Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Finally, the other side of Providence is getting a commuter rail station.

Of course, by the time the State of Massachusetts, the State of Rhode Island and the MBTA get all their ducks in the proverbial row, I'll be able to afford a car and drive myself home. And that is a long, long, long time in the future. But I look forward to this great day when my mother needn't drive "through the city" to pick me up.

If You Feel, Like I Feel, Baby...

I am not good at doing laundry. This is not to say that I shrink things, or fry things, or mistreat my clothes. I just forget to do it until I'm in the too tight, too itchy, or too big underwear and wearing the socks that flow into the bottom of my shoe like water rolls down a hill. I meant to do a load of wash before things got out of control, but events this weekend kept me from the "laundry room" (read: a washer and a dryer for nearly forty people in my apartment) and this week is busy, so last night was the only time I had to dedicate to the arduous process of washing my clothes. I piled my clothes into my wheelie suitcase and trudged up the street to the laundromat.

I'd hoped that by waiting until Monday I would have avoided the weekend rush and I'd have my pick of the dryers and washers, but four of the twelve dryers were out of commission. Since there's no other laundromat nearby, I figured I'd have to suck it up and get to washing and wait around if I had to. I'd stopped at the gym before heading home, so it was late and I hadn't eaten dinner. I sat in the nearly-broken plastic lawnchair and waited for my wash to finish.

I called my Mom since I hadn't spoken to her in a while, and she caught me up on her work dramas and how her hip is doing. As I talked to her, a girl walked in and started her laundry. She was one of those women who dress really well in the hopes you don't notice she's short and squat. She had on a tan wool coat, black slacks, and diamond studs. She had the air of the rich girl who expects everything and everyone to fall at her feet, even though she's not attractive, nor has a particularly winning personality. That sounds cruel, but something about her just rubbed me the wrong way. I wrote it off as being really hungry, and kept talking to my Mom.

I use the semi-large load washers, so they took about forty-five minutes to complete the cycle. At about twenty minutes, I started scoping out the dryer situation to see which ones I could use. I usually divide my clothes into dark colors and lighter colors to keep the lint from being too obvious, but with the lack of functioning dryers and huge amount of very annoying people in the laundromat, it looked like I'd get only one.

The first load finished up. I threw my wet garments into the basket, shoving it forward at full force so the woman who looked like a Shape reader model wouldn't shove all her workout clothes into the dryer I'd had my eyes on. I tossed in my clothes and a dryer sheet and smugly loaded my quarters in.

My second load, however, still had five minutes to go. I hoped that someone would unload their stuff so I could keep my darks and lights from mixing, especially since the idea of lint-rolling my black velvet pants into wearable condition didn't strike me as much fun. I grabbed my clothes from the washer as soon as they were done, and headed for the functioning dryer that was empty. Unfortunately, Shape-model had made her claim on the bottom dryer, as a black track jacket that seemed to be identical to the one she was wearing was laying in the dryer like a murder victim.

"Son of a bitch," I muttered, feeling my crankypants come on. I opened the dryer with my lights in it, a flurry of socks and thong underwear raining onto the ratty-ass carpet, and tossed in the dark items. I picked up my clothes from the floor and closed the door. I threw in some more quarters, defeated. I went back to my lawn chair, keenly aware of the rumbling of my stomach. I considered running to Star Market and buying something to eat, but I didn't want to leave my suitcase unattended. So I sat, miserable, and read my book.

Then the annoying entitled girl came back, this time with her ugly boyfriend. Seriously. Ugly and annoying, the both of them. They stood in front of the dryers, and apparently the comingling of her jeans and his hoodie turned them on, because they kept schmoopily kissing and embracing in front of the dryers. They decided to get coffee. They came back. They sat on the folding table, she reading the JobFinder ads, him talking about his job. And I thought, why couldn't you have come and done this during the day, you unemployed, ugly bitch. My mood was not charitable.

Finally, ugly girl and ugly boy took their still-damp clothes out of the dryer, their pheremones getting the better of them, and they elected to go some and sate their base instincts. They left the JobFinder ad spread out like it was awaiting dog urine on the folding table, and I reassembled it, muttering "sloppy bastards." I don't like very many people when I'm hungry.

I collected my clothes, putting them back in my suitcase and wheeling them home. I preheated the oven and threw in some fish and ate a salad, and my mood improved greatly once my blood sugar was set to rights. And now none of my clothes stink, and I will smell like a clean sheet for the personal trainer I am meeting with today at the gym. I'm sure this can only be an adventure, since I generally get very nervous around the uber-fit types, and this girl is about 6'2 and weighs less than I do.

Monday, January 30, 2006

It's a lot like life...

So the dominatrix who was accused of chopping up one of her clients after he suffered a heart attack was found not guilty. Kinky people of the world, rejoyce!

But, seriously. Lady needs to follow up on the top protocol and make sure the bottom knows the safeword. Because there is no better time to use it than when having a heart attack. All I can imagine is one of those waivers like they have people sign at the gym:

I, Kinky Dude, promise I am in good health, and can be strapped to different surfaces, hit with various impliments, and have consulted with a medical professional before starting my kinky sex program. Please chop up my body into little bits in case of emergency, because I've seen Desperate Housewives and when the Missus finds out about this, I may as well never be found.

I'm seriously glad that most people avoided using this case to tisk-tisk about the sexual predilictions some people have and find this woman guilty because she does "dirty" things. Good on ya, jury. Bad on ya, prosecutor:

But it was Nelson's theatrical closing that provided the most dramatic moments of the trial.

The prosecutor pointed and hollered at Asher. He dumped a box full of hoods, collars, and paddles onto a table, and proclaimed that Asher was trying to protect her business.

"That's why she didn't call the police," he said.

With both hands, he reached back and clutched the top of a blackboard to simulate Lord being strapped to the rack.

He paused as his head hung forward as if to simulate Lord's alleged death.

Republican With a Soul, For Real

My Rhode Island homeboy Lincoln Chafee is voting against Sam Alito.

I can proudly say I voted for Lincoln. Good on you for thinking. Check this shit out:

"I am a pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-Bill of Rights Republican, and I will be voting against this nomination," Chafee said.


The Farmer Takes His Leave

Dear Dell Computers,

There are thousands of people in America who would really love those jobs you're sending to India. Maybe you'd like to keep them here? Oh, right, Americans expect good pay and healthcare. Carry on, then.

Americans Who Don't Have Manufacturing Jobs Anymore

Friday, January 27, 2006

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Oh wait. Threatening to poison a Supreme Court justice isn't very funny.

When I am sad, and lament my existence on this planet, I try to remind myself that at least I am not Ann Coulter. I may be a miserable bitch at times, but I am not Ann Coulter. And that's something we all have. Except Ann Coulter.


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A visual representation of what 1986 looked like.

The Challenger was twenty years ago? Man, time flies. I was in kindergarten twenty years ago. My brother wasn't even a year old twenty years ago. Our house was being built twenty years ago. My Dad was alive twenty years ago.

I have now given myself a strong case of carpe diem. I am going to go quit my job and move to Australia.

I Bet He's Really Regretting that Title Now

Oprah gets her shitkickers on, and kicks James Frey into a Million Little Pieces. Ha ha. See what I did there?

I still stand by my assertion that memoir doesn't have to be 100% accurate to affect people. I think that you should come clean as soon as the facts are questioned, though, and James Frey didn't. He threatened to sue, he called the Smoking Gun "bullshit," and, the worst sin of all, he made Oprah look like an idiot. And Oprah isn't going to stand for that nonsense.

Whatever. He's happy, because everyone talking about his book is just going to make even more people want to read it than when Oprah just put her stamp on it. Oprah's happy because people are talking about her, and she got to drag Frey through the mud on national television. I'm happy, because dreamy Heath Ledger is on her show today talking about Brokeback Mountain and his cute baby and how much he loves Michelle Williams, which is fine with me, surprisingly, because I'd totally do Heath Ledger, but I also really like Michelle Williams.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Death by Flushing

As if any speaking Elmo character isn't scary enough, now they ask children "Who wants to die?"

Those kids are never going to be potty-trained now.

Not So Sweet Dreams

Good morning, everyone! I trust you are all well. I don't really have that much to say, which is odd given my prolific bent as of late. The world is kind of as it should be, I have a coffee, my hair, now washed, still looks okay, but not as good when the woman took 20 minutes to blow it out nicely (I have about 300 metric tons of hair on my head). I still like it.

I just joined a gym this week, after anguishing about how much fucking money it costs around here to join one. When I was with the Whatever, we'd planned on me joining his gym, which cost about forty bucks a month. Because it's in Dedham. I was going to join my roommate's gym, which is also downtown and was much cheaper than the one I ended up at, but it's a tiny basement gym in Downtown Crossing, which is in the opposite direction from my office. So I joined one in Back Bay, and will shell out seventy bucks a month for the next year to work out.

I'm not too upset about it, because the last gym I went to was in Brookline, but it was a teeny gym, and when they raised the rates for their shit gym I quit. It was a pain in the ass during baseball season to wait for a T I could cram myself into, ride out to Brookline, work out, then get home. So I decided to keep it in the Back Bay, which gets expensive. It sucks to pay so much, but I'm not one of those girls who joins a gym and never goes. I do enjoy working out. I feel more energetic, and while I don't lose much weight, I am more toned and feel better about my appearance in general. I also hope to stave off the arthritis that my Mom has just about everywhere in her body, so I can keep any joint replacement surgeries off until I'm actually elderly.

I joined a co-ed gym, which has it's pluses and minuses. A major plus, as Stephanie pointed out, is that you know guys who work out at a gym are at least making an effort to take care of themselves, so it's a good place to potentially meet people. I don't really dig the weightlifter physique, but I like a guy who's toned. I do it, you can do it too, gentlemen. No need to be an iron man, because God knows I don't look like a model in Shape magazine. But I try. A minus is feeling the need to not look like a complete schlub while exercising. When I went to a women's gym, I kind of didn't care what I wore. Now I have to at least try to match my shirt to my pants. Also, a lot of the girls at the gym with the dudes are Shape models. Oh well.

