Monday, July 27, 2015

The SHOCKING Season Finale

What could that mean? Will someone be killed? Will Kaitlyn's twin show up to say she's the one who slept with Nick? Will Shawn confess that he's secretly married to...Nick's sister? Or will they drag this out for two hours and she'll pick Nick like she's supposed to so they can break up after two covers of US Weekly and go their separate ways to be on Dancing with the Stars?

Shawn, please stop doing you're hair in that 1950s do-wop soda jerk style.

Nick, you are not Nick Carraway. No more bow ties for you.

Kaitlyn, stop petting your mom's hair. Kaitlyn's mom is very made up and young looking. She has bangs and may have just had her braces removed. My far-flung reporter, Emily Morgan Brown, aptly describes her as "old-fashioned hoochie mama." That about covers it.

Nick shows up first, with his hair distinctly sandier than I remember it. He also has decided to grow a beard He is wearing a wooden beaded bracelet that look like a girl's necklace that he wound around his wrist four times. Hoochie Mama grills him, saying that she remembers him as arrogant and possessive and wondering if he can explain what it is that Kaitlyn likes about him. She asks if they will still like each other after the sexual attraction wears off. I think he's actually falling in love with mom, who keeps touching her neck. He fakes tears.  He is a bit of a mumbler. I can understand like every third word he says, "Your daughter argghh...she with the (murmur stumble slur) can't get enough of her." They make out by the mini van while saying goodbye. Numerous audible kisses.

Dan says he wants me to sign him up for the next season of the bachelor. Here's his pitch,"Danny Fernandez, yoga instructor, 47, lives in New Jersey with 12 year old son, frequently forgets to cut his eyebrows, but is a careful driver and hopes to find someone who will help him clean his ears for the rest of his life. His mom just bought him a shirt today."

Here's his head shot.

Shawn is next. He says that he's hoping "To get off to the right foot." He brings thank you gifts and Kaitlyn's sister likes him. His part is totally half-way down the side of his head and cut with a razor blade. They seem to like him better, even though he's more of a dude and uses the word "dude" often. Mom is a cry baby. She loves tons of cliches strung together.  Sister Haley also loves Shawn. This is the part where they skew it so we think that she's going to pick Shawn, but she won't. Shawn asks for both of their blessings. Mom goes, "We love our daughter, but she is an idiot. As long as you know that from the start." Dad says, "There's going to be lots of ups and downs. She's probably bipolar like her mother." (Those are Dan quotes).

Is this Kaitlyn's mom or Jackie Collins? You decide.

Is this Kaitlyn's mom or Sharon Osborne? Unclear.

Nick has the first one-on-one final date with Kait in Marina del Ray on a sail boat and he leaps from the motor boat onto the sailboat. Why oh why can't something happen like where he falls and hits his teeth and knocks them out? Who is sailing this boat? Where is his hand right now? You got it, all the way up her denim shorts.  They have another date and Nick wears a shirt that it looks like something his mom bought him, possibly from Macy's. Who is he trying to look like with this super un-hip shirt and beard? That guy from Little House?

Dan thinks that instead of going on adventures like sky-diving and cave spelunking, they should try to get their social security cards together in Trenton, like we had to do. Now, that's a character-revealing adventure.

He got her a gift and it's in his bedroom. But he says it like this:"Iboughtyouagiftandit'sinmypants." It's a handwritten poem in a frame with a picture of the two of them "There is magic in your eyes and when I see you there is love in your heart and when I touch you I feel love worth letting go." A terrible, terrible poem with spelling errors that he wrote on the back of the inside of a box of Froot Loops and stuck in a frame from Things Best Forgotten.

Now it's Shawn's turn. He shows up in a tight white long underwear shirt, also looking like a character from Little House. Maybe even the same actor. Kaitlyn, stop petting his knee.

He says he has a pit in his stomach because he's not sure if he should propose to her since she obviously slept with someone else.  For the second date, he dresses up by wearing a football shirt from the Gap. He says, "I want to  be able to say, 'This is my girl, this is my wife.'" He also has a gift for her, it's a jar of candy. Or a jar of fruit or wait, it's a jar of their dates. It's a memory jar, like a memory book, only, like, in a jar, dude. Where did he get the notes that he wrote to her? What's in the jar is their love story. What will happen if she chooses him is that she will end up in a jar, thrown in a river.

