Just Four Friggin’ Linesis a new daily, poetry series penned by Miss Snarky Pants. Afraid to make a commitment or intimidated by sonnets that have the nerve to go on for fourteen lines? That’s not an issue here – because it’s Just Four Friggin’ Lines!
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The other night, a small, erm, blemish appeared on my chin. Miss Snarky Pants does not get (shiver) pimples, but sometimes she talks about herself in third person, which is equally creepy. Fortunately, all superhero bloggers have their gear – and so do I. Just as Wonder Woman used her golden lasso to extract the truth from the lying liars of the world, I have my tube of Lumene Deep-Cleansing Peat Mask to extract impurities from the bastard blemishes that dare mar my facial perfection.
For those of you who don’t live next to a bog somewhere in Ireland, peat is a basically decomposing vegetation that, when dry, can be burned as a fossil fuel. It’s also a natural preservative…if you’re a corpse. In fact, over sixty years ago, two Scandinavian men were harvesting peat near their home in Denmark and discovered a male cadaver, buried in the muck, that was so perfectly intact, the men initially believed that it was the body of someone who had recently been murdered. Scientists later determined that the Tolland Man, as the poor stiff was eventually named, was nearly two thousandyears old. And damn, if he didn’t look good for his age.
The use of moor mud to beautify the skin has been well-documented over the centuries – by whom, I’ve no idea. This is a blog, people, not a Wikipedia entry. Legendary beauties like Cleopatra and…erm, I’m sure a lot of other reasonably attractive people have happily coated their cheeks with mire muck because of its mild antibiotic properties which help evict the free radicals that have staged a coup deep within in their pores. I’m not sure what free radicals are or who emancipated them, but I’m pretty certain that I don’t want them having an oozy, goozy shindig on my chin – particularly since they didn’t even bother to bring their hostess a bottle of wine. Who shows up to a pore party empty-handed?
So, naturally, I smear this mire mud all over my face because:
1) Tolland Man looks amazeballs – like he’s just taking a little nap after having spent the afternoon mudding with Honey Boo Boo and her kin folk. Since I’m losing weight, I can’t rely on fat molecules to continue to plump up my wrinkles – and I suspect swimming in formaldehyde could be dangerous;
2) I clearly don’t want to get laid for the next few hours (I’d have to don a bikini, hire a similarly-attired call girl, fill a child’s inflatable pool with gallons of bog poo, then wrestle said call girl in my pop-up swamp in order to merely distract Hubby from killing zombies on his PS3);
3) Lumene’s advertising claims that their peat mask contains aromatic rosemary that both opens the pores and provides “a refreshing fragrance.” Erm, if by refreshing fragrance you mean the putrid odor of rosemary rotting in The Bog of Eternal Stench, then, sure, I guess that’s the case. However, when you’re a blogger who spends most of her day in her pajamas and only bathes on the morning of her annual gynecological exam, you tend not to be bothered by a stench that would normally cause flocks of empty-bellied buzzards to nest on the roof of your home;
4) It seems like a girlie thing to do – and any act I can engage in that causes Hubby to remember that I am a female and not just some stanky person pattering around his apartment wearing sweatpants and gimongous concert t-shirts whilst concocting vegan-lite fare and tapping away at a keyboard is a good thing; and
5) Who doesn’t want to douse their face in something that’s more flammable than Richard Pryor? Those of you who got that joke, please slap two pair of Depends together so that I know you’re out there.
After applying my peat mask, I entered the bedroom to find Hubby tucked beneath the sheets with the remote control in hand, waiting for me to join him so that we could watch Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter on the telly. Reeking of marsh poo, I pulled back the quilt and hopped into bed.
As Hubby caught sight of my peat-caked skin, he snickered and asked, “Are you seriously going to watch a movie about Abe Lincoln while wearing black face?”
Oops. Erm. “Yes?”
Note: I did not get laid that night and I still have a fucking ZIT on my chin. However, the vultures have moved on to a spa down the street.