Anyway, what I'm getting to is that regular exercise has a huge effect on my mood, I'm realizing. This fall, I would fall asleep early, not wake up at all in the night, and wake up feeling tired. This may have been due to the drama with the ex, but I think if I was in shape I could have slept less and felt more rested. Then when I started exercising again (about a month ago) I started needing less sleep, and remembered my dreams more. It's bizarre, but I've been able to wake up and remember them with much more clarity. Which is good, when it's a dream that helps me sort something out or is pleasant. It is not good when it's a sad, scary dream like the one I had last night.

I dreamt that the boy and husband in the family I babysit for died, along with my brother. I don't remember how, but I remember being really upset about my brother dying (of course) and talking to my Mom about how he never really got started in his life, how he never got to do whatever it is he wants to do. I have dreams about my brother dying sometimes, and it always freaks me out. In college I had a very vivid dream about him dying, so vivid that I called him up the next day and told him we were hanging out. We went to the mall and had some Indian food, all stuff Sam likes, and in the course of the day he told me his toe was "weird." Turns out he had a severely ingrown toenail. Which isn't fatal, but if he'd let it go it would have been much worse. So I guess I've got to call the little brother later.

The most vivid thing I remember from my dream last night was walking into the kitchen of the Family's house, and seeing the kids' mom sitting at the table with her head in her hands. I told her I would do anything I could to help them out, and she just kind of half-smiled and said she'd be fine. It was so sad, and I remembered it as I was getting ready for work. To me, these are the most terrifying dreams–– the ones that seem like they could actually happen.

Anyway. That's all I've got for now. As you were.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

All That We Can Leave Behind


Let's think about the victims here.

Imagine you're a young, marginally handsome, successful young man who works for the Boston Red Sox. Imagine you work alongside another marginally handsome young man in this same organization. Your boss sits you down, tells you you're both promoted, hands you a comb and tells you to get ready for the media. You deal with Shaugnessy's whining, the photoshopping skills of the blog community, the collective "whatever" from within I-495. You sigh, wishing you were rolling in hypothetical offers of one-night stands and free drinks without needing to answer the question, "When's Theo coming back? For real?"

You buy yourself a boat, maybe get one of those low-interest credit cards from Home Depot and fix up the place in Newton a little bit. Maybe some bamboo flooring, a couple of nice Persian rugs. You notify your accountant that you've gotten a raise, and you roll over your 401k. You open a college savings account for your kid. Life looks good.

Then you have to start answering more phone calls from the old boss. He keeps calling in with suggestions. He drunk dials late at night, begging you to take him back. You get tired of it. You have persistent chronic headaches and take to drinking a vodka tonic before bed and therapy sessions to relax yourself. You begin to snap at people.

"When's theo--"

"Shut UP!"

"...ld centerfielder going to come get his stuff? Or should we just torch it?"

Then, a mere 44 days after your promotion, you get demoted back to your old job, the old boss comes in and gets a title promotion, and the free drinks and offers of sex dry up completely. Your dreams of bamboo floors and Harvard for your kids fade away, but the headaches remain.

It was a good run, Ben and Jed. Thanks for the memories.

Camera Phone Fun

So I finally got paid for writing the articles for InSite. Not in money, but in the next best thing: a gift certificate. The certificate was for an obscene amount of money to a salon, so I decided to let a professional color my hair and cut it, following only the stipulations that it be long enough to put in a ponytail and be extremely low-maintenance because I am a lazy bastard.

Behold, the results!

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I took this one before I walked outside and had it blown all over the place.

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This one is in my apartment, in the room with the best light I could find. Stupid camera phone.

I hate getting my hair cut. I love reading the crappy magazines (my Glamour reading was interrupted by the need to wash out the dye) but I hate the idle chit-chat with the person cutting my hair. I feel like I should be talking because this woman is putting chemicals on my head and wrapping them in little bits of Reynolds Wrap, but I don't know what to say. She asks me where I work. I answer. She asks me if I'm still in school. I answer. She asks me if I have any plans for the evening. I answer. I try my best to follow the Cosmo date rules— ask her open-ended questions so I don't have to carry the whole conversation, try to answer her questions in a way that she can keep talking, but it just kind of falters and I wish she'd give me the Glamour back and end the awkwardness. The woman who did my hair wasn't nasty, but I'm just not good at small talk. Talk, I can do, especially with people I know.

But, whatever. My hair is now cute and not a big heavy sack of nothing attached to my scalp, so mad props to the fine people at Amaci Salon for turning this lazy bastard into a cuter lazy bastard.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


A very interesting article on Boston.com about the pornification of American culture. Of note, this tidbit:

Even cooking shows on the Food Network -- the Food Network! -- contain distinct parallels with the cinematography, dialogue, and body language of pornography, according to an article wryly headlined ''Debbie Does Salad" in the October issue of Harper's magazine.

My Mom will tell you this is true. Giada De Laurentiis annoys the hell out of her, because, per my mother, "her boobs are always in the food." Giada bugs me because she seldom swallows the food she prepares. Watch her. She pops the tidbit in her mouth, and the camera pans away or they cut to a commercial.

"She's got a bucket behind that counter," my Mom says, disgusted. We both trust only chunky chefs like Paula Deen and Ina Garten.

This article poses a lot of questions and raises some good points about how the media has become so hyper-sexualized. I've been noticing it a lot lately, and it's especially depressing if you read craigslist for any amount of time. While that's not always the highwater mark of Boston society, it's depressing how many guys describe girls as having a cute ass or nice boobs, and as an afterthought say "and she seemed nice." There's a lot to attraction and pheremones and all, but should I feel bad because my chest doesn't make cleavage very easily? Am I at a disadvantage because I don't wear low-rise pants and barely-there shirts to bars?

I am lucky to have a mother who told me I was beautiful, and that my appearance isn't everything that I have to offer, even in light of this boob-centric society. She never called me too heavy, even when I was, and she offered me encouragement when I lost weight. With those strong messages from my mother, I'm pretty good at resisting the pressure. I dress well, but not slutty. What happened to mystery, the idea of making somebody work to see you without clothes on? Maybe I'm a sixty-year-old woman in the slightly paunchy body of a twenty-four-year-old, but it seems stupid. I just think about girls whose mothers made them insecure, girls who watched their attractive mothers diet themselves into bobbleheads, and then they themselves dieted themselves too thin. One girl I graduated with missed the ceremony because she was in the hospital with anorexia. The pressure for a woman to be just so in this society is unbelievable. I think the pressure is less conspicuous but still present for men, and in a few years it will become more prevalent.

Everybody just needs to have a beer and some fries and chill the hell out.

I'm a Dunkin Donuts Girl In a Dunkin Donuts World...

This is pretty funny. Universal Hub determines the center of Dunkin Donuts gravity in Boston.

This would be pretty amusing to do with Rhode Island, since it has the most donut stores per capita of any U.S. state. Too bad I am lazy.

Julie, Julia, and Amy's Opinions

I don't give up very easily. Whether it's a product of stubbornness, parking my pride in two spots so as not to get dinged, or just another quirk in my personality, I don't like putting something down or walking away from something I start. I may throw things, I may whine and complain endlessly, but odds are I stick it out until it's over.

I went to the Brookline Public Library last week to pick up The Red Tent. As always, I checked out the "Speed Read" section, which has new books that you can borrow only for a week so they rotate through faster and more people can read them. Usually these books are mysteries or chick lit, but one caught my eye. Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 recipes, One Tiny Apartment Kitchen. Sounds great, right? The story of a young woman sorting herself out by cooking the traditional recipes that a woman of her mother's generation made accessible to housewives in America. I wish I'd thought of it.

Well, frankly, I'm glad I didn't write it, because it has next to nothing to do with Julia Child, cooking, or learning anything. I'm about one hundred pages into the book and I hate it with a white hot passion. I feel like Simon Cowell, but I really, really hate it. Julie Powell's writing is disorganized and lacks originality. She uses clichés, and often inappropriately without comic effect (one example, "I love my husband like a pig loves shit. Maybe more."). I see what she's trying to do, but I can't stand it. Playing with cliché can be a fun literary exercise, but this just takes away from the point she's trying to make– that she loves her husband. Instead, my first reaction as a reader is to say, "Ugh. Lucky guy. ::eye roll::"

I also wish she'd stuck to the point more. In a chapter about finding a cow bone to get the marrow out of, Powell introduces a friend who offers to help her find the elusive bone. Instead of using neat tricks like dialogue to show us how she feels about her friend, or giving us her friend's backstory through dialogue with somebody, anybody, she goes on and on and on about how Powell feels about her. Which is fine in limited doses, but it takes the reader out of the immediate action of finding the bone and getting the hell on with the recipe, and I just want to flip the three pages (yes, three) ahead and find out what happens.

Many books use cooking to advance the plot and hold the story together effectively. The excellent book Like Water for Chocolate does this nicely. Not all of the action happens in the kitchen, but most of the action relates to some activity that main character, Tita, needs to do to complete a recipe. But what happens defines the characters, advances the plot, and keeps the reader interested. Powell just made me mad because she lends credencence to the argument that bloggers don't make good writers, which I desperately, desperately hope is not the case. I'm sure she doesn't care what I think since she's using her advance to fix up her apartment, but I had such high hopes from the concept that the author didn't deliver.

I kind of hope someone publishes a collection of Julia Child's letters or something, because I can't get enough of reading about her life. Any Amazonian-built woman from Wyoming who pulls a Felicity and goes to Paris to learn to cook and impress her man, but ultimately ends up with her own career is a story I want to know more about. The poorly written story of a frustrated actress in New York transforming her life through Julia Child's cookbooks is, apparently, not one I am interested in.

Bush and Pussies

George Bush is a pussy.

