Thursday, June 28, 2012

"There is no charge for awesomeness...or attractiveness."*

    I’ve been thinking a lot about Pandas lately.  That’s weird for many reasons, but it’s just how things are right now.
    They’ve come up in numerous conversations because a few of the people I’m close to (most of them male) are video game aficionados. You remember that game World of Warcraft? It turns out people are still playing that game and it’s just as bizarre as it ever was.
    At this point in popular culture we all know that goblins, ogres, giants, elves and orcs are real and incredibly cool. But World of Warcraft (WoWc) has jumped (flown) way beyond such ordinary, everyday characters. They’ve got Worgen (which are a lot like werewolves), Vrykul (which seem to be a cross between Vikings and giants) and Tauren (a sort of bull/human hybrid. Get it? Like Taurus, the sign?!). They have characters called Murloc (which I think must be a phonetic combination of “warlock” and “merman.” It could also be a riff on H.G. Well’s “Morlocks,” which I’m pretty sure were the evil characters in The Time Machine. And now that I think about it, those Morlocks were quite possibly the inspiration for the Ewoks of Star Wars Trilogy fame. Funny how all this crazy shit seems interconnected. Maybe there is a great universal plan after all. At least, there’s definitely a plan if you keep up on your science fiction and fantasy reading.)
A Morlock hangs out with Weena in the most excellent The Time Machine (George Pal, 1960)

    Anyway.
    So, this kid I know that likes to play WoWc rather abruptly stopped playing it a couple of months ago. When I asked why he explained that they’d added Pandas (called “Panden” in the game, though the name fools no one) as characters and it was just too lame for him to continue. 
Panda Series 1. Oil pastels and pencil on paper (Lacey, 2012). $500

    A more cynical and less supportive me might have said, “But wasn’t the game already incredibly lame to begin with?” but I refrained. (Look at me being mature!)
    When I brought it up with my friend Brian, he asked, “Did he stop playing when the Pandas were added because it’s trendy or because he really thought it was lame?”
     Again, a more cynical Lacey might have responded, “Since when does a person who plays WoWc care about what’s trendy?”
    But I didn’t. I’m sensitive to the artistic temperaments of those who play video games (a sensitivity drawn from experience, which I will explain at some point in the future).
    Good for me.
    I asked Brian what he meant by “trendy” and Brian (who works in the video game industry but doesn’t play WoWc, I’m sure he would want me to add) explained that a lot of higher-ups/government officials in China were appalled that Pandas had been added to the game. They’re endangered, after all, and we wouldn’t want to encourage people to go around killing them for sport. Even if those “people” were actually troll or elf or ogre avatars. Even if they were killing them with magical spells. Even if it were IN A GAME.
    But I digress.
    When Brian brought that up, I suggested that this kid was not upset about the Panden because they were/are trendy, but because they’re just a stupid thing to add to any game that has anything to do with battle or survival. And as I talked about it, I realized all the things I was saying were incredibly true and obvious and brilliant. (I have this realization kind of a lot.)
Panda Series 2. Pencil on paper. (Lacey, 2012). $475.

    See, Pandas don’t want to be alive. They have to be constantly protected to the point of absurdity, despite the fact that they have no natural predators. Not even people are hunting them. They pretty much have to be incentivized in order to reproduce. Despite the fact that they’re carnivorous, they’ve adapted to eat mostly bamboo (weak). Here’s a quote about how much fun they have at The San Diego Zoo:
    “In zoos, they like to play with enrichment items like piles of ice or sawdust, puzzles made of bamboo with food inside, and different scents like spices.” (Quote)
    Cool! So, they’re basically bears that act like domesticated animals. Pandas are the new labradoodles!
    I haven’t done a ton of research on Pandas, and I don’t intend to (deal with it), but I think that they really aren’t suited to a world full to the brim with war craft(s). It just seems contradictory. 
Panda Series 3/Coy Panda. Pencil on paper. (Lacey, 2012) $8000.

    They like to laze around and look cute or sad or thoughtful or suicidal. I honestly think that if we all just quit trying, the Pandas would be perfectly happy to just lie down and die. Not the kind of mentality I want in my army, but that’s just me. And I think the fact that they’re cute is just accidental. Pandas don't really "try" at anything.
    Anyway, like I said, they were on my mind. So I got all artistic up in here and made a Panda Series. Apparently this is what I do when I have too much time on my hands. You're welcome!
*Kung Fu Panda (Mark Osborne and John Stevenson, 2008). A children's movie based in no way on facts of any kind. Pandas do not know Kung Fu just because they are of Chinese descent. That's racist.

