What Is Fictionary?
It’s a clever word coined by my blogging buddy, Kylie, over at The Life of Kylie, that refers to new words, phrases, or new definitions for existing words or phrases – often punny in nature – created by people like me who have way too much time on their hands. What’s more, she’s turned it into a game. More accurately, a contest for which the prize is muffins or cupcakes. How could I not participate? Due to recent weight loss, my muffin top is shrinking at an alarming rate. A win, on my part, could help me regain my title as the Muffin Top Queen of the Blogosphere.
Will You Help?
Sure, images of starving children in Africa or pitiful pups in cages shown on television accompanied by any Sarah McLachlan tune are probably the triggers for the heart strings attached to your wallet. However, I
totally want don’t need your money; I need your likes. Just one like and a comment celebrating my Fictionary genius from each of my loyal readers is all that is standing between this:
Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Once my muffin top has gone the way of the Dodo Bird or the Saber-tooth Tiger, there’s no bringing it back. As I’m sure you are aware, the future of Miss Snarky Pants’ muffin top has been threatened recently by the destruction of its natural habitat (i.e. encroachment of high-waisted, stretch jeans), climate change (i.e. Bikram yoga), and, most critically, an interruption in the food chain (i.e. I’m out of vodka and lard!). Will you allow your children to grow up in a world devoid of Miss Snarky Pants’ spare tire? I didn’t think so.
Miss Snarky Pants’ Fictionary Entries
Adorababy: (adj.) The point at which an infant stops looking like a potato and begins to resemble a cute homo sapien.
Ex: A few days ago, the sight of little Katie’s squinched-up eyes and crimson cheeks made me recoil in terror, but now she’s adorababy.
Opression: (noun) The mark left on one upon whom Oprah Winfrey has fallen.
Ex: Though my broken arm has finally healed, the opression that the talk show host left on my wrist will never disappear.
Litterate: (noun) The score given to various forms of litter.
Ex: On a litterate scale of one to ten, a cigarette butt rates only a three, whereas one of Lindsay Lohan’s used fire crotch tampons is a ten.
Shampoo: (noun) 1. Faux fecal matter; 2. Non-Disney approved Winnie the Pooh merchandise
Ex: The old lady nearly shat herself when she discovered she’d been sitting on the shampoo that I placed on her seat.
Middlebrow: (noun) The third brow which typically connects the left and right eyebrows.
Ex: Though many people think Michael Stipe was the driving force behind R.E.M., insiders claim that it was drummer Bill Berry’s middlebrow that inspired most of their hits.
Nexus: (proper noun) Blood supply store popular with vampires.
Ex: Forget that True Blood crap; I’m heading over to Nexus to stock up on some O negative.
Microwave: (noun) 1. A small salutation made with the hand when one is unsure as to whether or not the recipient is someone he or she knows.
Ex: He looked familiar, but after last week’s tequila binge, I wasn’t sure so I just gave him a microwave.
Nativity: (noun) The percentage of Native American ancestry that a Caucasian claims to possess.
Ex: I’m at least 1.25% nativity since my great great uncle’s sister’s friend once shook hands with a Cherokee.
Melodrama: (proper noun) Any situation involving alcohol, profanity, verbal rants, racial slurs and actor Mel Gibson.
Ex: Due to the number of recent complaints of Melodrama, the LAPD have assigned a police scanner code specifically for incidents involving Mel Gibson.
Mangrove: (noun) A nightclub or bar regularly frequented by single men.
Ex: Now that Bruce dropped that tranny he was dating, he’s been prowling every mangrove on the strip in search of a sugar daddy.
Collide: (past tense verb) The act of two people lying about the same thing simultaneously.
Ex: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan collide about the details of Ryan’s tax plan during yesterday’s press conference.
Vulcanic Eruption: ( proper noun) The physiological response that occurs when Spock engages in sexual intercourse.
Ex: Oh, Spock! You’re hot and all, but if you have a Vulcanic eruption in my mouth, I’m going to bite your dick off.
1) Take a moment. 2) Like this post. 3) Comment on my sheer wit and your favorite Fictionary entry. 4) Visit Kylie’s blog and tell her that you want to ensure that Miss Snarky Pants’ muffin top lives to see another day! 5) Pat yourself on the back for being such a
Start baking those Recrimination Muffins, Kylie…
If you enjoyed this blog, stop being so friggin’ selfish and SHARE it. It’s easy; just click on those little buttons below. Facebook, Twitter, Reddit – everyone deserves the opportunity to see Miss Snarky Pants’ muffin top in the wild.
If being a vegan is akin to belonging to a particular religion, then I must be
Catholic-Lite Episcopalian. What? you say. Vegans are nothing like Episcopalians; they’re militant, strict, judgmental – and they’re anxious to convert carnivores. Rather, vegans are the epitome of dogmatic zealots, much like the speaking-in-tongues, snake-handling, Born Again, fire and brimstone Charismatics that pepper the deep hollers of Appalachia and star in the Super Congregations we see on Sunday morning television. And you, Miss Snarky Pants, are nothing like that.
And you would be right about one thing; I am nothing like that. Although I grew up neck deep in a Pentecostal Christian guilt so mucky I was sucked beneath its surface every time I so much as played a Hall & Oates album, I am no longer that person. To be clear, though I once believed that only the metaphorical blood and body of Jesus – aptly played during Holy Communion by Welch’s grape juice and a stale water cracker, respectively – could save my soul, deep down a part of me was always asking pesky questions:
But there’s, like, hundreds or thousands of religions. How do we know that we’re right? What if the Jews nailed it from the beginning – they’re awfully good with money and just look what they’ve accomplished in the film industry?
What kind of God would send innocent people to Hell just because they live in a third world country and have never heard of The Bible? Is it because they have rickets?
Why would God want elderly people living on Social Security to tithe 10% of their income when they can’t afford their diabetes medication? Is God punishing them for Supersizing one time too many?
Why does God only heal people who attend church on television? And why don’t they have diseases or injuries that we can see? You know, like leprosy or missing limbs?
Despite my early indoctrination into the Assemblies of God faith, I’ve never been much of a follower in other areas of my life. I mean, once you’ve committed yourself to serving an invisible, holey (pun most definitely intended) half-man half-diety, his oft angry dad with a penchant for dishing out natural disasters, and some sort of third-wheel ghostie, becoming a member of the drill team is a bit anticlimatic.
As it turns out, my prospects as a leader were nil. I didn’t like leaders; they were typically mean girls who were good at kickball and quick with insulting and alliterative nicknames for their victims. Though I’m sure I could have become skilled at the latter, my legs were created to bang into stationary furniture with sharp edges. Kicking a rolling ball in a particular direction was beyond my capabilities, prompting me to ask more of my pesky questions:
Why does God want me to be picked last for kickball every single day of my life? Why did He make me so smart that the other kids hate me for setting the bell curve? Why can’t I grow breasts? Does God hate me, too?
