Sunday, July 20, 2003

Brief Sabbatical...
I know that this will come as a great disappointment to my loyal readers (all two of you), but this will be my last posting for awhile. I have accepted a job as a reporter for the Jupiter Courier, just North of West Palm Beach, Fla. Tonight is my last night of work in Orlando, and I will be on vacation in good 'ol North Carolina for the week prior to my move. Following that, I do not know when I will be able to resume my blogs, owing to the fact that I will be in heavy training for my new career.

With that in mind, I would like to leave you (temporarily, I promise) with a list of things that I have learned at my first, post-college job.

1) Always keep track of and make sure you're paid for your mileage. (You'll thank me when you find that an extra dollar on your paycheck could have bought you that delectable box of Mac & Cheese that you had to forgo in order to purchase toliet paper.)

2) People who make more than you often feel it is their God-given right to ask you to perform such difficult tasks as sending out a fax for them or tying their shoelaces.

3) Those paper thingies next to the coffee machine actually have a very important function, aside from making very stylish hats. (Learned that one the hard way...)

4) Never make personal phone calls when you are in earshot of a person who has no friends or discernable social life. They get jealous and tattle.

5) The clinic/health care room always has a comfy cot, perfect for napping. Bring your own pillow, though.

6) Don't waste your sick days on actual illnesses! You'll be glad you toughed out that bout with the pneumonic plague when you're lying on a beach on paid vacation!

7) You need an engineering degree to work objects designed by NASA scientists, such as copy machines and packing tape dispensers. Dress appropriately in a full suit of armor before engaging in combat with a fax machine.

8) When in doubt, ask Bob. Every office has at least three and they know everything.

9) Always eat before going to a company function, especially if food is served at the function. Either the food will inevitably be sea snails stuffed with boiled cabbage (which everyone will comment on as "delish!") or everyone in the room is "watching my figure!"

And finally, number 10): Office Space- see it, memorize it, live it.

I hope I've been able to impart some twisted form of wisdom upon you in these past couple of months. To sum up: reality television causes brain degeneration, gay people won't bite you (unless you want them to) and 70-year-old sailors are the epitome of coolness.

I look forward to relaying more of my adventures in the near future. Until then, reek havoc wherever possible and inspire more blog issues for to me harp on about upon my return!

Friday, July 18, 2003

Movin' on up (moooovin' on up)...
There is nothing quite so traumatic as the dreaded apartment hunt. Yesterday my stepmother and I harnessed on our calculators, fine toothcombs and combat fatigues and embarked upon the tumultuous journey. What we found was nothing short of a crazed jungle of saleswomen with lassos and handcuffs in the backs of their golf carts and noses that could smell sale potential before you even get out of your car.

The first place we looked at was gorgeous. The clubhouse was beautiful, complete with an all-access movie theater for entertaining friends. The model apartment was spacious and had flawless light gray carpeting. I was just about sold until I realized that the size apartment we viewed was about twice the size of the available one I'd be getting. I refused to take action until I saw the actual size and condition of my would-be apartment. As soon as we entered, it was obvious to me why our leasing agent fought valiantly against my insistence on seeing the actual place. "You can get a good enough idea from the floor plan," she said.

Realizing she was fighting a losing battle, she conceded to let me see the actual place. I could almost hear her shudder from behind me as we stepped foot (and by "foot" I mean one foot apiece. That's all that would fit.) on the Scooby Doo colored shag carpeting. We quickly turned and fled the property. The saleswoman wasn't far behind.

At the next place we noticed that the upkeep of the apartments was not the greatest. The layout looked nice, however, and the location was excellent, so we figured it was worth a shot. As we stepped into the massive leasing office we were nearly pummeled right back out of the door by the overwhelming scents wafting through the room. The place carrying a distinct reek resembling a knockdown, drag-out, everyone loses war between The Body Shop, Bath & Body Works and The White Candle Barn. After regaining consciousness, we staggered over to the nearest agent, Angel, who was staring dreamily into space. She greeted us looking bored and lazily slid me a large packet of information that she could just point at in order to save herself the effort of talking. My step-mom and I exchanged a knowing look. We had only been inside the perfume factory for five minutes, and already we were yawning. I'd probably need a sleeping bag, pillow and a large dose of lithium to work there.

