Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Home for the Holidays With No Hope For a Normal Future, or Their Blood...My Veins

I am doomed.

It sounds dramatic, but in my case it just might be true.

See, living away from home, you have the luxury of fooling everyone you meet into believing that you somehow don't have a family. Maybe you were one of those dumpster babies, or maybe you were independently minded and emancipated yourself from your parents shortly after moving to solids or being potty trained. Maybe you're what happened when lightning struck the ocean and DNA magically came together. Who cares. Whatever your story is, no one in your life has to know where you come from, or more importantly, whose genes are actually responsible for the person you are today.

But I'll always know...

And thank God there's the Thanksgiving holiday to remind me!

Thing is, it's taken me years to get this comfortable in my own skin. If you were to have told me as a chubby little nine year old with offset front teeth and frizzy hair, alone in my craft room hot-gluing art projects together for hours at a time, that I would actually turn out to be somewhat interesting and not completely plagued with self-loathing, I probably wouldn't have believed you. It may sound like a lie, but I'm a real life grown-up.* I live my life, and now that my car starts and I have a job I don't hate, I'm actually starting to love my life. I still complain about a lot of shit, and I know my behavior can be more than a little off-beat, but God forbid I take full credit for it.

This year, like every other year and/or any occasion that my extended family is calamitously brought together, Thanksgiving was a fucking crazyass carnival shitshow that made the truth of my lineage shine brighter than the warm fire at our hearth. It also made it burn just like that fire. Or maybe that was the alcohol I wouldn't...stop...drinking.

Just take another sip, don't panic.

Your mom's 48 year old confirmed lesbian cousin just made another suggestive comment about you being her lover. Gulp. Uh-oh, your 3 year old cousin just hit you in the face again with the bean bag. Aaaaand there goes his hand up your shirt. He just touched your boob. Don't panic. Shit, what next? Grandma is drowning in a puddle of her own self-pity, and that's right, your questionably retarded aunt is crying in the corner because no one will look at pictures of her cats...again.

Keep drinking. Do not panic.

Shh, it's ok, Lisa. You'll be ok. This is just a nightmare and soon you're going to wake up...

Except here's the thing: I didn't wake up. The nightmare I seemed to be having wasn't a nightmare at all. Nope, I was fully awake, and with my father reminding me hourly that his blood ran through my veins, I was all too aware that my ancestors had apparently been doing their swimming on the shallow end of the gene pool.

This sad fact became apparent as I was halfway through jamming my face full of stuffing at our opulent feast and nearly choked. And it certainly wasn't because of the food. My mother succeeded brilliantly, once again, in preparing a most decadent spread for our family, and 15 of our closest distant relatives. Including good old Uncle Bob.

All too often we don't give credit where credit is due. My 78 year old great uncle may be as old as the hills of Westwood, but he can still remember with unsettling clarity his days as a young buck at UCLA. This is is quite funny, you see, coming from a man who actually doesn't remember how old he is.

His plate was clean, and the mashed potatoes were long since gone when he brought up the very appropriate subject of venereal disease.

See, the old folks always have some story to tell about Life and Love with the kind of insight that only comes with age...

"Now, I can remember when I was at UCLA. There was one guy at the fraternity who would screw pretty much anything with legs--"

This is where I sort of inhaled a chunk of yam. WTF Uncle Bob!? He continued, not noticing...

"--and he tried to get me to go out drinking with him down at the bars near campus...you know, drink lots of beer so we could get the girls back home and in the sack. But I didn't want any part of that. I didn't want to get any venereal disease. That shit scared me to death. I wanted healthy kids."

Stuffing. Stuck in nasal passage.

Uncle Bob then segued into his not-so-misguided thoughts on young people today and how crazy it is that we all run around doing keg stands and drinking shots of tequila from each others' cleavages and how that's something that would really get him pretty excited, ya know...

I didn't know how to respond, and perhaps I'll never know how to respond. I couldn't very well corroborate the caustic rumors with a polite, "Why yes Uncle Bob, I do enjoy a good body shot," or offer to demonstrate my upside-down beer drinking skills.** All I could do was hope that somehow, somewhere deep in the double helix of my DNA, whatever genes I shared with this lovable 78 year old man had randomly mutated.

Hope is all I have.

I love my family, and look forward to next year, and every idiot parade to come, but for as long as I live, I will shudder at the thought of what we share...