The two men pick out rings. Nick has dedicated himself to the white v-neck T under an open button down shirt look. Shawn is into whatever fits the tightest.

I missed a bunch of stuff because my computer lost power. But yes, they have fucked with us the whole season, so we would think it would be Nick, and it's not Nick, because she likes Big Boy better. She likes the guy who can't pronounce the word "been." As in, "I've been on a journey," comes out like, "I bin on this journey, dude."

Nick does not want to hear it. This is like being dumped at prom. That's how not-high the stakes are.

EW! I don't like Shawn though. It's not because Shawn isn't a good guy, it's because he seems like a beefcake. I mean, I get that these are personas, but I don't see anything, not one thing, that's interesting about him. Can the producers not find a way to make the people on the show seem more individual or human?

Stunned silence in the studio, like someone just announced that the president was shot. Except for the ll year old girls with side-ponytails in the audience, no one is really that invested in this show, because we all know it's staged.

Shawn shows up, wearing a skinny tie from 1989 and a skin tight tuxedo. Probably he's wearing a sleeveless shirt under the jacket. The moment he saw her, he knew his life was never going to be the same. When he introduced himself, he felt like he's never felt before, these past couple of months and through the highs and the lows and the ups and downs, he would not change any of it, something about more than he can imagine, the incredible-est woman he has ever met and he wants to kiss those lips and have a pit in his stomach every single day and he falls more and more in love with her every time he sees her, she is the love of his life, and all he wants to do is make her the happiest girl in his life. She blathers the same things back. She says that he makes her laugh (unintentionally). She too enjoys the ups and downs. And the truth is...She will stop sleeping around now. And she loves him with all of her heart. Kiss. Music swells. Dan wants to know if this is staged in Lego Land. Like, what are all those mini pillars? It reminds me of that scene from This is Spinal Tap, where the producers were imagining huge replications of Stonehenge, but the set designer came back with mini-versions "in danger of being crushed by a dwarf."

That's all she wrote people. I cannot stay for the after-birth.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Aging Sherlock

We went to see Mr. Holmes at the Princeton Garden Theater last night and it was a lot about regrets and forgetting and getting older and trying to puzzle out a case. Holmes is in his nineties, 93, and he's losing the power of his brain, his greatest asset, though still sharp in some ways (he has the power to deduce where the housekeeper has been by the state of her hair, nails, and dress), he can't recall the details of the case that caused him to quit detective work entirely. The case went so badly, he retired to the country, where he keeps aviaries, and those bumblebees play a big part in the story, these industrious creatures who are mysteriously dying. Then there is his visit to Japan to get a special herb to help his memory from a Japanese man, and there is a mystery there too, because it turns out the man invited him there because he believes Holmes knew his father (and encouraged him to abandon the family--which wasn't true).

So, there are four mysteries--the mystery of why the bees are dying, the mystery of Holmes' last case, which he keeps piecing together through the little boy of the house, the mystery of the Japanese man, and I guess that's it and so it's three mysteries. Oh, well, unless you county the mystery of why Laura Linney was cast as the housekeeper. I mean, I love Laura Linney, but she doesn't scream, "English housekeeper/mother" to me. Well, there is also the mystery of what happened to the little boy's father, and that gets solved as well--in trying to better himself, the father joined the RAF during WW II and was shot down on his first mission. His friends who worked at the garage all signed up for mechanics duty and all made it home. There's a lesson imbedded in his death, which is to not try to rise above your station, lest you be shot down by the enemy.

