Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Let Me Entertain You.

Sunday night my family and I encountered a group of carolers, an event that would have seemed less remarkable had we been at home in the suburbs or out in a public square. As it happened, we were out to dinner at Clyde's Tower Oaks, a large restaurant in suburban Maryland that is a reasonable facsimile of a hunting lodge. The carolers progressed not from door to door, but table to table.

We eyed them apprehensively as each rendition of "Silent Night" or "Jingle Bells" brought them closer to us. "What should we do?" we asked each other. We amused ourselves by coming up with possible deterrents: burying our noses in our menus, claiming to be Jewish, claiming to celebrate Kwanzaa, staging a big argument.

I watched as the carolers -- who were talented, if unwelcome at our table -- visited each set of diners. People were smiling, seeming to really enjoy the music. "It would be much better if they were stationed in one place, so you don't have to... deal," one of us said, as we all nodded in agreement.

Their arrival was anticlimactic. They politely asked if we had a request for a carol; we declined with excessive cheer.

I was glad then to enjoy our dinner in peace, but part of me wondered whether we weren't too scroogeulous. Why couldn't we have been like the other families, and smilingly welcomed a tableside performance of "Deck the Halls"? Why was I relieved, yet a little sad, that we are not such a family?

The next night, at the Bethesda, Md., branch of the tapas restaurant Jaleo, dinner with friends was twice overcome by the brief but formidable entrance of flamenco dancers. The dancers did not demand eye contact and full attention, as the carolers did, but were much more effective at impeding conversation.

Two successive nights of kamikaze public entertainment? I began to feel less bad about the night before.

These kinds of interruptions never appear when they are desperately needed. On how many dates in my life would I have been thrilled to have a clown come out and start juggling my utensils, just to provide a diversion from the person across the table? How many meals would have been greatly improved by the sudden appearance of an accordion player, or a ballet troupe?

Yesterday someone in a coffee shop observed to me, "The Christmas commercials used to be for children. Now they try to get to the adults, too." That concept may or may not be new, but it did speak to an increasing sense that it is no longer acceptable for people -- child or adult -- to be left undiverted. We cannot be left to entertain ourselves, or assumed to be content with a lack of external stimulus, a lack of novelty.

I feel this way now, and yet I'm only 35. What kind of an old lady will I be, when restaurant chairs have their own TV screens and everyone in the park is on a WiFi connection?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Actual Lines from Job Ads.

These are direct quotations from employment advertisements that I have encountered in the last month or so.
  • We are an international company with offices in Menlo Park, California and Kyiv, Ukraine.
  • Want to be a part of the digital video revolution?
  • What you bring to the game: An attitude that says, "Never settle for the ordinary."
  • The Managing Editor should have a brain whose synaptic firing could power a favela slum.
  • Are you up on the hottest job market trends? Do you enjoy discussing the latest career news with your friends and family?
  • We don't have any intention of letting go of the reigns [sic] of this Blogging Battlestar Galactica completely, but we figured it's best to start looking for new talent now and empowering them with a venue "all their own!"
Who's getting their resumes ready?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Post-Rockwellian Warmth.

At the small market where I go to pick up my daily office rations, the staff members are used to seeing my puffy, pre-caffeinated countenance. I sleepwalk into the store almost every weekday morning, creating my own blend of granola from the bulk bins (call it OCD Mix), shuffling over to the dairy case for yogurt, and haphazardly picking up whatever else might serve as lunch.

Outside at that hour, the owner and other workers are usually supervising deliveries. The stockpeople are wheeling hand trucks around, and the co-owner spouse is at the register. Everyone says hello to me; we know each other by sight now, if not yet by name. It's a family-run store where people poke fun at each other a lot, and vendors or regular customers sometimes hang around to chat. I don't have to go there every morning; I just like to.

Being recognized as a regular is a bedrock pleasure in life, one that always takes me by surprise. I'm so reticent, and so inured to spells of urban loneliness, that when a connection does materialize, it earns an inviolable place in my heart.

In London, where I spent a desperately homesick and depressed college year, the man who ran the fruit stand near my dorm in Tooting Bec became so precious to me that I sent him a postcard during winter break. For awhile, I kept in touch by e-mail with the former owner of the frozen yogurt store I frequented in New York. And the chatty man who ran the liquor store across the street from my apartment in D.C. happened to be the only one who said anything remotely comforting after I carelessly put a gash across my car in a parking garage. ("Happens all the time," he said, waving his hand. "Go get it fixed: Pretend you're in college and it's your parents' car, they'll give you a better deal. Go home and relax." I don't know why that calmed me more than the words of my sympathizer-in-chief -- my mom -- but it did.)

On my current street of residence in San Francisco, every fifth person you meet is going to have a circuit short, so part of me wanted a little extra credit for just bringing something to the cash register besides insanity. I hoped that, amid the headshops and bars, this market might become a small haven of residential normalcy. Reassuringly, after six months or so of steady attendance, it did.

One holdout had me puzzled and kind of intimidated: a young guy, who I think is the owners' son, never acknowledged my presence, even in clear one-on-one encounters. Nearly everyone at the store would give me a sign of recognition, except for him. He wasn't rude about it, and it wasn't personal. He just wasn't interested.

When it comes to perceived rejection, my response has always been to fold, early and often. I'd greet everyone else, and quietly maneuver around him -- out of deference, not petulance.

Last week, the barrier inexplicably dissolved. "Cold enough for ya?" he said as he rang me up. I almost turned around to see if he was talking to someone else; eye-contact is not his forte. We proceeded to have a whole exchange about the weather and our home regions -- the most mundane bit of dialogue two people can have, but a fundamental one. Maybe it's because I have almost no friends here, or maybe it's because I'm just this pathetic, but it felt like a tiny triumph.

Anyone picking up what I'm putting down?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Things in Which I Place Unreasonable Confidence.

Every once in awhile, it occurs to me that I harbor an unquestioning, almost subconscious esteem for certain things -- and I can't say exactly why. If you put any one of the following items in front of me, I am predisposed to expect that my experience with it is going to be a positive one, even though evidence to support the assumption is uneven at best. Here are mine.

• Modern-Looking Restaurants
• Mickey Rourke
• Starbucks
• Burly, bearded men
• Alcohol
• Fine Jewelers
• Zach Braff
• Upscale gyms
• Airports
• Public radio
• France
• Rufus Wainwright


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Foods I Am Ashamed to Admit I Like.

One recurring theme in my life is the wincing looks that people give me when I express certain tastes. If said preferences were for sweetbreads, pickled beef tongue, bacon ice cream or any of the other gourmet offerings that are all the rage these days, I could chalk it up to being on the culinary cutting-edge. I have no such recourse. These are the unadulterated truths of my palate.

Met-Rx Big 100 Colossal Bar (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Flavor): To answer your first question: No, I am not a bodybuilder, nor am I in training for a triathlon. In fact, there is probably no circumstance in which my body would need this much whey protein in one sitting. So why do I eat Met-Rx Big 100 bars? That's right: for the pleasure. It's grainy, sticky, chalky, and the "chips" taste like carob pellets. And I like it.

Soft-Serve Frozen Yogurt: At one point in my life, I was such a froyo fiend that I considered the now-scarce brands of TCBY and I Can't Believe It's Yogurt inferior to other fake ice cream, calling them TCBYDoesItSuck and I Can't Believe It Sucks. Now, since I no longer live in the nation's Frozen Yogurt Capital (NYC) and can no longer feast regularly on CremaLita, Tasti D-Lite and other deliciously faux treats (Only 8, Wow Cow, Alpha-1... hollaaaa), I am happy to have whatever soft-serve frozen dessert I can get. What began as an often warped attempt to conserve calories has now mellowed into an ingrained taste, to the point that I actually enjoy a cone of froyo more than real ice cream. My preferred vendor in San Francisco has what might be the most genius combination of inventory ever established: liquor in the front, fro machines and fountain sodas in the back -- in the Marina. Rich manicured blonds push past slick-looking guys in leather jackets eyeing the wine selection, all to get their fix of grasshopper or angel food cake dairy goodness. It's divine.

G.T.'s Organic Raw Kombucha: Technically, this is not a "food," unless you count the solid matter floating in the bottle. I have described previously my devil's bargain with this beverage, and it can't be left out here. Ironically, the Gingerade variety is hands-down the only thing that will reliably settle my stomach (I mean, look how I eat). I like the tingly way it goes down, even though it smells vaguely like urine. I pay $2.96 per bottle for the privilege of ingesting this mysterious beverage, and that's with a gym discount.

Assorted Holiday Candies: To all of you who have wrinkled your noses at my consumption of such holiday treats as candy corn (it tastes better if you bite off each color separately), Peeps (I prefer fresh), Brachs Christmas Nougats and other controversial items, I say that's more for me and bollocks to you. I also am not too proud to eat anything eggnog-flavored.

Yogurt Parfait from Cafe Beyond: When I worked on 18th Street at Sixth Avenue in New York, I would walk through the Bed, Bath and Beyond, into the adjacent cafe, and buy a huge cup full of vanilla yogurt layered with granola and strawberries. Now, there's nothing inherently shameful about a yogurt parfait (in my opinion), and no one ever gave me a hard time about it. But I include it here for a few reasons. First of all, buying your breakfast at the same place you can buy plastic hangers and candles just feels weird. Secondly, it cost nearly $5, which according to my calculations is like a 500-percent markup. Thirdly, this breakfast made me feel nauseous every single day, without exception. And I ate it anyway, because I couldn't get enough of the sickly sweetness of the fruit and granola soaked in vanilla yogurt almost to the point of fermentation. This was before I discovered G.T.'s Kombucha, too.

