Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Kicking, Screaming, Etc.

First, I'm alive. My limbs are still attached, my obituary is still a half-finished Word document1 and I'm still here, subsisting largely on the kind of cellophane-wrapped mistakes that can only be purchased in the shittiest of Exxon stations.

So why haven't I been writing? That's the thing: I've been doing nothing but writing since I somehow managed to score a couple of ongoing projects, both locally and nationally.2 If my hands had been on any of my exes as long as they've hovered over my Mac's home keys, I'd probably need to own more than one pillow case.

But because I'm made entirely of distrac--BANANA IS MY FAVORITE COLOR! I WONDER WHAT A COELACANTH SMELLS LIKE? MY BRAIN ITCHES!--tions it's been admittedly difficult for me to focus even three Timex ticks past my deadlines. And lately my life hasn't been made of much other than typing, editing, conducting the occasional interview and hoping I won't ever develop Ellen Degeneres-style neck skin. I did take a break this morning to liberally baste myself with alpha-hydroxy products, because I never want to use the folds of my face as a change purse.

"So is it all about the Benjamins, baby?" you may be asking, because in my head you all talk like Puff Daddy. That's part of my enduring frustration; despite the increased time spent rearranging san-serif formatted sentences, it doesn't seem to be helping my financial status. When I checked my balance earlier today, my account was largely composed of dust, bits of string, and the canned laughter of the BB& T staff when I asked whether I could use a complete set of 1987 Topps cards to pay back my credit line.3

Finally, despite my near overdose on personal issues and annoyances, I sincerely thank everyone for their concern, for the emails and Facebook messages that asked where the hell I'd been hiding and whether or not I was still on the right side of the earth's crust. I owe it to you guys--the ones who have been reading this site for the past five years, three jobs and four former boyfriends--to keep this up.

But wait! There's more! Here are the last few things I've done for NBC Sports - Out of Bounds. Since February, I've covered why I didn't sleep with Wilt Chamberlain; what the NCAA tournament has in common with Cher; why the WNBA is dangerously close to becoming a state fair sideshow; how Lionel Ritchie wrecked my NCAA bracket (though I didn't know it at the time); why ESPN broadcaster Tony Kornheiser is a Douche Lord; and--just last week--the fact that it is possible to strike out at tee-ball.

And finally, let's talk about Robyn Hitchcock. Most of you know that I'm a lyric-spewing, tattered t-shirt wearing, double-decade fan of his music and that last summer, my life was pretty much made when I had the chance to interview him.

It got better.

Last month, I re-interviewed him for his website--at his request. Read that sentence again and ask yourself whether my shrieks of delight were audible from outside our own galaxy.4 We largely focused on his just-released album, Propellor Time, but also talked about everything from love to death to why the universe may turn out to be a jelly-filled donut. The entire process was well past stellar and--as always--he couldn't have been more engaging or more insightful with his answers. You can read the entire interview here.

So, yeah. I'm back. Thanks again, you guys. High fives and prolonged eye contact all around.

1 In the event of my demise--probably in some Cakesters-related mishap--I want Monty Python's "Dead Parrot" sketch to serve as my memorial, obviously replacing any references to the Norwegian Blue with my first and middle name.
2 And by "nationally", I mean that I'm invoicing someone who lives far enough away that we don't bump into each other in the ant trap aisle at Target.
3 I don't like to brag, but I made a solid four-figure salary last year. Things were so insanely awful in '09 that my accountant called over the weekend just to verify that I'd actually worked for all twelve months.
4 Yes. They were.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Figure Hating

"I studied theatre in college and took enough of the required classes -- things like "Stage Makeup", "Advanced Stage Makeup" and "We Get It, You Can Paint Your Face to Look Like a Bluebird" -- to wrap up my major halfway through my senior year. For my final semester, I loaded my schedule with a number of brain-busters that involved eyeliner and emoting but was still one credit short of the minimum requirement. I flipped to the Physical Education section of the course catalog, which was like a cruise ship's activity guide, offering everything from Bowling to Tennis to -- yes! -- Figure Skating.