I love Ian McKellen, though I confuse him often with the author, Ian McEwan. He was the right amount of doddering and sharp. Dan and his mom thought the beginning was slow, but it's so beautiful, all of this rolling green countryside and raggedy sheep and old automobiles, that I didn't notice the slow pace. Luke was interested because he has read a lot of books about the young Sherlock Holmes. Plus, he's inexplicably patient about unfolding plots--I felt the same nervousness when we watched The Life of Pi together--that whole story starts off with 30 minutes of domesticity before it roars into action--but he stayed interested in that as well. In any case, I recommend Mr. Holmes, as long as you go into it knowing it's more about the challenges of aging then it is about who killed so and so,

Monday, July 20, 2015

Homes I Have Known and Loved

In trying to work on "Real Estate," I'm working on figuring out what home means for this particular character One suggestion I had from Molly Gaudry is to free-write about homes. Here's what I came up with.
This is a picture of my grandma in front of one of her homes.
Homes I have known and loved and remember: grandma's house with the cement steps where you could swing off the end and the dark wood staircase going up and the kitchen where the activity was and outside was a wide driveway with chained up dogs and John Deer tractors and grease spots in the gravel, There were boys everywhere, as my mom had seven brothers.

Omaha and an attic bedroom and a babysitter who had a scary basement. The apartment in Illinois. The first time where I slept on a cot outside of the bedroom by myself, separated from my mom. The house in Schaumburg with the pink and white bedroom and scratchy carpet and the huge flowered wallpaper in the kitchen and the back patio where Don grew tomatoes. That house had a basement with an office in it where the skeleton lived and Don also put up an indoor swing for me by the washer and dryer. That's when he was still trying to pretend to like me.

Florida house, one story, no basement, doors that slide shut instead of closing, a sun porch that got hot hot hot in the summer and the canal where cats could fall in. A living room floor that you could walk around in socks in and furniture that was just for company and a glass topped dining room table. I moved carefully around that house, trying not to make any noise or be noticed.

And then the houses of my adulthood.

A wall in Chicago we painted bright purple and green for a one year stay, that was a garden apartment with bars on the window, people always hurrying by and a shared bathroom, my bed on the floor, just a futon mattress and Tara and I both smoked, a small pantry to the side and the garbage out back behind the stairs.

Nadine's place on the street that had two giraffe sculptures on the ends of it. I had my own bathroom, but she had the one that was in her bedroom and this giant table in the center of the entryway and I think I had a real bed then. One night, we woke up because we heard the guy below beating up his wife. We called the cops and pressed our ears to the wooden floor. The woman says, "Can you think of a reason a man should hit a woman?" And the cop goes, "It depends." Nadine's dad was schizophrenic, and he called her once saying, "oh, I just saw your head in the refrigerator and thought I'd give you a call."  She had a sister too and I think there was a kitchen counter with two stools, but I'm not sure. I spent most of my time hiding in the bedroom, because she always had her boyfriend over and they would sit in the living room, smoking pot and laughing when he farted. When the lease was up nine months later, Nadine said she wanted to live alone. I felt like I'd been tricked.

My first place by myself on Hazel Street in a huge building. I loved it. It had no air conditioning and this was the summer of the heat wave in Chicago, but I had everything all my own and a huge slanted closet in the living room big enough to store a bike I never rode and books shelves made of ladders for the books I'd collected. I used to lay on the floor, I think I had a thin rug, and record my thoughts about boys into a tape recorder and then play it back and listen and smoke cigarettes and take Tylenol PM because I couldn't afford alcohol.

I remember many of these details mostly because I have photos of them, I don't know if I would recall otherwise, but the house on Hazel had a small gas stove and big sink and the building manager's name was Jack. He had white hair and a beard and an anchor tattoo and always wore a white T-shirt. I would walk every morning to the Sheridan el stop past a yard with unfriendly dogs. I was not happy in Chicago, I was always trying to find a boyfriend and managing only to find one and two night stands or guys I made out with in deserted stairwells at work.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Life with a Dog

We've had a dog for months and months now, the first dog I've ever owned, though I've always loved them, been a chronic dog-petter of strange dogs. At Penn, I inspired the Take Your Dog to Work idea that is still in effect today. I did that because we had a lot of dog owners and it was the only way I could get more than five minutes with the creatures. I've actually never met a dog I didn't like. I've liked some more than others, but I've liked almost all of them more than toddlers.

