me the appearance of a cocktail wiener that's been speared by a pair of toothpicks--is like stopping Steve Buscemi to tell him how much you like his teeth.

"So. You come here often?"

I laughed out loud. Who says that, other than guys I can do without. I have a violent dislike of pick-up attempts, stemming from an unfortunate incident involving the line "I don't play basketball but you can call me Magic Johnson" which tells you 1) the caliber of dude I tend to attract and 2) approximately how long it's been since someone actually tried to pick me up. For the record, that's pretty much the worst line ever* that doesn't include the phrase "sharing needles" because not only did it force me to picture the undoubtedly unmagical penis laying dormant beneath his shorts, it also reminds me of HIV and--worse--THE LAKERS.

"So how old are you?" he asked, following me across the room to the weight rack.

"29", I replied, grabbing two plates and intentionally not looking at him. I'm not sure whether I was the first stop on his Magical Douchery Tour but here in the weight room his choices were limited to me, a guy who'd just finished throwing up in the towel return bin, or an elderly woman whose sole exercise seemed to be getting from one side of the gym to the other without crumbling to dust.

"Oh. You look 22." He put a ten on the other side of the bar, a gesture which burrowed under my skin like the ringworm I hoped was waiting for him in the locker room. "Seriously, I could've sworn you were 22." He sounded disappointed. "My daughter's 22."

Here's where I started to wonder which group home might be missing a resident.

I refused to encourage him and he eventually lost interest, like a cat who tires of batting around a dead bird. He let out an exaggerated sigh, pumped a liberal amount of hand sanitizer into his open palms, and walked out. I returned my attention to the sadly underrated songs of Don Dixon and resumed, like, totally blasting my triceps. The last exercise written on my schedule required me to go into the room with all the bright, shiny Nautilus equipment, where women with expensive activewear and oversized engagement rings softly count out reps on machines designed to prevent their husbands from dating the new secretary.

Mike was wandering a circuitous path around the room like Billy from the Family Circus if he grew up to wear Bugle Boy and a smirk. I watched him approach a petite older Dolly Parton-esque woman, and by that I mean she was obviously wearing a wig and looked like she'd enjoy the forced folksiness of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. And also she had tits the size of Igloo coolers. He offered to adjust the seat on her weight bench, which he did with an exaggerated flourish that made her giggle and made me feel the burn of my lunch taking a field trip up the back of my throat.

"Put it on the highest setting," she said, the long iii's slowly spilling out of her mouth like an application of the type of anti-itch ointments I assumed they were both familiar with. "I'm vertically challenged."

He paused and said--AND I WISH TO THE GOD OF YOUR CHOOSING THAT I WAS MAKING THIS UP--"So when I take you out to dinner tonight, we're going to need a booster seat?"

She laughed again, her embarrassment highlighting her rosacea. "If you're serious, I'll be ready by 7." She was beaming and he was so proud of himself he practically soiled his StainDefenders. I sat there, mouth dropping dangerously close to the floor, feeling as helpless as a cameraman on Meerkat Manor who just watched one of the meerkats get eaten by scorpions.

"Meet you out front at 7 then," he told her, touching her forearm lightly and bouncing out of the room. I started my last set of extensions and wondering whether to feel worse about my personal life or about theirs.

* If you have heard a line equally as cringeworthy, I encourage you to leave it in the comments so it can receive the scorn it deserves.

Friday, September 26, 2008

LOLHouse: Season 5, Episode 2

I admit it. This week's episode, "Not Cancer", wasn't my favorite despite the fact that there's still no one on television who can rock three un-buttons on an Oxford shirt like Hugh Laurie. The case--involving the suddenly dead recipients (and one hospitalized survivor) of killer organs transplanted from the same diseased dude--was largely ignored in favor of several other plot points including the introduction of a new character, Lucas the Private Investigator* and House so openly pining for Wilson I expected him to stare out the window singing "Somewhere Out There". There was SO INSANELY MUCH going on that by the time they circled back to the case and Lisa Cuddy made her obligatory Oh House, you so crazy" appearance, they had to speed to the Big Finish, giving a rushed explanation of 'brain that isn't brain' and allowing Chase to saw the top of the patient's skull off.