I'm not saying that lightly, nor to just get a rise out of any conservative viewers who stumbled on this site. He, along with most other American politicians, is a big, lazy, conflict-avoiding pussy. Yesterday was the 33rd annual March for Life rally in Washington, D.C. All this hullabaloo is to mourn the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court.

Since he was elected president, Bush has called in to this rally every year. Which is lame. If he wants to reach out and touch someone, fine. But if he feels passionately about an issue, which I'm sure Bush feels passionately about pro-life people because the polls tell him they are his voting base and the Bible tells him these people are right, he should show face. He should allow himself to be photographed in a sea of angry, hateful, insulting signs. Allow Time to run him on the cover, his squinty face next to a poster with a graphic picture of an aborted fetus. Don't half-ass it. If Bush wants to be Mr. Pro-Life President, do it. Don't just call up and leave a message. Bush is such a pussy he literally phones it in.

I'm surprised Hillary Clinton's "plantation" remarks haven't gotten her into more trouble, but I'm glad she said it. The wussification of politics is annoying at the least and disturbing at worst. A leader should be able to articulately stand by the issues they find important and mean it, not half-ass a reaction to satisfy one group and not actively piss off another group. I don't want abortion rights limited, but if Bush wants to advocate for that, he should show his face at such a large gathering of like-minded people. Maybe if someone charged the marchers $500 a head he'd attend next year.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Snow Daze

Boston.com has this photo essay of the gigantic blizzard that struck a year ago today, which I totally thought happened next month. I'll always remember that snowstorm with a sense of cognitive dissonance-- I'd just flown back in from Florida the night before after doing my first living in sin vacation with the Whatever. Kristen drove me to the hospital in the early blowing snow since I had a UTI that had me sobbing on the couch, and I spent much of the next day talking to her as she was snowed in in Weymouth, drinking cranberry juice, and hating the Whatever for still being in Florida, even if he was just with his older coworkers.

This morning's snowfall was cute, until it delayed my train, making it extra fun to support the old coot who decided to stand in the middle of the aisle and use my back as an extension for the handlebar I was holding. It was kind of pretty to watch-- the big fat flakes of snow falling when it's almost warm enough to rain, giving the view of the hotel across the street from my office the appearance of being inside a snowglobe. If we had ten inches, it would be annoying, but since there isn't much on the ground, it's nice.

It is not, however, allowed to snow on March 1. It will be a beautiful, warm day with light winds both here and in New York so we can make it to Italy with a minimum of fuss. After that, it can snow all week so Logan can't even be located on Google maps as far as I'm concerned. I'll buy a phone card in Venice, call the office and say that, shucks, I can't make it back to the States with all the snow, and I'm going to go sip some wine and eat gelato until I puke.

Italian lessons still proceed slowly. Muzzy DVD and book is on reserve at the Brookline library. Hopefully the seven-year-old finishes up with it pretty quickly because I could really, really use that.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Wait for it...

It's only a matter of time before Rush Limbaugh calls Hillary an uppity bitch.
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I like my women fiesty. Go for the jugular, Hillary. You've got more balls than the rest of the Democrats combined.

Good Theo Hunting

What in the hell is going on in this town? The Sox let Theo go. The Pats lose in the playoffs. Now Theo has returned? What?
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You said it, Bronson.

I mean, I'm glad he's back. I don't know what his job is. Maybe he'll be mopping the floors. I don't care, as long as he's in earshot of the Sox management.

"Mop mop mop, all day long, mop mop mop... hey, you guys, maybe you should get someone who can play center field. The way things are going, my Dad would be the best CF option you have. And he's a creative writing instructor. Maybe you should get on this."

"Pssht. Whatever, Theo. You just mop the floors. You can't possibly know anything about baseball management."

"Yeah, okay. Sorry."

Theo then stops mopping the floors, and retires to the bathroom where he works out a trade agreement on the bathroom mirror. Then Ben and Jed realize his skills when Theo trades his father for Miguel Tejada. The only one who is not convinced is Dan Shaugnessy, who tries to mold Theo into a boring, negative version on himself. Theo takes to drinking at the same establishments as management, to "fuck with the smaht kids."

I mean, whatever. Welcome back, Theo. Never, ever do that to us again. And, also, shut up, Shaugnessy.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Cold as Ice

Oh my God. If they did this in America, it would be illegal.

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I don't care who Jesus died for. It's twenty-three degress below zero! Get your fool ass inside!

Stop the Madness

Okay. I am feeling a bit apocalyptic right now.

Does anybody else think that love is being systematically destroyed? That the idea of love being unwavering devotion to another person, putting up with their flaws because their assets outnumber them, of weathering bad patches because you believe things can and will work out is being replaced by the notion of love being something that is shown only through purchasing material goods for another person? Is it only a few generations before romantic comedies involve one guy (Heartless Bastard) buying Julia Roberts a ring she thinks is a diamond, but then she finds out from her Best Guy Friend that it's a cubic zirconia, and she weeps on the BGF's shoulder. "How could Heartless Bastard do this to me?" Wails Julia. Then BFG goes out and buys Julia a much less ostentatious ring, but it's really a diamond and she falls in love with him instantly.

What brought about this rumination is this article from the ProJo about Valentine's Day picking up the post-Christmas sales slack. Isn't the whole thing sickening? I mean, I hate Valentine's Day with a screaming white-hot passion, but don't people in couples get it too? It's dumb. It's a way for greeting card companies to make oodles of money, but now craft stores, jewelers, florists, babysitters, restaurants and just about anyone else who can get in on the action is trying to commercialize this holiday even more than it was.

I plan to spend this Valentine's Day much like I spent last Valentine's Day (after being dumped less than a week before by the Whatever, the first time): drinking beer at a sports bar, eating massive quantities of french fries, and telling the uppity waitress to keep the large size beers coming. And I will not drink one glass of romantic wine, not buy one bag of candy, or one rose of any color. I will line the coffers of the good Irish/sports bar owners of Boston instead of the people who buy into the Valentine's hype.

Bon Anniversare

Monsieur Poe-Poe.

I can only hope that people leave booze on my grave when I am long dead. Although I guess it is kind of mean to leave booze for a man who died from drinking too much...

Oh hell. I just want someone to bring me some booze now.

Boys in Bikinis Club

My hero of the day, given Kelly Clarkson's defection to the whims of 19 Entertainment, is Shannon Fitzpatrick.

Check it:

Twelve students will vie tonight to become Mr. Saugus High School, a coveted title that comes with a Burger King crown wrapped in velvet, a gift certificate for Chinese food, and unrivaled bragging rights.
But one hopeful will strut across the stage to the tune of ''Rebel Girl." Shannon Fitzpatrick will become the first girl ever to compete in the mock male beauty pageant, a Saugus High tradition for 15 years, organized by the Student Council.

Sounds like fun, right? Of course, everyone's got all their knickers in a bunch over it.

School officials, who say the pageant is harmless fun, question Fitzpatrick's motives. ''I'm baffled," said Jane Osgood, the Student Council adviser and an English teacher. ''Mr. Saugus High was never meant to be a political or exclusive kind of event. It's a joke."

I mean, no, it's no Matthew Shepard-type discrimination, but why can't she dress like a man in a joke contest? If it's such a joke, why is Ms. Osgood so worked up about a girl participating?

''It's a last-hurrah event for senior year," said Fitzpatrick, an honors student. ''I wanted to have fun, like the boys. I didn't think I needed any reason beyond that."

School principal Joseph Diorio, who spoke with a lawyer about Fitzpatrick's eligibility, said some students are upset. ''The pageant is a tradition," he said. ''We'd never had a female student want to be in it before."

Chris Buonopane, the reigning Mr. Saugus High, said he asked Fitzpatrick not to enter. ''I told her, If you want to make a difference, you'd be better off doing something that doesn't interfere with tradition."

Are you fucking kidding me? It's a fun tradition! Fitzpatrick wants to have fun with the boys. Shut the hell up and let her put on a tux and walk across the stage. The principal's "boy's only" attitude is a little disconcerting, as is the reigning Mr. Saugus High's. Traditions can be changed. I mean, Christmas used to be about family and thinking about people less fortunate than you. Now it's about iPods and sales figures. Things change. Let the girls play the game too.

In high school, you feel stuck. Everything holds so much weight in your young life. If you fall on your ass in the talent show, you feel like it's on the cover of People since everyone you know is talking about it. I did the best I could to change my little corner of the world when I was in high school. I wrote satirical pieces about the hall passes with a form we were forced to carry when we went to the bathroom. I did skits in the talent show about how bad Hanson sucked. Those were my little peeps of protest, and it's hard to go against tradition in high school. So good on ya, Shannon Fitzpatrick, for screwing with them.

Kelly, No!

Dammit. Kelly lost some of my respect. She's letting American Idol use her songs.

Oh well. I still like her album.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Can I Get a Fuck You?

I love Kelly Clarkson. There. I said it.

I was addicted to the first season of American Idol. My crappy roommates and I made it a point to be hammered and watch the comic stylings of Seacrest and Dunkleman. As the season wore on, the producers even managed to crack our pretentious liberal-arts student shells and we voted. For Kelly Clarkson. We just wanted to punch that Sideshow Bob lookin' guy (Justin Guarini) in the nuts. I was glad she won. Then Seacrest said he'd see us "next year."

"Wait, didn't we just find the American Idol? Shouldn't that be it?"

I guess America feels just about the same way. I know the other people have released albums, and I may even be able to name some of them, but nobody blew up like Clarkson has. Her poppy songs from her most recent, post-American Idol album, Breakaway are awesome. I know this because I just got the CD. Does she write the songs? No. Is there a football-team's worth of producers behind her? Yep. But I don't give a crap. Put on "Since U Been Gone" and let me wail in the car. She knows my soul.

I watched last night's season premiere of whatever season of American Idol this is. I like to watch this show during the auditions, strictly for the schadenfreude, and at the end when there's about five jailbaiters left for me to pick one and root for. And, much to my delight, I just read that Kelly told American Idol that they can't use her songs in their show. It's a lot like Bruce Springsteen telling Reagan he couldn't use "Born in the U.S.A." as his campaign song. Kelly just gave the team of Simon and Simon a big ol' fuck you.