Before we got the Morkie, I'd heard the comparison between puppies and babies; how puppies were like babies, requiring a lot of care in the beginning. This was true-ish--puppies and dogs in general are way more work than cats. With cats, you just show them the litter box one time, and they are potty-trained for life. Your furniture will get scratched to hell, and you have to make sure they don't run out of the door (as they will not return on their own), and you have to pick up hairballs, but that's about it in terms of extra care.

It took us about two months to train Chaplin to go out outside, partially because we got him in the middle of winter and also because we didn't crate train him at first (due to my laziness, I didn't want to get up a 2 AM to take him outside when he cried). We took him to two and a half puppy courses (missing the last three sessions of the second class), and we walk him four or five times a day, down from like 6 or 7 when he was small. But I don't really think puppies are nearly as hard as babies. Just harder than other pets, except for maybe horses. And they can't take care of themselves.  And they want to play all of the time, He's calming down but he has pretty much three modes: chewing on something, wanting to fetch, and dead asleep. Not a whole lot of  moments of hanging out in contemplation.

Those curly-cue bones are a god send because they last for a hour or more, same with that little orange thing with the bone in the middle. He doesn't care about the Kong.  He sneezes more than a cat would, and he does this thing called a reverse sneeze which sounds like an old men trying to hock up phlegm. Many times, it's happened that I just let him chew on a pair of shoes. The value of shoes outweighs the value of my own time not having to throw that damn hedgehog again. You have to bathe dogs, otherwise, they smell. You have to apologize for dogs, for jumping on stranger's white pants. They will follow you everywhere, watch everything you do. They will hang out on the rug while you take a shower (the steam is also good for the phlegm problem mentioned above). You have to physically pick up their poop three to four times a day and carry it around until you find a garbage can, You have to stop them from running out into the street to chase a sparrow, a taunting squirrel, a white piece of paper.  Every time we go to the pet shop, I walk out $50 poorer. Every time, like even if I think I'm going in to get only dog treats.

But they are so totally present, and engaged, and interested in what you're doing. They lose their minds when you walk through the door. They are always glad to see you, even if you've only been gone for five minutes. If you stick your foot into their faces in the middle of the night, they will lick your toe. You can take them places and not just the dog park. They go with you on holiday visits, they go with you to the hardware store, the ice cream shop, other people's houses. They smudge their noses on the windows and they start to cock their heads to one side when you say the words "dog park."

For Luke, it's been good because he used to be afraid of dogs, any dogs, all dogs, even puppies. But Chaplin was so small when we got him, that he was able to deal with it, though it took him a while to see that the puppy's teeth weren't that sharp, that he could keep him from biting if he wanted. It took him another couple of months before he would pick him--I think he was afraid of dropping him, or unsure how to hold him.

Yesterday, he had a friend over who has two dogs, and the kid goes, "I just love dogs, don't you?"

And Luke said, "I love dogs too."

Score one more for dogs.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

(Mis) Remembering To Kill a Mockingbird

Lots of talk these days about Harper Lee's sequel to her much-praised To Kill a Mockingbird. I haven't yet read Go Tell it on the Mountain (isn't that what it's called?) but we were talking today about TKAM, and I had to confess that I don't remember it that well. To admit this is akin to saying you're not sure if Macbeth is a tragedy or that one about the garden gnomes in midsummer.  I know I've read TKAM more than once, but the first time was probably in Mrs. Bytheway's 10th grade AP English class and the second time might have been for about ten minutes at the library.

But if you were to ask me what's amazing about it, I would have to make something up, like to say that it's one of the first novels to take on race relations, but I would only be able to tell you that because I heard them talking about it on NPR on the ride home from work today.