We toured a few other catastrophes and I'm pleased to report that I made it out sans nail marks on my legs from clinging agents. After six different viewings, I carefully selected an apartment that I feel will suit Picadilly├ó€™s needs and mine. I only made the agent show it to me twice and draw a thorough map of how to get to my exact apartment (where I circled the perimeter and leaned over the porch railing to get a closer sneak peek). After about a dozen questions from me ("why do you need my employer's zip code?" and "I can't remember my license plate number, is that a problem?") the paper work was signed and the agent could unplaster her smile. I am certain that during our second tour I heard her quietly chanting "Commission equals new car, commission equals new car..."

After the end of a long day and a swift application approval, the apartment was mine. My step-mom and I rejoiced quietly and I breathed a large sigh of relief. As the agent ushered us out the door, my step-mom asked, "So, do you live here yourself?" As she shut the door on us (and probably locked it too), she replied, laughing, "Hell no! I live about forty-five minutes North of this place!" Super...

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Back to the future (for real)...
I was four years old in 1984. Prince was a name, not a symbol, and he and his band, the Revolution, had the number one hit of the year ("When Doves Cry"). The original Ghostbusters was the top grossing movie of the year. Ronald Reagan was president and the nation lived in fear of a single, deadly button that could destroy the world. Germany was divided into East and West. And 20-year-old Terry Wallis slipped into a deep, two-decade-long sleep.

Wallis, now 39, fell into a coma as a result of a car accident. He was newly married and had been the proud father of a baby girl for six weeks. The accident left him quadriplegic and in a dreamlike, semi-conscious state for 19 long years. After years of what I can only imagine were torture for his family, Wallis awoke and uttered his first word: "Mom."

Newspapers and television media alike have spun Wallis' story into something of a 20-year flashback or glimpse at an old yearbook. Instead of focusing on Wallis' condition, the emotional turmoil of his family or the near-zero likelihood of something like this occurring, the media has taken to resembling a nostalgic group of middle-aged salesmen clinking their glasses drunkenly in a bar while they reminisce about the "good 'ol days." They throw in a dozen "Internet vocabulary words" that Wallis will not understand, some updates as to where the celebrities of old are now and a little lesson in history and bang out an article about what it is like to be Terry Wallis waking up.

I am not going to pretend that I know how it feels to wake up in another time far past my own. I am going to be presumptuous, however, and assume that cell phone rollover minutes and high-speed Internet connections are the last things on Wallis' mind.

I am highly disappointed with the media for turning Wallis' awakening from the near-dead into a "Class of '84" high school reunion. Personally, I am more interested in what life is like for him now. What will his relationship with his 19-year-old daughter that he's only just spoken with for the first time be like? How does he feel about his wife of 20 years being married to another man? Does he look at himself in the mirror now and wonder what he looked like during the best years of his life? Does he even recognize himself?

I hope that the media will continue to update us on this story, and will stop reminiscing about the introductions of "Seinfeld" and "The Simpsons". I spent a lot of time after reading this man's story thinking about how I would feel. I would not weep for having missed the fall of the USSR or the series finale of "Cheers." I would look, tearfully, to my family and friends and say, "How have you been?"

See what I'm talking about in USA Today and the Orlando Sentinel.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Age old debate...
I was at a party the other night, surrounded by total strangers, which is when I feel the most at ease. A room full of people who have never met you and have no preconceived notions about you creates a forum for a typically reserved person to let their true colors show. I am not particularly shy, but I do not always approach people right off the bat. On a friend's advice, I took this party as an opportunity to be more outgoing and make myself known. I had nothing to lose, and only new friends to gain.

The party went well. I poked my way into small group conversations that interested me. I dazzled them with my wit, threw in a joke or two and then sauntered away looking for my next unsuspecting cluster. (Okay, maybe I didn't "dazzle" them, but they chuckled! Really, they did!)

No matter what party you go to, this one truth remains: The most interesting gathering of party attendees will most certainly be congregated where the keg (or beer stash, depending on your party) is. The proximity to the beer displays a person's desire to communicate with others (because everyone will venture their way sooner or later) as well as their open attitude (loosened, of course, by the beer). I stationed myself on the perimeter of a circle that had formed within reach of the keg, and it was not long before I found myself an active participant in the age old debate, "What is the proper etiquette for a 'hook-up?'"