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Photo credits: Big Ass Zit: Acnetreatmentreport.comTolland Man: Mesh5.comMud Wrestling: Cineplex.comBuzzards: Uglyhedgehog.comMiss Snarky Pants in Black Face: Miss Snarky Pants
You know your workout isn’t off to a great start when your husband challenges you to do a chin up and you immediately wonder, “Which chin?”
Hey, it’s a serious question. Do I need to pull all of my body weight up towards a metal rod of random height and merely touch the tip of my chin to the bar – or do I have to haul my waddle up there too and dangle it over the other side? I bet you George Lucas wonders the same thing all the time. Do I stuff all of my waddle under my shirt collar or do I allow it to drape over like Miss Snarky Pants’ muffin top?
Oh yeah? Well, the dialogue in Star Wars sucks. Hear that, fat man!
In my case, the issue was moot because I can’t do a single chin up. Nor could my hubby. In my defense, after six weeks of working out, Hubby is only up to four. Not four reps of ten, but four chin ups. Of course, he’s only 140 pounds soaking wet, so he doesn’t have the same, erm, challenges that I have. I’m not just pulling myself up; I’ve got a monkey on my back. Make that a full-grown gorilla. With hypothyroidism and a penchant for eating anvils.
In practical terms, imagine that you’re a person of average weight for your height, unless you already are – in which case, imagine me glaring at you because you insist upon mocking me with your perfectly fit body. However, despite the fact that you are constantly rubbing your toned abs in my face like I’m a puppy that’s pooed on the carpet, I’m still a thoughtful friend. I’ve bought you a lovely, sturdy belt for your birthday – and then, because making a point is ultimately much more important to me than your friendship, I’ve looped that belt through the handles of six, one gallon cans of paint. Though you wish I’d given you a book or maybe some earrings, you still fasten the 60+ pound belt around your waist. And when I ask you to go ahead and do a chin up, you tell me to fuck off.
“Do you realize that I’m wearing enough Sherman Williams to paint the White House?” you ask.“Inside and out?” Of course I do; welcome to my life.
While researching the elusive chin up, I came across an article on stronglifts.com which insists that “[y]our body-weight is not the problem. Strength is. If you want to get stronger at Pull-ups & Chin-ups, do them more.” Let’s see now…if I do 5 times the chin ups I’m doing now, I’ll have done, erm, zero. Great advice, douchebag.
I was surprised to discover that even my slimmer and testosterone-infused friends are similarly challenged. My friend, Evan, recently lamented to me that he can’t complete a single chin up – or pull up, depending upon your definition – unaided. The worst part is that he has to rely on the “assisted pull up machine” in the gym to train so that he can eventually accomplish this tremendous feat of strength. “As soon as you climb onto the assisted pull up machine, you’ve just announced to everyone in the gym that you are a pussy you can’t do a chin up on your own,” he complained. “Having the muscleheads know this is worse than not being able to do a damn chin up in the first place.”
This reminded me of when I used to work for a pharmaceutical company that formulated a little, blue pill which lifted the, erm, heads of many a man. While I was practically assaulted in the waiting rooms of each and every doctor’s office I visited by decrepit, old codgers just dying to shoot their wad, not one of them accepted my offer of a pen or notepad with the pill’s name on it. No, they wanted samples – a request that only their doctor could fulfill – and lots of ’em. Prescriptions were useless as they announced to everyone working in the pharmacy that Flopsy was not the name of a member of your four-legged family, but the pet name for your, erm, member.
Still, I’m perplexed by why this seemingly simple exercise is so damned difficult. By the age of six, I could complete hundreds of one-armed chin ups in a row, hang upside down from the monkey bars until all of my blood pooled in my brain, and contort myself in such a way that I once crammed my entire body into a pillowcase. Why can’t adults do something that kids can do so effortlessly?
I suspect the answer lies in knowledge. As children, we don’t know that we can’t do things, so we just do them. Second graders don’t know the first thing about their Latissimus Dorsi…and, frankly, neither did I until I Googled it. Apparently, it’s not the name of the roguishly handsome, but tragic hero in an Italian romance novel as I’d initially believed – and instead are big ol’ muscles in your back that make a pronated (overhand) grip pull up/chin up possible. My problem lies in the fact that I’m aware that muscles are involved in exercise, thereby making chin ups an impossibility for me. Moreover, my back muscles and I aren’t on speaking terms and haven’t been since I allowed numerous cars to plow into mine over the years.
Were I to try a supinated (underhand) grip instead, I could rely more heavily on my biceps – which is kinda like Tony Stark relying on the phrase, “Stop! I’m a rich dude” to halt criminals instead of donning his Iron Man suit and crushing them beneath his metallic red foot. However, my biceps cooperate only when alcohol is involved – and it’s simply too difficult to attempt a chin up with the stem of a wineglass clamped between your teeth.
So for now, I will celebrate the fact that I’ve lost 9 pounds (and have been placed in the Witness Protection Program so that they can’t find me again and re-staple themselves to my ass cheeks) and, thanks to the miracle of technology, I can watch Bravo on every single cardio machine in the gym. As Hubby conquers one more chin up after another, I will have to revel in the knowledge that if he brags about it and pisses me off, I can easily crush the ego out of him by merely sitting on his lap.
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Chin Up: Menshealth.com
George Lucas: Georgelucasneck.tumblr.com
White House: WhiteHouse.gov
Sixteen Candles Chin Up: Tumblr.com
Latissimus Dorsi: Wikipedia.com
Every once in awhile, Karma smiles down upon you and grants you the opportunity of a lifetime. In my case, her gift was two tickets for a taping of The Daily Show in Tampa, Florida during the Republican National Convention. Now, some of you may be snickering or rolling your eyes because you’re complete and utter morons I think watching Jon Stewart doing his gig in person can only be surpassed by an event that involves me sipping Moët from the Holy Grail while David Sedaris reads aloud to me and Johnny Depp massages my feet. Sure, I realize his show shoots five days a week for most of the year up in Hell’s Kitchen, so you’re probably thinking that filming The Daily Show isn’t exactly rare like, say, a sober Amanda Bynes or a pale Donatella Versace.
But you would be wrong.
Shooting Comedy Central’s top–rated show in Tampa is extraordinarily unusual. And after Stewart and his team openly lambasted the city in which I reside with embarrassingly accurate observations about the heat and humidity (describing Tampa as the ideal environment for “a struggling strand of streptococcus”), the casual attire of the indigenous population (“the city where flip flops are considered evening wear”), and our fondness of clothing-optional gentlemen’s clubs (“Jon, I’m here in Tampa’s famous strip club district or as they call it here – Tampa.”), it’s unlikely that the program will ever be filmed in the Peninsula of Death again – unless a palmetto bug decides to run for President in 2016.
I enjoy reading The Huffington Post. It delivers my news in the crunchy-granola, tree-hugging, Obama-loving, non-homophobic, NPR-listening, organically-grown, Jon Stewart-worshiping, ballet-flat wearing format that makes me feel happy, informed and secure. If TheHuff Post editors eat meat, I’m sure they feel guilty about it later. For years now, reading my news online delivered me from the hell that is local, conservative news programming – or worse – vapid, syndicated morning shows, which make me nauseous with their bright, Crest-strip smiles and regular visits from the local zoo. Meet Nagini, the albino python or a horde of hissing cockroaches. Please – not before I’ve eaten my oatmeal, okay?
But then things changed. AOL came into the picture and acquired The Huff Post. Suddenly Arianna Huffington was in the hot seat on every liberal media program mumbling her way through interviews in a Greek accent thicker than a tub of Chiobani. Despite the fact that AOL is a true bastard bastion of news organizations, up there with The National Enquirer and US MagazineTime, The Economist and The Atlantic, recent headlines have been less than compelling.
