Friday, June 30, 2006

I'm Teflon, You're Glue

Having recently been referred to as a “pot” by Mr. Words, I feel my only recourse is to post. It’s Friday, and I have a few free hours. Old wives say that watched pots don’t boil, but I hope to prove that refreshed blogs do, eventually, produce updated material. See how un-potlike I am? Also, I am not round or black (er, Culinary-American), and when I get all steamed up, I rarely shout, “Tip me over and pour me out.”

In fact, when I get all steamed up, I usually don’t know what to do with myself (see a much earlier post). Fortunately, I don’t get steamed up often.

Wednesday, though, was one of those days. No toe stubbing, coffee spilling, or minor traffic violations. The source of my angst was somewhat more consequential but not very interesting. So, I won’t describe it. I’ll just say, in modern lingo: I was pissed.

If I had been a character on “Friends” (where it sometimes isn’t “your day, your month, your year,” etc.), I would have stormed through my rent-controlled apartment, flung myself into a designer armchair, and launched a clever diatribe punctuated by Phoebe’s kooky one-liners and a laugh track.

Scientists call this a “counterfactual.” If I had wings, I’d fly back to Boston and inform Murky I’m neither pot nor kettle. Salad shooter, maybe.

I did fling myself onto the couch, but without Monica around to straighten the throw pillows, I wasn’t sure what to do next. Can a tantrum exist without an audience? Is it like the proverbial lone tree falling in the woods? I sat up, adjusted the cushions, and, as an afterthought, applied an apologetic coating of Febreeze. It’s not the couch’s fault, after all.

At my desk, I found support from Mr. Rogers. Coincidentally (or not), his office-calendar wisdom for June 28 was: “We all have angry and even violent feelings within us, but most of us learn, as we grow, how to express those feelings in ways that don’t hurt either others or ourselves.” Do we translate drinking half a bottle of Southern Comfort as “hurting ourselves”? We do, don’t we. Drat.

Okay, Fred. I’m not going to assault my brain cells or my mild-mannered landlord, but what’s your suggestion? What’s the neighborly way? I flipped to August 18: “Find the simplest truthful answers.” Fine. I emailed Murky (who shall henceforth be known as Eric, because that is his name). What Eric lacks in knowledge of kitchen equipment, he counterbalances with a mental Rolodex of mood music. “When you get time, could you recommend a few ‘angry mood’ downloads?” I wrote. Eric’s simplest truthful answer: “Are you kidding? Where to begin?”

I think it’s no use creating a rubric for “anger music,” though one could certainly brainstorm applicable criteria: Angsty Scream (yes/no, duration); Screechy Guitar Riff (yes/no, duration); Tempo (fast, super fast, roadrunner). Already, there are problems --for me, Fiona Apple is top-quality anger music (“Get Gone,” #1 on my Top 25 Most Played), but her angst is of the slowly seething variety. No kicking in the bass. If Tolstoy had been a DJ, maybe he would’ve claimed “happy” compilations are all alike, but every “anger mix” is unique.

Another counterfactual. Just call me a temperamental Cuisinart.

At Eric’s recommendation, I downloaded a bit of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots. I searched for a song called “Push It” by Garbage, but Ms. Manson apparently isn’t permitting the Yahooligans to rock for free. Instead, I acquired Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s “Push It,” which I subsequently played at least five times. Around the tenth repetition of “Oooh, baby baby,” I felt my mood improve.

Still, for good measure, I punched a pillow until my hand turned red. Simplest answers, quoth Fred. And why construct an elaborate receptacle to trap anger when you can use...a pot?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Baby, One Last Time

Today I pause the “This I Believe” series (or maybe just end it entirely) to honor the passing of a dear friend. Some called her “overprotected.” Some “crazy.” Some “lucky.” To me, she was always stronger than yesterday. From the bottom of my broken heart, Britney, I’ll miss you.

