Friday, August 31, 2007

I Am the Warrior


(This is me blowing the smoke off my gun-finger. I don't think this picture speaks a million words. If anything, it mumbles four words and then takes another swig of whiskey.)

During a slow week at work this summer, I spent an inordinate amount of time reading The Onion AV Club, both the blogs and other features which invite comment from the fine readers of The Onion. Usually I skip the comments. They are anonymous thus riddled with all manner of douchebaggery and silly arguments about shit that, as one of my first movie crushes, Tripper, so succinctly put it, JUST DOESN’T MATTER.

But I wasn’t feeling the divine inspiration to make another go at attempted novel #3 or to get some crud written so I perused the comments, took sides in the petty pop culture turf wars, and generally upped my feelings of malaise by a good 75%. A disturbing trend emerged. Whenever a female—be it Britney, Lindsay, Parker Posey, or Chan Marshall—was discussed someone always felt compelled to comment on her looks, sexy quotient, or do-ability, even if the blog post, newswire item, or review had absolutely nothing to do with her looks, sexy quotient, or do-ability. Duh, big surprise, right?

I expected more from readers of The Onion. I am reminded of my college delusions that the faculty members of my vaunted Sociology department spent their free time in roundtable discussions, arguing the various sociological foundations, the merits and drawbacks of different types of research, how to solve the pressing problems of our time: racism, sexism, economic inequality, or how to take down the ruling regime of our small liberal arts college so that the social sciences building was as shiny and new as the business college. After working in the magical mystical land of academia for the past 10 years, I know differently. They were likely engaged in petty battles of one up-manship and tenure-related publishing frenzies. So it goes with The Onion.

I got mad. I drafted a post, decrying the blatant sexism of the comments, but only imagined the responses, labeling me a humorless man-hater because we as a society are so beyond sexism now, right? I hit delete.

I decided to get even.

I called it Project Good for Gander, my nom de comment being Good4Gander. No matter how little it had to do with the topic being discussed as long as the topic was male, I let the good readers of The Onion AV Club know how I felt about the fellow’s potential to get in my pants. Sylvester Stallone, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Hulk Hogan: all became fodder for my campaign against the comment board sexism. I cast a wide net and had a loose definition of desirability. Most of the fellows fell into the fuckable camp, if only because I enjoyed imagining some reader marveling at my desire to rip every rag from septuagenarian Stallone’s chemically enhanced muscles. After each post, I giggled maniacally at this latest blend of genius and idiocy.

A few days into my campaign, Mr. Crud pointed out that people might think I’m a gay man for all the stereotypical reasons about the hypersexuality of gay men, and women not really talking in a public forum about men’s sexual desirability (Sex and the City aside, a show which was mostly written by a gay man from what I understand being a fervent hater of SATC myself).

Oh, crap omelet. He’s probably right.

Even still, I kept my campaign going until pressing needs such as work and starting up this here blog pulled me in more worthy directions. I imagined the commenters wondering about the whereabouts of that needed bolt of energy to the comment boards that Good4Gander provided with her (or his) insatiable sexual appetites for male celebrities from list A to D. They would scan the boards in hopes of finding my name and insightful musings on each star’s fuckability. Cue the mass lamenting. Maybe even some young women found inspiration in Good4Gander’s comments or at the very least a recognition that commenting on women’s bodies as if that sums up their worth, even if they are artists in the public eye, is fucked.

So now, in the interest of not feeling alone on this big lonely blog, I pose a question to you, awesome readers. Was this the dumbest idea ever? When you encounter an unsavory –ism (racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, etc.) do you address the issue head-on or is a sideways (hopefully humorous) approach more effective? Even in this case, an approach that may lead to head-scratching instead of immediate aha realization of the wrong I am trying to right.

Also, have a kick ass Labor Day.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My Cruddy Summer Vacation


Vacation stats:
3 days spent in Milwaukee, WI for Mr. Crud’s cousin’s wedding
3 days in DeKalb, IL with Mr. Crud’s parents and his brother’s family
3 days at KahNeeTah, a resort and casino on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in lovely Oregon

Magazines Read:

Lucky
My preferred magazine during take-off. All those expensive shoes and wrinkle creams comfort me.