The participating group included approximately five guys and two girls (one being myself). My female counterpart argued that if a guy wants a "hook-up," all they need to do is be up front about it. A guy argued against her, saying that if he were to inform his momentary lady that it was just a "hook-up," he would never get past an introduction. I remained neutral for a short time, and then felt it necessary to jump to the aid of the men.

Now, don't call me a traitor to my gender, but any sensible woman should know that if she's going to give it up on the first meeting, chances are it will be a "hook-up." Now I'm not saying that women should wait around for the first five months of a relationship for the guy to give some sign of where the relationship is headed. All I'm saying is that women need to be smart. Don't lose sight of what you want, be it one night or a relationship, but play defensively.

The argument went on for a little while longer after that, but I think I made my point. Women are only going to be played if they allow it by being presumptuous. Guys don't need a warning sign that flashes "no relationship." With most, it's an easy read between the lines (not necessarily between the sheets).

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Behold the power...
I am not the average girl. I do not get misty eyed when I hear someone is pregnant, nor do I get "baby fever" every time I am within a 20 mile radius of a baby. It's not that I don't like kids; far from it. The thing is, after having four (much) younger siblings, I feel as though I've already had my children and I don't really need ones of my own anytime soon. Without a doubt, having younger siblings, even ones as wonderful as mine, is the best form of birth control on the market.

Another in the list of thoughts that I classify as "the further away, the better," is the thought of turning into a mother. There are so many things that we all swear we will do differently than our parents, and yet we somehow all manage to fall into a similar pattern. I had a terrifying, "near-brush with parenthood" experience this past week, and the things that came out of my mouth still haunt my restful slumber.

After an excruciatingly long day in the car on Wednesday, my mom and I promised my younger brother and sister (ages six and four respectively) a day at the Disney theme parks. Needless to say, they were antsy after having been in the car for so long and were anxious to get going early in the morning. Despite my fervent pleas with them for "five more minutes" (the same five minutes that I hope are robbed of them when they have to go to school in the mornings), I became a human jungle gym and was forced out of my nice, warm sleep haven.

Of course, they were too excited to eat breakfast, and I found myself an active participant in the "if you don't eat, we're not going to Disney World" chant along with my mother. It did not occur to me until later that I had used the tactic of completely empty threats that I used to despise as a child.

Once we got to the parks, I noticed that I had developed standard "mom vision," otherwise known as "eyes in the back of my head." I always knew where the kids were and their proximaty to me. I heard myself yelling things like, "You will NOT run in the parking lot," and "You WILL hold my hand."

Once inside the door, the standard complaints and mechanized responses began: "I'm hungry!" ("Then you should have eaten your breakfast!") "I don't like this ride/show!" ("Then you can you sit in the car while we have all the fun.")

It was not until my youngest brother went on a stroller-pushing rampage through a store containing numerous breakables that I heard myself utter the words that sent me into terrifying shock. After he had run over countless people and nearly broken every item in a nearby glass case, I relinquished his stroller-pushing rights. This action prompted the question: "Why can't I push?"

Now, there are thousands of logical answers to this question: "Because I don't want you breaking anything," or "Because your driving is making your little sister nauseous." Of the million answers I could have given, what comes out of my mouth but the phrase every child despises and every young adult swears they will never use. Yes, I am ashamed to admit it. I yelled: "Because I said so!"

This phrase is so deplorable in so many ways. Not only does it stifle our children's motivation to question the world around them. It acts as a last resort for a parent that has lost all of their ability to reason and is forced to exercise their ultimate authority upon their child. It's basically like, I own you and that's all I've got.

My brother scowled momentarily, then climbed into the stroller, crossed his arms and pouted for about a minute until he saw something else exciting and breakable. I stood and marveled at myself for a moment. The phrase of doom had been successful! I had successfully exercised my authority over another person, and they had no choice but to submit to my irrational and useless argument!

