Category Archives: Writing

Scientific Evidence that Grinding is the Worst

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So, we all know that sociology is the science of assigning fancy names to things that everyone has already noticed but thought unworthy of naming.

For example, take Post-Purchase Rationalization.  This phenomenon is defined by Wikipedia as a “cognitive bias whereby someone who purchases an expensive product or service overlooks any faults or defects in order to justify their purchase.”  Also known as Buyer’s Stockholm Syndrome (really?), this epidemic has apparently afflicted secretly remorseful shoppers everywhere.

I mean, duh.  Anyone leaving Whole Foods with his or her reusable bag slightly heavier experiences some degree of Post-Purchase Rationalization.  As in: I don’t feel guilty.  I’m GLAD I spent $14.99 on raw sprouted macadamia nut butter.  It is so natural, no animals came anywhere near it, and I am desperately lacking in omegas.  I can’t wait to carve into it with the bejeweled knife I bought at Anthropologie and spread it on some gluten-free soy crisps.  Also I’m saving the earth with this reusable bag.  

But enough about PPR.  I would like to turn the focus to a different sociological phenomenon, which is so eloquently dubbed Pluralistic Ignorance.  It is best illustrated by an example:

At the end of class, a professor asks if anyone is confused about her dense, rambling and disorganized lecture on the irregular conjugations of ser in the past perfect subjunctive, and she gets crickets in response.  Despite the silence, which seems to indicate collective and complete understanding, however, everyone is confused.  But since everyone thinks everyone else is on top of their shit, no one speaks up.

Get it?  It’s basically when everyone does something because everyone thinks everyone else wants to be doing it, but really no one wants to be doing it.

Keep this in mind while I start talking about something else now.

I couldn’t even begin to give you an accurate estimate of the number of times I have found myself on some dark, sweaty dance floor, lost in a sea of gyrating body parts.

Because everybody loves to grind.

boomchickaboomchickaboomchicka
boomchickaboomchickaboomchicka

Especially this guy Tim (false name, never know), a golfer from Yale, who began to grind with me one fateful night at Princeton.  He was kinda cute and freckly, so when he pressed his front against my back and started to bend his knees and sway to the beat, I figured what the hell.  So I got low… like in that rap song! Ya know??

Eighteen seconds later, my thighs were screaming.  That was to be expected – the price of the grind, if you will.  But then something unexpected happened.  With his hands on my hips – I suppose that’s our modern take on “leading” – and with his left foot as our anchor, he started to maneuver our bodies into a rather dizzying, continuous pivot.

We grinded (ground?) in circles.

He might have intended to keep circling, round and round, chasing ever-elusive tails, for hours… eternities, for all I know… had I not started making desperate, wild hand gestures and exaggerated grimaces at some friends nearby.  The universal signal for “grab my arm and pull me away from this hellish wall-sit-meets-merry-go-round.”

Continue reading Scientific Evidence that Grinding is the Worst

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He Needed More CDs: A Trip to Tower Records

He needed more CDs.

This came as no surprise to me as his thirst for more music was only ever temporarily abated, and during those periods of “abatement,” if you could call them that, he was always drunk with sound.  Empty disc cases would litter his room like discarded beer cans, his prone body amongst them, limp but alert to the unceasing influx of audio. At the moment, however, all evidence of his last binge had been carefully picked up, discs clicked back into their appropriate cases, then inserted neatly into alphabetically allotted slots on the wire racks lining his bedroom wall.  And he was itching for more.

tower_records_logoSo I found myself, not for the first time, driving Sam to one of the only remaining music stores in the area – a small Tower Records tucked humbly off to the side of Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa.  My silver SUV idled in the late afternoon traffic as the lowering sun’s modest warmth took the edge off of the cool breeze that had wandered in through the open windows.  I reached and turned the volume up a notch for the Violent Femmes’ Gone Daddy Gone.  Sam turned, snapped out of his reverie, and allowed his hand to sneak slyly across the center console and make its way to my upper thigh, where his fingers began to tap the beat of the song against my blue jeans.

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It took only a few steps onto the scuffed black tile of Tower Records for me to sense the rapid shift in Sam’s demeanor.  During the short walk from the car we had giggled as our bodies swayed playfully into each other, clasped hands swinging; Sam had stopped me abruptly in the center of the parking lot for a tight hug and a sloppy kiss.  I had blushed and reprimanded him for blocking the path of a Volvo that was pulling in nearby, to which he had replied, smiling and turning defiantly toward the oncoming vehicle, “So what?!” Laughing all the while, I had resorted to tugging at his wrist, then more forcibly yanking his arm nearly out of its socket to get him to move his stubborn, scrawny, but surprisingly strong body out of the way.