Utz Party Mix: This is NOT to be confused with Chex Mix, bitches. Whole other ballgame. Despite the fact that I am no longer using on a daily basis, this probably goes down as one of the best salty snacks I have ever had the pleasure of ingesting.

I'm not done yet, just thinking. In the meantime feel free to confess your own disgusting food preferences.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


You've heard of buzzwords? I'd like to talk about buzz-kill words. These are the words, names or phrases that are the equivalent of cognitive white noise: When you see them, your immediate impulse is to nap, avert your eyes, scroll, press the "Back" button, or do anything other than read further. Here are mine of late:

XML Tutorial
J.T. Leroy
Privacy Policy
Approved Vendors
Kevin Federline
Bush Press Conference

I would welcome additions to this list, or antidotes.

Friday, November 03, 2006


You know how it is when you have a really good friend that you talk to a lot, sharing the details of your daily life, and then you grow apart some, but not for any good reason other than circumstance, and you each try to keep in touch but sometimes it just feels too overwhelming to tell them everything you want to tell them, but too weird to just keep it to a topline summary, and so you just don't write or call at all, and the distance only gets worse, and you keep telling yourself that you should write or call, but never get to a point where you have the energy to make the contact?

That's how I'm feeling about a lot of beloved but distant friends lately, and also about this blog. After returning from the honeymoon in Hawaii (yep, Hans, Four Seasons Maui indeed kicks ass), I was relieved to feel none of the post-nuptial blues that I've heard about. It was an amazing, beautiful day, a wonderful honeymoon, and I feel nothing but gratitude -- not only because it was a very happy event, but also because I no longer have to spend my free time worrying about things such as limousines, flower arrangements and ridiculously complex makeup configurations.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Runnin' Around.

Getting married is a real cornucopia of details, no matter how you slice it. You might say to that, "No duh." But somehow I figured that by avoiding a wedding party, a band (thank you iPod), assigned seating, a lot of guests, etc. etc., that would mean free n' easy nuptials. Not so much. Among the details: What do you say to each other at the altar?

I did not want to say "'Til death do us part." There was some momentary friction on that one. I'd rather ignore the fact that I'm going to die as long as possible. Doesn't "all the rest of our days" sound so much more noncommittal toward death? I thought so too. All the rest of our days... that's like zillions and zillions of days! Right?

Well, this is probably the least composed and most inelegant post so far. Please forgive me, it's my wedding week (quote from Sex and the City: "You get a day. One day."). After this, it's Hawaii for 10 days. Cliche honeymoon destination but easy (if bank-breaking) and I've never been.

More upon return...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Have you ever gone through periods where you're just a little too interested in someone else's life?

It brightens my day to surf on over to tha pbdotc or Verbungle and get some thought-provoking musings, and often a laugh -- that's fine. But lately, I've become a bit too zealous in checking Restaurant Girl and Viva La Vida.

I feel a twinge of discomfort when I read these blogs, because at the heart of my bookmark-check is a belief that these two people are living more satisfying lives than I am.

Like, while I crop yet another photo at work or take myself for a gerbilly jaunt on the StairMaster, Restaurant Girl is harvesting grapes and going to underground dinners and playing basketball until 4 a.m., and the author of Viva la Vida is making projects with palm leaves on a Honduran island with her boyfriend. It all leads me to the question: Where did I go wrong -- or did I?

When it comes to seizing the day versus ruminating about it, my track record is mixed. On the seize side, I have: lived in London for a year; gone skydiving; gone to work for Club Med; sung in front of 500 people; biked 60 miles in one day for charity; quit a job I hated even though I lived alone in NYC and had no other job lined up; ended my dysfunctional love-hate relationship with NYC by leaving; pitched aside (almost) all my fears to move across the country and get hitched.

On the stuck side, I have: failed to take a vacation anywhere cool in the last several years; put my immediate comfort over my long-term best interests; stayed in a line of work I have known for a long time is not for me; wasted time with people I didn't actually like all that much; put off learning to cook and play drums way too long; not bothered to really pursue writing.

So when somebody does exactly what they want to do, and has a ton of fun in the process, it makes me jealous -- but also confused. How did they do it? What sacrifices are they making?

Whose life do you most admire?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Updates: Wedding Hoedown, Mortified.

First of all, regarding the question of wedding music in the previous post, we have arrived at a somewhat happy compromise. The classical guitarist will play, but we put the kibosh on "I Can't Help Falling in Love," "Ode to Joy" and other offenders.

For the processional, I tried to make "Hallelujah" work (I'm partial to the Jeff Buckley cover), but it didn't suit the short time frame involved for the aisle-trotting. It did occur to me that a song containing the lyrics "Love is not a victory march/It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah" doesn't exactly say "happily ever after, babe," but hey, I like to keep it real.

In the end we decided to go with "Pavane," and here is the embarrassing admission for that one: I first heard that song on a Sex and the City episode.

Moving on, it looks like my flirtation with Mortified is done for now. Though everyone agrees it's hilarious how pathetic my obsession with Prince was, the SF show's producers seemed to disagree a little bit about what to do with me.

One of them was up for taking my entire diary and editing it into a monologue, saying she thought she could knit together all the funny stuff; her partner seemed to think there just weren't enough story threads there besides Prince, and that I needed to look into other diaries for more material.

I think I agree with the latter assessment, for the purposes of the show. What makes Mortified work is the way they turn everything into a little vignette, with multiple story threads and plenty of laugh lines. Entries that might be kind of funny to read to your friends wouldn't necessarily work as part of an onstage act.

Though a trip back to my other diaries is a possibility for the future, when it came to this particular purple polka-dotted diary, I just wasn't up for trying to turn a donkey into a thoroughbred of humiliation.

One possible additional "thread" that came up in my second audition was my relationship with my brother, who crops up from time to time as a thorn in my side. Here, for your enjoyment, is an entry illustrating said relationship.

January 25, 1984

Benny. That's his name. The person that's making life worse. And, by the way, he happens to be my brother. Mr. Jerk, that's him. He makes me cry almost beacause he gets away with EVERYTHING he does to me. It's like, if he shot me, I'd get in trouble for being within his target range. Like tonight, when I borrowed a piece of tape from him. OK. I jokingly turn off his light, and next thing I know, he's off on a spaz. He sat on me and really hurt me, making me say that he was great, and that I'm sorry (the little bitch). I'd already told Mom, and she said we have to work it out for ourselves. Nyah, nyah, nyah. See what I mean? It bugs me. It bugs me because if I did that to him (after he got off me, he was actually cheap enough to take the tape back), I would be punished or yelled at. He gets away with murder and I'm sick of it. No more.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Veiled Threat, Part Two.

In a little less than a month, I am going to walk down a short, grassy aisle in a white dress and make some very important promises. Of all the details attached to this ceremony, there has only been one real disagreement: the music that is played during the aisle-walking.

Here are the options on the table.

1. Silence. This is the option favored by my betrothed. I imagine the sounds of sniffles, outbursts from guest toddlers, whispering and creaking chairs as I make my way toward the altar. Since I'm not going to deliver a eulogy, I'd rather have a little atmosphere.

2. Harp. This is the second choice of my opponent/life partner, because he thinks it would be amusing. I agree that it would be amusing, but since we're not going to film an '80s comedy where the harp gets upended by a loose pet or toppled into a swimming pool after a crazy mishap, I think the joke will be lost.

3. Classical Guitar. This is what's being offered by the ceremony venue. We are not allowed to have amplified music, which means no boombox. When I voice support for this option, I get characterized as a lover of classical guitar, as if I like nothing better than to kick back with some acoustic Bach or something like that. This is not true. I merely think the guitar option will be both pleasant and easy to ignore. "You KNOW I'm going to get shit for this from my friends," my poor fiance says. To me, that's just gravy.

As a way of making the whole affair less stilted, we're thinking about some musical alternatives for processional and recessional music. I, for instance, wouldn't mind walking down the aisle to an acoustic version of "Cherry Pie" by Warrant. Another suggestion was the theme to The Odd Couple for the recessional, when we face our guests as husband and wife. Any other ideas?

Monday, September 11, 2006


The e-mail inbox can be a capricious conveyer of fortunes, both good (Cake today at 3 p.m.!) and bad (VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: Holiday shifts). I'd like to inaugurate a new, semiregular feature showcasing life's electronic uncomfortable moments.

The motivation to do this came not from an e-mail, but from an IM conversation, where I learned that one of my employer's major show hosts refuses to direct his listeners to any Web URL featuring a subdirectory, because it would require him to utter the word "slash" as part of the address, and he will not say "slash," because he feels that is not "conversational."

It's true that for a radio host to say something like "Visit slash egomania" is, indeed, not at all conversational for listeners who happen to tune in from the year 1985 and have never seen the World Wide Web before. I imagine people across the country changing their dials, muttering, "I can't understand all that gibbity hoo-hah on the radio these days!"

This instance made me think about many other bizarre moments of inflexibility and pomposity I have encountered at said organization, much of it appearing in e-mail form. That, in turn, got me thinking about all the icky-feeling e-mails I have gotten in my whole life. There are so many, and it's time to start the healing.