I think that the trick with this newfound power of mine is to exercise caution. A power of this magnitude should be practiced with delicacy, timing and in moderation. Use it too frequently and your credibility is out the window. Overuse can result in an eternal dispute that goes something like: "Why?" "Because I said so!" "Why?" "Because I said so!" "Why?" (and so on and so forth). I am quite certain that in some space-time continuum, my 5-year-old self is currently engaged in this argument with both of my parents.

So, as terrifying as the experience was, I learned two very important and useful things: 1) My parents were often full of crap, and 2) Parenthood equals ultimate power. However, like I stressed before, use this knowledge wisely. I mean, what if this power fell into the wrong hands and the president went around ordering people to do stupid things "because I said so?" I shudder at the thought. Too bad it doesn't work on my dog. Apparently he is of higher authority than I could ever dream of being.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Shiver me timbers...
Popeye is turning 70 this month. Due to Popeye's heavy impact on the lives of children and adults alike for multiple generations, I felt that this monumental occasion should be properly celebrated. This blog author would like to commemorate this auspicious occasion owing to the fact that I would not be the person that I am today if it wasn't for Popeye. (You may take that as a slam or a praise to Popeye.) Here is a list of life lessons I derived from watching Popeye:

1. If you eat too many hamburgers, you're going to end up fat and whiny.

2. Tattoos are cool!

3. So is smoking! (only pipes, though, not cigarettes. That's bad!)

4. Flat chested women can have men fighting over them, as long as they are flexible enough to be wrapped around a telephone poll and tied in knots.

5. Always go for the little guy; the big guys will just try to force you to kiss them on the first date, and that is unacceptable!

6. Anorexia is the height of fashion!

7. Opening a can of spinach is equivalent to opening a can of whoop ass!

8. Proper English is not necessary to get by in life, because muscles the size of cannonballs speak for themselves.

9. No matter what kind of car you drive, how big your body is or how cool you think you are- the scrawny man will get the babes!

10. "If you eats your spinach you'll be strong to the finish like Popeye the Sailor Man! Toot, toot!"

We love you Popeye! Read more about Popeye's 70 years.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Let's hope they don't live forever...
Once again I was unfortunate enough to catch another catastrophic television show while working out in what my apartment complex calls a "weight room." (Also see "torture chamber" and "Sauna of Perpetual Misery") I considered, for the sake of my readers, of course, stopping my workouts so that I could avoid any potentially hazardous shows to report on in the future. Then I looked at my abs and, well, I'm afraid you're just going to have to suffer along with me.

Anyway, today's petty excuse for a television show coupled nicely with my stay in the throws of Hell (also known as "weight room"). I was oh-so-lucky to be tuned into a marathon of the NBC reality talent show, "Fame." Did you catch what I said? A MARATHON!!! Oh, my poor ears! What did I do to deserve this punishment? Wasn't it enough that I spent 20 minutes on the ellipse machine in a tiny room with no air conditioning? Apparently not...

"Fame" talents (I had to have a few drinks before I could refer to them as that) are supposed to be a triple-threat. In theory, these competitors (there, that's better) should display expertise in singing, dancing and audience charisma. Initially I thought, great! What a nice change from the feet-rooted-to-the-stage performers on American Idol! WRONG!

As I watched each performer step up to the mike and deliver their best performance to the audience, I realized that I recognized all of them. I believe they are the same people who bombard the backwoods bars that feature Kareoke machines on Saturday nights. (Trust me, I went to school in Boone. I know them when I see them.) The only problem was, they don't have excessive drunkenness to blame for their eardrum shattering performances.

Now, as I understand it, the winner of this contest will be given the opportunity to either be in or audition for a role in the Broadway hit Fame. From the sample that I was subjected to, I can tell you honestly that none of these people come even close to having the extraordinary talent that it takes to perform on Broadway. Broadway actors are quite possibly the best in the world. They have to perform each song, each dance and each line perfectly eight or more times a week for as long as the show runs, and they do it all at the same time no matter how sick or injured or tired they may be. No way are you going to find talent of that caliber on a cheesy reality show, voted on by pre-teens and doctored by producers.

