Tag Archives: writing

Target: Entering the Void

I could count on one hand the number of items on my shopping list before going to Target last weekend, yet somehow my receipt did not stop printing until it reached the length of Pau Gasol’s femur.

(In case there was any confusion...)
(In case there was any confusion…)

The list was concise and straightforward, as lists tend to be: garbage bags, alarm clock, foam roller, makeup remover, shampoo.

So how did it come to be that at one point, I had to verbally talk myself down from pulling a four-pack of Bicycle playing cards off the shelf?  Why did I spend so much time deliberating between place-mats, and seriously considering whether or not I should buy a Mariners jersey?

Well, first of all, thank God I didn’t buy Mariners gear.  Not only should that degree of posing (as in, actively being or exhibiting characteristics of a poser) be illegal for people who have lived in Seattle for as short a time as I have, but also… I went to a game shortly thereafter.  Though I did nearly get hit in the head with a home run after staring uncomprehendingly, through the fog of three overpriced beers, at a speedily approaching baseball (something to tell my grandchildren, surely), the team really just sucks.

In other words, both rumors about Seattle are true: the weather IS certifiably crap, and the Mariners DO play like a bunch of sissies.

But nonetheless, Target, in its subtle, cunning way, had me on the cusp.  It had me right where it wanted me: vulnerable, tempted, intrigued, and so deep in the white-tiled bowels of the store I couldn’t have dropped everything and sprinted for the exit if I wanted to.

Of course, that’s crazy, because I didn’t want to. Not even a little bit.  I had yet to reach the Office Supplies.

Notebooks, Sharpies and gel pens make me weak in the knees.  Binders sing to me.  Roller tips tease me, taunt me, lure me in with the promise of writing that is sensually smooth and endlessly inky. Neon highlighters beckon me, challenge me to test them out by striking through the entire text of Atlas Shrugged.  I can’t say why exactly… maybe it’s nostalgia for those first days of school, when a trip to Staples felt like a very specific type of Christmas. Or maybe it’s that these aisles invite me (and you too, probably, I know I’m not alone) into the irresistible illusion that starting RIGHT NOW, I could become outrageously, pathologically organized.

… all I’d have to do is feed that insatiable red-mouthed beast they call Target…

Anyway, I abstained. I’m safe… for now.  But turns out I got the wrong kind of garbage bags, and I have to go back and exchange them.

Now that I think about it… maybe it was a subconsciously intentional error planted in my brain by subliminally communicated messages sent out over the loudspeakers to ensure my speedy return.  Maybe I’ll just keep these garbage bags out of spite.  Maybe this entire post is a pedantic justification towards not having to haul my ass back to that money-vacuum of a store.

Before I go back to my crossword puzzle, I feel it is my duty to inform you that foam rollers are absurdly overpriced.  Over forty bucks for a cylindrical chunk of Styrofoam?  Thanks, Gaiam, but I’ll find another way to massage my calves.

Feel the burn.
Feel the burn.

Scientific Evidence that Grinding is the Worst

grinding1

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

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.

tumblr_mdlzwsc4GX1qeyuoqo1_1353117272_cover

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

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.

photo

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

Road Trip, Part II: “I’ll Rim YOUR Canyon”

First of all: No, “Part II” is not intended to imply that you must have already read “Part I” to understand what the hell is going on here.  It’s a road trip, not one of the later seasons of Lost.

Second of all:  You should read “Part I,” though, really.

So, here’s where we’re at:

See Flagstaff on this weird map?
See Flagstaff on this weird map?

When I left off, Kaylen and I had just completed a quick set of 20 squats in our hostel room (gotta get the blood flowing) before heading out to scour the town of Flagstaff for two reasonably priced ponchos.  It was all part of the Plan, the infallible, brilliant, and terribly original Plan, as illustrated below.

The Plan:

  • Chill a six-pack of Mexican beer.
  • Buy ponchos (preferably handmade and sold on some kind of sacred ground by amicable Native Americans… but we were willing to grudgingly compromise on that point).
  • Find sombreros or cowboy hats or some alternative variation of headgear that would strike a satisfactory balance between both Mexican and Western styles.
  • Borrow/steal my sister’s yellow mariachi guitar (is that a thing? Well that’s what it looks like).
  • Perch ourselves precariously atop the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, armed with all of the aforementioned props, and take pictures of our ridiculous selves.
  • Tag ourselves in these pictures, share them on our smartphones (presuming there’s 3G service at the Grand Canyon – our plan was highly contingent on there being service) and eagerly await the surging multitude of likes and comments.

Well, let’s just say it didn’t end up playing out quite as we had hoped.  But we’ll get there.

Continue reading Road Trip, Part II: “I’ll Rim YOUR Canyon”

Road Trip, Part I

Two weekends ago, Kaylen and I jumped into a rented crimson Nissan Altima, packed it with apples, turkey jerky, chocolate and beer, and headed east to the Grand Canyon.  We drove through the night, stopping only to get in our daily quota of squats. (Our strict regimen of at least 60 squats per day ensures that our quads will have transformed handsomely into effeminately toned thunderthighs by the next swimsuit season.)

Me (left) and Kaylen (right)… two sophisticated women out on the open road!

By the time we arrived at our hostel in Flagstaff, AZ, it was 3:30am and I was buzzing on Diet Dr. Pepper and Mike and Ike’s.  My quads were burning and Pandora’s 90’s pop station was running out of hits… once you’ve listened to “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks a second time through you just know they’re grasping at straws.

Outside, it was freezing.  Four straight months of obscenely beautiful, warm beach weather had not prepared me (shocker!) for ice puddles and neck-coldness.  As instructed, I opened the door to the unlocked red passenger van parked out front of the hostel only to find, lying limp on the driver’s seat… a severed human hand.  Continue reading Road Trip, Part I

Intruder Joe’s

You should probably know that as I write this, I bear a striking resemblance to a cancer patient.  (Of course, I mean this in the most politically correct sense possible; please don’t take offense at my trivial, self-deprecating, woefully truthful observations.)  I have a scarf wrapped around my head, concealing all hair and both eyebrows.  And by “eyebrows”, I really mean the general vicinity above the eyes where eyebrow hairs are meant to grow, as I’ve nearly picked them all out.  Nervous habit… I won’t go into it, but suffice it to say that that is the reason the scarf is on in the first place.  To, theoretically, prevent more eyebrow picking.  Adding to my (both perceived and literal) hairlessness, I am sitting outside covered in a blanket and smoking a broken cigarette… which, to compensate, I must hold firmly between my forefinger and thumb.  Like a doobie.

Am I right or am I right?!

But this is all beside the point, I just wanted to paint you a picture.  Provide some context.  Let you IN.  And at the same time, hopefully, make you feel a little better about whatever it is you are doing at this precise moment.  Because I’m sure it’s much less pathetic.  Anyway, we’re moving on.

There was a lunatic at Trader Joe’s today.  

No, this wasn’t the lunatic in question. She’s just the craziest looking person nearest the top of a Google image search for “Grocery Shoppers.” … I try.

Okay, maybe “lunatic” is a little alarming.  He was simply… uninhibited.  Jolly.  Loud.  Drunk?  Determined.  On a mission.  Probably hungry.  Among other things, certainly. Continue reading Intruder Joe’s