Of course, Simon Cowell, nasty judge, producer and money-grubber had words for Miss Clarkson. "I think that by ignoring the show you're ignoring the audience who put you there." Of course, Simon's just cranky that Kelly didn't roll over and play dead for 19 Entertainment, who owned her soul for her first (and crappier) album. The public enjoys quality pop music, Simon, and they'll follow Kelly wherever she goes. You created the monster, and you can't try to cage it once it's got a taste of freedom.


I think I may end up there if this wind continues. My desk is actually moving with the wind. Which is scary, since it's attached to the wall.

...Of all the days to forget my lunch...


Holy shit. I have pondered the reason for my existence on this planet. Like all mankind, I struggle to find my true calling, the place where I can do the most good in my short time on this planet. I thought it would be to write, either articles or fiction, but now I have found my purpose.

Beer Pong. The World Series of Beer Pong, to be precise.

(Man, I totally think I played on this table during my year at URI. Note the URL.)

Known also as Beirut, Beer Pong is a game that encourages drunk people to develop hand-eye coordination and the ability to drink a large quantity of cheap beer as quickly as possible. If you don't know the rules, clearly you did not go to college, or ever attend a party with people who did. A smallish amount (more as the night goes on) of cheap beer (usually whatever's in the keg) is poured into Solo cups. Then opposing teams try to get a ping-pong ball into their opponent's cup. If the succeed, the opponent must drink the beer from that cup. Whoever makes their opponent drink all the cups of beer first wins. Although I'd argue that the loser doesn't really lose since he's hammered.

Now it's all a matter of getting my team together. I am in poor form with Beer Pong, since I don't think I've played since I was last at the camp with Kristen. So I'll get back into practice, and recruit the best of the best to play with me. My Beer Pong team would be comprised of:

Kristen. She's had years of practice.
Kristen's brother's friend Mark. He looks good without a shirt, and plays well.
My friend Jefe. He was a frat boy at Penn State, and he plays a mean game.
Marianne. She's small and packs a punch.
This guy.
Butchie. He'd be both cheerleader and super-awesome player.

I'm going to save my pennies (not quarters, since that championship is probably coming up) for the registration fee. See you next year, Michigan boys. Quake in fear, lads. Quake!


Fine. I give up. I have tried to find someone to love, someone who I deeply respect and have a meaningful connection with. I think about how I react to people, trying to make myself a better person so I will attract better men to me.

Apparently, I should be marrying to double my wealth. DOUBLE. Those married people are smug for a reason. They're rolling in money!

This is my proposal, gentlemen. State your case. I bring a meager salary and high student loan debt into the equation. But I'm a good cook and like to dance. Have at it.

State of the ::yawn::

It's Mitt Romney's last state of the state speech today, which is being met with much hullabaloo since it is his last. I don't get why people are so worked up about it. There's no red carpet, no Eva Longoria (although if she'd been invited, I'm sure her hype-loving teeny-tiny ass would have been there), no nothing to get excited about. I mean, unless Ted Kennedy stumbles in and makes an off-color remark about Mormons, I don't see the point of caring. I'm sure Mitt doesn't.

"Dear Fellow $4,000 a Plate Republican Party Members... oops, that was last night's speech. Sorry, folks. I know I've got the right one here," Mitt will say, rifling through a stack of papers all printed on fancy resumé paper.

"Ah yes," he says, pulling out a sheet. "My fellow Massholes... well, actually, I only keep a summer home here for when I get bored of my home in Utah, or have to actually show my face at the State House, so I'm technically not one of you.

"Anyway, our state is in pretty good shape, or that's what my advisors tell me. Fuck if I know, I hate this place. Most of you have jobs, your kids are being educated as best we can comfortably afford at this time, your old people have Medicare drugs sometimes, and only one city is on the verge of bankruptcy. So that ain't bad, right?

"For the rest of my term in Massachusetts, I plan to be out of state eighty percent of the time, leaving Kerry Healy in charge since she wants to be governor of this hellhole so damn badly. I willpseudoo-campaign for the Republican nomination for President, spending piles of my own money to narcisstically promote myself. I will use your liberal state as an example ofSodomm, highlighting my racist, sexist plans to try my best to curtail your liberties, since like all the red states like to hear about that stuff. I will utter the phrase 'activist judges' about 700,000 times for any camera that will film me. I will be a regular pundit on the Fox News Channel. And you little peons will whine and complain, but, quite frankly, I don't give a crap about you or your little liberal enclave up here. Just keep sending the rest of the country seafood, bugger each other like Brokeback Mountain on a boat, and leave the rest of this God-fearing country alone.

"Thank you, and goodnight. Assholes."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ciao, or Bon Giorno?

For someone who has a pretty good command of the English language, you'd think I'd be better at learning foreign languages. But I spent three years in high school French learning hell (hell for reasons other than the language) and I can barely spit out a sentence. I can understand a lot of really slowly spoken French, but I can't articulate myself. Which, when I'm in a primarily French-speaking environment, leaves me feeling like Superman when he's near kryptonite-- I am not as strong as usual.

In order to prepare for my trip to Italy, I bought Fodor's Italian for Travelers. I don't want to approach Italy like it's an exhibit at Epcot-- I want to make an effort to communicate with people in their language. Yes, I know most people speak English. But I want to give it my best before I give up and wave the flag of "Parlate inglese?" I've been listening to this stuff for about a week, and I've absorbed just about nothing.

I'm listening to it now, just to hear the way people pronounce things. I'm used to busting out a French accent, which doesn't work with Italian, believe it or not. The vowels are pronounced a lot softer than I expect them to be. When I sit in my room, looking at the words in the book that came with the CDs, I try to anticipate what the calm, slow voices will say.

"Mee peermeesoo," I say, smugly.

"Me permiso," the bitch on the CD says back.


So my roommate is concerned even more for my sanity as I walk around the house talking to myself in Italian instead of my usual English. I have a month and a half to figure it all out, which I hope to be able to master the Italian for "beer," "wine", "where's the bathroom", and "get away from me, skeezeball".

Friday, January 13, 2006

College Educated? Well, You're a Moron

Check out this jackhole.
Let's talk about why people feel the need to be educated for a career instead of studying the works of Plato.

College is fucking expensive. So is the rest of life.

I don't know who this jerkoff is (other than what his byline tells me-- a professor at Bridgewater State College-- look, I extrapolated data!) but it must be a wonderful world he lives in where people sit around in togas all day long and discuss the works of the great philosophers without such concerns as rent and the purchase of vittles. I just can't stand the tone this guy takes.
Behind the dismal data on college graduate literacy is the new reality of higher education in America. Students today have little interest in what past generations of college students accepted as an essential education. Reading the literature of ''dead white guys," studying the relevancy of a 400-year-old historical event, and thinking about the meaning of life's mysteries are not of great interest to a growing number of college students.

Now, it's all about focusing on a career path, studying narrowly about the skills required of that career path, and then crossing the stage on graduation day. The only problem, as the literacy study shows, is that this short-cut route to postgraduate adulthood leaves behind the building blocks of an educated person.

No one really knows when this kind of discount college education got its hold on American youth and why the old-fashioned essentials of liberal arts training went out of vogue. Some point to the Internet as the culprit, where all the answers are at the fingertips of the college student, or the popular culture, where the ideas of Oprah and Tom Cruise's blog musings have the same stature as Plato's ''Republic" or Shakespeare's ''The Merchant of Venice."

What? I don't know any college student who views the blogs of Oprah or Tom Cruise (do scientologists even believe in the internet?) as equivalents to "The Merchant of Venice." I think anyone who could be admitted to any college with this mindset would find himself in over his head pretty damn quick and drop out.

The logic in this article is completely flawed, and I hope this Kryzanek fellow isn't up for tenure. He cites popular culture as a detriment to learning, but uses Animal House to frame his argument. I'm sorry, is that a lost manuscript of Shakespeare's? Or are you just dumbing down your article so us college-educated people can keep up with your superior intellect? Also, you teach at a college! Perhaps you should teach "Label Reading 101" as a required course for freshmen to help raise the percentages of students who can extrapolate data from a source? Good God. Listen, I'm not here to defend the intellect of the average American. We're selfish, boorish people. The highlight of my week is watching Project Runway. But don't tell me I'm an idiot. I read the dead white guys. But I need a fucking job so I can pay for the privilege of having someone like you to evaluate my reading skills, and a college degree is the best way to get there. If a student is lacks the knowledge you think they need, flunk them, or work with them to improve their skills. Don't sit there and bemoan how everything sucks when you're in a position to change things.

I also hate when people whine about popular culture and how low-brow it is. It's the world we live in, pal. Not all of us want to wear tweed jackets with leather elbow patches and talk about Plato all day, because maybe we'd like to relate to our fellow human beings. Lots of popular culture references these classic works and piques interest in them (remember the rash of teen movies that were based on Shakespeare's comedies?) and develops our social skills. Read this book, it makes a compelling argument for popular culture not rotting our minds like the mental equivalent of corn syrup like you think it does.

Perhaps Michael Kryzanek should head out to one of Bridgewater State's frat houses, smoke a bowl with the dumb kids, and chill the fuck out.


