Monday, November 16, 2009

Be quite..ewe never should have sayed a whirred...

Okay,so much to my chagrin, I was politely informed by my extremely diplomatic father regarding my use of  the idiom "towing the line" in the previous post, that, in fact,it's  "toeing the line".As some of you know, I relish the world's grammatical and spelling mistakes and often pass them on to my wordsnob friends, and we all have a good chuckle and shake our heads at other people's ignorance.  I live for the moments like the woman asking if it was worth the trip to "Chicken Itza" to see the ruins, or Dan Quayle's famous quote about his party's understanding of the importance of"bondage between a mother and child." And let's not forget his butchering of the slogan  "A mind is a terrible thing to waste", when he paraphrased himself into history by attempting to incorporate it into a speech he gave before the United Negro College Fund: "what a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is." Or his defining moment as a total moron when he his corrected a student's spelling of the word "potato" during an elementary school spelling bee. Though his card read " potatoe",was he so unnerved by all of the third graders that he couldn't think for himself and simply make the correction on his own? It still gives me pause. Come on, really, the vice president did that?
Now, there remains the question of perspective. I assume that while African American jaws dropped all over the country,many folks' hearts went out to Mr.Quayle. What kind of a slogan is that anyway? Is it elitist to expect the vice president to know the slogan of the UNCF?  And maybe potato should have an "e" on the end of it. It sure sounds like it would have one.
There is salt of the earth, and down home and regular folk and then there is just- well, hmmm...I shouldn't say it. I suppose it all relative.I mean, I kind of understand, for example, why Cap'n Ron fired me from The Galley all those years ago.I was an okay waitress but didn't entirely fit in.Most of the girls had been there for decades and were earning the living wage rate of ten bucks an hour before tips,so outsiders were a threat.Most of the girls there outright unfriendly,except one who pulled me aside to tell me my breath smelled.Cap'n Ron also took me aside several times, in the two weeks I worked there, and questioned my integrity as a human being and repeatedly probed me for answers about who I was and how I fit in to the "family"at his restaurant. I wanted to say " Gee,I dunno Cap'n Ron", I took this horrendous waitressing job at your overpriced shmaltzy fish house where we are all forced to call you Cap'n Ron ( though somehow I think you probably don't know the first thing about boats-except the shrimp boat on page 2 of your menu) because I really need the money.Heh, heh, I mean, I have a family,Cap'n Ron, and boy, I thought they were fucked up, but this is like the fucking Twilight Zone!!!".
We weren't exactly talking people off of ledges.It was mostly giving them their fried shrimp and free coke refills and being approachable. Instead ,I said," Uh, well, Ron.. er... I mean.... Cap'n Ron, I am not a duplicitous person.I don't know what else to say.." He interrupted me,shaking his head and waving his hand in the air.." you see? " he said with frustration, " that's what I am talking about..I don't even know what you are saying with big words like that..".I actually blocked out the exact quote because I really didn't hear much of what he said after "big words". The guy was at least forty, and must have gone to school somewhere or taken an SAT test at some point. He could have at least pretended to know and looked it up later if it threatened him so much, but he didn't care what it meant and didn't want it used in his restaurant. I was fired the following Friday and still couldn't bring myself to tell him what an asshole he was. Or,could it be that  he was just a regular guy and I was the pretentious asshole....??hhhmmmmm....interesting...
I suppose none of us is perfect, but there are lines that shouldn't- no can't be crossed or I feel like we are entering "Idiocracy" several centuries early. I  was recently reading a post on friend's facebook page and noticed the first comment said"keep it sheik and simple". A second commenter echoed her sentiment to keep it "sheik". I was floored.Not one on the eleven other comments mentioned it.I brought it to the attention of my friend,via a private message of course, and he replied "Bugged me too,homonym police". There was the slight possibility that the whole "sheik" thing was an inside joke,since everyone involved was either a writer,a comic or an actor, in which case, I was the pretentious asshole again (!!??), not the commenter(s). However, as I did not go to a fancy college, I think that if I know something  then so should everybody else.. I suppose I undervalue my almost entirely private school education by saying that, but how does one,especially a woman, go through life never seeing "chic" in print?Not to mention that they really aren't homonyms at all, as "sheik" is pronounced "shake".I must mention that to my fb friend, and tell him my correct title is Malapropsim Cop, or maybe in light of recent posts, Malapropism Security Guard is better.
