* First of all: Horse Riding Fitness ACE POOOOOOOOOOWER!!!!!
Okay. I feel better now. Super fit…or at least super something.
* Netflix added the next season of Breaking Bad to Watch Instantly this past weekend. Naturally, my marriage has been put on the back burner until all episodes can be watched.
* Wired interviewed Neil Gaiman and his wife, Amanda Palmer. It’s all fine and good and funny and interesting. Whatever. All I really got out of it was that I am not Neil Gaiman’s wife, and I should be. At least I’ve believed I should be since the age of 13. [Wired]
* If you haven’t heard by now, you should know: There’s a guy in the hills of Utah dressing and behaving as a goat. Some are speculating that he’s a hunter. I am speculating he’s a man dressed as a goat with 99 problems and hunting ain’t one of them. [WebProNews]
* Every time you start to think you’re cool, just remind yourself that you’re not Patrick Stewart. You are not Patrick Stewart, and you never will be. You’ve never had the accolades he’s earned from doing Shakespeare while simultaneously doing voices for Seth McFarlaine and being the Captain of the Enterprise. And you won’t run the olympic torch across London while looking super awesome doing it. [Blastr]
* And, finally, Peter Jackson debuted the newest Hobbit journal at Comic Con. Whoot!
I’m horrible to watch Antiques Roadshow with. I find myself shouting at the screen a la Indian Jones, “That belongs in a museum!”
And this really is the core of my being: I am excited by old things, find them amazing, fascinating, want them to be accessible to all, and want to get others excited about these objects as well. To learn is to better one’s self and I’d love to write and educate, to spread enthusiasm for something in my daily career.
There are 2 things I want to do with my life. To the average person, they’re very mundane. But to me, however, they’re the equivalent of becoming a rock star.
I want to:
1. Write lesson plans in accordance to state regulations for historical societies and museums in order to entice local schools to take field trips to such establishments.
2. Work and write for Cook’s Country/America’s Test Kitchen, working as an Ethno-Foodologist or, even better, a Food Archeologist.
When I was in junior high and high school I would skip class about once a month or so. None of my friends would ever want to join me and my parents were always very supportive of these escapades. You’d think I had egghead friends and that’s why they wouldn’t skip, or that I had hippy dippy parents that would allow me to be so flagrant about my education, but neither was the case. Well, my mom could kinda be hippy dippy, but that’s a different story. When I decided to skip school I would get a ride to the train station and take Metro North to Grand Central Station. Exciting, right? Who wouldn’t want to skip school to hang out in The City all day?! I would then walk up Park Ave. to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Or I would head west across the park to the American Museum of Natural History (or what’s know as the Museum of Mother Fucking Awesomeness by its fans) and I would spend hours and hours reading in silence, smiling over beauty…with the periodic stop off at the Central Park Zoo to finish the trip. I did this over and over and over again. In high school I was fairly popular, I was certainly no prude, and the most epic parties were normally hosted by my brother or I. But when it came to what I really wanted, it was historical solitude. I would have shared that time with others, allowing them to tag along, but who cared for those things but me?
Photo Credit Jessica Hische
I’m extremely fortunate in the sense that I’ve been to the museums of NYC so frequently that I can’t even count the days spent in their ancient and loving embrace. Dozens of times? Definitely. Hundreds? Very possible. I’ve moved away from that area a couple of times since graduating high school and being unable to take advantage of those museums is always the number one issue that I have when living more than a train ride away. I guess I miss my family, too, but I really miss those museums. In fact, when I visit my family, a jaunt to a museum in NYC is always one of the first afternoons planned. I am not so ego maniacal to ever think I could work at the Museum of Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In order to do something like that I would have had to make all the right moves, and absolutely no mistakes, in the professional decisions of my life. The employees and curators of those establishments are my heros, my Steven Tylers and Brad Pitts. Unfortunately, it seems I’ve done the opposite of not making professional blunders thus far in my life. I’ve created quite the resume and educational experience with not one, but two degrees under my belt. They’re just as far from the museum and/or food path as humanly possible. Awesome.
The first time in memory of going to a museum, I was about three years old and with my parents and brother. We headed out to the Museum of Natural History. My brother and I never really got along very well, and on trips like this we were more simply in the same place at the same time rather than actually experiencing something together. We walked passed the dinosaur skeleton in the entry hall and made our way around the mammoths and the naked, hairy neanderthals with the droopy boobs. This was prior to the Rose Center, otherwise we would have probably made a bee line for the giant glass box of Space. The favorite at this time, however, was the Great Hall. The Great Hall is massive, primarily so it can fit the life-sized model of a blue whale. It’s romantically lit, and by that I mean, that it’s somewhat dark, like the depths of the ocean. It consists of two levels with marine life exhibits lining the walls and a large open area in the center, from which one can admire the whale.
Photo credit Linden78. That bitch’ll crush yo’ ass.
I say “admire”.
There are two things I remember from this day, one of my earliest trips to the AMNH:
1. Being horrified in the Great Hall by this massive whale that was going to crush and/or eat me at any moment while…2. George Michael’s Careless Whisper played over the loud speaker. I mean, yeah, technically it was a Wham! song, but, c’mon, it was all George Michael and that damned whale. My mother said she heard “teeny, tiny pounding feet” and turned to see me flying toward her staring over my shoulder at the whale, horrified. And what self respecting toddler wouldn’t be? Even at that young age I knew anything from above could crush you below, both literally and figuratively.
It’s a hazy memory, but it’s very real, and it didn’t just end with that day.
I then proceded to carry around a fear of being in an ocean for years. Playing in the surf = good. Playing far enough out where water could go over your head and therefore allow you to be crushed from above by a whale = bad. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I could picture myself getting out of a boat and into open waters. I wasn’t afraid of whales, so much as being in water with them. I grew up along the north eastern seaboard, so going whale watching was a common activity. I respected their beauty and their power. And their ability to crush me in real life in the ocean or as a giant model in a museum.
Soul inhibited experience or no, I knew to differentiate my fear from what actually caused it and not where the experience occurred. Loosely translated: I didn’t blame the museum for this silly fear that followed me around for a couple of decades.