As I aged, my disinterest in either leading or following left me in a precarious social position. Though I was no longer unpopular, I refused to fully commit to any particular clique. One day I’d eat lunch with my Smiths and Psychedelic Furs-loving friends and the next, I’d hunker down with my buddies-of-color so that we could argue about which one of us was going to be Michael Jackson’s first ex-wife. Then there were my Journey-loving compatriots; I’ll spare you the painful images of these mullet-sporting, muscle shirt-wearing, air guitar-playing fans, all of whom wore gold eighth notes around their necks in honor of their leader, Steve Perry. Athletics were out of the question. I declined my invitation to join The National Honor Society. Drama only held my interest if I had a lead role which was, erm, never.
After law school, I experimented with multiple careers, but none – including legal practice – satisfied me in the way writing does, though all paid considerably more. I know…poor, little lawyer girl. I’d hate myself, too, but then, I’ve seen my law school debt – and you haven’t.
If I was a devotee of anything at all, it was cow teets. I loved dairy. Cheese was something that I could commit to – after all, it could be sweet, sour, stinky, melty, salty, chewy, stringy, sharp, mild, nutty and creamy. It was as diverse as my interests and never expected me to tithe. Until I was introduced to the chocolate martini in my mid-thirties, milk held the title as my favorite beverage. Sexy, huh? Nothing says “fuck me” like your date ordering a glass of moo juice with her filet mignon.
So when I suddenly decided to abandon the
greatest love of my entire life second greatest love of my entire life (because, of course, Hubby is the first) to join the Church of Vegan, I can assure you that more than a few of my friends and family members were perplexed. After all, these are people who had, over the years, become accustomed to asking me, “What is it you do, again?” Hell, if I couldn’t dedicate myself to one career path, why should they believe that I would deliberately eschew meat and all animal products for the rest of my life just because it’s supposed to be healthier? That never stopped me from mainlining vodka.
However, as the weeks turned into months, it appeared that I had finally made a true commitment. I started cooking, posting photos of one vegan meal after another on Facebook
like those people who have absolutely nothing better to do with their time. Hubby and I joined a gym. I gave up hard liquor. I became the poster child for the kind of person who had embraced a plant-based diet; a kinder, gentler Miss Snarky Pants. Through the Internet, I met other local vegans and soon I was inundated with invitations to attend one non-carnivore event after another. Vegans adore newbies. And like Pentecostals, they love to recruit. Why else would they have some kind of vegan/animal rights festival every bloody weekend?
Being vegan made me feel accepted by a closely-knit group of people who looked at the world with the same pair of eyes. Despite the fact that Hubby and I had only moved to Tampa a few months before my big conversion, new friends were practically crawling out of the woodwork, ready to hang out just because I’d abandoned many of my beloved food choices. At restaurants, I no longer had to worry that the waiter would think I was cheap if I ordered a vegetarian entrée. Nope, all I had to do was explain, “I’m vegan” and every bit of judgment on the server’s face would vanish – only to be replaced with fear. At Whole Foods, it was as if I was wearing a flashing, neon sign around my neck. As the cashier rang up my items, she would invariably ask, “Are you vegan?” Before I could do more than nod, she’d burst out into a huge smile, then whisper loudly, “Me, too! Isn’t Daiya soy-free, vegan cheese the best?”
If by best, you mean barely edible and tastes nothing at all like cheese, then yes, it’s the best!
Gradually, I discovered that worshiping at the Church of Vegan was complicated. Initially, I thought I was giving up dairy, meat and eggs, but there’s a whole lot of small print in the Vegan Bible. Did you know that gelatin is made of horses’ hooves and other disgusting stuff? Adios, Jell-O. Sayonara, marshmallows. See ya later, candy corn and jelly beans. Don’t even think about taking that Nyquil Gel Cap. And what about animal bone char? It’s utilized to refine sugar and turn crude oil into petroleum jelly. Oh, and it’s also used in making many kinds of BEER. Did I type that loudly enough? BEER. At least six thousand newbie vegans just said, “What the fuck?”
However, as a non-beer drinker, my first what-the-fuck? moment occurred when I was informed that I could no longer eat honey. “Why?” I asked a vegan friend. “The bees are just doing their thing. Making honey is kinda like their job…and the last thing we need in this country is a higher unemployment rate.”
“The bees are enslaved,” she responded, without a hint of irony. “They’re exploited by humans.”
Suddenly, my brain was flooded with images of bees humming “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and picking cotton. I imagined them cringing in front of a white-hooded beekeeper, buzzing, “Don’t blow that smoke at me, Massa! I’ll eat mo’ nectar and vomit up mo’ honey!” It occurred to me that some vegans were more concerned about honey bees’ rights than they were about the rights of immigrant field workers – the people usually responsible for raising and harvesting the plant-based diet that sustains the vegan lifestyle.
Shortly after the bee incident, being vegan really hit me where it hurts the most: my liver. At a cooking party I was hosting, a guest advised me that the wine I was drinking may have been clarified with isinglass, a substance derived from fish bladders. Having given up the hard stuff, wine had become my slower, but still lovely, intoxicant. “You’ll want to go online and research the brands of wine that you enjoy. You might have to switch,” she suggested.
Seriously, God – you really hate me, right? You don’t just plant the “Become a Vegan” idea in my head, then casually – at a much later date – drop the wine bomb on me. Oh, and God, in case you’re wondering, I’m officially agnostic.
I realized that these people were serious. Veganism wasn’t a diet; it was an admirable commitment to living life in a way that doesn’t exploit animals in any manner whatsoever. Yet, as much as I respected my new friends for making this difficult, moral choice, I also recognized that I had to be true to myself…and my embossed leather Coach bags. If I didn’t opt for a more compassionate non-leather sofa, I’d soon be a hypocrite – not to mention, I’d spend every spare moment removing fur from
a friggin’ cat hair magnet a cruelty-free fabric recliner. It became clear that I was not an ethical vegan, as most of my friends called themselves. I was doing this for my health – and unless the occasional teaspoon of honey was going to give me cancer or cause Bob Barker’s head to explode, I wasn’t really worried about it. Where did that leave me? Was I an unethical vegan? And, more importantly, why was I letting the word vegan define who I was and what I ate? Vegans aren’t like virgins – you can be just a little bit vegan.
