Two weeks ago, another senseless mass shooting occurred in the U.S. The perpetrator, Aaron Alexis, stole twelve American lives (in addition to his own), injured another eight, and decimated most of what remained of the fragile hope I carried in my heart. The hope that this attack would be the one that removes semi-automatic and automatic weapons out of the hands of anyone but the police, security personnel, and the military. The hope that this attack would be the one to convince anyone suffering from a mental illness to seek help – without the threat of societal judgement. The hope that this attack would be the last. For a long time, anyway.
Perhaps I was naive.
The worst part is that when I write about this attack, I don’t mean the shooting committed by Aaron Alexis. No, I’m still reeling from Aurora. James Holmes’ hang dog face was burned into my eyelids the moment I glimpsed his cartoonish red hair and sly, but vacant – maybe too vacant - expression. Most serial killers don’t stand out because they’re too busy blending in. They live lives that don’t draw attention. Or suspicion. (Yes, I’ve been watching a lot of Dexter recently, so I’ve got mad criminal profiling skills.)
Similarly, many who’ve known mass murderers – defined as a person who kills four or more people in a single incident – will confirm that they were shocked to discover that their friend, family member, neighbor or colleague was arrested for the first-degree murder of, not one, or even two people, but a dozen. All at once. When interviewed by the press, they nearly always say: ”He seemed like a nice guy.” “He was always friendly to me.” “He kept to himself, but was really pleasant.” No one ever says, “I saw this coming from a mile away. That dude was a burnt sienna short of a box of Crayolas.”
Mass murderers are almost never biker-types with tat sleeves, shaved heads and a long, deep facial scars. They don’t typically look like Walter White; they more closely resemble your next door neighbor with the expensive landscaping and the Lexus…or his shy, college-educated son. Aaron Alexis could have passed for my friend’s husband. But James Holmes remains an enigma. On the surface, he makes Charles Manson look like your favorite babysitter, albeit one with a swastika carved into his forehead. James Holmes looks utterly cray cray, but he’s almost textbook – and that’s where the problem lies. After all, he was enrolled in a prestigious, neuroscience doctoral program. He had access to thousands of scholarly tomes about mental disorders, and made a classroom presentation entitled,”Biological Basis of Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders.” Certainly, we’re all hoping that he is mentally ill, because if he’s not, it’s terrifying to conceive that a sane person could mow down a dozen innocent moviegoers, and injure another 58, with such cold precision.
So when I read that Aaron Alexis had been hearing voices in the weeks prior to the shooting, I felt a sense of relief. The monster who terrorized the employees of the Washington Navy Yard was mentally ill. He wasn’t a bad person; he was a sick person who did a bad, bad thing. One whom believed his insomnia was caused by people “using some kind of microwave machine” that made his body vibrate and prevented him from sleeping – a fact that only cemented my resolve that Alexis was as much of a victim as the innocent people whom he killed. A victim who had notified authorities about his paranoid hallucinations, and, yet, nothing was done to prevent the heinous crime Alexis was to commit mere weeks later.
Last night, I was reading an article about the politicians responsible for the federal government shutdown. When I came across the following statement, my heart lodged in my throat:
And I am concerned. They are shipping all the, I’m concerned about the microchips. That they are in many, many of the things that we own. And some of those are embedded, I believe, with, with detection and, uh, capabilities or tracking capabilities.
That’s no mass murderer; it’s Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler of Missouri (R), who apparently believes that her Chinese-manufactured blender is listening in as she makes her morning smoothie. What’s her solution to this dilemma? “We need to have a new 007 James Bond movie with China as the bad guys.” Erm, didn’t we do that already in Tomorrow Never Dies? I would think if China actually feared Hollywood, they wouldn’t illegally manufacture and sell bootleg copies of every major motion picture released, without paying a yuan in royalties.
Not surprisingly, she’s also a birther who has publicly said, “I have doubts that it is really his [President Obama's] birth certificate…” Funny, she hasn’t questioned Sen. Ted Cruz’s citizenship – and he admits that he was hatched in Canada. (Yes, Canada, you owe us big time for that one. I don’t care if you gave us Ryan Gosling and William Shatner; you’re also responsible for Justin Bieber, so this is strike deux.)
More alarming is the fact that she also appears to be hearing voices. Just yesterday, she was quoted as saying, “The American people have spoken already on this. They do not want Obamacare.” Really? According to RealClearPolitics.com, five times as many people have already visited the Obamacare website than have ever visited Medicare.gov. In fact, it’s been reported that 4.7 million people dropped by Healthcare.gov within the first twenty-four hours of the site being launched, despite the fact that the federal government had just been shutdown by a handful of Tea Party zealots attempting to hold it hostage. So, who are the faces behind these “American people” Hartzler speaks of? Maybe this one:
Rep. Hartzler credits God with inspiring her decision to become a politician. At the age of nine. Did it occur to her that God may have only been encouraging her to run for Playground Committee Chairwoman, not Congress? What does God’s inspiration sound like, anyway? My vote would go to Morgan Freeman, but I suspect Hartzler’s God sounds more like Charleston Heston: “Run for Congress, Vicky, or I’ll pry this gun out of my cold, dead hands and show you how I parted the Red Sea.” The poster child for the anti-choice movement, she supports charging women who have abortions with first degree murder, and the physicians who perform said abortions with second degree murder. Climate change? She’s not buying it. She’s not even certain it exists…but if it does, she doubts ”that man has a very significant role in that.”
I’d bet that Rep. Hartzler believes unicorns shit rainbows, but considering that she is a rabid, anti-LGBT activist, I doubt she recognizes the existence of rainbows at all. Kinda like gay marriage. Evolution. Gravity. On the upside, Hartzler supports increasing the size of the Navy in her land-locked Missouri. Erm, okay. You never know when North Korea is going to invade Mark Twain Lake.
While I’m relieved that it appears that Rep. Hartzler is suffering from a mental illness – much like Aaron Alexis – I’m concerned that she, along with a small Tea Party minority, seems to possess the power to shut down the federal government. When did we decide to hand the keys to the asylum over to the inmates? Why is John Boehner listening to a vapid, former home economics teacher whose greatest, single accomplishment so far is her contribution to passing a Missouri constitutional amendment banning gay marriage…in a state in which gay marriage was already illegal. Nothing like killing a fly with a jackhammer, huh, Hartzler?
If we continue to allow politicians who hear voices and hold conference calls with God, yet speak in whispers when within sight of a household appliance, to make decisions about the future of the United States, we could end up with much worse than 800,000 federal government staffers being furloughed indefinitely and Panda Cam going dark. In some ways, political terrorism is no different than a mass shooting, and the perpetrators no different than Aaron Alexis. Both wield power through fear. Both directly and indirectly impact the lives of thousands of people through intimidation, through terror. Both control the majority through the acts of the minority. Both hurt people.
For her sake, I hope Rep. Vicky Hartzler is mentally ill. Because if she’s not, that would make her a monster.
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Note: This post was not written, in any way, to trivialize or capitalize upon the victims of both the Aurora movie theater or Washington Navy Yard shootings. Please know that I offer my deepest condolences to both the victims and their families. Nor is this post intended to poke fun at those who bravely suffer from mental illness. Except for Vicky Hartzler. I was totally making fun of her.
Update: As per The Huffington Post, a Government Accountability Office analysis of Drug Enforcement Administration data has named Missouri the “methiest” state with 1,825 meth lab busts and seizures in 2012. One of only three states with over 1,000 incidents, Missouri beat out West Virginia, which ranks second with 1,585 arrests and seizures. Mother Jones reports that the most common victim of meth burn, often caused by the “shake and bake” manufacturing method, is under 4 years of age. Way to go, Rep. Hartzler! Maybe you should focus less on your anti-LGBT, anti-choice, anti-Chinese appliances, and anti-Affordable Healthcare Act platform, and focus on something that’s a genuine problem in your state.
Take that, Emily Dickinson!
There's nothing like a good secret police interrogation. Or is there? Now, you’ve no doubt perused Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire, and have probably enjoyed Heidi Ellis's The Early Bird Catches the SPaM feature. In truth, there isn't anything new about the interview-as-blog-post format, but what the hey, I’m going to do it anyway. So even if The Slattern’s Mind Probe…
Oh, it’s been a cruel, cruel summer. I started this blog out with such a fervor. I was in a frenzy. I was frackin’ dedicated. I’m still dedicated, but I’ve got the wahs and the blahs. If this long, hot, cruel, summer doesn’t end soon, I fear I’ll have nothing left to write about, but paper bags. Don’t think I won’t do it?
Last night I started writing a post about my maternal grandfather, whom I called Grandpa. A nostalgic sort, I tend to sometimes dwell in my memories and the stories told to me by my family. Those places that are sepia-toned and a bit soft around the edges. Tales in which truth and embellishment have become interwoven into the same long braid.