Lucas the P.I. was entertaining enough, although he seems dangerously close to being House Lite: All The Attitude, None of The Limp. I've read rumors** that he's eventually going to be spun off into his own series, the Empty Nest to Princeton-Plainsboro's Golden Girls which is totally rad as long as he doesn't stomp his argyle-covered feet all over what I dig about House itself. I'm a bit surprised that they'd add another body to the cast since they doubled the number of names in the credits last season--with admittedly mixed results. Although as new characters go he's already better than the Botoxed smoothness of Sela Ward's sole facial expression from Season 2.

* I may or may not have shouted "OH I'LL INVESTIGATE YOUR PRIVATES, BABY" when he appeared on the screen for the the first time.
** No, I don't have anything better to do. Thanks so much for asking.

Episode 2: "Not Cancer"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Warning: Use As Directed

The bell at the front door chimed and I looked up from the shoe I was lacing to see who was coming in, hoping it was someone else who would be satisfied with the apparel section, the self-service side of the store. After spending the better part of an hour dealing with a customer whose heels were both barnacled with calluses and intermittently resting in my lap, I was finished with feet for the day. I was also quite possibly finished with the skin on the top of my thighs, spraypainting my brain with a reminder to stop wearing shorts to work.

"WELCOME TO THE FOOT BUCKET! WHAT CAN I HELP YOU WITH?" I shrieked. It was the requisite greeting and one that always makes the staff sound less like attentive salespeople and more like the clinically insane.

"Hey!" she said with forced enthusiasm. "I was actually looking for...uh...you." She was wearing a baby Bjorn and the tired red eyes of someone who had pulled several consecutive all-nighters or had recently starred in a Lifetime movie. Either the infant sleeping on her sternum wasn't always this peaceful or she'd recently been chased through a parking garage by a former lover.

She gave a polite smile to Barnacle Foot before leaning close enough to me that I could smell the pureed spinach on the baby's bib. "Do you remember my husband?" she asked quietly. I've heard this question before and the answer is always "No" even if you're wondering if you made out with him during the Stanley Cup.

But this time I did...and no, I didn't.

Both of them came in on a particularly slow afternoon last week, one when I'd been amusing myself by seeing how many pairs of socks I could wear at once. The official store motto--ganked from dead fast food McFounder Ray Kroc--is "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean". Maybe, but you also have time to randomly price certain items at $17,000, illustrate advanced sexual positions with the mannequins, and see how many packages of Luna Moons you can empty into your mouth.*

I'd managed to stuff my feet into twelve pairs from the try-on bins when they walked in for the first time. They took a spin around the store, initially deferring my ear-melting offer to help them before circling back to the counter. He placed a pair of shorts beside the register and asked if I could fit him for shoes, politely informing me that anything he bought had to be made in the USA, a caveat that meant his choices would be limited to a New Balance for the left foot and a New Balance for the right.

He was personable, if unremarkable, the kind of guy who would be cast simply as "Male Customer 4" if someone made a movie about my day. He wore a plaid shirt borrowed from the Brawny paper towel guy and a few extra pounds around the middle. The most diary-worthy detail was the fact that he said he was a size 11 and, oddly enough, wore an 11. It's amazing how many men flop around in clown shoes, claiming to be a 13 when they could fit both feet into the same oversized pair of Pumas and wear them waterski style. Then when you point out that you could build an apartment complex between the end of their toes and the end of their shoes and suggest a less laughable size, they act like you've just lopped their dick off.


His wife was lightly bobbing on her heels and waiting for me to say something. "Yeah, of course," I told her with my most nonthreatening smile. "How're those New Balances?"

She jumped on the end of my sentence. "First of all, he wants you to know that his feet feel great!"

Well, neat. I was glad that she'd been dispatched to tell me that our time together was worth the eight bones I'd earned that afternoon. "And he'll be released from the hospital tomorrow."


She continued, stroking the bald head of the now restless infant. "It was like everything was going so well, you know. He bought those shoes and then the next thing I know, he's being loaded into the back of an ambulance."

The woman whose foot I was holding noticeably flinched and stared at me hard, as if to say 'Get these Asics the fuck off of me, Angel of Death.'

She reached into the pocket of her jeans and pulled out a Kleenex. "I'm sorry," she said as she mopped her mascara all over her face. "I just wanted you to know he was going to be OK. Everything is going to be OK."