Absolutely everything.

*Eff you. I pay bills, I am a grown-up.
**I am very skilled in many things including keg stands.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Note To My Family Before Thanksgiving, or Sometimes Soy Just Isn't A Suitable Alternative

I can tolerate lactose.

Lucky for me, I don't get gassy when I drink milk, or eat yogurt, or add cheese to my beans. I can eat as much dairy as I want. I could bathe in cream, and if I get sick I can automatically rule out lactose intolerance as a possible cause of illness.

And I'm glad about this, because life is already hard enough.

I'm one of the lucky ones, unlike the poor soul in front of me at Whole Foods today. As I was waiting to purchase my standard salad + water bottle lunch, I noticed that the elderly gentleman standing just in front of me had a mixed basket of non-dairy dairy products, all of which appeared to be artificially engineered using soy. Soy milk. Soy sour cream. Soy American cheese.

My heart bled for this man.

Here was a man who clearly loved dairy. I can imagine him as a child as the ice cream truck passed through his neighborhood. His little feet scampering to the door at the sound of cheery music making its way through balmy summer air down what I'm sure his parents referred to as 'The Avenue.' He watched behind his screen door as the kids next door rushed down their lawns, fists filled with quarters in a hopeful race against time. He would have been right there with them, if it weren't for his lactose intolerance. "You know how you get when you eat that ice cream," his mother would say with a knowing grimace.* And oh boy, he knew...

Poor kid.

This man and the fictional life-story I made up for him while I waited steps behind of course got me thinking about life, and the everyday expectations and disappointments we all must survive. The lactose we must tolerate, if you will. See, this cheese-loving man was no different from me in a lot of ways. He wanted what he just... couldn't... have.

I may not be lactose intolerant, but there still things that make my tummy hurt. And with the barrage of questions I'll undoubtedly have to answer (with a smile) at this year's Thanksgiving familypalooza, there are a few things I wish I could address to my relatives before we break bread:

1) Yes. I have a job and so far it's okay, but at this point I don't know what I really want to do with my beautiful mind so please don't ask, it makes me uncomfortable. I left the entertainment business because it sucks and I don't any patronizing "I told you so" speeches. Thanks anyway, please pass the yams.

2) I make less money than I would like to make.

3) I don't really date because I feel strongly that Los Angeles is a soulless wasteland nearly devoid of viable options (I hope I am wrong). Regardless, I have no intention of telling you anything about my personal life. Which leads me to...

4) No, I do not have children, or plans to bear children in the near future. Comments or complaints about our family replenishing itself with new life and how great that would be will be disregarded and considered personal assaults on my inability to find a suitable mate. Meeting men at bars is not only unlikely, but unwise. When my children ask me someday about how I met their father I don't want the story to start off with, "Well, Mommy and Daddy were wasted at a bar one night and Mommy was so good at karaoke Daddy just knew she was the one!"

Enough about me, let's talk about you. Oh, you feel like yams, too? Yeah, I thought so...

I guess the difference between me and the Soyophile is that the things I must deal with are at least within my sphere of influence. I have no genetic pre-disposition to not knowing how to constructively harness my ambition, but we all have to decide at some point to what extent we are willing to let our limitations dictate our expectations. What concessions can we stand to make and what are we willing to settle for? At what point do we stand up and say "No! I love cereal and I won't let my body's aversion to milk stop me from eating it! Ever!"

I expect to be happy. I expect to be rich.** I expect to marry and have several children.

I expect to have my ice cream, and eat it too. I will not settle for soy.

Not today. Not ever.

*She was referring to his violent dairy-induced diarreah.
**No, not really.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Incoherent Musings on the Issue of Coolness, or Pounding Jello Shots with Senior Citizens Is A Great Way To Spend A Weekend

What the fuck does it mean to be Cool?

My entire adolescence reads as an Odyssey of sorts, a fumbling about in the dark, a long and winding road that hopefully dead ends at some point with an answer this puzzling question.

But I'm not keeping my fingers crossed.

See, it's always been a mystery to me, what makes someone truly cool. Just when I think I've identified an actual cool person, just when I've outlined in my mind the key factors that make that person cool, they'll blow it and do a magic trick, or be into race-cars, or have a girlfriend--and in an instant the wind is swiftly swept from my sails, and again I am left to wonder...

