Monday, January 31, 2005

Amy's Thoughts on Television Shows She Loves to Hate

I hate television. But I cannot stop watching it. I lived without a television at my disposal for six months when I lived at URI. My roommate didn't have a TV and I didn't particularly want one. If I really wanted to watch something (such as the Police edition of "Behind the Music") I'd go into the common room and watch it there. And it was great to live without television in the room. I wrote more, spent more time with friends (sometimes watching TV) and went to the gym with Yvette. Things were good.
But since I've lived in Boston, television has sucked me back in. It's almost always on at my apartment, and once I sit in front of the blasted thing it's hours before I manage to get my ass up and do something productive. There's always something that will hold my interest for a while. The evening news. The 7pm rerun of the previous night's Daily Show. Perhaps the occasional Simpsons rerun. Then prime time.
I'm not even watching quality educational programming. I seldom watch PBS. I usually don't watch the History Channel or learn about bugs on the Discovery Channel. I've been on a kick of watching the crappiest shows that the networks can market to the masses. So, in the manner of confessing sins at church (which I only know about from watching TV), I shall describe my horrible television watching antics. It may get ugly.

Sunday nights are all about ABC. At 8pm, it's Extreme Home Makeover. If you've never seen this show, you're missing out on a sob-fest to rival any chick flick in the theaters today. The once-attractive, now endlessly annoying Ty Pennington (the former carpenter on Trading Spaces) leads a team of impossibly attractive designers, carpenters and a gay man with blinding teeth to a family that has a crappy/condemned/unsuitable home. The family sends a video to ABC, usually with at least one family member openly sobbing into the camcorder. The ones that get to me are the kids with terminal illnesses or horrible disabilities. One "very special episode" had a family with deaf parents, a son without disabilities, and a son with severe autism AND who was blind. The autistic son was escaping the house in the middle of the night, the parents had to keep the him within sight at all times to make sure he was okay, and the "normal" kid had to hold everything down and call the cops when his brother went missing. The designers wept openly about how terrible it was for these people, specialists came on to illustrate what it's like to be a kid with autism and it was all very sad. And, despite my tough-girl exterior, I usually get a little teared up at the end of the show when the family is so happy to be in their new house with all the top of the line appliances from Sears. Sometimes, as was the case at the end of the episode with the autistic kid, I cry openly, since the boy loved to swing and the carpenters built him a huge swing with bells on it and the kid just laughed himself silly. And I felt that all was right with the world, until Desperate Housewives comes on at 9pm.
I have a love/hate relationship with Desperate Housewives. In my older years, I've developed an appreciation for the prime time soap operas (90210 reruns, etc). I like thinking that other people's lives are even more complicated than my own. I like Desperate Housewives' twist on the melodrama (older women in somewhat committed relationships, suburbia instead of urban settings) but the writing isn't that great. They're good at keeping things mysterious with all the plot twists, but some little things just take you completely out of the show. In one episode, one of the couples needs to buy a water heater. In one scene, the wife is out looking for a body in the woods. Then the scene changes to something that's happening while the women are in the woods, but somehow the wife is at the mall when she was JUST in the woods. What? In other episodes, something is happening in the afternoon, and then it shifts immediately to the evening without explanation. Plot lines start and end without explanation. All I can say is that 24 is way better at suspense and keeping things continuous than Desperate Housewives is. But, the actual dialogue is pretty funny in Desperate Housewives, especially for Bree's character. But, I may be biased, because I love me some redheads.

Next time: Ashlee Simpson's show (to be renamed "I swear to God I'm a legitimate singer and not the spoiled white girl version of Milli Vanilli").