US Weekly
I swore I wouldn’t read about the frat boy douchebag’s “twisted night with Britney,” but something ugly came over me in that Hudson’s News in O’Hare. Something ugly that smelled of Red Bull vodkas and left a trail of hair weave in its wake. Then to add insult to injury there was a picture of my crush du last couple of years, James Gandolfini, kissing another woman. (James Gandolfini??? Yes, goddamnit, James Gandolfini.)

Allure
More Britney. Uh oh, I think I need an intervention. I also need a ton more makeup as Allure convinces me that as a 34-year-old woman my skin has gone wrinkly and my body is being colonized by cellulite at an alarming rate.

Oprah: The Magazine (2 issues)
My Oprah: The Magazine purchases are as compulsive as US Weekly except there’s not a “Just Like Us” feature (or as my sociologist husband and I call it “False Consciousness Gone Wild”) to laugh over. I relish getting angry at Dr. Phil for his horrible advice. I make plans to launch my own self-help line based on blaming the victim each time I pore over his “Speech of the month.” My brother sums up Dr. Phil’s advice well: Just look at yourself, you’re a mess, you’re the problem, you must change. Oprah: The Magazine is the ultimate abusive boyfriend—she tells you not to worry in one article (“21 Things You Can Stop Worrying About Now”) and immediately creates a new worry (“Can You Go Crazy Over Love?”) The less said about her essay about how her dog died so that she would see the need to stop and smell the roses, the better. G-d, please don’t sacrifice any more dogs for Oprah.

People
An airplane classic.

Entertainment Weekly
I really want to see “Superbad,” super bad now. Well done, hype machine.

Jane
The final issue. So bittersweet. I’ve loathed Jane ever since I received the first complimentary issue. I will miss hating on it dearly.

Radar
I skimmed this one because I knew I’d be hauling it home with me for careful reading. Somewhere between Milwaukee and DeKalb it disappeared. Probably telling snarky anecdotes to the face soap and body wash I left behind. Crap.

*I used to buy a copy of the Utne Reader or some other such mid to high brow magazine to read on the airplane, but I have dropped even that slightest of pretensions. When I defy death, I require trashy magazines and lots of them.

Movies Watched:

Casino Royale
Daniel Craig is giving James Gandolfini a serious run for my heart and loins. Also, did they really have to show female love interest drowning so brutally?

Pan’s Labyrinth
What a wonderful and devastating movie.

Books (ahem Book) Read:

The Stolen Child
Finally I’ve broken the chain of humorous memoirs with a darn good read about changelings. Between this book and Pan’s Labyrinth, I was a weepy mess on my final day of vacation.

The Awesomeness:

Girl Town
Fiona (not the real name of my 4-year-old niece, but rather her “witch name”). She no longer orders me around, instead she lets me be a partner in play. Thus she now has a little plastic skater dude toy named Shalimar thanks to me (I planned to name subsequent toys after members of the Debarge family; my brother-in-law drew the line at naming them after the Jacksons. Just Reebie, please let me have Reebie) and hopefully has added words like whackadoo (as in “The Milwaukee Art Museum is whackadoo.”) and the phrase “That’s how I roll” to her vocabulary. Fiona and I inhabited a Fisher Price Little People utopia called Girl Town where the worst crime was a serial hair cutter called Mean Boy—who sold his cuttings on the black market to the bald men and who was eventually caught by a police woman who managed to keep her plastic yellow locks intact. We got so caught up in Girl Town that we totally forgot to play witches or her new twist: Twin Sister Teacher Princess Witches. Watch out—when those powers activate Fiona and I will be a force to be reckoned with.