For today, I’ve set the snark aside and offer these instead.
the burial of older men
in the darkness
before the sky cracks dripping yolk sun
she hovers the room
the coffee maker clicks dribbles
an appropriate dress hangs on the closet door
it is black
with sensible shoes
lined up neatly as pall bearers
her father scoffed at time
the today show congratulated william whitted
for inhaling, exhaling, defecating for a century
it is an accomplishment to survive
it is a failure to die
two days ago, her brother – jimmy – failed
he was three years older
when she was four
jimmy threw a rock at her head
she married young
her limbs scarred as worn out nylons
she married before she reached full height
she married before her underarms needed shaving
she married so someone else could watch
for flying rocks
her husband, too, was older
ernie drove the fire truck
sang with velvet throat
walked like a rooster
walked like a snake
depended on the legs the whiskey was wearing
she grew older
jimmy shook his head
her father just shook
she has yet to bury a man
her mother and daughter were boxed up
and sent off to god
she is old now
she hangs from this cliff
with one knobby hand
her husband zips her dress
she combs his hair
today she throws back her first rock
it lands with a thud
somewhere above jimmy’s head
The Last Days
You may have escaped me,
the marble that rolled under the sofa
hidden for years.
I knew your tanned legs and feet,
the palms of your hands -
smooth as tumbled river stones -
the watch face that rested against the inside of your wrist,
your penchant for painting all the furniture
Your sentences often started somewhere
in the middle.
I learned to follow along,
but failed to query
when your kidneys, your heart
I never discovered the source of the incessant ticking,
the wound spring
controlling your breaths,
the truths that kept you going.
What did you think about
blanched and shrunken in a hospital recliner,
cable out because of a storm?
The last time I saw you,
I combed your hair,
bought you a paper,
but forgot to ask what you were thinking
the other twenty-three hours of the day.
Maybe I was afraid you’d start somewhere in the middle,
and – sometimes – a teaspoon of water
can be worse than none at all.
“the burial of older men” and “The Last Days” are copyright 2007 and are the sole property of Cristy Carrington Lewis.
The snark shall return later this week. If you liked this post, please follow me on Facebook by clicking here.
Remember when bath salts made your skin soft and smell faintly of something like lavender? Remember when the worst thing that could come as a result of using bath salts was a UTI? Remember when bath salts were merely part of one of those crappy, bath product gift baskets you bought your great Aunt Edna for Christmas because they were cheap, but looked expensive, plus you could pick them up at any pharmacy you passed on your way to visit her at the old folk’s home. And, let’s face it, Aunt Edna smelled like
urine mothballs – on a good day. Well, those days are gone, folks.
For years, experts have predicted that the zombie apocalypse would be brought about by a virus – one so powerful that it would render homo sapiens helpless to control their most savage impulses. Adrenaline rushing through their veins, the infected were predicted to exhibit an unusual level of endurance, lumbering at a slow, but terrifying and consistent, pace. As with all flus and viruses, young children and the elderly were expected to become the first casualties…mostly because they weren’t fast enough to outrun the newly-created zombies who would be thirsting for their blood. And just never tired.
But the virus never manifested itself. The zombie watchers got their panties all in a bunch when the H1N1 outbreak of 2009 petered out in mid-2010 – and no one went crazy and dined on their neighbors; they just died of respiratory failure. The books predicting the zombie apocalypse came and went out of vogue. Yeah, we all thought Pride, Prejudice and Zombies was a really clever idea. At least until it was followed by the release of another 8,000 dystopian novels about badass classic book characters/U.S. presidents/unusually attractive teens surviving a fictional zombie apocalypse. Sure, AMC’s The Walking Dead has been a big hit and World War Z is coming out next year, but let’s face it, zombies are quickly becoming passé. Like Paris Hilton and Robert Pattison, they are suffering from overexposure. Even my zombie-loving Hubby banned the undead from this year’s Christmas and Birthday Wish Lists after he received a zombie video game, several zombie-themed books, The Walking Dead board game, multiple zombie t-shirts, undead underwear and a birthday cake decorated with – you guessed it – glow-in-the-dark zombie figurines for the holidays last year.
Overall, the future of the zombie apocalypse didn’t look good. Zombies were destined to fall by the wayside just like vampires, werewolves and pathetically pale, whiny heroines from Washington. Until this week.
- Last Saturday, a stark naked, 31 year old Miami man, Rudy Eugene, brutally attacked an elderly homeless man in broad daylight and chewed off his face. When police attempted to approach the real-life Hannibal Lecter, he growled at them and resumed, erm, eating the transient, Ronald Poppo. Even after being shot once by police, Eugene continued his meal. In the end, the officer was forced to fire multiple shots, killing the nude man and finally ending his gruesome feast. Armando Aguilar of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police told NBC that close to 80% of the victim’s visage was missing and confirmed that Eugene was “actually swallowing pieces of the man’s face.” Poppo remains in critical condition and doctors anticipate that his recovery will be a lengthy process.
- A week prior, Dr. Zachary Bird, a Central Florida anesthesiologist was arrested on various charges including suspected DUI and battery on a police officer after the physician nearly sideswiped a state trooper’s vehicle, then failed a field sobriety test. Glassy-eyed and smelling of alcohol, Bird allegedly had at least $54,000 in cash on his person or in his car, two handguns, a vial of an unidentified liquid and prescription medications. But this is where the story starts to get crazy. After being cuffed and placed in the back of the squad car, the doctor went on a rampage, slamming his head repeatedly against the polycarbonate partition in the back of the car, causing his forehead to bleed profusely, screaming at the top of his lungs – over and over – for the officers to “stop stealing my money,” kicked the car door, and then, finally spit blood into the officers’ faces.
- The following day, a New Jersey man reportedly stabbed himself in the abdomen, neck and legs with a knife while police watched. As Wayne Carter proceeded to disembowel himself, officers pepper-sprayed him – with no effect whatsoever. In fact, Carter responded in grisly fashion by throwing his intestines and bits of flesh at the police officers. It finally took a SWAT team to subdue the man, who is hospitalized in critical condition.
So besides each of these heinous acts involving people who were clearly batshit crazy, what do they all have in common? Perseverance. Endurance beyond that of a triathlon winner. An inability to feel or be hindered by pain. Like a zombie, perhaps? But what caused their zombification?
Police have revealed that the Miami “Causeway Cannibal,” as the press has dubbed Rudy Eugene, allegedly favored a particular drug: bath salts. No, not the kind you gave Aunt Edna. You don’t have to worry that she’s going to chew your ear off the next time you see her – at least not literally. No, these bath salts, labeled with benign names like Lady Bubbles and Ivory Wave, are a fairly new, toxic drug that is available on the streets, but often sold in tobacco stores and head shops.
A dangerous cocktail of MDPV, mephedrone and pyrovalerone, the DEA views bath salts as a similar to mescaline or ephedrine, while dealers claim that the drug can cause users to experience LSD-like hallucinations…for example, a homeless man’s face suddenly looks and tastes like a Thanksgiving turkey. According to a Huffington Post article, the drug “can cause severe agitation, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, paranoia and symptoms of psychosis, including hallucinations and delusions.” In addition, the drug user’s body overheats – making their blood boil, both literally and metaphorically, so it’s not uncommon for him or her to strip completely naked.
Whether or not Eugene exhibited super human strength during his gory rampage is still unknown, but he did manage to beat and partially strip the Ronald Poppo before he began tearing the flesh from his face, eventually leaving only the man’s goatee intact. Hey, I don’t like hair in my food, either. However, Poppo did have a history of drug use and alcoholism; perhaps he was intoxicated and, therefore, was an easy target. Regardless of whether or not the transient man put up a fight, it’s undeniable that the first shot police fired at Eugene struck him…and didn’t do a damn thing. The Causeway Cannibal wasn’t relinquishing his face tartare for anyone.
Likewise, Dr. Bird was allegedly intoxicated at the time of his brutal head-banging, blood-spitting tantrum, but on what? I’ve seen booze make people crazy, but this man was still wearing scrubs when he nearly sideswiped that squad car. Did he stop at a bar – after visiting his bank and the hospital pharmacy – and down two dozen shots of tequila before hopping into his BMW – all because he was allegedly on his way to help his friend, Fred, who’d been “fucking with the wrong people?” What was he going to help Fred do? I suspect he wasn’t going to pay off Fred’s mortgage or lend him money for the plastic surgery he’d been wanting. After all, Bird founded a plastic surgery clinic in the small Florida town of Weston. Fred could have had calf implants, a nose job and his eyes done for cost. Considering the weapons, cash, assorted pills and mysterious vial of liquid in the Doc’s possession at the time, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that alcohol probably wasn’t the only intoxicant in his system.