Monday, June 25, 2012

"End of the road...nothing to do...and no hope of things getting better. Sounds like Saturday night at my house."*

          I had a really rough day. It’s like the universe was trying to hurt my feelings.
    I won’t go into it, except to say that it more-or-less ended a moment ago with an 11-year-old prank calling me and pretending to be my ex-boyfriend.
    Okay, now I’m officially cool. I just wish I could be having this experience when I was 11 instead of right now. Right now it's just chapping my hide.
    But what I really want to write about is how feeling sorry for yourself is really an art form. And, not to brag or anything, it’s one I’ve mastered.
    But you can master it, too!
    There are several steps to follow, but none of them are hard. And you can change up the order if you want, except for step one.
STEP ONE
You need to make a list (it can be mental or physical—whatever makes you feel more in touch with your sadness). This is a list of things that are going wrong for you. They could be things that happened today. For instance, you could think about how someone was really rude to you in the Target parking lot (even though her giant SUV was parked outside of the lines and your more modest ride was parked inside of them. Or how you then went into Target and promptly got your period). The list could also be more general and broader in scope: things that haven’t panned out in your lifetime. Thwarted dreams, unrequited love, and money problems are all good places to start. 
Where things start to go wrong: Carrie gets her period; all the girls laugh. Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976).

STEP TWO (OPTIONAL)
Play a sad song. This could be a song that used to be “our song” with one of those idiots that dumped you (or never loved you in the first place).  I find it’s better if the song is epic and performed by a really solid band or singer, but sometimes a power ballad will do just as nicely. In a pinch, you can play something really trite and awful. Here are some examples of all three:
1.     “It Must’ve Been Love” (Roxette)
2.     “Rain Song” (Led Zeppelin)**
3.     “When You’re Gone” (The Cranberries)
4.     “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” (Michael Bolton or, if you prefer, Jessie and Slater from Saved By the Bell.)
5.     “She’s Gone” (Darryl Hall and John Oates)
6.     “It’s Only Love” or “This Boy” (The Beatles. Okay, so I know most people would say “Yesterday” but frankly I find that song cloying and overrated, but I’ve always been more of a John than a Paul. Also, perhaps, given as it’s “the most covered song of all time” I’m just bored with it.)**
7.     “Taxman” (The Beatles. This one is only helpful if you’re sad about money.)**
8.     “Does He Love You?” (Rilo Kiley)
9.   "They Can't Take That Away from Me" (George and Ira Gershwin. Fred Astaire's version is my favorite.)**
10.     “Why You Wanna Break My Heart?” (Tia Carrere as performed in Wayne’s World. Actually, I can’t figure out who wrote this song. If Tia actually wrote it, I would die of joy.)
11. “As Tears Go By” (The Rolling Stones. This song pretty much covers depression in any form.**
"I think we both know there's no film in this camera!" Tia's music video in Wayne's World.
STEP THREE
Take a “rape shower.” That’s the thing of where you sit on the floor of the shower (while it’s running, of course) and wrap your arms around your knees and cry while you rock back and forth and the water cascades over you. You may know it from many Lifetime Original Movies where a character is somehow violated sexually and “can’t get clean”. Eventually, you will not know the difference between the hot water and your salty tears: this is good. This is the goal. It’s best if you do this with the lights off. More dramatic that way.
I made you an illustration of a "rape shower."
STEP FOUR
Now you need to put on something stretchy and comfortable and ugly. Extra points if it’s black or stained.
STEP FIVE
Use your sadness as an excuse to drink something alcoholic.
STEP SIX
After you’ve had something alcoholic to drink, you should start writing in your journal about whatever thing is going the very worst in your life. If your tears are staining the paper and smudging the ink, you’re on the right track. This step could also segue into writing a poorly considered letter or email to someone who did you wrong by not understanding you or loving you hard enough. This letter should only be written under the influence of alcohol, so that you can later blame the alcohol for every dumb-ass thing you said.
STEP SEVEN
Start feeling hungry because you’ve had a drink (or four) and see if you can’t find comfort in the fridge. Maybe there’s ice cream in there (this is cliché, but ideal). You see, ice cream is good because it has sugar and it’s cold. It will wake you up a little bit so you can finish all the other things you have to do while you’re feeling sorry for yourself.
STEP EIGHT
If you have a change jar, dump it out and count it. Be sad about the amount of money in there, no matter how much there is. That money is in coins, and therefore does not add to your fortune unless you're willing to a)buy coin wrappers, b)let Coinstar take 8% or c)be the person everyone at the bank hates despite the fact that counting money IS THEIR PROFESSION.
STEP NINE
Accidentally spill something (coins?) and then have a lot of trouble cleaning it up. This should feel like one of those improbable scenes in a movie. Maybe, in your attempt to clean, you will make the mess even worse. This is good. The frustration will contribute to your sense of helplessness. The fact that it feels like a movie will make your life seem more epic and therefore your problems will seem more important and unsolvable.
STEP TEN
Look in the mirror. Notice your flaws and really concentrate on them. This really helps you to feel bad, especially if the ice cream made you stop crying for a while. Think about how fat you probably are now that you’ve had ice cream. Think about how alone you will always be because you are a fat, crying, ice cream eater.
STEP ELEVEN
Crawl into bed. Be sure to lie in the fetal position. Wait for sleep. You've earned it! If sleep doesn't come immediately, consider playing one of your sad songs on repeat until it does.
    That is all. But you can add more if the spirit moves you. Things like reading your horoscope, weighing yourself, lighting candles, watching romantic comedies, getting a cat, and lying on the kitchen floor can always help, if you feel like you aren’t quite getting where you need to be.
Guaranteed to make you sob: Wuthering Heights (William Wyler, 1939).
    If you have any trouble with this plan, you are obviously not concentrating hard enough on how bad things are. Refocus. Go through the steps again. It’ll happen with effort and time. 
    I am available to answer any questions or to field suggestions on other songs that can aid the self-pitying.
    [Disclaimer: Weak people piss me off. So make sure you get over yourself when you wake up in the morning.]
Happy tears!
*This quote is from my personal icon, Eeyore (Winne the Pooh, A.A. Milne).
**These are examples of sad songs that get extra points because they were written by bad-asses back before it was "okay" for boys to cry. Now boys cry all the time. And I say: good for them!
Oh yeah. Two more things:
1. I will probably add more songs to that list. My brain is foggy from feeling so sorry for myself.(That, by the way, is also a sign that you're doing it right. Fogginess is good.)
2. Please subscribe to and/or follow my blog! Please! If you don't that's okay. I'll just feel sorrier for myself.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