And to this day I want to be apart of some historical and educational organization that learns from and loves the past, whale or no.
We, as human beings, are constantly looking for answers. Sometimes we are so lost in ourselves searching for answers that we are blind to how requesting assistance affects others. I wish I were naturally more patient, but I’m not. I generally have to try to be patient. Being a receptionist for over a dozen years does that to a person.
One day at the vet clinic was particularly rough. We were packed with appointments as usual, but a clients dog had been hit by a car. He brought it straight to us, as he didn’t know what else to do, and, because my veterinarian is a warm-hearted person, the dog was immediately brought to the back for emergency surgery. It was up to me to help the vet techs with anything I could and to keep people calm to let them know their appointment might be late due to the unfortunate circumstances. Most people (yes, only most, not all) were understanding, but it was still a stressful afternoon.
Sometimes it’s cruel beyond measure when time stops, and yet everyone around you continues with life as normal.
As it did for me.
“Thank you for calling South Congress Vet. How can I help you?” I am more often then not always perky when I answer the phone, even when stressed. You know, first impressions and whatnot.
“Hi!” a girl chirps from the other end. “I’m – and I’m coming to pick up five Eskie rescue dogs. Can you tell me where you’re located?”
Photo Credit unknown
“Sure!” I replied. I’d been expecting the rescue to send a woman to pick up their adoptable pups that we had been boarding, and I had the dogs in our kennels all ready to go. “We’re at 3300 South Congress Ave, just north of Ben White Boulevard and across the street from Saint Ed’s University. We’re a little peach colored brick building.”
“…Yeah, but can you tell me where you are.”
I got this question a lot: I won’t tell you where I am, but I want you to tell me how to find you.
“I would need to know where you are or which direction you’re coming from. What’s your address or major crossroads near you?”
“I’m near HEB.”
I paused because I thought there would be more. Obviously she must just be taking a moment to figure out her locale. HEB’s are the grocery store in Texas, they’re numerous in every city, and there were at least three within a two mile radius of the vet clinic. When nothing else came I said delicately:
“Ma’am, there’s almost a dozen HEB’s in the Austin area.” This may have been an exaggeration, but only a slight one; there are actually nine. “Do you see any street signs near you?”
“There’s a Taco Bell across the street.”
I heard the clinic door open and glanced into the waiting room: A mother, her daughter, and their new puppy were waiting for a check-up appointment…and were giving the man whose dog had been hit by a car a look as though he was a pervert. Disheveled and red faced, he had stopped crying, but only just, and was still waiting for his dog to come out of the emergency procedure. Another client who had entered a few minutes earlier was filling out our client forms and our schedule listed the many more to come. I had to get off the phone quick.
“Ma’am, we’re very busy and I want to help you. In order to figure out how to properly give you directions I would need to know you’re exact location.”
“Oh, I don’t know that.”
“Could you go inside and maybe ask an HEB employee the address of the building? Or maybe someone near you in the parking lot?”
“I can see a McDonald’s.”
“Ma’am,” I was starting to rush and, frankly, get angry. I couldn’t help but speak to her like a child, with an almost condescending inflection.
“I cannot give you directions without knowing your location! Please ask someone near you, in a car or in the store where exactly you are, and that way I could tell you exactly how to get here.”
“Well, my GPS can tell me ‘exactly where I am’, but I just know I’m lost.”
That bitch just said “GPS”.
Are you fucking kidding? Deep breath now before I split in twain from bitterness and anger and End of Times comes spewing forth from the chest of a receptionist in Austin, Texas.
“Wait – You have a GPS system in your car?” It was taking all my strength not to shout, but I’m sure every vein in my forehead was quite visible and ready to burst. The people in the waiting room had picked up on the conversation, and even the crying man was looking at me in interest.
“Oh, totally! I’m from San Antonio – I don’t know my way around Austin! But, like I don’t know, I just don’t want to trust it, you know? I don’t know where I am, so how can it really be showing me where I need to go? I don’t trust it.” I could still hear a smile on her face: she had no idea how frustrating she was being, no sensing of urgency or annoyance from my end, and absolutely no intention of aiding herself.
I, on the other hand, could hear my heartbeat in my ears.
“Ma’am, please turn on your GPS,” surprisingly hard to say through gritted teeth, “and please hold.”
It wasn’t a question. Without waiting for an answer I hit the hold button just as hard as I could.
And there I left her. In the limbo that is Hold. We had clients coming in waiting to be seen, we had an emergency surgery going under anesthesia. There were four people total working at our little clinic, and I had no idea how to help the woman on the phone. So I took a page from Jesus: I chose to help those that helped themselves.
Photo Credit KarlsKats
I did feel slightly guilty, in case you’re wondering. I do still when I think about this. But everyone has had to be put on hold by a receptionist at some point in their lives, and I wasn’t doing it maliciously: there were clients waiting, being held up with pet medical issues, because this young girl didn’t want to listen to her GPS or ask for an address. Sometimes people just want the answers they want and they want it immediately, without a thought of who are what they’re impacting by holding up the line, so to speak.
She wanted magic, and I’m no Penn Jillette.
I got to work helping the others. I took deep breathes and, within a few minutes, I had forgotten about her. Alone and on hold.
I had forgotten about her until about twenty minutes later when, quite miraculously, she appeared in our waiting room. All cheery and spunky, no less. When I saw a bright dullard prance into our office, I instantly knew who she was, the memory of the phone call came rushing back.
And her cheery disposition annoyed the shit out of me.
“Hi! I’m here for the five Eskies! They’re about 30lbs each, right?” she asked. She had a single leash around her neck.
“Yes,” a stated dully. I had no energy to even fake a smile. “Do you need more leashes; there are five dogs.”
“Oh, no, I’m all set. I’ll go grab the carriers!” She flittered out. She flittered back. “Here ya go!” Grin, grin.
I looked at what she brought me, completely unsurprised that it was all wrong.
“Ma’am, these are cat carriers. And there’s only two.”
“Yeah, but they’ll fit, right? The dogs are, like, 30 pounds each?”
