Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Sweet Smell Of Nostalgia

Okay, so I live in the middle of nowhere. Imagine the town from Footloose and you're pretty close. Fifteen miles of US highway to the closest McDonald's, three bars and six churches, and not a single store or gas station stays open past midnight on weekends. Not a lot of opportunity for a kid around here to do much but dream of more exciting places, places not surrounded by corn and soybean fields. Places where the newest songs on the radio haven't been played out already everywhere else. So at nineteen, instead of hanging around with other equally bored kids getting drunk or high, I listened to the radio: syndicated radio.

Z-Rock was a nationally syndicated radio station out of Dallas and it actually played music from the current calendar year. I'm sure plenty of people out in internet-land remember Z-Rock and its famous DJs: Wipeout in the evening, Jim Coda overnight, and of course Loud Debbie Dowd the token news-chick. (Piece of inside news: not many of the jocks liked her much). Anyway, being syndicated they had a toll-free line (but of course THAT was always busy and I've always been impatient) but they also had a direct line: the warp line. So I started calling the warp line late at night and talking to Jim Coda. Maybe I was bright and articulate and had a sparkling personality at the time or maybe, and much more likely, it was a pretty boring shift and I didn't ask him to screw up his play list with requests all the time. Either way, we talked. He was a decent guy, kind of a WKRP Johnny Fever type of guy, and we chatted for months about music and news and his kids, stuff like that. But with my looks and sense of humor, I fell in love with the idea of radio INSTANTLY. After all, if Debbie could do it...

Anyway, after talking to Coda for a while, I started calling Wipeout and talking to him. By then, of course, I'd already mailed my photo off to Jim and gotten his promo shot back in return, and apparently he'd left it on the deck or something because Wipeout knew who I was by name. Seems I looked just like some girl who broke his watch in a bar one night. My doppelganger just hates timepieces. So now I had two friends at the station, plus Debbie but she didn't count because I had her convinced I was a militant New York lesbian with a crush on her and that I was planning a vacation to visit her at the station. I was mean.

My job at the time was in retail, all sorts of screwed up hours, and after a week of early bedtimes I finally got the chance to call Jim for a late-night chat. I dialed, got the familiar burst of static followed by a curt "Z-Rock" but alas, it was not Jim. Turns out the new guy had gotten let go from a station upstairs (ABC Radio, lots of stations in one huge building) but had worked for Z-Rock years ago. And (follow closely here) Jim was looking for a change of scenery so they'd traded. But despite giving me all this info, the new guy wouldn't give me the number to the booth upstairs! So he called Jim and then I called him back and he, with Jim's okay, finally gave me the number. And that is how I made friend number three at Z-Rock. But then Jim got fired a month later and took his old job back and Bladerunner, as he was known on-air, was out on the street after all. But I had his home number so we kept chatting and when he planned a cross-country road-trip I offered him a break from hotel fare and roadside rest stops if he needed it. Plans were made and I was excited.

Why was I excited? (Get your mind out of the gutter; I didn't even know the guy!) Because here was a nationwide celebrity, albeit a midnight radio host for only a month, and he would be visiting me. Keep in mind I live in an area where police scanners are used as entertainment and the mall sighting of a local TV news anchor is considered paparazzi-worthy. Oh well, the day came and it was cool. He said my hometown looked like the town out of Needful Things, said that if he lived here he would open a store by that name and sell exotic fruit and import CDs. Basically, he showed up, took a shower, cleaned his contacts, took a nap, and we went out for KFC fifteen miles away. He was going to get a good night's sleep but he called his next stop and plans had been made sooner than he'd thought so he had to leave. I never heard from him again. My brief brush with minor-league fame was over. But my brief brush with notoriety was coming.

While he was at my place, he called his old friends at the station in Dallas. He told them he was visiting his fans one by one like the Snapple van (remember that dumb promotion?). Sadly, he never called them back. Half the guys thought I'd slept with him and the other half thought I'd killed him! (As if I weren't talented enough to do both.) So suddenly I went from being Chuck, the girl who'll keep you company during a boring shift, to being Chuck, the girl who may have killed one of our own. Things were never the same after that, and I could never reach him at home to tell him of this damage to my good name. I finally left a message on his machine and I guess he did stop by the booth and let himself be seen alive, but the station got shut down, replaced by Radio Disney, that New Year's Eve and I lost touch with all of my DJs.