The following e-mail is from another "on-air personality" who bristled when I asked her if we could have some of her show guests write an online companion to their conversations.

Look.,.. I fear that if they are asked to write something for you in advance, by the time I get to taping them, they will sound rehearsed and flat, and be reading from their notes. I want the sound of spontaneity -- of people thinking on their feet -- on the radio. So please .... Keep your requests for AFTER I have recorded my interviews.

This is a pretty mild, yet adequately condescending and dismissive, example. Because of space, unfortunately, I have had to delete many other mails in which I was treated like a misbehaving (virtual!) pet. From now on, I am going to start saving anything objectionable, so that I can publish it. I would love to have others share their own examples of unpleasant e-mails, either workplace-related or personal. You can submit them in the comments or e-mail them to me and I will print them in a subsequent post.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Diet Aid.

Every morning I take a spin through the Haight Street Market and pick myself up breakfast (Fage Greek yogurt and granola), lunch (Amy's) and usually some kind of snack. Today's impulse purchase was Bug Bites. You can't do much better than two little squares of chocolate after your Amy's Palaak Paneer, that's what I was thinking.

I pretty much ignored the part of the package where it said "endangered species Chocolate," because what the hell does that mean? I'm just trying to have a sweet treat, and if it helps out a snow leopard along the way, then everybody wins. As long as it's not actually made of endangered species, it's just dandy with me.

Here's where the "Bug Bites" concept goes awry: Sitting on top of my square of milk chocolate was a picture of several fungus beetles. My tip to the Endangered Species Chocolate Company: Putting a picture of an ugly (cocoa-colored) bug on my chocolate does not make me want to save the bug OR eat the chocolate. It makes me want to kill the bug and not eat chocolate for a long time.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Shame and My Game.

As someone who doesn't do well with change, yet somehow constantly initiates it, I've been having a hard time with my move to San Francisco. On a recent visit home to D.C., people asked me how I liked living here. Everyone expected me to talk about how awesome it is, and were visibly surprised to hear me say I miss Washington. But I do miss it. I miss warm summer nights. I miss thunderstorms. I miss going out on U Street and Adams Morgan. I even miss the DelMarVa beaches, with their middling scenery, humidity and cheesy amenities.

Since getting here six months ago, I've made several shoreline visits: Baker Beach, San Gregorio, Ocean Beach, Stinson, Limantour, Half Moon Bay. All are indisputably beautiful, in their own way. Many tend to be windswept and sparsely attended; only one of the above (Stinson) has a snack stand and enough population density that you can smell the suntan lotion in the air.

It is breathtaking and amazing to stand on all of these beaches, but I was missing a certain kind of experience. "Is there a beach that's warm, full of people and cheesy? Like, with a boardwalk? Does that exist here?" I asked. "Sure," I was told. "Santa Cruz." We set out on Saturday, and were there within 90 minutes.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, first things first, is not a boardwalk. It is a cement-based amusement park that, unforgivably, serves only Pepsi products. It was not the string of stores and treats that I grew up on at Rehoboth Beach. On the other hand, it was a filming location for The Lost Boys, and it's a bunch of junk food and rides and video games next to a beach, which is almost never bad.

Going to the boardwalk is a sacred summer ritual for me, not least because it is a time to reconnect with the arcade. Many hours of my childhood were happily spent either in front of a Namco machine or our Nintendo console at home, which is why I have the knowledge base required to find videos like this one highly amusing, but couldn't tell you where Turkey is on a map.

Thankfully, Santa Cruz had its share of arcades; and thankfully, the sparse lighting in arcades makes it harder to recognize that the person hunched over Galaga while frantically cursing and banging the "fire" button, or entering her initials into the QBert player hall of fame, is a 35-year-old woman. I can spend hours in those places, and it's worse now that I have discovered a new kind of game.

There were at least three different types of drum simulation machines at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, something I'd never seen before. One of them, DrumMania, is from the makers of Dance Dance Revolution and has the same format: the screen dictates your moves as the song plays, and evaluates how well you manage to execute them (in this case by striking drum pads rather than stepping on a platform). I liked this game because at the right setting, it mimicked my real-life drum lessons, where I only play one or two elements at a time and get praised for my progress.

Another arcade featured MTV's Drumscape, a simulator that simply allows you to play along with the hit of your choice until the time runs out. It has more electronic pads and sounds realer. As I was contemplating whether or not to try it, some kid who looked to be about 9 years old sat down -- with his own sticks, not the ones attached to the machine. It was on.

He played along to Queen's "Under Pressure." My jaw dropped, and a crowd gathered behind him as his little arms flicked this way and that, banging out fills and flying from pad to pad as if he had come out of the womb percussing. People applauded when he was finished. He walked away as nonchalantly as if he had just finished peeling an orange.

It wasn't until another kid sat down (one who sucked) that I could work up the courage to try the machine. I waited the amateur kid out. Then I waited for the arcade staff to fix the bass pedal when it broke. My companion was getting restless, having played all the skee ball he could play. "I just want to get one turn on this," I said, feeling embarrassingly needy and serious about it.

Finally, I got my turn. I had already decided I would play along with "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns n' Roses, since I couldn't find any Prince. I started spinning through the song choices, using the drum pad. Where was GnR? A time counter told me I had 30 seconds left to make my choice, as I continued to scroll through songs that I didn't know well enough to play. "I can't find Guns n' Roses!" I exclaimed, and tried to go back to the original menu. Instead, I inadvertently made a selection: Aaron Carter.

"Noooooo!" I yelled. "No! I didn't pick Aaron Carter! That's not what I want!" The Backstreet Brother blared deafeningly from the machine as I sat there. A few people were behind me, either watching or waiting to use the machine, but I was too ashamed to turn around. All I could do was try to play, but I didn't even know the song, was too unskilled even to bang out the right song selection on the pads, much less a real beat. It was too much: Somehow, openly standing in front of a Ms. Pac Man machine for up to an hour and trying to get past the banana level was OK, but my internal barometer said that drumming along with an Aaron Carter song in public was taking it all too far. I gave up the sticks in the middle of the song and walked quickly away from the machine while the amateur kid seized the opportunity to get back on the machine and suck some more. I went back to the other arcade and played another round of DrumMania ("Perfect! Great! Perfect! Perfect!") to console myself.

That's the trouble with video games: I'm now more interested in getting another turn at DrumScape than I am in my next lesson in front of a real kit.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Baby, Meet Bathwater.

When I was enrolled at Washington University, and not that happy about it, I apparently acted like I was going there for the rest of my life. I made it into kind of a disaster mentally; then I went to St. Louis, made the best of it and got good grades; applied to Penn and transferred after my freshman year.

My mom often raises this as an example of how I tend to be a tad hyperbolic in my view of things, a trait very much in evidence in yesterday's post. It's true that I need a change, and it's true that I don't like sitting around all day. But of course I could focus on finding a better environment instead of uniformly rejecting all forms of office work.

It might seem advisable to temper my disaster-style thinking, except that it's served me well on occasion. It got me out of one school and into another that I loved, and it got me finally to leave New York and go back to D.C., where I was very happy to be (and where my office really was kind of nice). Discontent can be useful, on occasion. So we'll see where it pushes me next.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I Read a Book.

I had not planned to read Killing Yourself to Live, by Chuck Klosterman. A promotional copy of it ended up lying around my residence and I picked it up. It was so entertaining and readable that I actually ended up finishing it, a feat that is rarer these days than I'd like to admit.

Klosterman writes for Spin and Esquire magazines, and who knows where else. He is one of the rare writers who can actually ramble significantly off-topic and keep you with him, partly because of his skill at declaring things that seem very true even if they're patently questionable (such as "Sexuality is 15 percent real and 85 percent illusion"). Pop culture, music and human relations are his domain. It's not surprising that he's made such a career out of magazine writing.

What's surprising is that Klosterman managed to publish and sell this book even though it has very little to do with the premise on which it's based. Killing is ostensibly the nonfictional tale of Klosterman going to visit various locations of various rock stars' deaths; it's actually about that and Klosterman's love life, random encounters, drug experiences and a bunch of other stuff. In other words, it's about nothing.

It's an exercise in ego, with very little restraint. And I ate the whole thing! Now, I feel kind of guilty, and a little annoyed... but I also enjoyed myself. It makes me think about Hal Niedzviecki.

Some months ago, I noticed in my Flavorpill newsletter that Hal was going to be in town, reading from his book. My first reaction was, "Hey. I went to high school with that guy." My second reaction was, "Hal Niedzviecki got a fucking book deal?"

Now, Hal was on the same literary magazine with me at Winston Churchill High School. I think he was in a different class, but to be honest I really can't remember. I can't remember anything about his writing, either, or what he did for the magazine. The only things I recall about Hal were that he had glasses and kinda poufy hair and that he seemed like an affable guy.

Hal's book is called Hello, I'm Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity. This is from the description on his Web site: "In chronicling his singular encounters as an editor and pop culture explorer, his meditations touch on everything from religion to Karaoke, from declining birth rates to Celebrity Worship Syndrome, from Mississauga's famed Backyard Wrestling Federation to Friday night Sabbath in Atlanta, Georgia."

Ignore the dangling modifier and kamikaze capitalization here and note that Hal is basically a self-styled Canadian Chuck Klosterman, and that apparently it's possible to call oneself a "pop culture explorer" with an entirely straight face and get away with it.