Phases of the Moon

Or, How I Ended Up at Centerfolds

Sometimes I wish I had the ability to understand phases of the moon. I know it's a very hippy-ish and somewhat trivial thing to know, but sometimes I think that the forces of nature exert more force on us iPod-toting, cell-phone yammering human beings would like to admit. If I had the knowledge of when the moon would be tugging our brains to one side of our heads and making us batshit crazy, I'd be smart enough to stay home and avoid all contact with other people.
Maybe it was the snow. For most of the week last week, I was running a circuit like sea lions swimming in the tank at the aquarium. Home, work, home. Home, work, home. Wake up, make the excruciating commute into the office, sit in front of my computer all day, get back on the train, go home and sit in front of my laptop wishing that it would somehow electrocute me because at least that would break up the monotony. I think I prayed for fire, locusts and plague all week. But it was too cold and snowy for any of those things, so instead I was left to entertain myself.
By either the fault of the moon, snow or chemical imbalance, Friday found me out of my mind. After the fifth consecutive day of a hellacious commute (it took me an hour and twenty minutes to make a twenty minute commute) and being in my house for the majority of the evening the night before, I was out of my mind. I'd lost all sense of professionalism, as I entered my cubicle, drop-kicked my lunch, removed my shoes to make sure my toes were still attached to my feet, and started cursing. And not quietly. I mean bellowing, booming, hate-filled tirades about the MBTA, how much I hated all of humanity and every single flake of snow that had ever fallen from the sky. Kristen and Kerri patiently listened to my ranting and commiserated, since the three of us had been flipping out all week long. Everyone's nerves were frayed, so I should have decided to pack it up at 5PM and go home to stew in my own misanthropy. Instead, I suggested that we head out for $4 pitchers of PBR after work. Kristen, Katherine and Katherine's boyfriend Sebastian agreed to go out, if only to escape the home-office-home continuum that had swallowed us whole for a week.
I was tired when I left work. I assumed it would be an early night since none of us had been paid in two weeks. We arrived at Jacob Wirth's and eventually flagged down the oblivious waitress. However, once she delivered the first pitcher of PBR, things started looking better. Kristen, Sebastian and Katherine talked football while I paid slight attention. Then we trashed talked work. We ordered some chicken fingers. We drank some more.
Somewhere along the line, Katherine called the Whatever to see what he was up to. He was at a retirement party for a coworker, but agreed to join us in Chinatown for some post-drinking noodles. Since he'd be a while, we ordered our fifth pitcher of cheap beer, and Sebastian made me ask the piano player to play "Fat Bottomed Girls" for everyone to sing along to. After the slurred rendition of the song we paid the remarkably low tab and shuffled reluctantly back into the cold and ducked into the first noodle house we saw.
Perhaps the moon was unusually close to the Earth around 11PM on Friday night. Maybe it was the five hours of drinking cheap beer that completely numbed my better judgment. I may have been exhausted. But someone brought up the idea of going to Centerfolds, Boston's classiest strip joint. And somehow, the Whatever convinced three girls and a tired guy to visit the strip club even though the evening should have ended with noodles and sake, not boobies and watered-down rum and Cokes.
I'd never been to a strip club before, so I rationalized it as a learning experience. While I know women's brains and libidos work differently from those of men, I just don't understand the appeal. At first, it's kind of hot to see a completely naked woman writhing around in public. Then the blonde is replaced by a brunette, and does the exact same dance. Walk around, dance with the dress on, slowly remove the skin-tight sequined dress, dance around with the thong on, slowly remove the thong (ass facing the audience), dance naked, gather up the money and leave. Then a brunette with glasses comes onstage and does the same dance, but with glasses. By the time the fifth dancer showed up, I'd sucked what little rum was in my Coke completely dry and was watching the basketball game on the big screen TVs on either side of the stage. Katherine and Sebastian had left, and Kristen and I were ready to go.
I didn't get home until 3:30, toting my leftover noodles and newly refreshed misanthropy up the stairs to my apartment. I drop-kicked my pocketbook, stubbed my toe on my roommate's suitcase, threw the noodles into the fridge and crankily went to bed. Saturday was a waste, since I'd woken up at 8:30 feeling just as cranky as when I'd went to bed. I managed to make it to a movie with my roommate, but was in bed at 8:30 on a Saturday night like a grounded junior high schooler.
I take comfort in the fact that I am not the only one who's been in a foul mood lately. Kristen's been angry with her roommate, my Mom was on an irrational tear yesterday and Kerri said she's been on edge too. I can only hope that the moon changes phases or that the snow continues to melt before I have no friends or loved ones left to be angry at.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