For a site that's written by a writer (it's what it says on my degree, people), I don't weigh in much on literature-related topics. I like to keep up with what's being published, and I try to read books that people tell me are good. But I can't keep up with fiction entirely, mainly because I also enjoy reading a lot of nonfiction and political essays too. Right now, I'm reading Spanking the Donkey, which is a collection of essays about the 2004 elections. Next up, The Red Tent. See? Way behind.
I usually make it a point to not read Oprah's Book Club selections until the hubbub dies down. It's a personal preference, mainly trying to avoid being stigmatized as the Girl Who Only Reads Oprah Books. I'm glad Oprah reminds Americans that there are, as Hal Sparks says, books that have words that makes pictures in your mind. I hear that a lot of Oprah's book choices are pretty good. Alicia's currently reading A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, and says it's excellent. Of course, the Smoking Gun came up with a bunch of police reports saying that Frey completely exaggerated the circumstances of his drug use and crimes, and now every media outlet is all up in his grill about it, asking him where he was in 1988, for reals.
Here's my two cents. Nothing is ever completely nonfiction.
I'm going to go all Matrix on you here. Any author, be it a journalist or a blogger or a personal essay writer is not going to have the facts completely right 100% of the time. This may be because he forgot. It may be because he didn't know in the first place and pulled things out of his ass to make up for it. Maybe it's because the person in question is Dan Shaughnessy and he's a fucking idiot to begin with. But nothing is ever all true. Details get lost, aspects of an event that are in fact minor are exaggerated to make a stronger connection with an audience. Sometimes it's intentional, othertimes it's not. Sometimes, like changing people's names, it's for other people's benefit, and other times it benefits the author. I can't speak for Frey because I wasn't there. But Oprah and Alicia both seem to think this book will impact the reader in a meaningful way, and as long as the essential facts of the book are true, then the book has done what it set out to do.
And, no, by "essential facts" I don't mean that the charge Frey faced in 1988 were DWI and not DUI. I mean the fact that Frey was a drug addict and committed crimes. I think if those events took place, he was checked into rehab by his family and went through those things, then there is no need for Random House to offer a refund to people who bought the book, which is completely ludicrous. It's not like he was a choir boy who wrote a drug memoir. Frey abused drugs, so the central fact of his book is true. And until the Smoking Gun came out with the police reports, no one questioned the validity of Frey's claims. As my professors would say, it feels true. Whether it's fiction or memoir, it should always make a reader feel something. So as long as James Frey took drugs and was reckless, everyone should just shut the hell up and enjoy a good book.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Keep it in Your Pants

Levi's is apparently making iPod jeans, with a special little pocket to keep your iPod in.
Now, I don't work for Apple (unfortunately), but I think they designed the iPod so it will fit in a standard pocket. Why do we need to redesign the pocket for the iPod? Also, if you're bitching about the lump a Nano leaves in your pocket, well, you've got bigger problems than what kind of jeans you wear.
...And don't you imagine, in about ten years from now, we'll be laughing about this on a VH1 "I Love the Two Thousand Aughts"?

Mama's Whoop-Ass

My mother is smaller than me. I remember thinking how tall she was when I was seven, how I could barely put my arm around her neck when she was standing up. Then I hit the big P, my Dad's genes kicked in, and now I tower over my mother by a good six or seven inches. You'd think this size difference would have made me less afraid of her kicking my ass from here until next year, but it didn't. I still fear the unholy terror one withering look from my Mom can give. Nobody loves you like your momma, but nobody can open a can of whoop ass like your momma, either.
That being said, if I had pulled this stunt when I was sixteen, I would have not been allowed to leave the house until sometime last year:

Instead of coming home after classes last Thursday, the teens took a flight overseas and telephoned their parents when they got to Rome.
The parents of Marc LeBourdais, 17, and Corwin Lagueux, 16, met the boys Wednesday at New York's JFK Airport.

Oh. My. God. Can you imagine meeting your parents after taking an "unannounced" trip to Italy? I can imagine my mother, all 5'2" of her standing straight up, her jaw locked. She would hug me, but mutter through gritted teeth, "I am going to make your life hell until you turn eighteen and get the hell out of my house. Which you will have no choice but to do since you think you can just up and take care of yourself in a foreign country without telling anyone where you went, so surely you can manage an apartment and job on your own."
You'd think any parent would say something like that. But these kids' parents said something entirely different:
"We are happy to announce that our sons have returned safely home," the parents said. "We would like to caution the parents of high school-age children in regard to copycat attempts," the parents said in a statement sent to The Telegraph.... The parents emphasized the boys made their own choice to return home.

What? What kind of parent are you if you have to hide your kid's passport from him because you think he's a flight risk? And then you go all new-agey parent and say it was a kid's "choice" to come back to the States? These kids are juveniles! You tell them to get their stupid asses back to New Hampshire immediately, no choice involved. I shudder to think of the statement my mother would write to a newspaper.
"I am happy to announce my stupid-ass daughter has returned home from whatever locale she just had to visit halfway around the world. I am happy that she is alive, but am about ten seconds away from killing her out of blind rage. If she's dead, I don't have to worry about her taking off unannounced again. She had no choice in the matter of her return. As soon as she collect-called me from a phone booth in the Vatican, I had the State Department trace the call, running-tackle her, and get her a cargo-hold seat on the first military flight out of Europe. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to have her remove the wallpaper from the living room with her teeth."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Perfect Way to Start Your Day

Does not, in my opinion, involve the syrup in your coffee leaking out of the cup.
I love how Dunkin is all, "Don't worry! It won't hurt you! Please continue to enjoy our fine coffee products!" But this tricky liquid is leaking out of a cup, which is holding the plain coffee perfectly fine, which makes me think this syrup may have some unsavory, Olestra-esque effect on my digestive tract. I do enjoy a pick-me-up, but I don't like when I'm carried swiftly into the bathroom once I'm up.


Ellen McNamara writes an interesting opinion piece about the wave of bad news in our area, and how appearances aren't always what they seem. I don't really agree with her willingness to hang this teacher out to dry when barely a week has gone by since he was arrested, but her point is valid. People can seem great, but be capable of horrible things. It reminds me of the kid from my high school shaking his baby... it's not always who you think capable of horrible things who does them.

I Feel Like I'm Wasting My Money

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I kind of like Joe Thornton's expression here. His face is hard to read since the image is small, but he looks like he's thinking, "Who, me? What'd I do? This isn't the fucking Nutcracker on Ice."
Apparently, this was the most exciting thing to happen during this game, which Marianne, Kristen and I missed because we were busy trying to chug the blueberries out of the bottom of our glasses at Beerworks. Also, blueberry beer and the popcorn I ate to absorb the four gallons of beer sloshing around in my stomach were exciting. The hockey happening on the ice? Not so much fun.
I'd never been to a hockey game before last night (the only Boston/New England pro sports event I have yet to see live is a Pats game now) and I wish the Bruins had done better, because it was fun. It was amazing to watch the players skate around, looking both graceful and aggressive at the same time. Watching the players dig their skates into the ice, squat down and barrel towards the puck was hypnotic. The crowd at the Bruins game was also fun. There were a few families, but for the most part the crowd was comprised of native Bostonians, judging by the accents. The guy sitting next to me picked up his phone after he clued us in on Gill's injury.
"Yeah, dood, I'm at the game. I feel like I'm wasting my fuckin' money." And that was when the score was 1-0, "Shaaks." He talked to another person later, and talked about coaching youth hockey. I think that's what I like about the Bruins, at least from my limited experience with them; the fans are fans because they like hockey. There were few girls in pink Bruins shirts, which kind of acts as a barometer for how many bandwagon fans there are in any given location. The Sox have tons of girls in full makeup and pink 18 shirts (now vintage), and the Pats are picking up pretty princesses with every tight spiral dreamy 12 throws. The Bruins? The girls there wore either jerseys big enough for them and four other people to fit into, or were dragged by their boyfriends. Kristen was taking money out of the ATM, and overheard a conversation between a woman in a short white wool coat and heels, and her boyfriend.
"But I'm cold already," Girl whined.
"Why don't you zip up your fucking coat?" Sounds like a hot date night for those two.
"Where are we going again? Are we almost there? My feet hurt," she complained, shuffling her pointy-toe, high heeled boots.
"We're going to the Garden, that big fucking building at the end of the street." This is why guys think girls suck. This is also why the guy walking by the ATM stopped calling "tickets, tickets" when he walked by Kristen and I. Girls can't possibly like hockey on their own volition. These girls must be meeting some guy. Ugh. Ass.
Anyway, the game was fun, despite watching the boys get reamed out by an opposing team in teal. I'm also sorry I missed Joe's return to Boston. I had to offer to give him a hug for a friend of mine, but he was already ejected by the time we reached our seats.
We stayed until the bitter end, which was met by the Bruins being slow-clapped and booed. I don't like to boo the team I root for, but, seriously. That was some sloppy-ass hockey, and it's the first game I've ever seen it played live. Next time I was to watch hockey, I'll go to BU and buy the $4 women's hockey ticket. They'll probably play better, and for much less money. Until the Bruins put forth some effort (or time heals poor Hannu) I'll stay home.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Green