Figure Skating sounded like the perfect introduction to the starched white-collar life I hoped would be waiting for me on the other side of graduation, one that involved cloth napkins and roasted pheasant and other things I probably should've considered before majoring in Theater. So I signed up for the class, a twice-a-week commitment to tiered skirts and twisted ankles.

We were supposed to meet the instructors at our local ice rink and I should've known it was a bad sign when I couldn't even make it inside before sprawling face-down on the partially-frozen sidewalk. I was already limping when I took my first tentative steps onto the ice, but still knew I was going to be a natural. I had grace. I had balance. And I had ice chips lodged in my personal areas before I'd even made it halfway around the rink."

Last week on NBC Sports-Out of Bounds, I had the chance to recap another of my failures, my sad, short-lived attempt at learning how to figure skate.

You can read the whole story here. How many of you can say that your senior year involved feverishly clutching an elderly woman's arm and trying not to cry? You know what, don't answer that.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

P.S.

Wow, I had no idea that everyone apparently majored in Dog Feeding, which sounds infinitely more valuable than my own Theatre degree. Thank you guys for all of the tips and suggestions after yesterday's post. Several people told me that I should take the Boxerbeast's food and mix it with pureed pumpkin, which is one of the few canned goods I actually keep on hand.1 No, really.

Unfortunately it didn't work, although he seemed to enjoy spitting the orange-hued mixture onto the floor, tongue bathing the wood as he tried to lick up every harvest-flavored splotch. Since he continued to scatter--and ignore--the LifeSource® bits, I'll be trying one of the other approaches tomorrow, right after my wracking sobs stop. Also I may be giving up a dog for Lent.2

1 I make a protein shake with pumpkin, because I like to refuel my muscles after a workout and also I enjoy stomach cramps. For those of you who might be interested, get your blender (or register for one if you're getting married soon and your sister might be looking for a present in the $15-$20 range) and add one cup of skim milk, 1/2 cup of pureed pumpkin, 1/2 cup Butter Pecan ice cream, and one scoop of Vanilla protein powder.3 Toss in a few frozen cubes, mash the button and pretend it tastes delicious, right before dumping most of it into the sink and eating the rest of the Butter Pecan ice cream.

2 As opposed to my usual Lenten sacrifice when I claim I'm going to give up celibacy. You'd think that would work as a pickup line but it never does. This Ash Wednesday, though, I'm going to try to make it out of the church before I point this out to any eligible-looking, possibly madras-wearing gentleman. I just assumed that people would be more chatty in the communion line since it's not like there's anything else to do as we endure our interminably slow two-step toward the priest.

3 I dig Designer Whey protein. Every brand tastes like ground up cow bones, but this has a hint of real vanilla flavor layered within the Nastiness.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Crunch & Munch

Four.

It's not even noon and I've already vacuumed four times, not counting the Dirt Devil's victory lap around the bar stools after it sucked up the final nugget of dog food. Pigpen the Boxerbeast is on a new diet, one suggested by his veterinarian that costs more per bowl than any of the freezer-burn flavored fish I'll extract from a battered cardboard box and deposit into my own digestive system.

The good news is that he loves each expensive scoop of food that comes out of the forty pound bag that currently slumps in the corner of the kitchen. Well, he likes most of it. It's Blue Buffalo kibble, their bison-shaped logo constantly reminding me that it probably would've been more cost-efficient to raise, slaughter and serve up an actual buffalo, and it definitely wouldn't be any harder to store. Anyway, Blue Buffalo garnishes their food with dark brown pellets they call LifeSource® bits, an unsettingly named addition that makes me think that my dog is actually consuming the souls of other dogs.

Or he would if he didn't spit them all out.

When Pigpen eats, he buries his face in the dish, scooping up an oversized mouthful before turning to deposit it all on the rug to his right. Then he sifts through it, scarfing the pieces not made of DogSouls® LifeSource® before doing it again until the floor has been covered with a trail of pellets that make it look like I'm setting a trap for PacMan.

