Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Solid Plan For Making It Big In Chile, or "Where Have All The Oreos Gone?"

If you've ever traveled, you know that one of the most exciting things to see in foreign places is the food selection. A country's most famous dishes are often the hallmark of its culture. Peking Duck probably tastes better if eaten in Peking. Tacos are best eaten on the streets of Tijuana* (for those brave enough to try them), and Pisco Sours are positively delightful (albeit strong and completely dangerous) in Chile.

I just noticed that the three foods I just mentioned are quite likely to give a person diarrhea. Or perhaps just me. Oops.

But this isn't really my point.

What I want to talk more specifically about is a country's "native" snack foods. I find this infinitely more interesting than restaurant fare, especially now living in another country. Chips, cookies, candies, sodas. This is my area of study. Walking into a supermarket in Chile to me is like walking into a treasure trove of cultural relics. I feel like an anthropologist from the future, scanning the aisles of a long since forgotten civilization. Except that I am very much not alone. Stores in Santiago are usually teeming with people at every hour of the day. But you at least you understand where my head is at.

Each time I visit, which seems to be somewhat frequently, I try to choose something somewhat exotic. A box of foreign cereal on Monday, a package of foreign yogurt on Tuesday, a Bag-O-Olives on Wednesday. Just looking at the labels on soda cans gets me going. With everything written in Spanish, it's like a game of Grocery Roulette - "Will this strange looking marmalde kill me, or eliminate my body odor?"** The real fun is in not knowing.

Although, amongst all the funny looking pre-packaged goodies, I have noticed one huge void - both the subject of this entry and the path by which I shall become a gazillionaire - and that is: The Oreo Cookie.

America, you may be surprised to hear this, but no, there are no Oreo cookies here in Chile. If they are here, they are at least hard to find. Why? I have NO idea! Why is this blessed little cookie, this tiny black and white gift from God not present in this country? It's cheap enough to make, it's got to be cheap enough to ship, and I'm sure it would be cheap enough to buy on any one of a million street vendor's carts. But alas, it is nowhere to be found.

Upon noticing this today - it takes longer to notice what is NOT there, versus what IS there - I felt almost moved to find the phone number for Nabisco Foods, call their CEO, and demand an answer for this horrible infraction. Do they not know that South America exists? Or are they choosing to ignore its presence and miss out on this incredible investment opportunity?

What's your DEAL, Makers of the Oreo?

If teaching English doesn't work out, I'm not going to worry too much. The simple, and most obvious remedy is to have my family ship me a box full of single wrapped Oreos. I will then walk the sidewalks of Santiago passing out my little galletas (guess what that means) raising awareness about this mass-made marvel of a confection. Surely once every super market manager has tasted for himself the irreplacable flavor of the Oreo, crowds will rush to their stores faster than you can say "Yummy." Hell, knowing the odd way things work around here, they'll probably quit their jobs and open up a chain of stores featuring the following merchandise: Oreos.

With the Chilean population newly addicted to Oreo cookies, I will offer up this exciting business opportunity to Nabisco to the tune of a hundred million dollars, and I will be crazy rich. And you will feel stupid for not doing this yourself.

Of course this is only one of a hundred different business opportunities I've scouted out. Others include: A Clothing Store for Women Over 5 Feet Tall, A Shoe Store For Women With Large Feet, A 24-Hour Plumbing Service, A Pernament Hair Removal Salon, and Champagne. If I gave it more time, I'm sure the list would be longer. But that's the idea.

So, if you're stuck in your bomb-shelter back at home, waiting out the awfulness of the U.S. economy, consider a continental shift. Come to Chile, and get rich quick.

And bring me a case of Oreos.

*This is likely untrue, seeing as Tijuana is a complete shit hole. I bet the tacos are probably good in all of Mexico.

**Let it be known I absolutely never have body odor.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kind Of Missing Michael, or "Paying a King (of Pop's) Ransom For a Ticket To A Funeral Is Just Plain Stupid"

So I must admit something. It's not easy to say, and in fact as an American I feel kind of bad about it, but...

I don't miss Michael Jackson that much.

It's a very sad thing that he died. It truly is. I think that with our medical system, when some passes before the age of 75, there's a feeling that remains of things undone, life unlived. There's tragedy to be felt in the sense of someone's time cut short. No doubt, I sense this for Michael Jackson. He was and is a human being, a sacred existence, and for this reason I have profound respect for him in the wake of his death and I would hate for my thoughts to be misconstrued. That said, I also sense a sort of gross exaggeration regarding the world-wide impact of his death. I take major issue with this, and with the overblown display of grief that took place today at the Staples' Center in LA.

First of all, I can't stand the Staples Center, because it costs so much to park there, even for a Clippers game. So just starting out, I've got some bad feelings about all this.