I owe Kristen about a bazillion dollars. Okay, not that much, but I owe her money for tonight's hockey game and last week's Legal Seafood dinner. In order to start paying down my debt, I offered to drive her to the grocery store in a Zipcar. The best thing about Zipcar, and what I've used it for primarily, is doing large-scale grocery shopping. The days are over when I had to enlist a few friends to help me carry my bags of milk and juice home. If I need to buy flour, TP, paper towels, or other cumbersome items, I just reserve the Zipcar and do it up right. I'll even drive to the Shaws in Allston to enjoy fresher produce than the World's Smallest Shaws on Beacon Street.
In Washington Square, there are four Zipcars. A Jetta, a Scion xA, a Highlander, and a Prius. I drove the Scion first (the acceleration in that thing was nearly nonexistent), then the Jetta (which I seriously love) so I decided to drive the Prius. Kristen then decided she wanted to go to Whole Foods, so we elected to put on some Birkenstocks and head on out in the Prius.
When you reserve a Zipcar, it gives you a little information about how to run the car. For the Scion and the Jetta, it consisted of "the gearshift is on the steering column" or something relatively simple. The Prius' instructions were about a page long. I read them, absorbing most of the information, but I decided not to print them out.
Colleen, Kristen and I arrived at the car and opened up the door. Unfortunately, Zipcar doesn't keep the dome light on when you open the door in most of the cars (just slide the switch, please!) and the lot isn't well-lit, so I had a hard time finding the unlock button on the door. I had to open the doors manually once I got inside. I tossed my purse into the back seat with Colleen as Kristen played with the multiple glove boxes and I was presented with the world's most confusing instrument panel. It was confusing because there wasn't one. There isn't even a key. I remembered that from the instructions. There is literally a "power" button. For an automobile. I pressed it, and nothing happened.
"Oh yeah," I said, "I have to press the brake while I do that."
I pressed the brake and the power button, and the car came to life. It was the quietest car I ever heard. The only reason I knew it was on was because the digital instrument panel came to life.
"Is the engine on?" Colleen asked from the backseat.
"This thing is like a Jetson car!" Kristen exclaimed.
All the Zipcars come with satellite radio, which is pretty fun. Kristen turned it on, but someone had used the regular radio and we had to figure out which frequency the satellite tuner was operating on, which involved mastering the operation of the Prius' spare instrument panel. Most of the functions are operated through the touch-screen, but we managed to figure out there's a tuner knob. Once the radio was on, we had to figure out how to turn on the windshield defroster. "Oh, the buttons are on the wheel!" I said. My first car was a 1992 Taurus, and there were some functions in the wheel too, which I really enjoyed. I turned on the defroster.
"Are your lights on?" Colleen asked.
"Nope," I said. The headlights were in the normal place, and I turned them on. This made it easier to find the shifter, which is right below the digital screen where the instrument panel would be. I slid the shifter into reverse, and it bounced right back, beeping at me.
"Uhh... hmm," Colleen said, leaning forward.
"I don't get it, it won't stay," I said, playing with the shifter. Then I looked on the dashboard and saw the car was in reverse, even though the shifter didn't stay put. "Oh."
I backed the car up slowly, getting used to the quiet engine and annoying beeping noise the dashboard makes while the car is in reverse. I managed to get out of the spot, turn onto Washington Street, and drive the Prius two feet to the Whole Foods.
I pulled into a spot, feeling like I was treating the planet with a deep respect by driving a fuel-efficient car to a store that supports organic foods and treating their employees well. Then I realized I had no idea how to stop the crazy car. I tried to remember the blurb I'd read on Zipcar's website, and looked for the "park" button, which is just a "P". I pressed it, and slowly let off the brake, hoping I could stop the car again before it bumped into the car in front of me. The car stopped, and I pressed the power button again to turn it off. I got out of the car, relieved to be done with it for a few minutes.
The car was peppy-- I zoomed down Washington after we dropped Kristen's groceries off and it had better pickup than the Scion did. But I'd recommend trying one out in the light of day, when you can see all the funky buttons clearly.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Children's Literature

First it was Jamie Lee Curtis. Then it was Madonna. Now it's Ted Kennedy.
Yes, moral paragon Ted Kennedy is writing a children's book, about a "dog's eye" view of a day in the senator's life in D.C. I'm all about the cutesy explanation of the election process for kids, mainly because most adults could do well to read a colorfully illustrated rundown of the basics of American government. But I'm fairly sure the dog angle has been done for children's books (I do know I've read one with a duck who runs for president) and I don't really know what Ted can add to this topic.
The book I want Ted to write will be called One Night On Chappaquiddick, and will be a "riverbank's eye" view of the night he drove drunk (or homicidal, depending on who you ask) and drove himself and Mary Jo Kopechne off a bridge. Somehow, the big fat Kennedy escaped the car while teeny tiny Mary Jo met her death in the 1967 Oldsmobile. It would go a little something like this:

And old Ted, he dove and dove,
to save Mary Jo he strove and strove.
But Ted, he was drunk; and Ted, he was fat,
and it's not easy to rescue someone like that.
So Ted sat on the banks of the mighty river,
his head in his hand, his lips a-quiver.
"What shall I do, oh, what shall I say
that will make this horrible scandal go away?"
But the best rum-soaked Ted could do
was sit and think about how the press would construe
this terrible accident as monstrous crime
and he'd ruin the Kennedy name by doing hard time.
In his haze, Ted decided to go back to the cottage
which was not an idea of the highest wattage...

T'd Off

I am going to be cliche and post a rant about the T. I promise to try and make it eloquent.
Why does the Green Line need to be rebooted every four stops? Why? The large hunk of metal that careens through the streets of Brookline needs to be restarted more frequently than our ancient, overloaded office Mac. It's a mild frustration when the Mac needs a swift reboot; but when you think about the hundred or so people on the train, and the innocent bystanders outside that could be hurt by a T malfunction, it gets a little creepy. What causes the T to need to be restarted? There's a couple of herky-jerk attempts at forward motion, a telltale high "meep" noise, then the heaters shut off and the lights go off. Suddenly, the embarrassing songs people listened to on their iPod are loud enough for their fellow passengers to overhear (sorry to all the people who heard the new Madonna CD at high decibel levels this morning). After about thirty seconds, the train roars back to life, you grab the iPod back out of the pocket and turn up "Hung Up". About three stops later, the T does the same trick again.
Today it happened at Kenmore, then again at Copley. I leaned against the lefthand door, cradling my coffee and holding the straps on my gym bag as the T rebooted about five times before the conductor even had the idea to tell us that there was a problem and we'd be "moving momentarily." Ah yes, the old "moving momentarily." A nice phrase that must be the official T handbook's line of BS to hand riders. It mentions the glorious feeling of moving through the tunnels safely, on your way to your destination. It also uses "momentarily" which sounds fast, but doesn't make any promises. It could be a moment, or it could be an eternity. It's all subjective. Well played, T, well played.
As I sat listening to the dulcet tones of Madonna and watching my stoic fellow passengers continue reading or spacing out, I thought how laughable it is that the T wants to charge more for services that suck. I remember reading that the T is running out of money for the fuel budget with the high price of gas, but I rode the 66 last week and was happy to make it out alive. The bus driver was a grizzled old man with some kind of fu manchu mustache that became a goatee, and he ate some kind of gigantic sandwich while he drove, maneuvering the bus with one hand through the narrow streets of Allston. He took time out to scream at random passengers, nearly sideswiped two cars, and stopped very short. At some point, the T has to realize that people will get fed up with slow service, a lack of common courtesy, and a snail's-pace response when problems do arise, and decide to either carpool or buy a bicycle.
My thoughts were interrupted by the doors opening, and people beginning to exit before the driver even announced that the train was going to be "taken out of service" and we'd have to wait for the next one. Fed up, overheated and hungry, I headed out of the station to walk the few blocks to my office. Luckily it wasn't very cold outside, and I kind of enjoyed the morning constitutional across Copley Square. Next time I can hopefully elect to walk to work, instead of being forced into exercise by the T.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

European Tarts

ABC is telling me it's my dream to fall in love in Paris. "Falling in love in Paris is every girl's dream," says one of the tarts on the new season of The Bachelor.
Is it? At some point, visiting Paris would be nice. But falling in love in Paris? Meeting someone on vacation lends itself to some tricky situations. I know I'm a completely different person when I'm on vacation. When you don't need to take out the trash, it's a lot easier to love a guy who leaves it to fester in the back hallway.
I'd be happy to find love anywhere. Last time, I found it in my own house (thanks, Kristen!) which was convenient. I kind of wish I could import men into my house. I could whip up something for him in Precious, sit him down, discuss the finer points of life and his trash-removal preferences. Once I get to know a man in the comfort of my own home, on my own turf, once I'm sure he won't rip up my passport or smuggle drugs in my toiletry bag, then we can take a trip. The Whatever and I headed to Florida after about a month of knowing each other and had a good time.
I have had luck meeting people on trips. The last time I was in London, I met a guy from New Zealand and we kind of hit it off, but I don't really talk to him often anymore. Long distance relationships take on a whole new meaning when they involve a passport. But it can work. A friend of mine met her boyfriend in the Dominican, he called and said he'd be coming to see her for Christmas once she returned, did come to visit, and they've been together since.
In March, I'll get my chance to find love in another couple of Europe's most romantic cities. Alicia and I booked a trip to Rome and Venice. I'm excited to travel again (I haven't been abroad since 2002), especially since I've never been to Italy. There is cause to be a little nervous, since I don't speak Italian and I've been told that the Italian men tend to be a bit more aggressive toward us light-haired women, but if Rick Steves tells me I'll be safe on the boot, I'll take my chances. If getting my ass grabbed is the worst that happens to me on vacation, I'll be happy.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Dreamers, the Muppets, and Me

"Why is it that all the cool people die young?"

Deb looked at me quizzically. "Um, what?"

"Jim Henson died so young!" I exclaimed, gesticulating wildly to the empty streets of Cambridge. "And Lindsay Lohan is still running free in this world!"

"Well, he was older when he died, Lindsay still has time before she catches up with him," Deb said, kind of unsure about the macabre turn the conversation had taken.

We were talking about the Muppets because we'd just attended the first one and a half films at the Brattle theater's Muppet Triple Feature. Deb had seen it in the Metro, and we decided to make the trek to Cambridge to enjoy a little nostalgia.

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The first movie I ever saw in a theater was one of the Muppet Movies. I think it was The Muppets Take Manhattan since it was released in 1984. I don't remember the movie, but I do remember reading my baby book a few years ago and seeing that I'd apparently been more interested in the "story wall" in the bathroom (the graffiti) than the actual movie. But I've always loved the Muppets. I had a Miss Piggy lunchbox. I liked watching The Muppet Show and even Muppet Babies, so I was excited that the Muppet movies were playing on the big screen.

Deb, Annette and I arrived in time for the first movie, The Muppet Movie, which tells the fictionalized story of how the Muppets got their start in Hollywood. From watching it on television reruns, I know that this one is my favorite Muppet movie. The movie begins with the usual suspects sitting in a screening room, Waldorf and Statler making fun of the proceedings. "I've seen detergents that leave a better film than this!" Hilarious.

The the "movie" begins, and Kermit sits in a swamp, plucking a banjo, and singing "Rainbow Connection." And I, a twenty-four year old woman, started crying. In a movie theater. Crying while listening to a song sung by a green felt frog puppet. Something about that song gets to me. Jim Henson sings it so convincingly, so wistfully, that it's moving. It's a simple, sparse song that uses imagery so well. Those are the ones that always get me teary. Tease me if you want, but you are made of stone if you can listen to that song without feeling something.

