Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

I am headed to New York City today.

When I was younger, I believed I'd make New York City my home. Walking down the streets a couple of years ago, a blast of hot air blew up from a subway grate and I caught a lungful of exhaust, urine, oil, and old basement. An explosion of teen aged excitement roiled through me. Back in High School, my drama class would take a trip to New York every year. I only went a couple of times, but it was enough to cement a vision of the future that looked like a cross between the movie version of A Chorus Line and Working Girl. The smell that shot up through the grate flashed me right back to the 10th Grade...when I was an Actress.

(My sister describes the same sensation. We both just assumed that NYC was where we'd wind up. The smell in the streets was going to be our smell.)

Something about the city, with its unceasing energy and gotham gravity is also melancholy. Whenever I am there or read about it, I get an intense feeling of longing. I get this, too, when I'm in L.A. or anyplace where populations stake out their claims, set up fond dream manufacturies and eke out a trickle of freedom/joy/immortality.

The city is a self-perpetuating turbine of failure and hope.

There are hundreds of songs that name check New York City. But Lou Reed singing "Walk on the Wild Side" is possibly my favorite. His squeaky voice over an unassuming and gentle rhythm, lullabies desperation, self-delusion, and hope. One night, a junior in high school, I couldn't sleep and I listened to this song over and over - Play. Stop. Rewind. - until the weary batteries slowed Reed's voice to creepy speeds. I dreamed of scrapping it out on the streets, some tough cookie.

That would never be me, but it was an enticing fantasy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

How to Prepare a Thanksgiving Hand Turkey

Thanksgiving is upon us, and over the next couple of days, friends and family may be descending upon your home - or perhaps you are the friend or family on the descent. This can be a stressful time as holiday expectations rear their weary heads and brace for intra-familial tensions.

The centerpiece of the this fourth Thursday in November, the preparation of the traditional Thanksgiving Hand Turkey, is often the source of greatest strain.

What to do with this unwieldy Hand Turkey? Everything seems so complicated. How can I impress everyone without killing myself - like I nearly did last year with the flash fryer?

If you are on a Fuss Budget, there is no reason the creation of your Hand Turkey can't be simple and sublime.

Choice of Hand Turkey is extremely important. Look at the coloring. If there is too much outside the lines, or the body is pink or has a smiley face on it, the Hand Turkey may be too young to prepare. Are the feathers too neat and detailed? Are there clever political references in the background? The Hand Turkey might be too old.

Check for a brown body and individually colored feathers.

The best way to capture your Hand Turkey is an "All of a Sudden" approach. Don't linger around ogling its sentimental beauty. Just reach out and nab it.

You will know the the Hand Turkey is ready for preparation if it has X's for eyes.
(NOTE: Do not attempt to prepare if there are dots for eyes. You will never forgive yourself.)

Now you are ready to prepare your hand Turkey. A good cutting board and sharp knife are all you need.

The first cut is the deepest, as they say, and your Hand Turkey is no exception. Blood is naturally going to leak out of its neck, but once the shock wears off you will find removal of the feathers a breeze.

After you have placed your prepped Hand Turkey in a dish and set the oven for 350 degrees, you can stuff it. Much hay has been made over what to use for stuffing - butter, sage, cornbread. Pish Posh! Have fun. Stuff your Hand Turkey with whatever tastes good to you! Make it as fancy or fanciful as you please.

After three or four hours of baking your Hand Turkey should be ready. Place it on a plate and allow the stuffing to tumble out. Garnish with some greens for an elegant finish. Look how succulent and beautiful your Hand Turkey is! Your entire family will be proud that you did it all by yourself and they will be talking about it for years to come!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

I am alone.

So, I've seen this a couple of times in Starbucks:

The sticker's largest words are Insulated and Isolation. Taken on their own, I don't suppose there is anything worth cocking a brow at...but together? WITH the Starbucks logo? It looks like a deliberate joke. I am shocked that Starbucks would allow the word "Isolation" to appear on their merchandise, even if it is the French word for Insulate.