My options are to either leave my kitchen boobytrapped like Kevin McAllister's MicroMachine covered bedroom--and inevitably end up splayed on the floor watching as shards of my femur go skittering across the room--or to vacuum. Again.

So my question is whether any of you have ever faced (and hopefully fixed) a problem like this. Can you change the way a dog eats or is that embedded in his genetic code like his floppy ears or willingness to impregnate the throw pillows? I can't spend my entire day emptying LifeSource® bits into the trash can, not when there are other, less productive ways to procrastinate.

Unfortunately since I have enough LifeSource® to feed the Forsyth County school system, switching to a new brand isn't an option. I can't afford it and I don't know what I'd do with this oversized bag of Blue Buffalo, other than burrow inside it for warmth after I use all of my spare cash to purchase another vacuum cleaner. So one of us is gonna have to eat that shit--OUT OF THEIR BOWL--and I'm not sure it goes with fish sticks.

Your move, Pigpen.

Friday, February 05, 2010

A Flat Chest & A Fake ID

As for the Super Bowl, let's ignore the teams and look at the cities they're representing in Miami. I've never had the pleasure of visiting Indianapolis, but I've heard that it's the prettiest shade of grey. I have introduced myself to New Orleans on a couple of occasions and regardless of how bright eyed and well-rested I am when I get there, I always leave looking like a less hepatitis-y Amy Winehouse.

When I was in college, some friends and I made an obligatory Mardi Gras trip, where we learned about the rich traditions of the Lenten season, the jazz-infused history of the French Quarter and also that Winn-Dixie shopping carts will comfortably seat two semi-conscious sophomores. Predictably, we spent our time subsisting on pastel-colored chunks of King Cake and drinking souvenir-sized Hurricanes, the only alcoholic beverage that can give you both a hangover and adult-onset diabetes.

This week for NBC Sports - Out of Bounds, I was supposed to pick a team for the Super Bowl. Instead, I covered my first trip to New Orleans, which included a failed attempt at wearing barrettes, zero Mardi Gras beads and a fake ID that probably would've been more effective if I hadn't tried to pass myself off as Asian.

I've only been to Louisiana one other time and that trip ended poorly as well. I should bang out that story over the weekend. I should also eat an entire King Cake, carefully trying to chomp around the plastic Christ child baked inside, because I'm pretty sure eating one of baby Jesus' arms will give you seven years of bad luck.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A Word From Our Sponsors

1) I'm not sure how or why I ended up wedged between the sofa cushions like an errant Cheez-It long enough to watch CBS's Best Super Bowl Commercials of the Decade. For an excruciatingly long hour, host Jim Nantz tried his best to look lifelike as he introduced several CareerBuilder.com and Pedigree mealtime ads I'd forgotten about forgetting about. Halfway through the program, I started to feel sorry for the regular commercials that were stacked in the breaks between the hand-picked Best spots; every cheese-drenched Hardee's Thickburger or oddly-belted TJMaxx monstrosity just looked more terrible by comparison. This is probably what it feels like to be the kitchen staff at Hooters.

2) I did see an ad for McDonald's new Big Mac Wrap, which looks like what would happen if one of their burgers had sex with a Snuggie. Before their multicultural cast had finished biting and smiling, I was well conflicted, finding the idea of tortilla-swaddled beef chunks both repulsive and attractive, like the Sarah Jessica Parker of menu items.

BUT...I give it less than fourteen hours before I've emptied the silver coins from my cupholders into the outstretched hands of whatever unfortunate person punched in for the afternoon shift, leaning impatiently on the counter while I wait for a grease-soaked paper sack.

Bite. Smile. Weep. Repeat.

3) Have we all been so busy for the past several years that we somehow failed to notice that Luke Wilson killed and consumed the other two Wilson brothers?