Thus, in the interest of not being a vegan fraud, a hypocrite, a sober person or just plain grumpy, I’ve decided to start my own church: The Church of Vegan-Lite. With all of the health benefits, but only half the guilt and no rosary, a Vegan-Litist, as I like to think of myself, is mostly vegan, but makes exceptions here and there. For example, though I will inform food servers that I’m a vegan, I am quick to reassure them that I’m not militant about it and won’t douse them with a bucket of red paint if they suggest the steak tartare special to Hubby. Likewise, I’ve chosen to integrate certain foods back into my diet, but those foods can’t be too decadent or I’ll be required to self-flagellate like an albino monk. Thus, I’ve reintroduced egg whites to our refrigerator; after all, they’re fucking egg whites. Is there a less-offensive and healthier non-vegan food out there? Doctors practically prescribe them. Dr. Carrie Rubin, back me up here, will ya?
I’ve also discovered that if I drink a sufficient amount of vino, I completely forget all about fish bladders and bone char. Problem solved.
The only remaining issue is my hesitancy to lead – or follow, for that matter – which is why the Church of Vegan-Lite currently has only one member. So if any of you vegans out there are just jonesin’ to spoon some honey into your mug of cruelty-free, organic green tea, go for it. I grant you permission to become the bishop of your own Vegan-Lite parish. Just promise me one thing: switch the Welch’s out for a nice cabernet sauvignon, would ya?
Hey! If you enjoyed this blog, do Miss Snarky Pants a favor and share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter! You can also follow this blog by clicking on the big blue button in the right hand column that reads, “Follow This Blog – It Leads To Treasure!”
If you’re an ethical vegan, please know that I respect your views (and the fact that you aren’t, apparently, tempted by cheese every moment of the day) even though I don’t necessarily agree with them fully. So don’t be a hater. I really do love you guys!
***Photo credits: Communion: therubicon.org Madonna: articles.dailynews.com Holy Trinity: catholicbible101.com Kickball: keanradio.com Cheese: igourmet.com Daiya Cheese: mfablog.org Slaves: bbc.co.uk Dog Hair: blog.sfgate.com Albino monk: aveleyman.com
Today, I’m cheating. I’m stealing the book of alice’s format right out from under her, just this once. Why? Because I met the most hilarious 7 year old boy at an Independence Day pool party this afternoon.
Dripping wet and shivering, Freddie was searching for a dry towel.
Me: Do you want to use one of my towels? They’re dry.
Me: Why not? I promise, I don’t have cooties.
Freddie: I know, but I don’t want to give you cooties.
Me: Oh, I doubt you have any cooties. Haven’t you had your cootie shot?
Me: (taking Freddie’s arm in my hand, I draw two circles then poke him with my finger tip twice) Circle, circle, dot, dot. Now you’ve got your cootie shot.
Freddie: (a look of humor mixed with a healthy dose of disdain on his chocolate-smudged face) What is that? Some kind of baby rhyme?
I don’t recall how the discussion of vibrators arose. Only that it came up while I was riding home on a sweltering school bus filled to the gills with students of every age – as is often the case with private, parochial schools. A popular, older boy named Jerry mentioned that someone had a vibrator and his comment was received with fits of laughter from the more mature kids, all of whom were crammed into the last few rows – because the back of the bus was, is and always will be the coolest place to sit.
As a fifth grader at a new school, I was anxious for friends. Especially older friends. One’s market value could easily be assessed by how many older kids you knew. Particularly if those older kids didn’t give you noogies or shoot spitballs at you. And making people laugh was a good thing. Bill Cosby made people laugh. I could hear the audience roaring in the background when I listened to my father’s copy of Bill Cosby Is A Very Funny Fellow Right! on our record player. Fonzie made people laugh every time he told someone to Sit on it! And everybody loved Lucy, including the band leader with the Cuban accent thicker than my yet-to-be-tweezed monobrow. Being funny could garner me significant clout, particularly if the people chuckling were old enough to grow wispy mustaches or wear bras. Their laughter was my clue that something about vibrators was humorous. But what?
Fortunately, I knew all about vibrators. Our family shared a heavy one with a rounded, spaceship-style head the size of a large bagel and used it to massage the kinks in our muscles. After a long day at work, my dad would often say, “Cristy, go get the vibrator and rub it over my lower back, would you?” It worked wonders on my calves after a Saturday afternoon of riding my bike non-stop through the neighborhood. My mom stored it in one of the drawers of her nightstand, so technically I considered it to be her property, but I was permitted to use it whenever the need arose. As I balanced my small frame sideways on the edge of the bus seat, my book bag and Tupperware lunch bucket resting on my knees, I pondered why the kids around me considered vibrators so darned amusing. I supposed ours was funny looking in a way, but its appearance had never made me giggle out loud. Then again, if you used it on your neck and spoke at the same time, your voice sounded a bit like a robot. Perhaps that’s what all the fuss was about.
So without hesitation, I loudly announced, “My mom’s got one of those!”
Remember MySpace? Justin Timberlake and his $35 million dollar investment seriously wish you would. Though I didn’t spend much time in the social networking world during the mid-2000s, I did join and was thrilled to discover that I immediately had a friend in Tom Anderson. You know, Tom – the cute guy in the white tee who grinned over his shoulder at you with a whiteboard behind him. True, my excitement deflated a tad when I discovered that Tom Anderson was cozy with literally everyone on MySpace – apparently, he automatically became your friend the second you signed up. But still, just seeing his smiling face on my page made me feel better about the fact that he was the only smiling face on my page for awhile.
Fast forward to the year 2008. After being needled by our friends incessantly, I finally broke down and joined Facebook. For a day or two, my Facebook page just sat there. Lonely. Drinking hard liquor. Thinking dark thoughts. Finally, I asked my soon-to-be Hubby to friend me. My page couldn’t take the solitude. Then the friend requests and acceptances started rolling in, until I began deleting the friends whom I still couldn’t remember from geometry class and the ones who posted quotes by Ann Coulter without a hint of irony. For awhile, the banter was fast and furious. I played Scrabble with online friends, posted puns in a private Facebook group, reconnected with school chums, and ignored 18,000 requests to water my friends’ tomatoes or milk their imaginary cows.
I’ve been known to
frequently occasionally put my foot in my mouth. Which is why I wear Converse a lot. Their soles have a pleasant, somewhat vanilla flavor to them and just the faintest pecan aftertaste.
I’m most prone to humiliating myself and others when meeting celebrities. Unfortunately, I’ve met a lot of them. As a former journalist, screenwriter and music enthusiast, I’ve ended up hanging out with actors and musicians that some people would kill their mothers for the chance to meet. Of course, anyone who would off their mom to meet a mere mortal was probably thinking about the offing part long before the opportunity to meet Celebrity X arose, so keep that in mind.