Which brings us to my gravely embarrassing faux pas.I realize that it is  a common occurrence, but I really have no recollection of ever seeing the expression "toeing the line" spelled as such. I suppose I have always had the image in my head of someone pulling a line with lots of exertion, implying that they are doing what is required of them. The two or three people I have mentioned it to have spelled it "tow" initially, but all corrected themselves before I could.  And my father did have twenty one more years in which to hone his vocbulary. The derivation is disputed as well- some say it came from the British House of Commons back when "sword-strapped members were instructed to stand behind lines that were better than a sword’s length from their political rivals in order to restore decorum.".It also pertained to foot races and boxing at different points and is still used by active and reserve components of the US Army  as a command to line up. At any rate, it's origins are traced back well before I was born, and as I was never British, a runner,  a boxer or in the US Army, I am not entirely convinced that my ignorance on this is all that big of a deal. However, I am  certain that there will be many many more polite emails about my blog and it's grammatical errors.Please never stop.
In closing, I guess it's a all mute point as long as I bare witness to my own ignorance. I can climb the imaginary bean stock looking for vocabulary gold, and hone in on the twenty dollar words.No one has to know that I am not the sharpest marble in the drawer. I can always tell a bold-faced lie about what I know. But like a horse chomping at the bit, I have a thrust for knowledge that often takes me into entymological territories beyond my apprehension.As the saying goes, a leopard can't change his stripes!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fear and Loathing in the 'Bu.......

 I spent most of my youth trying to be of some importance. At sixteen, I read just one of my mother's PETA magazines( only a true masochist would have a subscription).I immediately became a vegan, occasionally relapsing into dairy and eggs. I dutifully read "Diet For a New America" by John Robbins, and tearfully paraphrased the part about the Indian Chief Sitting Bull's plea in his honorable moment of defeat to take care of the animals as God intended us too to whomever would listen. (He must have known it would fall on deaf ears as we ( whitey) had slaughtered the buffalo wholesale at that point and done all sorts of  awful shit to pretty much every brown person we encountered.) But nevertheless, I was comitted to the cause of animals. I researched and purchased only cruelty free beauty products, actually throwing away my beloved Loreal Blackest Black mascara ( evil fuckers that they still are today) and my purple tinted Chanel face powder. I restocked my cabinets with PETA approved products, and wrote letters to the companies on the provided list of torturers .I tried to help.
I had been privy to this information about testing cosmetics on animals since sixth grade, when our science teacher, Mr Lautner, explained it to us. He told us that animal testing wasn't the rosy image of rabbits wearing blush or having their nails done. It was cruel and painful and often resulted in horrible suffering and ulimately death.All so we could wear blue eyeliner. I wasn't wearing any makeup yet but the girls that did simply rolled their squinty eyes overly lined in electric blue and snickered. I guess empathy doesn't come until later, but he must have been totally depressed by our  lack of interest in such a compelling and easily fixable issue.
Time went on and I toed the line and probably would have thrown red paint on some old woman's mink coat if given the chance(although some of my fondest memories are of dressing up in my mother's huge knee length raccoon coat). I told anyone who would listen about the slaughterhouses and downed cows  taken to the trash with forklifts while they were still alive. I enlightened my family about the chicken ranches where the cages were small,crowded and stacked to the ceiling so the unfortunate chickens on the lower level literally lived in chicken shit. I passed on the  rumours about  genetically engineered chickens with no bones and swore  that the story was true about  Martha Stewart personally suffocating an enormous garbage bag full of baby male chicks after a photo shoot because she had no use for them.I spent hours chasing stray dogs from street to street, unsuccessfully trying to tempt them into my back seat with dog kibble. I actually watched a dog get hit and left on the curb. A few guys bothered to pull it off the road ,but they went back to their porch and left it to die. I pulled over and insisted that they put it in the back seat of my Jetta. I drove around for 45 minutes  calling every vet and animal hospital.Everyone wanted to know if I had enough money to pay for it's care and/or euthanasia..I was astonished that the bottom line was money, though it probably shouldn't have been that surprising.I finally found a place off Bundy that was open and would take it.I remember hearing it's last breath somewhere in the middle of Beverly Hills and feeling relief that it wasn't suffering anymore, but also disappointed that I had failed. The animal control guy came to the car and matter of factly picked up the dog and slung it over his shoulder. He walked back into the building and the only evidence that the dog ever existed was the blood on my back seat.