Confidential to Luke Wilson: How are the Big Mac Wraps? Are there any left? Because I'm not going to change into my good sweatpants just for a sixer of McNuggets.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Bob Seger Song Title Goes Here

I'm a month into training for my own twenty-six (point two) mile crampfest -- Nashville's Country Music Marathon -- and I'm increasingly apprehensive as I cross each day off the calendar. Distance running isn't exactly a good time, since it often leads to blisters the size of Schnauzers or the kind of chafing that feels like you've gotten to second base with a belt sander.

It will be my fourth marathon and I'm still not sure why I'm putting myself through another Costco-sized serving of agony. Maybe I enjoy the sense of accomplishment that lingers long after the post-race ice bath. Or maybe I just enjoy exceeding the recommended dosage of ibuprofen.
Last week for NBC Sports- Out of Bounds, I chronicled--what else?--the chafe-tastic unpleasantness of marathon training. My editor suggested that I type a first-person account of something sports-related, so until eating off-brand fish sticks and consistently exceeding my credit limit become competitive events, I'm limited to writing about running.

Confidential to Chase Visa: Instead of the minimum payment this month, I'll be sending you half a bag of Skittles and a drawing of my saddest face.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Daily Double

I spent a solid chunk of the weekend with my face buried in Douglas Coupland's Microserfs, a book that I snagged from the $3.99 post-Christmas clearance table at Borders. It's about a group of coders who abandon Microsoft for the greener, Lego-encrusted pastures of Palo Alto and their own startup company. It has aged remarkably well for a three-hundred pager that takes place at the dawn of the internet age and there's a voyeuristic part of me that enjoys anything written in Diary Style, except for Samuel Pepys because his journals are borderline-educational and rarely involve references to Velveeta cheese slices.

Anyway, Daniel--the narrator and Diary Master--introduces his flatmates and co-workers by listing their dream board of Jeopardy categories, the seven things that they would flat-out rock, leaving their buzzers smoking and the other contestants staring blankly into the audience, wishing they'd told that pre-commercial story about the time they held a koala.

I paused for a few minutes, the book hovering above my sofa-sprawled body, and decided that my perfect arrangement of Trebekery would be:

Semi-Obscure British Musicians
How to Breathe With a Mouth Full of Teddy Grahams
Sweatpant Lore
Where to Get Three Cases of Diet Coke for $10
Alienating Your Neighbors In One Elevator Ride
Disappointment
Microwaveable Meals

On Saturday, though, I absolutely found the Daily Double in the Disappointment category. I'm three weeks into my marathon training program, spending yet another winter avoiding sidewalk cracks and shin splits as I prepare to run 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. Last year [as a lot of you know] that race ended with my Achilles tendon on suicide watch and I spent the remaining eight months of the year trying to recover, attempting to keep my legs and lungs in shape with Spin classes and enough hours on the ass-enhancing Stairmaster to ensure that my butt now lives between my shoulder blades.

Anyway, the first 21 days of training have gone well--spectacularly, surprisingly so--but I was all kinds of apprehensive about Saturday's eleven mile run. Eleven miles would be the longest distance I'd covered since last April, and I was terrified that I'd end the morning either crumpled on the pavement in one of the nicer neighborhoods or ducking into the sketchy-ass Chevron on the verge of soiling myself. I just knew it was going to end poorly, possibly with pain and tears or swift, unyielding diarrhea. This is also the attitude I take into most of my relationships.

I told myself that if, by some chance, the run went well and didn't end with a trip to the ER or trying to surreptitiously discard a pair of stained spandex pants, I would come home and sign up for Boston. Registration opened in early September, but I was hesitant to enter my credit card number, partially because I hadn't fully healed and partially because the entry fees are close to $200. Spending that kind of money means switching to an even shittier brand of ramen noodles, the ones that are just broken shards from the other packages and instead of a seasoning packet, the directions suggest that you place your unwashed hands inside the cup while they cook.