A little over a decade ago, I was covering a film festival for a Florida magazine, interviewing actors, various industry big shots and writing about the festival’s community outreach program. My VIP Pass got me into everything: movie screenings, roundtable discussions with actors and directors, The Filmmakers’ Lounge, late night after parties, and a gala honoring Alan Alda, star of television’s M*A*S*H and feature films like The Four Seasons and Betsy’s Wedding. This was not my first time at the film festival rodeo, but Alan Alda was definitely one of the most respected actors I’d met at the time.
Growing up in the Seventies, you couldn’t not be in awe of the man who not only played the loveable smartass, Hawkeye Pierce on one of the most popular and longest-running prime time series of all time, but also wrote and/or directed many of the episodes. In fact, M*A*S*H’s 1983 finale, Goodbye, Farewell and Amen was directed by Alda – and remains the most widely-viewed episode in television history. Plus, Alda was known as the archetypal Mr. Sensitive Male of his generation, a loving husband and father, and an outspoken proponent of feminism and women’s rights.
As you can imagine, I had put some thought into what I would say when I finally met Alan Alda. In fact, I had gone above and beyond my normal preparation and brought with me a prop. One which I was sure would reduce the star to tears of laughter and cement our immediate friendship – not to mention garner me an in-depth and candid interview with him which would land me a gig writing for People, and revamp the world’s interest in Alda, whose career was in a bit of a slump at the time.
Throughout the gala, I’d sat patiently at a large, round table with other journalists and independent filmmakers I’d gotten to know over the past few days. Nervously, I balanced my prop on my lap as I chatted with my neighbors, all the while keeping my eye on the back of Alda’s head just a few tables away. Having attended events like this in the past, I knew my window of opportunity was a small one. Once a major award like this is presented to a celebrity, they are often whisked away for photo ops with bigwig festival contributors, board members and local politicians. And Alda didn’t look like the kind of guy who was likely to show up for the after party and booze it up with the little people. I needed to get to him and make that connection before the announcer hit the podium, at which point chitchatting with the guest of honor would be frowned upon. Particularly when you’re not seated at his table and are, in fact, squatting on the floor next to him, looking a bit like Gollum in a cocktail dress. My Pwecious, Alan Alda. My Pwecious.
Excusing myself I stood up, my prop clutched in my left hand, and strode purposefully towards Alda’s gray head, smoothing down my dress with my free fingers. By the time I made it to his table, the actor, dressed tastefully in a black tux, was talking with a woman I didn’t recognize, but I didn’t have time to engage in trivial things like manners and politeness. “Excuse me, Mr. Alda,” I said, my voice wavering slightly, “could I show you something?”
“Umm. Sure,” he replied with a nod to the woman that said, Another fan. You know how it is. Gimme a sec. Returning his attention to me, he asked kindly, “What’s your name, dear?”
Crap! He thinks I’m going to ask for an autograph. I’m a journalist, for chrissakes. I don’t ask for celebrities’ signatures; I ask for intimate details about their painful childhoods. I probe to discover what motivated their Emmy or Academy Award winning performances. I inquire about their exes and their most recent stints in rehab. And their phone numbers – I always go for the phone numbers.
Except this wasn’t exactly true. Though I’d been to film festivals in the past and hobnobbed with the rich and famous, this was the first time I had actually covered an event like this for a magazine. A regional magazine, in fact, for which I typically wrote articles about things like generic vs. brand name drugs, grandparents raising their grandchildren, and ways to summerize your home. But the film festival was big news in our town – and none of the other writers on staff had any experience dealing with celebrities. I mean, you can’t just allow anyone to talk to actors. An unsophisticated reporter could potentially embarrass the magazine by verbally regurgitating every possible version of “I’m such a big fan of your work” over and over again, thereby losing the actor’s respect and reducing any chance of scoring a big interview to nil.
But I wouldn’t let that happen. No, I was a professional and I was going to charm the pants off this mega star with my secret prop weapon. “I’m Cristy,” I replied in a deep, husky NPR voice, extending my hand to Alan Alda. Except I had squatted down by that time, my prop balanced precariously on my thighs, so when he took my hand in his, I began to tip…backwards. Desperately, I grabbed for the back of his chair with my left hand, but it was one of those rounded motherfuckers that slipped right out of my fingers. As the angle between my body and the ground became more and more acute, I could feel Alda’s hand tighten around mine, yet I was still falling. Did I outweigh Alan Alda? No, I was pin thin back in those days, but he wasn’t exactly a spring chicken. What if he had a back or hip problem and, by clutching my hand and pulling me towards him in attempt to save me from a dastardly and humiliating fall in front of at least 500 people, he was being permanently injured. I’d be forever known as the journalist who threw out Alan Alda’s back. Celebrities would avoid me like Gary Busey at future festivals because they would have heard stories about the reporter responsible for Alan Alda needing hip replacement surgery – the one that he didn’t survive because he contracted MRSA in the hospital and died of pneumonia. Dear God, I was killing Hawkeye Pierce.
There was only one solution. I had to let go. I would take the fall for all the Alan Alda fans in the world. As I relaxed my right hand, I braced myself for the painful thud that I was sure to come. Visions of myself lying supine on the floor, my little black dress bunched up around my hips, my panties – oh, shit! What kind of panties was I wearing? Please don’t let it be the Hello Kitty bikinis. Or the granny panties with skid marks. Perhaps if I’d considered the status of my underwear before deciding to let go of Alan Alda’s hand, I wouldn’t have been so impetuous with my decision to suffer this kind of embarrassment on behalf of the beloved actor’s health. I mean, the dude was old. Medicare old. He probably already needed surgery for dozens of bulging and herniated discs, and I was just going to be the proverbial journalist who broke the proverbial actor’s back.
But before I could re-tighten my grip, Alda’s adrenaline began pumping and he violently hauled me up from a failing squat to a semi-vertical position, which saved my ass both literally and figuratively, but also caused my prop to slide from my lap and flop open on the floor. Quickly, he dropped my hand and stared at the midnight blue book lying on the plush carpet. “You okay?” he asked, as almost an afterthought, still gazing at the book.
“Fine. I’m fine,” I replied, even though my legs were still shaking. Because I was fine. Alda was interested in my prop. My plan was going to work beautifully. Perhaps not in the way in which I had anticipated. I’d hoped to work in a little small talk before wowing him with what would likely be one of the funniest things he’d ever seen. But out of the corner of my eye, I could see the announcer organizing his speech cards, preparing to mount the steps to the stage. Why dilute this meeting with trivial chitchat when I could make a first impression that the actor would never forget?
“What’s that you’ve got there?” Alda asked, still eyeing the book. He probably thinks I want him to sign it. So cute!