After all, the graphic video of Bird in the back of the police car shows him slamming his head hard against the partition six times in a row, opening up a large gash on his forehead. The physician then proceeded to smear his blood all over the partition (ick!) before demanding to be taken to the hospital, then chanting at the top of his lungs – ad nauseum - that the officers better stop stealing his money, sounding like an infuriated, overgrown toddler on a raging chocolate high. He wasn’t dazed. He appeared to feel no pain. He seemingly didn’t tire. Hell, I whacked my head on the corner of a kitchen cabinet yesterday, and I was whining like baby and cradling an icepack against my head for the next ten minutes. If I’d managed to bang my skull a couple more times in a row, I’d have been out cold.
The Deranged Disembowler, Wayne Carter managed to remove his own entrails and stab himself over 50 times, yet police couldn’t subdue him with pepper spray. In case you didn’t know, pepper spray is also used to deter grizzly bears from attacking! When the SWAT team has to be called in to restrain a man who reacts to pepper spray in the same way a model reacts to a spritz of Evian on her face, and who has severed an artery and whose guts are on the wrong side of his belly button…hello, he’s on something! Couple Carter’s unexplainable endurance with a history of mental illness and – surprise, surprise – drug use, and it’s suddenly not so inconceivable that a human being could tolerate that much pain and blood loss, yet still be able to lob his intestines across the room.
Thus, it appears that the zombie apocalypse is ON! The terrifying hallucinogenic properties of bath salts have been well-documented since 2010. Last year alone, the Centers for Disease Control reported over 1,000 calls concerning the use of this drug and there are dozens of stories of related deaths, but people continue to buy it. Reportedly, it’s inexpensive and users are willing to suffer bouts of extreme paranoia and horrifying visions in exchange for the temporary cocaine-like high. None of these warnings or tales of cannibalism seem to have any effect on sales. In fact, its use is spiraling upwards. Sure, these high-profile incidents will ensure that bath salts are banned at both the state and federal level nationwide, but that didn’t stop crystal meth from rotting the brains and teeth of idiots across the country.
Why? Because, let’s face it – some people are just stupid. When the CDC is forced to release a warning regarding the teen trend called the “Cinnamon Challenge,” in which kids are dared to swallow a teaspoon of powdered cinnamon without drinking any water, we’ve officially entered an age in which some people have become just too stupid to live. Not only do teens actually participate enthusiastically in the “Cinnamon Challenge,” there’s an entire website devoted to documenting their failures and successes. Do we need to post signs in schools that say, “Just Say ‘No!’ to Drinking Bleach” or “Setting Yourself on Fire Burns” or “Don’t Eat All The Nutmeg Because Your Mom Is Making A Pie Later”? Does the First Lady need to abandon the concept of getting kids to exercise more and focus instead on making sure they don’t eat the entire contents of their mother’s spice rack? Sadly, the answer to all these questions seems to be, “Yes!”
One of the latest bizarre news stories involves teens drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk. Have you ever tasted Purell? I’d rather eat bar-b-que chicken with bare hands that have been washed in a bucket of poo than risk licking a drop of sauce off fingers that have been recently sanitized in that foul tasting liquid. But teens will slug that crap down in order to buy themselves a brief high, followed by a trip to the emergency room for alcohol poisoning. At least getting drunk off of cough syrup, mouthwash or vanilla extract tasted good.
Now that our society has degraded itself to the point where people will go to these kind of lengths to get high, despite the chance that they will turn cannibalistic or rip their small intestines from their body, there’s little chance for a Robert Downey Jr. comeback. The combination of sheer stupidity and the availability of cheap drugs proven to make you batshit crazy is a lethal combination for humanity. And one for which the sane members of our society need to be prepared. So toss the cinnamon, the bath salts (for those with children stupid enough to eat colored, flavored Epsom salts – which will shut down their kidneys, btw), the Purell and the pepper spray, and buy yourself a hockey mask and a taser. Take up cross country or marathon running, and invest in a good pair of trainers because you’re going to have to be able to outrun and outlast these zombie motherfuckers. Consider befriending one of those wackadoos who believes the world’s going to end in December, and buy up all their guns, ammo, food and water for next to nothing when – on December 22nd – they realize that the Mayans just ran out of room on their calendar. Buy an RV. And a tanker filled with gasoline. The zombie horde is coming, my friends.
The undead may be slow, but they’re steady – and I don’t have to tell you who wins that race. Plus, these drug-addled zombies aren’t as unsophisticated as the virus-infected undead of lore. Nope, they have the manual dexterity to undress themselves (which makes horny men and Pentecostal preachers particularly vulnerable) and use weapons. These are the kind of zombies that make fearmongers the world over cream their panties. Glenn Beck? You listening? Zombies could get your fuckwit ass back on television – especially if you blame the homosexuals, Muslims and liberals for promoting a bath salt lovin’ agenda.
UPDATE: Another horrific incidence of cannibalism/possible zombie attack from Maryland, where a Morgan State University Student has just confessed to murdering his roommate, then eating the heart and brain. You can’t make this shit up! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/31/alexander-kinyua-kujoe-agyei-kodie-ate-brain-heart-roommate-maryland_n_1560149.html
UPDATE: The Jackson Memorial Foundation has set up a fund to assist Ronald Poppo in his recovery, which experts in facial reconstruction have said will include lengthy treatment, staged reconstruction, and psychological care. Donations can be made by check or online at jmf.org. Please do what you can to help this homeless man, believed dead to his family for nearly 30 years, obtain the care that he desperately needs. Thanks!
UPDATE: International fugitive and Canadian porn actor, Luka Rocco Magnotta, is being sought in connection with the grisly murder and dismemberment of Chinese student Jun Lin, whose body parts were mailed to the offices of Canadian political parties last week. Evidence of Magnotta’s alleged involvement includes a horrifying and graphic video depicting a naked and bound man being stabbed with an ice pick, decapitated, dismembered and sexually assaulted. This shit ain’t funny anymore! http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/02/canada-body-parts-victim-chinese
UPDATE: Zhang Yongming, known in China as the “Cannibal Monster” was arrested two weeks ago in connection with the murder and dismemberment of at least 20 people in the Yunnan province. Yongming allegedly sold the human flesh as meat and also served the remains to his dog. Authorities found human eyeballs in wine bottles and flesh was hanging from Yongming’s ceiling. This is getting weirder and weirder, folks.
UPDATE: A Swedish man has been accused of cutting his wife’s lips off and eating them. Reportedly, the man suspected that his wife was having an affair and ate her lips in order to ensure that they couldn’t be reattached. (Right, dude! You couldn’t just flush her pucker down the toilet?” Though the man’s name has not yet been released, it is reported that he is a former employee of the Karolinska Institutet, a Swedish medical university. Readers, are your doors locked?
This is a humor blog, but it’s important to remember that real people were involved in the events that I described in this post. Please take a moment to say a prayer or send some positive energy to the friends and family mourning Rudy Eugene; to Ronald Poppo and his loved ones; and to Wayne Carter and his family. As far as Dr. Zachary Bird is concerned – as a physician, that douchebag knows better and I hope some big ol’ queen makes him her bitch in prison.
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ignorant: (adj) lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated
stupid: (adj) lacking intelligence or common sense; can’t be fixed
dumb-ass: (adj) see stupid
- Oxford Dictionary
A couple of weeks ago, while celebrating my 1,000th subscriber, I hosted a contest in which my readers could post topics for me to write about. Though many intriguing suggestions were submitted, the clever and insightful blogger, Wandering Voiceless captured my interest by proposing that I pen a tutorial on “How to Deal With Stupid People When They Don’t Know They’re Stupid.”
Initially, I was puzzled. Are there stupid people who know that they’re stupid? You know, ones who don’t wake up one morning and say to themselves, “I shouldn’t run for President just because Pa did it; I’m a dumb-ass.” If so, I’d like to photograph them and, perhaps, write an entire book – a tome, if you will – dissecting the psyche of the stupid animal who possesses the self-awareness to recognize just how stupid it is. For years, I’d always assumed that, by definition, stupid people are clueless to the fact that they’re stupid. That’s what makes them stupid as opposed to ignorant, a condition which can be cured with information and a few episodes of The Rachel Maddow Show. And, as my grandmother never actually said, but it sounds folksy to say, “You can’t fix stupid.”
Case in point, the other evening my hubby and I were meandering around downtown investigating every nook and cranny of the most historic section of the city that we have recently decided to call home. A serial photographer, I was snapping away at the most banal things: chained doors, abandoned fast food bags crumpled in the dying light that seeped through an abandoned, spiderweb-draped shop window, local street art, and a turn of the century building constructed of coquina stone. A few yards ahead of me, a car pulled up and parked on the side of the road.
Since we were standing directly across the street from a small, fenced park where the homeless tend to accumulate on its shaded benches during the day (known by locals as the Hobo Gardens), I hesitated, curious if the vehicle owner was the as-yet-unseen person who chases the vagrants from their zoo-like existence in this little corner of respite, before locking the gates each night. God forbid, a transient dude should fall asleep on one of the benches. In the dark. I mean, it’s not like the City didn’t give him all day to catch up on his sleep. And I’m pretty sure they provided him with lavender-scented eye masks to block out the searing brightness of the sun. But like most urban outdoorsmen, he’d probably wasted his daylight hours in conversation with his homeless buddies or weaving dead palm fronds into rosebuds to sell to the tourists.