Fast forward a decade or so later. I am no longer nineteen, no longer able to stay up all night or afford phone bills like that, and going through some physical aging issues. To be fair, I pine for my youth. (Insert wistful sigh here.) And it wasn't so long ago that I wrote up a big long post wherein I mentioned being a radio groupie back in the day. So imagine my surprise when I find this on imdb. What does this mean, you ask? Well if you click on the actor who plays Evan enough, you get this! My Bladerunner! Okay, not exactly mine, but I did eat chicken with him once and he used my shower. So I google his real name and his on-air name and a whole lot of false leads later I find his myspace page! I set up an account (Tom is my only friend :( ) and sent him a message.

He remembered me and said very polite things and that was that. I'm not delusional enough to think I was ever anything more than a groupie to a DJ naive enough to give out his home number but it's always nice to be remembered by someone who has no doubt had many many groupies since me. I guess it's the same reason my husband, in Al Bundy fashion, feels the need to relate high school football stories, and also the entire premise of Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion. We all like to relive our youth now and then. And we all miss our youth sometimes too, no matter how happy we are in the present. I miss late night calls to Z-Rock, and being subtly referred to on the air, and scaring that uppity news chick, and it's a huge ego boost to know that the days I so fondly remember are also remembered by someone who has probably had a lot more exciting times since then than I have.

Now I just hope that movie is stocked in these hick little video shops so i don't have to drive fifteen miles to rent it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Women Have Pores Too

Ever watch a TV show or a movie and notice that when they close in on a man's face, he has pores and whiskers and laugh-lines, all the little imperfections that make him real and human? But when they close in on a woman's face, there better not be a pore or stray unplucked eyebrow to be seen! No way, women must be perfect poreless creatures at all times; how else will the rest of us feel inadequate?

I'm serious. Watch any drama or romance, anything that shows close-ups of people. Women can't have pores on-screen. Unless, of course, it's porn. In porn, women can have all sorts of pores and cellulite and stretch marks, as long as they have no boundaries and no dignity. Apparently, in the world of showbiz, it's pores or dignity, but never both.

But what about those of us who have pores, or even the occasional clogged pore, and yet still have dignity? What about the women out there with real teeth and skin and maybe even boobs that wander uninvited into our armpits, searching I assume, for warmth in a cold cruel world? There are men out there, real semi-intelligent men, who believe what they see on television. Men who have never seen the photos of celebrities without make-up, and who feel that women should be hairless, and poreless, and flawless, at all times. These are men who actively try to find meaningful relationships, but don't understand why women don't have permanent make-up, or might go a day or two without shaving, even during the flu! These are also, coincidentally, men who don't shave their own faces daily; go figure.

Why has the media set such an unattainable standard for women? I have watched two Diane Keaton films in the past week and in both, she actually looks her age. Sure she's trim and muscular and that's almost too perfect. But she has teeth that aren't bonded together permanently, and she has wrinkles. She shows her age! She shows it well, but the 50+ actresses all botoxed and lifted are sickening and she's not one of them. But does she have pores? Nope. Jack Nicholson can have pores, Keanu Reeves can have pores, even the dad from Seventh Heaven can have pores. But not Diane Keaton. She is female so she must have a plasticized poreless face, even with the laugh-lines and crow's feet.

Still, whatever calcified wrinkle cream it is she sells; I want it. I want to look like her when I get older. I know I won't, but I want to. Like her, but with pores. I am human, after all.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I Am The Meanest Mom Alive

It's the general consensus; I am the meanest mom alive. My kid thinks so, the neighborhood kids agree, other parents say "Ooooh," with evil glee when they hear how I punish my kid. Even her teacher reacted with shock upon learning my misbehaving daughter's fate. I am mean, and inventive.

I don't spank. I ground my kid when she messes up, but I ground her with no finite sentence. And I ground her from everything. No TV, no toys, no playing with friends, no leaving the house. She's stuck, either in bed or at school or planted firmly in the computer chair researching her paper. Yep, I assign papers. Sometimes they're on random subjects (biographies of the Mythbusters, anyone?), and sometimes they're topical. Nine days ago I got a call from the teacher to inform me that my lovely daughter had gotten caught lying in class. It's a common enough offense, but one I have to teach her not to do. So she was promptly assigned a paper on Richard Nixon, with emphasis on Watergate. I only asked for one page, but that's a lot to a kid who doesn't seem to believe in adjectives.