I broke out in a wide smile. “It’s my fourth grade yearbook.” The wrinkle of curiosity wedged between Alda’s eyebrows deepened. “I’ve been wanting to show you this for years. You won’t believe it.” Retrieving the book, I quickly flipped through to a dog-eared page I’d shown many people over the years – all of whom had shaken their heads in disbelief and laughed. But now, I had the audience for whom this joke had been intended all along.
Flipping the book over so that Alan Alda could inspect the page entitled Seventh Grade, I pointed to a photograph. Of a thirteen year old girl. A girl who was the spitting image of Alan Alda. She had the same high forehead and smiling eyes. The same narrow-bridged nose with slightly-bulbous nostrils and a squared-off tip, reminiscent of a Doonesbury character. The identical toothy grin and strong, prominent chin.
“This is what you’d look like if you were a girl!” I exclaimed excitedly, tapping the space next to Alan Alda’s long lost twin.
The actor yanked the book from my hands, the look on his face swiftly transitioning from surprise to suspicion. Adjusting his glasses, he peered at the photograph intently. “It’s uncanny,” I blabbed. “She could be your daughter.” I chuckled at the hilarity of it all.
Was he looking at the wrong picture? Maybe he just couldn’t see it very well? It was a small photo – and in black and white. I reached over the top of the yearbook and pointed to the photo again.
“Yes, I see it,” Alda finally said. Then his lips spread…into a long, grim line. Lifting his face to mine, he regarded me and my grin through squinted eyes that weren’t so smiley anymore. “What are you saying?”
Huh? Is he a retard? I’ve heard of dumb actors before, but c’mon. “I’m just saying she looks just like you. I’ve showed it to lots of people over the years and everyone agrees that she’s your spitting image. You know, if you were a…girl.” I nodded my head enthusiastically, as if my bobbing head confirmed this statement.
The woman I’d interrupted when I’d first approached Alan Alda suddenly interjected, “Let me see, honey.” Honey? Shit! Without taking his eyes off of me, the actor handed the yearbook to his wife – whom I’d rudely cut off moments earlier.
“Hmmmm,” the successful children’s book author and spouse of Alan Alda said as she examined the picture, her face registering no expression whatsoever. Arelene Alda had one helluva poker face, but I could feel a kind of steam coming off of her. Like when a cartoon bull snorts and paws the ground in front of it before charging. Suddenly, I realized what I’d done. By suggesting that the girl in the photo looked so much like Alda that she could be his daughter, the actor and his wife believed I was actually accusing him of being her father. Holy shit! The thought had honestly never occurred to me, but Alda was the right age, after all. He could conceivably be her father. And as a wealthy actor, he’d probably been accused of fathering any number of illegitimate children by less-than-reputable women looking for payout. Instead of cementing our friendship with humor, I’d insulted Alan Alda…and at a gala in his honor, no less.
Thank goodness, I’d never gotten the opportunity to introduce myself as a journalist. That would have only made it worse; Alda would have thought I was cornering him with evidence of his indiscretions. He might have assumed I was going to blackmail him or write a huge exposé about a tawdry, extramarital relationship that he’d never had. As I tried to figure out how I could climb out of the grave I’d dug for myself, the actor’s eyes dropped to the VIP badge dangling around my neck. The one with my name and photo on it. The one that prominently read “Press” directly beneath my name. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!
In the background, the announcer was climbing the stairs and, throughout the room, the lights were dimming. Mrs. Alda closed the yearbook with an air of finality and handed it back to me. “Is there anything else?” Mr. Sensitive Man asked me, his expression flat, not a single warm crinkle around his eyes. I’m pretty sure that if the crowd hadn’t suddenly begun clinking their silverware against their glasses, I would have been able to hear him gritting his teeth. Mrs. Alda turned her back to me, picked up a fork and banged it loudly against her water glass.
“Umm. No. I just thought it was a funny picture,” I said in a way I hoped really communicated: I didn’t mean to accuse you of fathering a child with someone other than your wife. Truly. I’m just a total dumb ass. A social retard, if you will.
Alda just stared at me as I stood there awkwardly…not walking away. Walk away, Cristy. Turn around and move your feet and don’t stop until you’ve reached your car, driven home and into your garage, closed the garage door, rolled the windows down and let the motor run until you’ve fallen into a blissful carbon monoxide-induced sleep. But I couldn’t end it like this. I’d already blown my first impression in spectacular fashion. I had to, at least, wrap up our meeting with something positive. Finally, I gushed, “I’m a really big fan of your work.” The actor nodded, then turned his back to me as the announcer introduced to the crowd, Mr. Alan Alda, the recipient of the evening’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to television and film.
Whom I’m certain doesn’t have a love child who attended school with me in 1978.
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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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I am a tithing member of the Church of the Holy Crock Pot. Though I dutifully praise the Crock Pot’s glories on a regular basis, take it to all the best potlucks, and actively witness to others about how the power of the Crock Pot has changed my life, it occasionally lets me down. This was the case a few months ago when I was cooking a pot roast in the depths of my early 1990s era Crock Pot. The kind with three settings: Off, Low and Scorchingly Fucking Hot. It was a housewarming gift from my mother when I moved into my very first apartment – the one with mauve carpeting.
For readers under the age of 25, let me explain that mauve is a horrid color that infiltrated the décor of the late 1980s and early 1990s, much in the same way that a CIA mole recently infiltrated al Qaeda’s plot to detonate an underwear bomb during a US-bound flight. Except mauve didn’t have good intentions. Often accompanied by its evil cohorts, peach and sea foam green, it permanently damaged the retinal cones of senior citizens and Floridian condominium owners, forever impairing their vision and, thereby, reducing their decorating choices to creamy pastels, shell motifs and stucco.
Despite my devout Crock Pot cookbook study sessions every Wednesday night, one cannot expect the Holy Crock Pot to simply reveal the secrets of the universe to just anyone. Particularly when that universe involves pot roast. That evening, I’d clearly misinterpreted the scriptures in The Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook concerning the preparation of the sacred, potted calf, letting it simmer on Low, when it should have been bubbling away on Scorchingly Fucking Hot. With dinner not in our immediate future, Matt and I headed to a local restaurant with a great bar for a few cocktails.
As we slid into a booth in the bar, we noticed that seated to our left was a well-dressed gentleman accompanied by a woman who’d likely been a blonde bombshell twenty years earlier, but was now just clinging to her svelte figure by a thread on her leopard print blouse. As we sipped our drinks and pondered the appetizer menu, Matt and I couldn’t help but overhear our neighbors discussing their new waterfront condo and raving about how much culture they’d discovered in our seaside town. Yes, it’s true. In our little city, you can’t throw a stone without hitting an art gallery specializing in oversized paintings of a beachy sunsets that will perfectly match your sea foam-colored sofa and table lamps with sea shell-filled glass bases.