There's a lot of confusion surrounding the issue of Coolness. Lines are easy to cross, and the shades of gray...well, they are many. Like, it's cool to watch 'The Office,' but it's not cool to make awkward jokes at work (ala Michael Scott.) And what about drugs? We're taught that they're definitely NOT cool in elementary school, but then the rules abruptly change and in junior high it's like, only the cool kids smoke pot and sneak their parents' booze. The definition of the word, and whatever attitude it implies is so fucked up and challenging and I've never fully grasped it...

And yet Coolness, while it remains an intangible mystery shrouded in a dense fog, is also the only real thing I know exists.

So really. Someone please tell me. I'd kind of like to start implementing some changes.*

Because there is no Rosetta Stone for this kind of thing. No rules or regulations. My high school calculus teacher may have been the coolest man alive, but the same could be said of John Lennon, or even my Dad on a good day. In the milieu of fleeting trends and unbearable fads, bandwagons and here-today-gone-tomorrows, it's hard to know what actually qualifies. Is coolness based on what you wear? What you listen to? How attractive you are? Is it owning nothing but vinyl or having the newest iPod? Is it knowing how to play the guitar, or having a boyfriend who does?

Hmm. I don't have any of those things. Fuck. See why I need help?

Try as you might, you may never actually learn how to be it, but you sure as shit know cool when you see it.

And last weekend, I saw it. In the most unlikely of places.

Last weekend while I was hanging out at my aunt and uncle's house, I saw cool happen. My visit happened to fall on the same day as an annual get together they host for a group of friends who have apparently all known each other since high school. Keep in mind, that's a helluva long time; these people all qualified for AARP like, 20 years ago. So they gather at the house, eat greasy lasagna, drink cheap wine.... and (drumroll, please) do Jello shots.

Seriously. Jello shots.

Maybe I'm over-stating my reaction when I say I was blown away by this, but at first I honestly didn't know how to respond. When a gray-haired woman with intimidatingly blue eyeshadow and imposing bosoms shoves a tray of those things in your face, the experience alone can make you dizzy with surprise.

"I'm sorry ma'am, shouldn't you be a 20-year-old frat boy? Where is your bunk-bed and your ulterior motive? Can I trust this Jello shot? Should I be worried about my reputation?...Wait, are you my grandma?"

I guess the point, and really the humor of all this lies in the fact that even though the Jello Shot-Fairy was at least 67, probably diabetic, and in severe need of some hair-dye--things that would usually land you in the uncool category**--she was undeniably the most clued-in guest at the Lasagna Party. Her very presence and the intoxicating gifts she bore flipped all my notions of coolness upside down. Again.

And you know, so what? So maybe there is no formula for being cool. Maybe it's totally possible and it's just a matter of time before I'm 67 and diabetic and force-feeding my overweight, geriatric friends Jello shots that could potentially kill them.

At least being cool is totally possible.


*Preferably sooner than later, because at some point I'd like to get married and maybe even have kids, and I think being cool would help me achieve those goals.

**Sorry, Diabetes is not cool.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Why Air Travel Is The Worst, or "F-You and Your Peanut Allergy, This Party Mix Sucks."

Airports baffle me.

It's not just the fact that I can't really fathom how they work, because I know it's super complicated and way beyond what my little brain can understand (wine may be good for your heart, but trust me it turns your mind to shit). They are complex, and humongous, and involve math, so obviously I will never fully grasp what really happens behind the computer screen when I book a flight. I click the button, and hope the work stops there. I pack my bag, I board the plane, I'm told to enjoy the ride...

And therein lies what baffles me most of all: When it comes to air travel, I never ever actually enjoy the ride.

Of all the modes of transportation that God invented, roller-blading and riding side-saddle included, I think air travel sucks the absolute most. I'd like to take this chance to outline my reasons, inspired by my trip to Portland last weekend, but based on the aggregate of all my really awful air travel experiences.

Reason #1 Flying is The Balls: Getting a ride to the airport is shitty.