My reaction may sound like sour grapes, and that's because it is. My whole life I've wanted a book deal. But no one has ever called me up and said, "Gee, Christina, we really love your writing. Can we publish it on paper, in bound form, and pay you to do so?" I suppose I could try to do what Hal and Chuck must have done, the old "get an agent" and "fashion a book proposal" route. But that would mean risking failure, something I'm unwilling to do.

When I lived in New York, my friend Jackson and I used to sit in bars and talk about writing. Jackson wrote short stories. I would read them, and give him feedback over whiskey sours. His work was usually in the noir and/or sci-fi vein, and he had a keen mind for plot. He would try to describe how easy Hollywood conventions are, and encouraged me to create outlines of stories that I wanted to write. I would argue that literary fiction shouldn't be so formulaic -- I wanted to write something organic, something that evolved as it went along. Accordingly, I do not have one piece of finished fiction to my credit to this day, and Jackson has written (and possibly published) several stories.

It's easier to feel less jealous of Jackson -- or of, say, Cathy Yuspa, a Churchill alum who became a successful Hollywood writer -- because these people are actually working on plots and dialogue, and I have never tried much to excel at that. It's the Chucks and Hals and David Sedarises that get me, because they give the impression that they just sat down one day and blurted out whatever they happened to be thinking at the time, and next thing you know they're on book tours and doing interviews for major media outlets.

I mean, I can blurt random thoughts out too, I do it all the time! Sure, Chuck and David are more talented than I am, but that's beside the point. (I didn't think this through before writing it, so I'm not sure what the point is.)

Considering the fact that people have even managed to publish books about how many books there are in the world, maybe it's time to lower my book proposal standards. Maybe, as pb dot c suggests, I should shoot for UncMo: A Novel. I have other proposal ideas floating around, too. Stay tuned for Hey, Some Things About Health Food Stores: My Year of Shopping in the Organic Age and Jigga Who? My Batttle to Keep Up with Pop Culture in My Mid-Thirties. Other ideas welcome.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Aging Gracefully.

This blog celebrates its one-year birthday today, with an apple martini and a check in the mirror for new wrinkles. Here is how it began, if I may quote from the introduction:

For me, when it comes to the creation and/or perception of socially painful situations, there's simply one thing to do: hold on to them, burnish them, and involuntarily relive them from time to time over the next several hours, days, weeks, or years. I guess this comes naturally to someone whose earliest conscious memories involve wetting herself at points well past potty-training age.

Is there any way to exorcise it all? Probably not, but I can share the discomfort with you. Isn't that what the Internet is all about?

Here's to many more uncomfortable moments. And maybe, as tha pb dot c suggests, a few comfortable ones. Opinions on the matter are welcome.

The title of this post is meant to be ironic. If you get mistaken as the "new intern" on your first day of your job when you are actually 33 at the time, that is not "aging gracefully." That is called "a failure to evolve."

In any case, I have informed my employers at said job that I am going my own way, after two years there. The bosses had very kindly allowed me to keep my D.C.-based job as I moved out to San Francisco, even though it was a concept that, in reality, appealed to no one, except for my insecure bank account.

The question is, what to do now. I tell people I'm going to freelance, and that I want to write more. This is true. I imply that I actually know what I'm doing. This is not true.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

International Kitty of Mystery.

I have never been keen on the prospect of owning or living with a cat. Generally speaking, cats leave me alternately nervous and annoyed. Anything with claws and sharp teeth and an ill-developed sense of loyalty is something I'd rather leave outside.

That's why it was weird to move in with Dusty last March. Neither of us wanted it this way, but we were sharing someone, and it was unavoidable. We pretended to ignore each other, each of us obviously feeling that a ridiculous compromise was being made somehow, and that surely this situation wouldn't last.

Eventually, he learned to accept me as an occasional substitute for his primary owner, usurping my lap and begging me for food. I learned to accept the eradication of cat hair as my new goal in life, and slowly began to take more than a passing interest in Dusty's welfare.

I would sometimes jokingly complain that Dusty does absolutely nothing around the house, and the defense was usually this: "He's fuzzy 24 hours a day. He wakes up and he's fuzzy, and all day he's fuzzy and when we go to bed he's fuzzy. He never stops being fuzzy."

Hard to argue with that one.

So we had achieved a nice stasis, but I didn't realize the extent of my affection for Dusty until I noticed one evening (with surprising swiftness) that he had disappeared. At first it seemed maybe he was chilling in a hiding place somewhere in the apartment -- but by dinnertime, the cat was nowhere to be found and it had been too long. We looked. We called. We peered out the windows, into the dark backyards behind our building. He was gone, leaving only puffs of hair in his wake.

It was around this time that I also noticed two cats -- one in the window next door and one in the yard below us -- were both staring intently at us, as we stared intently outside trying to locate Dusty. The yard cat was especially ominous: He sat, stock still and luminous in the moonlight, just... staring. It created the sense that Dusty had been kidnapped, and these cats had something to do with it.

It doesn't make me proud to admit that there was a time when this scenario would have been my dream come true: freedom from cat offal, and no blood on my hands. "How old is Dusty?" I had asked at the beginning of our acquaintance. The answer had been disappointing. "He's six -- he's going to be around for a loonnng time."

Now that I'd gotten used to the little hairball, I found myself worried and unhappy, even more so when we heard terrifying catfight sounds at 5:00 the morning after Dusty disappeared. Was he injured? What if he got picked up by someone else? Would he ever come home?

Our investigations turned toward the Pork Store. The Pork Store is a restaurant that, despite its coarse name, is wildly popular here in San Francisco. Up until now, the only noticeable things about living near the Pork Store were the line on the street at breakfast time on weekends, and hearing the phrase "Nelson!! More biscuits please!!" shouted incessantly into the air shaft outside our bathroom window.

I banged on the door after closing time the day after Dusty disappeared, since the catfight sounds had emanated from the cafe's backyard. The famous Nelson let me in. I resisted the urge to ask him for biscuits and explained about the cat. He thought I was crazy, but let me look.

For such a little restaurant, the Pork Store had a suprisingly extensive laybrinth behind it. I walked around a corner, through two small rooms and up some stairs before I got to the backyard, which was strewn with debris and weeds. I braced myself for a Dusty carcass, but found none. There were two other alleyways, but they were too quiet and creepy for me to venture down. "Dusty?" I called. No answer.

We spent another lonely night with no clicking claws on the floor.

The next morning I got a call at work. A second visit to the Pork Store had proved fruitful. Dusty had been found sitting under some stairs in one of the back alleys, meowing and unharmed. He was eventually coaxed back home.

We will never know what compelled our usually unadventurous friend to desert us, or how exactly he made it downstairs. The most likely way was out the bathroom window and down the garbage chute. The fact that he pulled off a move so bold, and managed to survive it, gave me a newfound respect for him. It made me wonder if... if I ever knew Dusty at all. How well can we ever know the creatures we live with?

He doesn't seem all that psyched to be home, and it's hard not to feel a bit slighted. "Isn't it better to be here? With food and a litter box and a clean blanket?" I asked him. He just twitched his tail and gave me an aloof glance. I guess the Pork Store really is popular.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

All Natural.

Yesterday, I made my first visit to Rainbow Grocery, the legendary crunchfest in San Francisco.

Best quote heard while in the store: "Well, we have organic pinot noir, but no, we don't have sulfite-free."

Scariest product purchased: GT's Organic Raw Kombucha. I have no idea what's in this stuff but it practically talks to you when you drink it. You know that story by Stephen King, "The Langoliers," about the tiny ferocious gremlins that eat away the past? I think they live inside this beverage. It is munching up all the bad things inside of me right now. The devil is screaming.

Gross generalization: The shoppers at natural food stores never look any healthier than anyone else, do they? In fact, they almost look worse. It seems to me your average Safeway shopper just looks happier and healthier.

No one at the register gave us dirty looks when we used paper bags instead of hemp totes to carry out our items, but it did remind me of something that happened recently at my neighborhood grocery. It was a U.M. for everyone.

It seemed to be a routine exchange at first. A woman stood ahead of me in line and as the cashier rung up her purchases, the grocer came up and offered her cherries, which apparently she'd been asking for but unable to find.

"Oh no. I don't want your packaging. You think I want your packaging?" she said. The cherries were in a latticed plastic bag. The woman turned away from them as if someone had tried to get away with offering her a sack of angry bees.

She went on as the poor man went to restock the cherries, still within earshot. "I don't waste packaging. You know I don't waste packaging. That's why I bring my own shopping bags in here."

The grocer was thoroughly confused. "But, how am I supposed to sell the cherries? What are people supposed to put them in?"

"You sell them in bulk! It's a waste of packaging! Why don't you sell them in bulk?" the woman said. She appeared to be completely normal, but obviously some switch had been tripped off. I was too fascinated to be annoyed at the checkout delay. I had never heard anyone say "packaging" this many times in two minutes.

The grocer and customer went for a few more rounds, gesticulating at each other with exasperation. "I'm just saying there are other options!" she cried, leaving the store while the befuddled man shook his head.

The cashier rolled her eyes at me and smiled. We all went on our merry, packaged way.

The woman was crazy, but there's no one more susceptible than I am to environmental guilting. I can't use a plastic bag now without thinking of her. "Don't give me your packaging! I don't want your packaging!"

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

After School Special.

Of the many secret delusions I harbor in life, one is that I would today be a great musician, if only someone had offered adequate training and encouragement in my youth. I like to tell myself that since my raw genius went unnurtured, there's really nothing to be done about it now. This allows me to continue spending my time on episodes of 24 while blaming my parents for my own sloth and lack of achievement.