Now, however, before the glass doors had even shut behind us, he was suddenly distant and focused, eyes narrowing as they scanned the store from wall to wall.  His hand fell away from mine and reached up into his long brown hair, mussing it up absentmindedly.

I gazed for a moment up at Sam’s sharp profile. Behind it I imagined a tiny, intricate system of machinery clicking and whirring, collecting all of the visually available information and using it to calculate the optimal location at which to begin browsing.  Then his eyes stilled.  The cogs and wheels gave a satisfying click, and Sam walked purposefully away without a word.  I stood and watched him go with a tinge of sadness, or maybe it was fear, that I could be cut off from him so swiftly, that our closeness could turn so far inside out it seemed inconceivable that it could ever turn completely back.

I pushed the thought out of my mind and trailed along slowly in his wake.

Twenty minutes later, I was milling around noncommittally somewhere between Nirvana and the Pixies, stopping occasionally to flip through jewel cases, taking one out, putting it back the wrong way.  Peering around the store for Sam.  Discreetly peeking at the album selections of other shoppers and making judgments accordingly.

Music was tricky.  Especially when you were dating who I was dating.  What I really wanted, though I would never have admitted it, was for him to march over and tell me exactly what to buy.  That would have made things so much less complicated.  After all, he always knew what I would like, and, as had happened many times before, when I did pick something out for myself, my selection was sure to elicit from him a condescending wince or, best case, an indifferent shrug.

Just one time, I would have liked to surprise him, to impress him with my secretly sophisticated, obscure and somewhat ironic musical taste… only problem was, it didn’t exist.  Or, at least, it hadn’t fully matured.  (So I told myself).

I finally spotted that familiarly greasy head a few aisles away, bent down intently, obviously still on some other planet.  Eh, fuck it, I thought, and, turning, picked up a colorfully quirky-looking album.  This is going to be so good.

I knew it wouldn’t be.

Continue reading He Needed More CDs: A Trip to Tower Records

TV Panic

watching_tv

We’ve all experienced that brief moment of crisis, those few seconds of rapidly and exponentially mounting tension, when the television fades to black and remains obstinately so for just a tad bit too long.  Milliseconds, probably, but it feels like…  minutes.

Who knows… maybe some behind-the-scenes monkey dozed off and forgot to ensure that the cut to commercial break be as seamless as a Speedo.  Or maybe the film editors got lazy.  Or maybe you were watching something directed by David Lynch, in which case everything is intended to make you uncomfortable.

The thing is… we’re so used to sharp, quick, smooth cuts, cuts that leave no room for even the smallest lapse of attention.  After all, can’t let those eyes wander.  So when you’re sitting next to your homie on the futon watchin the boob tube while your buttery hands duke it out in the popcorn bowl, and the screen suddenly stays black for just a second too long… you are suddenly and rudely confronted with your own mortality.

Okay that may be a little dramatic.  Or not.  I mean I’m sitting there, blissfully allowing myself to indulge in the cheap and readily available form of escape that television provides, when suddenly my reflection, alongside that of whoever is bored enough to be watching television with me, is on the screen and will not go away.

I almost can’t breathe until the screen lights up again, and, with a sigh of relief, I can bask in the warm, familiar comfort of Alex Trebek doing something horribly condescending.

I think a large part of that panic, during those short moments, stems from the sudden and undeniable realization that I am, to boil it down, sitting still and staring straight ahead at a glowing box – an inanimate object that most certainly does not reciprocate my tender sentiments.  Oh, the horror.

Watching television: the anti-hobby of slightly shamefaced people everywhere.

It’s true.  Rarely does a hefty portion of TV come without a side of guilt and a dash of self-loathing.  Forgive the cheesy cooking metaphors.  (And that half-assed pun).

I mean, you probably didn’t intend, when you first pressed that seductively circled red play button, to spend fourteen consecutive hours watching Downton Abbey (or Walking Dead, or Game of Thrones, or Pretty Little Liars…) on your computer, lying on top of crumpled sheets and an ever-accumulating nest of crumbs. When you finally dragged yourself out of bed to brush your teeth at 3:30am, you probably weren’t thinking, Yes! I can check THAT off my to-do list!

More realistically, at least based on my own personal experience, while scrubbing those pearly whites you were probably slowly and painfully coming to terms with the fact that you do not live in early 20th century Britain, that you do not have to worry about Germans, and that you do, in fact, have to wake up in four hours.

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Maybe I’ll Get Seasonal Affective Disorder

As it happens, I’ve become relatively employed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still scrambling for cash.  I’m working for free where it costs money to park… you do the math.

Oh no, I ask myself with grave concern, is my blog title now rendered inapplicable?

Well, I answer myself reasonably, perhaps, but I’m not changing it because then I would get fired, obviously, because that’s how things work, and then I would have to change it back.