I look at her. If this emaciated, Juicy t-shirt wearing, peroxide blonde could lift a single dog weighing thirty pounds – let alone four at once crammed into tiny carriers – I would eat my hat.
“Yes, the dogs are standard Eskimos and roughly 30 pounds. Each. No, the five dogs will not all fit in two carriers rated for a maximum of TEN pounds.”
I stared at her. Over time, and mostly due to my mother, I learned that nothing can spur shame like a good stare. I wasn’t being any more helpful in person then I was on the phone, but I wasn’t trying to be rude. I was at a loss and the rest of the people in the waiting room stared at us with entertained and mildly morbid interest. I just wanted a thought, any thought, to cross her mind. After the mood in the room noticeably changed from cool to downright chilly, I felt she may have gotten the point enough for me to get on with my day.
The doctor’s assistant finally got the chance to bring out the dogs from the kennels and I moodily helped the Lost Girl secure the five dogs to the inside of her vehicle with various pieces of rope. The mayhem inside her car would have been slightly lessened had most of the little coupe not already been occupied by her own personal dog on top of the five rescues. His incessant barking wasn’t helping either, as the other dogs were getting more and more excited with each yelp, and Lost Girl seemed only capable of infant babble as a way of reprimand. I ditched the dogs in her “care” as soon as I could. As I walked back inside she stuck her head out her car window and yelled:
“YES?” I spun around too quick to hide my obvious annoyance. Three clients and a crying man were still waiting for me inside. She was too time consuming an individual for someone who was just picking up rescue dogs. And I was concerned; I didn’t feel confident leaving the five rescue dogs in her care, but legally I had to. I just wanted this experience over with.
“Hey, I was just wondering. I wanted to ask what kind of birds you have?”
“I beg your pardon?” I demanded, rather than asked.
“What kind of birds?!?”
“Ma’am, this is a dog and cat clinic. We do not treat birds.” I continued my retreat through the public parking lot. I looked up to see the man and a client standing in the doorway waiting for me. Shit, I was needed back inside!
“But then who owns them?”
I turned on my heal, any patience I had mustered completely gone. “Ma’am,” I growled, “I don’t know the birds you’re talking about!”
That’s when she gestured wildly toward the random bird droppings that littered the sidewalk under a tree outside of our clinic.
Holy shit. No pun intended.
“AAAAAARGH!” I stomped away. No, it wasn’t mature, and it wasn’t professional. But I was young, busy, and I didn’t know how to even begin to explain to this Grade A Moron that birds exist in the wild.
I charged past the clients in the door, into the clinic and retreated behind my desk.
As I plunked down into my swivel chair, I heard snickering from the other side of the counter and knew that all those waiting in the lobby had heard what occurred outside. I was annoyed that the Lost Girl wasn’t thinking outside of herself, I was annoyed we had such a busy afternoon. I was annoyed over the safety of the rescue dogs. I was really annoyed I didn’t have a good zinger for her bird comment. And if in the very off chance she said it just to screw with me, why would she mess around after seeing the chaos inside the office? I sighed heavily and dropped my head, staring at my shoes, trying to think of a mantra to let it all go.
Hearing a voice snapped me back to reality. It was the man waiting for his poor old girl lab mix who had been hit by a car, eyes still slightly puffy and red from the shock of her surgery, waiting for news of his beloved pet.
“Oh!” I rose, suddenly feeling so guilty. “Mr. –, I’m so sorry, I’ll go ask about Gretchen right now, I’m sorry, is there anything I can get you?” I was knocked right back to normalcy and the words just tumbled out. I genuinely felt for him.
“No – no, it’s not that. I know the doctor will come see me. I’m okay. I just wanted to tell you, about that blonde girl –“
“Oh, god! Did you know her? I’m didn’t mean- I’m sor –”
“No! No. I just wanted to tell you: I would have killed her.”
I’m sure it’s wrong, but I have to admit, his sentiment made me smile.
And his dog was fine, by the way.
*David Cross is coming to Austin tomorrow. If you’re just finding this out now, I should tell you: you’ve got no chance to see him. On Monday the Alamo Drafthouse announced David Cross would be hosting a marathon of The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. Tickets went on sale on Wednesday and sold out in 8 minutes.
I highly recommend catching Poor Decisions when you can. It airs on IFC and, like Portlandia, it’s not your usual comedy. It’s quite refreshing in a How-I-Met-Your-Mother-2-And-A-Half-Crappy world.
*Andy Warhol, a hero to the Hipster Movement everywhere, just got extra hipstery. You can now carry your MacBookAir or iPad around in his face. No, nothing is sacred, thanks for asking. [Incase]
* Andy Serkis deserves an Oscar! I’m not the only one who thinks so; Fox has launched a campaign with quite the emotionally moving ad in an attempt to get the man some well deserved gold. [Blastr]
* Jack White is collaborating with Tom Jones. That makes sense. No, really, I bet it will be an incredible work. Jack White is an amazing guitarist and song writer and Tom Jones is classic and has stood the test of time…it’s just every time I see Jack White all I can think is “You slept with Renee Zellweger,” and that grosses me out. [24Bit]
* “And in other news, I love Lamp,” actually happened live on the news.
* I’m not going to delay this. Everyone everywhere needs to watch this Lion King/Dark Knight Rises right now. It’s genius and brought to us by Moviemaestroten at YouTube.