The only possible explanation for my having signed up for drum lessons recently is straight-up denial. I bought drum sticks and keenly awaited my first lesson, ignoring the fact that we have no room for a drum kit, that most of my peers have by now traded rock-star fantasies for children and promising careers, and that I can't really read music.

I arrived at the community music center early and waited until my instructor was finished with the lesson in progress. An eight-year-old boy and his mom emerged from the room, and then the seat was adjusted up to "rejuvenile" level for me. The instructor excused himself to make some photocopies. "Have you ever played drums before?" he asked. "No," I answered. "Well, I'll be right back," he said. "Go ahead and play. The room's soundproofed, you can hit 'em hard!"

For a moment it felt like I had been told to race a burro. I slumped in front of the drum kit. I hit it tentatively, but all of a sudden I wasn't feeling very Sheila E. What was I doing here? It was a relief when the teacher came back and I didn't have to make conversation with the drums anymore.

He had a brisk, well-developed patter you could tell he had used time after time, probably mostly for audiences under 10 years of age. "You'll want to buy a drum pad," he said. "The reason for that is, you don't want to ruin your furniture practicing."

I laughed dutifully. "Or my cat," I offered. He frowned. "Your cat?" "Well, it's my boyfriend's cat," I said. He seemed thrown by the audience response. "OK, some issues there. Moving on..." I decided to let him be the jokester and focus on learning the rimshot.

We went through the basics and I felt some pride when the instructor commented that I was picking things up quickly, until I realized that basically meant I had managed to make contact between the sticks and snare on some kind of rhythmic basis.

Now I sit in my apartment, happily tapping out exercises on my drum pad. I love this phase; it's like dating, where it's 100-percent potential and imagination. If it were a movie, you'd just see a montage of me rehearsing (over a couple months, maybe?) before I get to the big gig and knock everybody out with my amazing percussion skills.

Unable to stop myself, I went to Craigslist and looked up "drummer" in the musicians listings. At the moment, no one seems to be looking for someone with one week of experience who doesn't know how to use the cymbals yet, but my eyes are peeled.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Fruits and Nuts.

This blog got started because of my ability to make a vaguely or potentially awkward situation certifiably... you guessed it, uncomfortable. Let's begin with my latest "success story."

We were meeting another couple for dinner, a couple whom we had only met once. I always get nervous in these kinds of situations. Statistically speaking, UM likelihood is directly proportional to the number of people in any given social setting, and inversely proportional to how well you know the people involved.

As we made a third loop around the restaurant, looking for parking, we spotted the male half of our dinner friends. I slowed down to a stop, and we let him know we were looking for a spot. What I didn't realize was that a handshake was in progress at my passenger window. I began to pull the car away, only braking when I realized our friend was doing a weird jog to prevent his arm from being pulled out of its socket. What kind of a jack-arse pulls the car away when two people are shaking hands? Me, that's who.

Anyway, it all turned out fine. At dinner we heard a story about our friend's relatives in Pennsylvania and their reaction to the fact that one of their flock lives in California now. "Fruits and nuts, that's all they've got out there," the relatives said. Apparently this was the refrain whenever California came up: "Fruits and nuts." Our friends rolled their eyes. We laughed.

Let's leave aside the ugly aspect of this comment, an attitude that explains why this country has managed to elect a chimp two terms in a row, and why that supposed freedom-spreader talks about taking a prejudice-filled dump on the Constitution. The comment here was, for a split second, interpreted by my brain as a literal reference to food. Thus, my attention is diverted.

It seems impossible to be awake lately without hearing something about organic food and eating locally. It used to be virtuous to spend $12 on five heirloom tomatoes, because they are organic and good for you. But if those tomatoes had to be shipped across several states, you are now a thoughtless twit who is personally responsible for climate change. Clearly, while buying your groceries, you have failed to adequately contemplate the food chain and our entire globe. You have to get your produce locally, friends, organic or not. Who do you think you are, anyway, with your Earthbound Farms, Big Organic bullshit? Do you even know a farmer? With people like you, it's only a matter of time before the label "organic" means "grown with radon and sprayed with landfill essence, imported from India."

Fortunately, here in the Golden State we have many options when it comes to buying locally grown organic produce, as opposed to when I lived in D.C. and would have had to depend on one weekly farmer's market and whatever was growing in my apartment.

For me, the main disincentive to buy organic is not so much that it costs more, or that it might not look as pretty. It's that those fruits and vegetables have to last until we eat the tortilla chips, cheese, bread, candy and whatever other inorganic items we have in the apartment. Usually by then, it's too late. I have to throw the produce away, newly aware that I am wasting not only the food itself, but the resources used to grow and ship it.

This conflict came to a head recently in the form of a hotly debated issue at home: The "Mostly Fruit Box." (See no. 10 below.) It's a nice idea: We support a local farm, and a box full of organic surprise goodies arrives at our doorstep every month.

The reality has been less enchanting. First of all, there have been a lot of beets. Second of all, I have seen items rot literally within hours of receipt, because they couldn't be refrigerated right away. Third, it's a fruit-fly party. And fourth:

Republican: we just don't eat most of the stuff, that's my main objection
Democrat: we will this time
Democrat: we don't throw most of it away
Democrat: we eat at least half, often more
Republican: I do, out of guilt
Republican: anyway you like it, it's your thing
Republican: I'm not going to eat out of guilt anymore
Democrat: it's got bananas and peaches and plums
Republican: it can all rot
Democrat: ok, don't eat it out of guilt
Democrat: jesus

I know who comes off badly in this IM exchange. Call me a killjoy and a hater of small local farmers across America. It's just that I can't stand the idea of rotting food, especially rotting pricy food. For other people, it's, "Hey, we got some neat stuff in this box! That's great!" What gets eaten gets eaten, and the rest, ah well. Done and done. It's a fun treat, like a monthly gift.

But for me, it becomes a daily race against produce time, as once-edible items turn into desiccated, moldy proof that I am a wasteful person who was not worthy of them. I compulsively slice and stew and wrap as fast as my little ungrateful hands will allow, mainly to avoid the alternative of throwing it all away. You might reasonably respond, then why don't you just let it go? Why not just live and let Fruit Box? I'm resolving to try, but a phrase keeps coming to mind: "Fruits and nuts... fruits and nuts..."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Supposedly Fun Things.

As the average U.S. home grows ever more bloated in size, this blog continues to operate out of a disproportionately lean abode. It's been this way for awhile, unsurprisingly for someone who has chosen to live in expensive cities with an earning power based on her English B.A. and a smart attitude. For me, "living large" means that my bedroom has an actual door on it.

However, in recent months, my apartmenthold has been fueled by two incomes instead of one. Despite the boost in finances, our current place is smaller and sparser in amenities than the home of anyone we know. It is situated in America's Hangover, otherwise known as Haight-Ashbury, where most of the T-shirts cost $45 or more, but grating street performances and abusive commentary from drug addicts can be had for free.

This setup is fine with me. It's cozy, and the low rent allows us to save money. It also permits us to indulge -- giddily, though not without guilt -- in yuppie pleasures that we were previously unable to afford. It's like being DINK superheroes. By day, we wash our clothes at the laundromat and give away belongings because there's no room for them at home. By night, we dine at Danko and treat ourselves to spa packages.

This list began when I was mocked, deservedly, for uttering the first sentence below. Here are my top 10 ridiculous yuppie complaints of 2006 so far. The items that follow are not verbatim, but they are actual situations that one of us has commented on, usually resulting in a stale look from the other party.

They never give us enough olive oil for the bread at this wine bar.

My roadster convertible is getting totally ruined by street parking.

I can't believe the prices for manchego at this store.

It has taken Kenneth Wingard fully a month to deliver our chairs.

I don't know what it is but I can *never* find an organic chocolate bar that I like. Why is all the good chocolate not organic?

This farmer's market is out of control. Look at that line for microroasted artisanal coffee.

Closed? But this apothecary is the only one in the Marina that stocks Yon Ka products.

That massage was great, but my sinuses always get so clogged from the face cradle.

My tongue is burned from the latte I had today, so I can't fully appreciate this sopressata.

We need to cancel the farm-fresh fruit box delivery. This time they woke us up at six in the morning trying to deliver it, then left it on the street.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Vintage U.M.

The show Mortified operates on the clever theory that within those self-indulgent diary entries you've squirreled away during your teen years, there lies a comedic gold mine. Adults everywhere are encouraged to pick at the great scab of adolescence by dragging out their old journals and reducing -- or perhaps elevating -- them to an onstage act, played for laughs.

I have chronicled every single day of my life in writing since the fifth grade. I keep five-year diaries, which have room for about two or three sentences on each day. I have filled up five of those. For long-form angst that transcends the 24-hour agenda, I keep journals.

Watching people read at the latest Mortified show in San Francisco a few weeks ago, it struck me how often diary entries seem to be addressed to another reader, even though they certainly are written in utmost secrecy and meant to be kept that way. They are filled with apologies ("I'm sorry I haven't written lately"), sign-offs ("Until later,") and queries ("You know what?").

That's how being a teen feels -- like you'd be just as well off talking to paper rather than a human. In terms of loyalty, relatability, and the kind of understanding that can be conveyed only by silence, a journal is about the only thing that will never let you down. It will remain steadfastly -- mercilessly -- true to you, preserving your deepest feelings without rendering judgment. It will stay so true to you that it begs to be betrayed, and that's what Mortified is all about.