Second, a wise friend made the point that for all intents and purposes, Michael Jackson died 20 years ago, and only now are we mourning him. For the last 20 some-odd years (at least the whole of the 90s), this man has been a walking spectacle that the media has made a fortnue off of, simply for his strange and really disturbing antics. Even if he wasn't all that famous, this guy would still make headlines. He was weird.

From his troubled youth in the spotlight, to his inexplicable transformation into a white man, to his get-me-the-hell-out-of Neverland Ranch, to his inappropriate friendship with McCauley Kulkin, to his uncomfortably over-sexualized marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, to his multiple molestation trials, to his holding a babychild over the balcony of a hotel... this man has been a living, breathing, tabloid cover. A hott-mess, some would say. I mean, the guy was a freak of nature. Both his talent and his ability to like, be decent at life, are off the charts out of this world. But in different directions.

No lucid American (or Chilean for that matter) over the age of 10 can say they don't know of Michael Jackson. And of that group, I'd hedge my bet that 98% of them remember all the weird shit that he did, brought to us in our living rooms in the form of "News." But was any of that remembered today? Absolutely not. Because posthumously, one's inherent crazy-freaking-nuttiness is apparently forgotten. He was arguably the best entertainer of the 20th century, and perhaps, since Entertainment is a relatively new phenomenon, the best of all time. This is without question. But guys, MJ was a whack-job. He just was, you can't tell me he wasn't.

I guess being a whack-job earns you a big fancy-ass funeral with Bono in attendance, and regards from Nelson Mandela, and a Father Of The Year award. All you have to do is change the way people listen to music.

This is almost absurd. Except for that it's Michael Jackson, and by now absurdity is to be expected.

And another thing that sort of bugs me about all this fussing over this one man (keep in mind, he is ONE MAN) - people that couldn't have possibly known him all that well were performing at his funeral. This is what bothers me about people in that ridiculous industry. They just want attention.

Case in point: Jennifer Hudson.

Ok, so Jennifer Hudson is a talented singer. She's also African American.* SO WHAT?! Does this qualify her to be singing the Free Willy Song at MJ's funeral? I seriously doubt it! Guys - she was a contestant on American Idol. After she LOST, she somehow landed a part in "Dream Girls," and the rest is history. Did you catch that? SHE DIDN'T EVEN WIN, and she's singing the Free Willy Song. At Michael Jackson's funeral. This is the man who, at age 5, was singing "ABC" and "I Want You Back," and that's all I can think of. The Free Willy Song is epic. Epic! And yet, somehow, by some stroke of fate, Jennifer Hudson - the worst actress in the "Sex and the City" movie (and that's pretty bad) - sang the Free Willy Song. At Michael Jackson's funeral.

I can't express more fully my confusion and anger that this was allowed to happen.

To make a shorter point, I think all this blabbing about Michael Jackson's passing is kind of a lot of bunk. His music is awesome. His dancing is awesome. His strange sense of fashion is at the very least memorable.

But the dude was a little bonkers, and I just think we should all take a moment of silence and remember that.

*She's totally playing the race card here, so don't get all butt-hurt at me for mentioning it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday America, or "It's The 4th Of July, But Not Really In Chile"

To all of you Americans out there, Happy Independence Day!

To all of you non-Americans, Happy 4th of July! This day means nothing to you other than that 233 years ago, the homogenizing force that is The United States began its upward ascent toward (practically) worldwide cultural and nuclear domination. But if firepower and military transcendence isn't significant enough to make you raise your glass, consider it the "Pre-Birth" of such miracles as Britney Spears*, the Automobile, Electricity, and the late Michael Jackson. R.I.P.

July 4th, 1776 is the day our nation started owning yours. You should be celebrating.

That sounds awfully rude, I'm sorry - but I had nothing to do with it! I was merely a random collection of genes roaming the hillsides of England, Germany, and Scotland. I was an allele riding sidesaddle on a camel's back somewhere in the Middle East; just a twinkle in some Arab Nomad's eye. Little idea did I have that I’d someday be symbolically part of a future empire.

If anything, I hate the fact that America has somehow become the dominant player in worldwide culture-making. It frightens me to think that we all might end up listening to the same music, while wearing the same clothes, while drinking he same Starbucks latte. I fear that the fat people in “Wall-E” who ride around in personal hovercrafts drinking mind-corroding Jammer Juice (or whatever it’s called) aren’t so very far off the mark.