White Shit

I take pride in being a New Englander. New Englanders have been here the longest out of all the immigrants to this country. We had to work REAL hard to make it in America, and we've got the class and culture to show for it. We have old buildings, the oldest institute of higher learning in the country and a great sense of regional pride. You know what else we have?
Snow. A lot of fucking snow.
New Englanders pride themselves on their hardy constitutions. "Oh, it's just some snow," they say, a mountian of gray-black snow behind them. When stuck at Logan, they wave at the television cameras as if they're waiting for a rollercoaster at Disney World, not waiting an hour and a half to be told the flight is full and they won't be leaving this city of culture for at least two days. We suck it up, soldier through and try not to complain.
This makes me a very bad New Englander, because I have done little but piss and moan about the snow and cold. No television cameras have been on me, so I haven't had to play brave. Sunday found me holed up in my apartment, watching eight hours of "I Love the '90s Part Deux" in a catatonic-like state. I got up only to fetch the ice cream or popcorn and occasionally look out the window at the piles of snow. My landlord and his family was outside for at least six hours trying to remove the snow from the sidewalk and driveway.
Everything is more difficult when there's 2 feet of snow outside. All the little shortcuts I take (walk across the middle of St. James Ave to get to the coffee shop across the street instead of walking to the crosswalk, jog across Beacon St to get to the T before the next line of cars comes barreling down the hill) are covered in a five foot drift of snow, so I have to use the shoveled paths which takes longer. The C line runs on a "whenever we goddamn feel like it" schedule instead of the usual "we're on our damn way, hold on a minute" schedule. The hems of my pants look like litmus paper with salt and dirt wicked up the backs of my legs. I can't wear cute clothes because they'll be covered in mud and slush before I make it to the end of the street. I have a perpetual case of hat head and chapped lips. I can't bring myself to sit in front of the television again after the marathon session I spent in front of it on Sunday. I come home from work, remove my snow-caked boots at the front door, step in a puddle that the boots made as I opened and closed the door, curse, go into my room and remove the soaking wet pants, get salt on the floor, curse, put on my pajama bottoms and slippers and heave a big sigh because I'm at home at 5:30 without a damn thing to keep me busy until I go to sleep.
Todd Gross, the channel 7 weatherman, is a dead man if I ever see him. If he's smart, he'll forecast a sunny and warm day the next time a snowstorm is about to dump an additional 6" on top of the 28" already on the ground, book a flight to Mexico and never look back. If I see his bad bleach job hair on my TV screen again, followed by the words "inches of snow" anytime soon, I may just lose it. Chikage can stay, however, because she is cool and the boys love her.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Snow Up to My Tan Lines

I love New England. I was born and raised here. The concierge at the fabulous Caribe Royale in Florida said he could tell I was from New England. Something comes out of our pores that notifies the residents of the more temperate climes of this country that we are tough and hardy people, not to be messed with.
This does not mean that I didn't stomp my feet like a frustrated three year old when it came time for me to hop into the rented car and be taken to the airport. I'd been sitting by the pool all day on Friday when my mother called.
"Did you hear?"
"Hear what?" I asked, wriggling my toes in the Reef flip-flops I'd been wearing all week, my head hazy with sunshine and cold medicine.
"It's going to snow. Like, a lot. A blizzard. On Saturday night."
I did some quick calculations in my mind. It wouldn't be snowing soon enough to strand me in Florida, but it would be snowing when the Whatever's flight was supposed to take off. I started to resent him for being on the good side of this act of God. So when he said that we should leave for the airport, I started to stomp my feet.
"I don't WANNA go back!" I whined, stomping into the bedroom to change into my jeans, and put the three layers of sweaters, my hat and the two pairs of gloves I'd brought with me into my carry-on.
"You can always reschedule your flight for Saturday or Sunday and get stuck here too."
He mentioned this idea about ten minutes before we had to leave, so it was too late. I also had spent far more than I'd wanted to (damn you Disney!) so I knew it was time for me to head back to Boston, where I could eat breakfast for less than $7. (To be fair, I could have had an all-you-can-eat breakfast at the Ponderosa for $3.99 if I'd walked my lazy ass across the street.)
I don't have a love for Florida, mind you. As we drove to the airport, we were stuck behind a guy with a mullet, driving a truck on huge tires that rendered it unable to travel at more than seventy miles per hour with the engine groaning loudly. The houses are all made of concrete painted different shades of pastel colors, screened-in tents surrounding the small backyards to keep the bugs at bay. Everything was homogenous and bland and inoffensive. It's remarkable that Florida has such a tourism-based economy since there's not much to look at, and it's not that pleasant there during the spring and summer months. But I left with a weight on me knowing that I was leaving the prefab environment that was in the seventies for the interesting and diverse Boston that was in the teens with an imminent blizzard.
Now I'm back here, my body ravaged by two infections (pink eye and a UTI that had me weeping) and possibly a third, judging by my cough and endless sinus drainage. I had to traipse through 2 feet of snow to get to work, even though the governor said we should all stay home (but, hey, there's free pizza!). I am also hating the Whatever since he is snowed in in Florida, riding rollercoasters and putting zinc on his nose. But at least I got a little time in the sun to hold me over until the thaw. In June.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Pack Your Bags, Y'all...

