Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Revolution


That's the sound of me ninja kicking in the new year.

I'm all hopped up on New Year's jolly, inhaling some serious 2009 spirit, and snorting all the pleasantness that arrives in the mail with my brand-new calendar. Furthermore, I am injecting--directly into my veins--some fresh hope for serious life-altering situations that will make my 2009 better than my 2008.

So, let's talk about New Year's resolutions and how much I hate them.

I'm one of those people who always makes the resolutions and then falls into that depressive funk we call February. (I mean, Valentine's Day? Seriously? Why don't they just mail me a razor blade and a bucket? And March? Don't even get me started. It plays with my emotions. It's warm one day, and then it snows again. The national state of being for those two months should be "drunk.")

Slowly but surely, as the winter continues and my skin dries out, my resolutions unravel and I once again find myself in September wondering where the year went.

So, I'm not going to tell you about some doomed-to-fail resolutions for 2009. I'm not going to make big plans, and set goals, and end up kicking myself for not following through with them. People who distribute pamphlets, high school guidance counselors, and self-help authors can talk all they want about goals and deadlines and accomplishments. But, really, that's not how life works.

As my mom always says, "Just when you think you're getting somewhere, the washing machine breaks down. Then, the dryer." And while she was specifically referring to her own washing machine and dryer at the time, it really is a fitting metaphor for life. Almost everything is outside of our control, although we like to pretend it isn't. And I'm not talking about some religious idea of some mighty hand of God or anything like that. I'm talking about nature, disaster, the occasional broken limb, snowstorms, and rogue bullets. No one makes a New Year's resolution to avoid such things. We just assume we will. Instead, we resolve to drop 15 pounds, take up water ballet, pay off our credit cards, and find meaningful relationships.

I always assumed that by 2009 I would be married, thin, glorious, and successful. Why? Because that's what happens to people in romantic comedies. There are always a few setbacks that last a few months. The cheating ex-boyfriend gets a drink thrown in his face and our protagonist saunters away to Aretha Franklin. She is later seen in a montage peeling wallpaper, knocking down walls with a large sledgehammer, and dancing around with glass of wine in her hand. "She's an independent lady now. Glory be! And now she's a-gonna take this world by storm." And she does. A perfect man falls into her arms and we leave her on the couch in the fancy apartment happy, happy, happy, and well-adjusted. Who knew that all she had to do was throw that drink and knock down some walls?

This year, instead of telling myself to exercise more, or work on being nicer, or pay off those credit cards (all things I really need to do), I am just going to congratulate myself on continuing to breathe in and out. Because isn't the basic New Year's resolution making it to 2010?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Dad, Santa Claus, and Christmas Insomnia

I found out the truth about Santa Claus because my dad overestimated my ability to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. I never could. My bedroom was right off the living room, and I could hear everything my parents talked about after their children went to bed.

"I'll eat the cookies," my dad said to my mom, "and you can drink the milk." And in that moment, I realized that for all those years I had been duped. No wonder Dad always insisted we put out plenty of rum balls. And Mom! She was no better, drinking room temperature milk to make us think that Santa had done it.

I had been thinking about the presents under the tree. Wondering if it were too early to get out of bed at 4. Or if maybe 5 would be better. It all depended on what time we could force our grandma to get up. She was, by nature, a late sleeper. But if we were loud enough, maybe she would take a hint.

Our parents were also going to be a challenge. Mom was easy as long as she got some coffee. But Dad? He made delaying the opening of presents a big, sick game. Sometimes, he insisted on pancakes beforehand. Sometimes, he wasn't joking. And then there was the inevitable trip to the bathroom.

My dad made an event of pooping, particularly on Christmas Day. Some people go into the bathroom, take care of business, and then leave. Other people, like my dad, fill in at least one whole number puzzle, read a fascinating article, and then do their taxes. When Christmas morning rolled around, Dad retreated to what he called his "Bat Room," locked the door, finished an entire puzzle book and read what we suspected was the dictionary. Meanwhile, his children sat patiently around the Christmas tree awaiting his arrival. (Which means we were pounding on the bathroom door and yelling at him to pinch it off.)

And so as I lay there contemplating all of these things, my dad got hungry and decided to eat Santa's rum balls.

I wasn't even that upset. I knew. I was probably seven or eight years old by then. But until I overheard my dad say it out loud, I still got to pretend it was all real. Part of the fun was waking up on Christmas morning, running out to the tree, and frantically reading labels to find the ones from Santa. I wanted to still look at the sky and try to spot the sleigh. I wanted to listen for hooves on the roof of our house. I wanted the magic.

But if there's one thing you come to understand as you grow older, it's that the magic goes out of Christmas eventually, whether or not you're ready for it. One Christmas morning, you realize that you went to sleep at your normal time and slept all night without one thought about present opening or Santa Claus. You don't put cookies out, your parents go to sleep before you do, and the only insomnia you have is caused by your cat gagging on the spool of thread she tried to eat at 2 AM.

You also come to realize that Christmas is about those things that don't change, no matter how old you get. For me, there may be no Santa. There may be no magic. But there is still my dad, rum balls, and that huge stack of puzzle books by the toilet.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Let Them Eat the Dessert of Their Choosing

This afternoon, I skipped down to the farmer's market at Union Square on a mission that I am on frequently. The pursuit? That of a tiny pie.

What is a tiny pie, you ask? Well, it is a pie that is tiny. If you don't look closely, you might even think it's a muffin and walk right past it. But, no, it is a pie. A teeny-tiny, perfect little pie. I would probably swim through a tank full of large minnows to get a tiny pie. But that is because I enjoy pie very much. With the exception of banana cream, I cannot think of a type of pie I don't enjoy. (Put a bag over it's head, and I'll probably eat it anyway.) I even like mincemeat pie with actual meat in it. MEATY!

But we're not here to talk about pie. At least we're not here to talk about JUST pie. We're here to discuss one of the greatest debates that the world has ever known:

Which is better? Pie or cake?

Every time I mention the fact that I just enjoyed a tiny pie, people feel the need to tell me which side of the debate they are on. For instance:

The Mayor of Bethville: I just ate the most delicious pie.

Person: How dare you speak those words to me? Cake is clearly better, or my name isn't Hitler Von Stalincake.

And then we duel to the death, and I win because pie is better.

But let's rewind so that I can tell you that I do love cake. It's not like I sit around and wish ill will upon cake or those who love it best. I love it. I really do. I'm just very picky about it. Because here's the thing...

Cake has the ability to be terrible; pie does not. If it's a little bit dry, if the frosting is gross, if someone tried to swap the sugar for Splenda....well, that's a shame because I'm not going to eat it. Pie, on the other hand, is very rarely inedible. So, while I love cake a good deal, pie is what I prefer. I will explain further by using an elaborate and unnecessary metaphor.

Consider, if you will, that I am torn between two lovers. One who is very rich and is well versed in how to pleasure a woman. He buys me things. He takes me on vacations. And yet, I feel in a way that to him I am just another woman to be pleasured. And one day, during a very passionate moment, he hoses me down with whipped cream and attempts to lick it off without even asking me if that is something I am interested in doing. In short, he is fun and exciting, but he and I do not have a long-term connection.

But there is another lover who is maybe a bit scruffier. He has simple tastes but is interesting and nice. Maybe he isn't the fanciest man out there. He comes in a tiny pie tin that is covered with Saran wrap, not a fancy cupcake box tied up with string. And yet, it is scruffy man that I can trust. It is pie that I crave more often.

Pie is a stable food. There is reassurance in its crust, that whatever you find inside will probably taste good. It's really, really hard to screw up the filling of a pie. It's fruit. It's sugar. Pie can be as ugly as a mud puddle and still be delicious.

But with cake, you start throwing in leavening agents and layers. You have one baker who gets a little hasty with the mixing, and whammo! Disaster. Like my pretend wealthy lover, cake thrives on its prettiness. A flat cake is not pretty.

And don't even get me started on frosting. Frosting is a fine art. Whether you use cream cheese, butter, or shortening as a base, you are obligated to make sure that the deliciousness of that frosting matches the deliciousness of that cake. And alternately, that cake had better be as good as the frosting. I cannot tell you how many times I have taken a bite of a delicious-looking cake only to discover that some asshole frosted it with whipped topping. Or worse, left it uncovered, so that it dried out.

Pie has no such drama to speak of.

I suppose we could spend hours debating which is better. We could bring in diplomats from Cookie Town, Candyburg, and Puddington to share their opinions as well. And even one of those people who insists that he or she doesn't like sweets. But I suppose that it's best for now to continue to live at peace with the cake eaters. More pie for us that way.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Alone at Home

Today, I found an apartment. And it is mine. All mine. And, no, you can't live there with me because, in the words of the ever-wise Kevin McCallister, "I'M LIVING ALONE!"