I hadn't known he was un-OK, but long story short, he felt so good about his new shoes--THE DEVIL SHOES THAT I SOLD HIM THAT WERE MADE IN THE USA, APPARENTLY ON AN INDIAN BURIAL GROUND--that he decided to enter a 5K on Saturday and promptly had what is euphemistically described as "a cardiac incident", making this the most horrid event of my retail career, not counting the time the toilet backed up after Burrito Night with the Triathlon Club. I know we can't decide when we kick off--although I sincerely hope My Time involves soft lighting and clutching a handful of Hugh Laurie's hair-- but I can't imagine paying $20 for the privilege of collapsing in a heap like a discarded cup at a water stop, the screen-printed t-shirt serving as a burial garment to let your loved ones know your demise was sponsored by the Fresh Market and a pediatric dentist.

I didn't know what to say other than "I'm sorry", which I hope covered the spectrum between apologies and condolences. She kept talking, more for her benefit than mine, and I listened as patiently as I could, all the while holding someone else's foot like a talisman and sincerely hoping that, yes, everything was going to be OK.

* The store record is 7 and I'm pleased to report that my name will be etched on that plaque.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Weekend Update

It's a well-known fact that putting the word "street" in front of another noun ensures that it's going to be a crapfest, whether you're referencing street musicians--who will gladly provide you with a shitty acoustic cover of an already acoustic song--or Street Kings which I endured for 104 Keanu-infested minutes just to catch a glimpse of Hugh Laurie's clean-shaven face. The sole exception to the rule is Street Fighter, Capcom's contribution to both world society and my long-suffering virginity*.

When Friday night dropped a street festival right outside my window, I didn't hope for the Best and quickly learned that the Best wouldn't be attending, opting instead to eat food that wasn't served on a stick. My neighbor and I--admittedly curious about what was going on--foolishly decided to venture into the writhing Aqua Net-and-funnel cake-scented wad of humanity that had congregated on the closed street. There were an estimated 30,000 people bumping into us and I recognized exactly four of them. It was like everyone from the state fair and the sketchy side of the mall near Sears was scooped up and then dumped between the sidewalks where they could purchase tie dyed tote bags and choose from a number of deep fried ways to die.

We didn't last very long. Although our festival experience was brief, the highlight was either the angry-looking man who was wearing a kilt for--it seemed--no other reason than to beat the shit out of anyone who said anything about his choice of casual wear OR the gentleman with the shaved head and the overwhelming scent of drain cleaner who was having a temporary tattoo airbrushed on the back of his neck, a move that says "Despite the leather pants and facial scars, I'm still not ready to commit to this lifestyle" and also "I don't care about staining the collar of my shirts".
When I got home that night and let Pigpen out of his crate and he was SO INSANELY EXCITED TO SEE ME THAT IT HAS TO BE TYPED IN ALL CAPS. Unfortunately, he leapt up at exactly the same time I leaned over to remove what appeared to be a piece of human skin from my shoe and he mashed my face with his skull. Boxer Head, 1; My Nose, 0. The night ended as so many of my Fridays do, with my face buried in a paper towel trying to stop the endless tears. I rolled out of bed on Saturday with a black eye and a swollen nose, which isn't quite as sexxxy as it sounds considering that I also woke up wearing a t-shirt that said "God Loves Baby Ducks" and a pair of wool socks. I'll pause here, allowing you to revel in that image.

I'd signed up for a 10k trail run that morning in an effort to ease my wounded hip back into the wild and when I got to the packet pickup area people immediately started asking "What happened to your face?", a question I field several times a week even when I'm not bruised. It speaks volumes about my social life that when I responded with my best attempt at a coy smile and the phrase "Rough sex", everyone laughed and said "No, REALLY."

Since I looked like an iPod wearing pinata, it was only rational that I'd see my former boyfriend before the start of the race, tanned and preening near the port-a-johns. He was standing with his arm around Skeletor the fiftysomething succubus he left me for, who was obviously not running, having spent the better part of the morning applying a fresh coat of varnish to her skin. She saw me before he did, immediately making a production out of kissing him. "This is for luck, baby" she said after casting a sidelong glance at me. Personally, if I saw a withered creature like her coming toward my face, my first instinct would be to kill it with fire. Even though I'm over him and her and them as a Combo Meal of Suck (NO REALLY, I AM TOTALLY OVER HIM. FOR SERIOUS.) every time she attempts to work her bitchcraft on me, I still want to spend the afternoon picking her teeth out of my fist.