I carried my purple, polka-dotted journal (1983-1989) to a Mortified audition one morning last weekend. In a nice parallel of my high school experiences, the casting director had forgotten who I was and that we had arranged an appointment. Nonetheless, he let me in to read.

It's surprising how easy it was to stand up and read mockingly from my own, heartfelt longings as if they were just random discoveries penned by some jackass I never met. I won't even pretend to have evolved much from the 14-year-old who wrote entries such as this one:

DECEMBER 25, 1985

Here I sit on the last hour of Christmas, 11:07 PM exactly. And what a great Christmas it's been! We got a keyboard and the Prince concert video, great clothes and other things. We got a lot of presents. I'm happy, but I feel like crying, because not only is my favorite holiday of the year almost over, I also think about how lucky I am. That's not something to cry about, but I just think about other people who aren't so lucky. Maybe I sound corny -- or hypocritical because I don't do a lot for charity. But that's the way I feel.

I love X-mas so much!!! I love my things, my house, my parents, my family, my health. Maybe I'm making you throw up. Maybe I'm tempting fate, pressing my luck. So I'll shut up....

Every time I read something about Prince, it amazes me how much we seem alike. I always thought if I became a musician, I would play things by ear -- like I do now. Wouldn't learn to read music unless I had to. But I thought, maybe if you're going to be a musician like Prince, you'd have to learn. Then today I read that he couldn't read music either!! He played TV tunes by ear when he was young, just like me! Not to say that just because I have some things in common with Prince that others don't also. But it just freaks me out sometimes. Am I being strange?

It's only because I feel like we're so alike that we should meet or something. I don't know. Maybe we're not as alike as I think. Maybe I'll never know. Maybe it's just an idiotic fantasy. Probably. I'm so strange sometimes. But everyone's a little strange.

I've also been thinking about God more than I used to -- and it's not because of Prince. I think it's Christmas! I may not go to church, but I worship God just the same. I pray more than I used to because I'm starting to relate him to what happens to me. This is not to get really religious or commit myself to a convent (although I might as well, boys are too scared to ask me out or talk to me anyway).

...I realize I sound weird, but don't get the wrong idea. I'm kind of pouring things out because I'm a little melancholy -- end of '85, Christmas, etc.

What I'm trying to say is, I thank God for the things I have. The other thing I'm trying to say is, life is fine, this Christmas was GREAT, and I want to meet Prince, because I think we have a few things in common, and I like him a lot. Now, when you think about it, I'm not so weird after all.

You'd think it would be humbling enough to read such material aloud in front of other people. But what's really humbling, or mortifying if you will, is the possibility that your own failings aren't even compelling enough to pass muster as comedy.

It will, in fact, take more digging and edits if I am to achieve the privilege of publicly humiliating myself under the Mortified imprimatur. But who needs those people? I have the World Wide Web, and all five of you loyal readers out there.

Postscript: OK, so the casting director from Mortified saw this posting and notes that he did remember who I was and that we had an appointment, but just didn't think the time was confirmed. But then, the fact that I always put the worst spin on things is the reason this blog exists, after all.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


My future mother-in-law turned 65 recently. When we asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she answered that she would like us to take her to Gary Danko.

At first I thought maybe this meant we were going to a magic show or a motivational speaking engagement. It turns out that Gary Danko is the eponymous restaurant of a chef who is so confident in his own skill that he need not be concerned by the fact that his name is about as appetizing as a prison dungeon or a movie villain.

Danko is force to be reckoned with. It demands two months' notice for reservations, a large sum of money and a willingness to dine at an establishment whose chef has a logo. We knew, and embraced, the fact that we were going to pay a lot of money ($130 a person, it turned out) for one meal. We hoped, quietly and nervously, that we would not be culinarily hijacked.

And Danko was kind to us. The service was impeccable, the food glorious and the bathrooms equipped with shoe buffers and a feng-shui fountain. I tasted risotto, foie gras, a vegetable tart, various cheeses, lobster, salmon medallions, bananas flambe and a very good pinot noir.

It was necessary to point out how great everything was, earnestly and assiduously, throughout our meal. Why? Because having a meal like that is like going to a movie. You don't break the frame. You decide to believe: believe in micro-cilantro, believe in $2,800 bottles of burgundy, believe in the amuse bouche, believe in Mobil Star ratings. To do otherwise is to let in the notion that what you are doing is vaguely obscene, and perhaps foolish. So we say things like "It's amazing how you can tell the difference with a true quality wine," and "Other places are kind of a rip-off, but this is really worth it," and "This is the best [insert dish here] I have tasted in my entire life!!"

All these things may even be true -- but anyway, they have to be. At Danko you have to shut an eye, open your wallet and bask in the experience. You also have to try not to imagine actual dollar bills being cleared from the table when you fail to finish your dish or beverage. When you discover later that the flawless $100 bottle of pinot is readily available from the vintner for $42, your only consolation is to remind yourself that in the moment, you allowed yourself to believe that it tasted like $100 wine. And it tasted good.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Going to My Head.

One evening in New York, I was making my way through the crowds in Union Square and noticed that one guy, in a group of passing guys, had trained his gaze on me. He was preparing to say something, I could tell. I braced myself for a "Hey, baby" or something of that variety.

As he faded past me and into the crowd, here's what came out: "Nice forehead."

It was the first time that I had ever been publicly mocked by a stranger for my forehead, but it wasn't exactly surprising. I learned early on that my sizeable frontispiece was an aesthetic liability. I wore bangs for my entire childhood and adolescence -- first because that was the cute hairstyle that my mom had picked, and later because hairdressers informed me that I "needed" them.

When I decided, at age 18, to seek independence for my forehead and grow out the fringe, it felt like a major rebellion. On the one hand, I had set myself free from my grade-school look. On the other, I became subject to people telling me that I looked like Helen Hunt, a comparison I do not find desirable. The Hunt comments later gave way to Leelee Sobieski comments. I hoped that the similarities would remain superficial, and that my life trajectory would not mimic those actresses' careers.

I know that Helen, Leelee and I have company in our forehead status, but none of them makes me feel better. It's one thing to have a fivehead and be famous with a great body. It's another to resemble Clint Howard.

Having extra space up there affords me little advantage, as far as I can tell. It would be nice if it meant I could rule a planet, or come up with the cure for cancer using my huge frontal lobe. Instead, all it really means is more real estate for my skin problems.

Women's magazines always say to accentuate anything "different" that you may be self-conscious about, thus turning beauty lemons into lemonade. I'm not sure how one would accentuate a large forehead, other than using it as space for advertisements or tattoos. Lately I'm wondering if it's time to just grow my bangs back instead.

No Relation.

A coworker brought her young daughter in to work today. The coworker looks to be in her late 40s; the girl is probably eight. They both have full cheeks, fair hair and blue eyes. "You guys look alike," I say.

The girl smiles. "Do you hear that a lot?" I ask her. She nods and kind of rolls her eyes.

"Yes, we do hear that a lot," my coworker says. "Which is very funny, because she is adopted."

There's really no way to recover from that, is there? Nonetheless, I tried to defend my comment by continuing to point out the specific similarities between these two totally biologically distinct people. I didn't really get anywhere in trying to convince them that they could be related.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Just Waitin' on a Friend.

I don't know whether this represents a feline U.M., but let's anthropomorphize for a moment. Dusty seemed to be spending more time than usual sitting on the desk, looking intently outside. It soon became apparent why: Right across the window bay, no more than five feet away, was another kitty cat, sitting on a table, staring back out its window at Dusty.

The tension was palpable. The other cat would only show half of his face in the window, using one eye to surveil his neighbor. We humans excitedly got behind Dusty and stared too, hoping no humans would show up on the other side. "Dusty! You have new friend!" we exclaimed. Dusty meowed. The other cat stayed silent and half hidden, but watchful.

Days elapsed and Dusty developed what could fairly be called a fixation. Every morning he sat by the window, stock still and vigilant. Many times his new "friend" was a no-show. Dusty waited. "This might not be healthy for you," Dusty was advised. He ignored us.

On the days when Mr. Big would materialize, now fully in the window at close range, Dusty would jump from the desk and onto the window sill, meowing and pawing the window pane as if to say, "I can't get this thing open right now -- but don't worry, I'm working on it." Big never moved or made a sound.

Now we look for Mr. Big along with Dusty. We don't see Big's humans, and we like it that way. It keeps the relationship pure.

But it's a dysfunctional relationship, and we know it. Some mornings I wake up to the sound of claws tapping on glass, as Dusty tries ever optimistically to open the window between him and the one being he identifies with in the world right now. Big remains impervious, as does the window. It's a fitting allegory, no?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Last Pick.

Writing a summary e-mail at work today, I realized that I almost neglected to include an item that someone else had worked on.

"I am not a team player," I thought, with some guilt. Chances are, if I'm not working on it, then I'm not thinking about it. Hell, I probably don't want to even know about it: That's someone else's problem.

I remember scanning want-ads in my early 20s, fresh out of college and eager to please. The ads featured hiring phrases that I initially tried to embody, and then came to loathe:

  • Team player
  • Self-starter
  • Go-getter
  • Detail-oriented
  • Flexible
What about the candidates who would rather not concern themselves with what everybody else is working on and instead plug away at an assigned task in a non-aggressive and non-anal fashion, for a specified period of time that does not include weeknights, weekends or holidays?