But it's a strange dichotomy, this mind of mine. Allow me to explain:

Since moving to Chile, my appreciation for things like Starbucks, Facebook, and the music of Jon Bon Jovi has only increased. Firstly, because there is very little good, accessible coffee in this city. Most readily available is Nescafe – and drinking is like craving a decadent piece of chocolate cake and being offered a stale gumball. Secondly, because Facebook has allowed me to both stay connected to old friends and make new ones. Thirdly, because the two times I’ve been out at dance clubs the abundance American 80s hits makes me feel so very much at home. Song after song, I revel in memories of sloppy nights in shitty karaoke bars. These things are decidedly American innovations, and I am glad they’re here. Never before have I felt so happy living on a prayer.

But simultaneously, it is unbelievably refreshing to be thousands of miles away from strip malls, Hummers, and The Real Housewives of New Jersey. I hate these things with a red, fiery passion. They are pit-stains on an otherwise perfectly good t-shirt that mark my homeland as a place full of gas-guzzling, over-indulgent consumers. But nevertheless, these things are real. So it makes me happy to be experiencing the best (and at some point, the worst) of another place.

With that, I’ve chosen to celebrate not the things that America makes, but rather the things that make me American. And today, the day my country became a country, it is Independence. It’s a quality to be proud of, and this July 4th, my first ever away from home, has been an exercise of such independence. There is something significant, I believe, to knowing there is a BBQ four thousand miles away with my name on it, and a big tub full of ice cold beers, and a tacky midway I could be strolling down somewhere, yet choosing to step out alone into the great big world…and hoping it all goes OK.

I miss my BBQ very dearly and hope to soon encounter one here in Chile, but it’s hardly what makes America, America.* I hope you’ve been able to drink a lot of beer, and eat a burger, and win some corny stuffed animals at a fair. I’m glad to be celebrating in my own little way.

And I’m glad to be doing it here.

*Actually, Britney Spears is more like a nasty, bloody sludge of cultural After-birth.

**I think it has something to do with McDonalds.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Adventure Continues, or "Some Funny Shit Happened Today And You Should Know About It"

Another day, another litany of cultural differences I find endlessly amusing. The weather here has continued to suck some serious ballage, but as events unfold, I sorta kinda don’t really notice. I feel like a doe-eyed little kid in a candy store staring all googly-like at everything and everyone that passes me by. Only, I’m a kid who’s worried my shit’s gonna get stolen. I’m a ghetto kid.

Of course paranoia is just the first annoying habit I’ve managed to pick up. My second, and perhaps MORE annoying habit I’ve is the constant need to make comparisons to the United States. Por ejemplo:

Lisa: A Chilean department store! WOW! In the United States WE have department stores. Except we call them Macy*s, or Sears, or Target. Isn’t that cool?

[Insert other nationality here]: Uhhh, si. Muy cool. (Indifferent stare).

Lisa: A Chilean Dog! WOW! In the United States we have dogs, too! Except the stray ones we turn in to animal control and they get shot! Isn’t that cool?

[Other person]: -----And so it goes, with everything from the condition of the rain gutters, to the existence of central heating, to the quality of our produce. In the last three days, I’ve almost never stopped. It’s as if the only thing I have to talk about is Wal-Mart, and all the cheap shit you can buy there. I feel… how to say… very boring.

So in that spirit, some funny shit that happened today that I found quite entertaining only for its US Comparison Value (USCV)*.

1) My experience buying a hairdryer was not unlike that of buying a car. I walked into a Chilean Department Store (WOW!) called Paris, ironically enough, and found the home electronics department. It’s hard to describe, but the best thing I can compare it to is a make-up counter at Nordstrom. A nicely groomed, pretty young woman asked me what I needed, and I proceeded to tell her that I was in desperate need of a hair dryer. Being a curly haired woman in a straight haired world can be difficult, and although after years of therapy coming to grips with my curly-ness, I found it possible to once again have confidence in myself, however I can’t resist the urge to conform.

Ok, no I didn’t say that exactly. But the experience brought this rush of emotions I can only really express in English.

Anyway, she proceeded to then show me different makes, models, and styles of hair dryer. I ended up landing on a package deal. Dryer, flat iron, and curling iron all for the very low price of… fuck if I know. Pesos are confusing. She even brought the thing out of its box, and then demonstrated its three temperatures as well as its ability to blow “ions” and its two-year guarantee. Did I need all this information? No. Will I ever use the ion function on the hair dryer? Probably not. But I sure as shit got a kick out of the thing. Too bad I probably got raped by my credit card company in exchange fees. But I’ll look pretty in the rain!