* Worst. Food Promotion. Ever. Burger King has had the fabulous idea to offer a Dark Side Burger and a Jedi Knight burger in honor of Star Wars 3D. I really, really hope they decide against the black bun. [BuzzFeed]
* Just in case you haven’t heard, Ab Fab is back in a big, beautiful way. Jennifer Saunders discusses it’s rebirth, smoking, and aging with Vulture Magazine. [NYMag]
Photo credit BestMoviesEverNews
* Wheel of Fish never had anything this awesome. A blue fin tuna recently sold at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market for $736,000. At weighing in at 593 pounds, that fish wound up costing about $1,238 a pound. And I’m sure every bit of it is delicious. Mmm… [Inquistr]
* The New York Times had to issue a correction recently due to an error in a story from last week. And it was spectacular, hysterical. I’m honestly glad they took the time to correct something that was important to those they feature in a front page story. See the clipping below. [BestWeekEver]
Photo credit Kerri Hicks
* Welcome to something I like to call “The Grossest Thing Ever.” Apparently the new teen fad is Vodka tampons. No, they’re not soaking up vodka with tampons to drink later. Teens are soaking up vodka with tampons and inserting them into their vaginas for a quick, mild buzz. According to the article, boys can also do this, too, through something called Butt Chugging. I’m not kidding. My favorite part of this little expose, however, was when Dr. Lisa Masterson said that the practice of vodka tampon use would “…literally destroy the vagina.” I like to imagine Jim Gaffigan dressed as a woman doing his Hot Pocket skit, but replacing “It will literally destroy your mouth.” with the above quote from Doc Masterson. Awesome. [HuffPostCA]
* A new Doctor Who rumor has hit the interwebs. As we all know, Amy Pond and Rory Williams out – heart breakingly – out. Word on the street is that the new sidekick might be none other than, Miranda Hart, an actress I know best as Diplomatic Officer Chloe Alice Teal of Hyperdrive. She’s funny, punky. She may not be my first pick for a replacement, but I’m not too sure I have one…’cept for maybe Gwen Cooper. [Blastr]
* Benedict Cumberbatch is going to be the new villain in the Star Trek sequel! I am over the moon about this! I can’t wait to see his Smaug and now I get him in Star Trek. Just fantastic, very exciting! I think 2011 is really going to be his year. [MTVNews]
* Speaking of Star Trek AND Doctor Who, ex-Who sidekick Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) is also rumored to have signed on to the sequel. I loved him…until he got all up in Martha Jones, who I couldn’t stand. There’s going to be a number of cocky, villainous gazing come that movie. [Variety]
* And, finally, Portlandia performs Salt n Pepa’s Push It
I don’t know what it’s like be my mother. I both fear her wrath and recognize her as simply being a human being. She has made it quite far, has lived quite a successful life, and, with the help of my father, made a wonderful life for her two children.
Now, I say two children.
The fact of the matter is that my father has frequently behaved as a third child. Yes, men mature slower than girls do, but if that’s the truth in my father’s case than he matures 1 year for everyone else’s dozen. And I mean this in a good way. If I was doing well in school and wanted him to play hooky from work so we could go to the Museum of Natural History or the Bronx Zoo, he would indulge me whenever he could. I knew early on where each and every scene of Ghost Busters 1 AND 2 where filmed because my father took me there. And I had a grasp of Renaissance art including both Italian and German artists by the time I was twelve because my father taught me their works and brought me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a regular basis.
Venus and Cupid, 1520 [MetropolitanMuseumOfArt]
I didn’t grow up in New York City, but I wasn’t too far outside of it. I knew train etiquette and was trusted to handle trips on my own from a fairly young age. I knew that the entrance to a museum was a suggested donation, but that if I could afford more than that request I should pay more, so that if I was too poor to pay once in while that was okay, too. And this is all because my dad was and is a good dad, mostly because no matter how old he gets he still always wants to have fun. And that flair of childishness has gotten him in trouble on more than one occasion.
When I was a pre-teen and teen, too young to drive, but too cool for just about everything else, sleepovers were my life. I’d hang at Anna’s house, we’d stay at Joanna’s house, and sometimes Laura, Erica, and I would lock ourselves in my room for days.
My parents would pound on the door, “What ARE you doing in there?!”
“NOTHING!” We’d all scream before dissolving in giggles.
Looking back on it I see that “nothing” was the truth. We did literally nothing. When one is a teenage girl, you can spend solid weeks on end “doing stuff”, thinking everything that revolves around you – and it all revolves around you – is suuuuuuuper important. And, really you’re not doing anything at all. Obsessing. Talking about boys. Talking about girls. Talking about the girls who liked the boys that we liked and how those girls were stupid trash because they had the audacity to live. All the things we wanted that our parents were too stupid and bitchy to buy us, because obviously that’s the only reason we didn’t have everything; parents have all the money in the world and they just didn’t buy us stuff because they didn’t respect us as the super mature, blossoming adults we were. Duh. And we’d talk about that crap for hours.
Photo credit ThisNext.com
Ugh. I can’t even think about this right now. It just makes me want my life back. I’m not going to chance having a female offspring now, either. I’m just going to adopt a boy out of safety.
Anyway, one day I was heading over to stay at Anna’s place. Anna was perpetually grounded and every time she was grounded she was allowed to go out, allowed to have friends over, but NOT allowed to use the phone. Really emotionally messed up, right? And, remember: This is before both computers and cell phones. Neither texting nor those free 100 hour discs of AOL featuring their messenger had even been invented yet, though they weren’t far off. Anna’s mom was very kind next to Anna’s constantly punishing father, and she would call my Ma and ask if I would like to come over or meet Anna at the mall, etc. So this was one of the many times I was hanging with Grounded Anna.
And my father was dealing with losing his little girl. Hangin’ with him was no longer the coolest thing in the world. The year prior I had asked for my own phone line for a birthday gift, and having my own answering machine made me pretty hot shit. To make matters worse, a couple years prior, I had come home from working at a stable (I did this from the time I was ten to earn equestrian lessons) to declare that womanhood was upon me. And my mother had to take me right back out to the pharmacy (Target and WalMart hadn’t been invented yet, either) for “womanhood accouterments”. Playtex would be proud.
In an effort to keep me, his PDSL, under his wing, Dad would terrorize me as frequently as possible. And by “terrorize” I mean he was merely being playful; this was at a time when my parents took me and my brother’s ever constant shouts of “GOD! Why are you guys SO annoying?!” as “I love you, too.”
This is a photo titled “Parents Just Don’t Understand” from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
As I was heading over to Anna’s that meant that my parents would also try to go grocery shopping. We lived on the edge of town and Anna lived in the center, so why make extra unnecessary trips? Being a teenager meant that each happening that had no relation to my own personal wishes was a total inconvenience to me, especially having my space invaded by uncool people – or worse: my parents. My mother drove and, out of shear teasing, my father chose to sit in the backseat with me. It was double annoying – first the grocery store, now this?! Ohmygod, lame!