Allowing an intinerant to enter into REM sleep at night in an unlocked park that is entirely avoided by non-housing challenged locals during the day would certainly be a travesty. Clearly, the highest and best use of such a space is to snap a Master lock on it and force the drifters to wander the streets as shadowy figures who can then be enjoyed by downtown bar patrons. After all, when you’ve just finished off a few yards of Guinness, what better than to take a swing or two at a ragged, old man with spittle in the corner of his mouth who is enjoying a conversation with the three other voices in his head? Big fun, I say.
Moreover, by forcing the homeless to roam the darkened streets, our city is providing a once-in-a-lifetime adrenaline rush for many of the tourists visiting from places like Dubuque and Wichita and Billings, who rarely are assaulted by a request for spare change accompanied by the aroma of cough syrup mixed with the eau de parfum of general stankiness. In fact, it is said that many visitors return home with gallant tales of near death experiences which invariably involved the tourist tossing bills or coins at the bare feet of a transient – who, as per their description, was likely black, male, 8 to 9 feet tall, angry and foaming at the mouth – then running as the drifter chased them down a back alley, pounding his chest and bellowing, “Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the blood of a Caucasian man.” Hey, moments like this are what vacation memories are made of.
I began to wonder what a person would say in order to extricate the vagrants from their little Garden of Not Eatin’. Dragging a billy club along the fence, would the Evictor-in-Chief evoke the memory of every prison movie ever made before sneering, “Git yer bum asses up and moving. This ain’t no Holiday fuckin’ Inn.” And he’d be right. The park is much nicer than a Holiday Inn.
Or would he approach the men and their assorted knapsacks and overflowing plastic bags with fear in his eyes, but the law on his side? “C’mon guys. You know, it ain’t up to me. Look, don’t make me pull out my cell phone. I’ve got 911 on speed dial.” When they ignore him, does he whip the flip phone out of his pocket, point it at them threateningly and say, “The safety’s not on. And once I dial the cops, that call will be recorded for quality assurance.”
Perhaps he’s read about Pavlov’s dog and has trained the park’s transients to simply haul their aching bones up at the rattle of his chains and lumber towards him, drooling like a lesbian at a sorority pajama party, their hands extended in anticipation of the small bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 he gives each one as they exit Vagrant Village. Regardless, this is a person tasked with a stupid job by stupid senior government employees who are told what to do by stupid politicians who think that locking up a lovely park at night makes my community better and safer. And I doubt any of the parties involved have a clue that they’re stupid.
However, after taking several more photos, no one emerged from the parked car. My husband strolled away to examine the old lettering on the side of a building, leaving me standing alone on the sidewalk. As I rounded the corner of the building, a young man wearing a knitted winter cap in 85 degree weather (I’m Stupid Clue #1), a tee shirt and plaid grandpa shorts hung so low the most experienced limbo dancer couldn’t squeeze between their hem and the asphalt (I’m Stupid Clue #2) jumped out of the car, skate board in hand, and began serenading me in a brash, intoxicated voice. “How can I get just one fuck? How can I get just one fuck? I guess it’s got somethin’ to do with luck…” (I’m Stupid Clue #3)
At this point he leaned towards me, dropped his skateboard and stretched out his arms, as though he was preparing to lunge at me, but I deftly sidestepped him, turned around and crooned, “But I waited my whole life for just one…,” before spinning back around and walking away. Behind me, I could hear his friends howling with laughter. The woman whom skater boy had figured was so white-bread that she’d shrink from him like a penis at the sight of a butcher knife could not only finish the lyrics to his crappy rendition of the Femmes’ “Add It Up,” but clearly wasn’t intimidated by the miniscule lump in his Scooby Doo boxers, either. Hell, that song had been my mantra when this kid’s mother was still smoking pot and giving out free hand jobs under the high school bleachers. I was tempted to return and inform him that until a decade ago, I’d regularly worn combat boots, but then I remembered my niece’s response when I’d told her the same thing in an effort to prove how cool I had been in my youth.
Me: Of course, I know who Jack White is. I used to wear combat boots practically every day of my life.
My Niece: (incredulously) Why?
Okay, now who’s stupid? It was a momentary lapse, I swear.
When I found my husband a moment later inspecting a chunk of exposed coquina shell, he asked, “What was that about?”
Shrugging my shoulders, I replied, “Just some stupid ass serenading me in the street.” It was obvious that the aforementioned stupid ass didn’t think he was stupid. He and his friends, I’d surmised, found him to be amusing, much in the way my orange tabby finds rubber bands endlessly entertaining. And my cat is stupid. We love him, but he’s a dumb ass. Everyone knows it…except for him. Just last night, while our other two felines – both infinitely more intelligent than our short bus kitty – were hanging out by the water bowls, one of them rolled her eyes and exhaled a deep purr before saying, “I caught Dumb Ass eating one of the fake plants. Again. I mean, there’s fresh fucking basil growing in a pot in the living room window and he’s chewing on a plastic cactus.”
“Well, at least he didn’t keep you awake last night licking the outside of the kitty litter bag,” the other cat replied, twitching his whiskers. “If he pulls that shit again, I am so gonna bite him on the nape of the neck and dominate his ass. Fucking retard.”
Considering that the plastic cactus in question has more bite marks than all the characters in The Twilight Saga combined, it’s apparent that stupid isn’t an affliction that can be easily cured. Trial and error has zero impact on those impacted by this disease.
As I thought about the subject of stupidity even further, I began to realize that stupid people not only fail to recognize their own stupidity, but they assume that everyone else is stupid. For example, yesterday afternoon, I’d traveled to the beachside town where we’d lived until recently for a doctor’s appointment. After having lunch with a friend of mine, I’d stepped out into the bright afternoon sunshine, smart phone in my hand. For those of you who’ve read my most recent post, you may recall that my husband and I recently met a couple from Atlanta who chose to move to this particular beachside town because they believed it to be so safe. For the record, they also turned out to be pretty stupid.
I’d just made it to my car, when I was accosted by a hysterical woman with bleached blonde hair, smudged makeup, wearing hootchie mama shorts and a tank top sans bra stretched across her ample bosom, accompanied by a disheveled, tattooed, middle-aged man who smelled like a Mexican restaurant dumpster in mid-summer on the last day of a long, holiday weekend. “I just lost my iPhone!” the woman screeched, pointing a dirty fingernail in my direction. “I have to use your phone to call it.”
This was one of those moments in life in which I wished I’d had the time to order a coffee and sit down to ponder all the reasons why my phone would never, ever be released into the custody of Ms. Hootchie Mama Hot Pants. However, as the ho-with-no-phone was demanding the use of mine asap, I only had time to consider a few:
1) iPhones are expensive, but the color of this chick’s brittle tresses appeared to have been achieved by soaking the bottom ¾ of her hair in a sink filled with Clorox;
2) Neither of these folks looked like Mac users, though I was pretty sure they were using something that began with the letter M;
3) If Tits Mountain was to be believed, she’d already lost one phone. Why in the hell would I trust her with mine? Let her start with something small. Something no one would miss if it were misplaced. Like an infant.
“I’ll call it for you,” I replied, as my fingers curled themselves tightly around my phone. “What’s your number?” Tits Mountain’s face drew a blank.
“Okay, I’ll run over there and listen for it,” she finally said, trotting across the street and stopping at the corner. Her friend reached out his grimy, crusted hands, seemingly very anxious to hold my phone – as if it would make the iPhone reappear or, even better, turn into a naked breast.
“The number?” I repeated. Again, the man reached for my cell, his index finger actually stroking its corner this time. Clearly, he believed that his touch would magically relax my iron-clad grasp on my Android. Like I said before, not only do stupid people not know that they’re stupid, they think everyone else is stupid. However, the chances of me allowing him to dial a single digit on my phone at that moment was up there with the odds of Tori Spelling winning a Pulitzer for her 17th memoir entitled, MasturbaTORI. Taking a step away from him and the pervasive stench of rotting refried beans, I waited patiently. Finally, the man rattled off a seven numbers.
As the phone began to ring, Mr. Grabby Hands leaned towards me, greedily eyeing my phone, his fingers twitching like an amateur poker player’s eye. Ms. Hootchie Mama Hot Pants watched from across the street as I lifted my cell to my ear, then she proceeded to run around in several small circles on the sidewalk – not unlike a dog locating the best patch of grass upon which to squat and poo – before throwing up her hands in frustration and dashing back across the street towards us. Apparently, she believed – or wanted me to – that she’d lost her iPhone somewhere in the four foot radius of that particular corner. I mean, you never know. Perhaps she had an invisibility app on her iPhone? Maybe she was beta testing the iPhone 5 for Apple and the new phone was so slim, it was possible to lose it in a hairline crack in the sidewalk? I almost asked her, “Where was the last place you saw it?” but I had the feeling the answer would involve a motel that charged by the half hour or the discarded mattress lying next to the dumpster behind Mi Pueblo Restaurante.
