Tuesday, October 31, 2006

One Night Only

“This is my break-up diamond.” The Fifi’s clerk waved her hand, and we all turned around. But she wasn’t flashing a square-cut on her finger. The gemstone she referenced spread from right under her neck to her braline. In blue ink. Judging from the size of the rock, it had been a serious break-up -- not one of these “it’s not you; it’s me” quickie splits. Another clerk nodded, and my friend and I smiled politely. “Oh, don’t mind us,” the other clerk sighed. “We’re just tattoo-gossiping.”

Tattoo-gossiping? “Impressive,” J. said, when we‘d escaped with our treats. “You don’t make up a phrase for something you do just once.”

Certainly if a “picture speaks a thousand words,” then the employees at Fifi’s have a lot to discuss.

J. and I weren’t there to eavesdrop, though. We were hunting Halloween costumes. Fifi’s is one of the Quarter’s most upscale accessory boutiques. (Don’t say “costume shop.” It isn’t Party City.) It specializes in wigs, in every color and style, with a specific $40+ price range. I selected a cheap-yet-classy model -- a flipped-out pink bob called The Gidget. The guy who fitted me (spiked hair, metal choker) said I should sweep the bangs over and spray them to the side. “You’ll look adorable.”

I bought fake eyelashes too -- in pink -- and wore it all to dinner Saturday night. Well, why not? J. was just visiting for the weekend, from Chicago, so we couldn’t wait for the 31st to play dress-up. And we needed to vamp for Gennifer.

Gennifer Flowers doesn’t have any visible tattoos or unusual piercings but, I must admit, I anticipated her performance as a spectacle. A freak-a-leak show. NOLA has seen many Lady Marmalades, but Gennifer tops them all. There’s no pun intended there, and if you think I’m bad, you would’ve needed earplugs and rattlesnakes at Gennifer‘s gig. The line-up requires little imagination, Harlequin or otherwise. A tune about “Long John the Dentist” who “takes away your pain, baby” segued into an ode to a sailor named Dickie. Ahoy.

J. and I clapped, and I twirled my hair in a Gidgety way. “Where are you all from?” Gennifer asked a table of khaki-and-collared men. “D.C.? They chased me out of there a long time ago, honey.” The men guffawed; the pianist (Mimi) riffed . . . bada bing! Gennifer launched into “Our Love is Here to Stay” by the Gershwins.

But oh my dear / Our love is here to stay / Not for a year / Forever and a day.

This song reminds me of my parents, because they love it. Sometimes they dance to it in the kitchen, when Ella is singing, or Steve Tyrell. Dad frequently gets a little weepy. It’s about enduring romance -- the kind that outlasts the Rockies and Gibraltar, and probably skin art. Ironic, coming from one of Bill’s mistresses. And maybe a bit sad. Except, Gennifer sang it well. You could tell she’d performed it many times before, at other clubs and cities. She sang it like anyone might serenade a loved one. Sort of soft, not too much fancy inflection. I think she believed it, which makes me happy. If break-up diamonds can be permanent, love should get the same treatment.

“And where are you from?” Uh oh. “Tennessee.” “Why don’t you ladies come onstage?”

If I’d known about my summons from Gennifer ahead of time -- if I’d had a DeLorean -- I would not have consumed so many vodka-tonics at the start of the show. The alternative hairstyle had granted me sufficient gumption for back-up singing. I didn’t really need the liquor. Especially not in heels.

“How about some Aretha?”

I did my best “Natural Woman” in synthetic hair. