Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What makes home

Two days ago I drifted awake in my childhood bedroom. For a minute I had no idea where I was. By an act of God was I (finally) waking up in some seaside hotel room in Barcelona? Heaven? (The thought flickered when the glow-in-the-dark stars above me came more into focus.) Was I back in DC, surrounded by unpacked boxes, just waiting for the smell of my neighbor's chicken curry to waft down the hallway and under the gap beneath our front door? Then I heard what sounded like muffled warfare in Kuwait in the next room and instantly knew.

I was home.

And not only that, both my brother and sister were home too. (The simulated warfare was thanks to my video-game loving brother.) Just like in The Royal Tenenbaums my parents had, once again, found all three of their children living together under the same roof. At least for this week.

I smiled to myself in bed, wiping the sleep from my bleary eyes, half-surprised by the hot water pad lying next to me. My mother insisted the night before that I sleep with it to keep me warm, and I think in some odd way it's supposed to make me feel okay without J here. The strange thing is it almost does. Granted J is not made from rubber and poured full of boiling water every night, but the warmth was calming, like most things here are.

There's something so comforting about being home. Always has been. No matter how many places I've lived in and apartment keys I've carried, home to me has always been this house, where some centerpiece made of citrus fruits always adorns our dining room table, where there is no dearth of ice cream in the freezer, and where the same green lamp I've had since I was a kid sits on the new nightstand in my old bedroom.

To most the lamp would look like nothing more than a dated relic from the '70s, but I see so much when I look at it. It makes me think of slumber parties I had in elementary school of now faceless girls I can't remember the names of -- girls I thought would be my best friends my whole life, the lamp behind them shining as the only constant. Then I remember the familiar click, click of the light switch as I'd scramble to switch the lamp off when I'd hear one of my parents' approaching my bedroom door to scold me for staying up so late (in my defense I was reading -- even at 12 I was a book nerd). I remember, later, the lectures I'd have to listen to from my parents in high school, the lamp on behind me, as I'd roll my eyes and cross my arms in defiance against whatever it was they were reprimanding me about. (Usually it had to do with boys. Sigh.) They couldn't possibly understand, I'd think. When they were done talking they would leave and I'd remember how angry I was as I'd click that green lamp off for the night and fume. Then college came and I packed up most of my things, excited to embark on a new chapter of my life. The lamp was left on my nightstand, the clutter gone but it and other staples remaining. And it's still here, to this day. Some of the furniture has changed and the walls have been painted over and I'm older now and married, but the lamp remains. This is what makes home for me.

Of course, it wouldn't be home without a few stock occurrences, either. Like having my picture taken by my over-zealous, camera-wielding sister. Having pics taken is fine; I'm definitely not camera shy. But photogenic I am not. And the routine is always the same: She shows me her pictures seconds after they're taken, I balk at how disgusting I look (Josie Grosie, anyone?), and she disagrees. Seriously, I look good in 1 out of every 5 pictures, and that's on a good day. So I remind her to please not put them on Facebook because the last thing I want is them going public, then an hour later I get a new Facebook email: "You have 8 new photos tagged of you!" I sigh loudly, click over, and yup. There they all are. All of me in my talking-with-my-mouth-frozen-halfway-open-and-eyes-mid-blink glory, which usually looks something like this:

Anyway, once I was wide awake in bed and certain I wasn't in Barcelona or Heaven (I'd hope neither would include the staccato of distant machine guns I heard coming from my brother's room), I hopped out of bed and thrust open my blinds a la Carrie Bradshaw in Paris when she flings open her curtains on her hotel balcony and sees the Eiffel Tower. Except there was no Eiffel Tower here. Only California sunshine. Buckets full, streaming in through the window and slopped across the carpet I stood on. It was a beautiful day and I had had an excellent Friday the day before. I smelled the ocean in the air and smiled. Today was going to be excellent, I could just feel it. So I headed upstairs to the living room, the smell of the ocean reminding me that I really needed to pick up more Steinbeck, maybe I hadn't given him a proper chance when I ...

My foot suddenly landed in a giant, cold puddle on the top step. The blood ran from my face and I froze, slowly lifting my foot up. I looked down in horror at the glistening pool on the hardwood floor, a yellow puddle that had obviously been sitting there overnight, eating away at the wood like a termite in heat. Steinbeck, sunshine, everything fell from my mind as my lips were unable to form any cohesive words. My eyes rose from the puddle to Moxie, my sister's Maltese who some of you might remember pooped on her lap a couple months ago and who I'm convinced has some severe learning disorder. (At times Moxie reminds me of a schizophrenic mallard.) She sat in her bed nearby, beady black eyes fixed on me, looking quite content that her arch nemesis had stepped in her elaborate scheme.

And I was about to yell...but I couldn't. Maybe it was the sunshine coming in from the skylights above us. Maybe it was the fact that I couldn't be mad at a mentally disabled dog. Whatever it was I grimaced at her and hobbled back downstairs to my bathroom on one foot. As I sat on the lip of the tub, sudsing up my sole, I realized that whether I liked it or not, Moxie had become a part of our home. Just like Lola had done before her (although lets face it, if pitted in a game of intelligence Lola would be solving global warming while Moxie would be finding some lap to defecate in).

But that's what a home is. It's all the bad with the good. The hard times with the easy times. The beauty with the ugliness, the tragedy with the success, the sanguine with the gloom. Without each side it wouldn't be a complete home. So no matter how uncalled for some things are, like fights or yellow puddles, they're a part of the entire cocktail. And the inanimate constants, like my green lamp, are the reminders of it all.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fashion democratization, Buenos Aires for expats and "Sunset Boulevard"

Here are a few links that caught my eye last week:
  • The New Yorker is a little late to the Polyvore game (um, about 3 years, to be exact), but they recently ran a fun, lengthy expose on the Silicon Valley-based fashion start-up. Apparently women obsessed with Polyvore -- the ones who spend hours at work putting together mock outfits or perusing the latest fashion collages rather than, well, work -- are known as "Polywhores" and there is an actual "Anna Wintour" of the Polyvore world. She's some chick from Calgary who creates collages under the screenname MyChanel. The more you know.
  • Ok, so this New York Magazine article is from 2006, but having just traveled to Buenos Aires I see it's still completely accurate: Buenos Aires is an expat haven like Paris was in the 1920s. Imagine a city with the conveniences of Manhattan, the old-world charm of Paris, the street-style of Milan, and you've got Buenos Aires. Everyone is chic, there's no dearth of great shopping, the restaurants are spectacular, the wine is amazing, and the cherry on top? You can totally afford it all. Americans are moving there to feel rich. Money just goes so much further there than in the U.S. or anywhere in Europe (I hear the word "Euro" and I cringe. Ten dollar gelatos, anyone?)
  • A recent NY Times Critics' Pick was "Sunset Boulevard" and they published an excellent 2-minute clip about the film. "Sunset Boulevard" is about a famous silent film star named Norma Desmond who's unable to come to grips with her descent into obscurity once films with sound become popular. Like a spider she creeps into each scene and is terrifying in her portrayal of a woman hell-bent on denial and preservation, trapping a young scriptwriter in her web of grandiose narcissism. (Famous Norma Desmond line: "I am big, it's the pictures that got small.") In the film noir genre, "Sunset Boulevard" is hands-down one of the best. Go netflix it. Now.
  • It looks like the "hot" baby names right now aren't as Twilight-centric as they were last year (thank GOD, there is nothing creepier than naming your baby Esme, people). The SF Chronicle blogs that according to a certain baby name expert (by the way, is that real job?) the new "it" names have a distinctly elite ring to them. After skimming this list (disclaimer: three names mentioned are what I plan to use for my kids), I don't find them "elite" as much as I do vintage. Names like Atticus and Phineas have a early 20th century feel; they're literary and dated in a good way. Not sure why this makes them seem high brow, but so be it.
  • In an Ayn Rand-esque effort to stave off the "totalitarianism" that he witnessed as a child in the Soviet Union, it turns out Google co-founder Sergey Brin was the major proponent in abandoning Google's operations in China due to the strict censorship guidelines the country demanded and the cyber-attack that followed. Brin told the WSJ that memories of that time—having his home visited by Russian police, witnessing anti-Semitic discrimination against his father—bolstered his view that it was time to abandon Google's policy.
  • Just in case you're curious as to how many calories that burger with fries has but don't want to have to dig to find out, you no longer have an excuse. (Damn it.) In signing the health-care legislation last week, Obama will be requiring all restaurant chains to include calorie counts on their menus. It's time to gear up for bikini season, boys and girls.
  • Last but not least: I loved this Quentin Tarantino reference page. You know, just in case you need a tear-out sheet to remember the basics by. I think I'm putting this one on my fridge. (And if you're wondering, Kill Bill 1 and 2 are my Tarantino favorites. Revenge really is a dish best served cold.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Stand at attention

Yesterday I found myself sitting near Gate 31 at Reagan National Airport, people-watching and listening to Madonna on the iPod and generally enjoying the scene. (Airports? Totally my thing.)

I'd booked a last-minute flight out to the Bay Area for a job interview in San Francisco later this week and was anxious and excited as I waited near my gate, sandwiched between two men in suits on their cell phones, carry-on bag at my feet. About 20 minutes later, after I'd witnessed a guy across from me eat three bananas in a row and start to pull a large bag of apples from his backpack, an airport employee came on the intercom.

"Just to let everyone in Terminal C know, a plane will be landing soon at Gate 30 full of WWII veterans who are traveling to DC to receive their medals of honor. Please come to Gate 30 and help us greet our veterans!" she beamed through the mike.

I looked around, interested and surprised. I'd never heard of anyone getting this kind of treatment stepping off a plane unless it was a private jet and that person was the President. Or Madonna. I shut off my iPod and watched as a handful of people around me stood up and made their way over to Gate 30, ready to greet these aging protectors of our country.

I'd just started to get engrossed in the next chapter of the book I was reading and so I paused. I actually paused, wondered if I should get up, stand and wait for them. For a split second the thought crossed my mind that there was no point in me being over there because those from other gates would be a crowd enough. The idea that I couldn't be bothered to dog-ear the page I was on, pick up my carry-on and stroll over to Gate 30 to greet these men who went to Hell and back to protect the world I live in now was disgustingly selfish. My grandfather fought in WWII. So did Roger Sterling. And I refuse to be that person -- the one who's just too important to stand for others when credit is due. Or stand for anything, for that matter. There were plenty of those around me anyway who remained seated.

So I tossed my book in my bag, picked up my things and waited with the throngs of others amid the flag regalia and balloons at Gate 30 to applaud and cheer for the elderly men that stepped through the open doors, wearing WWII pins and broad smiles as they slowly walked past us and shook our hands. It was so cute I'll admit: I almost cried.

When I returned to my seat I began to wonder: How many times in our life do we fail to stand at attention? How many times do we let opportunities pass us by because we're lazy, scared, or complacent? How many of us remain seated because it's the easy thing to do. The others can stand, we think. And so we let them. They can do the work for many, I suppose, but they can't do the work for all.

How many missed opportunities have there been at some point in all our lives -- missed career rungs, missed relationships, missed memories -- because the paths seemed too daunting. Required "too much" from us mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually. After all, it's easier to sit than stand. Easier to stay quiet than speak. Easier to consume than create. Easier to say "no" and remain indifferent, refuse to face the challenge when a marriage takes effort, a job goes stale, a circle of friends dwindles. Instead of working on the marriage, finding a different employer, or being open to new friends, it's easier to give up. Let the relationship fester or divorce. Stay at the job and complain about it. Allow the loneliness of your social life to consume you without any attempt to fix it. Stay helpless. Embrace resignation.

Maybe it's time more of us stand at attention. Learn to say "yes" instead of "no". Face the challenges in our lives instead of shirk from them. You cannot accomplish all the things you want if you remain seated like a side character to a life you have one shot at.

So stop making excuses. Stop being afraid, or complacent, or lazy. Easy is an illusion. Stand up.

Monday, March 22, 2010

One of the most amazing things this year... happening today:

Mad Men Season 3 is coming out on DVD. Contain your excitement (!!!) because I can barely type this blog post without flinging my laptop across the room like a Nerf frisbee and dancing the Mad Hatter's Futterwacken jig right here next to this couch.

More existentialism. More Joan. More Roger Sterling ("You ever get three sheets to the wind and try this thing on?" he asks, pointing to suit of armor in the office). More Peggy and Pete. And the most important thing: More Don Draper. Throw in 13-episodes' worth of Kennedy-era misogyny, a John Deere tractor, a presidential assassination and the start of the Vietnam War, and you've got another brilliantly written season (that yours truly will re-watch and analyze at least three times initially, if we're counting commentary here). If there was one quote to sum up this season, it would be Joan telling Don:
"That's life. One minute you're on top of the world, next minute some secretary's running you over with a lawn mower."
Personally one of my favorite episodes was "The Souvenir," when Don took Betty to a Fellini-style Rome and we watched the spoiled girl that we'd come to know Betty as surprise us as a smart and savvy woman on foreign soil -- the kind of woman she probably was during her modeling career pre-Don:

My other favorite episode? "My Old Kentucky Home," which included this fantastic scene between secretary Joan and ex-secretary Jane, when roles shifted, and the superior and the inferior were reversed. The tension between the two was unnervingly palpable and so well acted (check out Jane's slight eye twitch at 0:18 in response to Joan's cigarette smoke being blown her way):

Anyway, I cannot stop gushing about this show. J likes to tease me about my Mad Men obsession, but I say there's only one way to be a fan of anything: You're either in it all the way or you're not into it at all. ("In it all the way" for me includes tacking the calendar on our kitchen wall, using the theme song as my ringtone, buying mid-century modern furniture, quoting episodes daily, and only drinking Gimlets and Old Fashioneds.)

I feel like I'm walking in tall cotton about this DVD release and I have to ask any viewers out there (without giving too much away): What were your favorite episodes or scenes from Season 3? Did any characters surprise or disappoint you? How did you react to Sal' work? Did you cringe at Roger on stage at the country club? Better yet: What did you think of Betty's decision in the finale and what did you think of Don's confession? I'm dying to know...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Speaking of rejections

While we're on the topic of gatekeepers lacking vision, here's a rather famous rejection letter written in the 1950s to a then little-known artist named Andy Warhol ...

(click to enlarge)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bad predictions to keep in mind

So I stumbled across a few lists of "bad predictions" recently and not only did they make me laugh at how short-sighted they were, but it was also an amazing reminder that no one person is an authority on what's possible.

Take my writing. I've been much more amused than depressed over getting a handful of my short stories rejected by magazines; for some reason the rejections have only motivated me to write more, like I want to inundate editors with my prose until they realize what they keep passing up. More story ideas keep popping up out of nowhere, and more notes are constantly scribbled down when a story begins taking shape. Part of me wonders if my manuscript getting rejected by lit agents slash publishers will spark the same determined fortitude and amusement since writing a novel takes a lot more blood, sweat, and tears than short stories, but I have a feeling I'll take even those rejections in stride.

After reading these bad predictions I'm reminded that droves of "gate keepers" in our world lack vision. (This is where I recommend you read "Atlas Shrugged" if you haven't already.) And just because these gatekeepers hold the keys to the fashion world/tech world/publishing world/legal world/art world/science world/any world really, does not make them the be-all, end-all judge of your work's value or potential. According to this list, if people stopped creating post-rejection we would have no computers, radio, telephone, FedEx, commercial airplanes. The list goes on and on:
  • "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." -- Western Union internal memo, 1876.
  • "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" -- David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.
  • "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." -- Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.
  • "So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.'" -- Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer.
  • "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." -- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.
  • "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." -- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.
  • "The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C', the idea must be feasible." -- A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)
  • "I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper." -- Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With the Wind."
  • "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" -- H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.
  • "With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market." -- Business Week, August 2, 1968.
  • "There will never be a bigger plane built." -- A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that holds ten people.
  • "I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year." -- The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.
  • After Fred Astaire's first screen test in 1933, the MGM testing director wrote a memo saying, "Can't act. Slightly bald. Can dance a little." Astaire got the memo and kept it over his fireplace.
  • At the start of her career, Barbra Streisand was rejected repeatedly by directors because they said she simply wasn't pretty enough.
  • "A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make." -- Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies.
  • "... Overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years." -- Publisher on Vladamir Nabokov's "Lolita".
  • "I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language." -- Editor of the San Francisco Examiner to Rudyard Kipling.

Monday, March 15, 2010

When a cheap haircut goes wrong

A few days ago J got a haircut that went horribly wrong. In an effort to save money -- and ignoring my requests to cut his hair myself (this is where I point out that I'm pretty good with scissors and a comb) -- he went to the nearest Hair Cuttery. Big mistake.

Now I'm not one of those girls who shuns all low-end haircut shops. Supercuts, Great Clips ... call me brave but I've tried all these firsthand out of sheer curiosity and found results to be surprisingly good, not bad. Contrary to popular opinion, I don't think an amazing hair cut -- for men or women -- needs to cost $50 to $100. I've had expensive cuts in this price range that have been worse than $20 ones and made me nauseous at having dropped bank on such a hot mess. (On the flip side when my $50 hair cut turned out fabulously there was no better feeling.) So my disclaimer is that I'm not a hair snob and not all Hair Cutterys suck. But the Hair Cuttery J walked into for a clip recently was downright ghetto, to put it mildly.

I sat near the entrance on a bench and watched him take his seat inside. From the outside everything looked fine. The shop seemed busier than usual, but nothing was out of the ordinary, other than the fact that they made him swipe his card before his haircut, something about them "closing the register soon". Totally suspect. Of course J is a consummate tipper, so naturally he left a 20% tip on his card before even getting the haircut (which kind of negates the whole idea of a tip since it's to reward service, right?) *Smacks face with hand when thinking about it*

Well, J went in looking like Shaggy and 20 minutes later came out looking like "Guile from Street Fighter":
(His words, not mine.) J looked like he wanted to kill someone with the 15-pound hardcover lawbook he'd been lugging around.

"I'm never, ever going back in there," he said through gritted teeth.

"Uh, you look like Krusty the Clown," I responded. What else was I supposed to say?

"The whole time the lady cutting my hair was mumbling things under her breath, like she had better things to do than cut my hair. And look -- SHE GAVE ME A '90s FADE!" he said, turning around and pointing at the bottom of his neck. "I look like Vanilla Ice!"

Try as I might to commiserate there was only one thing I could say: "You do!" I said, doubling over with laughter.

He turned back to face me and seeing how angry he was just made me laugh harder. I mean, if it was a tattoo or something, I'd probably be a bit more sympathetic. But it's hair, people -- it's not like it wasn't going to grow back. Plus, I was getting too much satisfaction from the fact that it appeared J had finally reached his breaking point here on the East Coast. I'd reached mine long ago (I believe it involved an incident with public transportation and me losing it on a subway platform). It was nice to finally be in good company.

The whole way home J was silent, white-knuckled and gripping the steering wheel, mumbling something about how it looked like "someone put a hexagonal hat on [his] head." Needless to say once we got home he spent 10 minutes in front of the bathroom mirror fuming at the atrocity he'd actually tipped for before he placed a hair of scissors in my hand and told me to fix it. Asap. So I fixed as much as I could and though the fade needs a little time to grow out he no longer looks like Krusty the Clown slash Guile slash like he's wearing a hexagon hat. In fact, it hardly looks like ever he got a bad haircut in the first place, thanks to his amazing and talented wife (ahem).

Next time he promises I can cut his hair, but I told him I'd only do it now if I get a 20% tip in advance. (What I didn't tell him was said tip would come in the form of watching a Real Housewives of OC marathon with me, but he'll find that out soon enough, my pretties!) All that matters is standing in the bathroom, the color back in his face, we shook on the deal.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I refuse to be flabby, and in other news: Lauren Bacall is on Twitter

So the other night I was wasting precious hours of my life sifting through reams of "interesting links" recommended by those I follow on the Twitter-sphere when I came across one called The Waistline Test, which assesses whether your writing is ‘flabby’ or ‘fit’:
The test works by counting percentages of words in five categories commonly associated with stodgy sentences: weak verbs, abstract nouns, prepositions, adjectives/adverbs and 'waste words' (it, this, that, there). For every writing sample you submit, you will receive an overall fitness rating ranging from lean to heart attack territory:

Lean Fat-free
Fit and trim In excellent condition
Needs toning Would benefit from a light workout
Flabby Judicious editing required
Heart attack territory May call for editorial liposuction!

My initial thought? Brills!

But then fear set in.

What if I took the test and it spat back horrific results to me? Like that my writing was morbidly obese and destined for a life lived on treadmills and jogging trails in the backwoods of scary places, where scary people hang out cooking meth and living out of trash bag tents? If that was the truth, did I really want to know? Or was I better off blissfully oblivious and semi-delusional about my writing abilities?

Then again, now that I'd seen this Waistline Test how could I not take it? It would be like not pushing the button on that Mr. Bubbles contraption filled with bleach in my friend's shower back when it was a new product and I figured it was filled with body wash, thus giving the whole shower experience as we know it a contemporary, car wash-esque feel. "How modern!" I thought in glee, after pushing the button and allowing "body wash" to whir past me, till I screamed out in realization that it wasn't actually a Jetsons shower machine but rather a cleaning device that was shooting bleach into my face and mouth. Yeah, seeing the Waistline Test was kind of like that, except now I tread with minor trepidation when I'm about to push any buttons.

Was my ego writing checks my body couldn't cash? I needed to know, so I took the test, shielded my face with my hands and peered through my fingers at the results and ... I passed!!! Quite nicely, I should add. I pasted in the first couple paragraphs from my book and got back:

fit and trim.

For whatever this particular writing test is worth, all I have to say is PHEW. At this point in the month I don't think I have the emotional stamina to endure a reading of "flabby", much less anything that would call for editorial liposuction.

Now for all I know this test could be a crock of monkey poop, and I know there are other things that matter in good writing (i.e., expression, fluidity, clarity, etc.) but I do think it's an interesting way to assess overuse of adverbs and other evils that tend to weigh writing down like an anchor. See how your writing measures up, if you're curious.

In other news: Lauren Bacall is on Twitter(!), which is basically just as amazing as hearing someone like Grace Kelly or Joan Crawford pontificate on how tacky Hollywood (and the world in general) has become and how much better it was "back then", when everyone beat their kids with wire hangers chain-smoked and men wore suits and women wore heels and tattoos and cleavage weren't the norm but the exception, reserved only for seedy characters in seedy "B" flicks.

Here are my fave LB tweets:
"Yes I saw Twilight my granddaughter made me watch it, she said it was the greatest vampire film ever. After the "film" was over I wanted to smack her across her head with my shoe, but I do not want a book called Grannie Dearest written on me when I die, so instead I gave her a DVD of Murnau's 1922 masterpiece Nosferatu and told her, now that's a vampire film! and that goes for all of you! watch Nosferatu instead!"


"Enough of me being a negative Nancy, its just that I am glad I got to see the Osca
rs of the 40s & 50s. Grace Kelly would have died if she saw what I did at the red carpet (a tattooed gum chewing woman with too much cleavage and a man in sneakers)."


"I'm so sorry you guys didn't like my Studio 54 image simply because I was smoking, believe me there was far more worse things going on there
then smoking! I was not expecting such negative feedback, ugh all this stress has made me want to light up and relax with a cigarette. The good thing about being 84 is that I can smoke as much as I want."
Lauren Bacall is the woman I want to grow up to be. "Literate and tart" were the words Roger Ebert recently used to describe her. She's a beautiful, no-nonsense woman who's been around long enough to know what timeless chic really is and could care less about what you and I think of her musings because she's right, after all. I can just imagine her lazing in some huge claw-footed bathtub in one of the many master bathrooms of her gigantic estate, tapping away with manicured red fingernails on a laptop picked out for her by some tech-savvy personal assistant. Like a modern-day Norma Desmond with a platform to reach the masses she lazes beneath her blanket of white bubbles, plumes of cigarette smoke curling around her head, as she tweets about the good old days when film meant something. When fashion mean something.

When a good vampire movie meant something...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Overheard last night

2:30 am. Our studio. Pitch black, trying to fall asleep. J sounds like he's beat me to that. Silence. I start drifting off, but then get hit by an amazing idea for a short story. Learned my lesson last time this happened when I didn't write it down and forgot what it was the following morning. Won't ever let that happen again ...

Too lazy to turn on my bedside lamp and grab a pencil and paper, I fumble for my phone on my nightstand. Candles and lip balm and bottles of lotion clatter around in the darkness.
J stirs. Finally, my blind hand feels my cell phone, an old-school slider that I refuse to upgrade. I bring it inches from my face, pull up the "notepad" feature and begin tapping furiously at the buttons. The loud beeps of each letter cut the silence in the studio. Ten minutes of beeping later:

J (slurring sarcastically in his sleep): "What are you doing, writing a novel?"

Me: *beep, beep* "Actually yes, I am."
*beep, beep, beep*

Instead of drifting off again he laughs out loud, turns the light on and hands me a notebook and pen from his side.

Oh, the merits of being married to a budding author.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

How not to hit on a woman

Just in case you were wondering, this is not hot. In fact, it's quite terrifying.

The other day on my way back from the gym I stepped into one of four elevators in the lobby of my building. A normal-looking-enough guy stepped in behind me. I don't ever get awkward in situations where strangers strike up conversation (be warned: usually I'm that stranger), so naturally I didn't think twice when he asked how I was doing. We were neighbors, after all, albeit separated by seven floors.

"How're you doing?" he mumbled as he got on.

"Fine," I responded, Lola in my arms. I was still wearing my workout clothes, no makeup, hair pulled back.

Customary elevator silence.

"I need to say this. You're beautiful," he said. "A beautiful woman..."

"Oh, haha. Thanks," I said. "I just got back from the gym, but thanks for the compliment."

"Yeah, well, you're very beautiful." Pause. Apparently he'd been staring at me out of the corner of his eye. Creeper. "...Tight..." he said out loud to himself, and with that he began leering at me up and down.

"Heh..." was all I could manage to muster.

This wasn't a hot Don Draper-esque come on. Not that I would have reciprocated that kind of come-on anyway (I'm married, people). Instead, it felt predatory. Like an I-think-you're-beautiful-and-want-to-wear-your-skin-as-a-mask-in-a-cellar-surrounded-by-mannequins kind of predatory. In other words, it dawned on me he seemed a little cray cray. I've watched Silence of the Lambs enough to know about these things.

At this point the elevator suddenly seemed way too small to fit the both of us. My eyes flitted up to the digital numbers passing each level. All I could think was: "I don't want to put any lotion in anyone's basket. If he gets close to me I'm roundhouse kicking his head off. Not like this elevator would be big enough for my leg to freely swing around at the 50mph+ it would actually take to seriously hurt him. But I could try..."

He continued to stare at me full on. Smiling. Like I was some diamond-studded Faberge egg in a store window that he just had to have to store the molars of his victims in. I kept my eyes on the numbers above us. As I deliberated the physics of my leg mid-kick in the elevator, the doors parted. Freedom. Whew. I began to step off into my empty 10th floor hallway and heard him take a step toward me as I left.

"Shit! American Psycho, anyone?" I thought, as I realized that my long curved hallway looked exactly like that one in the movie that the naked Christian Bale ran through with his chainsaw.

What if he follows me out? I didn't want him to know where I lived, but it's not like I had anywhere to go 10 floors up. The concierge in the lobby downstairs felt so far away. Afraid he was going to follow me out into the empty corridor, my eyes darted toward the stairwell. But then what? I get trapped in a stairwell with a potential rapist? Yeah, great idea, Crystal.

"Can I call you or something?" I heard him say, his hand holding the elevator door open. His question was direct, more like a demand then a question. Did he not see the ring on my finger? I mean, it's not like you can miss the thing, the cut of the diamond picks up every hint of light in its presence. But I suppose this wasn't something men like him cared about.

"No!" I half-yelled as I hurried down the hallway. I heard the elevator doors close and looked over my shoulder and...

He wasn't there. He had stayed in the elevator. Thank God.

Men, take note: Picking up women is a two-way street. There is a huge difference between borderline sexual harassment and a little harmless flirting that scores you a phone number. Maybe the Crazy Elevator Guy was actually just a lonely, normal man looking for love. But his tactic not only seemed desperate, it creeped out the girl involved. And now he will forever be known as Crazy Elevator Guy. (Something tells me he's earned this name with more than one circle of women.)

"If you talk to a woman on an elevator and she is giving you one-line answers or stock uninterested/unengaged answers, probably not a good idea to hit on her," J opines. "To do so is like jumping into an ice cold swimming pool when you are looking for a hot-tub. You're going to walk away with shriveled testes."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Many men these days take either one of two approaches:
  • The shotgun approach to picking up women. Hello, you're not a caveman anymore and I'm not on display at a strip club. Telling me I'm beautiful? All right, that's cute. Especially if you ease up and leave after I tell you I'm married (This has happened to me more times than I can count and you've got to hand it to the men for having the guts to do so in front of an entire audience of Border's coffee-goers). Whistling at me from across the street slash honking as you pass by? Not a big deal; will elicit a smile and a head-nod acknowledgement of my awesomeness. Telling me I'm beautiful and then standing there leering at me and assuming I'll give you my phone number afterward? Caveman behavior that deserves a lonely, celibate life. A little discreetness goes a long way.
  • The "I'm amazing approach". These men are so infatuated with themselves they think "I'm awesome, so she must be in to me by default." Sadly this is not how it works. Generally these men also think dressing well, owning a snazzy sports car, getting reservations at Dorsia and bantering on about their ivy league educations will earn them major brownie points. And for some women it will. But, if you're still a jerk with all these toys and accolades, then others will see you as a pretentious asshat who needs to get over himself.
Basically too many people think it's about putting yourself out there no matter how you do so, but most of it is being perceptive to how you are being received. And believe me, it's not so hot when you are being received as a human flesh-wearing psycho. Or the newest member of the Crazy Elevator Guy club.

Monday, March 1, 2010

That one time I got passed a baby at a party

Saturday night J and I headed over to a housewarming party that one of his friends from law school was having. She and her husband had just bought a house and just had a know, the kind of grown-up things I haven't begun to conceive of because part of me doesn't want to settle for a starter home without an infinity pool and/or a private wine cellar. (I grew up watching Dynasty; not ready to give up those dreams just yet.)

So about 12 of us significant others and our law school lovers were standing in the kitchen chattering on about Roe v. Wade and cracking Supreme Court jokes over chips and salsa when our host joined us, con her baby. Naturally the thing began getting passed around like a magic cigarette at a college party, leaving everyone speaking incoherent gibberish in its wake. You bet I jumped on this band wagon.

"Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeee," I said in decibels I didn't know I was capable of hitting. He didn't reply. Could I blame him? He was only 4 months old. But that didn't stop him from watching me from his perch across the room, clutching at and slobbering all over his carrier's mother's shirt. Silent. Staring. I smiled, mentally logging a reminder that I had to "get me one of those" in the next few years. It would fit perfectly in the passenger seat of that convertible Miata I've had my eye on.

So a short while later I was minding my own business, opining about the The Big Lebowski to a fellow law school wife over red wine when that cute little dumpling of a 4-month-old got passed to me.

"Do you want to hold him?" the person near me asked as they reached out to hand him over.

What was I supposed to say, "No, thanks. I don't really do that," and smile as I politely declined and my fellow party-goers tried it out? That would make me that one person -- and there's ALWAYS that one person -- who refuses to try bungee jumping after everyone's had their turn. Well I don't want to be "that guy". The fact was I did want to try and hold it, especially after J embarrassed me only minutes prior, telling everyone that sometimes I peruse the baby aisles at Target, fawning over those little Winnie the Pooh hats with the ears sticking out. Okay, so what if I do? Look, I'm a sentimental sap when it comes to sewn-on ears; if those Poohbear hats fit me I'd own three and wear them around the house cooking dinner and writing and watching CSPAN. Just sayin'.

Anyway, being one to try anything (fried alligator in '06, anyone?) I said sure and welcomed the thing into my embrace. He'd been eying me all night after all, those big round eyes in that big round head. While I held him he garbled something --- probably about how fabulous I smelled or how amazing my new outfit was -- as he attempted to stick his entire fist in his mouth. Which I found impressive. But after failing multiple times he gave up and placed the slobbery fist on my shoulder. Ah a gesture of solidarity. I didn't care, it was cute. I mean, he was bald for Christ's sake. You can only get away with baldness being adorable when you still weigh about as much as a sack of flour and can elicit praise for crapping your pants.

I stood there in my stilettos in the kitchen, cradling him. Ok so he kind of smelled like baby powder -- better than my generic body wash -- so we had something in common. But I was uncomfortable. It made me nervous holding him. And most of all I couldn't shake the feeling that it was all a little....


So what happened next? I started sweating. Profusely. Like someone had handed me a grenade and I didn't know how long I had till it would detonate and we would all die. I could feel beads of perspiration beneath my new bangs as I chuckled along at everyone making faces at the thing and talking to him as if he was going to answer back. It was stupid, really, how nervous I felt. What's the worst that could've happened? It would puke all over my new dress? People, I've accidentally stepped in dog poop before. Barefoot. I can handle a little baby throw-up.

My face was hot and flushed. It felt like someone had turned the heater up full-blast. Pinpricks of sweat appeared on my philtrum; I wondered if I was becoming a casualty to the pit-stain. I casually rubbed my scorched face across my shoulder, anything to hid the evidence of my clammy awkwardness. But nothing helped.

By now the baby had begun to drool. Long strings of silvery spit tethered my dress to his mouth like a series of slimy spider webs. His mother, who stood across the room, held his burp slash drool rag in her hands. In her two minutes of free time sans baby she'd forgotten to hand me the thing and was talking to someone near her about Scalia.

The baby looked up at me like he was pleased with himself. As though, like a cat, he could smell my fear and reveled in its luxuriousness like the chest hair of a Tickle Me Elmo doll. To show me who was boss he then grabbed a fistful of my hair and began yanking at it, looking around wide-eyed and alert, stolid yet satisfied when people saw his little hair-pulling trick and lavished even more attention on him. J stood next to me, oblivious to how nervous I'd become, how much I'd begun to sweat. How much hair I was on the verge of losing.

"Hey Love, you wanna hold him? Great, here you go!" I said, before J could answer.

"Ok, sure," he replied, eager at the chance. And of course, after J held him against his chest, nothing looked more natural than my husband with a baby. He didn't get flushed; didn't sweat. Just stood there, completely calm, rocking the drooling baby and smiling.

What gives? Wasn't I the one that was supposed to be all even-keel about this? Wasn't J supposed to look like the awkward one? Why, like Miranda Hobbes, am I so freakishly uncomfortably in situations that involve tiny people (dwarves not included)? I'll admit, part of me felt like I might end up "breaking" the baby, as weird as that sounds. But their bones are so small, and their heads just loll about with necks that can't possibly support all two pounds of cranium. Maybe I'm just oblivious when it comes to their durability?...
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