"But if you're bored then you're boring."*

    Am I the only person over the age of 13 that gets bored on a regular basis? I feel really bad about it, because it’s not like I can’t find things to do, it’s just sometimes none of those things seems super entertaining or worthwhile. 
   
    [When we were kids we weren't allowed to say we were bored, because if we did my mom would say, "If you're bored, I'll find something for you to do." I don't think we ever found out what that something was, but I'm guessing it had to do with laundry. My mom really liked/s to ask us to fold the laundry. I can't imagine why. It's such a fulfilling task, especially since people are always so grateful when you do it for them. So anyway, we usually just went outside to the swing set and Ouisie would suggest something like, "Let's pretend we're sisters." and I'd say, "We are sisters, you dumbass. That's no fun." So we'd ride our bikes until the neighbor kids came home or until we got to Baskin-Robbin and ate a crap-load of ice cream. You know, fun outdoorsy things like that.]
    Nowadays, I happen to know a 13-year-old boy who spends most of his “down time” playing video games. I never learned how to play video games (unless we can count Solitaire on my computer or “Snake” on my 2001 Nokia cell phone), so this doesn’t seem like an option. Also, video games scare me because I hate being chased, even if I’m only an avatar. Emily tried to teach me Nintendo when we were kids, but I couldn't really understand why turtles and mushrooms kept trying to attack me and I frequently dropped (or threw myself) into holes. It was really unnerving.
    When I think back on how I filled my time before I started counting “beers” as an activity sometime in college, what I come up with is only sort of useful. I roller bladed, did homework, ate frosting, thought about boys I liked, did Jane Fonda workout videos, and read a lot. Sometimes I would have extra time after homework and I would try out new hairstyles (crimping and cutting my own hair were favorites). I also spent a lot of time choreographing dance routines to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