I went into the movie theater in kind of a funk, but midway through the movie my mood had greatly improved. I love the Muppets for the same reason I love the Shrek movies-- there's material for adults and kids alike. The number of one-liners and puns in the first five minutes of The Muppet Movie outnumbers the jokes in the entirety of most kids movies made now. When Kermit is nearly steamrolled while riding his bicycle, he says, "It's a good thing frogs can hop, or I'd be gone with the Schwinn!" The entire theater groaned, and then laughed.

Then "Movin' Right Along" started, with the obligatory annoying person sitting behind me singing the entire song. Shut up, girl. Everybody here knows the words to this song. In the words of the Grandpa in The Princess Bride, "you're very smart. Now shut up." Although I did sing one part:
California here we come, that pie-in-the sky-land
Palm trees and warm sand
Though sadly we just left Rhode Island...


Then the other song that got me balling comes later, "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday." Just the line "There's not a word yet, for old friends who've just met" had the tears going from "mist" to "pour." I heard Deb sniffling next to me, and the annoying girl behind me didn't sing along to that song. I wanted to turn around and say, "Bitch, I know ALL THE WORDS to this song, and the words to ALL the other songs you obnoxiously sung, so shut the fuck up, I am the queen of this movie." But I didn't, because the Muppets had put me in a better mood.

We laughed as Bunsen and Beeker came out, and laughed at Animal's head popping out of a building after he ate giant pills. As an Emerson alum, I found Orson Wells' line, "Prepare the standard 'Rich and Famous' contract for Kermit the Frog and Company" hilarious. I do think some of my classmates went west looking for this actual contract.

We tried to sit through The Great Muppet Caper, but we were hungry and tired, so we left after John Cleese's "there's a pig climbing the building" conversation. Deb tends to get a little bored at movies that aren't fast-paced, so the dry humor was lost on her. I did like the line in the opening credits when Gonzo asks Kermit if anyone actually reads the names on the screen. "Oh sure," Kermit replies, "these people have families." It's the same thing for copyright pages in textbooks, Kermie.

I've always had an affinity for Jim Henson as a person. Even as a kid, I loved how he created so many things so many people enjoy. I hated Fraggle Rock, but I always liked the Muppets, Sesame Street, and even the Storyteller series with larger, scarier puppets. I liked how Jim Henson reminded me of my Dad, with his big, bushy beard. I actually remember hearing how Jim Henson died, watching kids on the news talk about how much they loved the Muppets, and how my Mom told me that he died of pneumonia, which is the same thing that killed my Dad. I hate how the Muppets got bought out by Disney, which seems to ruin everything it touches. A Muppet Christmas Carol was good, but since then there's been a dearth of good Muppet movies. The same humor, the sense of zaniness with sentimentality, has been lost entirely for sight-gags and bland songs. Sing a song from Muppets in Space. You can't, because they're completely unmemorable. But, like the annoying girl behind me, most people can sing the songs from The Muppet Movie because they appeal to universal emotions that kids and adults can relate to.

I think I'll begin accumulating more credit card debt by buying The Muppet Movie on DVD, and singing the songs to myself in the privacy of my living room. I'll also have to add a box of Kleenex to the tab, since I'm a giant softie. There is nothing but gooey nugat under this jawbreaker shell.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Gay Cowboy Controversy

Today I was reading the Globe at lunch, and came across an article titled "The Passion of the Cowboy." This was an opinion piece about the less-than-stellar, but not abysmal ticket sales for Brokeback Mountain.

Why will ''Brokeback" fail to break out? First and foremost, outside of major cities, many Americans remain jittery at best and disapproving at worst of homosexuality. Even in oh-so-tolerant Hollywood, it's amusing to see ''Brokeback" stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal play up their home-on-the-range heterosexuality in publicity interviews. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

I've been a little disappointed in the apparent "I'm not a gay, but I play one in the movies" attitude that Heath and Jake display in their press interviews. But while Hollywood is tolerant of movies that show gay people as flamboyant, Carson-Kressley types, I think Hollywood is not tolerant of showing gay people with emotions and problems, which is why Brokeback isn't just some "gay movie." Few movies I can think of off the top of my head (granted, I don't see many movies) use gay men seriously. Usually, they're the funny best friend to Julia Roberts or Renee Zellwieger, and I'm glad for the change of pace.

Beam continues:
Newspapers like the Globe and The New York Times often write about the world as they would like it to be -- a world resembling, say, Manhattan or Cambridge -- not the world as they find it. (A world, for instance, where a right-wing Catholic can make $370 million on a movie about Jesus Christ.) Hilariously, the Times dispatched a reporter to Lusk, Wyo., to round up a few gay cowboys, as if to say: ''See? They're really out there."...

The Globe and the Times write about the world as they would like to see it because people need to get the hell over their narrow vision of what the world is. Gay people have been here just as long as the rest of us. You may not be comfortable with it, you may not approve of homosexuality, but tolerance should be taught. I haven't ever seen the Globe waxing poetic about assless chaps. Brokeback Mountain is a good movie. End of story. I'm sure that most people who imagine a "gay cowboy movie" imagine loads of gratuitous sex scenes, as Beam points out...
Another explanation for the limited appeal of ''Brokeback" is that millions of moviegoers don't want to see men making love to each other on the screen. ''If heterosexual men in heartland America don't flock to see 'Brokeback Mountain' it's not because they're bigoted," Kaus writes. ''It's because they're heterosexual."...

Okay. I was one of the other group that can be described as "millions of moviegoers" that found the idea of Heath and Jake going at it as very appealing. Heterosexual men love to see women making out or engaging in sex together, and many women go to movies that have women engaging in sexual acts. If a guy is such a pussy that he can't stomach about two minutes of alluded sexual activity, you may have a closet case, ladies. Watching gay people "have sex" (in Brokeback: grab a penis under a blanket, see clothes removed, a short kiss, cut to the outside of the tent) doesn't make you gay. It doesn't make you part of gay culture. It's a damn movie, people! Also, for the boobie-loving men in the audience, there's a few long shots of naked women without shirts, and lots of heterosexual sex as well. Far more than the gay sex. Sadly.
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Beam wraps up with this nice paragraph:
If this were a routine boy-girl oater, you could laugh at yourself for spending $9 to ogle sexual disport in the sagebrush. But, alas, it's so much more: a story of men ''crippled by a society that tells them how a man must behave and what he must feel" -- Ebert again. So endure the heavy-handed morality play; just don't plan on having a good time.

Did Alex Beam and I not see the same movie? Of course there's heavy-handed morality in a movie about homosexual men in the 1960s; it was a huge moral issue. It is a huge moral issue, in the year of two-thousand aught six. What does it say about our society that a movie that presents gay men as two serious people with actual problems and lives and not a one-person Mardi Gras float rankles us so thoroughly? Of course it's not a fun movie; not all movies are. That's why Brokeback Mountain is nominated for a Best Drama Golden Globe-- it's not The Producers.
I think that the importance of Brokeback Mountain isn't in shattering any box-office records in 2006. The importance is is that someone in Hollywood decided that a movie with gay men doesn't have to be The Birdcage, but can come from places other than beauty salons or the entertainment industry, and it didn't immediately tank at the box office. Even if the parts of the country that aren't Cambridge or Manhattan don't see Brokeback Mountain, they'll at least understand that the movie isn't about gay hair stylists, but about cowboys from Wyoming. Breaking down the prejudice against people we don't understand is how we get to tolerance. The more conservative members of society don't have to go to pride parades, but should make an effort to understand people other than themselves.

A la Carte

Finally, someone in the media is hearing what I've been saying for years. Cable companies should let consumers pick and choose the channels they want to pay for. Because, and I'm sure the cable companies know this and react with the appropriate fear, there are very few channels I would actually pay to watch.
I would pay for...

  • Bravo. I have recently become addicted to Project Runway. I think Heidi Klum is my new girl crush. Cute little pregger and her cute German accent.
  • Food Network. For Dave Lieberman, Paula Deen and her cute-ass son, Jamie. I like to watch the cooking shows, and I actually make most of their dishes.
  • Local channels (PBS, CBS, ABC, NBC, UPN). You'll note Fox is missing, because they suck. Are the Simpsons even on anymore?
  • MTV, because I think I've spent every New Year's Day since 1999 hungover and watching whatever Real World/Road Rules/Challenge marathon they play.
  • VH1, because I do love the Surreal Life, and I Love the... shows.
  • NESN, during baseball season.
  • Comedy Central, if only to watch the Daily Show.
  • The Learning Channel. I'm a fan of What Not to Wear and the shows where people have babies/get married/have dates.
  • A channel that does not yet exist that exclusively plays Sex and the City reruns.
  • A channel that does not yet exist that exclusively plays Law and Order: Special Victims Unit reruns. Call me, B.D. Wong!
  • A channel that does not yet exist that exclusively plays Phantom Gourmet reruns.
  • A channel that does not yet exist that exclusively plays The Best of Pete Bouchard. That only exists in my mind.

But that's about it. I will not pay for...
  • Fox News. Bite my liberal ass, Murdock.
  • NECN. New England isn't that big. We don't need a cable channel that loops cutesy footage of covered bridges and boats between human interest stories.
  • Nickelodeon. I can only handle about one SpongeBob episode per annum. I do miss such television gems as Salute Your Shorts, Alex Mack, Double-Dare, and Clarissa Explains it All.
  • Any 24-hour news outlet. It was cute at first with CNN, but now it's a tapeworm in the intestines of journalism. I think the miner story illustrates how blindly 24-hour news tries to make something out of nothing, and I do feel bad encouraging them.
  • Any home shopping channels. I don't need anything with an elastic waist, thanks.
  • Lifetime. If I want overwrought dialogue, I'll read some Jane Austen. Thanks.