2) This evening I went to my fist Chilean Gym. Don’t get too excited, it’s almost exactly like our gyms. Same equipment and everything. Lucky for me, I found a spin class and was able to stroll right in. A very friendly instructor-man came and asked me a few questions I barely understood. I primitively communicated to him that I knew what the fuck I was doing, and he pleasantly began class moments later. As he began to give the class instructions, his mannerisms began becoming more and more hilarious. Imagine, if you will, the Latino Lance Armstrong. A very tall, very fit man wearing completely spandex cycling outfit. Now imagine him wearing something resembling a neckerchief. Funny, right? This I could deal with, being that I’m a foreigner in a foreign place. Maybe neckerchiefs are just par for the course in Chilean spin classes. But then the extremely flashy hand signals began. As we were instructed to ascend an invisible hill, he’d shout enthusiastically “Dos minutos!” and jovially throw up a peace sign high above his head. “Cinco minutos!” and a big high-five went up. And as if this didn’t happen often enough, every 15-20 seconds, he made a very distinctive hang loose “shaka” sign. Sometimes he’d shaka with one hand, and then promptly shaka with the other. And then a big high-five. And then a peace sign. And then a thumbs up – I almost forgot. New song, thumbs up. Someone leaves, thumbs up. I wanted so badly to gesticulate in return, but instead remained focused, and tried not to laugh out loud between gasps of air.

USCV: 9.5

So in all, a very good day to compare to my average day in El Dorado Hills. And with all that has happened, I am on my way to being a very fit, straight-haired, wildly gesticulating Chilena.

Muy Buena.

***This is a new rating system I have just created and will probably soon forget about.

**Also Muy Buena: still no assplosions.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I Made It To Chile But It Took Me Effing Forever, or “The Path of Most Resistance”

Right now I’m tempted to open with this:

!Estoy en Chile, Beeeetches!

However, lest I be deemed uncouth, I’ll utilize my unyielding self restraint and go with this:

Hey guys check it out—I’m in Chile!

Yeah, for real. I’m here. Three plane rides, two layovers, four meals, fifteen internet minutes, five thousand miles, and twenty-four hours later, I made it. It may have been the longest single journey of my life. It may have been strange at times. It may have kind of sucked. But it went smoothly, and I am alive and well and practically Chilean.

If anyone out there cares to visit at any point, I welcome the idea but will set forth one suggestion: do yourself a favor and spring for a non (maybe one) stop ticket. You will thank me, and yourself, later. Being the frugal cheapass that I am (thanks Dad!), when I booked my flight(s) in January, I naturally went with the least expensive. I “knew” at the time I’d probably regret it. But did I really know? No. I had no idea. I’m awfully glad it’s over, and everything was fine so I guess there’s no use lamenting.

Hey! Here are some fun facts about my flights:

1) The airport in El Salvador is really humid. It is also old, and has extremely uncomfortable seats, not ideal for sleeping on. Luckily I was able to overcome the chair thing, and in a manner not unlike McGuyver, fashioned myself a somewhat comfortable resting position with my various carryon items. I imagine I looked a lot like a rich hobo.

2) El Salvador must be a very devout place, because on all the flat screen TVs affixed to the walls played primitive music videos - scenes of hillsides and cottages accompanied by the eerie voices of children singing “Jesus, Jesus, you are king.” Don’t get me wrong, I love The Jesus, but it was just… so weird. And the creepy voices kept waking me up out of my half-sleep throughout the eight hours I was there. Yeah. Eight hours. Brutal.

3) Peru, on the other hand, has a very nice, very modern International terminal. Not a bad place to hang out if you’re bored. Contrary to my suspicions there are no armed guards, and their chairs don’t have immobile armrests, which is conducive to sleep. So props, Peru. You’re doing something right.

4) Tylenol PM is perhaps the best invention known to the modern day traveler. My arsenal included a U-shaped neck pillow with the insignia “#1 Dad!” embroidered on the front, a nice eye-mask courtesy of one Thomas O’Brien (OMG love you babe!), earplugs, and a set of impossible crossword puzzles I have since thrown away. But I think the Tylenol PM really was the deal-breaker. That stuff knocked me on my ass.

5) Seeing my name written on a small whiteboard in the hands of an eager looking shuttle driver sort of made me feel like a rock star.

Interesting stuff, no? International travel is just the best!

It was four in the morning by the time I reached my destination. I had little idea of what to expect, so you can imagine my hesitancy when I arrived at an ominous looking doorway, barricaded by two sets of locked doors. My host (an extremely amiable man named Nelson) was waiting for me, so with the touch of a button I was able to get through obstacle number one. Obstacle number two, however, wasn’t so easy. Obstacle number two was eight flights of stairs. Eight flights of stairs ain’t so bad on any given Sunday, but try it with a backpack, and three realllllly heavy suitcases (I didn’t exactly pack light). And then throw in complete darkness. It’s effing scary, and almost impossible. By floor six I was sweating, severely dehydrated, exhausted, and not entirely sure I had the right building. I was about to be terrified—

And then I saw the elevator.

They say American tourists are rude, but really we are just stupid.