    I think in high school my time was taken up with play rehearsals and my part-time job, but I still managed to find time to think about boys I liked and cut my own hair.
    I still read a lot, but none of the other things apply (except cutting my hair). Most nights I find myself drinking tea (sometimes wine), painting my fingernails, and watching copious amounts of television on Netflix. Of course I write sometimes, as well, so there’s that.
    But I think I’ve figured out the problem: I’m boring.
    Here are things I like to do (could also be a list entitled “Why I Should Always Go to Bed at 9 p.m. Sharp”)
1.  Listen to Frank Sinatra or Bobby Darin while deep-cleaning my bathroom or kitchen.
2.  Practice new stitches on my sewing machine that I (just barely) know how to use. And not because I’m mending or constructing a garment—just because I like to see that I know how to “sew" things. I currently have about 27 rows of different stitches on a single piece of fabric. 
3.  Cut out things in magazines that I find humorous or inspiring (see below) and put them on my fridge.
4.  Stalk people on Facebook.
5.  Take pictures of myself with make-up on in an attempt to create a gorgeous “candid” photo. (This has never worked so far.)
6.  Spray paint things. So far, I’ve spray-painted a dining-room table, 6 chairs for said table, a coffee table, a stool, multiple cabinet handles and a chalkboard. I’m starting to think I just like to huff paint.
7.  Sweep. Especially under the couches.
8.  Do the crossword puzzle (I say “the” but truthfully I do a butt-load of crossword puzzles in any given week. It must have evolved out of my boredom.)
9.  Journal about being bored.
10. Write down what I’ve eaten.
This is from US Weekly. I hi-lighted the things Ice-T and I have in common.
    So, it’s not like I don’t have things to do. It’s just that the things I have to do are exceedingly lame.
    Here is a list of things I want to have on my list of things to do (maybe someday in the near-ish future):
1.  Book club.
2.  Paddle-boarding session.
3.  Meet with sponsors (I’m not sure what I’d be sponsored for, but I know I want sponsors really bad. This will most likely prove ironic if I end up in AA or NA or OA or something like that).
4.  Skype with French boyfriend (who is in France and who is flying me out first class to visit soon). Am also willing to accept a boyfriend from Italy or England, but if he's going to be British, he has to have American-quality teeth.
5.  Dine at fancy and expensive restaurant in awesome outfit that makes me look hot. (Someone else pays or I have a ton of money.)
6.  Hot air balloon ride.
7.  Do numerous back flips and splits just so I know I still got it (in this list I had "it" at one point).
8.  Get pictures taken of my abs for well-known fitness magazine cover.
9.  Write a couple songs to play on my violin and/or zither.
10. Hold a koala bear for a couple of hours. Necessitates trip to Australia.
11. Experience regular bowel movements like everyone else does but not think it’s a big deal because my bowels are always incredibly regular. 
The New Yorker.
    Think of this blog post as my vision board. When you are reading this blog a year from now (and let’s face it: you will be), I’m going to have trouble fitting in time to write about what I’m doing because my French boyfriend and I will most likely be grating cheese (fromage) on one another's abs while rappelling off the Matterhorn.
More New Yorker. And much more to the point.
*A very awesome song from the late-1990’s: “Flagpole Sittah” by the incredibly memorable Harvey Danger.

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Not all those who wander are lost."*

    You know how when you tell people you like a particular thing they start getting you versions of that particular thing? Like, you mention in passing how you’re keen on Precious Moments and the next thing you know you have a whole breakfront entirely devoted to Precious Moments and you have to open that goddamn cabinet and dust the Precious Moments every week and you start to wonder why you ever mentioned it in the first place and how you became such a hoarder? It gets embarrassing and worse, every Christmas or Hanukkah or birthday you stop guessing what’s in the gift box because your almost 98% positive it’s going to be another Precious Moment. (Maybe it’ll be the First Communion Precious Moment! Or the Baby’s First Christmas Precious Moment!)
Wedding Precious Moment!

   And the next thing you know, you’re a cat-obsessed accordion teacher that’s 45 lbs overweight and can’t explain why you love re-runs of The Golden Girls.** You used to be normal! How did this happen?
   Maybe that's an extreme scenario.
   I’ve gone through several incarnations of “likes” that became collections. It started with my affinity for pigs in junior high. I think I made some sort of stink about wanting a Miss Piggy Doll. Or I admired the movie Babe. I don't know what I did, exactly. But soon I had pigs all over my bedroom—a poster, a mirror, a stuffed animal, a statue, etc. Then it was The Beatles, and I had posters and books and albums (I’m actually still okay with this one). Many people of my generation went through a Beanie Baby phase—we thought they’d be collectible! Sadly, they aren’t. And...they're stupid.
    I think a lot of it has to do with figuring out who you are and what you like. Sometimes that takes a while (it probably should: if you like the same things now that you liked as a 12-year-old, you’re probably a few tacos short of a combo platter).
Exotic (Italy-from Emily)
    I started my most recent collection in college. Postcards. Couldn’t get enough of them, and still can’t. Whenever my friends travel, I request a postcard, and my collection has grown into the hundreds. I have postcards from all kinds of different countries and cities and continents. Turkey, Australia, Poland, Japan, France, The Czech Republic, Mexico, Ireland, India, Guatemala and Canada to name just a few. I’ve got postcards from almost all of the 50 states. I’m very proud of them. This particular hobby/collection never gets old or tiresome because postcards take up very little space and remain a cherished portrait of somewhere I’d like to go but haven’t been able to afford. Sad, isn’t it?  But it’s also inspiring.
More Exotic. (India--from Gabe.)
    I have always loved to travel, and in large part I owe this instinct for exploration to my Grandpa Charlie. He spent the vast majority of his retirement learning Spanish (and never quite succeeding) and traveling the world...by himself. He had a special affinity for Central America and would go on trips to Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. He’d later show us the pictures he’d developed: Grandpa solo in front of a burro; Grandpa with an entire Mexican family in what appears to be a slum in the middle of nowhere; Grandpa on a bus through Belize with a real-life Mayan (he was really excited about that one). My mom used to joke that he probably had a second family in the middle of Costa Rica that we knew nothing about.
Super Exotic (Istanbul--from the kiddos)
    He always had a sense of adventure and was a great traveler early on in his life. He was a WWII vet, serving in the Army Air Corps in Europe. He cheated on his eye exam (more proof I'm his grandchild) so he could pilot his plane back to America after they declared victory in Europe. He couldn’t have been more than 25-years-old.
    After the war he worked for the B&O railroad as a brakeman, a switchman and a conductor. He was later recruited by the Federal Railroad Administration as a Railroad Safety Inspector (safety and compliance investigator). Again, movement, traveling, and exploration were his day-to-day. 
Not very exotic at all (Idaho-I actually went there).
    When we’d say good-bye to each other, whether after a phone conversation or after an egg breakfast (he made the best fried eggs in the entire universe) he’d say, “See you in my dreams!”
    I’d respond, “I’ll see you in my dreams.”
    He’d say, “Just don’t have me falling off a cliff or getting chased by wild horses.”
    But I think he would’ve preferred if the dreams had ended that way. He liked to be moving. In many ways his life was like the most responsible version possible of a hero in a classic movie Western. Like John Wayne.*** Or maybe a Civil War-era drama. Like Clark Gable. He liked history in general and American history and the Civil War in particular.
    Anyways, a few years after I started collecting postcards, my Grandpa died. And when my Aunt Kris and I were going through his things, she said I should pick out anything I wanted to keep. One of the first things I found was his bridgework, but that seemed weird and somehow creepy. ("Hey, look, Grandpa, I've got your teeth!") They weren't something I (or my grandma) wanted to keep.