It became overwhelming to be apart of the cause. It was impossible to go to the grocery store and walk past the meat aisle without PETA magazine flashbacks, and in the milk aisle I could hear the bawling of the calves.I watched veal disappear from restaurant menus, only to return a decade or so later with minimal fuss. I dreamed of going undercover and exposing the people who perpetrated the heinous crimes against our fur  and feathered brethren. I was lucky enough to audition for a dreadfully cheesy movie about a women's batallion of soldiers that shot in the Phillipines. The producer was a guy named Chris De Rose, a reknowned animal activist and founder of Last Chance for Animals, and we talked for an hour about the cause and what needed to be done. I didn't get the part but I bought his book, and despite it not being very well written, the guy was doing something.He later crossed the line by paying a notorious dog dealer to kill a dog so he could secretly video tape it. The case was thrown out because it was considered entrapment.
After hearing that, I was kind of glad I hadn't tried to join his brigade of animal avengers.Maybe he took it a bit too far.
Meanwhile, I was acting and trying to book commercials,which meant I was a cater waiter.It was fun enough work.Good money, swanky parties, celebrities,but sometimes the jobs were awful. Sometimes we had to carry huge platters up and down stairs all night. Or work for thirteen hours without a break because they hadn't hired enough people. Or pass appetizers to people with whom I had just done a movie.Or cater my agent's Christmas party and have all of them squirm each time I came by to pick up a dirty glass.
My most unpleasant job was a lobster bake in Malibu. Mercifully, I was not in the kitchen/garage where the 100 plus lobsters were to be terminated and served for supper. I don't care what the science says about them not feeling a thing when you plunge them into the boiling water- they scream and flail and knock the lid off the pot seemingly trying to escape . I just can't convince myself that it isn't what it looks like. And it doesn't exactly whet my appetite to see my dinner in agony before I eat it.
I was assigned to the top floor of a three story house in the Colony.I had three tables of eight and ,after dropping bread and wine, we were to go down to the garage,get a pot of lobsters and bring it upstairs to the tables.I was lined up to get my first pot of lobsters and saw a few familiar faces in the pick up line.One was a guy named Milo , a dark,funny, deeply sardonic soul with a  sensitive nature.He could barely look at me.I expected some jokes and some riffing on the absurd situation.It was dead quiet in the kitchen except for the usual clatter of pots and pans.I swear they all  looked traumatized. I can't imagine killing 100 plus lobsters is fun, especially when they are to be eaten by a bunch of rich fuckers who have no idea how it gets to their plate.It might be different if we were all stranded on an island and lobster was the only option. Even so, I would hope for breadfruit.
I began to carry my extremely heavy, piping hot pot with eight dead lobsters inside up the stairs and serve them cheerily to the awaiting bibbed guests.Pretending  to trip  and send hot lobster jus cascading down the stairs crossed my mind, but I am not really a rebel at heart.Plus, they would just have to kill eight more lobsters.I made it to the top of the stairs, sweating and disheartened by the human race.Did anyone else present  have the feeling  that this was all just a little icky?
I had already served two people when someone approached with a camera and took a  picture of me serving my third guest. I paused, humiliated and grinning from ear to ear holding the lobster up like a baby.Temporarily blinded by the flash, I struggled not to drop the lobster on to the table.My hands were beginning to cramp from holding it for so long.I moved the lobster slowly in the direction of the next plate in line.The person sitting there actually moved the plate away from me and said "no thank you, that lobster only has one claw".I looked at it,and sure  enough, it had only one limp dead claw  instead of two. The next person declined as well and so it went.No one wanted the one clawed lobster.I was sweating profusely at this point.One claw or two, they are heavy little guys, and I was getting close to dropping him.It was all I could do not to walk around the table all Jack Nicholsony,dangling it's lifeless one clawed body menacingly over their heads, hissing at them about how this lobster gave it's fucking life for you and you deny it because it only has one claw??? He eventually went back in the pot and I had to request an extra one in the next pot.No one had any response to my explanation for the returned lobster.They just took it back and put in the refuse pile with a few others.