"Team player" bothers me because in general, I do not like "teams." I hated group projects in school, since they usually involved being forced to go over to some random person's house and share extracurricular time, not to mention a grade, with peers not of my choosing. As for team sports, I lost interest in those when puberty struck and I wasn't allowed to compete with boys anymore.

There's no "I" in team, but there is usually a windy individual who swiftly becomes despised by the others. There's usually someone who cares about everything *except* the task at hand. And there's usually someone who can hardly spell his or her own name, much less contribute anything useful.

The worst manifestation of the team is at seminars, where it is accompanied by a host of unsavory concepts such as name tags, white boards, public self-introduction, random partner assignments, working lunches and presentations. My last temp-team experience involved a "skit," role-playing, and being required to consider and reveal what kind of musical instrument I would be. At that particular event, I suppose the instrument that best expressed my performance would have been the triangle, or perhaps the gong -- you know, something that gets trotted out every once in awhile, but is usually content to hang in the corner.

So no, I do not like teams. On the other hand, I don't like being lonesome or unpaid. So I endure the team (and it endures me), while I dream of someday getting one of those elusive employments that seem autonomous yet not isolated: pop star, pro tennis player, masseuse... clown?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Nae, Laddie, Nae.

A first: Yesterday I encountered a man at my office who was wearing a skirt. I saw him again today, at the elevator, wearing a skirt of a different color.

There is pretty much no way to see a guy hangin' around wearing a skirt in your office and be cool about it. My approach was to glance down at his legs, realize what he was wearing, quickly yet still too-obviously avert my eyes, and proceed past him as quickly as possible.

I mean if you are male and wearing a skirt in the office, you might as well just wear a matching t-shirt that says, "Ask me about my man-skirt." Well, I do not want to ask about the man-skirt or even let on that I noticed it. That's because whenever I sense that someone is tacitly seeking attention in some way, my first reaction is to ignore that person as completely as possible.

However, I did involuntarily see the label on the skirt, which was Utilikilt. That would be a "Mens Unbifurcated Garment," in case you required clarification.

Are these items being worn by Scotsmen who are proudly guarding their heritage, if not their balls? No, according to the Utilitykilts people. "The only common denominator amongst [our customers] is self-possession and courage. Our customers dare to be comfortable."

Actually, there are several other common denominators amongst "UKers," judging by the site's photo galleries: beards, pale skin, and a fondness for computers seem to be pretty much standard. Tattoos and self-importance also appear to be popular accessories.

Just imagine if everyone "dared to be comfortable" at the office. Imagine all the napping, elastic waistbands, exposed feet and escaped gas. Unfortunately, one person's comfort-courage usually has a price, that being a palpable drop in comfort for those who are forced to witness it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Snacking and the Damage Done.

First you make your habits, and then your habits make you.
You become a slave to your constantly repeated acts.
What at first you choose, at last compels.

I encountered this bit of Successories-style wisdom as I was contemplating my fourth (snack-size!) bag of Party Mix today.

Party Mix has been my master for about three years now. Like many addicts, I'm not sure exactly when or how it got so bad. It all started innocently enough, with a trip to the vending machine in the cafeteria at work.

At that machine I found the pefect antidote such dire circumstances as being in an office at 4 p.m. "Can't decide between Cheetos, BBQ Fritos, Doritos, pretzel rounds or tortilla rounds? Well, why not enjoy them all in one glorious snacking power play?" That's what the Party Mix bag said to me, and I heeded the call.

It never seemed to matter that I always felt a little ill after eating it. It didn't matter that I never saw another human buying it or consuming it. All that mattered was how the crunchity saltiness seemed somehow to take away the pain for a few minutes.

The problem only worsened when I left one job for another, trading my old "dealer" (which stocked Keystone) for a new vending machine, where the Party Mix was of the Utz variety (higher quality, with a reassuring "0g Trans Fats!" label) and the bags were bigger and more expensive.

The seating arrangement at my office in D.C. lent itself to easy daily scrutiny of eating habits, and it wasn't long before it became clear to my coworkers that I was unable to get through an afternoon without eating a bag of P.M. I tried to kick by using other snacks -- Soy Nuts, Sun Chips -- but those were to Party Mix what O'Doul's is to Guinness.

One podmate was particularly good at giving me a chuckling look when I would try to return nonchalantly to my desk with the sodiumtastic combo of P.M. and D.C. (Diet Coke) in hand. It was a look that said "I see you," and "Oh, you poor thing," and "Your lack of discipline is endlessly amusing." My only consolation was that through sheer force of daily exposure to me, she too became addicted (though not as badly) and I could know I was not alone.

When I left Washington and moved into an office with a P.M.-free vending machine, I thought my long struggle was finally over. I could now feel what it was like to enjoy an afternoon without red 40 lake, disodium guanylate, "natural smoke flavor" and the other mystery ingredients with which I had been poisoning myself five days a week.

I was not to taste that freedom. Within a week of my arrival, a case of 60 bags of Party Mix arrived from Utz Quality Foods, Inc., courtesy of my former D.C. podmates (or "enablers") -- a gesture that proves what a thin line it is between love and hate. I tried to explain to my new S.F. coworkers why a huge cardboard box teeming with purple snackfood bags was at my desk, but they seemed to find it more disturbing than amusing.

Now, having failed to initiate any dependencies among my officemates here, I have been left to face my demons alone. The Utz trove mocks me daily, seemingly refilling itself from the bottom. And I am here eating away, stuck at a Party that never ends...

Monday, April 10, 2006

Veiled Threat: Part One.

I became engaged in February, and when the news was announced, my sister was among the first to step up with a token. "Here," she said with a snicker, and pushed across her kitchen counter a two-inch copy of The Knot magazine.

Having previously spent my energy on deflecting solid relationships and honing an arsenal of solitary rituals, I was as suprised as anyone to find myself in the target demographic of The Knot or any other bridal publication. But here I was, reading it with a mixture of fear, excitement and mostly confusion.

My wedding experience up to now amounts to one underwhelming performance as a bridesmaid and a handful of attendances as a thoroughly uninvolved guest. Generally, my interest in wedding details can be summed up as "Where is the bar," "Did I miss eating anything" and "How can I get out of this conversation."

Now, I am facing primers on invitation wording and guides to fine china. "I am not the kind of girl who always imagined what her wedding day would be like," I said mid-freakout to Mike, who is my fiance. (When we were going out, Mike used to complain about how engaged people cling to the word fiance. "There is no difference between being a fiance and being boyfriend and girlfriend," he declared. "You're either married, or you're not. There's no special, in-between status." Now that we're engaged, of course, he has come around to the word, but not before leaving me with a near inability to say it any other way than with faux pretension, the way we did pre-betrothal: "Fee YAWN say.")

"Well, do you want to walk down the aisle?" Mike said. "What do you mean?" I said. "Do you want a ceremony where you enter alone and walk down the aisle? Not everyone has an aisle," he informed me. "Of course I want an aisle," I said. "See? You have some ideas about what you want for your wedding," he said. And the sheer mind-blowing dimensions of decision-making chain I was about to encounter became that much clearer.

One of the weirdest parts of the magazine my sister gave me is the bridal gowns section, which takes up a considerable amount of the issue. One of the first things that struck me about bridal fashion is that unlike in other types of fashion, the models are not threatening. In many cases, they look positively suicidal and leave me hoping that whatever happens, I will not end up looking like the person pictured in the dress and have some hope of doing better for myself.

The other bizarre aspect of bridal fashion photography is the way models are often set up to appear in scenarios that, if they are lucky, most real-life brides will never find themselves in. I liked this one so much that I gave it my own caption.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Scared Straight.

The catnip toy looks cute and innocuous. The packaging on the catnip toy has no instructions, per se. It merely says things such as "Hours of fun" and "100% organic."

The packaging does not say "Guaranteed to trip your cat out until the break of dawn" or "Will set your kitty a-humpin'" or "Watch this instead of whatever you have from Netflix tonight." But the package should say those things.

Until the other night I had never seen a kitty with catnip. I had also never seen a kitty hump a shoe, stare spacily as if he'd seen the feline Jesus, and all but ask me to smack his ass and call him Judy.

First of all I don't think I've laughed that hard in weeks. Second of all I felt wrong the whole time. This graceful, reserved creature was helplessly chasing a little 'nip-stuffed chili pepper, occasionally losing his orientation and generally freaking out. He was making an ass of himself, if a cat can in fact make an ass of himself.

"Don't worry, Dusty, it's happened to a ton of people at frat parties," I said. Could this be healthy? I mean sure, cats should be allowed to get fucked up just like the rest of us, but did it have to be so intense??

Just like a frat jackass, Dusty kept me up with his partying antics half the night.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


bunnyGenerally speaking, I don't like spring. People are vocal about their yearning for the change of season, but here's what it means to me: rain, fluctuating temperatures, crippling hay fever (the only kind of "spring fever" I know) and pressure to clean things even more than I already clean them (which is plenty, thanks).

My feelings about the season can be best expressed by this photo of an Easter display at Duane Reade that I took a few years ago in New York. At the time, I was rounding the corner on a depressing walk through the Flower District from my depressing apartment in Murray Hill to my depressing job near Penn Station. I don't typically pay a ton of attention to drugstore window displays, but something about this one struck me when I looked closer.