And then I saw her. Megan.
Memories of gatherings filled with hippie types came crashing back like a teenager returning home in his father’s purloined car after a keg party. I’d eaten my first piece of sushi whilst swinging in Megan’s Sky Air chair. I’d cheered her on as she’d scaled the interior stone walls of the infamous Generic College hangout, Coblin House, in order to reach the second floor, where she’d proceeded to dance barefoot on a slim plank of wood that framed the opening to the loft – even though the fall could have killed her. My date to Megan’s wedding was our mutual best friend, Todd, who had handed me tissues throughout the reception held on a boat cruising up and down the bay. And as soon as all of Megan and Jarrod’s elderly relatives had returned to their hotel rooms, we had converged upon their rickety wooden house that squatted on the edge of an orange grove for the real reception – a blowout that extended until dawn and didn’t officially end until the last drunken guest had awakened from his supine position on the dining room floor, and mumbled “Congratu-fucking-lations!” before stumbling out the door – and into my car. As vodka and I hadn’t yet been introduced formally, I’d driven a lot of people home that day.
And here she was. I hadn’t seen Megan in close to a decade. She was sitting with a short-haired man dressed in linen who resembled Val Kilmer. Where was skinny, long-haired, goateed Jarrod? Had they divorced? Quickly, I glanced at her ring finger to find her sparkler still in place. Was she having an affair with this man? For a few moments, I studied her body language. Always a flirt, Megan was leaning forward, smiling, laughing that husky laugh. For chrissakes, her pupils were dilated. She was into this guy. For a minute, I was filled with a loyal rage. How could she do this to poor Jarrod? He’d always been the Ethel to her grape-stomping, Vitametavegamin-swilling, Harpo Marx-imitating Lucy. Not a Ricky. Ricky would have demanded some “splainin’,” but Jarrod had always gone along with Megan’s antics because she was a light that couldn’t be dimmed. A flame that couldn’t be ‘splained. Was it any surprise that her favorite color was yellow and her preferred blooms were sunflowers? Megan glowed…and we all basked in her radiance and felt the better for it.
The moment we locked eyes, her lips spread into a brilliant smile. Within seconds, I was up and we were embracing one another, jibber-jabbering about how long it had been. Clueless as to why I’d bounded over to hug a woman he’d never met, Matt stayed planted in his seat, until I loudly announced that I was married and urged him to rise and meet Megan. Still slim and casually elegant, she wrapped her arms around my husband, her long golden waves shimmering in the warm hue of the bar lights. My slender figure was petulantly hiding back in 2005, mocking my
chubba wubba voluptuous curves from the space time continuum. To make matters worse, I was growing out a pixie cut that was in desperate need of a trim and, instead of it drawing comparisons to Audrey Hepburn from the restaurant patrons, my hair was likely spurring sudden, subliminal desires to order the smoked mullet.
Once Megan released my husband, she gestured to Val Kilmer and chimed, “Matt, meet my husband, Jarrod.”
What? I gave the imposter-posing-as-Jarrod the once over, resisting the urge to blurt out, “ Look, Iceman…I loved you in Real Genius, but I can’t allow you to turn my Megan into a Jezebel.”
But as I studied his strong square jaw line and soft brown eyes, the Jarrod I remembered began to emerge – a hippie trapped in the body of a washed-up actor. Fortunately, it wasn’t the bloated Val Kilmer of late, but neither was it the shirtless, volleyball-playing fighter pilot whose photo had adorned many a dorm room wall. The worst part was that Jarrod didn’t recognize me either. Fuuuuuuuuuck!
“Jarrod, it’s me, Cristy.”
Without a flicker of recognition in his eyes, Jarrod nodded. “Umm. Yeah. Of course. You changed your hair, didn’t you?”
Yeah, but at least no one mistakes me for Molly Ringwald. “I was blonde the last time you saw me.”
“Oh yeah. That’s it,” he said, with a smile. That and the fat suit you’re wearing.
By then, the condo purchasers had become enraptured with our conversation…listening to every word while carefully staring off in the distance, but not so far away as to eclipse our presence in their peripheral vision. Once Megan returned her attention to me, she immediately asked about my writing. When I admitted that I had recently completed my first novel and was penning a humor blog, she broadcasted to the entire bar that I was a great writer, an introduction that could result in only one thing. Utter humiliation. The minute I revealed – to bar patrons who were complete strangers – that my novel wasn’t actually published and that I was looking for an agent, their interest level in me dropped faster than a toddler down a well. A dry well. I’m pretty sure I heard a thud as their enthusiasm hit the dirt like a skull.
As Megan and I swapped stories about the last decade, Matt began chit-chatting with our bar neighbors. Within moments, they were sharing inside jokes and laughing together as though they were frat buddies who’d hijacked the mascot of their school’s biggest competitor back in the day. Meanwhile, I began to get the impression that Megan’s life had not turned out the way she’d expected. A teacher for many years, she told me she’d quit her beloved profession and was answering phones part-time at a friend’s business. When I asked what precipitated her decision, Megan squirmed noticeably and offered a euphemism to the effect of, “Oh, I just needed a change.” She expressed an interest in writing. I encouraged her to keep at it and offered to read anything she was working on if she felt like sharing.
But then Megan began doing the things that Megan always eventually did. Compete. Complain. And charm the socks off everyone in the room…except for the people who know her.
“What happened to my glass of wine? It was right here. I wasn’t done,” Megan announced to the room in general. Waving the waitress over, she whined, “I had a full glass of wine sitting right here. Did you take it?” When our server denied responsibility, Megan refused to drop the issue – like a dog with a mouthful of stuffed, squeaking, faux dead duck. I swear she even shook her head from side to side vigorously – as if to break the waitress’ neck with the ferocity of her convictions. ”Yes, you did. The glass was full. I’d only had a sip, ” she insisted, the alcohol on her breath strong enough to sanitize the road rash on the butt of a man whose scooter had collided with a fertilizer truck. “You need to bring me another one immediately.”
I was reminded that one of the reasons we basked in Megan’s glow so willingly was that the rest of the time in her presence could be like Juneau in the dead of winter. I wrapped my cardigan around me a little more tightly. Despite the fact that it was Megan and Jarrod’s wedding anniversary, our golden girl couldn’t resist an audience. So as she entertained our bar neighbors with a slew of stories I’d never heard about motherhood, dancing and cotillion, any hopes I may have had of sharing a meaningful conversation with her were dashed. Megan was driving this car, pedal to the metal, and we were passengers clinging to door handles just hoping she’d slow down before she ordered us to jump. Within minutes of meeting these people, Megan was throwing out invitations to Dexter-themed parties to come. And discussing country clubs. And yacht cleaners.