Cuz I'm going to Florida!
It's lame. I know. Florida isn't a great international destination. Usually when I go on vacation I try to go someplace with a culture different than New England/the United States. This involves me running from destination from destination at speeds that would make a marathoner jealous and feeling exhausted once I get back.
Florida doesn't really seem like it's part of the South, but it's not New England. Most notably because it's not colder than Jennifer Anniston's loins in Florida. There may actually be plant life that is green outdoors in Florida. As I sit here in my woolly sweater, all the culture of Boston and Europe could not drag me away from the idea of lying on the side of a pool drinking some fruity cocktail reading a book that will kill my brain. I hope to stagger up to Mickey Mouse and give him rabbit ears in a picture with him. I want to go swimming. Swimming!
Apparently, we're staying at a posh resort about a mile away from Disney World. There's a waterslide at the HOTEL pool. Since the last time I went to Florida was in 1987 and I stayed in a trailer with my grandmother, this is blowing my mind. I imagine myself in comically large, Jackie-O sunglasses with my hair tied back in a scarf driving around in a convertible. I cannot wait.
And now that I have encited you all to voilence, I will get my pitchfork and torch repellent ready. Along with my sunscreen. Hee hee hee.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

My Name's Amy...

... and I love Ashlee Simpson.
Hiiii Amy.
And you can all just shut the hell up right now, you naysayers and hipsters, you. I have listened to your Postal Service and your Modest Mouse and I like them too. But sometimes, you just need the melodious wail of a teenager who has been marketed more than Happy Meals to get to the heart of your emotions. Inside, we are all tortured little girls who dye our hair black in a desperate attempt to establish an identity other than "that big-breasted virgin pop star's sister." Or something.
It all began innocently enough. Ashlee's infectious first single, "Pieces of Me" came on the radio in the spring of 2004. If it came on while I was driving around Rhode Island, I would turn it up and wail along. Even with the windows down, I'd throw my head back and yell "OOOOOOOH, it seems like I can fIIIIIIIIIInally rest my HEAD on something REAAAAAL...". It was all good clean fun at the time, but now I see that idyllic time for what it was: a gateway into a more dangerous place. Her whole album.
When Stephanie and I were preparing for our trip to Colorado in August, she said that she'd bought some CDs. "I got Thriller, Jessica Simpson's album and Ashlee's too."
I groaned, as any good graduate of Emerson College would, at the horrible fate I was destined for. The Simpson sisters blaring out of the speakers of a 2-door Jetta in the midwest, where the only radio to come in would be country or religious programming, with nowhere to go except out of my mind. I resigned myself to fate, folded myself into the dangerously overloaded Jetta and got ready for the auditory onslaught.
Jessica's album sucked hard. While Jessica has the better voice of the two, her treacly songs about love, God, and her Muppet-esque husband make me want to slap the nearest blonde I see and hope she feels it. She sucks, end of story.
Ashlee has a voice that sounds like the breaks on a bus. In her song "Shadow," she wails about how her parents abandoned her in the hopes of whoring out their cuter eldest daughter to the Christian rock scene, and whenever she sings "dream" she squeaks. "Livin' in the SHADOW of someone else's drEEEEEEAm." It's painful to listen to. Yet I cannot stop.
Her ballads are terrible, but her uptempo songs are awesome and infect the brain like syphallis. The new one, "La La," is especially catchy. What's it about? I have no idea. Something about a French maid, a lineman (I think she means "linebacker") and liking it rough. Something about it makes me dance around my bedroom like a lunatic, and I even find myself singing along to it on my iPod. Yes, I have even committed to downloading her songs to listen to. Whenever I want.
I also like "Autobiography." I am a writer. Maybe someday I will write an autobiography. I like the part about "stains on my t-shirt" because I am forever dropping food on myself. It's as if she knows me.
Do not weep for me. I am already too far gone. When Miss Simpson comes to the Avalon in March, you will find me in my old Doc Martens from high school rocking out with the high school poseur-punk girls and kicking all their asses.