In all honesty, this reason on its own could warrant its own entry, nay, it's own blog, if i really wanted to get into it. This is because flying always starts with driving. Until teleporting really catches on, which it very well could given both the legacy of "Star Trek" and the recent popularity of NBC's "Heroes," in order to catch a flight you have to get your ass to the airport. And you'd better hope that shit is close, because otherwise your drive may take even longer than the plane ride itself. And don't even THINK about taking a shuttle. Not only have I had a miserable string of near-death experiences in airport shuttles, I have been straight up LEFT on the curb by the fuckfaces at both PrimeTime and Supershuttle. On three separate occasions! And over the summer, when I actually made it onto my van, I had to sit behind a pasty-white man in ill-fitting shorts and try not to hide my complete disgust while I stared at his leg hair as he told me about how he dumped his entire life savings into a brilliant plan to design a three-wheeled, ethanol-burning vehicle he lovingly referred to as 'his special little car.'


God, I hate airport shuttles almost as much as I hate...

Reason #2: Flight Attendants.

I'm not sorry* if your mom or aunt or (God forbid) brother is a flight attendant. I generally don't like flight attendants, and I think they deserve even less credit than they already don't get. Whatever strides we've made as a society toward legitimizing the work of the Flight Attendant, we should immediately take three giant steps back. There are few customer-service careers that are as overrated as that of these phony-balonies. I'm sorry, Stewardess, but knowing CPR doesn't qualify you for a better job title, and you're only pretending to be happy to serve me, you snatch; I know you're only doing this for the frequent flier miles. When you tell me to turn off my iPod before we hit a cruising altitude of 10,000 feet I want not only to leave it on, I also want to bitch-slap you across the face. For the life of me, I do not, nor will I ever understand why my seat needs to be tilted all of 10 degrees higher prior to take-off and landing, and when you call me out for not returning it to its full upright position as you pass my row for the 14th time, you make me feel like a troublemaker when really all I want is to be a little less uncomfortable. AH you are a bitch! And in an era where my terror alert is always red (thank you, G. Dubya), am I expected to believe that Tammy, Cindy, and Kara really going to rise up and defend me in case of an emergency? Highly doubtful.

The more I write about this the more pissed off I get. I'm moving on to...

Reason #3: In-Flight Companions and Their Bodily Functions.

Pretty simple. Planes are close quarters, and not everyone is courteous enough to monitor their pre-flight intake of bean and cheese burritos. And cursed you will be if you end up in a window-seat on a 737. Two seats filled with Person will keep you trapped in, nice and close when the chump next to you happens to have nasty BO. And you'll be an unhealthy distance from the lavatory. Thanks to the terrorists, you can't even stand in line by the bathroom, so good luck timing exactly when you have to pee. Yeah, I know it's impossible, but try explaining that to your flight attendant. She's a bitch and no matter how harmless you are she'll probably make you sit down without explaining why. Instead she'll offer you another beverage and...

Reason #4: Party-Mix

If my kid had a peanut allergy, I'd just as soon wrap him in plastic or send him in a cargo crate before I deprived the rest of the passengers from the only thing that offers a momentary flicker of light in the darkness that is Flying: Airplane Peanuts. On my most recent mid-air misadventure, I was offered Party Mix. You can imagine my dismay when I discovered that this so-called Party Mix consisted of nothing more than a few miniature pretzel pieces, 3 spiced crutons, and a Wheathin. There is nothing "party" about this mix. It is a disappointment on all levels, and as it happens, contains absolutely no peanuts. Not even trace amounts. I bet you five years ago some allergic asshole ate a nut and spazzed out when his throat closed up then cried wolf to the airline, and unfairly made all subsequent generations of air-travelers pay the price for his genetic inadequacy.

I hate that guy, and I effing hate Party-Mix.

Reason #5: The Mile High Club.

Despite the allure of having sex in an on-board bathroom to stave off the boredom of sitting in your uncomfortable window seat, at worst the Mile High Club is repulsive, and at best a myth.

I suppose if I was to continue with my exhaustive list, I'd be belaboring the issue and I'd probably convince myself to never go anywhere. Air travel as a theory is mind-blowingly cool. Air travel as a practice is a bunch of lies and bullshit. I think most of this stems from the fact that I have bad luck in a lot of areas including this one, and last weekend when I had my roommate drop me off at LAX, I got out at the wrong terminal and had to rush my shit clear across the airport just to find out my flight had been delayed.

And then I got served Party-Mix by a snatchy flight attendant who told me to turn off my iPod.

Which I didn't, by the way.

Take your party-mix and shove it, lady, or I will fart in your vicinity...

Hey, anyone want to go to Europe?

*Ok, maybe I'm a little sorry.