There are two things I always wanted when I grew up. 1) An ice cream maker and 2) My own apartment. The ice cream maker was perhaps a bit easier to come by. It was only $14.95. The apartment was slightly more expensive but doesn't require ice, rock salt, and heavy cream.

I used to fantasize about finding my own place. Like a hideout, or a clubhouse. Our farm was filled with several abandoned sheds, and I just knew that one of them was secretly my home. I could hang curtains and haul in an old chair for reading in. And no one but me would know it was there. Unfortunately, all of the sheds on our farm were abandoned for a reason: they were falling down. Or filled with rotting grain. Or both. And so, despite my many attempts to find a secret hideout, I was stuck hiding out in my bedroom. Singing along to Roxette. Pretending I was a Goonie. Reading titilating romance novels. (Which, in retrospect, were more hilarious than titilating.) When I was in my bedroom, I believed that no one could hear my horrible singing. Or my Truffle Shuffling. Or my frantic page turning.

And that is what I crave with my new apartment: the ability to do whatever I want, whenever I want. To lay on the couch without having to make room for other people. To let my dishes sit in the sink overnight if I don't feel like washing them. To watch TV in my underwear: baseball in the summer, old movies on in the winter.

Of course, visitors will be welcome, as long as they don't drink too much Pepsi before bed. I mean it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mom's Christmas Nuts

When I was in third grade, my older brother and I were at the dime store picking out our Christmas presents. We were supposed to be there buying a kazoo, which I needed for the holiday vocal concert. If you had a kazoo, you could be part of the kazoo band that would accompany one of the songs we were performing. So, clearly, I needed that kazoo. It was a life or death situation. But, as would be expected in the pursuit of a kazoo, my brother and I were distracted by all the shiny new things we wanted.

"I want a remote control car!" my brother said.

"I want a makeup kit!" I said.

"I want Legos!"

"I want rubber stamps!"

And suddenly, we heard a dark and formidable voice say, "Santa is watching you..." I'm sure we screamed or something.

But it was just our mother. She had been spying on us from the next aisle and listening to every word we said, probably sorting out gift ideas in her head. She bought me a kazoo, and then giggled merrily about her little joke all the way to the car. Normally, our dad is the practical joker, but something about the holidays makes our mom extra silly.

And then she goes insane. It starts with her saying, "I think I'm going to do something completely different this year. But not too much. I don't want all the hassle." Later, she'll add, "Maybe a smaller tree and not so many ornaments."

One year, after she said that, we had no fewer than 10 small Christmas trees and one large one in the house. One covered entirely with angels. Another with just bird ornaments. A few with red lights. A few with white lights. And several with no lights at all, so it looked like an evergreen forest had grown up overnight in our living room.

"I really don't want to do too much," she insists, washing her hands and dipping them back into the large bowl of papier mache. "As soon as I finish sculpting this Santa Claus, I only have two more trees to decorate. The one for the top of the refrigerator and the one by the toilet. I think I'll paint the bathroom while I'm at it. What do you think of a really light sage? Your dad will probably hate it. You know how he feels about green. But if it's almost brown and compliments the shade of plum in the curtains I'm planning to make tomorrow, maybe he won't say anything." And then she is always quick to add, "But that's it! That's all I'm doing."

Five minutes later, there will be the scent of warm glue gun in the air and Mom will be back in her craft room, waist deep in polyfill, making something else. And I'll say, to annoy her, "I thought you said that's all you were doing." To which Mom will respond, "Well, I have to glue the eyes onto this snowman," as if otherwise the poor snowman would have to spend the holidays hobbling around blind.

Mom always insists that the best presents are the ones you make. Which is why--after all of the garlands are hung to her liking, the Santa wreath is secured to the front door, and the Baby Jesus is safe in the old wooden nativity--Mom starts planning the cookie plates.

Cookie plates are awesome. Mom bakes 3,000,000 different types of cookies, arranges them onto decorative holiday plates, wraps it all up with green Saran Wrap, and then adds a Christmas bow. And there is a good chance that, if you are gluten intolerant, she will make you your own special gluten free cookie plate. When the cookie plates are all wrapped up, she will begin to deliver them to everyone in town. Except for the one for the mailman. She leaves that in the mailbox.

The day before Christmas Eve, Mom is understandably exhausted. This is when she announces that she is NOT going to make Christmas dinner this year, and we had all better get used to the idea. She will make some chicken and noodles and put it on the stove, and everybody can just eat whenever they want. "This year," she says, "I'm going to relax. I'm not going to spend the entire week in the kitchen." To which we all just smile and nod because Mom says that every year. We haven't had a traditional Christmas dinner in 20 years, and none of us has ever cared. And so, with her time now freed up to do whatever she wants, Mom gets to work chopping apricots for the rum balls.

The night of Christmas Eve, after making sure that the crock pots are all unplugged and all of the stockings are stuffed, Mom will finally sit down and take a break. This is when we watch IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. And for the 29th year in a row, I'll get to hear about how Mom got to stay up late and watch that movie with her mother and how it always reminds her of that time. After weeks of decorating, cooking, and sculpting, and in the glow of Jimmy Stewart offering to rope the moon for Donna Reed, Mom will realize that she's exhausted herself again. A week away from work was supposed to be a week of relaxation, and what did she do? She didn't even get to enjoy it.

Around the time that George Bailey realizes that he really did have a wonderful life, Mom will decide that next year, she is going to enjoy herself. There will be only a few decorations, and if she doesn't feel like cooking, then by god, she won't. The bells will ring, the credits will roll, and Mom will say, "And that's it. That's all I'm doing."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Is a Battlefield

I haven't been home for Thanksgiving for three years now. Sometimes that makes me sad. But I'm realizing that it is a lot less stressful to just stay in my apartment and enjoy four days of a "HUGE AND IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT!" than it is to spend an entire day cooking. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is hard work, man.

My "HUGE AND IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT!" this year is painting my apartment and packing up my bookshelves. Since I'm moving at the end of December, and since I like to be seven steps ahead of schedule on things, I have made a list of things to do in advance. 1) Packing of bookshelves 2) Painting of walls 3) Talking to self about what else I can add to list. It is a "HUGE AND IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT!" and not just a "huge and/or impossible project" because I know myself well enough to realize that at some point tomorrow when I have painted several walls and just want to lie around, eat pie, and watch a movie, I will utter the words, "I am never going to finish this, am I?"

Two years ago on Thanksgiving, my "HUGE AND IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT!" was painting my kitchen avocado and putting up my Christmas lights. It took me four days. I left only once to go feed my friend's cat.

But before I decided that it was better for my financial situation to just stay in New York over Thanksgiving weekend, I would be home every year, cooking and cleaning and being generally jolly. (And don't even get me started on how much I love turkey and pies.)

My mom would be up at 4 AM to put the turkey in the oven. My sister and I would grind cranberries, apples, and nuts for the cranberry salad with the old hand-crank grinder. That was our tradition. My dad's tradition was coming into the kitchen and saying, "I hope you don't use too many cracker crumbs in the scalloped cabbage this year." My younger brother had to make the mashed potatoes. My mom always got all twitchy and had to say the words, "Well, I'm just going to make the turkey, and the oyster dressing, and the gravy, and that's IT. That's all I'm doing!" After which time my sister and I would point out that for the 20th year in a row, we were helping her out. (She still has flashbacks to cooking Thanksgiving dinner by herself. Poor Mom.) And my older brother had to come by to check on the dessert situation. There was lots of yelling involved. Generally, the sparkling wine was opened at noon. And as stressful as it all was, it was a lovely tradition for a while.

I talk about it in the past tense because I'm almost positive that the next time I get to be with my family for Thanksgiving, everything will be different. My sister will have finally broken down and used the food processor for the cranberry salad. My dad will have finally overruled the use of cracker crumbs in all dishes involving cabbage. And Mom will have finally realized that she doesn't need to make a pan of oyster dressing for 50-60 people. By that time, I might even yearn for one of my "HUGE AND IMPOSSIBLE PROJECTS!" and four days of laying on my couch moaning for someone to just kill me already.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

As I Lie Here Sweating

It's hot in my apartment. Really hot. Every winter, the building super cranks up the temperature to unbearable levels. It's 30 degrees outside at the moment, and although I have the windows wide open, it's still a toasty 85 degrees in my bedroom.

It doesn't help that I've caught some sort of strange cold. As far as colds go, it's being terribly polite, like it's not trying to inconvenience me too much. I haven't had a fever. I'm not congested. I just have a sore throat and I cough every few hours or so when the phlegm begins to overwhelm my bronchial tubes.

"Don't mind me," the cold says, and tiptoes to the kitchen to make me some tea.
Or maybe that's my meds making me hallucinate.