So get on it, cable companies. When I live on my own, I'm not paying for a full cable package. I can rent DVDs of Good Deal with Dave Lieberman and Paula's Home Cooking if I really need to watch them. You were warned.

Intimate Strangers, Trading Misfortunes

At the beginning of a new year, I always stop and think about where I was a year ago, and where I was ten years ago. I guess it's easier for my mathematically challenged mind to wrap itself around these periods of time. Ten years ago puts us at 1996 (no, my calculator is still off, smartasses), which was my sophomore year of high school. I struggled with math class, I was in plays, I was nervous around boys.
My best friend in high school, Nina, was dating this guy, Pat*. Pat was a year older than us, in his junior year, and was our friend Mandy's brother. They were Irish twins, a little more than a year apart in age. I was pretty close with Mandy, but never really associated with Pat much, and wanted to associate with him even less when he took to making out with Nina on the benches by the teacher's lounge. In retrospect, it's surprising Nina tolerated Pat's sloppy kissing style, but he had his driver's license, and in a rural town that's more important than having your lipstick smeared by drool.
Nina eventually broke up with Pat, and ended up dating his friend Tom. I don't remember why they broke up, but it seemed amicable enough, and Pat never struck me as a bad guy, if not the world's best kisser. When I'd go over to Mandy's house to work on our spaghetti bridge project or have a sleepover, he kept to himself most of the time.
I liked Mandy, but I never knew what I was getting into when I was going to her house. Her father was a nice enough guy. I always liked his booming laugh and loud voice. He worked for a waste-disposal company, and must have made decent money to afford their huge house, the in-ground, nearly Olympic-size swimming pool in their backyard, and keeping Mandy's mother as an at-home mother.
Mandy and Pat's mother was weird. Sometimes, she'd welcome me warmly. "Hi, Amy, come in! Are you guys working on the spaghetti bridge today? Do you want a snack?" Other times, I'd commit some grievance that I didn't even know about, and she'd barely acknowledge my presence. Mandy told me she was mad at me because the spaghetti bridge we built barely held the wood block that separated it from the weight, and her mom was worried that Mandy would fail math because of the shoddy construction.
"She's mad at me for that? I mean, we both worked on it. We tried."
Mandy shrugged her shoulders like it wasn't unusual. And it wasn't. Mandy would tell me about her mother being mad at other friends for small issues that another parent would just roll their eyes over. Mandy's mother didn't let her shave her legs until she was a senior, and didn't want Mandy to go to college out of state, even though Mandy had a good mind for science and wanted to be a doctor. I wished for her to get out of Rhode Island, away from her mother, and get out on her own.
We graduated, and we lost touch. I couldn't get out of West Greenwich, and then out of the state of Rhode Island, fast enough. I wanted a life that I chose for myself, not the one that I got from being born and raised by my mother in a small town. Some people, like Alicia and I, couldn't fathom a life set in rural Rhode Island. Some people couldn't imagine a life outside the small towns with dirt roads and sand dunes. Some people, like Mandy and Pat, were on the fence about it.
I'd ask my mother to keep me up to date on people. Mandy ended up getting pregnant a couple years after graduation, and was working at a Friendly's. Pat worked at the same grocery store he'd worked at in high school, and worked his way into management. My mom told me he'd gotten married, and had a kid. After a couple of years, the people I saw daily in the halls of my condominium-looking high school faded from my memory. Occasionally, I'd run into someone while I was home, and they'd fill me in on the gossip they had. But I never seemed to run into Mandy or Pat.
Yesterday I checked projo.com at the end of the day, looking for something to write about. At the top of the page, there was a headline that read "West Greenwich man accused of abusing infant son." I opened the link to see who it was, if it was someone I didn't know, just some new yuppie who works at Amgen or G-Tech who snapped.
"Pat ___, a 25-year old man, is due to be arraigned today on charges he shook his infant son, who is in critical condition at Rhode Island Hospital."
"What!?" I exclaimed. Kristen asked me what was up, figuring it was baseball-related.
"A kid I went to high school with beat his son into a coma," I replied, shellshocked.
"Oh," she said.
It's odd how you realize that these people you're so close with now don't understand all of your history. When you're in high school, especially in a small town like mine, everyone knows your past. You talk about the bitch you had for a teacher in fifth grade; the time Rachel was walking down the hall and barfed, seemingly out of nowhere; the time you drank a whole case of soda at a sleepover and Rachel's dad got mad. These things seem to be a part of you, like a patch of beautiful fabric in a quilt, and when other people don't see them, it's a shock.
I emailed Alicia, who graduated in the same class as Pat. I tried to call my mom for some details, but the line was busy. I sat at my desk, shellshocked, not knowing what to think.
Alicia called me later, and we talked about it.
"Pat? PAT? It's unbelievable. He seemed like the last guy who'd hurt anybody, nevermind a baby. I just checked the TV station's site, and it's more detailed. Apparently he beat his wife a year ago too. And there's a picture of him and everything."
"I hope Mandy's okay," I replied, "she seemed like the most normal one in the house. It's so sad, for everyone." I kind of wish I had her email to tell her I was thinking of her.
I watched TV with Kristen and Marianne for a while longer, (shut UP, Santino!) and then went home. I sat in my room for a while, and decided to check the TV station's website.
I read the story, about how he'd been charged for beating his wife a year ago. How he'd lied to the EMTs and the cops, saying that the 3 1/2 month old had a seizure like Pat always had, and had fallen limp in his arms. That doctors think the baby had been abused before the shaking. Then Pat called his wife from jail and said that the baby hadn't stopped crying, and he shook him until he did. His lawyer maintains he didn't admit to it, but it's odd that he'd lie about it. Pat worked with the volunteer emergency services in our town, and must have known any EMT would know the difference between a seizure and a shaken baby. His mind must have snapped.
There was also a still image of Pat, and it broke my heart. He's standing in a gray fleece, with his arms shackled in front of him. He had a couple days worth of growth on his face, making his goatee look unkempt. His eyes were cast down to the side. He and Mandy were always solidly built-- not fat, but tall, broad-shouldered people. Pat had gained at least a hundred pounds since I last saw him. Just looking at his shoulders alone scared me. I stared at the picture, feeling terrified, sad, and angry.
It's easy to look at someone on TV, who shows up to court looking like he's spent a night out behaving badly and cast him solely as a monster, as this evil thing without a trace of good in him. It's something else entirely to see a person that you know, who made out with your best friend sophomore year looking like hell. I can't cast Pat as entirely a bad guy because he isn't. I think back to all the other elements of his life-- his mother, his job, the sad look he had on his face at the grocery store, how I'd pretend I didn't know him when I'd see him there when I was visiting from Boston, how he was twenty-five and still living with his parents-- and wonder what made him do it. But I imagine if I lived with my mom, if I had a wife and kids, if I worked management with a bunch of bratty teenagers at a chain supermarket, and if I'd had a bad stretch and a kid just wouldn't stop crying and I lost it, it could have been me. It could be anyone.
But there's also no excuse. You don't hit your wife. You don't shake your baby. My mother said when I used to wail, cry, and nearly drive her insane (if you know me, you know I've got some pipes on me) she'd feel tempted to shake me, or react violently, and would have to walk away. I've had times when I've worked in daycares where I've been frustrated with a kid who won't stop crying. One day a new baby cried for six hours, stopping only to nap. I had to walk away for a few minutes. As long as a baby isn't in imminent danger, you put him down in a safe place and leave until you can calm down and can act like an adult. Same thing with your wife. If you're mad, you blurt out that you need to calm down, and go punch a tree. Do not punch a person. Ever. A three and a half month old has no chance. No chance against a furious man with huge shoulders shaking him. Something about the picture of Pat is sad, but it's also terrifying. I want to shake him, break him apart, put him in a coma like he did his son just as much as I want to tell him how sorry I am. It could have been anyone.
I feel sometimes like I'm watching all these events that happen in my hometown in a bubble, floating above all of them. A few years ago, a classmate I'd been close with in elementary school died in a motorcycle accident. It was the same thing-- I just clicked on a link out of curiosity and fear, afraid it was my friend Pete who I am still friends with, figuring it was no one I knew, really. But it was someone I knew, if only from my memories from fifth grade. We both loved dirty jokes, and he'd always crack me up at lunch by asking the lunch monitor if she could show him where the "gar-BITCH" was. We drifted apart in junior high school-- I hung out with the semi-cool smart kids, he hung out with the early-drinking redneck kids-- and continued on our separate paths in high school as I went to college prep classes and honors classes, and he drifted out of my life. But he's always a part of that history, sewn together from different people, held together with all our experiences in that small town. He had a wife and young kids, and was in the service (I think). I wished I could send flowers, but who would care? What would I write on the card to his wife? "Ben was really funny in the fifth grade, and enjoyed swearing as much as me. I'm sorry for your loss."
I called my Mom this morning, who had surprisingly heard about it on the TV news, and not from her coworkers. She usually knows about everything before the news outlets do. We talked about it, and she commiserated with my feeling of wanting to console Pat and smack the shit out of him at the same time.
"It happens," my Mom said, "and it starts young. I remember one girl I went to school with died in a motorcycle accident, and she was pregnant. Once in a while I see an obituary for someone who had cancer."
It's stunning to see that the town in which time seemed to stand still, things keep happening.

I had guards like watchdogs
Dogs in a manger
I could feel the protection
Possession and anger
And I drove out of there
With no on behind me
Feeling funny and free
All you pretty pretenders
Negligent vendors
Aren't you precious inside
I have no need for anger
With intimate strangers
And I got nothing to hide...
We act empty and innocent
But we are fueled by distortions
(I remember you)
Of lives led in discontent
(when we were shiny and new)
Trading misfortunes
(now you guard your faith)
Cause faith is one thing
That is hard to deliver
(temper your speed)
It feels so funny to be free...
-- Reunion, Indigo Girls

*Some names were changed. Yes, I know you can find out the real name by looking online, but I wanted to respect his privacy.