I'm guessing that the third bunny to the right was a "Secret Surprise" indeed, judging by his companions' appearance. Godspeed little ones, I know your pain!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Family Values.

Right now I am living at my parents'. It's only for two weeks (honest), but that doesn't make it any easier to watch the trailer for Failure to Launch, among other things, while sitting on the couch next to my mommy and daddy.

I thought I'd transcended all of the discomfort I might be expected to endure the other night, after realizing that The 40-Year-Old Virgin had way more jokes about erections and porn than I wanted to enjoy in the company of my parents. But that was before Oscar night.

Anyone watching last night's ceremony may have blocked out Ben Stiller's bizarre yet unfunny green-suit moment, if not the entire show. The bit is not worth recounting, except to note that it involved a very tight unitard. Jon Stewart made a joke about how Ben Stiller had proved the fact that he was Jewish to everyone.

Then my dad said: "I don't get it."

There was a pause, during which my mom and I both mulled our options for enlightening my dad using the fewest words possible. Before I could offer my explanation, my mom said with a tone of authority, "It's because Jewish men are supposed to be so well endowed."

After I recovered from my bewilderment, I said, "I think he was referring to circumcision," and hoped the subject would be dispensed with not only because, well, suddenly I was talking about penises with my parents, but also because my fiance is Jewish.

I learned at a young age that before embarking on a trip or transition, you should always try to anticipate anything bad that could happen, as a preventive measure. Obviously if I had considered the idea that I might come down with chicken pox on our family vacation to the Bahamas, for example, it would not have happened, because the things that really get you are the things you didn't think of beforehand.

So it's obvious in retrospect that I should have worried about the possibility that my fiance's anatomy might come up in conversation during my time at my parents', but I failed in this regard, and now the moment was trundling right toward me.

Now we were squabbling over my mom's assertion, a stereotype neither my dad nor I had ever heard before. It emerged that the source was her best friend's ex-husband, a man unafraid of blatantly lying to serve his own interest, but a Jewish man nonetheless. Still, my mom's revelation of her source for this information produced howls of derision from my dad and me.

Well, hmm, who else might know about this? Who in the room had seen a Jewish man's member recently? I resolved to remain silent.

My mom didn't like they way she'd been argued down and waited before delivering the inevitable last word: "I'm sure Mike would be glad to back this up," she said, laughing. I said, "I'm sure he would," and laughed too. Then I proceeded to block the conversation from memory for several hours.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Buyer's Market.

When I decided to move from New York back home to the D.C. area, it was a precarious situation: I had neither a job nor any apparent prospects. But I did have a sister who was partnered in an upstart coffee company. So I offered to help out.

My sister’s company participated in “road shows,” where they took up weekend-long residence in kiosks at Costco stores and sold as much coffee as they could, earning stock space on the shelves. I found myself, not unhappily at first, standing on the concrete floors of various Costcos in the sub-suburbs, brewing and handing out little cups of coffee to shoppers.

Working those road shows made me feel a new tenderness for humanity. You see people who are disintegrating before your eyes: old people who haven't washed in a very long time; women with skewed wigs; trucker types who don't give a shit about your damn coffee because Folgers wakes them up just as good and costs a lot less. Lots of unspoken spousal weariness. Nobody is looking at one another. In fact, everybody is actively endeavoring not to look at each other. Why bother with other humans when there are so many vast shelves of product that you never knew you needed, until you found that it was larger and cheaper than you ever imagined it could be? It is disconcertingly impossible for anything in Costco to look alive, unless it is stuffed.

Samples of all kinds are plentiful at Costco. Food demonstrators -- mostly older, pillowy, lunch-lady types in hairnets -- distribute mushroom ravioli, mozzarella sticks, chicken taquitos, juice, chocolates, anything from the aisles they populate. After awhile, you develop your own sampler peeves. For my sister, it was foreigners who motioned at the pots and grunted but would not pick a specific coffee to sample. For me, it was people who openly grimaced or made disparaging remarks after drinking it. It was also both frustrating and saddening to watch the same person making the sample rounds without a shopping cart, multiple times in one weekend.

Here are my top 10 least favorite things people would say when they would approach our kiosk, which usually offered four different types of coffee for sampling.

You got cognac to put in that?
I'll have a tall half-caf latte with hazelnut syrup!
Which one is the best?
Gimme sumthin that'll put hair on my chest.
I'll try the Mo-tscha.
Is this grounded? Can you ground this for me?
This tastes bitter.
This tastes like Starbucks.
I want to try the expensive one!
Yes, regular please.

In the warehouse, I felt more tied to the word "worker" than I ever had in my life. When I got home I was literally sick from the smell of coffee. I don't think I had spent that many consecutive hours on my feet in many years, if ever. I slept a better sleep than I had ever slept. It seemed, after working in a series of offices at sending messages into a vacuum called the Internet, like the most honest work I had done in a long time. It also felt even more invisible.

It became very important to me that the person I was serving at least acknowledged my existence: gave me some eye contact, ideally said thank you, maybe even asked an intelligent question. The low occurrence of this behavior became excruciating, to the point where I began saying snarky things to those who failed my courtesy standards, as they were walking away. Often they were still dangerously within earshot. But of course, they never heard me.

A year later, when I was back to being gainfully employed by the Internet, I asked my sister if her company needed any help with the holiday road shows. "Are you insane?" she said, and certified me as such by not entertaining the offer for a second longer. Sure, the question had some validity. Why on earth would I want to repeat, again, the experience of being on my feet for 12 hours in a drafty warehouse, giving away coffee shots to harried masses? I don't know why. But I really did.

Friday, February 24, 2006


I work for a media organization and am in charge of a feature inviting our audience to submit their picks for particularly memorable stories we have produced. People will write about that cute pet commentary and how it reminded them of their own animal, or how that story on astronomy was so enlightening that they just couldn't tear themselves away, or how their heart goes out to the person featured in XYZ story, etc.

Occasionally as I'm screening and selecting e-mails for this feature, I receive responses that range from disturbing to disturbed. It gets me thinking about what must motivate people to write messages that are so heartfelt yet so hopelessly inappropriate for publication. It feels wrong to delete them, so I store all of these messages in a file entitled "pain."

This one is the latest and most clearly delusional:

Regions Bank at 1300 W Ksiser Osceola Ar.72370 sent me a letter on the 2-9-06 giving me 10 day to close my account cause i have had 2 picture of Klan on the they being on my check for 33 year now Kait 8 come out on 2 - 21-06 an run a story about it if you like to do one call me at [phone number] i am home by 2:00 pm i was done wrong at Regison bank thank you Your Wayne [last name]

This message is exactly as I received it, except for the deleted personal information. I don't run things at my company but can say with some certainty that we won't be pursuing this man's story offer.

Here is another one:

I don't have a working car... This situation has existed ever since I was illegally fired in 1982 from a tenured, full professorship at Eastern Michigan University. Probably professional jealousy was the main reason from grants and publications I got. Now, I am most concerned the illegal method used to fire me could threaten all tenured teachers since it "worked" with me making me permanently unemployable for the past 23+ years. Thus, no car. Tenure was there to protect teachers from situations just like this. [My wife and I] get away from this by working as volunteer rangers in national parks, e.g., Mount Rainier and Olympic Rain Forest.

Since the other ones involve suicide, alcoholism and molestation, they have to stay in my Drafts folder: strangers' pain with noplace to go.

"Someone was telling my story," one of them wrote, "a story I never knew how to tell."

Monday, February 13, 2006


Before getting into my dentist visit from today, I'd like to give a shout out to the ONDCP for the most disturbing ad I've seen in quite some time. I walked by a mall billboard showing an artificially compressed girl today, after already having been traumatized by the TV version, and watched to see if the teens passing by happened to glance at it and acknowledge how graphically and effectively it represented the difficulties of peer pressure, and how it made them realize that taking drugs just wasn't worth it, man. I think too many of them were distracted by the Abercrombie & Fitch store directly ahead of them, though.

Anyway it's been awhile since I've felt violated by my television, so it's good to know some bright ad whiz out there is earning his or her keep.

Neither infancy nor narcotics can be blamed for my lying passed out in my car in the parking lot outside my dentist today, but there you have it. Let's call it SAD, in one way or another. I nearly fell asleep at the wheel while driving to my appointment in lovely Gaithersburg, Md., but made it there 45 mins. early nonetheless. Instead of going into the waiting room, I cozied up to the driver's side window and took a nap, wondering what would happen if someone came up to one of the cars parked on either side of me. I kept having visions of people laughing it me, or calling 911, but the double-edged sword about suburbia is that you could do anything but have sex in your car and no one is going to notice or do a damn thing about it.

Anyway, I walked into my dentist's office feeling refreshed, yet slightly disturbed at how necessary the car-nap had seemed.

If you know the D.C. area, you might say, gee Christina, you must like traffic! Otherwise why would you go out to Gaithersburg from downtown? Are you a Costco member?

But see, I've been going to this dentist for about 28 years. 28 years and they still call me Christine instead of Christina. They still play some vaguely country music on the loudspeakers, though it's not as hardcore as it used to be. They don't carry Highlights anymore, but they still have Town and Country.

They're still as nice as pie and ask about my siblings, because they remember when we all used to come together, with my mom. No matter how much you go through in life -- peer pressure, braces, aging and pain -- it's always the same at Schneider Family Dentistry. There's weather, there's vacations, there's holidays, there's floss, there's family, and there's your next appointment in six months. That's something. No?