Case in point: It’s winter here, and cold as a witch’s tit, and I brought one pair of jeans that I know fits me. One pair. Who does that. As I write this, I wear sweats, a long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, fuzzy socks courtesy of one Thomas O’Brien (OMG love you babe!), and still I’m freezing my ass off. It’s not that I don’t have respect for Chilean culture. I knew it would be winter when I got here. I’m just a bit of an idiot and didn’t think to go shopping beforehand.

So, there are a few things I’ll need to get under control, Spanish being one of them*, before things settle down. But I’m here, and I’m alive, and I haven’t yet had diarrhea.**

And I say that’s pretty damn good.

*I’m actually doing surprisingly well considering the fact that the last Spanish class I took was 7 years ago.

** You have no idea how happy I am about this.

Monday, February 23, 2009

How Nice Life Would Be In A Breastless World, or Fun-bags That Aren't Fun Are Just Bags

Having boobs sort of sucks, and I wish they didn't exist.

To all the gentlemen out there reading this, I realize that your opinions may differ. Chances are you really like boobs. You might even be obsessed with them. Against your (allegedly) better judgement, I'd encourage you to open up your mind to the awesome possibility of a world without breasts.

The diatribe that will shortly follow may seem a little uncalled for, but you must believe it's not. My breast-hate is not entirely unfounded. I've been the owner of two of my own for upwards of a decade. With the exception of winning me a free drink here and here, rarely have they served me well. In fact, I'm one of a multitude of women young and old who has voluntarily reduced the size of her boobs for perfectly legit physiological reasons. My life is better for it, but wouldn't it be nice if an invasive surgery wasn't necessary at all? I wholeheartedly believe, albeit pointlessly, that a world without boobs would simply be a better place.

The first of many reasons I support a titless utopia is the issue of pain. Hate to break it to you, but boobs hurt. At least mine do. The initial growth of breasts is perhaps the most painful period of all. What turns into a veritable tumor of flesh and glands begins its existence as a little hard ball. Around age 10 these painful 'mosquito bites' make their first appearance causing unbearable tenderness and unsightly stretch marks for the next 4 to 6 years. But the pain doesn't stop there. It continues once a month for the rest of a woman's adult life, making it damn near impossible to do things most men take for granted like running, jumping, hugging, and getting punched in the chest. Breasts of the large variety can cause chronic back pain, and I've heard tit-feeding babies isn't the most comfortable thing in the world. Who's excited for bite marks and breast pumps? Ladies, I'm talking to you.
Looks like fun!
Another reason for my anti-boob position is the inherent unfairness of genetic variation. Any room with people in it will house as many breast types as it will women. Some boobs are small, some boobs are large. Most are lopsided. Many are made of silicone. This wide array of breast shapes, sizes, and chemical composition is the root of a lot of self-esteem issues for a shit-ton of women. Unless your boobs are perfectly proportioned to your frame, which, let's face it rarely happens, they're either too big or too small. Now, I've only ever been on one side of the size spectrum, so I can't speak for lesser endowed girls. But I can only imagine that it's not any fun being small chested. Many women are the subject of mean comments, cruel names, and unkind gossip for either being too small, too big, or too fake. I'm not really an advocate of fake boobs, nor am I and advocate of boobs at all, but what can we expect as a society if the emphasis is so squarely placed on boobie perfection? Hundreds of thousands of women put themselves under the knife every year in the name of their tiny/sagging/lopsided breasts. Some of them are under the age of 18. This is crazy to me! Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy?

Think about it: If we didn't have boobs, we wouldn't need fake boobs. And if we didn't have fake boobs, we wouldn't have horrible television shows like "The Real Housewives of Orange County," now would we. This, my friends, is the point.

Third reason: Cancer. Breast cancer kills millions of women ever year, and it scares the living shit out of me. So who effing needs it?

Other miscellaneous reasons include: underboob sweat, the excessive cost of decent bras, the impossibility of removing your shirt in public without being gawked at or called a slut, and accidentally bumping into people with your boobs is embarrassing. Also, 8 lbs of useless flesh pressing against my lungs impairs my breathing. Lifting my boobs off my chest actually makes breathing easier, so that can't be good for my health.

Hopefully I'm making myself clear.

Breasts have been near the focus of our existence as a species since the very beginning. True, boobies are not strictly for oogling or feeling up. The mammary gland is actually a useful organ for those who choose to reproduce. I'm just surprised we haven't evolved beyond our need for boobs.

The other edge to this sword is of course the fact that I'm glad I have boobs. I feel it's better to be born with than born without, sort of like I feel it's better to be born American than Canadian. Or that Coke is better than Pepsi. Or that dogs are better than cats.* After 10 years I'm pretty used to the disadvantages, though I do wish buying clothes was easier for well endowed women.