“Go away, Dad.”
“Ugh, you’re so lame.”
“Do not call your father lame!”
“Yeah, your mother will turn this car around and slap your nose into next Tuesday.”
I started to snicker.
“Damnit, Christopher, do not mock me in front of the kids.”
“You’re in troooooooouble!” I said mockingly to my father. Being “In Trouble” was, of course, the absolute worst fate that could befall a person at this point in my life.
To which he retorted by reaching over and flicking my nose.
I slapped his arm. And he flicked again.
“MOM!” I shouted.
Photo credit unknown
This cycle continued for quite a while. It took just under thirty minutes to get to Anna’s home and by the time we arrived both my father and I were red in the face from laughing, I was horse from squawking for Mom, and Mom was pissed that she had ever thought it was a good idea to get married or knocked up.
Once in the cozy darkness of my friend’s basement living room, Anna and I proceeded to forget we had parents all together. We locked the door, put on The Dark Crystal, and sat on the step in front of the fireplace and “smoked” her parents’ cigarettes. I put the word smoked in parenthesis because I’m not too convinced we were very competent inhalers. It was all pretty pathetic. And we puffed away in front of the fireplace so the smoke would go out the chimney and her parents would be none the wiser. Which they weren’t.
An hour or so into our super adult, not-smoking yet smoking, ultra mature time, Anna began to stare at me.
“Kate. You have dirt on your nose.”
Naturally, we thought it was soot from smoking out of the fireplace and I promptly trotted to the bathroom to wash my face. A few friends decided to pop by, as was regularly the case since one couldn’t simply call Anna, and we all settled down in the dark to watch a movie.
Photo credit NYBBIS
Jen the Gelfling was just about to interpret the prophecy from the wall etchings that he found outside of Kira’s village when Tom detached his face from Anna’s mouth and turned to me.
“Kate. You have dirt on your nose.” I slid off the couch, thumped into the bathroom, and washed my face. Again.
At 11pm Anna’s folks shouted downstairs that anyone who wasn’t myself or Anna had to bugger off their premises for the night, because they were so uncool about everything. Jeez. Remaining in the afterglow of movie darkness and an evening teenage rebellion, Anna and I had another cigarette, hunched in the fireplace, before heading off to bed.
“Damn, Kate! You. Are. A. Mess! You still have dirt on your nose!” She said between giggles.
I brushed my teeth and washed my fave oblivious to the fact that with each wash not a speck of the dirt was coming off. In fact, if anything, the dirt was getting dirtier. But it all became very clear to me what had happened once I woke up.
“Kate!” yelled Anna’s mother through the closed bedroom door.
“Yes,” I snorted, jolting awake.
“Your parents are coming to get you. They need to take your brother to the DMV near here.”
“Okay, thanks, Mrs. Millhouse.” I answered, face down still in my pillow. Not one for pajamas I slept in my jeans, generally on the floors of my friends’ rooms. All I ever did was change my tee shirt. Anna remained asleep. I stumbled sleepily to the bathroom and flicked on the lights.
Big bright lights. Florescent suckers, unapologeticly highlighting every flaw and blemish of the human face.
And any noses that had turned deep purple with bruising.
I almost jumped at the site of myself. With an almost painted precision, my little nose, the adorable one I had inherited from my mother, was almost black from bruising. As I stared I slowly began to smile, realizing the flicks of my playful father were the cause.
And he was gonna be in SO MUCH TROUBLE!
“KATE!” Anna’s mom shouted over the beeping of a car horn. “Your folks are here!”
“ThanksMissusMillhouse!” I rushed as I grabbed my coat from Anna’s room and bolted out the front door, turning to the side so her mom wouldn’t see my nose. I thought it was funny, yes, but I was still self-conscience about it.
I ran out to the car on hopped into the back seat next to my brother who immediately began to grin maliciously.
“You look like a dog! Hey, Ma, Kate looks like a dog!”
“Mathew, DO NOT CALL YOUR SISTER A D-“
My father’s swear, so seldom heard, silenced the car. My mother wrenched at the rear-view mirror to get a good look at me. I smiled politely as she did so, for it was not I who would be in trouble.
That was the last moment we had silence in the car that day.
And, though it took only about a week for my nose bruising to dissipate, my dad was grounded for quite a while.
* An Alien fan on YouTube has remixed the original Alien trailer from 1979 to look more like the Prometheus trailer of 2011. It is badass.
* Darth Vader is (kinda) dead (sorta). Bob Anderson, the master fencer who performed Vader’s battle scenes, has passed away at 89. [NPR]
* David Tennant is officially married!…to a girl who played his daughter in Doctor Who…who also happens to be the real daughter of the fifth Doctor Who from the 1980’s…You heard me. [NME]
* Snoop Dogg rocked The Price is Right recently. Just amazing. [Idolator]
* The opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Arc is iconic. Mesmerizing and perfectly shot, few movies have been able to grasp a viewer’s attention as efficiently and completely as Raiders. Due to the impact it has had on fans, many have attempted to recreate the opening sequence in different mediums. The newest incarnation comes in the form of classic movie clips from 30 movies shot between 1919-1973, edited together, and played side by side with the original. Pretty slick and very entertaining. [iO9]
* 85,000,000,004 rumor about Dark Knight Rises: Christopher Nolan has given in to the executives over at Warner Bros. and will be editing Bane’s voice so that viewers can actually understand him. It was originally noted in mid December by The Hollywood Reporter that Banes voice was a problem, but Nolan had little to no plans on altering it. It seems in an effort to please the studio and not alienate fans, Nolan may be changing his tune. [Blastr]
* It’s no secret that the science fiction genre is constantly overlooked during the Awards season. Then Lord of the Rings came along and – hopefully – changed this for good, winning all they deserved, including winning every nomination they had for Return of the King. Unfortunately, the Harry Potter franchise has experienced quite the Oscar nomination drought, which Warner Bros. plans on changing this year. The final two HP movies encompass the final book; I was not a huge fan of the previous movies, but I was floored by the greatness of the final two. Friends who were never Harry Potter fans even saw the final two films a couple of times in the theater. Just fantastic, and well deserving of the Oscar campaign Warner Bros plans on launching. [TheGuardian]
* I’m sorry, you’re claiming to have found what in your can of Mountain Dew?! Well, you must be mistaken, because according to Pepsi, Mountain Dew can dissolve an entire mouse carcass. [AtlanticWire]
* Watch an entire episode of Portlandia Season 2 online before it airs on IFC! Thank you, Internet Gods!