Everyone I show this to is like, "Yeah..so?"

Oh, well.

Nora Jones CDs for everyone!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

she just got real cold allsuvasudden. she wont talk 2 me or evin look over here. i asked her what wuz wrong and she was all like i wasnt in the room. like she just looked right through me. i bet its because of that one time she called her own mom a bitch monkey and her mom heard her say it but she blamed it a on you and her mom told us all to get ut of the car and walk home. her mom is crazy even if she says she's not, i think she is. Whatever. i heard her mom stold twenty dollars out of the bake sale money and then donated it back and said it was hers own money. what a freak right? You can do better though you know. So what if she won't talk to you because of her mom. she's just crazy and embarrASSed, probably. anyway, dont send me to talk to her because she wont even talk to me neither.

You read and re-read the note a few times. It's faded and torn. You found it in the pocket of an eighteen-year-old jean jacket that you haven't picked up in over a decade. The paper now has the consistency of fabric, and the perforated edges fray at the tips.

You hold onto the jacket and try to wrap your mind around the fact that

A) You had for gotten that this jacket even existed.
B) You were looking through the closet, looking for your last box of checks
C) You opened one box that that had been sealed for some years that contained six Garfield calendars from 1984 - 1990.
D) And this jacket.
E) It still fit you.
F) You placed your hand in the pocket and discovered this note.

and, finally,

G) The subject of this note, the one who blamed you for calling her own mother a bitch-monkey, not seconds, SECONDS before, had friended you on Facebook.

You had forgotten her name until now.

It is Tuesday.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Re: memory.

That movie wasn't so great after all.
The one with the guy and that one girl from the other movie.
It was on some website.
I used to think it was the funniest thing I had ever seen.
I might have gone on believing that, too,
if the internet hadn't corrected me.
Thank goodness.

And that song that used to make your friends turn up the volume and squeal out the car window.
What an eye-roller.
So glad the video has been forwarded and re: forwarded
as an example of rotten taste.
Much obliged.

The Interwebitubes gleefully point out a drab, unremarkable past,
the regenerating facts, shroud a glowing, eroding memory.
It's reaffirming in a way.
What fools we were to love.
Good to know now.

But then tagged in a photograph
that I thought maybe was a fantasy,
The unicorns on my hand-me-down shirt
might just be horses,
but I'll never know.

That picture was too perfect to ever look at again.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Random Thoughts

1. There are names that I am always terrified I will get wrong:


No matter how well I know the person, no matter for how long, every time I utter her name, the split second before I speak it, a flash shoots off in my brain shrieking "WRONG ONE."

I have a friend named Dianna. I know her name is Dianna. I wonder if she's ever noticed the barely perceptible linger on the nn's as I second guess her name. Every. Single. Time.

If your name is Kirsten or Kristen, I probably won't even say your name ever. I will just look at you as if I am about to, and wait for your recognition.

On top of it all, I called one of my students by the name "Glen" the other day. His name is Neil. He looks like a Glen, though, not at all a Neil.

I tend to mix those name up, too, Glen and Neil. They only have a couple of letters in common. Maybe it's because they are both astronaut names.

2. The other night, we heard choking sounds from the alley below. The gagging noises were accompanied by distressed bleats, and after a few seconds we headed out to the sidewalk.

She was writhing on the ground, in a tee-shirt and sweat pants, grabbing at her throat. A few police officers were there, a few onlookers. One woman in pajamas bent over her, trying to ask questions and calm her down. As the spectator population grew, the victim's panic increased. She moaned and clawed at her neck, occasionally rolling over to spit on the ground.

Cop cars arrived, an ambulance was summoned. In the flashes of activity, we could piece together the story: She and her boyfriend had been fighting (and drinking, too, speculated one girl), the boyfriend hit her and then took off.

We headed back upstairs. There was nothing for us to do, no way to help without getting in the way.

I don't know how it resolved itself, or even if it did.

When we got upstairs, I was shaking and started to cry a little. It's troubling to see someone in that level of physical or mental distress. As we stood, hovering on the outskirts of the small phalanx, I felt the impulse to help. But to do what? The pajama-ed woman with the calming voice was doing the only thing any of us could until the ambulance got there.