Plus, I still don’t really feel employed.  I think that in order to really feel employed, you have to post something about the state and nature of your employment on Facebook, capped with a multitude of exclamation points and/or creatively hyphenated smiley faces, and fetch at least 16 likes.  I’m pretty sure.  (I’m also sure, despite what you may think, about my use of the word “fetch” in that sentence.)

Things happened very fast.  One day, I was sitting in my parents’ house in beautifully boring Newport Beach, counting down the hours (okay, days) until my next one-hour-long tutoring session [CHA-CHING], staring down Pebbles, our shamelessly black kitten, seriously considering the idea of blaming her for all my bad luck… and the next I am wiping raindrops off my glasses, wandering aimlessly around the streets of downtown Seattle, fearlessly fighting off bums and trying to come to terms with the fact that I just secured two, maybe three, jobs.

Clear skies are overrated
Clear skies are overrated

Maybe things are starting to work out.  Maybe whether or not things start to work out is actually, and entirely, under my own control.

Maybe I’ll get seasonal affective disorder.

Continue reading Maybe I’ll Get Seasonal Affective Disorder

Emily Post Gets Eaten By African Tigers

Sometimes, when I’m sitting in a five star restaurant cutting my filet mignon with a steak knife, fork perched delicately in my left hand, cloth napkin folded neatly across my lap (yes, I am in this situation more often than you might think), I suddenly feel outrageously silly.

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That is not how animals eat.  Animals (and we are, undeniably, animals – ask Darwin, or my ninth grade biology textbook) stalk their prey, pounce on it, and tear at it savagely with sharpened claws, biting voraciously at the raw flesh until their jowls drip with blood and guts.  At least, the carnivores do, according to Planet Earth.

Tigers don’ t wipe their paws with sanitary napkins after finishing off gazelle liver.  Lions don’t wait till they have finished chewing and swallowing to ask their cohorts to pass the salt.  They don’t even know what salt is.

Emily Post would be so horrified in the presence of their complete ignorance of dining etiquette that she would probably swoon on the spot… and proceed to be killed and eaten. etiquette

Of course, broaching this subject opens up a whole other can of worms…  Why do we go to restaurants at all?  Why don’t we forage for our own sustenance?  Why do we go to school?   Why do we wear clothes?

No, I’m not a nudist.  But if you are, more power to you.

Anyways, I’m going to go catch a fish with my bare hands in the Puget Sound and eat it raw in front of everyone at Pike Place Market.  I suggest you do the same.

So decadent.
So decadent.

 

Happy New Year, Let’s Dance Barefoot in a Gay Bar

“Happy New Year!”

… I said to my friend Phil as I clinked my water against his beer and looked hopelessly around the desolate T.G.I. Friday’s  for someone to kiss.

Where were YOU at the dawn of 2013??
Where were YOU at the dawn of 2013??

Nine of us were in the middle of a ghost town business district in Costa Mesa, having sprinted to the nearest alcohol-equipped establishment  in order to have a drink in our hands come midnight.  I was barefoot and my feet were dirty.  (It had only taken about twenty steps out the door for me to reluctantly accept the fact that my sexy, sassy New Years heels were both too big and too high.  I doubt I could have held my own in a race with an infant.)

Resolution:  Either learn how to walk in heels, or stop trying to wear them.  Not everyone can be a Carrie Bradshaw.

Anyway, with the exception of our drunken party, Friday’s was practically empty, and the apathetic bartender averted his gaze when he caught my absinthe-glazed eyes wandering in his direction.  So I drank my water.

Because none of us was stoned or starring in a commercial written for obese, midwestern Americans, T.G.I.Friday’s was decidedly not our final destination.  So we left.   And, one way or another, I ended up standing on the curb with Phil and Alex, watching two-thirds of our banging New Years party take off in a minivan.

Next thing I know, the three of us (me still barefoot, heels in hand, feet getting dirtier by the minute) have linked arms and are swaying wildly as we meander across a major freeway overpass, twenty minutes into 2013.  There’s not a soul around, not even on the 405.  And that freeway has like 500 lanes.

Which leads me to believe… we must be the only humans left in Costa Mesa, or in Southern California, or maybe even the only humans left in the New Year!!   Someone must have miscalculated the World’s Ending.

However, when we finally turn up at Garf’s (Which-i-have-Yelped),  there are plenty of human weirdos, and our friends (“Oh hey! What took you guys so long!”) and even my favorite bartender Eddie.  So we’re good.  I let out a sigh of relief, which you could take to mean: phew! the burden of single-handedly repopulating the planet hasn’t fallen on me!