I'm sure that if you have an enormous penis, you can relate.

*Way, way better.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Desperate: A Sadly Appropriate Word For Housewife, or Motherhood Can Wait

I like kids, for the most part.

As an employee of the local school system, I spend a lot of time with kids. I enjoy the goofy things they say, and the way they dance around living rooms babbling nonsense. I generally like their carefree demeanor, and the untainted way in which they see the world. Someday I can see myself being a mother, and a good one at that. But that doesn't mean I want to have kids any time (even remotely) soon.

That's because for the last week and half, I've been playing single-mom/nurse to my 21 year old sister who has had debilitating kidney stones. With both dad and mom out of town, Lisa got to step in as surrogate parent; a role I didn't anticipate being so completely draining. I truly empathize with my ailing sibling, because she really has been in pain. But I'm super tired of taking care of her.

A week of doing dishes, cleaning up her unending messes*, taking her to the doctor, then to the ER, then to the doctor, then doing the grocery shopping, then changing the cat litter, then walking the dog, then making every meal and picking up prescriptions has sent me straight to the same place I fear a lot of wives and mothers have been before: Desperation.

How do I know I'm desperate? Because today as I was leaving the gym, I sincerely wanted to text my dog. I thought, "I miss Tilly, she is my best friend and she understands. I wish I could text her." I know I'm desperate because I sing songs about what I'm making for lunch to an audience of two animals. I've barely showered, and only change out of pajamas in dire circumstances. Perhaps worst of all, I used a free rental at Blockbuster on "Chariots of Fire." Why I did that, I'll never know. It's a terrible movie that I turned off in order to watch back to back TLC specials on obese teenagers - which I actually morbidly enjoy.

Playing Mom to a 21 year old sister, a 4 year old terrier, and a 5 month old cat has almost no redeeming benefits. I mean, I suppose I can martyr myself in the hopes of garnering pity, but beyond that, there is nothing really in it for me. The cat is a constant, unceasing pain in the ass, the sister is high maintenance, and the dog requires more love and attention than I do. It's exhausting. And only the dog says Thank You.

As a child, you cannot possibly contemplate the extreme task of child-rearing. None of us asked to be born, but after we were, the asking never ends. We badger our parents from the moment we're conceived for nourishment, shelter, attention, entertainment, and love. When my mom used to tell me to stop bothering her because she was tired, I didn't believe her. Instead, I thought maybe she was punishing me for future crimes. Moms don't get tired, was the commonly held belief among children my age. Moms exist to serve me and and only me. Eff you, Mom for wanting to read a book without interruptions. Don't you recognize my need to dance in front of you? Why aren't you making me more macaroni and cheese? You selfish bitch.

Now I know how she felt. Good moms and dads are the superheroes of the world. Perhaps as an actual parent, as opposed to a stand-in, the barrage of requests isn't viewed as a list of chores. Perhaps having kids is rewarding.

It must be, right?

*You have no idea just how messy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dear Bratty High School Kid, or "Your Outfit Is Stupid and So Are You"

Dear Little High School Snot-Nosed Brat Wearing Skinny Jeans and Vans,

Your outfit looks stupid. Not only is it stupid, it makes you look fat.

I'm sorry, but when I subbed for your English class today, I couldn't help but notice how inexcusably rude you were throughout the entire period. It's funny that in our modern world, where the advances of the Internet, and Wikipedia, and Books are all easily at your disposal, the simple task of watching a movie has somehow become impossible. School, if it escaped you, is a place where people go to learn things. All kinds of things. You'd really be surprised if you ever cared to put down your X-Box controller and crack open a book. Oh, I'm sorry. Books are the heavy things they give you at the library. They have words printed on them and they are made of paper.
I know it's difficult to last an entire period without the use of your iPhone, but it's not necessary to have in class. Your incessant use of technology has numbed your already undersized brain, leaving you incapable of producing a full sentence, much less a coherent thought. Granted, you've been on ADD medication since you were seven years old, but that's no excuse for shouting "WHAT?" when I called your name politely while taking roll this morning. The proper way to respond when the teacher, or substitute teacher, calls your name is to say, "Here," or "Present," audibly, but not so loud you hurt my ears or those of your peers.

Yes, I realize the movie we were assigned to watch was somewhat boring, and not something you'd chose to watch yourself. This does not matter. You are a student. That means, when you are asked to do something, like sit quietly and watch a movie for a couple of hours, you do it. You shut your ugly, pimply, dirty face, and you do it. Don't talk back to me when I ask you to be quiet. The first time when I asked you to please be quiet, I said "Please." Then, thirty seconds later, when you decided my request wasn't worth paying attention to, I told you to shut up. I find it quite entertaining that my use of the phrase "Shut up" comes as any kind of shock to you. You're being a little shit, isn't that your goal? My language could be harsher, you skinny fuck, but as a responsible adult, I chose to refrain. Unlike you. You are an over-indulged little bitch and I hope I never see you again.