So now, making its debut on the world wide web, I present Richard Nixon from an eight year old's point of view:

Richard Nixon by XXXX XXXXXXX

Richard Nixon was born on January 9, 1913 in Yorba Linda, California. He died on April 22, 1994 in Park Ridge, New Jersey from a stroke. His great-grandfather was killed in The Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War. Nixon was a republican. Nixon was vice-president for Eisenhower. His nickname was “tricky dick”. Nixon was president from 1969-1974. He married Thelma Catherine Ryan, but she went by Pat and her grave says Patricia. They had two daughters, Tricia and Julie. Nixon’s religion was Quaker. He was the thirty-seventh president of the United States. He resigned because he didn’t want to be impeached. Watergate was the name of a hotel where the democrats’ office was. Gerald Ford took over when Nixon resigned, in 1974. He took over because he was vice-president when Spiro Agnew resigned, and took over vice-president then president. Nixon is the only president to have resigned. President Ford pardoned him, so he wasn’t put in prison. G. Gordon Liddy isn’t Gordon Gordon Liddy, as my dumb mom said. His real name is George Gordon Liddy. G. Gordon Liddy went to prison for what he did at Watergate. The Watergate scandal happened in 1972. Watergate was a break-in on June 17. They broke in to fix the phone-bugs of the chairman Larry O’Brien that they had put there on May 27 and 28. The plan originated on February 4, 1972. G. Gordon Liddy was the one who made the plan. It was called the GEMSTONE plan. The movie about it was called “All The President’s Men.” Frank Wills discovered the Watergate scandal. There were many people, including John Sirica. There was a group called “the plumbers unit” to “plug leaks”. There was also another group called CREEP: the committee to re-elect the president, also called CRP. Nixon ran for president twice. Two reporters who broke the story were Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Watergate made his approval rating even lower than George W. Bush’s is. Nixon got in trouble for lying to Congress. They discovered tapes of conversations between Nixon and his advisors, so that was how they discovered that he lied. I do not want to do a report like this again, so I will not lie!

By the way, I'm sure plenty of people get G. Gordon Liddy's name wrong, and I swear I read that somewhere when E. Howard Hunt died a while back.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Update On Thirty

Longtime readers of this blog, if any exist, will remember that I had a hard time turning thirty last summer. It wasn't that I thought it would be the end of my youth, or the beginning of old age, just that I thought that thirty would mean putting aside that search for identity I had been on for twenty-nine years and I wasn't sure what to replace it with. I have never really known who I was, or what, or where I fit in.

See, from sexuality (lesbian, hetero, bi, pan) to religion (Buddhist, Wiccan, Pantheist) I have never really worn labels well. I have rejected labels, denounced labels, and loudly protested people's need for labels, but I have never had one that really stuck. I am human, female, and Caucasian, and that's as far as my concrete knowledge goes. I don't cling to any of those with any sense of pride, and I don't consider any to be a source of personal identity per se, but I acknowledge that they're accurate when asked. (Why is it that spell-check capitalizes Caucasian? Is it really important enough to denounce lower-case?)

I have hung out with ( and keep in mind that these titles were all embraced by the individuals they were describing at the time) stoners, art-fags, white trash, jocks, gear-heads, garage bands, bar bands, D.J.s, metal heads, rednecks, and many more I can't compartmentalize right off the top of my head, and I somehow managed to fit in, for a time, with all of them. I learned quickly, for instance, that all it took to fit in with the art-fags, was a great disdain for anything industrial, the ability to quote (and spell) Nietzsche, and a heavy dose of Kerouac worship. The white trash taught me the importance of driving an American vehicle (even if it is twelve years older than you are and covered in rust) and that the greatest social skill a woman can ever acquire is the ability to sing, from memory, anything Sandy sang in Grease.

Each group had it's own vital knowledge, which any group member was expected to know, and which I was always able to easily figure out. I was somehow able to be "one of the guys" to just about any group of guys. For the gear-heads it was the difference between pearl and metal-flake; for the garage band guys it was how to tighten a snare and never to laugh at the term "plastic wood block". However, for the bar band guys, it was more important to be able to accurately critique the lights and to be able to decipher the screamed lyrics of any popular song.

