Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tiger Woods & Some Other Stuff

Obviously, Tiger and his Value-Pack of Mistresses are the biggest sports story of 2009, if not one of the biggest stories, period. A friend and I argued about this over lunch yesterday, half-chewed fries falling out of my mouth as I insisted that Tiger's wood had to be the biggest deal, because it quickly moved from the sports page to the front page, lingering there long enough for everyone -- even those who couldn't name another golfer if Phil Mickelson was gnawing on their left leg -- to understand what's happening, whether they wanted to or not.

Even the most elderly of my elderly neighbors, the one who stopped caring about pop culture shortly after Patsy Cline died, had heard enough to suggest that Tiger should've "kept it in his trousers", shaking her head as she pressed the elevator button with the tip of her cane.

This week for NBC Sports - Out of Bounds, I recapped the purported whereabouts of Tiger Woods' nether regions year in sporting events, because that's what writers do in that week-long time trough between unwrapping Christmas gifts and crumpling the last page of the calendar.

I sincerely hope that article was the last time I have to write the phrase "Alleged Mistress" in 2009. I mean, other than when I'm ordering my new business cards because "Alleged Mistress" is only slightly less embarrassing than "Full-Time Blogger".

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Preheat Oven to 375

It shouldn't come as a surprise that as this year circles the drain, I'm left with the smallest bank account balance I've had in a solid decade. I haven't seen those kinds of numbers since my most reliable babysitting client erased me from their speed dial, after an unfortunate incident involving food poisoning and a trip to Prime Care. Whatever, like I'd know you weren't supposed to make sushi out of chicken.

Anyway, as I impatiently shifted my weight from one scuffed Chuck to the other in the Harris Teeter checkout line last week, the cover of one of the women's magazines caught my eye. It had a cake that was more attractive than my prom pictures and a garish overstyled font that eagerly encouraged me to bake my own Christmas gifts this year. "What a great idea!" I thought to myself, as I dropped a can of Manwich sauce. "Because what says I care more than giving someone a plate of misshapen cookies and the enduring gift of diarrhea?"

I added the magazine to my stack of trans-fats and since then, I've been experimenting with holiday cooking in all of its forms, from baking to roasting to standing over the sink shoveling forkfuls of soggy tiramisu into my mouth.

No, this has not gone well.

I'm not sure that deciding to experiment in the kitchen was a better idea than having a sudden urge to explore body modification, since my last attempts at seasonal treats ended with a shrieking smoke alarm and tear-streaked cheeks as I pried the oven open and scraped yet another charred corpse off a cookie sheet. As the ash-encrusted pan clattered against the others in the trash bag, I more than considered using some of the sharper kitchen utensils to fork my own tongue or maybe to carve myself a forehead trench.

Last weekend, when our seven inch Snowpocalypse kept me confined to the square footage behind my front door, I decided to make a Gingerbread Cake with Blueberry Sauce, because I actually had the ingredients on hand and it required neither a mixer, a Cuisinart or any of the other appliances I won't own until I piece together a wedding registry, also known as Never.

The instructions and I were getting along fine until my eyes hit the imperative sentence "Fold in the blueberries." That was a verb tense that sent me toward my computer on the opposite side of the counter, pecking out the letters G-o-o-g-l-e as crumbs lodged themselves between the home keys and I streaked the track pad with molasses. After learning that "fold" was the chef-tastic way of saying "Dump everything into the bowl", that's what I did, dropping two cups of frozen berries into the almost edible-looking batter.

After stirring the just-fruited mixture, I realized that maybe the good people at Cooking Light left out a step, like the one that encouraged you to rinse the blueberries or Windex them or something before all this folding went down. It took maybe two swirls with a whisk before the batter turned from an appetizing golden brown to a sickly green, a hue I've only seen in nature one other time, right after the dog ate an entire box of Lucky Charms.

"Brown shade come back," I sang, wrecking Player's one hit. "Any kind of fool could see...there was something wrong with the fucking berries." I thought--hoped--that maybe baking it would make the gingerbread look like, you know, GINGERBREAD instead of a clove-scented sinus infection. I shoved the whole mess into the preheated oven, pacing back and forth in front of the counter like an anxious fiftysomething waiting for the results of their colonoscopy.

