Saturday, February 25, 2006

Three Parades and an Eggplant

It’s Saturday night; it’s stormy; and I’m staring at an eggplant with great anticipation. In a few hours, the eggplant will transform into either Spaghettini with Tomatoes and Eggplant (Linda’s Kitchen, page 90) or Farfalle with Garlic-Roasted Eggplant in Creamy Spinach Sauce (Claire’s Classic American Vegetarian Cooking, pages 132-133). Claire and Linda are two of my favorite vegetarian chefs (Linda being Linda McCartney, Paul’s late wife), and the eggplant is my all-time favorite vegetable. An eggplant is a commitment. You can’t casually slap in on a sandwich or throw it in a soup. There’s work to be done -- chopping, breading, peeling, salting, roasting. The eggplant demands effort and time. Two cycles through Otis Redding’s Greatest Hits, at least. But eventually you finish, and the eggplant accessorizes your pasta like Gucci earrings, and you can tell your grandmother, “I cooked with an eggplant.” Eggplant rocks.

The above paragraph is meant to convince you of two things: 1) you need to buy an eggplant; 2) I’m getting old. You can bet the early-20s crowd doesn’t acclaim eggplants on Saturday night. An eggplant can’t be infused with vodka or thrown in with ramen. When I was 21, I regarded eggplant with detached admiration, as one might smile at an elderly neighbor’s Faberge collection. Commendable, even noteworthy. But not for me. Not now.

Well, to be fair, I was due to attend another Mardi Gras parade tonight, but Endymion got rained out. I’ll be back on St. Charles Avenue tomorrow afternoon, beaded and eggplantless. Thursday evening I joined a few classmates on the uptown leg of St. Charles, where Babylon rolled at 5:30, followed by Chaos and Muses.

In my pre-NOLA youth, I wasn’t aware that Mardi Gras parades had distinct themes. I figured the theme was “Mardi Gras” (or “Alcohol”). Babylon’s crew dressed as medieval knights, while Chaos went macabre with tongue-in-cheek underworld scenes (float titles: “Corpse of Engineers,” “Department of Homeland Insecurity,” etc.). Muses is traditionally all-female, and the crew tossed high-heeled shoes, along with commemorative dolls and, of course, beads.

You want beads? I have a good three lbs., in purple, silver, white, red, gold, green, and magenta. I got them the honest way: by reaching out my hand. It’s not that I consider myself too old to flash, nor too demure. Perhaps too sober. And uptown St. Charles isn’t that kind of parade spot. On Bourbon, you elbow around the reeling fake IDers. Uptown St. Charles places everyone in the shadow of five- and six-year-olds. My classmates and I huddled in front of giant wooden platforms containing hordes of children. “Stay away from the kids,” an undergrad advised me. “You’ll never get any beads.” Ah, but just you wait, kiddies: your eggplant years are creeping up.

I have to admit, I forgot the significance of the single empty float. Maybe I wandered too far into a state of childish excitement. Like most of the crowd, I alternated shouting three phrases: “Beads! Beads!” (to the float brigades); “Work it!” (to the baton twirlers); and “Yeaaaaaah, ______” (to whatever happened to be passing -- drum major, police car, jazz band, horse). When the empty float passed at the end of Muses, I yelled, “Yeahhhhhh, empty float!” The people around (and above) me -- grandmothers, fratties, toddlers, classmates -- chorused “Yeahhhhhhh, float!” Then, we all returned to “Beads! Beads!”

Were I older and wiser, I’d comment on how Mardi Gras ‘06 represents New Orleans ‘06. Smaller, darker, but with great potential for joy. Even reading that line, though, I can tell I’m being heavy-handed. I know more about eggplant than about Mardi Gras. And way more about Mardi Gras than life. Which isn’t saying much, in total. I don’t think anyone at Muses on Thursday really forgot Katrina. Any given street in NOLA, including St. Charles, is only a few blocks from spray-painted evac. notices and aging FEMA trailers. Come Wednesday, everyone will go back to clearing debris, or walking around debris, and observing Winn-Dixie’s new 8 p.m. curfew. But until then, I hope the city gets a few more “Yeahhhhhh, float!” moments. Some things should be ageless and timeless. Just not ratatouille.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Don't Cry For Me, North Lima, Ohio

Many thanks to K for telling me how to install a site meter. Now I can view the demographics of the goofus musings “audience.” Where is Santa Fe, TN, anyway?

Really, I probably shouldn’t have added this feature, as it only feeds my communication obsession-compulsion. The DSM-IV defines “obsessions” as “persistent ideas, thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced as intrusive and inappropriate and that cause marked anxiety or distress.” The comorbid compulsions (love that comorbidity!) are “repetitive behaviors or mental acts the goal of which is to prevent or reduce anxiety or distress, not to provide pleasure or gratification.”

So, here’s what happened yesterday: I stationed myself in front of Triton for half an hour, reorganizing MP3s ’til Friend showed up (obsession). Then, when he appeared, I spent two hours exchanging messages with him (compulsion!). Two hours. Did I get “pleasure or gratification”? Well, maybe a little. But mostly I fretted about how long he’d stay on Triton before slamming the e-door. Psychologist, heal thyself.

(I realize this episode is of no cosmic importance, but since you’re my friends from Chicago, Austin, and Boston, I hope you’ll indulge me. Person from Herndon, Virginia, please feel free to navigate elsewhere.)

If I were a psychodynamic theorist, I’d look to my childhood for signs of imminent e-OCD. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I have no memory of playing “Barbie Waits By the Phone.” No way were my Barbies holding out for Ken’s “What’s up?” Not with so many parties to attend, hairdos to achieve, cheerleading practices to coordinate. Psychodynamically speaking, I should be crimping my bangs or clutching pom poms.