Now I’m not going to blow bullshit dust up your ass; I love my pop culture and I pepper my posts with references to the Kardashian Empire (now which one is Anastasia?) just as often as I defend Obama’s birth certificate or my desire to own Vladimir Putin as a guard dog.
Thomas Edison legendarily tested potential employees by inviting them to dinner. If they sprinkled salt on their food before tasting it, he refused to hire them, viewing their thoughtless salting as a sign that their preconceived mindset would prevent them from analyzing a situation thoroughly before taking action. To be fair, this method of eliminating job applicants has also been attributed to Henry Ford, IBM, and General MacArthur, to name just a few.
And I think it’s bullshit.
I love salt. A dash brings out the subtle flavors of food. Salt is to the beefsteak tomato what Matt Damon is to Ben Affleck – the ingredient that makes it worthy of notice. Though I often taste my food before sprinkling it with salt, I like to think that my decision to pre-salt my bowl of Fly Bar’s truffled macaroni and cheese doesn’t make me incapable of critical analysis, but rather demonstrates that homo sapiens are able to learn and make choices based on previously acquired knowledge. Sure, it’s possible that the restaurant could hire a new chef who knows how to properly season food with what I affectionately call The White Devil, but an extra dash of salt never hurt anybody.
And pepper – make mine freshly ground and applied as liberally to a dish as Donald Trump’s self-tanner is sprayed onto his Oompa Loompa orange face. Black pepper is fine, but a gourmet combination of black, white, red and green peppercorns is sublime. If I had a dick, fresh ground pepper would make it hard.
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!”
Last night I started writing a post about my maternal grandfather, whom I called Grandpa. A nostalgic sort, I tend to sometimes dwell in my memories and the stories told to me by my family. Those places that are sepia-toned and a bit soft around the edges. Tales in which truth and embellishment have become interwoven into the same long braid.
For today, I’ve set the snark aside and offer these instead.
the burial of older men
in the darkness
before the sky cracks dripping yolk sun
she hovers the room
the coffee maker clicks dribbles
an appropriate dress hangs on the closet door
it is black
with sensible shoes
lined up neatly as pall bearers
her father scoffed at time
the today show congratulated william whitted
for inhaling, exhaling, defecating for a century
it is an accomplishment to survive
it is a failure to die
two days ago, her brother – jimmy – failed
he was three years older
when she was four
jimmy threw a rock at her head
she married young
her limbs scarred as worn out nylons
she married before she reached full height
she married before her underarms needed shaving
she married so someone else could watch
for flying rocks
her husband, too, was older
ernie drove the fire truck
sang with velvet throat
walked like a rooster
walked like a snake
depended on the legs the whiskey was wearing
she grew older
jimmy shook his head
her father just shook
she has yet to bury a man
her mother and daughter were boxed up
and sent off to god
she is old now
she hangs from this cliff
with one knobby hand
her husband zips her dress
she combs his hair
today she throws back her first rock
it lands with a thud
somewhere above jimmy’s head
The Last Days
You may have escaped me,
the marble that rolled under the sofa
hidden for years.
I knew your tanned legs and feet,
the palms of your hands –
smooth as tumbled river stones –
the watch face that rested against the inside of your wrist,
your penchant for painting all the furniture
Your sentences often started somewhere
in the middle.
I learned to follow along,
but failed to query
when your kidneys, your heart
I never discovered the source of the incessant ticking,
the wound spring
controlling your breaths,
the truths that kept you going.
What did you think about
blanched and shrunken in a hospital recliner,
cable out because of a storm?
The last time I saw you,
I combed your hair,
bought you a paper,
but forgot to ask what you were thinking
the other twenty-three hours of the day.
Maybe I was afraid you’d start somewhere in the middle,
and – sometimes – a teaspoon of water
can be worse than none at all.
“the burial of older men” and “The Last Days” are copyright 2007 and are the sole property of Cristy Carrington Lewis.
The snark shall return later this week. If you liked this post, please follow me on Facebook by clicking here.
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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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 sosafe. 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.