I hate being sick. Really more than anything, it's just extremely inconvenient. As I'm a person who runs her life on routine, anything that disrupts my routine makes me very upset. Now that I'm an adult anyway. Being sick when it meant missing school was awesome. Unless I wasn't awake to enjoy it.

After my mom went back to teaching, it was usually my dad who took care of me when I was sick. And while my dad is a great dad, his "dealing with illness" skills were limited to flipping the washcloth on my forehead over to the cold side, putting on movies to keep me entertained, and heating soup. Then, he would go out and do his chores, and I would see him again at lunch.

I would lie there and watch the movies he picked out for me. Terminator, something of the James Bond persuasion, or Die Hard. Usually the next day, I would go back to school, completely recovered with my head full of exploding things and rubbish. There was one time when I missed an entire week of school. That was when I saw the whole Dirty Harry series.

Nowadays, although I would like to lie on the couch and do nothing but watch all of the Dirty Harry movies, I know that I need to spend the day writing and catching up on things. Just from a more reclined position so I can pretend I'm actually resting.

I just wish that someone would heat me some soup. Or bring me some Skittles.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Bear in His Natural Habitat...A Studebaker

Alas, I've been terribly neglectful to my Bethville visitors lately. I'm in the middle of taking a writing class and trying to find a new apartment. And since I don't want anyone to get too bored while I'm off doing that, here are some Muppets to distract you.

And one from the loveliest woman who ever lived:

And here's one for my friend MsDirector:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Or Did I?

I don't usually get political over here in Bethville, but I feel I simply must today. Because there is a huge issue of great importance I have to address.

I went to the polls yesterday morning. I voted. And I didn't get a sticker that said "I VOTED" to proudly wear around for the rest of the day. I was stunned. I was offended. My feelings were very, very hurt. My bodily humors were thrown out of balance. The seas boiled. Frogs fell from the sky as rain. And I wept openly there on the steps of the elementary school where I had cast my ballot because that is just so mean. I really wanted a sticker.

As an American, I am entitled to certain rights.
1. The right to make everyone in my neighborhood listen to me when I read poetry aloud at night through my bullhorn.
2. The right to carry a gun around and point it at people who anger me.
3. The right to sit around and watch TV with no pants on.
4. The right to take money out of my wallet and spend it on things I don't need, like blood diamonds and cocaine.
5. The right to keep a long list of people who have wronged me and slowly mark them off as they meet their demise.
6. The right to use my lead-powered rocket pack to fly to the ozone layer and poke holes through it with a stick.
7. The right to marry a dragon.
8. The right to walk on water, even in national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite.

And others that I am far too tired to mention.

Why, America, am I not entitled to a sticker that says simply "I VOTED"? What's the good of living in America if I don't get to celebrate my Americanness by putting a slip of paper with an adhesive backing on the front of my sweater where everyone can see it? How else will they know I went to the polls? I would have to literally stop everyone I pass on the streets and tell them. And that is so inconvenient.

America, things have got to change. We need "I VOTED" stickers for all Americans. And while you're at it, throw in some legalized marriage for my gay friends. Alrighty? Thanks.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Playing Old (Brides)Maid

I love marriages, but I hate weddings.

Don't let the confusion melt your brain. I will explain.

Weddings are supposed to be fun. And they are fun for a lot of people: the bride, the groom, the bride's drunk dad, and the DJ who, after all this time, is still really excited about watching ugly people do "The Chicken Dance." But fun it is not when you are a person who is me.

I'm 29. I'm not married, and during weddings, I'm surrounded by hundreds of socially-retarded and nosy people. Sort it out for yourself.

Every time I discover that I will soon be attending a wedding, I must once again dig out the old "Fuck you, I'm not a spinster" retorts. Because, fuck you, I'm not a spinster. And I've been answering these questions since I was about 12.

Yes, 12.

"So, do you have a boyfriend?" several nosy and socially-retarded people asked my 12-year-old self at weddings and other family events.

"Boys are stupid!" I would reply before running away to decorate my diary with strawberry-scented ink and unicorn stickers.

At 15, I was asked when I was planning to ever get engaged. At 20, people began asking me where my husband was. At 25, they asked after my children. And so, at 30, I'm sure people will be asking when I plan to have my tubes tied and my uterus rotated. (People are soooo impatient for me to get the party started in Baby Town.)

If part of becoming an adult is putting in your time at other people's weddings, I do believe I have met my quota. I've been a bridesmaid three times at this point, and I will not be performing those duties again.

The first time, I subjected myself to the embarrassing tradition of bouquet catching because I was young and stupid then, 20. And I caught it, but the bride later confiscated it citing that it was, indeed, "her bouquet" and not mine. The groomsman I spent the evening dancing with went home with the bride's whore cousin who was wearing a Slinky for a dress. Everyone loves a Slinky. And I have the pictures to prove it.

The second time, I was carrying around 75 extra pounds of post-college booze fat. I didn't want any unnecessary photos of me taken below neck level. Oh, I have pictures. But you can't see them.

The third time I was a bridesmaid, I had a boyfriend who I thought I would be with forever. It was the first time I was actually able to show up to a wedding with a date. A month later, he cheated on me. I don't know if the bouquet was even tossed at that wedding because my head was completely up my ass. And, yes, again I have the pictures to prove it.

Unfortunately, weddings are full of cameras, and whether I am wearing the ugliest bridesmaid dress of all time (hello, velvet?) or wearing my head firmly between my buttocks, someone always ends up with evidence. Hence, I hate weddings.

Marriages, on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoy. I like the love part of things. And I do believe in love, even though I am bitter and cynical and am currently throwing up in my mouth at the idea of admitting this. I think that there is something very nice about deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone.

And I like to think that there is someone like that for everybody, whether the person is gay or straight or in love with something inflatable. I also believe that people can be their own special someone if they so choose. And also that you don't have to actually be married to pledge your life to another person.

So, in response to your question, Uncle _______. Yes, maybe one day I will marry. But it will be on my terms and when I am completely sure that it is what I want. If it isn't, perhaps I will save my money and invest in a large hammer which I will use to whack you in the balls.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sexy Halloween!

Halloween is practically here, and I don't have my sexy costume put together yet. Which is unfortunate since any female over the age of 12 caught outside after dark on October 31 not wearing a sexy Halloween costume is executed. It was an unfortunate day when they passed that law.

I'm not planning on going out anywhere, but it's always good to have something ready just to be on the safe side. Last year, I was stuck on the subway for over an hour, watching the sun go down, wishing I had my emergency fishnets with me. Luckily, I can run really fast. The lady next to me wasn't so fortunate. The snipers got her. I watched from my window as the vans came and hauled away the bodies of the fallen. French maids wearing stilettos that didn't meet the 4-inch requirement. Sexy librarians wearing their actual prescription glasses instead of the fake kind. Women on crutches. All hauled away to the incinerator for the Sextapo mass cremation and hot dog roast.

Back when women could go out on Halloween wearing whatever they wanted, I refused to add the "sexy" to my costumes. I wore pants, sensible shoes, and a jacket. I dressed as Amelia Earhart, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Gloria Steinem. I refused to fellate a Blow Pop in an attempt to get free drinks. I absolutely would not participate in any sort of topless apple bobbing or lay on a bar and let someone eat a fun-sized Snickers bar from the crack of my ass. I would not swap my principles for a good time. But now...all of those things are required at gunpoint. If you bother to go out at all. At first, I tried to go along with it. But now I'm too afraid.

Two Halloweens ago, in a fit of protest, I dressed as Sexy Hillary Clinton and picketed with a few friends. We painted signs that said, "THE ONLY STILETTO I CARRY IS THE ONE IN MY BOOT." It was a bloodbath. Sexy Frida Kahlo took a bullet right between her eyebrow. Sexy Sandra Day O'Connor got her high heel caught in her justice robes and went down like a sack of stale popcorn balls. Which was when the attack dogs got her. I was the lone survivor of our Halloween protest. I took to the back alleys trying to pass myself off as a Sexy Deborah Norville, until I finally got back to my apartment.

The Sextapo got a little bit more strict after that. Now they send out the list of acceptable sexy costumes in August. Sexy Cop is no longer allowed, nor is Sexy First Lady. Soon, all we'll be allowed is either a sexy halo or a pair of sexy devil horns. Good or evil. Trick or treat.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

All the World Is My Stage. So...Get Off.

Acting. It is in my blood. Along with hemoglobin that transports oxygen from my lungs to the far reaches of my body. Acting--while not a metalloprotein but really more an ability to pretend really well--transports my brilliant facial expressions of surprise and dismay to the eyes of an audience sitting in a theater. It carries my really loud voice outward to the ears of grateful people waiting to be entertained. Acting transfers my enormous stage presence to the hands of theatergoers and manifests itself in the form of thunderous applause and repeated curtain calls. And as I curtsy my way off the stage in an entirely humble manner, I will know that my audience will leave changed for the better. If they didn't enjoy the theater before, they certainly will after seeing me on stage.