 Needless to say,it was a horrible event, but the highpoint was watching a woman in really expensive knee high suede boots walk directly in to the lap pool masquerading as a floor and become submerged up to her neck before she was pulled out. (Some idiot designed a black bottomed pool to blend in with the floor and then they put a floor to ceiling window featuring the Santa Monica Mountain Range right behind it.The natural inclination was to walk toward the window admiring the view and fall into the pool.).
I felt really disgusted with the human race after that event.Not just because of the  lobster but because of our exclusively human need for that level of excess.I mean, lobsters aren't the easist thing to serve to a crowd anyway, but something about the difficulty of the process appeals to something in human nature.How about some nice lasanga? That is easy to make, serves a lot of people and it can be made well in advance and frozen,too. You don't see horses preferring the hand harvested hay to the machine cut kind.Or fish preferring a certain species of hand caught guppy only found in the remote waters off Fiji. They eat what they can get because food has no status for them.It is fuel. It is life.It's like Katie Couric proclaiming bread to be "in" on the Today Show.What's next, air? I don't think you can make the staff of life any more desireable than it already is,Katie, you moron.
A few weeks later, I received a letter from the company that hired me for the event. I opened it and pulled out a black and white xerox of a photograph.It took me a moment to realize that it was a picture of me holding up the one clawed lobster and grinning like a fool. I stared at it in abject horror.I really didn't recogonize myself at all. There it was, captured on film forever- selling my soul for a hundred bucks and a crappy tip. I looked just like the chimpanzee on the poster for the  Bobby Bersoni Show in  Las Vegas. The ones that he was secretly beating with sticks when nobody was looking?They are smiling so strenuosly and desperately on that poster that I couldn't believe that someone didn't catch on sooner.They are 98 percent the same as we are after all.
 Look, I am not saying that no one should ever eat a lobster.I have eaten them in sauces and in the odd appetizer since then and not spiraled into self loathing. I didn't feel good about it and it really isn't all that delicious in my opinion.But eating things that have to be killed is pretty gross. Perhaps necessary, but still gross. I have a copy of "Dominion" on my shelf as well as "When Elephants Weep" and they are actually more traumatizing to read than it was to be part of the lobster bake. They describe in great detail the terrible suffering of animals all over ther world.They offer no hope and simply illustrate how awful life is for any living being that humans admire. I no longer have a place in my life for such information. I really wish I did, but I think saving the world is a young woman's game.And so is eating lobster.It is loaded with cholesterol and implicit promises of sex for the person who buys it for his date.
I stepped back from all causes, got married, had kids, had few more careers and have been idle in any kind of activism for quite some time.My cats died, and I have enjoyed and animal free exitence for about a year and a half. No hair, not vet visits, no euthanasia. And then one day Milo, our cat, walked into the back yard.It took me a month to commit to making him ours.Soon after a friend approached me about being on the board of an animal rescue organization she is founding.This afternoon is the first meeting of the board of The Kitty Bungalow, a foundation commited to the rehabilitation and placement of feral cats. Here we go again......I guess old habits die hard...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hey, where'd you get your lobotomy?

Here it is Monday morning ,and I never thought I would be so glad. I might hate weekends. Before I had kids, I used to love weekends. They used to signify late breakfast,reading a book ,going out for dinner.Now they largely signify dashed expectations. Not entirely, but sometimes. And I have an amazing husband who is a great loving playful father to two fantastic kids. But still...
 My weekend was filled with socializing and birthdays and the dreaded football games, as usual, but somehow this weekend felt like lots of cooking special meals and doing dishes and wondering why I was the only person cleaning up or putting toys away. I suppose it is my own fault.I have become my mother in my attempts to get the other three people in my house to assist me in the daily routine.Mostly impatience and yelling,which yields anxiety and ultimately mutiny.