I walk to the bar and order another water from Eddie.  A 50-year-old black man to my left, who looks like Gus from Breaking Bad (see photo),gus-fring turns to me suddenly and – instead of offering me a million dollars to cook meth in a state-of-the-art laboratory – tells me I just made his night.  By just being there!  Wow, I am so flattered I take his sparkly hat, then bail and walk over to the booth where I stashed my heels.

Of course, it’d taken the three of us so long to walk there that, barely ten minutes after we’d arrived, everyone else is ready to move on.

So off we go to Tin Lizzy’s, a bar within reasonable walking distance, leaving Alex behind at Garf’s to hit on some skinny blonde.  (I did not actually see this girl, but I’m assuming she fits that description, as Alex has one type and that is it. I hope he’s reading this.)

On the way, we met a hefty lawyer named Doug who apparently moonlights as a bouncer outside Garf’s, and is known for generously giving cigarettes away to young people.

This may not actually be true.  It is likely that Doug is just a lawyer who was standing near the street entrance smoking, and who happened to give us a cigarette.  …Believe what you want to believe.

As it turns out, (who woulda thunk) the slightly damp tile floor of a dark gay bar past midnight on New Years Eve is kind of a gross thing to be dancing on barefoot.  I tried the heels again, took two perilous steps, then almost fell on my ass when the right stiletto heel simply gave up and broke off.  I threw the stupid shoes on a bench somewhere and haven’t seen them since.

After ordering drinks, the single, straight men in our group of friends (well I guess there were only two at this point – Dane, a buff rower who looks like a Norwegian king, and Phil, a scrappy rapper who could almost pass as black) promptly dispersed to perv on some women.  Rumor has it gay bars are full of vulnerable, half-naked girls who let loose like never before.  So they were on their game.

Meanwhile, I danced with Natalie and Alicia until the soles of my feet screamed at me loudly over the music, “MICHELLE! WE ‘RE GETTING SYPHILIS!”

Continue reading Happy New Year, Let’s Dance Barefoot in a Gay Bar

I can play piano, I swear, I’m just a little tipsy…

I started learning piano when I was quite young.  I’m afraid I can’t pinpoint a precise age, but I do know that I was small enough to sit between Mr. James’ generously proportioned legs on the piano bench while I played, and old enough to feel a vague discomfort in doing so.  Now that I think about it, that scenario was not unlike those in which old, affluent men with wandering eyes take it upon themselves to assist aspiring trophy-wives with their golf swings by wrapping liver-spotted arms around them from behind and swaying gently side to side.

[If you are not sure what I am talking about, or would like a more visual demonstration of the aforementioned seedy scenario, watch this clip from Californication:

You can stop at 0:40, if you want, or keep watching because David Duchovny is a sexy beast, and his golf shorts fall down.]

Anyway, I don’t know what happened to Mr. James, nor am I particularly curious.

My next piano teacher was a happy-go-lucky Asian woman named Toshi.  She always held a mechanical pencil in her hand, and was quick to use it to cross out any nonessential notes on my sheet music, especially the ones that were making my rendition of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On more trouble than it was worth.

Of course, as I got older, I was allowed to play all the notes.  Lucky me.

I thought I was pretty damn good at piano.  My friend Christie (who also learned from the ever-smiling Toshi) and I would race each other through Mozart’s Sonata No. 1 in C Major, banging on the keys with abandon, maintaining a consistently loud volume, not having quite yet mastered the intricacies of crescendos or diminuendos…  I’m sure our mothers cringed together in the other room.

I took the same approach during piano recitals.  First, I would sit through the other players’ performances with my binder of sheet music perched on my lap, hair tied up with ribbons, feet tapping impatiently, as I secretly and harshly judged the quality of every piece I heard.  Every mistake – even those made by six-year-olds – gave me a guilty, satisfying pleasure.  “Just wait till they hear me,” I would think, “I’m going to be the best one.  They are going to be so impressed that, by the end of it, their socks will be scattered all over the chapel due to the unimaginable might of the force that will inevitably blow them off.”

By “they” I was of course referring to the modest crowd of piano students, proud parents and exceedingly bored siblings that filled the five to six rows of fold up chairs aimed strategically at the baby grand.

Finally, my name would be called.  I’d walk up there, sink into my practiced curtsy, sit down at the bench, and rapidly bang my way through Tchaikovsky’s June or some other piece that really should not be banged through.  As you might have guessed, however, I wasn’t playing for the toughest of crowds.  Toshi was proud (and smiling, obviously), my doting parents caught all the magic on tape, and the little kids who struggled with Hot Cross Buns were sufficiently flabbergasted.  I bowed and went home with a belly full of Costco-brand sugar cookies, a styrofoam cup of tepid cider and a considerably inflated ego.

Oh, and with one of those little plastic busts of classical composers, seen here.

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Continue reading I can play piano, I swear, I’m just a little tipsy…