But I digress. I meant to insult your outfit, and I got a little sidetracked. Forgive me. Where was I? Oh yes, your skinny jeans. They look terrible. When I was a child, we wore leggings, only to realize years later how unforgivably bad we looked. I still grimace at the days when my jeans fit me so tight my legs looked like suffocating pythons. If my pants fit me the way yours do, I'd cry. Let me remind you that you are a boy. Of course, it's hard for me to tell because your hair is so damn long. Don't get me wrong, long hair is all well and good. It's just that you look awful with long hair. Your mother should impose her female sense of style on you and insist that you cut that nappy, wannabe-surfer dust mop you have sitting on your head. Next to your friends, you do not stand out. Vans should send your generation thank-you cards for keeping their brand relevant. Without your lemming-like tendency to conform, their original style sneaker would have been fashionably obsolete years ago. I don't know who made up this new skinnnies/Vans combination, but they ought to be publicly humiliated and shamed into telling you that the postmodern, post-Punk, pre-pubescent militia you've joined is a consipiracy designed to get you to buy new back-to-school clothes.

I want to believe that you'll grow out of this nasty phase you're in to become a more productive, compassionate adult. I want to think that one day you'll look back on these years with a clearer perspective and realize what a shit you were. I want to believe in a better future for our nation, but you're making it really hard.

I hope you stop texting and start having normal human conversations with people. I hope you choose to learn something while you're in school instead of blindly try to impress your totally unimpressive friends. I hope you choose to use birth control.

As your sub, my hopes for you are many, and I pray you will heed the call when the challenges of the future are thrust toward you. I just hope you iPod doesn't get in the way.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I Used To Hate Guitar Hero But Now I Like It or, What Else Am I Missing Out On?

The kind of people who play video games in their spare time are usually not "my" kind of people.

If you know me at all, you know I make this kind of sweeping generalization a lot, and I make no apologies for it. More often than not, gamers exhibit qualities that just don't jive with me. When I think of a "typical" video game playing dude-person, I think: Anti-social, pimply, over-mothered and under-sexed nerd. Video games aren't sexy. They aren't attractive. They don't score points with Lisa Zine. I find gaming extremely geeky, and not in a Rivers Cuomo circa The Blue Album kind of way. I'm (sorta) sorry for feeling this way, but mostly I'm not.

So why then, do I love Guitar Hero?

My sister got a Wii for Christmas, and ever since, I've been addicted to this stupidly awesome game, and it has me questioning my values. Why now, God? Why must you make me eat my words? Why let my addictive personality disprove years of firm belief?

I am drowning in my own hypocrisy.

As a kid, video games were the farthest thing from my mind. Young Lisa preferred embossing personalized stationery and constructing flimsy tables out of wood scraps. Young Lisa wove friendship bracelets (for herself), and learned how to sew pajama pants.* Young Lisa devoted her youth to practical skills. Life-enriching skills. Amish skills. Video games? Puh-leaze. Such activities provided nothing of any tangible value, and in my laughably small circle of childhood friends, Handset-Alacrity and Ability-to-sit-in-one-place-for-hours-at-a-time did not garner much esteem or respect. But then again, neither did doing extra-credit book reports. Shit.

In 1995, the same year I wrote three unassigned essays on The Earth's Layers, Sharks, and Frogs, I played Sonic the Hedgehog on my friends' Sega Genesis. This phase lasted perhaps 3 months. I can count the number of times I played on one hand. I was pathetic at this game.

At age 15 my mom thought it appropriate to buy my sister and me a Nintendo 64. She'd heard, no doubt on Oprah, that Nintendo 64s were very popular among kids our age. Apparently she had forgotten that she was the mother of two daughters. Daughters who had never before expressed any interest in video games. Mom threw in Mario Kart (which was OK I guess) and a game that accompanied "A Bug's Life." As in the Pixar movie. Just like you're thinking, it completely sucked. If I recall correctly, in order to beat a level, you had to find a golden seed or something. For the remainder of our Christmas vacation I searched and searched for the golden seed, arduously making it to Level 2. It frustrated the bejeezus out of me until one day, our 5 year old neighbor came over and beat the game within the span of an hour. Bullshit.

In college, I took a course that explored communicative elements of video games (I think?) and in it the professor described the habits of World of Warcraft players in China. There are kids out there who won't bathe or eat because they can't stand the thought of leaving Warcraftland. Actual jobs have been created by players who need to take breaks from their virtual world, but refuse to miss whatever cyber-battle might happen in their absence. They hire people to play for them. Avatar stand-ins. What the hell. People have even killed themselves over shit that happened in Second Life. The real world is hard enough, people. Why get suicidal over things that...aren't...real? I don't get it, and likely never will.