When it became clear to Dumb and Dumber that the phone would have to be extracted from my hand with the Jaws of Life, they quickly dropped the charade, half-heartedly thanking me for my help. Within seconds, they approached a group dining outside – not more than three yards away – who, having just witnessed the World’s Lamest Scammers Ever Getting Hosed, picked up their steak knives and shook their heads. After unsuccessfully hitting up two biker types on the sidewalk with the same story, the couple finally admitted defeat. As I drove off, I passed them strolling hand-in-hand down the street – headed in the opposite direction of the corner where the alleged iPhone had been lost.
I couldn’t decide what was worse: that these grifters thought that I would fall for their scam, or that they continued to press forward with the hope that others in the immediate vicinity would not see through a story as transparent as a cheap dry-cleaning bag? Clearly, these were stupid people who thought everyone else was more stupider and, like George Dubbya, figured that we would misunderestimate them too.
So as it stands, I have failed Wandering Voiceless because there is no tutorial for dealing with the stupid. There are things in this life that are simply immutable. Sarah Jessica Parker will never have a petite, up-turned nose. Anderson Cooper will never marry…a woman. Kim Jong-un is never going to appear on the cover of Playgirl.
What you can’t change, you must accept. So stop sending dictionaries to New Jersey Real Housewife, Teresa “Ingrediences” Giudice. Don’t waste your time arguing with Trump about the validity of President Obama’s birth certificate. Desist with the petitions to have Ann Coulter lobotomized.
Unless Stupid is the name of your new puppy, you can’t fix stupid.
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This is Part II of my two-part post, Yoga Is Not A Character In Star Wars. If you haven’t read Part I of this series, click here now. Or what? I’ll kick you, that’s what!
When I saw my reflection in the plate glass window of the lawyer’s office, I immediately knew that I should have stuck with the Ikea pajama bottoms. Or perhaps starved myself for no less than 7 weeks before deciding to take a yoga class that required me to parade my ass around downtown in a clingy tee and a faded pair of black workout pants. One glimpse out the corner of my eye confirmed what I had suspected back at home: my camel toe was no regular camel toe. It was a camel toe of Sally O’Malley proportions. My only hope was that my muffin top would shade my crotch area sufficiently to hide this fact from bystanders.
Note to self: Must stop writing about my vagina. Damn you, David Sedaris!
If only I’d run out and purchased a yoga mat. It is true what they say: No adolescent boy should be without a notebook and no 43 year old woman wearing the equivalent of black Spanx with a racing stripe should be without a yoga mat. Preferably a yoga mat that is unrolled. And wrapped around her body.
But there I was, sweat waterfalling down my neck and off my shoulders, sauntering down the historic streets of Wouldn’t-You-Camel-Toe-Fetish-Pervs-Like-To-Know on my way to my very first Flying Asana Anti-Gravity Swing Yoga class. I know…what yoga newbie wouldn’t sign up for a class with a name like that. As soon as I had read the class description, memories of Disney World’s Flying Dumbo ride merged with images of Brian Setzer jamming on a vintage Gretsch surrounded by people doing the jitterbug – in space.
Make that people with camel toe doing the jitterbug in space.
The accompanying photo had looked so nurturing. Alluring. Supple bodies cradled in mid-air by a swath of white silk dangling like cocoons from the ceiling. They had looked so relaxed just hanging there. Perhaps I could crawl into one of those magical exercise hammocks as a vodka-swilling, Splenda-sprinkling, callus-shaving, head-sweating, stanky feet-stinking, cynical caterpillar and emerge as an decaf tea-sipping, corporate coffee-banning, organic granola-munching CYC (Cool Yoga Chick) with perennially-tanned feet, a green thumb, lush sun-streaked locks knotted on top of my head and feet always smelling of freshly-mown grass, rosemary and sunshine. How could I resist desiring the pedal appendages of the only people who can provide restorative powers to Chuck Norris?
And yet, these people were essentially lying on their backs. Perhaps my secret hope that I could sleep whilst doing yoga wasn’t just a pipe dream. I mean, I’m exceptionally good at lying on my back. Hell, you should see me on my side in a fetal position – and these swings were certainly womb-like. Maybe I would be one of those savants who strolls into a yoga studio for the first time and leaves an hour later as a Jedi Master? I’d carry a lightsaber to class instead of a yoga mat because I wouldn’t need a mat. Yoda never sat on a mat. Perhaps the Yoda of yoga I was. See! I was already doing it.
I clutched my no-name denim bag nervously as I rounded the corner and the studio came into view – with an image of Buddha on its sign. Though Buddha wasn’t lying on his back in a swing, I had to admit he looked extremely peaceful with his eyes closed and his hands resting gently in his generous lap. Then it hit me. Buddha was fat! Yet there he was – maybe not as chubby or undressed as I’d seen him previously – sitting in a lotus position exerting no effort at all. Hell, I could practically hear him snoring. This was definitely the place for me. Squaring my shoulders, I strode like a rooster down the sidewalk, owning it. Soon I would be enveloped in a cool, dark space hung with silken cradles. Wisps of patchouli smoke, and the sound of crashing waves mingled with the haunting, hollow clickety clack of bamboo wind chimes would sooth me into a meditative state of REM sleep, and when I awoke, I’d have biceps and killer abs.
As I entered the building, I immediately removed my shoes and stashed my belongings in one of the cubbies provided. Closing my eyes, I breathed in deeply. Hmmm. No patchouli. They probably wait until class starts so that the students don’t zone out before they even sign in. I craned my ears, listening for sounds of ocean waves lapping on a tropical sand beach. Nope.
But I did hear something.
“Could you help? Get the door! Get the door! We’ve got a bug,” screeched a woman, poured into a pair of tie-dyed leggings. After stamping an industrial-sized dust mop down on top of a frenzied cockroach, she pushed it towards me. There was fear in her eyes. I opened the door and stepped onto the sidewalk on my toes – not because I was concerned about coming into contact with the roach, but because I was afraid that I would dirty the soles of my carefully grated, cleaned and moisturized feet. As the poor critter was swept over the threshold and out into the cruel world, it staggered and squinted in the sunlight, one antenna bent at a precarious angle. Clearly, there were no Jedi Masters inside this establishment. I would be the first.
Once the danger had been allayed, Fern, the instructor and studio owner, asked me to sign two waivers absolving the studio of any and all liability should I be injured, be maimed or die during the Flying Asana Anti-Gravity Swing Yoga class or any of the other classes. Die? Did people die doing this? Funny, but the glossy website didn’t mention anything about death. “Excuse me,” I said. “These, uh, waivers mentions the word death – more than once. Is there something I should know?”
Fern smiled and rolled her eyes in a way that said, “Pshaw!” Leaning towards me as if she was about to share a deep, personal secret, she asked in a breathy whisper, “There’s nothing wrong with your ticker, is there?”
“Erm, no. No, my ticker is, uh, ticking along just fine, thank you.”
Throwing her hands up in the air, she released a laugh that seemed to have crawled from somewhere deep in her gut. Must be that yoga breathing technique I’d heard so much about. “Then you’ll be fine.” She nodded her head knowingly. “Sometimes, we get an old fogey in here who just wants to check out the girls. And sometimes, their hearts ain’t so good, if you know what I mean.” She winked. Somehow, my imagined yoga experience never included winking.
The former contract attorney in me cautioned, “She’s just covering herself. Then again, maybe this is danger –“ But she was quickly interrupted by the soon-to-be-Jedi-Master in me who snapped, “Don’t be such a fucking pussy! It’s a piece of paper. What’s a piece of paper to one who carries a lightsaber? What’s a piece of paper to one who has harnessed the powers of The Force?” Yes, my Jedi Master sometimes cusses like a sailor and, I suspect, smokes a cigar. I scribbled my signature on both forms, then followed Fern into the studio.
One student had already nestled herself into a silk sack that was swinging slightly, as though she was rocking herself to sleep. Oh, why hadn’t I worn those pajama bottoms? And maybe some fuzzy socks? But all the CYCs had also chosen tight fitting yoga pants and tanks. Didn’t these people like to be comfortable when they rested? Obviously, none of these women were the type who immediately removed her bra the second she got home, unhooking it under her shirt and pulling it out through an armhole. Perhaps wearing a bra all the time was the reason for their exceptional posture? Other CYCs were attaching their swings to chains dangling from the ceiling, adjusting for their height, while two other students lay on their mats and used the low hanging fabric as a mechanism for stretching out their impossibly lean and toned bodies.