Somewhere between the ab cruncher and treadmill I closed my eyes and dreamed that I lost consciousness. I even hoped that the act of closing my eyes on these machines would somehow cause me to lose my footing and whirl backwards, slamming my head into the wall and causing me to blackout until the show's conclusion. Sadly, dreams are just that and I was forced to flee the "Sauna of Perpetual Misery," after having run on the treadmill, while my legs were still going faster than my body. I fell down after I left the building. Great. I didn't even get amnesia...

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Artsy Fartsy...
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has once again landed in the spotlight of the critical, constant battle between what is considered "art" and what is considered "crap." Since he felt the need to open his trap so widely in the last artistic values argument, the former mayor will this time find himself in deep sh*#, so to speak.

Mayor Giuliani was the foremost opponent to the painting of the Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung being placed in the Brooklyn Museum of Art four years ago. The mayor found the painting so deplorable that he actually made numerous attempts to have the museum's public funding pulled if the painting was not removed.

Chinese artist Zhou Tiehai felt it was his duty to take revenge on the mayor's oppressive viewpoint concerning the "art," and created a similar work symbolizing America's global image. The painting, entitled "Libertas, De Te Servent!" (Liberty, May the Gods Protect You!), features Giuliani, also covered in elephant dung, and with communistic suggestions and undertones.

As much as I am not a fan of the original work that spawned this art versus good taste battle, I am disturbed by the realization that this argument has created such a negative, and accurate, image of America. In his painting, Tiehai is not expressing his hatred of Giuliani, but the world's view of the hypocrisy that runs rampant in this country. How can we, as a nation, possibly expect to be considered the "defenders of free speech" if we will not even permit it on our own soil? Since when did the value of artwork become the decision of the government? If I remember our Constitution correctly, the right to decide and judge lies with the people, not with the politicians.

Unfortunately, Giuliani has set a stereotype by which all Americans are most assuredly measured throughout the rest of the world. Hopefully we will not become blind and deaf to our own hypocrisies and realize that free speech not only means defending the things that you believe in and hold sacred, but allowing others to voice their opinions about the things that make your blood boil.

I do not agree with the Virgin Mary painting, but I do believe in the artist's right to his own expression. All Giuliani did in his "crusade" was make the painting more popular and the United States a laughing stock.

Read details about Zhou Tiehai's painting in USA Today.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

The Fourth of July is fast approaching, and to celebrate the occasion, I will borrow a quote from one of my favorite classic movies, Dazed and Confused, to properly express my views on the holiday: "Just remember, when you're being inundated with all of this Fourth of July bicentennial brouhaha, just remember what it is you're celebrating, and that's a bunch of middle-age, white men didn't want to pay their taxes!"

In celebrating America's independence from the even reign of British tax imposers (so that we could impose our own absurd taxes), I have devised a David Letterman style "Top Ten List of Things That Make the Fourth of July a Holiday Worth Celebrating."

#10- Holiday Pay! My first ever three-day weekend WITH pay while working at a newspaper. Hooray independence!
#9- Pool Parties! You could be living in Bangor, Maine and God will still see fit to provide you with weather warm enough to cook eggs on a sidewalk!
#8- Snaps! You know what I'm talking about. Those things you throw at people's feet that freak them out and make a really loud pop. Fun for the whole family.
#7- Wheeling-and-Dealing Fireworks Salesmen!- It's like buying a car; never accept a first offer. They'll always throw in free sparklers too, so don't waste your money on them.
#6- Big City Fireworks!- If you live in a larger city, the best thing to do at around 10 p.m. is go to a place with a lot of open area and watch the fireworks shows of neighboring communities.
#5- Loud fireworks!- The more hearing you loose, the better the show!
#4- Revenge on Cranky Neighbors!- You actually have a means of littering their front lawn with firework debris and keeping them up all night without them being able to identify you amongst the thousand other firework destructos!
#3- Pirated Fireworks from South Carolina!- Oooo...Ahhh... Not that anyone would do that!
#2- The Availability of Emergency Workers!- On call 24/7 in case you have too much beer and decide to light your shoelaces on fire. Not that I know anyone who has done that...

And the #1 Thing That Makes the Fourth of July a Holiday Worth Celebrating is: Jen's Homemade Red & Blue Jell-O shots! Such items will be available only at La Casa de Boo. Come one, come all!

Have a safe holiday! No posts until Saturday! Don't cry, though! If you miss me too bad, you can read the archives!