Image courtesy of IFC
I used to volunteer one day a week in a Veterinary Clinic. I did this for a number of reasons, the primary one being that I really loved who I worked with. The people there are wonderful. Pet owners, however, can be a breed all their own.
It was a very small veterinary clinic. There was one doctor and only two exam rooms. We were basically an ENT for dogs and cats. We would do minor surgery, but no emergencies. We were just your primary care physician for your puppy or feline, appointments only, rigid schedule due to our size, but always happily refereed and recommended doctors for emergencies. We would always squeeze unscheduled people in whenever we could, but it is simply not always possible. As far as clientele goes, we handled anyone in Austin and anyone willing to drive to us…and there are a lot of eccentric people in the surrounding hill country. Very unique and I guess peculiar would be the nice way of putting it. Don’t forget: a lot of horror flicks take place out here.
We all have dealt with odd people in our daily lives, we all have been those “crazies” to someone else at some point. It’s what makes life interesting. And this encounter was interesting.
On this morning, as I organized the charts for the full list of appointments we had that day, a car pulled into our lot. The driver of the car was a woman dressed in a uniform, a state or city worker, with a badge on her chest that shone in the sun when she got out of her new model Nissan. She went over to the passenger side and removed from the car a lumpy and squirming pillow case. She strode in our door, sack in hand, and I greeted her warmly, as I do all our patients and their owners.
Let me just note here that cat carries are always preferable. That being said, it is not uncommon for people to transport their cats in pillow cases. I’m not kidding.
She grunted at my hello and sat down. I began to ask what we could help her with this fine morning and for her name so I could check her off the appointments list. Her answers were…well, it was as though she knew what she wanted, wanted it done, and didn’t want to deal with logic. In fact, it seemed even paying attention to anything was out of the question.
I asked what she needed, she responded with something about crazy drivers. I asked if we could help her pet in the pillow case, and she was upset with the weather and angry at metal. I don’t know if she meant technology or cars or the genre of music.
My outward queries of her needs became inner queries of wonder: just how did she get on this planet? It seemed she was trying to get care for her cat in the most confusing and angry way. She was very animated when she spoke, doing so with sudden, sharp hands gestures, arms swinging with each sentence. This wouldn’t have bothered me normally, accept in one of her hands she grasped the pillow case containing her cat, who was very obviously not enjoying its morning.
Photo credit unknown. Not me, that’s for sure.
I’m no doctor, but after a few minutes with Unknown Lady #1 of the day, I felt confident to make a diagnosis: Bull Goose Looney. Not mentally handicapped mind you, just missing some marbles. Normally, I wouldn’t jump to make that call; you never know what someone is going through. I promise you, I am normally very kind and patient when I’m in the office, as much as I dislike the human race.
This woman, however, was mean. She was nuts, angry, and none too bright. A deadly combination. ‘Deadly’ as in her existence in common society causes others to kill. I very politely let her know there might be a wait for the doctor, but we would try to see her cat, and I attempted to keep her as calm as possible. I offered to put her cat in the exam room so it could stretch it’s legs and calm down before the exam, but she refused. In fact, in order to even get her to acknowledge her own pet, I had to basically pressure her for answers, and those only came after over ten minutes of angry rants and in short bursts of sentences.
I was trying to be nice and helpful, but I was getting more concerned for her cat with each passing moment.
“You have your cat with you it seems. And it doesn’t seem that you have an appointment. Does your cat need vaccinations?” I asked slowly and clearly.
“Nah! Needs shots. I had my cat’s shots done in Austin last year. I need ’em done agin.”
“Sure, we can do that! Did your cat receive those shots here last year? What’s your last name? I can look up his records.” I rose
to look through charts.
“I ain’t never been here before,” she answered.
“Oh, that’s no problem. We’ll just take your information as a new client. Please fill out the new client form on the counter. Where did you have the shots done last time?” I asked.
“Oh, I dunno. Somewheres in Austin. Y’all have ’em in the records.” She ignored my request for the form.
“So, we DO have the records? So your cat HAS seen our doctor before? Or did you have the records sent over from the previous vet? What’s your last name? And, if you’d like, I can help you fill out the new patient form.” I still had no answer on either a name for the woman or her cat.
“I haven’t been here before and I sureishell don’ know yer docteer!”She seemed to be getting annoyed and again ignored the new patient information request.
We looked at each other. I was blank and confused, but at least I was in good company. Let me just point out, that by this time my boss, the veterinarian, his assistant, and the vet tech were standing just out of sight of the client area in the hall listening, a swirl of confusion and entertainment playing on their faces.
I repeated, “Did you have the records sent to us from a previous vet of the vaccinations?”
“I don’t need vassinations, I need shots! I don’t need ‘er records neither, cause I got her shots done ’round in Austin. YOU – GOT – DEM RECORDS!” She was yelling now.
I had no idea what to do. I paused. I was not a cryer. If someone has the audacity to make you cry or come close to tears at the office they are horrible human beings and not worth the energy.
And…Stupid does this. It seeps in, infects the air, hovers heavily, thickly like a smelly fourth grader with awful hygiene and weird food for lunch. It hangs there, staring at you, waiting yet thoughtless, ignorant of it’s own irritating cycle.
You almost want to feel sorry.
I forced my self to smile. And I maintained quiet and calm and spoke…very…very…very…slow…ly.
“Ma’am, if you haven’t been here before…
…and your cat hasn’t seen our Doctor…
…and you haven’t had records sent over from another vet…
…then there is absolutely no way that we have records for your pet.”
The woman was silent for a moment. After a bit her eyes changed, like suddenly she was figuring it all out. For about an eighth of a second I was thankful, I thought we could move forward and communicate. I almost sighed with relief.