Come to think of it, everyone in the room was thin. The kind of people who sink right to the bottom of the pool if they try to free float because there’s just nothing to keep them aloft. The kind with BMIs lower than their ring size. Not one of them remotely resembled the double-chinned Buddha on the sign outside. Perhaps that was my power. Maybe it was my muffin top that would guarantee my position as the first Jedi Master this studio had fostered? But a nagging little voice in the back of my head whined, I don’t want to be a fat Jedi Master. Obi-Wan wasn’t plump. Yoda may have been short and his prominent ears might have prevented him from becoming an official CYC, but he certainly wasn’t portly.
After Fern introduced me as a newbie and provided me with a complimentary “first visit” mat – which she placed directly next to hers – I plopped down. And waited. But Fern had wandered off to help other students. All around me, my peers were stretching muscles that, not only could I not name, but I doubted I’d ever actually utilized in my two score and three years. To my left, a petite brunette CYC, whose upper arms were browned and ropey like strands of hemp twine, bent herself in half, the tips of her fingers cradling her unpolished toes, her chin resting on her knees. Not knowing what to do, I followed suit and also touched my toes – an act made simpler by the fact that I was sitting cross-legged.
Feeling adventurous, I uncrossed my legs and stretched them straight out in front of me. Certainly, I could touch my nose to my knees. I mean, it’s not like it’s an act that involves lifting barbells the size of my Camry’s tires. Really, you just have to let the upper half of your body fall. Presumably, my knees would catch my head before it hit the ground. It’s just gravity, if you think about it.
Except nothing in my body agreed with the principles of physics. In fact, I’m fairly certain that as I leaned forward at the waist, I heard my hamstrings hiss, “Fuck off, Sir Isaac Newton!” Nope, about 16 degrees into the stretch, my body came to a jarring halt. Sorry, but this is as far as you go, my tendons and muscles said, kicking my goal of uniting my nose and knees for the first time in history to the curb like a creepy hitchhiker. Perhaps, I thought, my hamstrings just needed a little bribing. Reaching down, I gently massaged the undersides of my thighs, but they were rigid, taut as guitar strings just on the verge of snapping. As a general rule, I like to avoid the snapping of body parts.
To placate my angry muscles, I pulled my feet towards me, allowed my soles to touch and my knees to drop, forming an attractive diamond shape in front of me. I like diamonds. As I blissfully permitted my thoughts to meander into the realm of gems and how lovely they are in general, the CYC to my left suddenly said, “Look at you. You’re like an old pro.”
What? I knew it. Even when I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, my future as a Jedi Yoga Master was apparent. “Thank you,” I responded with a brilliant smile, “but I really don’t know what I’m doing.”
Reassuringly, the CYC said, “Well, you sure look like you do.”
Ha! This class was going to be a breeze. For a moment, I considered leaving. I mean, why embarrass all the other students who’ve probably been studying for months, maybe years? Then again, I couldn’t help it if I was a prodigy. And my place was there. In the studio. I had to be an example for others. The lightsaber that would brighten their path to enlightenment.
“Okay, class. Let’s get started with a few simple stretches.” Fern walked us through moves I’d seen before and could easily emulate. I started to wonder why I was paying for this class. I could do this at home. For free. While watching reruns of Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis on Bravo! Stifling a yawn, I glanced around the room, expecting to see multiple pairs of eyes staring at me in awe. But there were none. Dear, lord…I had already attained super star status. Everyone knows that you don’t look directly at the talent. It’s in every entertainment rider in the universe. It makes them – erm, I mean us – feel uncomfortable. You don’t speak to Angelina Jolie. You don’t make eye contact with P. Diddy. You don’t even glance at Mariah Carey. I knew it must be hard for my classmates to stretch whilst trying to catch a glimpse of me in their peripheral vision, but what could I do? It would be rude to ask Fern if I could relocate my swing to the front of the class where everyone could ogle me freely. Not during my first class, anyway.
Once we were warmed up, Fern instructed us to place our stomachs on the swing and lift our appendages as though we were flying. As I complied, I began to wonder when she was going to take this class out of the playground and into gravity-defying space. C’mon. We were playing airplanes, for chrissake. Next she’d be telling us to sit down criss-cross applesauce and would hand out store brand, vanilla oreos and Dixie cups filled with apple juice. “Now, I want you to place your palms on your mat and wriggle forward until the swing fabric has moved from your abdomen down to your ankles.”
Wriggle? That didn’t sound very yoga-like to me. Not wanting to be accused of being a diva, however, I began to wriggle. As the fabric slid away from my mid-section and down my legs – which had suddenly become a good three miles long – I began to feel a burn in my shoulders and arms. My lower back started to ache as my belly sagged towards the mat.
“Cristy, tighten those abs. Hold your body erect while wriggling,” Fern directed me. Easy for her to say. Her stems were only a block in length while mine ran all the way out to the freeway. And she had a six-pack under her tank top, while I was storing blubber in preparation for a long, cold winter. The more I wiggled, the more my upper arm muscles began to shudder. “C’mon, Cristy. You can do it,” Fern urged.
“But I think my arms are having an epileptic seizure,” I whined. “Someone must have turned on a strobe light when I wasn’t looking.” However, just at that moment, I felt the cool silk envelop my ankle bones. I had done it.
“Great job, Cristy!” Fern cried. I could feel every set of eyes turn to appraise my achievement. Except by then, my entire body weight had been redistributed to my spaghetti arms – and when I fell, my knees weren’t there to catch my nose. As I tried to roll to break my fall, my feet became hopelessly twisted in the fabric. I half expected a giant spider to crawl out of the ceiling, encase me in silken threads as strong as steel, then drain the blood from my body.
But something worse happened.
As I struggled to disentangle my feet, I farted.
By most standards, it was a small, harmless passing of gas. It didn’t smell. It didn’t last long enough for a child to recite the alphabet in sing-song manner. No one screamed, “Gas leak!” But it was there. Loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. How do I know this? Because as quickly as my classmates had craned their necks to check out my accomplishment, they’d turned away. Embarrassed. And rightly so. Yoda never farted. Considering Jedi Masters could harness The Force to prolong life and prevent decay, I’m pretty certain that Yoda was able to avoid floating an air biscuit in front of Luke Skywalker. I didn’t know what to do. Acknowledge it with a laugh? Shout Excuuuuuuuuuuuse me, thereby confusing the class with my Steve Martin impression and causing them to forget the fart? Perhaps I could use a Jedi mind trick: This isn’t the flatulist you’re looking for.
Before I could do or say anything, Fern had instructed us to rise and stand in our swings. “Wrap the silk around your wrists once before grasping the fabric above.” Following directions, I clenched my ass cheeks together tightly to ensure that I wouldn’t accidentally blow another butt bugle. “Okay, now lift your legs straight out in front of you, allowing your abs and upper body to support the weight.”
Huh? Erm, I wanted to point out to Fern that after the debacle only moments earlier, my upper body had accepted a position working as one of those wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men, and my abs had abdicated any and all responsibility towards supporting my body, financially or otherwise, and were resting comfortably against my intestines.
Not to mention that I’m familiar with this particular exercise. It’s called a hanging leg lift. Typically, you hold on to an easy-to-grasp metal bar above you or your upper arms are bolstered by some kind of support system. People who can perform this exercise properly look like this:
Not like this:
The second I removed my feet from the swing, I could feel my palms begin to burn as the silk fabric slid painfully through my hands. Quickly, I lowered my feet. “Fern, I don’t think I can do this one.”
“Sure you can,” she chimed. “You just need to modify the pose. Instead of lifting your feet straight out in front of you, just try lifting your knees up towards your chest.”
I wanted to tell her that I’d failed just trying to lift my feet – period. But there was Yoda, warbling in that annoying voice of his in the back of my head. No. Try not. Do or do not. There is no try. Motherfucker. His legs only make up about a quarter of his body, whereas I’m built like a Japanese spider crab. I’ve got a hell of a lot more to lift. But then the fighter in me reared her stubborn head. I’ll show that bat-eared Jedi that I can do anything. And then I’m gonna rip his little gremlin ears off.
With that, I mustered up every bit of strength that remained in my body and lifted my knees. As my feet cleared the fabric, I felt that familiar sliding sensation – the one that made my hands sting as though they were being sliced open with red hot knives. I clenched my fingers around the silk more tightly as my toes quickly inched up and away from the swing – only to plummet back down again just as rapidly. Essentially, I’d performed a mini-jump. As I relaxed my grip on the fabric, a strange tingling traveled up the middle and index fingers on my left hand. Then the sensation disappeared.
Along with all feeling in tip of my middle finger.
Holy shit! I couldn’t feel the top half of that finger at all. It must have gone to sleep. It was a rather boring class, after all. Hugging the upper portion of the swing with my underarms, I lowered my hands and began to massage the numb finger like a veterinarian briskly rubbing the life back into a still-born pup. And nothing happened. I continued rubbing. Then progressed to shaking my left hand back and forth as if that still-born pup had gotten some water in its ears. Still nothing. I could feel the panic rising in my throat. Fuck being a Jedi Master! I’m a writer, for chrissakes. I need that finger.