I was first bit by the acting bug in first grade, cast in my break-out role as the queen in "The King and Queen Who Wouldn't Speak." I later insisted on a title change that gave my role a bit more prominence. "The Queen Who Was Awesome and Everybody Loved Her" was an enormous success. As I fell upon my sword at the end of the production, much to the dismay of my teacher, Mrs. Votapka (who did not understand the importance of ad libbing), my fellow cast mates stood around in awe. Most likely because I had rigged a blood pouch hidden under my robes to rupture upon the sword point. It was spectacular indeed. Several kids threw up, and someone's grandma died.

In second grade, I was cast as Mother in the hit play "Tom the Turkey," wherein a brave turkey took on the corporate farmer who intended to slaughter him for the Thanksgiving feast. When Tom began to stutter over his lines, I confiscated his beak and wattle and began to perform my part and his simultaneously. When the axe was about to fall at the end of the production, snuffing out Tom's life and his hopes and dreams for a happy existence, I, as Mother, stepped in and saved my own life. And then, I performed a musical number on the spot about the importance of ham.

In third grade, I broadened my horizons just a little and dabbled in puppet theater. We fashioned our own puppets out of tennis balls with yarn for hair and glue-on googly eyes. My puppet arrived at our production of "Say No to Heroin" in a stylish pink Corvette borrowed from Barbie for the afternoon.

Through fourth and fifth grade, I began to face issues with typecasting. "Dancer #5?!" I raged. "Shopkeeper wearing hat?!" Entirely unsatisfied, I searched the prop closet for a sword upon which could throw myself.

In sixth grade, I was cast as one of the seven deadly sins in "Pandora's Box." I portrayed Pride. It was the performance of a lifetime. In order to prepare for the part, I went out into the streets of my very small town and talked to people who were more prideful than I. A minister. My grandma. A guy carrying a tuba. And then I rushed to my dressing chambers to begin to tear into the part of Pride with the kind of gusto usually associated with Richard Burbage or a young Dustin Hoffman.

But as time went on and I entered junior high, my acting career fell to the wayside. I began performing in the private theater on the landing in our house, writing and producing plays that my brothers inevitably turned into comedies with their fart jokes and unapproved costumes and props. In one production of "I Am Dying and Am Dead," my older brother arrived for his performance as Mackley the Zombie Cab Driver wearing a giant sandwich costume from the previous Halloween.

My one last great performance on the stage was as a Munchkin in our high school's production of The Wizard of Oz. I auditioned to be a member of the Lullaby League, but my voice was too deep. My vocal teacher compared it to Edith Piaf gargling the phlegm of Barry White. I then turned my hopes toward the Lollipop Guild but was again turned away and in devastation threw myself upon my oversized lollipop in despair. I played the part of Munchkin #12 with hardly any enthusasm at all. I just mouthed along to the words of "Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead" and at one point gave Dorothy the finger.

I have since completely retired from acting, although there are certainly times when I am called upon to be dramatic. In a cab going the wrong direction. When I forget to put on deodorant. It is at these times that I raise my fist into the air and cry, "Oh, happy dagger!" and hurl myself onto a sharp object found in my purse, releasing both my acting and my hemoglobin out onto the dirty ground.

That little trick still makes the kids throw up.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The World Is a Lonely Place

I love that part in the movie Fargo where Mike Yanagita and Margie are having that totally awkward lunch at the Radisson and Mike goes, "You were such a super lady, and I'm...I'm so lonely." Because he's such a sad little man, and I secretly want to poke him with a stick and make him cry.

And yet, there's something really heartbreaking about someone admitting that he or she is lonely. It's almost more upsetting than someone saying, "I have cancer." Because admitting that you have cancer shows an enormous strength and almost implies, "I intend to fight this thing." It makes a person admire you even more. Admitting you're lonely is 1) far less newsworthy and 2) easily equated to saying, "Well, I have no friends."

I always think of Mike Yanagita when I realize I've just spent a weekend holed up in my apartment writing, taking naps, and forcing my cat to spoon with me. And I think to myself, "Is this normal behavior? Should I be enjoying solitude to the point where I don't notice that I haven't had a conversation with another human being for almost 48 hours? Am I weird?"

I've always been this way. When I was a baby, apparently I hated it when my mom tried to snuggle me up in the rocking chair. I wanted my crib, I wanted my pacifier, and I wanted the big-headed hairy people to fuck off.

Luckily, this means I hardly ever feel lonely. Which would come in handy were I ever the lone survivor of a global holocaust. I would probably amuse myself by quoting that part in Strange Brew where Bob says, "I was the last one left on the planet after the holocaust, eh. The earth had been like desvastated by nucular war. Like Russia blew up the U.S., and U.S. blew up Russia, eh. Lucky for me, I had been off planet on vacation at the time of the war, eh. There wasn't much to do. All the bowling alleys had been wrecked. So's I spent most of my time looking for beer." Then, I would giggle for fifteen minutes before setting off to find a library where I could reenact that scene from that episode of The Twilight Zone where Burgess Meredith breaks his glasses.

Unluckily, when I do feel lonely, it drags me down and makes me feel sorry for myself. It starts with a dull bitterness and grows into a general dislike of everyone. Inevitably, that is when I see couples on the subway making out or holding hands and I secretly fantasize about throwing rocks at them. Because, mentally, I'm five years old when the lonelies hit. The feeling always subsides, sometimes the next day, sometimes a week later. And I realize that if people saw this wicked, hateful side of me, they might not want to be my friends at all. And so I draw further into my unhappiness and away from the one thing that could make the lonelies go away: other people.

So, after one of these weekends of loneliness and cat spooning, sometimes one of my other favorite movies comes to mind. It's called The Lonely Guy, and it stars Steve Martin in one of his lesser-known roles. Steve Martin's character, Larry, gets dumped by his girlfriend and suddenly discovers that, for the first time in his life, he's becoming a "lonely guy." Lonely guys buy dogs and take up jogging in an attempt to meet women. They rent cardboard celebrity cutouts and throw parties with them as the guests. When the loneliness becomes too much, lonely guys throw themselves off the Manhattan Bridge in despair. And while this movie is, in fact, terrible, it is also a very brilliant depiction of loneliness at its most pathetic. At one point in the movie, Larry's friend Warren, played by Charles Grodin, convinces Larry to go with him to buy a fern. They dub the ferns their "guys" and depart when Warren says, "Does your guy want to say goodbye to my guy?"

I don't have ferns but I do have philadendrons that I named after Harry Potter characters.

So, how about it? Does your guy want to say goodbye to my guy?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Trick-or-Treat Indeed

Halloween is quickly approaching, and I am once again blowing the dust off last year's candy corn and putting it in a bowl for all of the people I hate.

"Gee whiz, Beth. I could sure use some candy to snack on," they will say when they stop by to borrow a cup of laundry detergent to wash their stupid socks.

And I will reply, "Oh, here is the most delicious candy on the planet! Eat this!" And they will eat several pieces of candy corn and fall down dead. Just as I planned.

Halloween is the time of year when I slowly and methodically feed terrible candy to everyone I dislike and hope that the terribleness of it kills them. The UPS man who refused to dig my packages out of the back of the truck because they were buried under too many other packages. The guy at the deli who claimed to be out of sesame bagels and then gave one to the bony-titted Whore-tron in line behind me. The lady at the gym who doesn't bother to close her shower curtain. People who breathe with their mouths open on the subway. All of them will taste my wrath this Halloween. And several Cherry Mashes.

"No, lady calling from Discover Card. As I mentioned when you called last time, I'm really not interested in signing up for the Discover Business Card. In order for that to be logical, I would first need a business. No, you calling for the fourth time today is not a problem at all. But before you go, have a butterscotch hard candy with my compliments."

"Oh, hello, racist guy who uses the N-word as freely and as often as Carrie Bradshaw walks around in her underwear. Here, have a Necco Wafer. But be careful. The chalkiness of those things can collect in your throat and may cause choking...if we're lucky."

Candy really is the best weapon ever devised. No one can say no to candy, especially around Halloween. And it can never be traced back to or blamed on me. Because what did I do? Offer you some candy? How kind of me! How charitable! Those wedding mints?! How unique that I give them away at Halloween, when there isn't even a wedding in sight!

So, this Halloween, if I offer you a piece of banana Laffy Taffy and then snicker behind my hand, just know that it's nothing personal. I'm just trying to kill you.

Monday, October 13, 2008

This Post Is Totally Disgusting

Have you heard? Soylent Green is made out of people. It's actually people. So if you are currently digging your spoon into a delicious luncheon or afternoon snack involving Soylent Green in some form, my best advice is to put down your eating utensil right away. Because, as I mentioned, Soylent Green is made out of people. It is, in fact, people.