I'm glad we went down, though. Even if there was nothing more to be done, at least we didn't sit with our ears clamped up in the apartment. I don't want to lose the impulse to at least try.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday (Guilty Pleasure Edition)

Tuesday is working the register at Walgreens. The store is nearly deserted, and only the strains of Extreme's "More than Words" trickle into the fog of your early morning consciousness.

You reach the counter and plunk down your orange juice.

"Would you like to try our Wow Buy today? Two Reece's Peanut Butter Cups for 50 cents."

"No thanks," you reflexively answer. Then you let out an embarrassed chuckle. "I have to keep a tight reign on my 50 cents right now."

He smiles and tells you to swipe your card.

When you get to work, you reach inside the bag to discover, next to the orange juice, a Reece's Peanut Butter cup. According to the receipt, Tuesday didn't charge you for it.

You are so overwhelmed by his gesture that you never return to that same Walgreens.

To say that I have philosophical problems with Britney Spears should come as no surprise. Some of these issue arise, sure, from her lack of vocal ability and her commodified hyper-sexuality, but these are pretty well worn gripes. There is little new to the complaints about her overly produced lip-syncing or her overt pleas for sexual attention.

The presence of Spears in our celebrity continuum highlights an interesting tension for those inclined as Free Women. There's a hastening to shake our fists at her booty wiggles, but it's these same women who dress up as Sexy Dorothy Parker for Halloween and dance with abandon to "Womanizer". It can be difficult to reconcile the desire to be a thinking, progressive female with the secret wish to be considered a crazy sexy hot mama.

These two things are not mutually exclusive. And this is where some of my problems lie with the Britney. I'm not squeamish about a woman's expression of sexuality in music, art or movies. There are some schools of thought that hold conspicuous displays of female sexuality as a reclamation of gender power - sometimes I agree with this. Not in the case of Ms. Spears.

My problem is not in her gyrations, her lip-licking, or sex-driven lyrics. My problem is that I don't feel invited into her sexuality...nor is it particularly interesting.

Watching her videos and listening to her songs, the message is clear: we are her mirror. Her level of narcissism is intense and most certainly brought about by years of unceasing public scrutiny and an entourage willing to say yes to her every whim. Song after song is about us watching her, how we all want to get on that, and how we all want to be her. But is this true? After a while of being told how sexy she is, I kinda don't believe it anymore.

It's also a little boring - videos comprised of her dancing in some costume, writhing half naked, and then dancing in another costume using a series of thrusting power moves, over and over.

So, my problems with Britney don't come from her being all sexed up. They come from how pre-fab and unthoughtful it seems.

(However, do I own a few Spears singles on my iPod. Of course, I do.)

To be fair, my sexual iconography tends to run in the area of the "The Quirk":

Something odd, a touch of kink...maybe a little grandiosity to boot. This stuff is invigorating. Hell, I have to give Madonna her props for maintaining a sense of style, image, and message in everything she does. Sex is used as a tool in her arsenal...not a plea for a love that she never got. (I'm sure it started there, but it evolved.)

So now we come to Lady Gaga.

I'll wait while you stop laughing.*

I was quite happy to brush her off as another Brit wannabe, with no real ability. Her single Just Dance was one of the first I heard and was unimpressed. Standard pop beat, no interesting lyrics to speak of. Simply a fun little ditty, and that's it.

More singles followed (Love Game caused me to morn the death of subtlety), I would hear her name brought up. My sister once remarked that she'd never be able to say for sure what Lady Gaga looked like because she's constantly covered in all kinds of makeup and fur.

My friend Casey was talking to me about her one night before a show. In his assessment, she is a performance artist. I laughed. Then he showed me her performance at the 2009 VMAs:

I have to admit...I was taken. This is pretty impressive performance, done by a woman who is quite willing to take a substantial risk. And without lip syncing. (If you are not impressed by this, go try to sing Happy Birthday while doing jumping jacks. Then come talk to me.)