Then the woman blinked. Something had clicked. Evil.
Out she spat her next topic, which still had nothing to do with her cat. “You’re a big girl. You gained weight since las’ time I were here.”
That was it.
At that point I had worked at the clinic barely a year and I could hear my coworkers snickering out of sight in the exam room hall. Our waiting area was filling with competent pet owners who actually had appointments. And I wasn’t about to hold them up any longer.
Screw reality. Reality isn’t a necessity. Let’s do crazy, bitch.
“Ma’am,” I sighed calmly, politely. “We can’t treat your cat.”
Suddenly, the prospect of no longer getting attention made her understand English. “But the sign say y’all do cats!”
“Yes, we do ‘do cats’. But those are special cats. We only treat THOSE cats,” I pressed, leaning forward as though I was sharing a secret with her.
“Oh…Thems like those SPECIAL cats?…” she asked.
She started to smile. Thems special cats. She was nodding like she was privy to a veterinarian insider tip, like she knew exactly what I meant. I didn’t fucking know what I meant. It seemed, however, to make her feel special that her cat was in a “special cat” vet office, like being there was AS GOOD as getting her cat the actual shots it needed, even though she was being turned down.
“Yeah. I’m sooooooo sorreee about that. Thought your cat had been here, but hasn’t, so can’t. So sorry! But you have a good day!”
I walked over to the door out of politeness in case she needed a hand leaving.
“Tha’s fine, darlin’. I gotta git to work any how. Somebody’s gotta drive that bus.” Magically and totally placated, she was smiling a far off smile, and left nodding without another word, just like that.
I wish I had asked her the bus route she drove just to avoid it. I should have asked her if she was going to drop her cat off at home or if it had to stay in a pillow case in her car all day. And I should have asked if she needed a recommendation for another vet clinic. But, after a frustrating and fruitless 20 minutes in which I couldn’t even get a name, other people waiting and getting annoyed as well, it was too important for my own sanity’s sake to get her out the door.
And to this day I have no idea what ‘thems special cats’ are, but I bet they’re awesome.
Like Thunder Cats.
This isn’t exactly a Christmas or New Year’s tale, but it has all the feeling and warmth of a family holiday dinner, so I choose to share it with you now.
I was once the absolute definitive example of a New York-Italian child. I grew up just outside the Big Apple with an extended family that rivaled the population of Rhode Island. My dark frizzy hair could blot out the sun and that was just what was on my head. As I lacked a Long Island (or Long Islant) accent and a plastic cover on my mother’s couch, I was just shy of a Guidette. If you’re thinking of MTV’s Jersey Shore be aware: those people are a representation of Jerseyites, not Italian Americans. As a youth, I spent an inordinate amount of time with my cousins, aunts, uncles, and Nonni and Popi. Due to the whole Catholic thing, there were a lot of family members to hang with; hundreds, maybe even millions. It was kind of like an Olive Garden commercial, only significantly less campy and far more tan.
My grandparents were from hardy stock; they came here separately from their small towns in Italy to a world they struggled to understand for the rest of their lives. My grandmother came from a teenie tiny village in which a woman who wandered the streets and spoke with the dead was revered and laundry day was a neighborhood affair in the local river. When Nonni came here, to Massachusetts specifically, she was put to work as a waitress in a family restaurant. She didn’t speak English, she liked people about as much as I do, and had left everyone she knew behind. Eventually my grandfather, who had come to America to find his fortune in New York, the unexciting stereotype, found my grandmother (I can only assume in personal ads in a 1930’s version of Craigslist) and put in a bid to marry her. When I asked Nonni about romance when I was a nosy teenager she looked at me in this “stupid American” sort of way and grunted a “Yeah”…or it could have been “nah”. I could never really decipher her grunts. When I asked my mother or aunts and uncles about it, they thought for a moment and then nodded slowly:
“Sure, there must have been some kind of romance. Pop would drive all the way from New York to Mass to see her in a time when cars maxed out at, like, forty miles per hour.”
“Really?”, I beamed. “He’d drive all the way to see her? How often?”
“Like… twice,” Pop replied. I don’t think he was kidding.
Nonni and Pop bought this big old, drab farmhouse, as intimidating and large as an old Victorian with none of the flare, built in 1905. Sure, a passerby might say it was painted white, but I’m sure my grandparents never even considered the color. It was as if the house could have been a vibrant rainbow of light and excitement from the color spectrum, but as soon as my super focused, hardworking grandparents moved in, the house suddenly had no time for the nonsense of color. The upstairs consisted of three bedrooms, one bathroom, a sitting room, small kitchen, and an undersized dining/living area for a family of seven. It was set up like a glorified shotgun or railcar apartment: long and narrow, with all its rooms off an even narrower hallway. The house was separated into two apartments by previous owners in the 1930’s, one upstairs and one downstairs. The downstairs apartment had been restructured and updated so many times that it was unrecognizable from its upstairs counterpart. To add excitement to the downstairs apartment, I will also add that a lady died in it. But I was also conceived in it, so, based on the properties of Algebra, any ghosts get cancelled out. When I was old enough to rent that space, I would have friends over and bring them traipsing through my grandparents home upstairs because the difference was like stepping back in time. My grandfather preferred it that way, right up until his passing at 97 years old this past summer. He died almost a year to the day my grandmother died. And he planned it that way.
Photo credit Joey Tarzia
By the time I was old enough to have memory Pop had gotten rid of the pool in the backyard and had turned the chlorine sodden ground into a garden. This was in Stamford, Connecticut, mind you. The suburb-turned-city just outside of New York City. He was as apt to find squirrels in his garden as beer cans and lord knows what other kind of trash. It wasn’t a farm; it was a lot not a half mile from the center of a very bustling and cramped metropolis. The house was on Cold Spring Road, which, by the time I was born, was four lanes wide with a median divider and a speed limit of 45 miles per hour, but you’d think it was Mach ten. There was a big old garage in back of the house that looked like it would collapse at any moment and dry salami hanging from its ceiling pretty much all the time. Lots of spiders, rusted tools, jars with nails and twine, and a big, blue Cadillac.
