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.
Maybe things are starting to work out. Maybe whether or not things start to work out is actually, and entirely, under my own control.
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.
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.
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.
… 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.
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), 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!”
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.
Needless to say, after an hour spent trotting around atop the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon, taking so many pictures in so many poses that there were literally no physically possible contortions of the human body left for us to maneuver into, we dragged ourselves, numb-thumbed and hungry, back to the Altima.
Deciding that I would make Kaylen drive for once, I dug into the cooler, tore open a log of salami, leaned back in the passenger seat, and began to chomp on it like a burrito. Then I found an onion bagel, which I began to eat (cold and unsliced) simultaneously with the other hand. It was like a makeshift sandwich… only a little dry.
Meanwhile, Kaylen was eating cherry tomatoes or something equally unsubstantial.
The ride back to Flagstaff was uneventful, with the exception of my being highly amused by Kaylen’s erratic, brake-riddled driving. She sat pulled up impossibly close to the wheel, hands superglued at ten and two, and her head straining upwards for a better view of the road – from which she rarely averted her gaze. After all, can’t crash the rental.
Since it had been too cold to drink our Coronas in our ponchos at the Grand Canyon, immediately after we got back, I pulled out a beer, pulled on my poncho and sat on the futon outside our private hostel room to have a drink (alone). I stretched out my beer in a friendly cheers to the strangers who occasionally walked by. Almost on par with our original plan.
Later that night, after an Indian feast involving an abundance of chickpeas and naan, Kaylen and I wandered around in a grocery store for booze. As you undoubtedly know, assuming you’ve read Part III – which you don’t have to have read but I recommend it because it is highly enlightening – we had had a rough day exposed to the elements, braving the outdoors, becoming one with nature… and it was time to party Flagstaff-style.
I had my heart set on gin and tonics, while Kaylen was simply trying to find something that wouldn’t make her gag. With that being said, she decided to purchase a six-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade… [I know, it doesn’t make much sense; as I write this, over a month later, I still have four rogue Mike’s Hards rolling around freely in my trunk.]
As we checked out, the 18-year-old cashier asked us each in turn, as he handed over the bought and bagged booze, “Are you over 21?” #security #ajobwelldone #honorsystem #hashtags
Well, I’ll be honest… I’m running out of steam here. I can now say with unflinching certainty that I am truly able to relate to how J.R.R. Tolkien and/or J.K. Rowling must have felt as they approached the final writing stages of their sagas.
So here’s an abridged version of what happened next, for the sake of following through:
I tutor this kid whose entire house transformed entirely over the week after Thanksgiving. And by transformed, I don’t mean from a normal, home-themed house to a Christmas-themed house, I mean from a Pilgrim wonderland to a Christmas wonderland. Wonderland to wonderland.
It was like walking into Ikea, if Ikea were owned by Santa.
I think the mother (who shall remain nameless) even changed the clocks on the walls… because instead of normal hands, there were candy canes.
It just led me to wonder… where does she store all this stuff? Is there an entire room full of boxes organized by month of the year? How long does it take her to swap out the pumpkins and pilgrims and gourds and tapestries of cornucopias for the nutcrackers and wreaths and pudgy dolls and bowls of red and green M&Ms?
Does the house ever just look like a house?
It must get tiring, swapping box after box of the same decorations, year by year, taking down Cupids and putting up Shamrocks, taking down cobwebs and putting up… probably something appropriate for Veteran’s Day. A thankless job.
Is there a box in storage, placed between Easter and Cinco de Mayo, marked “In-Between Holidays” that just has regular clocks, something beige from Pottery Barn, and maybe a flag bearing the crest of her and her husband’s alma mater?
All I know is, the extent of our family’s decorations is a menorah someone made in 2nd grade, dangly lights – half of which are broken – and some Sees peanut brittle in the fridge. Oh, and someone got a tree, I think.
When we left off, Kaylen and I were in the process of grudgingly handing over twenty-five American big ones to an attractive park ranger who stood staunchly between our trusty Altima and its long-awaited destination – the Southern Rim of El Gran Cañón.
Speaking of which – did you know that the official language of the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon is Spanish?
(Confused? Skeptical? Read Part II.)
Anyway, seeing as how our iPhone maps had been reduced to this:
… we were forced to follow clumsily carved wooden signs along the road and trust that they would lead us straight to The Views, without occasioning any freak accidents involving unwitting elk or warranting any references to Thelma and Louise. (Of course, by “we were forced to follow…” I mean “I was forced to follow…” as Kaylen’s total navigational contribution to our three-day road trip can be summed up in five words: “There’s a bathroom over there!“)
We finally parked in a parking lot filled with dirty cars – a telling indicator of our having arrived somewhere at least marginally adventurous – and stepped out into the fresh canyon air. (Is that a thing? I know there’s “mountain air,” but in the absence of mountains, what would you call it?)
Now, those of you who have been following this miniature saga closely will remember the Plan. For the rest of you, here it is in a nutshell: to get ponchos, sombreros, cervezas, guitars, to sit on the rim of the Grand Canyon in said attire and to take a enormous amount of photographs.
Well, the instant our feet hit the dusty pavement, the wind and the cold and the persistently indecisive drizzle effectively and thoroughly nixed all of our well-thought-out, meticulously detailed and undeniably brilliant intentions. However… we wouldn’t admit our defeat out loud to each other, at least not quite yet. After all, we couldn’t appear to give up that easily. Instead, we both pretended to be unfazed by the less than ideal conditions and, mumbling all the while, made excuses as to why we should leave all of our Mexican-themed props in the car – just for now.
We wandered around the general vicinity of the parking lot for a while, not entirely sure whether or not we were in the right place. At one point we ambled into some kind of historical and informational exhibition, complete with visual aids, rocks in glass display cases, and tourists pretending to be enlightened by it all but really just reveling in the warmth. Really, who needs museums these days when there’s Google? (Just kidding!!!! Jeez)
Finally, we meandered back outside (I mean, that’s one thing we did know – the Grand Canyon is not likely to be found indoors) and resorted to pestering bundled-up passersby for some semblance of guidance. Kaylen, always one for approaching strangers, marched over to a middle aged woman who was walking with her head bent down against the wind, and shouted in her unsuspecting face, “Excuse me, where are the VIEWS?”