Gaga, in tandem with her extreme theatrical presentations, has a shape-shifting voice. Again, I first thought her voice the product of over production. Then I saw this performance on SNL. (which shows off her vocal prowess and a little sense of humor about herself.)

Watch Lady Gaga on Saturday Night Live HD SNL in Music | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Do the music and lyrics to Poker Face test the limits of human profundity? Nope.

But, I have to say, this chick is an active participant in her sexual image. I feel invited and intrigued. Not told something, male or female, is sexy just because it's naked.

*HT to the Fake AP Style Handbook.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Q: Where are your Buccaneers? A: On my Buckin' head.

"Every time you sniff and say somebody has 'too much free time,' the part of you that used to love making things for pure joy dies a little."
- Merlin Mann

When I was little, I wanted to be a Scarecrow.

It's the first thing I can recall wanting to be as an occupation (followed by Ballerina, and then Bank Teller. I gave up Ballet-ing when I was seven, miffed at the teachers for not giving me toe shoes right away. As for the dream of being a Bank Teller - it was more of conclusion than an aspiration. I figured Bank Tellering is what grown ups did. I imagined the adult me - grown body/seven-year-old face [shudder] - clad in some sort of beige skirt and blouse set, breezing into work at the local Credit Union. Luckily, other ideas of adulthood took hold and this notion fizzled. That, and, let's be honest, I'd be a miserable failure as a Bank Teller.). I stuck tinkeroys in my pant legs and shirt sleeves. I wore a straw hat.

I told my mother that this is what I wanted to be and she giggled. To her credit, she did not try to dissuade me, knowing full well that within a few months, I'd develop ambitions beyond the corn fields.

Whenever I hear of anyone's peculiar interests and cultish obsessions, feel nothing but affection. Who is anyone to say what a body should love or pursue? As long as no one's getting hurt, what does it matter? The world is a complicated and chaotic place - why make it more difficult to attain bliss?

Which is why I feel a tremendous amount of guilt with I say this:

I want to slap this dude in the mouth.

Pirates of the Caribbean is a fun ride and the Depp's Jack Sparrow is a deft performance, to be sure. But this is where my love of pirates ends.

At a certain point in recent pop culture, Pirates and, in a strange pairing of unknown provenance, Ninjas became a sort of comedic short hand - the quick go to for a random laugh. Both pepper standup, sit-coms, improv sets, and sketch shows to explain odd job choices or off the wall behavior.

Furthermore, this guy, this fella who is so keen on turning his house into a pirate ship - I don't believe you. You got your million...where's the house? Have you started construction? Let's see the process. Pics Plz.

There is also this comment from his description:
"I've always wanted to be a pirate, and the onlyway I can truely do this is to live aboard a pirate ship...[sic]"
Actually, no. There are other ways - like getting hired by these guys, for instance:

The Somali Pirates, I'm sure, are always looking for more land lubbers to swab the deck.


I don't want to be a hater. I don't want to be the The Man. Whatever brings you joy, so be it.

But, may my tribe forgive me, I'm fucking sick of fucking Pirates and Ninjas.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Wednesday, November 4, 2009


In my dream the other night,
I tried to write poem to you

or maybe it was about you,

to tell you that I knew how it was all going to end.

It started as I was talking in my sleep, and woke you up.
I knew what I wanted to ask,
but every....word...evaporated.

I fell off,
back into sleep,
trying to figure out the precise words to tell you
in the morning.

I thought I'd write a poem.

I noticed,
in my dream,
when was I was trying so hard
to choose the precise words,
the "T" in turbine kept transforming into a playground Slide.

A picture of a Slide,
a photo of a Slide,
a cardboard cut out of a Slide.

I really don't write poetry, I've discovered.
Being precise doesn't stand much of a chance when a Slide is right there.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

What you don't know about Asperger's is a lot. Just the staticky fragments from a Dateline two nights ago, filtered through the parents' caustic whispers. Both caught your vague interest - the whisper-fit and the Dateline - but neither could be heard in full. Instead they blent into audio wallpaper, heard at crunching intervals as you finished your Cap'n Crunch for dinner.