I’d rather take the empiricist perspective. It’s not in my nature to obsess and compel - technology has nurtured my pathology. Ten years ago, I prayed nightly for a phone call from my teen crush, apparently in great detail (journal 5/18/95: I wish that X would call at 8:15 during a ‘Seinfeld’ commercial tonight and say ‘You don’t know how hard it is for me to call and ask this, but do you want to go out Saturday night?’). I can only imagine that at 8:16, I returned to Jerry and the gang, saving my next religious request for Friday-night ‘Pop-Up Video.’

Ah, 2006. So many ways to “reach out and touch,“ then pull back a bloody, heartbroken stump. At 8:15 tonight, Friend did not call. Or instant message. Or text message. Or email. Or look at my Friendster profile. Or, as I’ve discovered, navigate to this site (unless he’s in Herndon). W., grab my psychosis meds. I know you’re reading.

Instead of seeking professional help, I’m going to attempt cold-turkey withdrawal. I’m turning my cell phone off. Shutting down email. Logging out of Triton. Until tomorrow. Definitely. Tomorrow.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Multiple Choice

Are you ready? The reason Jesseanna doesn’t blog much anymore is ______.

A) She’s never home.
B) She’s immersed in “Tics, Stereotypic Movements, and Habits” (Matthews et al.)
C) She’s preoccupied with a variety of mysterious, elusive, yet somehow omnipresent lovers.
D) None of the above.

Give up? The answer is C, of course. Observe these time-tested strategies for navigating multiple-choice. Don’t pick the first option (A). Don’t go with overly technical language (B). Forget “None of the above” (D). Clearly, the best choice is C.

I realize C could be construed as a “distracter.” I haven’t mentioned these omnipresent lovers in previous posts, and if you went with the “true/false stem” technique, I apologize. I’ll try to maintain the homoscedasticity of the bell curve by deleting the outliers. Or something.

Next question: short answer.

Please describe these “mysterious, elusive yet somehow omnipresent lovers.” Use a #2 pencil, and be sure to make your mark heavy and dark.

Don’t worry -- I’ll handle this one.

(An aside, though: it really is important to make your mark heavy and dark. Last week’s TA duties included operating a scantron machine for the first time. Scantron doesn’t like light lead. I had to manually darken several test bubbles. Another aside: wouldn’t “Scantron” have been an awesome name for a Transformer?)

In keeping with standard, inverted-triangle essay style, I’ll start with my most recent and specific paramour.

1) Triton. I met Triton at the beginning of the month, through a mutual acquaintance. “I looooove Triton,” W. exclaimed over IM. Triton? As in, “We are the daughters of Triton! Great father who loves us and named us well! Aquataaaaa...Adrinaaaaaa...A-blah-blahhhhh...” Well, he does have nice pecs. Wrong Triton - hey, I knew that. Apparently, Triton’s the latest version of AOL Instant Messenger for Windows, and his mighty trident allows instant downloading of MP3s. Hello, soulmate. On Valentine’s Day Triton gave me Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” (via W.), and I reciprocated with David Lee Roth’s “I Ain’t Got Nobody.” So much cheaper than a dozen roses, and more filling than cherry bon bons. Another afternoon at home, muffin? Sounds delightful.

2) Terri Gross. It’s true -- I’m a LAG. Wellesley trained me right. Every evening at 6:30, I retreat to my bedroom with a nightcap. Terri’s already waiting. “I’m Terri Gross,” she coos. And this is Fressssssh Air.” Yesterday night Terri treated me to an interview with “Richard Thompson, a British singer-songwriter whom I recommend solely for his cover of Britney Spears’ “Oops! I Did It Again.” (Look in the “Bonus Audio” section, if it’s still there.) To lose all my senses....just so typically me.

3) Robert Spitzer. Terri introduced me to Robert. How’s that for kinky? Before I found Robert’s “archived interview, I knew him only as the “elusive” editor of the DSM-IV, psychiatry’s comprehensive reference book. Now he’s Bob the meticulous scientist, semi-faithful husband, ballroom dancer. In my fantasies, Bob and I ooze through a samba while debating the comorbidity of generalized anxiety and major depressive disorder. He dips me at the end, too.

With this trois at my constant disposal, it’s difficult to schedule keyboard time. If you’d like to fill in the blank with a guest post, holler. I’ll tell Terri to keep it down, so we can hear.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Nothing Rhymes With "Homoscedasticity"

The word of the day is “comorbid,”
Which simply means “stuff side-by-side.”
Like “under” ’s comorbid with “water” or “wear,”
And “seek” is comorbid with “hide.”
I don’t mind aggression comorbid with sex,
Or doorbells with dog salivation
But when psych makes the “quant” spend time with the “qual,”
There’s comorbid angst and frustration.
‘Cause numbers and letters, I think, really don’t mix.
At least not in my lexicon.
Keep your digits comorbid with sigmas and sines
And leave “y” with “ogurt” and “awn.”
Since when does a “p” equal .05
(Or less, if your study is valid)?
I like my “p” comorbid with “green,”
In a spicy masala or salad.
Please, leave my “r” to “ocky” or “oad,”
Not some half-pint correlation.
“N” should be “ickels,” or “eighbors,” or “ice,”
Instead of “the sum population.”
And “b” is a slope? A y-intercept?
What happened to Hamlet and honey?
Whether “F” is a critical value or not,
It certainly isn’t too “unny.”
They tell me a “t” is a test, not a drink,
And “z” is a score, not a nap.
I envision a low “z” on my stats “t” next week
This “comorbid” stuff is all c-r-a-.05.