   Then I was lucky enough to stumble upon a railroad map of Nebraska from 1963. It was special for many reasons—it was a railroad map, it was of my home state, and it had been my Grandpa’s.
    After that I started collecting maps and my apartment started to look like the headquarters of the C.I.A. or the residence of a stalker/serial killer. But it also started to define me, just the way I’d wanted the pigs or The Beatles to do years earlier. It started to represent what I wanted out of life: exploration, travel, experience, adventure. And of course, I’d always wanted to be like my Grandpa, so that was there, too.
We look a little trashy and sweaty here, but that's okay. Louisiana, circa 1984.
    I’m writing about this because a few days ago marked the 7th anniversary of his passing and yesterday marked Father’s Day, and he really was a remarkable father and grandfather. But he was also a fearless explorer, and someone who tried to experience as much as he possibly could in the time he was given on this plane.
    I may also be writing about this in the hopes that someone reads it, feels sorry for me, and decides to send me a butt-load of money to use on travel. Eh, it never hurts to put it out there. (Also still open to the idea of marrying for money...)

*From "All that is gold does not glitter," a poem by J.R.R. Tolkien from The Fellowship of the Ring.
**It's totally reasonable to like re-runs of The Golden Girls.

***Maybe more like a character John Wayne played, as John Wayne was (sadly) an infamous draft dodger during WWII. Bummer.

****Shame(ful/less) plug: if you like what you read here, will you follow me? It will make me feel like I'm living the dream!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Semper ubi sub ubi."*