Gary is a boy like any other in this-
"-this is the third parking tick-"
Difficulty reading social cues-
"...instead of letting me find out three-"
...lack of eye contact-
"...three times! And always when I'm stress-"
'There are three Walgreens within three blocks of my Mom's office.'

Election Tuesday, in your third grade class, was diagnosed with Asperger's. There was no big fuss made about it on the part of the teacher (a grey, indifferent woman, unable mask her perturbation at any unexpected change in plan), but Election Tuesday had no reserve in announcing it to all eighteen kids in line at the Bathroom Break.

Election Tuesday is unsettling to talk to - with the constant chatter of encyclopedic facts and his queer gaze at your left temple- so you avoid him whenever possible. (This is made difficult, however, by the alphabetic placement of your last names. Except when some kid is sick, you are the Craft Partner, The Buddy.)

He is also one of those kids. The kind with a laundry list of queezeries that upset and annoy: He ate three of Jodi's glue sticks within the first six days of school, one of his armpits sweats excessively, he has consistent booger hang, he bites his nails and leaves them on the left corner of your desk, he has no compunction pointing out unfavorable cross gender traits in the three more preyed upon kids, he slapped Georgie and took his applesauce.

Once he made his condition known to you, though, much was forgiven. There was a reason - he should be pitied, not reviled. And even if he still sits too close or licks your pencil eraser, it's not like it's on purpose.

You keep telling yourself this as the two of you sit outside the principal's office. A Rube Goldberg machine of events has put you there. Jodi still has her vision, despite her squealing, and, at any rate, this was not your doing. You just happened to be his Craft Partner today (Yesterday Daniel Buckman had the flu and you were placed with another kid. No such luck today. Daniel Buckman is such a faker anyway.) and Election Tuesday made a real mess of your decoupage.

But he couldn't hel-

"-help it." He finishes your thought out loud.

You look up at him. Election Tuesday's reddish gold hair has one or two clots of glue still in it. He stares down at his loose shoelaces.

"I wasn't trying to hurt anybody."

"Right, right, right." You say.

His teeth are tugging at the nail of his left index finger. You know where that's going to wind up.

"I guess I just can't control myself sometimes."

You scratch at your left cheek and a crust of red tissue paper and glue rolls off into your hand.

"Lucky people know I have asp-erger."

You stare at him. He is swaying and bopping from side to side, as if to unheard music. The mutterings of parents in the office behind is getting louder. The door opens and Election Tuesday's parents emerge. They rush to him, kissing and hugging his ruddy face.

"Get in here, now!" barks the lone voice of your father, still inside.

Election Tuesday is lead away by his father's hand. He turns back, looks you dead in the eye and grins. "See you at Snack."

He yanks what's left of the hangnail from his finger and stuffs it in his pocket for later.

"Right, right, right," you mutter and turn into the principle's office - ready to be disbelieved.

The accordion has long been labeled as a specialty instrument for Polka Bands and Nerd Rockers. And to be fair, for while it seemed as though those were the only people in pop culture who dabbled around with the accordion.

Want to show a fairly benign but alien culture? Give us a Swedish Polka Band.

Want to show how geeky a kid is? Give him accordion lessons.

My first associations with the accordion fell along these lines until I was introduced to the band They Might Be Giants my freshman year in high school. Even then it was a while before I realized the instrument was, in fact, the accordion. It was "That Famous Polka" really opened my eyes.

Since then I have come to hear just how versatile and evocative the accordion is. Accordions figure into Tango orchestrations from all over, giving sense of urgency with individual notes and longing as the chords are drawn out - Tension and release.

One os my favorite songs recently is by the indie rock band The Bowerbirds. "Beneath Your Tree" uses the accordion in a messy but tireless way - sounding something like a homemade gypsy caravan or funeral procession. Put together with the banging drums, and longing lyrics and the whole song plays out with weary but fierce resolve.

Like it wishes it could stop, but cannot.

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