It's only been recently that she's stopped coming into the store where I work. She used to drop in a couple of times a month, seeking me out and insisting that I help her, knowing that I have no choice. Standing there in full view of my underwhelmed bosses, she knows I'm trapped and forced to perform, like a costume-wearing circus animal who has to allow itself to be calmly led around the ring even though its first instinct may be to bite, snarl, and take an industrial-sized shit in the center of the dressing room.

Maybe it's insecurity that makes her do it, like seeing me pricing value packs of socks and wearing my sad store-issued shirt somehow makes her feel better about herself. She admittedly has a better job and a lusher life, but she's also a prime candidate for carbon dating so we could probably call this one a draw.
I finished the run in a respectable 46:31--a 7:30 per mile pace--which put me in the line for donuts and banana halves almost ten minutes ahead of my former boyfriend. I grabbed a bottle of water and walked--limp-free!--back to my car, glad I'd never had his name airbrushed on the back of my neck.

*Street Fighter earned a second historical footnote because the character of Blanka, the brain chomping mutant, was the last person to ever successfully wear jorts.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

LOLHouse: Season 5, Episode 1

So I've continued to bask in the glow of Tuesday's House premiere which I thought did a great job of setting up what has been rumored be this season's major conflict--Wilson's resignation due to House being an all-around douchecake. Despite how the episode ended (OMG SPOILER ALERT) I'm sure Wilson won't be gone forever because trying to quit Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital is like trying to get out of the Hotel California. Yes, you can check out any time you like but you can never leave. You will, however, be reassigned to the Emergency Room. In the meantime, J-Wil can mope around until mid-season wearing an expression that says "My best friend killed my girlfriend and all I got was this lousy t-shirt and also this debilitating depression."

It was also nice to see that the show won't be deviating from the formula that's served it so well for the previous four years. I'm plagiarizing myself here* but for the uninitiated, being a patient at Princeton-Plainsboro means you will

  • Receive an initial diagnosis--which may or may not be lupus--and show signs of recovery before...
  • Developing additional symptoms and receiving additional treatment that you won’t respond to.
  • Repeat as necessary before…You begin frothing at the mouth, convulsing, and/or bleeding from the butt and…
  • Start loading your things into Death’s U-Haul before…An offhand, seemingly unrelated comment makes House realize he missed something important and
  • You’ll most likely be cured and will be so relieved that you won’t even consider suing the hospital for the unnecessary tests, botched diagnosis and the fact that they sawed your legs off/removed your tongue/detonated your liver/etc.
The rest of the synopsis will be done in LOLHouse form, which is something I'll probably continue to do all season or until I start getting emails that say things like "U CAN HAS MY FOOT UP UR ASS UNLESS YOU STOPS IT."**

*Not a euphemism
** I promise that the next post will not be about any Fox television shows and will instead be about some other aspect of my life that I've managed to bungle.

Episode 1: "Dying Changes Everything"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Season 5

Tonight is the night I've spent six long, empty months waiting for.

No, I'm not having sex, not even with another person.

Tonight is the night that Hugh Laurie finally limps back into my living room for another season of House, making this day a glorious combination of Christmas, my birthday, and that time I found $50 in the J. Crew dressing room.

Last season ended with the two episode gut punch "House's Head/Wilson's Heart" in which we learned that House got hammered and called Wilson's girlfriend Amber the Cutthroat Bitch to retrieve him from the bar. Unfortunately, they relied on public transportation to get them home, took a brief detour to Fierycrashville, and House lived while Amber learned that the afterlife looks exactly like a city bus. Or, in LOLHouse form:

I briefly considered liveblogging tonight's episode but I can imagine that everyone would quickly tire of observations like "HUGH LAURIE IS LOOKING AT ME! HE IS TOTALLY STARING AT ME THROUGH THE TELEVISION. SEE ME HUGH! SEE ME!"

But that doesn't mean that I'm not going to be sitting on the sofa, twirling my official replica cane, and wondering if it's safe to lick the screen.