Hold up a minute -- don’t direct your browser to E! Online yet. Britney hasn’t exactly gone to the Great Dance-Off in the Sky. If her bellybutton ring seems a bit tarnished, it’s not because the pearly gates have poor disco lighting.

And, okay, Britney’s not exactly my friend either. I like to think we’re connected in the Kevin Bacon sense. That’s my prerogative. Britney provided the soundtrack for my first and only karaoke performance, circa 2002. In a Houston, TX sushi buffet/dance lounge, my TFA roommate Danielle and I delighted eel-lovers and pedophiles alike with “Oops....I Did It Again.” We didn’t shut the place down, though federal health inspectors might have appreciated the favor. The two-for-one crab roll special distracted our audience, as did the sake.

And -- not to get too literal, but -- we did have a tough act to follow. Our “opening number” could’ve been mistaken for a young 50 Cent, had he been young or black. He’d mastered the bling-bling, and the lingo (sort of). “Are you ready, bitches?” Before anyone could go for plate refills, Fitty cued “Tainted Love,” that Soft Cell classic beloved in elevators and C-grade strip clubs nationwide. It was the “extended version” with the “baby, baby....where did our love go?” Supremes riff. Fitty locked eyes with the front row. “Don’t you want me?” He hoisted a folding chair to the stage. “Don’t you want me no more?”

Any chance Danielle and I had of convincing the audience we “weren’t that innocent” fizzled as Fitty took his seat. No, I mean he really “took” his seat. The “burnin’ burnin’ yearnin’ feeling inside” was perhaps biologically akin to heartache, but anatomically....Fitty had another body part in mind.

To lose all his senses, well, that was just so typically him.

In 2002, I was almost 22. Danielle was 24. Britney was 21. That’s in chronological years. In experience, where seduction was of us belonged in a younger generation. It wasn’t Danielle. “Oops....I Did It Again” practically demands a well-orchestrated wardrobe malfunction. I went for the camp counselor version. “Oops....I did it again / I played with your heart (hands over heart) / Got lost (hands over eyes, searching the terrain) in the game (hands arranging fictional chess pieces).” The deejay Handi Wiped Fitty’s chair. The audience drifted into an all-you-can-eat coma.

How times have changed. Britney and I aren’t girls anymore. We are, in fact, women. Only, Britney has eagerly compiled the Greatest Hits of womanhood -- career, husband, baby, second pregnancy. I’m content with the single track. (How’s that for metaphor? I’m addicted to you, but I know that you’re toxic!). Instead of decrying Brit’s exposed thongs, the tabloids now focus on her visible stretch marks. Or on her missing car seat. Or on K-Fed, who doubtless preferred “Cops” to “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

Britney’s latest oeuvre is not an album or a fragrance, but sad poetry. “Silly patterns that we follow / You pull me in / I’m being swallowed.” Oh, Britney. Bring back the routine with the snake? Please?

Then last week Matt Lauer made Britney cry.

I refuse to watch this journalism tidbit. I prefer to remember the old Britney. The “made you believe / We’re more than just friends” Britney. Mystery was always Britney’s hook. Was she a rule-following Catholic schoolgirl or a behind-the-bleachers cheerleader? “Hit me, baby, one more time” or “Don’t go knockin’ on my door”? “Slave 4 U” or “Cry Me a River”? (Actually, “Cry Me a River” was Justin, but who started those tears?).

Sometimes she ran; sometimes she hid. But she never pleaded for respect on national television. Not until now. The end of an era. I wrote a song about it. Wanna hear it? Here it goes:

The Day That Britney Cried
(to the tune of “American Pie”)

A long, long time ago
I can still remember
How her music used to make me sweat
‘Cause I knew if I had my chance
I’d tempt the boys with modern dance
Or, maybe, just bust club moves I’d regret

But time’s grim march, it made me dour
Like one too many happy hours
Bad news kept a’comin’
Like Bun 2 in the oven.