On Saturday, I politely requested that the merry threesome ( Big, Little and Little Big Man) dismantle their fantastic fort( a monstrosity of every blanket,pillow,stuffed animal and babydoll draped over the dollhouse and kitchen-I hate the fort)prior to leaving for brunch. I have a need to leave my house in some sort of visual state of order so that, despite the piles of crap and toys and kid art and stuff that exist, I don't have to look at them upon entering the house. It does wonders for my mental state to return to a neat enough home. Coming back to piles of dirty dishes and trash and uneaten breakfast on the table and floor sends me into a tailspin,from which I rarely recover. I spend the rest of the weekend  angrily shoving things where they belong, muttering obscenities under my breath and wondering why anyone gets married ever....
SO that being said, I insist that they promise to clean it up before we go to brunch.Little and Big aquiesce but the largest  child of 38 skirts it. Big even presses him to commit to a clean up and he says "we'll see" and retreats into the fort. I realize that means he isn't going to spearhead any kind of clean up effort, but I hope for the best.I return from grocery shopping to find a fully formed fort with two adorable kids and so many disparate items inside that I instantly break out in hives. I try and appreciate the cute factor but the desire to put it all away is overwhelming. We have no time to clean up.We have thirty minutes to get ready and get to the valley.He sits on the couch and watches tv while I dress,shoe and groom the girls and  vainly attempt to pick up what I can off the floor in the three minutes I have left.
He has no idea that I am  seething, and I start thinking that maybe those Stepford folks were on to something. Wouldn't life be better if all  of the expectation was removed from domestic life? Roles would be clear. I would do all household chores and do most of the childcare/tending.He would earn  the money and spend his free time however he pleased- working out, watching tv, playing with the kids.Everyone wins, right?Except that I would have to be gutted and my parts replaced with robot entrails to tolerate such an arrangement. Or brainwashed, or whatever they do there in Stepford.
I try and pinpoint why I get so crazy when things turn out the exact same way every single weekend, and I have come to this conclusion: I despise laziness. Having been notoriously lazy as a child, I kind of know what it looks like.While it implies all sorts of things about a person's personality, the bottom line is, lazy is unfair.It isn't a team anymore if one person isn't doing their part.
Now, the argument could be made that they might not be lazy,  their standards just might be different. Or that their overall contribution precludes them from domestic responsibilities.  Yeah well, I suppose I should feel extremely lucky that am not in a refugee camp.I can assume the women of Darfur aren't bitching about the toilet seat being speckled with urine while they risk rape or worse in foraging for firewood. It is shaming to think that people subsist like that,while I am peevishly refolding the disassembled newspaper left all over the floor in the bathroom or apoplectically jamming the game pieces from every board game we own into their rightful boxes.  I am wondering if there is something less traumatizing than genocide to quell that resentment nurturing aspect of my personality.Drugs don't really work.Booze is sloppy. Therapy is too expensive.
 I also realize,after the fact of course, that none of this is a big deal. Whatever, so the fort stayed and I cleaned it up.It took five minutes.Whatever, so no one ate the delicious hot breakfast that I spent twenty minutes making and another ten cleaning up. Whatever, so there was water on the bathroom floor again-I mean, I almost slipped and fell for the third time this week, but I didn't right? Pshaw- who cares if every pile of clean laundry that is neatly stacked on his side of the bed is literally knocked on the floor at bedtime. He just asks me where it is the next day...not a big deal, right? Yeah, my tail is twitching just thinking about that last one... I could go on forever about the good the bad and the inevitable, so the question is, who knows a good neurosurgeon, because I think I need a lobotomy....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

exorcise me!

Okay, so the real reason I paid for a month of Barre classes, attended four in the first week and never returned?? why it is the same reason why I haven't been to the gym or done any sort if exercise in the last two months.And it's that very same reason why I have stiches and a slightly numb forefinger...I am possesed.
Not by anything evil, mind you.Wasteful? yes,.Frivolous? very. Criminal? not yet...I have spent the last eleven  months wrestling with the darkest desires of my inner Martha Stewart.