Country clubs? Yachts? What happened to the barefoot Megan who always had a daisy tucked into her hair?
And then Megan steered the conversation back to just the two of us. And Todd. Oh. Dear. God. We have a decade to catch up on and this is what she wants to talk about. ”Whatever happened to Todd, Cristy? I haven’t heard from him in years.”
I know, I thought. If she had, she would know that Todd had gotten engaged. And married. She’d know that Todd had moved out to the West Coast and was working on his graduate degree. “You know, Todd,” I responded lightheartedly, not wanting to be the bearer of tidings that would likely piss her off. “He’s so bad about staying in touch.”
“Haven’t you heard from him?” she asked. I nodded weakly, admitting I had. “Oh. Well, I’ve left messages. I even called his mother and…nothing.” My smile was toothless and pained as if it had been painted on by an artist with Asperger Syndrome. Even I knew a call to Todd’s mother usually accomplished…well, nothing. In fact, for years, she called me for updates about her son. “Well? Where is he?” Megan demanded.
“Oregon. He’s in Oregon.”
“Why?” she persisted. “What’s he doing out there?”
Freezing his ass off. Carrying an umbrella. Gradually turning translucent. Getting all the really “in-jokes” on Portlandia. “He’s in school. He’s working on his graduate degree. He’s doing really well.” C’mon, just say you’re happy for him and drop the fucking duck.
But Megan’s competitive streak had reared it’s angel-faced head because I had the audacity to know something about Todd – a person she still considered her best friend despite the fact that they hadn’t spoken in a decade – that she didn’t know. “Why did he have to go to school out there?”
Because his wife is a huge Pink Martini fan and wanted to live closer to the band. Because that’s what people do…they move away. Because he’s not your minion, Megan. “That’s where he and his girlfriend moved.” It was only a little lie. Not really one at all. After all, Todd and Raina were only engaged when they moved out there. I mean, technically, Raina was just a girlfriend with an uber nice ring on her left hand.
“He’s got a girlfriend?” Megan hissed. And that’s when I realized it. Her claim upon Todd was as real in her mind as a forty-niner’s staked claim to a vein of gold in California. This was jealousy, plain and simple. And suddenly, it occurred to me that this conversation was never meant to be about catching up on our lives. It was an intelligence gathering mission about Todd.
“Ummm. Nooooo. Not anymore.” Though the terms girlfriend and fiance could easily be considered interchangeable, this was not the case with the word wife.
Megan’s face suddenly brightened. “Oh. So he’s single, then?” I prayed that Val Kilmer wasn’t overhearing this bit of the conversation.
Erm. Fuck it. My thighs were aching from dancing around the truth for the past few minutes. She needed to know the facts. And I needed to order another martini. Hopefully, she’d then move on to less stressful topics like tsunamis and waterboarding. “No, Megan. He’s married. He got married a couple of years ago.”
Though the conversations around us continued unhindered, the silence in the eight inches or so between our heads was deafening. Finally, Megan asked, “Why didn’t he call me?”
“I don’t know.” I didn’t know. The disintegration of Megan and Todd’s friendship had never been discussed. And I hadn’t asked. It was none of my business. “Maybe he didn’t have your number?” I suggested weakly. Maybe he found out that you are a possessive psycho friend prone to interrogating the innocent.
Megan insisted that her number hadn’t changed. “We haven’t even moved. He knew how to find me,” she spit, as though I had assumed the role of Todd’s personal correspondence assistant and should share in the responsibility of this faux pas. “Well, did you go?” Megan’s halo of blonde hair suddenly began to singe my corneas like an interrogation spotlight.
Awkward. If I tell the truth, she’ll be hurt and I’ll feel like a bitch. If I lie, Megan will eventually find out, and then I’ll be a lying bitch. I can’t win. “Yes, Megan. I was one of his best men.” Her face fell. Then her nostrils flared as the realization hit her that I had been a member of the wedding party. Which meant I must have been in on the conspiracy to keep her off the guest list. And I probably knew who shot Kennedy and if astronauts really landed on the moon. ”Look, I don’t know what happened between you two–”
“I know what happened,” she interrupted. Then, leaning in even closer, she whispered, “You know, Todd was always in love with me.”
Of course, he was, I wanted to say. Because it’s all about you, Megan. At that moment, I realized I couldn’t remember ever spending any time alone with Megan. Just the two of us. No lunch dates. No girls’ night out. In fact, every time we were together, we were usually surrounded by her friends – friends who were typically straight, single men. Men who basked in her glory. I hadn’t just told Megan that Todd’s life had changed drastically without her
permission input; I’d confirmed that he was no longer one of her back-up dancers. Someone else had captured his attention. Permanently. And he was happy. Really happy.
And who knows, maybe Todd had been in love with Megan eons ago. I was once a size 4 and strutted my stuff in a fashion show that aired on MTV. That and $14.50 will get you a mochaccino at Starbucks. “And now he’s in love with Raina,” I said firmly. “She’s his best friend now. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.” And I meant that. I’d included those words in my best man’s speech that romantic evening in New York.
Megan abruptly ended our conversation and returned her attention to our condo-buying acquaintances. It turned out that the couple were from Atlanta and had firm views on the MARTA, Atlanta’s public transportation system. “You know what MARTA stands for, don’t you?” the aging bombshell asked us with a wink.
Oh. Dear. God. How did Matt and I meander into a bar that could provide not one, but two really uncomfortable moments in less than a half hour? Give her the benefit of the doubt, Cristy. Maybe they’ve come up with something that isn’t incredibly trite and racist. “No. What?” I asked, my eyebrow cocked in warning. Don’t fuck with the eyebrow.
Tittering, the cougar whispered loudly enough for people in Georgia to hear, “Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta.”
Oh, no she didn’t! Then I heard Megan giggling. Since when do hippies laugh at unimaginative racist acronyms? “Really?” I said through gritted teeth. “Funny, but the last time I rode the MARTA, I didn’t notice many black people on it. And the people I did notice looked like commuters and students. But then, Atlanta’s African Americans are some of the most educated and wealthiest people in the country. I’d imagine that most of them don’t need to take public transportation.”
The woman pursed her lips. “Well, the MARTA’s gotten really bad lately.”
“In the last five years?” I asked. Maybe they’d switched to really uncomfortable seats. Or worse, maybe they’d begun playing Muzak over the loud speakers.
“Oh, yes. It’s bad. Our friend won’t let his college student son ride on it.” I resisted the urge to ask her if their friend also believed in the Mayan calendar and had a basement stocked with automatic weapons, canned goods and bottled water in preparation for the end of the world. “In fact, we avoid the downtown area altogether.”