Lady Town
Hanging with Anna (aka my sister-in-law and mother of Fiona) at the rehearsal dinner for the wedding we attended in Milwaukee. Due to a wealth of free martinis (Grey Goose, woohoo!) and a lack of food, Anna and I turned into a MST 3000 for the speeches given by friends and family. I don’t think anyone heard us. Fingers crossed. From the speeches, we learned that Mr. Crud’s cousin, the bride, would be marrying a selfish asshole and rumored Republican who doesn’t believe in cooking or doing dishes and that his cousin is so nice that one of her friends initially thought she was either a huge dork or a lesbian. A match made in…Wisconsin, I guess. Anna and I raised our eyebrows so high that I’m shocked they didn’t become part of our hairlines. I am a serial wedding kvetcher. After my best friend from high school got married in a Catholic wedding, I spent the eternity waiting to have my photograph taken puzzling over why half the crucifixes in the church were askew. I wore an itchy, tight dress as was my bridesmaid duty and was starving. My lapsed Catholic buddy explained the whole stations of the cross thing, but I continued to rif on the idea that the folks of All Saints were simply too busy running around keeping gay people from getting married and poking holes in condoms to attend to the most basic of housekeeping. Sure, my buddy laughed, but I don’t think that the priest, who watched the bridal party photo session from the front pew, thought I was so hilarious. The lesson of both of these stories: mind my blood sugar. My emergency granola bars can only do so much. Cram some brie and crackers in my maw and I’ll play nice, or at least keep my voice down.

Reunited and It Feels So Good
Reuniting with my college pal Nicole and meeting her new baby. My friends are having babies like they used to have hangovers. I think I may be next. Eek.

Dance Floor Scandal
After the wedding ceremony and some fortifying hors d’oeuvres came the dancing, dancing separated by gender at first. I learned later that the women weren’t supposed to come out onto the floor during the initial dance, but due to some miscommunication we flooded the floor and created our own circle. The endless grapevine circles weren’t so terrific, but at one point Mr. Crud and I met in the center of the room, our gender separated circles paused for a moment and we did our own version of the forbidden dance. We bumped butts until our circles got moving again, winking at each other as we parted. Scandalous!

Post Wedding Cool Down
KahNeeTah was an all around great time and the perfect antidote to the intense family time of the wedding days. We soaked in a mineral bath; played in the Olympic-sized pool; were massaged, salt scrubbed and herbal wrapped; ate all we could eat seafood; hiked a trail where I had numerous opportunities to pretend that I had pooped out the tremendous piles of horse turds left we encountered; got my first taste of gambling (I’ll never forget you, Lost City of Atlantica, aka the penny slot machine where I won $4.54) and bumped into one of Mr. Crud’s coolio colleagues and his wife who we met for drinks in the lounge while The Substitutes jammed out cover-band style.

The Weirdness:

The Wedding Scene
High-powered 20-somethings buzzed around each other while Mr. Crud and I marveled at how we had become invisible to anyone under 30 who wasn’t related. Thank G-d for free liquor. I had never been so thankful that my brother is a lawyer than when I was hanging in the hospitality room with one of the 20-something lawyers when we quickly realized we had nothing in common, not politics nor musical tastes nor cultural tastes. Nada.

Everybody likes a weirdo artsy type of person, right? Most of the “normal” folks I’ve befriended for brief yet intense events like weddings happily put me into this slot. They ask me about my days in a band or my novel (so fabulous am I) and I marvel at how much money they make in advertising/lawyering/businessing. (Damn, that sounds condescending and bitchy. Because it is.) After coming face to face with this wedding crowd of preppy Jewish yuppies (one of them wore a pink Izod, loafers sans socks, and clearly mistook the Preppy Handbook for a Torah), I sadly realized that not everyone needs a weirdo. I even found myself feeling a blush of shame at my shaggy armpits after holding up the groom’s mother during the chair dance, something I did because it was fun and to say “see, I can be part of your wedding; I’m not so bad for a middle-class shiksa” and also “screw you, this middle class shiksa is part of your wedding, like it or not.” I was feeling a tad outcastish, which doesn’t always bring out the best in me.

The Wedding Itself
The bride is marrying into a modern orthodox Jewish family. Modern orthodox means that they are modern outside of the house but traditional inside the house, e.g. separate dishes are kept for meat and milk foods so that meals are kosher. The ceremony was traditional complete with a black-hatted rabbi presiding over the wedding and the ketubah (wedding contract) being signed by the groom and the bride’s father. The bride’s father paid a dowry. Unfortunately it was not the hoped for cow and two goats, but rather enough money for them to furnish a house. (Yeah, like the real estate lawyer who makes 8 times my salary needs more money.) The few Jewish ceremonies I’ve attended and participated in had the bride and groom signing the contract. The bride was not allowed to talk during the ceremony. During the ketubah signing, she sat on a small stage surrounded by her attendants and the super excited flower girl, Fiona. Yeah, my feminist hackles rose way high.

The wedding was beautiful, held in the awe-inspiring Milwaukee Art Museum at dusk. A martini bar complete with ice sculpture (Grey Goose woohoo part 2!!) looked out upon the lake. It was definitely the fanciest and most beautiful wedding I’ve attended on the surface, but for me, the substance was lacking. Every piece of the ceremony felt like it was for the sake of creating an appearance, to impress someone. The groom’s parents were trying to impress the Chasids and the other richie riches, and the black hats were trying to impress G-d. There were no cheesy readings of poetry or friends stuttering wishes for the married couple, just some generic mazel-tov-mazel-tov greetings from some head rabbi in Wisconsin.

DeKalb, IL
You’re right, Anna. DeKalb is depressing. I had the seemingly necessary (for me at least) vacation meltdown on the night of our arrival after realizing that I had left behind my travel-sized face soap and body wash at the shi-shi hotel in Milwaukee. Things I said while fighting back tears and tearing apart my suitcase: “I just bought that fucking travel set for this trip! Goddamnit!! That body wash is fucking expensive. Jesus Christ!! I just wanna go home.” When I spied the bar of cheap hotel soap that I’d have to wash my precious facial skin with twice, the tears flowed. Thanks for not laughing your ass off at me, Mr. Crud. I deserved it along with a speech about how ridiculously privileged I am. I’m happy to report that aside from some sunscreen related pimpling, my complexion survived the short term switch to hand soap.

Mr. Important
Despite the presence of an obvious line for the 40-minutes late bus to Milwaukee, Mr. Important steps in front of everyone, tossing his luggage at the driver while we loudly murmur about his act of unnecessary fuckery. When he steps off the bus at Racine (home of the Kringle), shooting his cuffs like a tough guy, I search the parking lot for his ride. Nobody is waiting for him. He struts into the gas station like he just stepped out of a limo. Dick.

Strangers Dreamed About:

Neal Pollack (in my dreams he keeps assuring me that I’ll be a good parent—thanks, dream Neal)
James Gandolfini
Fucking Lindsay Lohan
Ice T (I dreamed he was at the wedding but his wife Coco was missing. Where art thou, Coco? If you don’t know of Coco, google her, you will not be disappointed.)

Random but Totally Necessary Celebrity Sighting:

Ernie Hudson, aka the black Ghostbuster, at O’Hare just after we stepped off the plane.

Observations:

LOTS of people are reading “The Secret,” which terrifies me. Why doesn’t Oprah use her power for good instead of evil? Would it be so hard to recommend bell hooks? How can someone who has overcome so much adversity advocate for blaming the victim at every opportunity?

Milwaukee, you really need to aim higher than a TJ Max and Bed, Bath, and Beyond anchored mall.

Donna, the oddly obese woman (by odd, I mean that her chunk was a thick Saturn ring around her stomach and hips) in the KahNeeTah lounge kicks much ass. She danced with every fellow in that room and, after stating her intentions to pull Mr. Crud to the dance floor, was nice enough to assure me that she was harmless. She had MOVES.

Postscript
The return to work blows. I feel stressed about all the piled up mail and emails (250!!) but more stressed about catching up on the blogs I’ve missed while away. Silly, I know. So much Onion AV Club to go over, not to mention Dlisted, Vonnegut’s Asshole, Broadsheet, and Alternadad. Would you like to come to my pity party? It won’t be quite as nice as the wedding—no martini glass shaped ice sculpture—but it will be ten times more soulful.

(Tears x Foolishness) Vodka + cigarettes = Cruddy Pity Party

**I don’t know if ending a blog post with a made up equation works, but that’s all I got in me today. A better ending is probably buried between Ernie Hudson and the marvelous dancing Donna, but I need some writing group to scold me or else I go on and on and on…

Thursday, August 9, 2007

En Vacance



Bonjour, mes amis. I will be out of town, away from the office (thank G-d!), away from a computer (thank G-d again!!), and plain away for the next week and a half. Thus I shall let my fields of crud lie fallow.

Do trust that I am gathering more material: I will attend my very first Jewish Modern Orthodox (should all of those be capitalized?), and a ritzy one at that. After much contemplation I have decided not to shave my armpits. You can dress me up fancy but you can’t take away my freedom (not to shave my armpits.) I’ll let you know how this latest sore thumb experience goes. Then Mr. Crud and I are spending a few days at a casino and resort on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Not our typical vacation, I assure you, but we wanted relaxing and we wanted different so here it goes.

Will I add gambling addiction to my impressive addictive habit tally? Will I blow all my winnings on weird spa treatments that use the urine of young goats? Will the bride’s dowry be paid with the actual two goats and one cow as required or the (boring) cash equivalent? Will I drink too many martinis? I think we already know the answer to the last one.

Keep it cruddy! I shall return.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Grossioso--Please Call Me the Literary Ick Girl

(WARNING—This post WILL make you say “yuck” and likely cause you to rethink that invitation you planned on extending to me for your next dinner party. You were going to invite me, right? Right?)

As a kid, I never quite accepted that a person could ever die from hunger or thirst unless they were oblivious and stupid. My mom explained that the kids on the TV with the flies buzzing around their faces were malnourished; they would die without food. I scoffed. A young aficionado, or perhaps gourmand is more appropriate, of the culinary pleasures of the body, I reasoned, “Couldn’t they just eat boogers?” Or scabs, or the random flap of skin from a blister, or a fingernail, or ear wax, or flakes of skin from their own lips (it’s right there—go for it, kids!). The list goes on, but I’m sure you’d prefer it if I stopped there. Imagining the rosy-cheeked blonde angel that I was at 6 chowing down on everything not permanently attached to my body is probably not how you’d like to begin, end, or middle your day.

For the record, I never ate poop or drank pee. Even a grossioso like me has some standards.

As for thirst, there was saliva. I was constantly stimulating my salivary glands and slurping back a mouthful of good old saliva throughout the day. “Need a drink, sweetie?” Mom asked. I shook my head, an attempt at disdain on my face. “No thank you, I just drank some saliva.” My mom explained that humans needed more than saliva to stay hydrated. “Can I have a Coke then?” “You can have water,” she said. No thank you, I’ll just stick with saliva. A know-it-all of the most annoying degree, I shared my theory with skeptical neighborhood friends. A few were believers; the rest ran off to play another round of kickball. Even when I did get thirsty, I didn’t dare admit it to my saliva squad. I’d run home on a supposed mission for snacks. These weren’t apocalyptic conditions. There was no need to resort to public booger eating yet.

For a few months at age 7-ish, I convinced myself that my boogers were an anti-wrinkle miracle aging cure. I imagined myself pulling strings of miraculous goo from my nose to place in vials that I would sell for hundreds of dollars. I bet no one’s ever thought to do this, I thought as I wiped a string on the back of my hand where one day liver spots would never appear thanks to my snot. Squeamish fools! I would have to be the guinea pig lest I be labeled a mad woman by my peers and/or my parents. My mom marveled at the amount of snotty bits that crusted off my hands and my arms. She handed me tissues even when I wasn’t sniffling. “Blow your nose!” I made a show of it, but I saved the goods for later in my room-laboratory where under the watchful gaze of my doll collection I could slather myself in as much snot as I could gather from the cavern of my nose. After it dried, I picked off the crusty boogers and ran my fingers over my soft skin. “So luxurious,” I cooed like a woman in a Calgon commercial. I couldn’t wait to reveal my beauty secret to the world, to see the heads of various cosmetic companies smack their foreheads in why-didn’t-I-think-of-that dismay. No problem, fellows. There’s enough of me to go around.

My beauty experiment died when I entered the horror of middle school. I was under a microscope and boogery arms could be the basis of a tragic, lifelong nickname. All bodily fluids and functions were under strict orders to keep in hiding until college when we could all finally let loose with a six year’s buildup of poop-fart-booger tales. (I seem to remember this as an early bonding moment with my freshman year roommate. Hey Lori, wanna talk poop? Call me.)

Tragically I’ll never know if the wrinkles that have started to settle in to my hands could have been avoided with a snot regimen. If my snot really is a miracle aging cure. Is someone out there ready to take up the torch? Watch out; it’s kind of sticky.