Back to the run. It went well. Beyond my wildest Moody Blues-style dreams well. Most of the time, I kept my watch tucked underneath the edge of my mittens, stopping it only at intersections and not obsessively checking my pace at the driveways or box elders or dead squirrels that served as mile markers. When I finished, halfway through the crosswalk beside my building, I was shocked to see the numbers 1:25:38 on my watch, which came to an 7:47 pace. That's way faster than I expected to be at this point and I briefly wondered if putting my home-office in front of the microwave may have helped me grow a second set of lungs.

After a long shower that used every drop of hot water and gave me enough time to belt out several selections from Dire Straits' lesser-known albums (On Every Street, yo) I toweled off and headed toward the computer. Destination: The Boston Marathon. Within two seconds of staring at the Boston Athletic Association's website, my eyes fell to this headline:


Full.

The marathon is full and has been since mid-November. All 25,000 race numbers have been accounted for and I'm not going to be wearing one of them. This has never happened; I've never registered before January and my friends have routinely run Myrtle Beach in mid-February to qualify for Beantown in April. I was devastated. Heartbroken, even.

I didn't know whether to laugh--because this is just another offering to the Gods of Fail--or to bawl because none of it--the injury, the long-ass recovery, the 6:17 final mile I did to requalify for this year--none of it mattered.

So I did both, reveling in being bipolar for the rest of the afternoon.

And then I moved on, refusing to dwell on my inability to get another embroidered windbreaker that I'll never wear. I tried to find another race within the same time period so--instead of Boston--I'll be running Nashville's Country Music Marathon on April 24, a race that is entirely contained within Travis Tritt's beard.

Yes, I'm disappointed but I'm trying not to let it show. Perhaps the biggest entry in the Pro-Nashville category is that my sister's wedding is the Saturday before Boston Marathon Monday, so that meant I would've spent most of the day Sunday trying to get from rural West Virginia to Logan International Airport, a situation that probably would've only worked if I built a spaceship from a stack of charger plates and leftover silverware from the reception. Plus, at least now I can get hammered at the reception.

Confidential to My Mother: You may want to order another bottle of Absolut. Otherwise, I'm bringing a handle of Aristocrat and running it through your Brita filter.

Confidential to the Other Wedding Guests: I apologize in advance for the inappropriate touching.

So. Nashville it is. I'll see you in April and, eventually, I'll be one hundred percent delighted to weave through your downtown streets, leaving a set of adidas-branded footprints all over Toby Keith's face. [Mile 8, according to the course map].

Now I'll take "Microwavable Meals" for $800, Alex.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

This Will Be Our Year

Well hello, 2010. We're five days in and you still have that new year smell. Things are going well so far, save for this morning's inexplicable four a.m. nosebleed which was quite possibly the worst thing you can wake up with, save for an empty bottle of tequila and an unconscious Wilford Brimley.

I kicked off twenty-ten in the Outer Banks with two of my closest friends; the kind of friends you can share a sofa with for four consecutive days without wanting to shove each other into another room; the kind of friends who are cool with you sending the same tortilla chip into the salsa for the third time; the kind of friends who don't mind if the last morning show has rolled its credits and you still haven't brushed your teeth. In other words: guys.

We did a lot of nothing--partially because that was the point of getting out of town and partially because the biting wind and sub-twenties temperatures made you sympathize with every Eggo waffle you'd ever abandoned in the back of your freezer--but it was a perfect kind of nothing. My great aunt used to say that the way your New Year's Day unfolded was the way the rest of your year would go. You know, if you were happy, you'd be happy all year and all that. I like to think that her beliefs hold true, that this is going to be a year of comfortable relationships, of easy laughter and big dreams, and of heavily processed food.

On the other hand, she also thought that Liberace was straight and that Pomeranians could smell cancer, so she may not have been the most credible narrator.
__________

Since last week meant the final pages of my day planner--which was barely used, save for a few scribbled notations about upcoming haircuts and Law & Order marathons--I felt obligated to stop by Borders to pick up a new one. Since we're five days into the year, everything had been discounted 50%, so the selection was limited to a stack of well-handled Twilight calendars or a page-a-day celebration of the steelhead trout.