I can’t remember tears I shed
When she said “I do” to her K-Fed
But, oh, the existential dread
The day that Britney cried.

So, bye bye, those skirts up to her thigh
Once seducing, now producing offspring with Shar’s throw-off guy
And my spirits sank low, although the ratings went high
The day that Britney cried.

Did you write those songs ‘bout lust,
And did you have surgeons build your bust
Like the tabloids said you did?
Are you all done with rock ‘n’ roll
Has marriage taken such great toll
And can you teach me how to shimmy on a pole?

Well, I know you’re not in love with him
He doesn’t rap like Eminem
Call Justin for some back-up
Here -- I’ll help you pack up

I was a lonely post-pubescent doe
With furniture from Rooms-to-Go
But I knew someone’d stopped the show
The day that Britney cried.

So, bye bye to that gleam in your eye
That “come hither” now has withered, and we all wonder why.
The ‘razzi was dismissed, but now the fans are left dry
The day that Britney cried.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

This I Believe: Bad Words

“There is a question I want to ask you. It’s really embarrassing.”

My mind immediately went to sex.

Not that I’m so desperate and hormonal. Mr. Coffee, Mr. Clean, and the guy on the Quaker Oats box can vouch for my remarkable composure of late. Qi and I weren’t watching anything sexy, either - just a “Top Chef” marathon on Bravo. (Yes, Sigmund, you can whisper about carrots and cucumbers and whipped cream, but at least “Top Chef” lays off the hot tubs and “fantasy suites.”)

Sex made sense as our topic du jour because of Qi’s planned pregnancy, the execution of which may hinge on her summer in China. Her plane was due to leave on Friday. T minus three months and counting...

How to: Hit His Hot Spots; Make Him Melt; Sizzle in the Sheets; Fire Up a Fabulous, Frisky Fiesta. I paged through my mental file of Cosmo alliterations, but nothing translated to standard English, let alone Chinese.

“What I want to know bad a word is fuck?”

Is that all? Well, shit.

I mean, drat.

If you want to know the truth, “drat” is generally my expletive of choice. I’m exceptionally sensitive to scolding, and I haven’t yet recovered from the time my mother chastised me for saying “crap.” I was about eleven. “I’m so disappointed,” Mom sighed. She might as well have called the Gestapo.

But also, I don’t believe in placing value judgments on words. You don’t see the mathematicians singling out numbers. “It’s okay to add 5 to 5, but if you square it, you’re going to hell.” Phooey to that.

“’s up there on the list of Bad Words. I wouldn’t say it in front of my parents.”

Is that true? Isn’t that a perk of adulthood: license to toss out “flipping,” and “fricking,” and “freaking,” and just go totally effing real with Mom and Dad? Some of our professors use the F word. Which is, I assume, why Qi asked.

On screen, a bleached-blonde twentysomething threw shallots in a pan of hot oil, splashing his hands. “Oh, *bleep*!!”

“What I mean is, it’s worse than ‘damn’ and ‘shit.’”

I didn’t add: “and infinitely more satisfying.” Such punch, with the hard “f” and “ck” sandwiching the guttural “u.” So versatile, too. Obviously, I’m not the first person to notice -- was it Chekhov who employed variations of F for a page of single-word dialogue? In I Am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe refers to “fuck patois.” You look so f-cking great. Fan-f-cking-tastic! We shouldn’t stand here another f-cking minute. F-ck it -- let’s go to the f-cking club and get f-cked up!”

I respect overkill. I think we’ll agree that the F word, like any word, has diminishing returns. Let’s give credit, though: what other Bad Words retain flavor past adolescence? Without its taboo status, the S word isn’t worth crap. (Sorry, Mom.) Don’t even start with “hell” and “biznitch.” “Top Chef” doesn’t bother censoring them. Fuck is the Extra sugar-free gum of swear words. It lasts an extra effing long time.

Now I’m going to wash my mouth out with soap.