As the timer started blinking zeros, I crammed my hand into an oven mitt, slowly opened the door still looked like something that belonged in a Biohazard bin. Even though it smelled amazing--like a Glade Plug-In you could eat--it still wasn't serve-able to anyone with eyes. I turned the cake out on to my best approximation of a wire rack--my tennis racquet (WHICH I RE-STRUNG BEFORE USING IT IN THE KITCHEN BECAUSE WHAT KIND OF SAVAGE DO YOU THINK I AM?) carefully balanced on David Foster Wallace hardcovers--and as it cooled, I started eating it myself in huge chunks. For the next five minutes, I was the first half of a Lifetime movie, before the inevitable purging-at-school sequence and awkward family intervention.

After the unfortunate realization that sometimes I sweat when I eat, I stopped decorating my molars with cake and carefully wrapped it in foil. I hate wasting food, so there had to be someone I could gift it to.

Someone I hate.

Someone who may have fired me because of that ONE time that their kids caught salmonella or had their stomachs pumped or something silly like that.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! Additional kitchen failures are coming, part of a recurring series I like to call "Maybe I Should've Just Bought A Stack of Burger King Gift Certificates Instead, Rather Than Trying to Make Everyone Sick On My Own."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Grasp Handles for Heart Rate

"I'm just back from the grocery store and as I unloaded my Teddy Grahams and EZ Cheez and other assorted artificial flavors, I realized that by the time these hot dogs expire, it will be a brand new year. We're down to the last handfuls of Oh Nine and I'm both dreading and anticipating the opportunity to crack into 2010. On one hand, I'm looking forward to using my new Kurt Warner Fumble-A-Day Calendar. On the other, January means an endless parade of people bringing their New Years Resolutions into the gym, a solid month of watching helplessly as they awkwardly straddle the elliptical machines or snag the only yoga mat that doesn't smell like a dead raccoon.

I can't fault these people for trying to better themselves, especially when it comes to making healthy choices and positive lifestyle changes. In fact, I went through the same thing several Januarys ago when I came to the sad realization that I got winded trying to unclog the nozzle on my spray butter. Since then, I've worn out more than one YMCA membership card and continue to work out more often than I do anything other than quietly weep about my wasted potential."

--This week for NBC Sports - Out of Bounds, I covered some basic gym etiquette, geared at anyone who may be beginning a new routine as a New Year's resolution. It's also aimed at a handful of people who currently share the YMCA with me, especially the guy who last laundered his workout gear during the Carter administration and the woman who insists on baptizing herself with Designer Imposters perfume before plodding along on the treadmill.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

First Class Mail

So I posted my Christmas card here the other day and rarely has anything I've done generated the amount of emails that this unsettling Photoshop sent into my inbox. Half of you were curious if it was my real card and I assure you that it is, that my cousins--who I haven't seen since my days of spiral perms and Hammer pants --will be slipping that very picture out of an oversized green envelope. They'll either think that I'm delightful and that we should probably add each other to our respective Friends & Family Plans or it will just ensure that I'm never invited to their weddings. Or into their homes.

The other half of the emails were concerned that--since he didn't make the card--I was over my longstanding Hugh Laurie obsession, having discarded him like a decomposing carton of Thai takeout. I assure you that I'm still just as unhinged when it comes to Mr. Laurie but I wanted to slap a celebrity on my card that everyone would recognize, so they understood that it was obviously a joke and that they wouldn't mistakenly assume I'd developed a relationship with anyone other than the late Colonel Sanders and his new line of low-calorie, even lower taste chicken-and-potato plates.

Speaking of things that leave me doubled over with abdominal pain, this is the first year I've managed to address a card to my longest-tenured former boyfriend without smearing the ink with tears of bitterness or mouth froth of anger. Someone much smarter than me--which means anyone from Oprah to Uncle Jesse Katsopolis--said that as a general rule, it would take half the length of your relationship to fully recover from the end of said relationship. That means after three years of removing his name from the Emergency Contact form at my various doctors' offices, I should be totally over him. And I am, I finally, finally, FINALLY am. I didn't feel any pain or longing or...anything as I wrote his name on the envelope. This is also the first holiday season that I haven't asked Santa to bring his new girlfriend an anal fissure.

Look at me, growing up.

Monday, December 14, 2009

File Under: Greetings, Season's

Oh hey, just hanging out by a stock photo of a Christmas tree with an unlicensed image of George Clooney. You know. Like I do.