It all began when we got this huge garage last year. It can fit four large vehicles. It is the size of the house we used to live in. Everything that was too annoying to unpack ended up in there. Things that have been schlepped for years and never really used. Battery operated Blenders for the beach ( for all of those margarita parties we plan on having at the beach...), tea sets from various grandmothers, tchotchkes glaore that I haven't bothered to part with, most of my husbands college wardrobe which he refuses to part with ( and I refuse him the closet space inside the house) etc.
I think the first event we hosted in the garage was Little's second birthday. It was March.I kept it simple.I had a very bubbly  bubble person come an encapsule each little guest in their very own bubble.I ordered huge sheet cake from Mrs Beasley's( the best chocolate cake in the entire world, by the way- sorry sweet lady jane).Had fifty or so people, mostly kids, wine and happy chaos. I was compelled to cordon off the front half of the garage to mask my true disorganized slightly hoarding personality and present a clean, flowered fabric paneled version to the world. A few yards of fabric, a staple gun and a free afternoon and voila- what a lovely garage you have...!
A few months later, Big's fourth birthday would come, and I took the whole panel thing to the next level.With the help of a Disney backdrop and some paint and cardboard, I "transformed" the front half of the garage into the Beast's castle for big's Beauty and the Beast party. I spent most of my free time trolling the internet for pictures of community theater productions of "Beauty and the Beast" so I could steal their set ideas and create a complete atmosphere for the two hour party. Did I mention she was turning four? By the time she is bat mitzvahed, I will be so burned out that we will have it at Chuck E Cheese..
I invited thirty girls and their parents, bought the prettiest Belle dress that I could find for Big's big day, and contemplated forcing my husband to make an appearance as the Beast alongside the Belle that was scheduled to entertain the kids.I found ridculously cheap (and probably lead based) tea sets to give as favors( a buck a piece my friends)and culled thrift stores and ebay for demi tasse cups and teeny teapots for each girl to pour her very own lemonade into her very own real cup. My personal dream, at age four, handed on a platter to my daughter.
As for the garage,there was a chandelier, some dancing silverware( thank you dental floss), a faux bookshelf( with a combo of historically accurate titles and some funny ones to show that I am not a total freak), a faux fireplace, a painting,and pale peach colored carpet scored on craigslist. All very fifth grade play but the point got across. This was the Beast's castle, goddammit. Big was dazzled.I have a great pic of her sitting in the garage in her nightie hours before the party and just beaming.
On to the next holiday(read-excuse to mess around in the garage)ahhh....halloween. With the help of a lot more fabric, several boxes of staples and striking some ebay and craigslist gold, we had a Halloween haunted house in the garage. I made hallways of fabric and used almost everything in the back of the garage to build it. We had a hallway of miscellaneous creepiness-eyeballs, spiders, funhouse mirror, recycled bookcase and fireplace.The first scene was red riding hood, with the wolf in bed and red riding hood looking at him from the end of the bed..The second was a mad chef making pumpkin pie while two other pumpkins looked on in horror.One was vomiting.There was a hansel and gretel scene with a candy house etc. , a martian landcape and a pirate scene.
In the end, my girls were to scared to go in to the haunted house,which I find ironic considering that they helped assemble it and know exactly what it is made from.
Really fun to do but my intellectual friends look at me like I am retarded. I can tell that they are thinking   "uuuhh....what is wrong with you??" but I can't help it. I don't want to have a party like anyone else's. I want it to be a unique experience for everyone, most of all my kids.And not because  I am trying to show anyone up. It's just my thing...
Consequently, and this is my original point all those words ago,I am already planting the seeds of  Wizard Of Oz party for Big's next soiree..I can already see a yellow brick road up the driveway,the scarecrow, the tin man, the mean trees ...all leading up to Emerald city inside the garage. I will need a whole lot of emerald green fabric and paint and stuff and it will be soo cool.....already wasting tons of time on the internet looking for ideas...send the priest,quick, before I start painting bricks on the giant yellow canvas I plan on purchasing.....this Martha demon works quickly...and she has met her match.Big announced this morning that she wants to go to a gymnatics club and have the party there, like three of her friends have done in the last month. I have some time to work on her before I start painting everything green... come on Martha demon...do your thing....possess my fucking kid already so I can get this party started...