And while we're on the subject, I would also avoid Bladder O's Breakfast Cereal. Not to be an alarmist, but they've discovered recently that the mini marshmallows in Bladder O's are made out of urine. It's totally urine. Back in the olden days, when the marshmallowed cereal market was dominated by the likes of Lucky Charms, people complained that the marshmallows were too crunchy and not very marshmallow like. So, the folks at Poopee Breakfast Foods, Inc. concocted a new formula from cheaper materials than sugar, corn syrup, and powdered cow hooves (or gelatin to the average person).

Marshmallows = urine

And don't even get me started on Toilet Toasties. Because it will only make you feel sicker than you did when I first told you about Soylent Green being made from people.

I sure hope you don't like Fro-Zen Brand Yogurt. If you do and are currently licking away at a delicious Fro-Zen treat, I would put it down before you read any further. Did you put it down? Good.

Fro-Zen Yogurt is made from hair.

And not just any hair. The hair collected from shower drains at gyms all across the country. Imagine that sweaty guy who works out on the treadmill next to you and how the perspiration accumulates in his back hair and sometimes splashes on you while you toil away on the Elliptical. Well, when he goes back to the locker room and takes a shower, all of that sweaty hair that detaches itself from the follicles on his sweaty back are eventually made into Fro-Zen Yogurt. They are melted down in hot motor oil and then mixed with some vanilla flavoring before being frozen in a large vat. So, next time you hear the sounds of the Fro-Zen Yogurt truck in your neighborhood, steer clear. It's made out of hair.

Well, I'd better get back to work. We have a lot of orders coming in, and these slugs won't skin themselves for the cupcakes. Remember what I said. Soylent Green: made out of people. So, be sure not to eat it.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Blistering, Festering Publishing

I knew that when I moved to New York, it was going to be extremely difficult to find a job in children's publishing. And I knew it was going to be nearly impossible to land something right away where I could work on the types of books that I love. I was ready for the stress and hard work like Luke Skywalker preparing to take on the Death Star.

I had grown up reading E.L. Konigsburg, Betsy Byars, Beverly Cleary, and Jerry Spinelli and, even as an adult, felt their books speaking to the awkward 10-year-old I used to be. A little part of me will always be Ramona Quimby, Age 8. I still fantasize about living at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, like they did in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. And every time I see a dog in the park, hot on the trail of a squirrel, I always think, "What is it, Mud? Possum?"

The summer before I packed up my two gigantic suitcases and boarded a plane for JFK, I spent nearly every day reading book after book and trying to figure out 1) who published it 2) who the editor was and 3) how I could possibly use my enjoyment of said book to get some sort of foot in the door at that company. I made a spreadsheet of this information and began drafting emails to these editors. I knew all it would take was one of my emails reaching the right editor at exactly the right time. I didn't care if it annoyed the crap out of them. I was going to be persistent, and eventually...hopefully...it would pay off. One day, I would sit at a desk and edit books all day long. I would work long hours and take piles of manuscripts home and people would say to me, "You sure are married to that job." And I would reply, "You'd better believe it! This is the job I was meant to have."

And so, I left the comfort, safety, and warmth of the life I had known for 25 years and moved to a couch in a friend's apartment. Because I love books. I love sticking my face in them and sniffing the new page smell. I adore old books and wondering whose shelves they lived on in the past. Whenever I felt scared of the enormous new experience of living in a big city, I would just wander down to Books of Wonder, Barnes & Noble, or Borders and run my fingers along the spines on the shelves. The books reassured me that I was doing the right thing. They were my friends.

I went to book signings to try to talk to editors. I read all the latest publishing news. I clung to my cell phone at all times in case someone called me for an interview. I went over interview questions in my head, even when I didn't have one to prepare for.

I ended up temping for seven long, terrifying months before I finally got my foot in the door at Scholastic. I worked at a doctor's office, a tooth whitening company, an engineering firm, an architect's office, and some places where I suspected all they did all day was dial each other's extensions just to say "Hurrumph!" I was sitting at the reception desk at a record company when I finally got the call back for a second interview. It was like Harry Potter himself had called to invite me to my first year at Hogwarts.

"This is it," I thought. "It's finally happening for me."

They tell you that being an editorial assistant in publishing is hard. You live on almost nothing. I used to get really excited if I could afford the $3.25 grilled cheese sandwich in the cafeteria.

When I had been at Scholastic for almost two years, I was doing the job of probably three people without any promotion or pay increase in sight. I watched editorial assistants around me move up, leave publishing altogether, or simply be replaced with someone who was more enthusiastic about administrative work. It was about that time that a very wise person said to me, "If you haven't been promoted by a year and a half, you have to begin exploring your options." Both of the editors I had "assisted" when I started had left the company. I was handling entire projects on my own. I figured it was time to get the official title change.

So, I gathered my wits about me and went to the executive editor to ask for a promotion. "You do a great job," she said. "I'll see what I can do."

I waited a week before going to talk to her again, steeling myself against the possibility that she was going to tell me that it just wasn't in the budget.

Giving me a puzzled look, the editor said, "You never asked me for a promotion, did you?"

I wish I could say that I'm a rare case of being overlooked and under-appreciated. But I'm not. Sadly, it's become commonplace to simply never promote editorial assistants at all. If one assistant quits, there are fifteen recent college grads happy to step in and replace her. If you don't get sick of it and quit, you just stay there, get older, and thrive on $3.25 grilled cheese sandwiches for the rest of your life. One day they find you dead face-down in your slush bin. "I thought we promoted that assistant ages ago!" your boss laments, borrowing your stapler and wondering who will do her expense reports now.

I quit five months after being told that I just wasn't ready to be promoted. And I was replaced by an intern who was made associate editor.

When I was a little kid and proclaimed, "It's not FAIR!" my parents would always say, "Life isn't fair. Get used to it."

And yet, you also hear that if you work hard enough, you can do anything. You can move up through a company, take it over, then burn it to the ground, and pee on the ashes if you want.

I've always loved that Langston Hughes poem, "A Dream Deferred." Because nothing says poetic to me like stinky festering wounds. Here it is if you have never read it.

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

They've started laying people off at Scholastic recently, one of my very good friends included. And it's brought all of the sadness back from that really difficult time when I realized I was going to have to put away spreadsheets and my dream and find something different in order to pay my rent. One can not thrive on grilled cheese alone, I've learned.

Yes, Langston. It stinks. It certainly does.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

To the Honorable Mayor of Benville

Dearest Mayor of Benville,

I'm writing to apologize for missing your Fifth Annual Herpes Eradication Sausage Festival. You see, I spent almost the entire summer singlehandedly rebuilding the glorious hamlet of Bethville. I finished around the end of August after putting shingles on the roof of the Bethville Lollipop Emporium, but unfortunately, I was unable to get down from the roof until the end of September. You see, I nailed the leg of my Bethville rebuilding overalls to the roof the building while hammering in a shingle.

Luckily, the Erikaford Air Pollution Spy Helicopter Flyover was taking place just as I was drinking the last of the water from the rain gutter, and I was rescued.

I don't suppose I need to tell you how marvelous it is to be back in my own mayoral office after almost a year of living in a tent in several undisclosed locations. Especially with all of the fabulous changes I've made to Bethville during my rebuilding efforts.

First of all, I've built a carousel in the middle of Bethville Square to commemorate those who lost their lives during the Zombie Attack of 2007. Where some might expect carousel horses, I've instead installed former evil land developing scrapbook enthusiast Ludwig Von Butterick. He is under strict instruction to allow anyone who wants a ride on the carousel to climb onto his back. He will then walk around in a circle whinnying cheerfully while playing a jaunty carousel tune on the xylophone I've strapped to his chest.

Secondly, to commemorate those who lost their lives eating and gambling at the now-defunct Von Butterick Casino Hotel and Teriyaki Restaurant, I've installed a large fountain from which an unlimited supply of soy sauce flows. And next to that, since during the zombie attack, I discovered how delicious roast chinchilla is, there is now a Chinchilla-on-a-Stick Hut. Not to worry! All chinchillas are free range and cruelty free.

Thirdly, I've made some improvements to Bethville Town Hall that I hope you've already noticed from the enclosed photograph.

That said, do hope you will drop by the mayoral offices soon for a visit. I need to give you the 2008 Fall Theater Schedule. Since I am currently the only resident of Bethville, I'm afraid I am limited to simply performing the Vagina Monologues over and over again for my own amusement. The standing ovations and repeated curtain calls I am forced to give myself are really quite exhausting.