“Cristy, are you going to give it another shot?” Fern inquired, as I frantically smacked at my lifeless finger.
“Umm. I can’t feel my finger.”
“Did you try modifying the pose like I suggested?” She said the word “modifying” slowly, exaggerating each syllable as though I was both deaf and frantic.
“Yes, I modified the pose,” I spit through gritted teeth, “and now my middle finger is completely numb.” Then I showed her my middle finger. Really showed it to her.
“Okay, then. We all progress at different speeds,” she replied in that nobody-rattles-me-because-I’m-a-CYC-and-my-feet-smell-like-rosemary voice of hers. “After class, I can help you schedule some classes that might be more appropriate for your fitness level.
My fitness level! Was she insinuating that I wasn’t fit? Okay, maybe I’m not Jillian Michaels, but I’m no schlub either. After all, I did walk to the studio. Two and a half blocks. After jogging down a flight of stairs. And I spent a whole ten whole minutes on my recumbent bike last night – on level 2! I burned an entire 47 calories. Not to mention that this was supposed to be a swinging class. Their website mentioned nothing about clinging desperately to slippery fabric with your bare hands while performing acrobatics. Talk about misrepresentation. And now I was maimed. I was fairly certain that this was permanent nerve damage. My writing career was over. I couldn’t pen a blog without using the letters d, e and x. Dammit! I would sue.
But I couldn’t sue. I’d signed two bloody waivers. Damn the soon-to-be-Jedi-Master-voice-in-my-head! It was all his cussing and cigar-smoking encouragement that got me into this mess. As far as Yoda went, I was ready to show him where he could put his damn lightsaber. And Obi-Wan – he could just suck it!
It’s been a week and a half now and I’ve yet to return to the yoga studio. Though the feeling in my fingertip gradually returned after a week, my bruised ego remains the color of a sky that brings with it hail and tornadoes. The disappointment that came with discovering that I would not be the first Jedi Master to grace my studio was difficult to overcome, but throwing darts at my Lego Yoda was surprisingly cathartic. Okay, I don’t actually own a Lego Yoda, but I desperately want one. And if I did own one, I’m sure it would have made me feel a lot better about things. Particularly if I owned this one:
On Saturday, I finally broke down and bought a yoga mat, and last night, I painted my toe nails again in anticipation of Monday’s class. A more traditional class called Vinyasa Flow. The word flow sounds pretty benign. I mean, I go with the flow all the time. Rivers flow and they don’t even try. It’s all downhill, right? I bet I’ll kick ass at it. It’ll probably be easy-peasy. Chuck Norris will be sniffing my shoes any day now. Hell, he’ll be polishing my lightsaber for me after this class.
As some of you may know, last week I hit a bit of a milestone. And not with my car. That was a wall and it’s really just a tiny scratch. I always thought four doors on a car was a bit bourgeois anyway.
No, as of last week, over 1,000
kool-aid swilling lemmings beautiful, intelligent folks out there with fucking amazing taste in blogs have subscribed to read my paltry meanderings. This made me feel like a rock star. No, not like Rick Astley, Kitchen Slattern – not that there is anything wrong with a little Rick-rollin’! And by “Rick-rollin’,” I don’t mean the You Tube meme; I mean dancing around the house in my underwear crooning “Never Gonna Give You Up” into the handle of my Swiffer.
But back to feeling like a rock star. I’m talking about someone like Pink. Especially when she sings the line, “So what! I’m still a rock star, I’ve got my rock moves and I don’t need you…” Except I do need you. It was you, my loyal
apostles readers, who brought me to this point…dancing around in my underwear again, this time singing into my hairbrush while wearing fluffy pink pig slippers. And I just want to say, “Thank you!”
But people say “thank you” a lot. When they don’t really mean it. It’s just a thing you say when a store clerk hands you a receipt or someone holds a door open for you out of habit. It’s the phrase you spit through gritted teeth at your obnoxious co-worker who just pointed out a mathematical error you made in your TPS report during a meeting with your boss’ boss. Worst is when it’s said really snarkily – “Ohhhhhh. Thaaaaaaank Yew!” And in a blog, it’s hard to know what kind of thank you you’re getting. Because you can’t hear me. You can’t see me. You don’t know if I’m sneering or smiling or cleaning out my toe jam to save in a jar for tomorrow’s breakfast when I say, “Thank you!”
So, in an effort to prove the sincerity of my thank you, I have decided to turn over the reigns of my paltry meandering brain to you, my
servile lackeys subscribers, for a single post. Instead of writing about what I want to babble about for 2000+ words, I’m going to write about a topic that you assign to me. But there are over 1,000 of you.
Thus, the Tell The Taller Than Average Woman What To Prattle On About Next Contest has been created. Between now and Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 5 p.m. E.S.T., you can submit up to 5 topics in the Comments Section below for me to pen a blog post about. Topics can be broad (Kim Kardashian’s ass) or extremely specific (the amoeba who lives on the mole on Kim Kardashian’s left butt cheek). Nothing is forbidden, although any requests from Stacie Chadwick, my blogging bestie and uber-attractive author of the high-larious blog, Gemini Girl in A Random World, to write about her naturally gorgeous face and fit body will be utterly ignored.
I will be the sole judge, though I will likely consult with my hubby and/or a psychic, the homeless drag queen who dresses to the nines while pushing her shopping cart down the street adjacent to my condo, and the bottom of my crystal wineglass. Especially that last one. I may have to consult it daily. Several times. Bottles of wine that mysteriously show up on my doorstep with a
worshiper’s subscriber’s name attached will not be considered…a bribe. Particularly if they are bottles of pinot grigio or a nice, unoaked chardonnay with a high alcohol content.
The lucky winner, of course, will be featured prominently in my post with a link to their blog. And a photo should they opt to send me one. Unless they’re ugly. I mean, it really wouldn’t do either of us any good to have a photo of an ugly blogger included in my post. Unless, of course, the winner is unusually ugly. People are drawn to freaks like handcuffs are drawn to Lindsay Lohan’s wrists.
And now without further ado, let the games commence!
Your Humble Blogger,
P.S. Part II of Yoga Is Not A Character In Star Wars will be published Monday morning. Set your alarm clock. It’s going to be a great day. Unless you’re me. I think I may have pulled something.
I’m not a cool yoga chick, a.k.a. CYC. You know, the kind you see wandering into a locally-owned coffee shop (CYCs don’t support corporations and, thus, boycott Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts) still wearing her yoga pants and skin tight tank top, her hair swept up into an untidy knot on top of her head that that looks so fabulous, Gwyneth Paltrow will sport the exact same do next week on the red carpet. A single bead of
sweat perspiration rests on her forehead like a diamond bindi – sweat perspiration that says, “I’m a healthy, centered individual and so confident that my armpits don’t dare stink until I give them permission.” The kind who orders a cup of decaffeinated hot tea, then wrinkles her nose when her fingers accidentally brush the yellow Splenda packets as she retrieves a single envelope of turbinado sugar and sprinkles it into her tea. After all, she just did an hour of yoga in a 150 degree room; she can afford the extra 11 calories. And CYCs don’t use artificial sweeteners because everyone knows that they’re made from the ashes of dead babies. So not vegan.
No, I’m the kind of yoga chick who’s never done yoga. The kind who is more likely to quote Yoda than Buddha. The kind who thought downward dog was a sexual position. My idea of meditation is shutting my eyes as I take that first sip of a perfect dirty martini. As far as breathing goes, I’ll breathe when I’m dead. So when I joined a yoga studio online the other afternoon, I made sure to schedule mid-day classes because the 6 p.m. classes are smack dab in the middle of Happy Hour. And I have a feeling the instructor would frown upon me stumbling into class reeking of vodka and blue cheese stuffed olives, though I suspect my muscles would be substantially more…shall we say, relaxed.
To prep for my first yoga class, I figured I should limber up a little, so I rode my recumbent bike for ten minutes. The night before. In my pajamas. You know, to loosen up. For bed. And I had
four glasses a small glass of wine. Again, to help me relax. So I could be rested for the next day. Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep in this whole equation.
Then I arose early so that I could tackle the slabs of leather otherwise known as the soles of my feet. One of the negatives of yoga is the whole foot conundrum. I mean, my feet are nice enough to look at encased in a pair of knee-high go-go boots, but if you think I’m gonna just put my soles out there for an entire room of people to stare at – not to mention my conjoined, fraternal twin (the one who was not absorbed
at all completely in utero) also known as my “badunka dunk” – that’s another question. The bottoms of people’s feet just aren’t attractive. Mine are particularly fugly because we have wood floors – and I’m always barefoot inside – so the bottoms of my feet look like a Swiffer pad after one shitty day of swiffering. Before I crawl into bed at night, I have to rinse the accumulated cat hair, stray bits of kitty litter, small pebbles, dust bunnies, my husband’s toenail clippings, dead leaves that have been eaten by the cats then puked back up in a gray mass, pieces of shaved carrot, a Wal-mart receipt and a yellow Fiat off of the bottom of my feet lest my hubby kick me back out of bed.