I decided that instead I'd make a resolution to start using the calendar on my computer or on the Google or something else that doesn't require touching paper or developing a deep appreciation for freshwater fish. This is worth noting, because I rarely make resolutions and if I do, they're things that are borderline unattainable, like Become New York Times Best-Selling Author or Develop Own Line of Skincare Products for QVC or Don't Eat Peanut Butter With Your Hands. If I'm going to fail, I like to fail in a big, big way.

Last year, I kicked tradition aside and made an attempt at making myself better. I thought that typing out a list of goals would help me work toward them, but instead they became the first entry in a journal I abandoned after approximately six and a half days. Anyway, I thought I'd lovingly cut and paste them here, a set of gently-used suggestions for improving my life that I fully intend to recycle and revisit in another three hundred sixty-something days.

You should write more. Otherwise, how are you going to win the internet?

I didn't win the internet in 2009--in Monopoly parlance, I'm probably loitering on Oriental Avenue--but I did do a lot of writing. Some of it was even exchanged for cashier's checks that were immediately thrown into my bank account, each deposit no-doubt making an audibly hollow sound, like dropping the pull tab into an otherwise empty Diet Coke can.

Last year wasn't one that paid particularly well, but it absolutely paid off. I made some invaluable connections and some equally incredible friends. I covered a pair of music festivals as credentialed press and collected more concert ticket stubs and hand stamps than any time in my life. I interviewed my favorite musician1 and caught shows by my two next faves.2 I have a recurring gig that allows me to make Tiger Woods jokes beneath the NBC logo and get to share my always eclectic, mostly English music recommendations with the unsuspecting. 2009 didn't give me much to tell my accountant about, but it always gave me a reason to get out of bed.

1Robyn Hitchcock. Duh.
2 Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello. Oh, and Morrissey. Twice.

Is it a resolution or a goal to say I’d like to break 3:15 in the Boston Marathon?

First, I like how my resolutions were phrased in the form of a question. Next, we all know how that ended: with an Achilles tendon that mutinied at the eleven mile mark, another fifteen miles with my face twisted into a pained grimace like I was trying to pass a threshing machine through my birth canal, and a finishing time of 3:40:59.

But I finished and that's probably more important. Or something.

Stop wasting as much time. Really. You’ll be better for it if you don’t spend your afternoons looking at pictures of cats on the internet.

This may have been the biggest bust of all of them. Granted, "pictures of cats" should be replaced with "downloading out-of-print pub rock albums" but still, I surrendered an unforgivable amount of hours to my RoadRunner high speed. This is the one I'll be working on the most. Right after I try to find that last LP that Ian Gomm recorded.

Save money. Don’t charge random shit to your credit card. No more t-shirts. That last one’s for real. You don’t need another damn t-shirt.

Oh, resolution, you were a mega-fail from the time I typed the first imperative sentence. Because I'm self-employed in the feast-or-ramen freelance writing business, credit cards are a huge part of my life. That overhandled Visa in my wallet covers necessities like luncheon meat and string cheese but the downside is that--thanks to my card's approximately 59.99% APR--I'll be paying for this box of store-brand tampons until long after my uterus has bricked itself shut.

And yes, I bought more t-shirts.

Take more pictures. You’re not going to remember this stuff forever.

I didn't take enough pictures. No matter how many I take, there will never be enough to fill in the gaps in my memory of all of the Technicolor good times I like to think I had. One day, I'll wish I had more, of everything from last weekend to this summer to my next Christmas. One day, I'll want to remember how young I was and to forget that I didn't appreciate it and I'd like to have enough snaps on enough memory cards to do just that. This one will move near the top of 2010's list, right before "Teach dog to use guest room toilet" and "Disinfect guest room toilet if expecting actual guests".

Try harder.

That's what I'm doing, kids.
That's what I'm doing.