Here's what I remember about the book. It has a girl in it, and I think her name is Butterscotch. It's definitely an odd name, something that you might name a horse rather than a girl. I'm pretty sure the novel is set in the South, and there may or may not be an older narrator looking back, perhaps an old man with a white beard. As I write this, I'm picturing the narrator of Uncle Jesse from The Dukes of Hazzard.  I believe that Butterscotch makes friends with a big black man named Boo Radley or Beau Ridley, one of the two. I hesitate to write that he was mentally-challenged, because it seems like every story about a young white girl and older black man has to automatically make the black man retarded on some level so that it can remain benign and the girl can teach him his sums by writing them with a stick in the dirt. I feel like there was an important scene where someone was pushing another person on a tree swing. The novel takes place in the Depression era and Butterscotch definitely had short bangs and a bobbed haircut and wore a dingy dress with the hem hanging down. She ran barefoot and was a tomboy.  A woman gets raped and the town blames Boo Radley, because he was seen looking at her through a window while she brushed her hair. I also might be confusing this story line with a Stephen King novel. He goes on trial for rape and possibly murder, and is defended by Atticus Finch. I recall his name clearly because it's often a clue in the Sunday crossword puzzle. Much of the book takes place in the courtroom and the lawyer looks a lot like Gary Cooper. In the end, the black man is found not guilty, but remnants of fear and prejudice remain, so he has to get on a train and leave town, with Butterscotch running after him and yelling. "Don't go, Boo!" in a Southern accent.

On the cover of the book is a tree, meant to symbolize the tree where Boo pushed Butterscotch when times were better. As for the title...Perhaps someone throws a stone at a singing mockingbird early on and wounds it (or, more likely, kills it), and this symbolizes the main theme of the novel that you shouldn't accuse others for doing something they wasn't harmful at all, such as looking at a woman through a window in town.  So, maybe he doesn't get on a train, maybe he is hung in the end, but I feel like that would've been too unjust and may not then have been made into a movie.  

Am I close?  All of this is to say that before I read the sequel, I'll go back to the first book. I also recall that it's a fairly slim volume,
so I should be able to tackle it in about an hour

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Living in Someone Else's Filth: the Airbnb Experience

Okay, the title doesn't completely reflect how I felt about my first airbnb experience, but I will cop to a certain amount of squeamishness about living in a stranger's apartment for two nights. There wasn't exactly filth in the apartment, not at all, but there were particular people's lives there, which was what made it odd.

This is not the bathroom we had
For anyone who doesn't know what airbnb is, it's an alternative to staying at a friend's house or in a hotel, because it's a service that allows you to search for apartments in a particular relocation, and, in many of the cases, these apartments or homes are typically lived in when not rented out.There are exceptions, and more people now seem to be buying properties solely for this purpose. But most are still places where people live, and for a fee, they agree to stay somewhere else while you're sitting naked on their furniture. There are options to rent just a room with the people living there at the same time, but we elected to look for a vacant one-bedroom apartment. The rentees who let you stay are not licensed by anyone, they just have decided to rent their place for extra money.

First, the whole reason we tried airbnb is because Dan and I usually wait until the last minute to make any travel plans. In this case, we waited until the Tuesday before the fourth of July holiday to come up with ideas. It was like Mary and Joseph with their impending baby Jesus--no room at the B&Bs in Cape May, and nothing affordable in Manhattan or Boston (too far anyway). We even looked at New Hope, which is a 30 minute drive and not all that exciting, but they too were booked. So, then, I thought maybe Brooklyn was the way to go for several reason. I like cities, our friends Liz and Luke live there, and we could take New Jersey transit the whole way, thus avoiding the inevitable short spats we have when Dan is driving and I am a clutching-the-seat passenger, sure he's going to miss an exit or side-swipe a mini-van. I'd also heard pretty good things about airbnb's or at least thought that I had, or maybe I dreamed that part.
Nor is this the bedroom.
 It was pretty easy to find a reasonably priced and available place in Park Slope ($134 a night for the whole one bedroom apartment. In the end, it came out to about $316 because of taxes and a $20 cleaning fee. Note: I believe the cleaning fee should only be applied if you leave the house a mess. We kept it clean, used only two towels, took out the garbage and left them extra food). The dude who lived there was very responsive--let's call him Justine, because his photo reminded me of a friend of mine from grad school who liked to wear hats.

The place was well-reflected in the photos. It was a one bedroom with the smallest bathroom I've ever seen. Like, there was no room to turn around, so you had to open the door to pull up your pants. The tub was disgusting. It's not that it wasn't clean, it was more like it probably had never been cleaned. I did not shower there for the two days we stayed.

The living room did not look like this.
Then there's the unexpected discomfort that came from being a guest in a house of ghosts whose underwear are still folded neatly in their dressers and whose prescription medicine is stashed in the bathroom cabinet. These were people we never met, but we were using their things, sitting on their couch, stirring coffee in a mug they bought somewhere with a spoon they used. And sleeping in their full sized bed with its too-buoyant air mattress and sleep comfort pillows.

The sheets were clean, and yet it felt weird. I reminded myself that if we were staying at a hotel, we would be sleeping on a mattress 500 plus people have already slept in. Same for towels This bed had been used by one couple only, but they were a particular couple. Who we didn't know. The anonymity of a hotel allows you to cling to the illusion that you are the first and only guest they will ever have. At an airbnb you have towels who have seen better lives, necklaces hanging on pegs, stacks of books with worn covers, and other constant reminders that oh, yes, we are in someone's home.

Also, what if there were cameras planted in the innocent looking light fixtures?

The kitchen was better than the one above.
On the positive side, the hosts left us organic coffee and a French press and we were in the middle of Park Slope in a cute neighborhood. I suggested in my comments afterwards that they consider leaving more instructions about WiFi and what we were allowed to use and not use--maybe just leaving the towels and soap in a basket instead of having a bar of used soap clinging to the side of tub in the bathroom, along with the full-sized shampoos.

We might try it again. Probably, if we went to Spain and rented an apartment, the strangeness of being in a foreign country would outweigh they specific oddity of sleeping in someone else's bed. As long as they didn't leave their soap behind.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

To the Girl on the Train Who was Wondering if the Guy Likes Her or Not

Hi, I couldn't help but overhearing the multiple conversations about your weekend that you were having on the phone for the duration of our one hour train ride between Manhattan and Hamilton. You spoke to several people about the same topic and so I really got the gist of the situation. What happened was this: you were on your way back after spending the weekend hanging out with some people along with this guy you really, really like. Let's say his name is Jake, because I've forgotten his actual name even though you said it at every opportunity, because I think you liked saying his name, because you saying his name made the relationship more real; made it seemed like there really was a Jake and you. Wait, now that I'm thinking about it, I think his name was Jason.

So, the story went something like this:

"Jason came to pick me up at the train station and he looked really cute. He was wearing that scruffy jacket I told him I liked that other time and he just smiled at me, and I was like, What? And he said, Nothing, but then we spent the whole day together, like, going to record stores and he bought me a yogurt and we were laughing the whole time and he was just, like, super attentive. And then we played some music outside and that was good, but after a few hours, we both had to get back to where I was staying, and so we went to Sara's house and then all of the sudden, this really pretty girl shows up and the two of them left for a while, and then came back together and it was super weird. Later, I found out that she was this girl he's been seeing. But here's the thing: she was super cool. I mean, I really liked her. By the end of the night, she and I were holding hands, that's how much I liked her. What should I do?"

Except you never really asked what you should do. There wasn't anything to do, because he is obviously dating someone else. Your question was more about what it all meant. What did it mean that he picked you up and bought you fro-yo and hung out with you and gave you funny looks like he likes you? Well, it means that he likes you. It means that he wanted to spend time with you. It means that he gets something from being with you--a thrill, an excitement, an ego boost. It means that he would sleep with you if you let him. But it also means that he doesn't like you enough to not date this other girl. He likes both of you. But he likes her more.

And here's the other thing about you--you're super beautiful and it sounded like you know how to play the guitar or some such instrument and so you have something more going on. My guess is that the second you realize your value and stop giving a shit about what Jason thinks of you, Jason will want to know what happened and then he will be more interested in you. Which is why you shouldn't spend any more energy on him now.

So, instead of asking yourself if Jason likes you, the better question to ask is if you really like Jason. Do you really like this guy who wants to keep one trembling leg in the land of non-commitment while also dating another girl? A guy who likes to flirt and doesn't really care if he's giving mixed signals and might cheat on his girlfriend given the right circumstances? What is it you like about him specifically or is it that you like him most because he seems unable to see how awesome you are?

Evaluate more, pose less. Get that tattooed in a Swahili on your arm instead of stars and birds. I mean, unless that's what you really want.