Stifling my laughter, I replied, “Heck, the last time I was in Atlanta, I used to power walk from my hotel downtown all the way to Olympic Park. It seemed perfectly safe to me.” My husband just sat there, stone-faced. He has little tolerance for racists, and even less for pussies.
Megan suddenly chimed in. “You’re brave. I can tell; you’re fearless.” Without a hint of irony.
Huh? Me? Walking around a city in broad daylight hardly constitutes brave. This was not the Megan I knew. For years, I’d admired her free spirit. Her willingness to dance on a strip of plywood ten feet above the ground without a care. Hell, a few minutes earlier, she was inviting absolute strangers to visit her home for a serial-killer themed party. But they were white. “Are you telling me you wouldn’t take the MARTA, Megan?”
“It’s not like New York, Cristy.”
Damn straight, it’s not. It’s a hell of a lot safer than New York. What was she trying to say? The population is, erm, darker in Atlanta than it is in New York City? “Okay, how about D.C.? You’d ride the Metro in D.C., right?” She couldn’t say no to that. Matt and I had just visited D.C. a year earlier. While my husband attended a conference, I’d ridden the Metro all over town and walked the streets alone…with only my lip gloss for protection.
All four of them – even Jarrod – just stared at me uncomfortably. Matt’s silence, however, was brought about by pure shock. He hadn’t been surrounded by so many pussies since he visited a strip club in college.
“You forget,” Megan said, viewing my furrowed brow and slack jaw, “that I was agoraphobic for two years. Jarrod and me – we got mugged in Tampa.”
“Really? I’m sorry to hear that, but I don’t think I knew you then.” Agoraphobic? Next thing, she’ll be telling me that she hoards newspapers, magazines and those little plastic round things that you pull off milk cartons.
“I think you did,” Megan insisted.
No, I’d remember knowing that someone is agoraphobic. I mean, how would I even meet that person? I’d have had to just go knocking on random doors and asking people, “Do you leave the house? No? Great, wanna hang out? I’ll bring Chinese take-out.”
The Atlanta couple was terrified of Tampa, hence their decision to buy a condo with 24-hour security in our safe little corner of Florida (which actually has a higher crime rate than Tampa…but let’s not allow silly things like facts and statistics to mar the absurdness of this story). They related a tale about driving to visit a particular business in Tampa. Supposedly, as they drove into the neighborhood where the business was located, white men wearing neon orange vests waved them on – away from their destination. Raising their eyebrows, the couple gave us all a meaningful stare. One that puzzled the fuck out of me.
“So who were they? Construction workers redirecting you towards a detour?” I asked hesitantly. The woman shook her head.
“No! They were telling us to move along because we didn’t belong there in the ghetto,” the woman declared. Her boyfriend nodded his head solemnly in agreement. Clearly, fear and stupidity are bedfellows. ”And when we finally got to the right place, all the brothers were eyeing our hubcaps.”
Did she really just refer to African American men as brothers? “What do you drive?”
“A Honda. It’s a hybrid.”
As a hybrid owner myself, I notice that a lot of people eye my car. Some of them happen to be black. And, yet, my hubcaps have never been stolen. “Did it occur to you that the brothers, as you call them, might have just been wondering what kind of mileage your hybrid gets and whether or not it’s worth it?” Or maybe they were thinking, “Check out the cougar! If you whistle in the vicinity of her cleavage, I bet you’ll hear an echo.”
The couple exchanged glances that said, “These poor people are so naive.” The look on Megan’s face made it clear that she thought that Matt and I were probably paying the brothers for protection – and that’s why we’d never been mugged.
I couldn’t take another minute of this conversation. Downing my martini, I racked my brain thinking of an excuse to leave…immediately. The Holy Crock Pot turned out to be my savior. “Oh, honey! We’ve gotta go,” I exclaimed, slapping my forehead with the heel of my palm. “I nearly forgot about the pot roast.”
That night, the Holy Crock Pot had shared its divine wisdom with me. It had removed me from the confines of my home and my comfortable friendships with people who share my values – and placed me in the presence of people who no longer did. As much as I sometimes long for those carefree days of staying up all night reading poetry, playing drums, and discussing philosophers I really didn’t understand with Megan and other friends, I realize that I can never go back to those days. Or to high-waisted jeans. Make that any jeans that don’t include the word stretch somewhere on the tag.
Why? Because I’ve changed. I understand those philosophers now. Okay, I might have thrown away the books by the ones who bored me – which would have been most of them. Regardless, I stopped searching for who I was to become and simply became that person. A person who will sit next to a Muslim on a plane just as comfortably as I would sit next to a white woman – unless that white woman has a screaming infant in her lap. I’ll take being sandwiched between an overweight Muslim dude using a seat belt extender and a loquacious Born Again from Branson, Missouri on a non-stop international flight - riding in coach - to avoid that particular form of torture.
I became a person who doesn’t make the following announcement to every Indian customer service rep I encounter on the phone: If this call is being recorded, I want it known that these jobs need to go to Americans. You don’t deserve these jobs. You hear me! (Yes, I once had a boss who instructed me to do this. I refused. She, in turn, refused to believe that most of the customer service reps in India actually have graduate degrees – which they do.) I’m a person who doesn’t tighten her grip on her purse strap because someone darker than a latte is walking behind her on the sidewalk. A person who doesn’t believe in gay and lesbian rights, but in human rights – for all people. Because gays and lesbians are humans, first. And Kathy Griffin fans, second. A person who rejects fearmongering disguised as patriotism. Yes, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA – I’m talking to you. Obama’s not going to take away your precious Second Amendment – or your storeroom filled with freeze-dried astronaut food and gold bullion.
I know. I know. How mighty white of me to establish what an open-minded, perfect human specimen I am. But this is how I roll, and it’s how I rolled 20 years ago. But being mugged – and the fear that came with that act of violence – apparently caused Megan to just roll over, pull the bedspread over her head and hide. She didn’t evolve into the person I’d expected. If anything, she’d devolved into a person with irrational fears, still clinging to her youth as it’s wretched from her grasp – man by man. And fear is the basis of racism. Fear fuels the hatred that inspires acts of bigotry. How do I know this? Because one of the most respected entities in the universe said so: Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. - Yoda, Grand Jedi Master and yoga aficionado. You don’t argue with the owner of a lightsaber. No, the one you bought at Comic-Con doesn’t count.
So as you go about your day, allowing your fears or your past to guide your decisions, consider the rhetorical question posed so succinctly by my sage Blogging Bestie, Stacie Chadwick in a recent post: ”When did taking the road less traveled morph into plotting the easiest path?”
And then answer this question in your comments below: When did taking the road less traveled morph into hailing a cab because you’re too afraid to take the subway?
As always, names have been changed to protect the innocent and the assholes.
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.