    My dad is the reason I’m a sociopath writer. At least, he’s partially the reason.
    When I was young (I’m talking REALLY young—like 3 or 4), he started teaching me how to read and write. I later learned that this was in some part because he’d not known how to read when he started kindergarten and felt like a real ass because of it. Your average Joe (or Jon, if you’re my dad) wouldn’t have been too bent out of shape by not being literate at the age of 5, but my dad has never been average (or Joe, for that matter).
    So anyway, he got me this index-card holder and a pencil and taught me a new word or two every day. I would write the word and store it in the box. Sort of the way you earn a quarter and put it in your piggy bank (or spend it immediately, if you’re me). Some of these cards still exist and it seems clear from the evidence that I would one day grow up to be a serial killer writer.
    When we were small, my dad would read to Ouisie and me from his favorite books—The Hobbit, Wind in the Willows, Treasure Island. He pushed us to read and as a result I was sucking down C.S. Lewis by first grade and Jane Austen and Charles Dickens by sixth. I’m not bragging. We can all read now, so who cares? Also, this was probably the last time I was considered “advanced” at anything. But I started out doing it to impress my dad and ended up doing it because I couldn’t not do it. My parents are both great readers and they passed it on to us as less than a choice and more of a necessity, like eating vegetables and doing your homework. I’m eternally grateful because despite my lack of a reasonable social life, I’m rarely ever bored. I’m always reading something, even if it’s Y.A.
    When I was ten-years-old, I began my first novel (and last, as it happens). It was about a tomboy and her best friend, Sport. It was loosely based on my relationship with my imaginary friend, Skip. I brought the first five chapters (don’t get impressed—each chapter was handwritten and came in at around 3 pages) to my dad and he was supportive. But he pointed out that when you write dialogue, you have to start a new paragraph each time a different person speaks. Being who I was (and am), I decided to cry about it (it was handwritten for chrissakes! It's not like I can jump into my Word document and make corrections!) and give up. Excellent.
    My dad has always encouraged me, through word and deed, to be creative and to attempt to educate myself. He stressed the importance of words, the importance of reading, and the importance of asking questions. He played classical music all the time because he actually likes it. He said that I had to be nice to people and was nice to people himself (one time, he chased down this kid who spit on my friend, Rachel, and made him come back and apologize. I was mortified). He read books about science because he actually likes it. He made me work hard at my school assignments and my extracurricular activities (even if he wasn’t always keen on the activities I chose—ahem, soccer, and later theatre). He made me wear a helmet and pads to roller blade and a t-shirt to the pool so I wouldn't get burned (you can imagine how popular this made me). Sometimes, when I needed help with math, he would drive me bat-shit crazy. He’d insist on fresh paper, sharp pencils and a brief lesson on the history of math beginning with Pythagoras sitting in his backyard pondering the cosmos or the triangles (or whatever Pythagoras liked to do). I'd be wondering (aloud) if I'd ever get a chance to go to bed that night, but he was determined to teach me math, not just do it for me. That was a real pain in the ass.
    But I guess the point is that he always gave a crap, and he always pushed me to better myself at whatever it was I was trying to do. He read all those crappy stories I wrote, he went to all of those god-awful soccer games, he was in the audience for every play (even if I was playing the Third Dead Body from the Right or Soldier Number Four), and he was prepared to teach me Calculus if it killed us both (it nearly did).
    So I owe a lot of my intelligence (such as it is) and my interests and perseverance (such as they are) to my truly thoughtful, present dad. It’s his fault that I’m not a (complete) moron and that I insist on writing down everything that happens to me. He’s the reason that I still look up words in the dictionary and try to use proper grammar. He’s responsible for how I expect to be treated by men (well) and the fact that I can’t fall asleep at night unless I’ve read for a good half-hour or more. (He's probably also the reason that I have the pale skin of a vampire, a phobia of technology, and panic attacks on a regular basis, but that's probably the basis of a story for another time.)
    I’m lucky because I have an amazing father. And this entry is cheesy, but true.
    Happy Fathers’ Day, DB. I love you.
Ouisie, Dad and me, circa 1987.
*One of my dad's favorite sayings. Sigh. This is another reason I am the way that I am.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"What's better than telling people a stupid story and having them believe it? Having them pay you for it, stupid!"*

    Every now and then I feel like I’m a naïve, little mid-western girl living in a great, big, sprawling metropolis. On these occasions I feel like I would give my left ovary (or both ovaries—who needs ‘em?) to walk across the street from my parents’ house in Omaha to Memorial Park and just lay down under a big old fir tree and think about nothing (not that I ever did that when I lived in Omaha. At least not between the months of September and June). Or drive all the way across town in under 20 minutes to hang out with a friend who lives on the “West Side.” Or drink a glass of wine downtown by myself and not have anyone use my aloneness as an opportunity to ask me to contribute to their film, play, charity or gas fund.
    Sometimes I get bogged down in traffic and smog and noise and I start to think maybe Los Angeles has it in for me. Why would they make it so hard to get places if they weren’t hoping you would just pack up and leave one day?
    But today I had great luck all over town. I got where I needed to be in a (relatively) timely fashion and didn’t contend with (too much) unnecessary road construction. So I was feeling pretty great when I got to my apartment and checked my mailbox.
    And I felt even better when I found this:
    What can I do about it? Seriously, what?!??
    Luckily the answer was right on the opposite page:
I can join the Church of Scientology!
    Scientology is the answer!
    For those of you who don’t know much about Scientology, let me give you some background. L. Ron Hubbard (the “L” stands for “Lafayette”) was, humorously (ironically? Coincidentally?) enough, from Nebraska. Tilden, NE, to be exact.** Check it out!
Looks fun!
    After he failed out of George Washington University in his second year, he started writing penny-a-word pulp fiction. He joined the Navy during WWII, but never saw combat and ended up in treatment in Oakland, CA, for ulcers. He made his way to Pasadena, later saying that he’d suffered from blindness and crippling ailments, which he was able to overcome with the techniques he eventually espoused in Dianetics. I’m a firm believer that when you have a make-believe problem you can make-believe a solution. So I back him 100%.
   Anywho, he ended up working as an assistant to John Whiteside Parsons, a person of some renown (read: money and connections) in Pasadena society and a co-founder of Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Parsons was a disciple of Aleister Crowley, a famed occultist. And most likely the subject of his very own post one day because check him out:
Yikes.