While I waited for information on a couple of projects I'm working on, I spent a tremendous amount of time with my nose pressed against my MacBook, rearranging the pixels beneath my chin and trying to give myself a skin tone that wasn't the color of cottage cheese while designing this, my Christmas card for Oh Nine.

It's actually been a busy couple of days here, stacked with actual work and--surprisingly--a very cool local project that has a price tag affixed to it. Most times when I say I'm busy, that just means that I'm spending the afternoon trying to make all of my arm hairs face the same direction...but not today. Obviously, I've been slowly adjusting to my [brief] return to Real Work like a diver coming up from the deepest trenches of the ocean, although an ocean littered with unwashed bowls of Boo Berry, a light dusting of dog hair and endless online distractions.

"Like what?" you might ask.

"Like this copy of Bridget Jones' Diary I just had to seek out and download yesterday," I'd say. "No, I have no idea why I suddenly needed to administer a massive dose of floppy haired Englishmen and poorly rendered British accents. But I did."

Here's where you'll just shake your head and make that disappointed sound most people make when they either look at my resume or see me naked. Bridget Jones and I spent yesterday afternoon on the elliptical machine together and, as Renee Zellweger turned her impossibly shriveled eyes in my direction, I realized that if I saw anyone else watching this particular R-rated ovary-party, I would without a doubt make fun of them. And then I would blog about it.

Anyway, I thought I would tear myself away from doing legitimate, grown-up sounding Google searches (as opposed to my daily check for animals dressed as people) to paste my tastefully lit Photoshopped fantasies on the internet. If I had endless amounts of money--enough to backstroke through a vault of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck or Oprah--I would mail a copy to each of you. Until then, right click, save as, and know that I've given you the gift that keeps on giving: the gift of procrastination.

You're welcome. Happy holidays.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

One Mississippi, Two Mississippi

Despite having fewer on-field scenes than Air Bud: Golden Receiver, The Blind Side still works for hardcore sports fans; football serves as the motivating factor for almost every decision [Michael] Oher and his adoptive family make. Also, College Gameday junkies will have the chance to lean across the armrest to point out that Tommy Tuberville doesn't coach at Auburn anymore and that yes, Lou Holtz really does talk like that.

Both the book and the movie open with the last snap of former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann's career, which proved to be the sound of his leg splintering beneath Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor. The footage from that game--shown from multiple angles--is still the second-most disturbing clip of 1985, right behind Cocoon's scene of a shirtless Wilford Brimley. A clipped voiceover explains how this play changed football and--here's some foreshadowing for you--put a premium on left tackles, the players who protected the quarterback's blind side.

--From my article about The Blind Side, written today for NBC Sports- Out of Bounds.

Click here for the rest of it, including the unlikely pairing of the words "Sandra Bullock" and "football" in the same sentence, which is kind of like linking "Matthew McConaughey" and "fully-clothed".

Four Fun Facts That Didn't Make the Review:

1) Lawrence Taylor actually makes a brief cameo near the end of the flick, as a bandanna-wearing miscreant in the Hurt Village apartment where Michael waits for his mother.

2) If this movie is to be believed, every high school in Tennessee apparently has a contract with Under Armour.

3) If Sandra Bullock is to be believed, if Michael Oher's speed had ever dropped below 50 MPH, he would've exploded.

4) If the filmmakers are to be believed, there is no better way to establish the Whiteness of a family than by having Uncle Kracker playing softly through the speakers of their SUV as they idle in the parking lot of an upscale restaurant.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

It Keeps You Running

Thirty-five dollars.

Last Friday, I paid thirty-five dollars for a Hanes Beefy T in a sleeve-draggingly huge men's size, one screenprinted with an anthropomorphized running reindeer whose back was arched in a way that suggested either rapid motion or a recent spinal injury. I was staring at the drawing, trying to understand how something without hands could lace a pair of sneakers when the smiley face on the other side of the table tapped his pen to get my attention.

"So that's Julie, is it?" he asked, inking the wrong vowels onto my race number.

"Jelisa, actually."

I knew what was coming. He didn't disappoint.

"All right, Jelisa Actually," he said with a wink. "How old are we, Jelisa Actually?"

He winked and asked my age within a two second span. Add a plate full of beets and a reference to sleeping with my ex and he'd be a denim-clad version of everything I hate.

"We would be thirty." I grabbed a handful of safety pins from a small cardboard box beside a stack of race entry forms, wondering how many I could ingest before he finished ballpointing a three and a zero beside my name.