Such was the extent of my relationship with video games, until Guitar Hero. When the game first came out, I absolutely hated it when friends would interrupt a perfectly rousing conversation only to stare, zombie-like, at the television set and hit buttons on a fake, cheap looking virtual instrument. I'd storm out of the room like a little child, saying things like, "I hate Guitar Hero. Your guitar looks stupid. This party sucks, etc." But all that's changed now. Because I'm actually pretty good at Guitar Hero. I like music, and I've always liked buttons. And when it comes to new things, I'll usually get hooked on those with which I show an immediate proficiency. So lucky me. I have something to do on Friday nights.

I realize I'm very late in jumping on the bandwagon. I'm always late to the bandwagon. I was late for Sex and the City. Late for LOST. I only just now started playing with Pogs. But so what. Better late than never, I say. If anything, Guitar Hero has taught me a lesson to be less hateful and to realize that I'm probably good at a lot of things I haven't tried. Like cocaine.

It beats sewing pajama pants.

*I can prove it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Possibilities Are Not Endless, or Recession Job Hunting is a Bitch

This goddamn recession is killing my spirit.

Lucky for me, I live at home. Actually, the 'luckiness' of this is questionable at this point, since I'm not quite sure if I'm happy about the situation, but at least my bills aren't as high. Anyway, lately I've realized that substitute teaching provides a pretty pathetic cash-flow, and even my really fancy private tutoring gig isn't leaving my pockets full. In a town saturated with over-eager high school kids and Post-Lay-Off Recessionites, the job pool is shallow. So what's a girl to do?

In just a few days into this New Year I have already exhausted the very short list of potential employers I could stand to work for and have moved on to much browner pastures. Yesterday when I stopped into Borders, the employees informed me that their store had recently laid off 5 employees. Pretty bad odds, I'd say. Of course it doesn't help that earlier that morning I'd heard on NPR* that Borders is in danger of falling off the NYSE. I wonder how long ago I would have been kicked off the NYSE. Clearly, I'm not the only one whose stock is low.

Basically I need a job and there isn't much out there. According to Careerbuilder and Craigslist, I've assembled a short list of possibilities, and they are laughable. I will tell you which one I eventually choose.

Here are my options (in no particular order):

1. Receptionist - Western Dental Services. Apparently in order to do this job, I must be a team-player. I didn't realize that answering phones in a pleasant dental-esque voice required me to have experience playing sports. I applied for this job today. I want to cry.

2. Waitress - Red Robin. Until yesterday, I had not set foot in a Red Robin since high school. This restaurant has been in operation for at least 15 years in the same Folsom location, which means people DO eat there. I don't know who these people are, but they are out there somewhere keeping this godawful place alive. Desperate in my search, I walked in yesterday hoping to talk to someone about getting a job. I had to psych myself up in the parking lot, repeating to myself quietly "You are not too good for this." When three minutes later no one had greeted me at the podium, I walked out. I am not sorry.

3. Store Manager - Home Consignments. I love used furniture, so this seems like a natural fit.

4. Burrito Maker - Chipotle. I'm frequently mistaken for being Mexican, so it's entirely likely that I'd be an excellent burrito maker. I love Chipotle, and could get free burritos while on the job. Of course, I prefer burrito bowls, but I'm sure I could also get those for free.

5. Food Service Worker - In-N-Out Burger. $10.00/hr plus benefits for full time employees. It sounds OK, until I imagine having to take orders for Double-Doubles and Animal Style Fries from local high school kids who I'll be tutoring later that day. Plus wearing that dorky hat makes me want to cringe. And I'd get really fat. I'm thinking this one won't work out.

6. Media Buyer Assistant - ExpressMedia. Sounds cool, right? It might even be cool. I did a little research, and it looks like the company buys airtime for Longform Media clients (a.k.a. Infomercials). What could be cooler than calling local news stations to book midnight time-slots for thirty minute Proactiv infomercials? The answer is nothing. Nothing is cooler than that.

So, friends, things aren't looking so good. It's a grim reality that I'm sure I'll come to terms with, even if I do end up deep frying potatoes, or selling used coffee tables. Money is money, and it's too bad we all need it so badly, because without it losing your job wouldn't really be an issue. I've had to come to grips with the fact that even with a college degree, I'm really not too good for anything. And that hurts.

If you have any suggestions, please send them my way. I'm open to persuasion, and at this point I'll consider almost anything - with the exception of sign spinning.

Happy Recession.

*Don't you hate it when people drop NPR into casual conversation? It's so snobby and elitist. I do it all the time.