   And who knows what happened from there? But if you want to read more about it, check out this Rolling Stone article.
   Here’s the part you really need to know. The basic premise upon which this "religion" is founded:
   “These materials, which the Church of Scientology has long struggled to keep secret, were published online by a former member in 1995 and have been widely circulated in the mainstream media, ranging from The New York Times to last year's South Park episode. They assert that 75 million years ago, an evil galactic warlord named Xenu controlled seventy-six planets in this corner of the galaxy, each of which was severely overpopulated. To solve this problem, Xenu rounded up 13.5 trillion beings and then flew them to Earth, where they were dumped into volcanoes around the globe and vaporized with bombs. This scattered their radioactive souls, or thetans, until they were caught in electronic traps set up around the atmosphere and "implanted" with a number of false ideas -- including the concepts of God, Christ and organized religion. Scientologists later learn that many of these entities attached themselves to human beings, where they remain to this day, creating not just the root of all of our emotional and physical problems but the root of all problems of the modern world. “**
South Park's take on Scientology's Lord Xenu. (Trey Parker and Matt Stone, 2005)
    So obviously, Scientology came to my mailbox at the perfect time. I’m clearly stressed out and in need of some sort of spiritual component in my life. This sounds like a reasonable and perfect opportunity to get all my higher-plane shit together!
    I know, I’m being sarcastic and nasty. So I’ll be fair(ish). The whole Jesus Christ and the miracles (or similar elements found in Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism) aren’t entirely believable either. But at least, as far as I know, none of these religions require a hefty fee for the privilege of participating (we’re talking a starting rate of $750 for an “auditing” session in which they read your Thetan level--with what can only be described as a version of the hyper-color t-shirt in machine form--and determine your next course of action). That being said, if the Scientologists are willing to make me into the next Tom Cruise or John Travolta, I say “Sign me up!” I’d just rather pay after the fact. You know, like an agent fee. I really don’t want to pay up front.
    When I moved to LA 12 years ago, my mom was angst-ridden about the potential for me to be “brainwashed” by the Scientologists. I laughed at the time and asked her if she’d ever met me before. First of all, I’m not a huge fan of religion for myself (or in general) because I'm incredibly lazy and would rather sleep than worship and second of all, did she think I could afford Scientology?
    Then, while I was living in this really cute part of Los Feliz, they opened another Church of Scientology right next to this gelato place I really liked. And the cute little accolades would stand outside waiting for loners to walk by--preferably loners that were eating their weight in expensive ice cream. And then I started to get a little nervous.
Right behind that Mission Los Feliz sign is my gelato joint.
    Here, it looks like this:
Doing the Lord's true work. (Photo)
    But now I think, what’s the worst that could happen? So I join a cult: big deal! At least it’s not one of those hippie-dippy cults where they make you wear sandals and live in a dirty commune in the middle of nowhere and drink the Kool-Aid at the end. This cult has a castle with restaurants and movie stars! Look:
Seriously, where do I sign?
    But don't worry, Mom. I'm not joining up. I still can't afford it.
*South Park. "Trapped in the Closet." (Trey Parker and Matt Stone, 2005).
**Janet Reitman for Rolling Stone Magazine. "Inside Scientology: Unlocking the Complex Code of America's Most Mysterious Religion." February 23, 2006.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

"You need a license to drive a car. Hell, you need a license to catch a fish. But they'll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father."*

    Sometime in high school, and maybe again in college, a teacher (or four) told me (or the class at large—I can’t remember anything, I’m a goldfish) that I should be aware of starting every paragraph of a paper with the same word. It occurred to me again recently because I’m pretty certain that I tend to start most of my blog posts with the word “I.” I’m a complete and utter narcissist, so okay. I’m aware of it, don’t worry.
"And they say goldfish have no memory, I guess their lives are much like mine."**