"All righty then," he said, dropping the number into a plastic bag along with four pins and the excess yards of fabric that comprised my t-shirt. "That's gonna be thirty five big ones."

I pulled a wadded personal check out of my back pocket and took the pen from him before he could dot the i in my name with a heart. With that thirty five and 00/100 I passed across the table, I was officially registered for a 5K, my first race since my Achilles tendon broke up with me during April's Boston Marathon.

"You'd better have a good run, Jelisa Actually."

"And you'd better not cash that check for another week or so."

When my alarm started bleating in the darkness of half-past fuck you on Saturday morning, it was a crisp thirty-five degrees and the local radar was blanketed with sickly splotches of green, like Linda Blair had just spewed all over Super Doppler 12.

As I stood at the window watching puddles collect on the sidewalks, I wondered what would happen if I bailed, if I threw my shoes back in the closet and dropped my head back onto the dent in the pillow.

But I didn't.

I'd like to say I was motivated by a Chariots of Fire-ish montage that flickered through my prefrontal cortex but it was really just seeing the Krispy Kreme logo on the back of the t-shirt. The thought of a post-race pair of original glazed donuts was enough to make me zip up my Gore-Tex and wriggle into a pair of spandex pants that were so tourniquet-tight that everyone on the race course would know that I was ovulating.

I loitered inside the gym until the final announcement for the 5K runners to get their asses outside. The Star Spangled Banner was almost over before I made it to the start line, but that still left plenty of time for freezing cold water to collect in the thin soles of my racing flats, turning each sock into a Build Your Own Blister Playset.

"How bad can this be?" I asked myself between the words Ready! and Set!, which is the same attitude I take to every race, all buffet restaurants, and most Nicolas Cage movies. I popped my knuckles and mashed the play button on my iPod, giving my angriest Danzig-fueled snarl to the competitors stacked on my right, a group of third graders all wearing floppy felt elf hats.

With a GO! and one muffled shot from the starter's pistol, we were off. I spent the first verse of "Mother" weaving through the clump of people who insisted on starting at the front of the pack. Hey, here's a tip: if you're wearing cargo shorts and a rain-soaked Coors Light sweatshirt, you probably don't need to line up beside the regional cross-country champion.

The 5K [3.1 mile] course was essentially an out-and-back, with each steep hill matched eHarmony-style with a complementary downhill. About halfway up the first incline, it became obvious that my finish time was going to be almost as disappointing as my personal life. My first mile was a glacial 7:14, but I explained to my brain that we lost a lot of time trying to sidestep both people and puddles. Mile Two was a wretched 7:25, a more terrible sequel than anything this side of Three Men and a Little Lady.

Despite a final 1.1 miles that had two major downhills, the total damage was a dismal 22:50, more than two minutes--TWO MINUTES!!--slower than my typical 5K finish. The only crumb in the Plus category--if I'm even forced to recognize the Plus category--is that now at least I know how far I've fallen and how far I've got to go to get back in shape. This is probably how Lindsay Lohan feels when she sees clips from Herbie: Fully Loaded.

As I stomped and brooded my way through the finish area, a teenage volunteer in a yellow poncho handed me a finisher's ribbon decorated with that same cheerfully deformed cartoon reindeer. I crammed it into my pocket with my earbuds and car keys and trudged toward the parking lot. It was barely 9 a.m.

When I got home, I stripped out of my gear and tossed the entire Fail-scented mess into the washing machine, which was a great idea until the hot water ran out mid-shower, well before I finished crafting the perfect shampoo horn. After toweling off, brooding, slipping into the sexiest of sweatpants (the ones without ice cream stains on the thighs, obviously) and brooding again, the washer shrieked to announce that it was finished.

How delighted I was to discover that everything--including that $35 t-shirt--was stained with angry streaks of red, like Hester Prynne had exploded in my Maytag. After digging through a wet clump of synthetic fabrics, I realized that my finisher's ribbon--still buried in my jacket pocket--hadn't survived the spin cycle.

"The hits keep on coming," I thought to myself, pouring another cup of detergent into the machine. "But at least I beat the kids in the elf hats."

Well. Most of them, anyway.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Ohhhh Dream Weaver

Somewhere between my regularly scheduled three a.m. pee break and the light dusting of Hall & Oates that the clock radio sprinkled into my ears ["Private Eyes" clap "They're watching you" clap clap], I shot a midget in the foot. I had no idea where or how I got the gun--or why I decided to go all Harry Callahan on his Topsiders--but I vividly remember watching him sprawl backwards onto a buffet table, landing squarely in a pile of uncooked, recently deveined shrimp.