I decided to shave my calluses off using a small, egg-shaped device that is essentially the equivalent of a cheese grater. Yes, the Ped Egg. It’s brilliant. This is what you have to resort to when your calluses are so tough, pumice stone turns to dust at the sight of them. The Vietnamese girls at the nail salon don goggles and pull out the Black & Decker electric sander when I come in for a pedicure. Still, after ten minutes of sawing the Ped Egg back and forth against my soles, my feet were as soft as
a baby’s butt a well-worn catcher’s mitt. Plus, my calluses were reduced to what appears to be a few ounces of grated parmesan, which I saved in a Tupperware container to serve at a dinner party attended by my enemies dumped into the garbage can. Except for all the bits that didn’t end up inside the egg contraption, but immediately hooked up with my husband’s toenails for some kind of pedal reunion while waiting for me to swiffer them up later.
Then there was shaving to be done. The invention of the maxi dress had a dramatic impact on American society – it meant that women like me (i.e. the three women in the world blessed with sparse, light blond hair on their legs – don’t be a hater) stopped shaving their legs pretty much altogether. Okay, perhaps not entirely. There’s always special occasions that warrant a shave – like pap smears and the random key party- but usually no one notices that I have hair on my legs. Male readers, please stop fondling yourselves. I know this is crazy sexy talk, but have a little control. Unfortunately, my lack of experience with shaving means that I typically find myself with multiple nicks up and down my shins and ankles – each of which bleeds like a Russian prince – so I end up with small, torn bits of toilet paper with bright red splotches in the center of each glued to my legs. Dude! Put the trouser snake back in his house.
Once my stems were smooth and moisturized, I had to give myself a badly needed pedicure. Except I didn’t really get up quite early enough to give myself a full pedicure. Or a mini pedicure. Fuck, all I had the time to do is slap a single coat of bright salmon colored enamel over my chipped toenails and pray that two minutes under the hair dryer would prevent smudging. Unlike me, CYCs don’t fret over things like pedicures because they’re perfectly tanned from spending so much time weeding their organic gardens – and bronzed feet don’t need nail polish. I am not tanned. My toes are the color of Gollum and wrinkled like miniature elephant knees. They need polish in the same way that the Pogues need an orthodontist. It’s just too ugly otherwise.
Similarly, going to yoga class barefaced was not an option. As the
Head and Shoulders commercial old adage goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Not only did I want the CYCs to view me in the best possible light (which is why I snuck into the studio the night before and changed the bulbs to soft white), I wanted to prevent innocent bystanders from being trampled by screaming CYCs, running like a herd of wildebeest at the sight of my naked visage, so I went against the CYC ban on foundation, and slopped on not one, but two coats. Hey, as with any form of exercise, safety first! Twenty minutes later, my skin was glowing, my lashes were thick and dark, and my lips were a natural, glossy pink (if natural means Las Vegas Sparkly).
CYCs are never growing out their hair. It’s either luxuriously long and knotted up on top of their heads like they hate how thick and naturally highlighted it is so they just have to get it out of their sight or they’re going to puke, or it’s uber short and pixie-like, a la Michelle Williams or Ginnifer Goodwin – because CYCs never have ginormous ears that stick straight out. If Obama was a woman, he’d never be a CYC. His ears disqualify him. As a person who is growing out one of those Mia Farrow wispy hairstyles (because I’m what Obama would look like if he was a white woman), my hair is too short to be pulled into a ponytail unless I want to go with the Samurai look and too long to stay out of my eyes unless I’m lying flat on my back. Assuming that most yoga positions won’t involve me being flat on my back because then they’d call it sleeping instead of yoga, I opted to do nothing but flat iron my dark hair super straight. I was bound to look Asian one way or another. It’s a good look for me because it makes my hair incredibly shiny – as long as it doesn’t get wet. Did I mention I am a head-sweater? It can be 45 degrees outside, but if I so much as wave at someone, my sweat glands are activated and immediately drain all fluid from my body – out through the pores on my scalp. Did I mention that I had to walk to the yoga studio? Several blocks in 80 degree Florida heat. No shade. Absolutely no shade…because Captain Idiot here scheduled her classes at NOON so that they wouldn’t interfere with Happy Hour.
I’m embarrassed to say this, but I came pretty close to calling my friend, Christine – who is both the author of the amazing blog, the book of alice and a yoga enthusiast (probably a CYC, but the kind I aspire to become) – to ask her what I should wear. Not a party or a wedding, but to yoga class. I’ve been to lots of parties and weddings, but I’ve only observed CYCs from afar. Truth be told, I only know Christine through the blogosphere, so I couldn’t even secretly follow her to a yoga class or sneak into her house and dig through her drawers (dresser drawers, you pervs!) to see where a CYC buys her gear. Initially, I had decided to go with my Ikea pajamas – black, drawstring cotton wide-legged pants and a matching black tee. Bought at Ikea for ten whole bucks. Came in a sealed plastic bag – kinda like a six pack of socks at Walmart. I know. I know. I’m a fashion plate, but let’s try to stay focused. But I am also accident prone (see The Bitch Is Back…And Shinier) and I started to worry that, while switching poses, I would trip on the excess fabric in my pants. Anticipating that my legs would likely be up in the air for much of the class (suddenly I have the strangest sense of deja vu), the other concern was that my pant legs would simply slide all the way up to my thighs and I would be left with a giant black diaper between my legs. While this would likely hide any incontinence issues that might arise, I was afraid that the CYCs would frown on my failure to follow appropriate yoga fashion protocol. Thus, I switched to a tight-fitting, knee-length pair of black workout pants that, in addition to giving me a huge muffin top and camel toe, also highlight my toilet paper adorned legs. Then I reached for my sneakers.
Except my sneakers reeked. They didn’t stink, they stank. Not stank as in the past tense of stink, but stank as in stink like a motherfucker. Stank is stink squared. This stank can permeate any sock in mere seconds. Which is why I immediately dropped my Converse lest their stank permeate my fingertips like The Bog of Eternal Stench, and reached for the only pair of open-toed, flat black shoes I own: delicate sandals adorned with tiny black diamante. Very sporty. In Monte Carlo. But CYCs don’t have stanky feet. When they remove their sneakers, the airspace around them is flooded with the scent of fresh grass, rosemary and sunshine. It is said that when Chuck Norris gets a little fatigued, he sticks his nose into a CYC’s sneaker, inhales and is completely rejuvenated.
As I picked up my gold Coach purse, I realized that no CYC in her right might would show up to class with a blingy designer bag, so I switched to a demure, faded black denim purse with a long strap that screams, I don’t care about brand names because brand names are created by corporations – and corporations burn babies, then stick their ashes in Splenda packets. Plus, this particular bag has a great story, so if a CYC casually says, “Great bag,” I could tell her how I bought it at the Portobello Road market in London. At a stand on the street. I even haggled with the vendor to get a better price. As CYCs are well-traveled and love outdoor market bargains, I felt confident that I had one acceptable story I could share during class. But what if we ended up ohming the whole time?
Maybe I could communicate all the crunchy granola-ness of my purse in sign language? If I’d had time, I could have typed up a card and simply handed it to anyone who complimented me. It would have read: I have taken a vow of silence for the next hour and a half. Thank you for your kind words about my bag. It has carried me through many countries
that I’ve only seen on television. I haggled with a curmudgeon charming vendor in the Portobello Road market in London to get the best price. It’s made entirely of previously recycled materials and was sewn by hand by a blind Guatemalan woman who was paid a living wage for her services. If you see me using Splenda, it’s because I’m infiltrating the company to write an expose about them and the secret baby cremations. Thank you for honoring my vow of silence. Namaste.
Finally, before I headed out the door, I decided to follow the yoga studio’s recommendation that I eat either a banana, granola or peanut butter a half hour before class. As I sat on my sofa spooning Peter Pan into my mouth right out of the jar, it occured to me that the website was probably talking about unsweetened, organic peanut butter sold by some corporation-pretending-not-to-be-a-corporation like Whole Foods. It’s not that I don’t like organic peanut butter, I just think it tastes so much better after I add half a bag of Splenda to it. But I can’t tell the CYCs that. It’s best that I focus on my breathing and meditation. Whatever I do, I can’t think about the blog during yoga. Mustn’t write blog in my head during class – or worse – jot down notes onto my yoga mat with a Sharpie. Oh, and mustn’t laugh at how ridiculous people will look in absurd poses. Mustn’t shout out, “That’s what she said!” when the instructor croons about how amazing a stretch feels. Oh, most crucial, mustn’t fart in class. That would just be namaste.
If you enjoyed this post, please click here to read “Part Deux – Yoga Is Not A Character In Star Wars,” in which I experience my very first Flying Asana Anti-Gravity Swing Yoga class. Me + Yoga + A Swing + Camel Toe = Comedy Without Even Trying
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