My grandfather’s success was due to the fact that he owned a liquor store. The Package Store. Kind of like calling the local market the Milk and Fruit House. One day my grandmother was working, leaning on the bar with her arms folded. In walked a man who took out a knife and stuck it straight through the meaty part of her forearm, right down to the wooden counter. And then obbed the joint. That was before I was born. I guess that’s learning the hard way that your family shop has become part of the bad neighborhood.
The issues that really killed me about my grandparents moving to America were the little things, the traditions they viewed as necessities that they didn’t drop, but were no longer really needed. For example, my grandfather would eat anything he caught, which was all fine and good for the wilds and majestic beauty of Italy, but that didn’t change when he moved to Stamford. It didn’t matter if it was a gopher with two tails and a nervous twitch from heroin withdrawal: if Pop found it in the garden it was dinner. As kids we had all seen him kill animals. And the killing wasn’t ever in a cruel or lustful manner… though I distinctly remember him holding a vendetta toward the same rabbit was eating his garden, because he didn’t see it as eating for survival, but just to piss him off. It was with a morbid, but entirely childlike curiosity that I watched him step on the back of a lettuce-eating groundhog and drive a shovel into the back of its neck. More humane I suppose then the drowning pool (a 50 gallon drum he kept at the garden gate) and less buckshot then a gun. In fact, I don’t remember ever seeing my grandfather with a gun, as he seemed more of a finder-feeder then hunter. He acted this way because that’s what he was taught, it’s what it father did, and his own grandfather. He wasn’t wasteful, he wasn’t cruel, and he loved providing for his family more than he loved the sun.
When the family swelled and grandchildren (my cousins) started popping out left and right, Nonni insisted on having Sunday dinner at their place. It was Nonni, Pop, their five kids and their children’s children, so this cramped dining area for seven miraculously became a table for twenty. Catholics, man. My family was the original Anthony Bordain or Andrew Zimmern, trying exotic foods as character building exercises and larks. Most people have words of wisdom in their heads from their childhood. I merely have the all too constant comment “Eat that. It’ll put hair on your chest.” Delightful.
Every Sunday the same meal: really good homemade bread, home made meat sauce over pasta, ending with salad, fruit, and poker. And the meat was always beef or pork. Always. I was the youngest child of the youngest child and quite possibly the most annoying. Be that as it may, my older cousins and brother were not above using my youthful cuteness as scapegoat extraordinaire. If it’s one thing you learn even before puberty, it’s that youth is fleeting, and younger means cuter and more valuable. That’s why manipulation is one of the first things, almost instinctively, that children seem to catch on to.
Photo credit Joey Tarzia
One Sunday we were all there, huddled around the table, food in bowls and baskets and any other vessel that could be found, mismatched silverware chucked on the table along with glasses, jugs of wine and plates, more limbs and voices then there seemed people on the earth. Somewhere in the house a Yankees game was on, the noise and clamor of twenty people and children akin only to the Whos down in Whoville on Christmas day. Dinner was called and you never had so many people find seats so fast. Spaghetti and sauce got doled out, bread slices were grabbed and we dug in with gusto, the same meal we’d all had a hundred times and never tired of!…except this time something was different.
Something was wrong.
My cousins’ gulping and chewing began to slow as they stared into their plates and bowls, their eyes relaying all our thoughts in unison: Ewwwww. I got nudged by my older brother who is sitting next to our older cousin Cristina, sitting next to older Cathy and even older still Paul.
“You have to tell Mom this is gross.”
They were all looking at me. I gulped, not from food intake, but from fear. To talk ill of Nonni’s food was to be banished or, worse, yelled at. I looked at my mother chewing; I couldn’t tell if she knew. Had she realized something isn’t right? Was she continuing eating only because the sudden dip in food meant her own mother had lost it and she was coming to terms with the demise of the family? Had Nonni gotten so senile that she’s dropped boogers and fingernails into our food? What was happening?!?
“Mom, I don’t like dinner.”
“Katie, you do this all the time. Eat it.”
To be fair, I did not, do this all the time.
“Mom, it tastes funny.”
“Katie, it tastes exactly like it always does! Look, your cousins are eating it!”
I turned to see them beaming at my mother and nodding as if to say ‘Yeah, we have no idea what she’s talking about, and we would never throw her to the wolves.’
My grandmother never sat during these meals. She was forever bringing us water and more food and filling empty plates, the usual Nonni stuff. It was at this time that she brought in the giant sauce pot. I mean, huge. Le Crueset had nothing on this thing. She stood with it, teetering on the corner of the tabletop next to my grandfather, who was sitting in his usual Italian dinner jacket, at the head of the table.
“Do ya wanit now?” Nonni asked Pop.
“No, no! I have enough. Just leave it there!” Pop answered, food bulging from inside his cheek, as he motioned a fist full of bread toward a small empty bowl in front of him.
“Okay,” Nonni replied. She then proceeded to draw a ladle from the pot containing the biggest meatball I had ever seen.
Only it wasn’t a meatball. Though it was an entirely new sight to me, I knew instantly what it was:
There, hairless and cocked slightly in the spoon, staring eyeless right down the table, its lips peeled back and teeth gleaming through drips and globs of tomato and basil, was the head of a rabbit, its face meat and brain cooked ever so slowly out into our pasta sauce.
Plunk! Into Pop’s bowl. Much like being in a car accident, I only remember forks hitting porcelain plates then silence, a dull hum, everything in slow motion and everyone forgetting that exhibiting shock at dinner is breaking table manners.
My smart ass cousin Joey broke the silence with a nervous chuckle.
“Pop, what is that, raccoon?”
“No,” groaned Pop. “The raccoon’s ova there,” he said this still chewing, not joking, fist apathetically waved, roughly pointed to the bowl of meatballs.
This second wave of shock and nausea was shattered only by my mother, who leaned over and gasped “You’re excused!” At least I think that’s what she said. My memory is determined to tell me she turned to us children and screamed “RUN!”, but I simply don’t think that can be true.
But I do remember quite clearly the Hershey bars we were given for dinner in lieu of Nonni’s cooking that night.
And to this day I just don’t really like Hershey bars.