These were talents I cultivated, bits of knowledge I amassed to be appreciated. I can tell you what churban means and also explain why that DJ at the oldies station got fired (yes, "He sounded too AC" is a valid reason). I can recite amazingly anti-establishment poetry, insincerely, off the top of my head, and tell you how Kerouac met Burroughs (after college, but at the dorm). I have lived for months on just beer and pizza, or cheese and wine and apples, or microwave macaroni and cheese (Michelina's is the best). But I have never been without some outside influence telling me who to be. It's not that I have chosen to spend time with people who demand I be like them. Quite the contrary, I have always been myself with them all. I simply have over-played certain aspects of my psyche to reflect their interests. I suppose that's why I find my marriage so intriguing; I don't have to repress any interests or personality quirks around Tom. I have the opportunity, now, to discover myself, to find out in what ratios these aspects of myself exist. Thirty was a milestone that scared me because I thought it meant the end of that time of self-discovery.

But it doesn't. Tom may be a blue-collar Republican jock farm-boy but I don't have to be, and he will still buy me copies of Dorian Gray and biographies of the beat poets. And I'm free to express an interest in history, or politics, or anything else I enjoy, without fear of judgment. I now see that thirty means not caring if I fit in, not worrying about what others expect from me. I have the next fifty years to find out who I am, and if I'm lucky my tombstone will read, "She finally knew herself." Thirty is good. Thirty is comfortable. Thirty is not to be feared anymore.

Wrinkles, on the other hand, are to be feared and respected in the same way one both fears and respects nuclear weapons. They possess the ability to destroy life as I know it and therefor must be eradicated from the planet, or at least from my face.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Only Respect Intelligence Where You Find It

I have seen headlines all over the net lately about the Boston Bomb Scare. Here's one if you want to read it. I think the lesson to be learned by this is that people in Seattle are far far more intelligent than people in Boston.

This reminds me of the 2000 Florida voting snafu, where a bunch of people accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan because they were too stupid to see his name a half inch from the hole. I can only assume that the large population of retirees in Florida all had cataracts blocking that area of their vision.

Of course, Ted Turner has apologized for the threatening Lite-Brites in Boston, and we now get to vote on electronic machines (great for the retirees, because the elderly are so adept at mastering electronics), but my question is why. Why does Ted Turner have to apologize? Why do we all need to vote with a child's LeapPad? Is there nothing to be said for simply allowing life to punish the stupid the way it always has?

Of course, if Ted Turner had released a statement which read, "After hearing of the fear and panic our advertisers' actions have caused in Boston, I would like to personally apologize for having grossly overestimated the average intelligence of that city's population. You can rest assured that from now on all advertising to be done in the city of Boston by Turner Broadcasting Systems or its affiliates will be in bold printed billboards using only monosyllabic words," the public would be outraged and the ratings for Friends re-runs on TBS would have declined sharply. But come on, it's about time we stop catering to the lowest common denominator. Do we really need to arrest advertisers for trying to catch viewers' attention with bright and shiny signs? This country is filled with people who, like seagulls, become enthralled by anything bright and shiny. That is the Cartoon Network target audience. Who else watches cartoons at ten p.m.?

The people worthy of the least respect in this country seem to be the ones demanding it the loudest. Can't make the Florida voters feel stupid for poking the wrong holes; no, we have to revamp the entire system because stabbing a circle with an arrow a millimeter away telling them what it signifies is far too complex. Well why can't we make the Florida voters feel stupid? The arrow practically touches the dot they punched, and it leads directly to the prominently displayed names of the candidates it represents. If they are too dumb to see that then they probably shouldn't be deciding who runs the country anyway. Maybe if we stopped assuring them that it was in fact a reasonable mistake that could have been made by anyone, they would attempt to become more intelligent. Stupidity should have consequences.

Maybe if we stopped acting like anyone could mistake a sign advertising cartoons for a terrorist act and asked these people out loud why they shut down half of Boston, they would be forced to at least admit that they overreacted. But no, any illuminated sign that doesn't advertise beer or gasoline must be explosive. And they really truly believe that anyone else would have made the same mistake, despite the fact that other cities with the same ad campaign in place hadn't.

Stupid people are demanding not to be condescended to, to be respected for their lacking intelligence and to be catered to specifically for that lack. I believe everyone should be treated with respect, and I'm also all in favor of making public policies as accommodating to people as possible, including making cash easier for the blind to use and making alarms in public buildings recognizable to the deaf. But when some idiot calls up city hall and requests a bomb squad shut down a major highway because a sign has "batteries and wires", I believe that the idiots should be inconvenienced before those possessing common sense.