The Rather Hail-Damaged But Still Quite Dignified Mayor of Bethville

Monday, October 6, 2008

Better Safe Than Horribly Mangled

I once watched this episode of Maury where people were facing their phobias. And this one particularly hysterical woman had to confront a large vicious gang of inflated party balloons thrown at her by the producers at Maury. The audience laughed and laughed at the poor stupid woman's fear and subsequent bout with static cling. After the taping of the show, I assume that crazy balloon lady and her family spent the afternoon wandering around Times Square in their jumbo-sized fanny packs, walking really slowly and fearing that every person was conspiring to steal their wallets.

My main phobia is not as weird as balloon fear.

I'm simply afraid of dying in a freak accident. You know the kind. Being suffocated by my own dirty laundry stockpiles. Falling through a sidewalk grate onto the tracks of a moving subway. Choking on a Milk Dud in a crowded theater where no one can hear my gasps for breath over the sounds of their own popcorn munching.

Stuff like that. Things that will get you in the paper as "someone who died in a weird way." So that you can be posthumously famous for being "that idiot who..." And one day, you're just an urban legend with no name. Maybe it happened. Maybe it didn't...

Perhaps my phobia came from the fact that my dad used to love to pepper his safety warnings with tales of freak accidents. "Don't walk behind that horse too close. I knew a kid who got kicked in the head, and he died." Or, "Never, ever weld on or around a tank of anhydrous ammonia. I knew a guy who did that, and his house exploded and killed his entire family." (Like I had any welding ambitions at the age of 13.) I was also warned to never drive a riding lawnmower up a steep embankment (Guy crushed to death in freak rollover!) and to never touch the severed head of any poisonous reptile (It can STILL BITE YOU!)

My mom's warnings were always more of the preventative variety. If I even threatened to go outside on a hot summer day, my mom would call, "Carry a hoe!" In case of snakes, you know. Because if I saw a snake coming toward me, I would choose to challenge it to a showdown, rather than scream in terror and run away. Probably abandoning any alleged gardening tool weapons in my moment of distress.

It didn't help that it was in our genetic makeup to collect tales of misery. When my great-grandma died, her scrapbook of freak accidents and murders somehow ended up on our bookshelf. "CHILD KILLED BY EXPLODING OVEN!" "OLD LADY FALLS DOWN WELL WHILE PICKING GERANIUMS!" "DUDE SUFFOCATES IN PUDDLE OF SICK AFTER NIGHT OF DRINKING!" I read the stories in her scrapbook over and over again. I was like one of those movie serial killers with the wall of evil newspaper articles: Death! Murder! Red paint that looks like blood! Something hairy that might be a cat head! I turned the pages, and read, and shuddered over and over again. Because apparently, deep down, I have the literary tastes of an axe wielding psychopath.

When I was supposed to be cleaning the living room, sometimes I would disappear to "organize the bookshelf," which meant that I was going to read the scrapbook again. The grisly remains of Mr. and Mrs. Murder Victim would again wash up on the shores of Crime Scene Reservoir, and calm would once again be restored to my feverish brain.

"La-de-dah. Now, where is the upholstery attachment for the vacuum cleaner?" I would mumble, looking out the window of our isolated farmhouse for mysteriously unmarked pickup trucks and rogue chainsaws.

I soon found myself avoiding dangerous situations without even hearing my dad's warning. He didn't need to say, "Don't get too close to the business end of that auger!" I was six steps ahead of him, clinging to the wall with my backside so that a shoelace wouldn't tangle in any sort of operating grain equipment. I didn't need to hear him tell me that grain dust would kill me like what happened to that bad guy in the movie Witness. I had my dust mask on before even entering the granary.

And Mom didn't need to worry either. I knew where there might be snakes. I rode my bicycle with my cowboy boots on. I never, ever walked through tall weeds. I stared vigilantly at the ground and stayed in the exact center of the road while out for a walk. Every single buzzing locust was first assumed to be the rattling tail of a Western Diamondback. My instincts were those of a snake-avoiding ninja. When I had been in New York for two months, I found myself leaping over a striped shoelace on the sidewalk in terror one time. That's how good my instincts are.

Of course, now I have to worry about different freak accidents that might kill me. Being shoved in front of a speeding taxi, falling four stories to my death down the shaft of our constantly malfunctioning work elevator, getting my foot caught in the gap between the subway and the platform and no one hearing my cries for help before the train pulls away. You know, those things that happen to .00000000000000098% of the population?

In the end, I am grateful to my parents for being insane about safety. Every time I see a toddler slipping down through a stroller safety harness, I get really happy that my dad knew a guy who got run over by his own tractor that popped out of gear while he was taking a leak. And every time I see someone walk right out into traffic yacking away on his or her cell phone, I know that my mom would be proud to see me pausing at the edge of the street and waiting for the light to turn green, with or without a hoe in my hand.

Furthermore, I'm glad that, instead of allowing me to be so afraid of toads at the age of 6 that I wouldn't go outdoors after nightfall, my dad hoisted me up, kicking and screaming, carried me outside, and made me touch a toad. Because while some phobias (guns) are totally reasonable, others (party balloons) are completely asinine. Besides, my dad couldn't think of a single person who had been killed by a toad.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Adventures in Exercise: The Pool Rules

Swimming laps in a public rec center, you get to see a lot of mostly naked old people. At first, it's kind of disgusting, seeing the reanimated corpse of Strom Thurmond paddle past you wearing nothing but a marble bag. But eventually, you find the ability to ignore what he's wearing. Because I actually think he'd look a whole lot funnier wearing a pair of those oversized swimming trunks that the young hooligans wear. Not to mention that old Strom is there every single morning at 7 AM to get a good lane. That takes dedication.

You get a whole different crowd if you go in the evenings. Twenty-something guys who drink six Red Bulls beforehand and make thrashing love to the water, splashing everyone within three lanes of them with their pelvic thrusting "butterfly" maneuver. Or the old guy who does "calisthentics" at the far end of the pool with his crotch pressed up against the pool vent.

But which ever time you go and whatever crowd you swim with, the fact remains: people who use the public rec center pool are endlessly entertaining.

Men always have to do some elaborate stretching routine before entering the water. Either the Michael Phelps arm flap or some knee bend thing while gripping the ladder with one hand. Women tend to get right down to business, whether the business is the world's slowest dog paddle down the middle of the fast lane or a solid hour of freestyle.

There are big people and small people. There are people who are old and people who are young. There are people who seem to have taken a left instead of a right at the ping-pong tables and appear to be drowning. And still others who just like to sit on the edge of the pool and fiddle with their goggles for an hour before finally just getting up and going home.

And then, there are the lifeguards. I'm not quite sure I would put my life in their hands if it came to that. At the pool I visit in the evenings, the lifeguard sits with his lap full of Chinese takeout and sometimes wanders back into the staff office, rather than keeping an eye on the swimmers. Which is lucky if an eggroll starts to drown but unlucky for someone with a leg cramp. But if someone did actually call for help, I think he would gladly loan out his water wings. So there's that.

Most of the pool rules are unspoken ones. You swim up the right side and down the left. Don't get in the fast lane if you're just going to dog paddle. Alternately, don't get in the slow lane, swim fast, and expect people to get out of your way. And if you get tired, just stop at the end of your lane and adjust your goggles for ten minutes so that no one will think you're a pussy. It is permissible to kick people who are annoying you if you apologize like it was unintentional. And never trust people who use snorkels. (They're looking at you in your suit under the water. And then going to to the far end of the pool to do calisthenics with the pool vent.)

In the end, the most important thing is to do your giggling with your face under the water. Lift up your goggles before administering death stares, or no one will see it. And stay away from Strom's marbles. If you have any additional concerns or questions, please don't ask the lifeguard. He is out in the hallway ordering pizza.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I Have Cupcakes! You Can't Have Any!

I have cupcakes. How many cupcakes do you have? No cupcakes! Hahahahahahahaha! They're mine. MIIIIINE!

It's not my birthday. Or a graduation. Or a baby shower. It's not for any reason at all, except: Cupcakes! Me having them and you wanting them.

But don't look at me. I'm not sharing. All six of these chocolatey (and one lemon) cupcakes are for my personal use only. And they will sit right here, where you might see them on your way to the copy machine, until I go home at 5 PM today. Unless I choose to eat some before then. Maybe just this one.

There you sit at your desk, talking on your telephone. "Blah, blah, blah, schedules and agendas." Here I sit at my desk typing away furiously on this memo to you, giggling merrily about the bakery box sitting on my lap. I hope the sounds of my laughter aren't distracting you. Are they? Maybe if I fill my mouth with another cupcake, it will stifle the noise a bit. Mmmm...oh, cupcake, you're so good to me.

You sure look hungry over there. What did you bring for lunch today? Is that a turkey sandwich? Did your mom make that for you in 1986? And grapes? Grapes are for babies and old people! You know what aren't? CUPCAKES! These ones over here in my hands.