I've never studied the subconscious. I'm sure I highlighted entire paragraphs of Freud-tastic facts in my freshman year Intro to Psych class, but those memories were all immediately corroded by my overlapping Intro to Off-Brand Vodka independent study. Either way, I believe that this particular sleep-matinee was my brain's way of reminding me not to eat Tylenol P.M. for dinner. Again.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Resting Heart Rate

Three Things:

1) This photograph was taken ten minutes ago, but it actually could've been snapped at any time in the past eight hours. I was so unproductive today that Ferdinand Marcos called to tell me I was being a lazy bitch.

2) Yes, sometimes I spoon with my dog. For the majority of this year, my Facebook relationship status has been Single (save for a brief time when I clicked It's Complicated after eating an entire Pizza Hut P'Zone) so I often worry that I'm incapable of interacting with anything that doesn't require monthly heartworm treatment.

3) I need one of you to hand me the remote control.

Friday, December 04, 2009

I'm Still Standing

Let's just ignore that I dug into Elton John's back catalog [not a euphemism] for a post title and instead talk about how November sped by and all I have to show for it are a pair of cranberry seeds permanently wedged between my molars and a Visa bill that made an audible thud when I dropped it on the counter.1

Last week--Thanksgiving week--was another blur of Mapquest-ed directions and Exxon midgrade. On Wednesday, after baptizing myself with a steaming cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee, I made the 150 mile drive to my parents' house in West "Don't Make Us Conjure the Mothman" Virginia. After pausing to examine the mocha-scented stain on my shirt that gave Elvis Costello an unfortunate-looking birthmark, I quickly swapped my luggage out of my car and into my dad's truck so we could head toward my sister's brand new place on the outskirts of Cleveland.

The four of us--me, my adorable parents and their hateful little terrier--spent the next seven hours idling in traffic and offering a one-feathered hand turkey out the window to other drivers. Whoever said that getting there was half the fun obviously hasn't crept through countless two-buck toll booths on I-77 while holding an unpleasant animal who delighted in placing its terrible corpse-scented mouth as close to your own mouth as possible.

Confidential to My Parents: I know you adore that creature but for real, could you please pressure-wash its face before Christmas?

After we stumbled out onto my sister's driveway, leaving a trail of bottled spices and mismatched socks, everything improved by a brazillion percent. The rest of the holiday couldn't have been better and we all agreed that it may have been the best one on record, save for that time my grandmother sat on my cell phone and we spent the afternoon snickering at the muffled sounds of "Jack and Diane" leaking out of her nether-regions.

Anyway, between driving to Ohio and Delta-ing to Seattle, it seems like I spent the past thirty days unpacking and re-packing and wondering if I ever wear anything that isn't one hundred percent cotton. That's my way of saying that although it was double-stuffed with plans for my future and the kinds of memories that linger long after the turkey has been digested, it wasn't the most bloggable, possibly because I managed to get through an entire page of my Jonas Brothers calendar without fucking something up.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. Obviously, I'll do my best to stumble through December, leaving a trail of disaster and chaos and broken serving dishes. After all, it's good for this website.

Speaking of which, since I missed NaBloPoMo2 because I was busily doing NegYoBloBecYoBusWatFliReAnEatAniCraMo3 instead, I'm committed to stapling something to the internet for the majority of December; from now through Christmas, I'll be writing a post per day. Also, on my Tumblr, I'm sharing one non-shitty holiday song every afternoon, a project that began with R.E.M.'s cover of Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody". You're so very welcome.

Finally, I've had the privilege of contributing to Out of Bounds, a recently-launched NBC Sports blog. My latest piece is about Tiger Woods and his "transgressions", which I can only assume is a euphemism for "banging random chicks."

OK, see you guys again tomorrow. I'll be the one who smells like decaf coffee and regular strength calamity.

1 Oddly enough, this is how pretty much every month ends.

2 National Blog Post Month, an annual occurrence where people who suffer from chronic motivation write a blog post every day for an entire month. So yeah, it's not just a clever name.

3 Neglect Your Blog Because You're Busy Watching Flipper Reruns and Eating Animal Crackers Month. That's trademarked, of course.