    It’s hard to write these blog posts sometimes because they require me to be somewhat more honest than I’d really like to be, and for that reason I don’t always feel like contributing. Honesty in writing is hard but largely necessary if you don’t want to write about the beauty and magic of rainbows and butterflies or bore everyone to death (or both). That’s why writing can sometimes blow as an art form.
    Unlike acting or painting or music, I can’t really pretend that the things I express are anything other than what they are, because I’m not writing fiction, which also kind of blows because my life ain’t all that interesting. (Shut up, Word! I know I’m not supposed to say “ain’t”!) But the following may offend/annoy some people, and for that I'm truly sorry. And for the record, I love (some) kids!
    Anyway.
    I don’t want to shit on parenthood or make it seem like child rearing is an easy job because I know it’s hard and it IS a job. I know firsthand how keeping a toddler alive all day long is the opposite of fun. And I know stay-at-home parents have to want to hit the bottle pretty hard after a day of zero adult conversation. I know it sucks to have a 12-year-old ask about sex or naughty parts or “hair down there.” I know how awful it feels to watch a kid you love get treated like shit by his school friends and how irritating it is to feel like you’ve been turned into someone’s personal maid/chef/bodyguard/chauffeur. All these things I know. (And I did manage to use the word “I” about 47 times in this paragraph. Narcissist.)
    But none of these things change the fact that (some) people with kids tend to be assholes in public. They run their strollers over your feet, take up four times the room a person is supposed to have, refuse to hold doors, and believe that somehow their adorable little assholes are goddamn royalty.
    In short, many parents of young children seem to feel entitled.
    In the past week or so I’ve witnessed the following:
1.     A young, Beverly Hills mom pushed her $8000 stroller and her $10,000 ass directly in front of my line of vision as I shopped at Trader Joe’s. (I would’ve received worse treatment from a mom at Whole Foods, but still.) I gave her one of my classic, huge, passive aggressive sighs as a thank you.
2.     A man in the Pacific Palisades crossed the street in front of my car with his two sons. It wasn’t a cross walk or a stop sign and these were not toddlers on bicycles. He just put his hand up, gesturing for me to stop and walked as slowly as possible in front of my car and across the street.
3.     I held the door for a harried looking mom with two kids, one in a stroller, at the Coffee Bean. She acted like that was my job. No “thank you,” no acknowledgement of any kind.
4.     At Toppings, one of those self-serve frozen yogurt places, a woman’s kid was throwing the tantrum of a lifetime. This little asshole was screaming her head off and the mother’s friend or sister tried to calm the kid down but she did those crazy, writhing, full-body kicks that make it impossible to hold them. So the friend/sister looked at the mom like, “Are you gonna handle this or what?” But the mom just acted like it wasn’t happening. “Not my kid!” Great. The rest of us will just sit here and enjoy our yogurt while your kid shrieks like the little shit she obviously is. She must’ve inherited her bitchiness from you.
    I’m not trying to be a jerk, here. I know it’s hard. I KNOW.
    I remember when my friend Regan’s son, Jimmy, was a baby the three of us went for a ride somewhere and the kid was just screaming his head off. Of course…he was a BABY. But what I most remember is Regan’s*** sense of resignation. She turned to me calmly and said, “It’s times like these when I want to drive my car into a brick wall.” And while I laughed, I felt sorry for her, too. So I try to be patient, I really do.
    But it’s not the kids that drive me nuts. It’s the parents who act like they’re so much better than me because they have a kid. They get on the airplane in front of me**** and they get inoculations I want but have to wait for. They get to take up entire aisles of eating establishments and they get crayons at their tables. I’m pretty sure they get tax breaks, too.
    That’s fine.  Have your babies because I know it’s rewarding in many ways and it’s romantic to have a baby with someone you love and it’s cool to get to invent a name for somebody. But do you have to be so rude about it? (Disclaimer: I’m not talking about ALL parents, just a huge chunk of them. None of my friends has ever been an Entitled Parent in front of me.)
    Just say "thank you" when I hold a door for you. Try not to run over my feet with your stroller, because I don’t do that to you with my shopping cart, so I know it’s avoidable. (When my family was at Disneyland in March, my sister Elizabeth was nailed by no fewer than 3 strollers and only one parent said he was sorry, and it wasn’t even very sincere.) If your kid is screaming, slap him or her in the face and say, “Never again! You got me, jerk?” Just kidding.
    You don’t have to be like the mom I saw at the movie theatre yesterday buying $50 worth of concessions while her kid waited over in a corner, and then when the kid tried to ask a question the rotund (I’m being generous here) mother yelled, “Shut up!” and proceeded to order three more boxes of nachos...presumably for herself. But seriously, take the damn kid outside of the eating establishment until he quiets down. And maybe just be courteous. Parenthood hasn’t given you a free pass. Some of us have gone years intentionally NOT having children so that our lives might be a little simpler, quieter and less “rewarding.”
Rick Moranis and Harley Kozak represent one of the many ways to f**k up a kid in Parenthood.

*This is the second time I've quoted Keanu's character in Parenthood (Ron Howard, 1989). I've loved this movie since Gabe introduced me to it in high school. And, of course, it's no reflection of my feelings for my own father who is a dynamite parent and errs on the side of excessive politeness. 
**Ani DiFranco's "Little Plastic Castle."
***Link to Regan's blog.
****I can't stand that families with small children get to board before the rest of the airplane passengers. Why? Just because they've intentionally made their lives a huge pain in the ass doesn't mean I should have to suffer. Old people and the handicapped I get: they aren't slow and feeble on purpose (except for fat people who ride in wheelchairs because they don't feel like walking because their knees hurt because they're fat: unfair). But just because I didn't have four kids in the last 5 years I'm expected to wait behind The Brady Bunch? I paid good money for this ticket and I got in line BEFORE YOU!