Ring! Ring! Oh, there goes my phone! I wonder who that could be.

Hello? Oh, hiiiiiiiii, famous person my cubicle neighbor is a fan of! How nice of you to call. Yes, as a matter of fact, I DO have cupcakes. Of course you can have one! Free backstage passes?! That is just so nice of you! Wow, and I would LOVE to come to your birthday party. You're nice. I'm so glad we're best friends.

Okay, I'd better go. Talk to you later.

Oh, that? Nothing. Just a friend who likes cupcakes too. I'm totally sharing with her because she's so nice.

I just ate another one. Did you see me? I was making a lot of noises to let you know how yummy it was. Like, "Oooooooh. Mmmmm....Yeah, that's right. Oh, cupcake. Don't stop."

The cupcake didn't say anything. It just got into my belly where it would be safe from prospective cupcake thieves like you.

Wow, I'm sure full of cupcakes. That was too many for just one little person like me. Maybe I should rub these last ones in my armpit to make them inedible for anyone else.

Ah, that's better.

Those were sure good cupcakes.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My Hopes of Saturday Writing Are Dashed

I just got back from a Turtle run. And it was all terribly ironic. Firstly, because Turtles (neither the reptile nor the chocolate) can run, and secondly, because I can run, and my Turtle run surely broke some kind of speed record.

I had big plans today. I was going to swim laps this morning, come home around 11, have a coffee, and get to work on my writing. But, of course, when you make plans like that, inevitably, something will happen to mess it all up. For me, that something was polka music.

I live across the street from a beer garden. Today is the first day of their annual Oktoberfest. So, at noon today, when I sat down to my computer, I was rudely interrupted by accordians and drunk people shouting, "WOO!"

So it's now 8 PM, I haven't written a thing, and now, for some inexplicable reason, they are playing "Hava Nagila." We are a multi-cultured neighborhood, so all are welcome at Oktoberkhe. (Except during the time it took me to study enough Yiddish as to come up with an amusing new Jewish name for Oktoberfest, they've started to play "Ole Ole.")

In addition to all the nuttiness taking place across the street, I have that kind of PMS that requires chocolate coated Midol every hour. Hence, my need to make a Turtle run. Since beginning this blog post, I've had six of them.

Basically, I've given up trying to write anything at this point. If you need me, I'll be here in bed with the rest of my chocolates.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Blue Period Continues

This morning I found a bag under my eye. Just the right one. Apparently the left eye is getting plenty of rest.

This worries me a little because I can't recall missing any sleep. I haven't stayed up past 11 PM at all this week, and while I get up fairly early, it's not so painfully early that it would cause remarkably visible distortion to the area below my right eye.

So, I'm forced to conclude that the dark circles under my eyes can only be blamed on witchcraft.

Witches are clearly entering my bedchamber between the hours of midnight and 5 AM, turning me into a cashier, and forcing me to work behind the counter of their 24-hour Evil Bodega. Or something.

You know what's hard? Trying to maintain your funny blog when you aren't in the mood to be funny. I spent all day yesterday working on a blog post about possibly being allergic to my work chair. (It gives me a rash on the backs of my legs.) I concluded that bathing the rash in my own tears made the itchiness less intense at least temporarily. Then, I ate an entire bag of jelly beans and took a nap.

And today, I'm not feeling much more enthusiastic. I just spent the last two hours looking at LOLCats with what I can only imagine was a look of utter devastation on my face. So I switched to episodes of Planet Unicorn on YouTube. Nothing. If things don't improve, we're talking Eddie Izzard's Dress to Kill or entire seasons of Kids in the Hall. What is up with the early part of fall? I'm supposed to be jolly like a good wood elf. But instead, I feel like someone killed my puppy.

If you would like to contribute anything amusing to my "Get Happy" fund, please post it in comments or email me at themayorofbethville@gmail.com. In the meantime, I shall continue wallowing in the dank bathwater of sadness behind this shower curtain of misery in the small bathroom of melancholy that is my life.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Today I Have a Heart of Darkness

Sometimes I go through a blue period. I can't write. I can't think. I just sit around and let the little black rain clouds develop over my head. When this happens, I like to close myself off from people. I'm surly and irritable. I'm overly sensitive about things. I just want to sit and watch TV and eat jelly beans with a bag over my head.

And so I like to counter it by being extra dramatic about how I feel. If someone disagrees with me, I say things like, "Fine. We'll see how you like it when I go read Sylvia Plath in my bathtub with an electric pencil sharpener," or "I'm going to go take this entire bottle of calcium supplements." Sometimes I walk down to the East River with my pockets full of heavy things, like encyclopedias.

Or I watch videos like this one.

I'm going to go eat some canned goods that might be past their expiration dates. FAREWELL, cruel world!

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Plight of the Dramatically Cold

There's a strange phenomenon that strikes New York City every September.

Dramatically cold people.

You know the type. It drops down to a brisk 60 degrees overnight, and the next morning the dramatically cold people have on their fur-lined boots and wool sweaters. "Brrrrrr!" say the dramatically cold people when they step outside and feel the nip of 40% humidity in the air. "I think I'll get myself a hot chocolate."

"Thank god for my space heater," the dramatically cold people say when they sit down to their work computers, furiously rubbing their hands together. Later in the afternoon, they are always sure to pop a few vitamin-C tablets. The dramatically cold people can never be too careful several weeks in advance of cold and flu season.

To get to the heart of the dramatically cold phenomenon, I believe we need to travel back to the time of the dramatically cold cave people. While regular cavemen were out hunting for sustenance before the winter snows, the dramatically cold caveman huddled in his fur-lined grotto drinking herbal tea and watching the leaves turn color.

Later in history, the first dramatically cold explorers to the North Pole faced infinite hardship when the sled dogs were prematurely slaughtered just south of Greenland so that the warmth of their entrails could prevent frostbite on dramatically cold fingers.

During the Industrial Revolution, the dramatically cold people rejoiced in improved methods of coal mining. Before that time in history, a single dramatically cold person could fell an entire forest within the brief span of time from September to April in order to heat his or her home. Most deforestation, in fact, can be blamed on the dramatically cold.

In modern times, it's not desperation for warmth but tradition that drives the dramatically cold people to pull out the winter wear prematurely. The gloves, scarves, and parkas of their ancestors call to them from the backs of their closets. Undeterred by the strong stench of mothballs and the trickle of sweat on their brows, they unearth the ancestral garb and wrap themselves tightly in its comfort. And, with that, the dramatically cold breathe the first sigh of relief in months.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Further Attempts to Fit In

Oh, hey, everybody! Look over here! The New Kids on the Block are BACK and better than ever! Look at them dance! Listen to them sing! Smile and nod at their television interviews about how they are all grown up now and ready for that big comeback!


Yeah, me neither.

I can't lie. I was never into the New Kids on the Block. Oh, I tried to be into them. I bought a huge poster of Joey McIntyre and hung it on the wall behind my door. And I would pretend I was totally in love with him. Believe me, I wanted to make out with that poster like I meant it. But all I really felt was friendship and a cold, cold wall.

On more than one occasion, I picked up a cassette of NKOTB's music and walked around the store like I was planning to buy it. But then I would always put it back, unsure if it was worth my entire $10 allowance. So, to this day, I have never actually heard a New Kids on the Block song in its entirety.

I can, however, sing from memory most 1970s Tanya Tucker songs. Not that I would have ever admitted that when I was in sixth grade when NKOTB were at the height of their popularity.

Have I mentioned that I used to be a huge phony?

The same thing applied when Beverly Hills 90210 gained popularity. We didn't have Fox, so I never watched it. But that didn't stop me from fawning over pictures of Luke Perry in 'Teen magazine and reading interviews wherein Shannen Doherty revealed that she loved U2. It's sad, really.

I had always suspected that I was a bit weird because of the way people reacted when I talked about my dream where my dead cat came back as an angel. Or when I showed up at school wearing giant pink sparkly squid earrings. But it never really occurred to me to try to tone it down a little until I got my secret Santa gift in 6th grade.

It was a copy of 'Teen magazine. At first, I was flattered that someone wanted to give me some new reading material. But it occurred to me later that maybe I was getting subtle eyebrow plucking advice.

And so, I heeded the pages of my new magazine and began to slowly and methodically put away my childhood. I painted the pink walls of my bedroom over with white. I threw away my unicorn posters. I stopped letting my mom do my hair. And I pretended to enjoy the New Kids on the Block. Because that's what girls my age did back then.

It's funny. Even now, I'll catch myself emulating the behaviors of others because I want to avoid ridicule. I think to myself, "What would an adult do right now? Have a cup of tea and watch the news? Ah, yes. That's what I'll do then." I certainly wouldn't make out with my Christian Bale poster...

What? Oh, like you never do it. Shut up.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Football Burns Us, Precious

Here is my impression of football:

Players line up. Whistle! Scramble, scramble, scramble. DOGPILE! And repeat.

Then, once in a while, one guy or another kicks the ball really hard. Sometimes through that big pitchfork at the far end of the field. Sometimes not.

And then, refs come on and say something nonsensical about yards and make some hand gestures. A yellow handkerchief gets thrown around a lot. All the while, the clock ticks away so slowly you begin to wonder if time has ceased to move at all.

I realize that in saying that football makes no sense to me, I'm playing into the old "women just don't get sports" thing. But I get sports. I just don't understand football. Which is not to say that I haven't tried to understand. I've asked several people to explain it to me, men and women. But when I do that, their eyes glaze over, and they start to speak in gibberish.

"You see, there are these things called downs. And you have a certain frame of time to gain some yards. Then, everybody runs in a circle, crawls through a tunnel of fire, and we all eat cotton candy. Make sense?" To which I reply, "Sure, sure."

Also, I have the attention span of a Pop Tart, as I'm sure I've mentioned on numerous occasions, so the fact that the action happens in short spurts means that I always miss it because I am staring at the sky or wondering why everyone around me is jumping up and down. I hear cheering, I look, and by that time, the players are lining up for another go at it. It's nonsense, man. Nonsense...

I actually believe I got that elusive recessive gene that makes it impossible for me to enjoy or absorb any information surrounding the sport of football. My mom can just hear the opening notes of the Monday Night Football song and fall into a deep, deep sleep. Which is why she's not allowed to listen to anything by Hank Williams, Jr. while she's driving or near a hot stove.

My sister, on the other hand, got the dominant football-appreciation gene from my dad. My childhood was punctuated by the sounds of my dad clapping loudly and shouting, "HEY!" when something good happened in one of those end zone thingys. And somehow his enthusiasm got passed down to the rest of my siblings. But not me. Ho hum...

But since it's almost fall now, football is all the rage. And it's not just the professional stuff but college games as well. Your television is never taken over by college baseball, hockey, or fraternity drinking contests. So, what makes college football so special? Anybody?

So, this fall, let's focus on what really matters. Okay? Because we all know what's important during the fall season. Halloween candy. That's right.

No? Okay, you enjoy that game then. I'll just be over here eating peanut butter cups with the Great Pumpkin.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

In the Future, There Will Be Fame for Everyone!

When you grow up, little lady, you're gonna be famous. Just like me, just like my momma, and just like her momma before her. Why? Because that's the American way. You'll get to be about twelve years old in a few years. We'll drive you up into town. You'll get all that hair in your personal area waxed off. Then, we'll take you over to old Doc's place, and he'll set you up with your first pair of breasts. Yessiree! We'll have you done up right.

Now, don't you worry about your teeth. We'll get those replaced in the front. I don't want anybody thinking I can't buy my baby nice teeth.

After a few years of sitcom work, you'll get your first reality TV show. Just you wait! Why, I remember when I had my first reality show. I lived in a house with nine strangers. And there was only one toaster. Can you imagine that? Oh, the fights we had over that toaster! There was another show that came on later where there was only one instant pizza maker. I'm sure glad I ended up on COAST TO TOAST instead of that one. All of those girls ended up standing in line for their fat reduction down at the free lipo clinic.

Back then, there were only 865 channels on basic cable. If you wanted a reality show, you had to work for it! You had to stand in line and audition. It wasn't like nowadays when you just walk in, lift up your shirt, and let a producer measure your buttocks. We used to have to put on makeup, too. You girls don't know how lucky you are that we do rhinoplasty and cosmetic tattooing at birth. It saves you a lot of time and pain later on when you're trying to get your career going.

But listen to me talk while you're hunched over the toilet throwing up your breakfast. Just know that it's a means to an end, sugar. A means to an end. One day you'll look back on all this and thank me.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Who Wants A Cookie? Cookies All Around!

I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that it's September 11 today. And that seven years ago some extremely horrible things happened.

Unfortunately, it's not in my genetic makeup to write serious tributes to anything. Or make people think really hard about life. Therefore, this is all I've got today. Some Canadians being hilarious.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

This Blog Post Makes No Sense

Sometimes I start blog posts that I never finish. They either turn all "unfunny" on me, or I get bored. Or I discover that I started to write it while sleep-deprived and return later, rested, to realize that it's total chaos. So, in an effort to utilize everything, I bring you "This Blog Post Makes No Sense," where I cram my post fragments all together and let you read the result.

A wise Muppet once said, "Gersh gurndy morn-dee burn-dee, burn-dee, flip-flip-flip-flip-flip-flip-flip-flip-flip." And I have to agree with him. What is this world coming to?

Because what if you're driving along in your wienermobile, on your way to the supermarket to buy breadcrumbs for your pet pterodactyl, and suddenly the earth opens up in front of you? You wreck your wienermobile by driving it into a crevasse. What will you do if you can't get yum-yum insurance? Well, you can't come crying to me. I have a hungry yak to feed.

Furthermore, clowns. Who needs 'em? They should go back to the circus where they came from.

I'm a clownist, and I don't care who knows it. I don't care if you're a rodeo clown, a party clown, or an evil clown who hangs out in sewers and eats children. I don't like you. Get out of my country, clown.

The other day, I was at the party store getting supplies for my big noodle casserole cook-off and committee cat worming, when a clown approached me. He didn't say a word, just honked his nose and squirted me with a flower. I don't think he even spoke English. He just stood there with this stupid painted smile on his face. So like a good, unpainted American would, I carefully explained to him that here in America, we believe in the sanctity of balloon animals.

Carrot Cake. You will eat it, and you will like it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

How to Date: Advice: Does It Have a Point? Do I?

I don't know if you've figured this out by now, but "How to Date" carries about as much actual dating advice as a taco. Really, it's just an opportunity to talk about my own hilarious and sometimes depressing dating hijinx and make fun of people. That way, we can all come together and laugh at our shared crappy experiences later in comments.

However, I do find it amusing to read actual "dating advice," particularly from the likes of Cosmopolitan. Where "real guys" use phrases like "my shaft exploding inside you." Is it a penis or is it a pipe bomb, Cosmo? Time to stop huffing the erotic massage oil perhaps?

Cosmo represents very important misconceptions about people of both sexes. Women are all hell-bent on marrying rich men with hairless chests and a dwarf planet in their pants. And men all talk like Fabio.

Cosmo columns offer advice on reading men, knowing what they like and might be thinking, and what everything they say and do means. That way, if something goes wrong, Cosmo readers are ready for it. Ready to hold on to that man for all it's worth because, if you lose that one, you may never love again. So sayeth the Mighty Fabio. Or what passes for the men on the pages of Cosmo.

One of the quotes I read yesterday in an article entitled "Why Guys Dump Girls They Dig," goes like this, "It was hard. I cared about her and didn't want to hurt her. But I knew that if I stuck around, she'd have been happier at first but miserable later on. After all, she deserved to be with someone who loved her as much as she loved me."

And then I laughed for 10 minutes. I imagined this guy sitting in his dark apartment, fist to mouth, thinking about what he had done to this woman. His chair turned so that he could look out at the skyline and remember the good times. Post break-up life in Cosmo is like a bad 80s music video. How can anyone take "advice" from a magazine so out of touch with reality.

But prepare yourself. I have more quotes.

"I can never do anything spontaneous with my girl because she won't leave the house unless she looks perfect. It takes longer for her to get ready for dinner than it does for us to actually go out and eat it. First she asks if I like her outfit. Next she asks how her makeup looks. Then she drops the fun-crusher on me: 'Do I look fat?' I get so aggravated. Don't ask for my opinion if you don't want it. By the time she's ready to leave, the evening is already ruined because I'm in such a pissed-off mood."

I suppose it goes without saying that Cosmo quotes are probably entirely fabricated. Probably by an editor who stays locked in a room with only other copies of Cosmopolitan for company. Or something. Because how else can you explain the generic-ness of the above quote?

When you study writing, one of the first things they teach you is to avoid cliche. And what is more cliche than a woman being all, "Do I look fat in this?"

And finally, this little piece of sex advice:

"Treat oral sex like a vitamin, and give it to him once a day." I don't know about other women, but I really don't have time for such things. You see, I have hobbies. And a job. And self-respect and stuff. I'm really not too much into the idea of being someone's pleasure receptacle, thank you very much.

So, let's talk about the reality that exists outside of Cosmopolitan's Unicorn Valley.

The message that Cosmo puts out there is "Try harder. Do it better. Stay interesting. Get a ring on a finger and a baby in your belly, or you'll shrivel up and no one will look at you ever again. You'll be shamed and sent away. The end."

My advice, in the end of this long and incredibly ramble-y post is this: avoid advice. I'm going to go recover from this aneurism that reading Cosmo gave me. Ta!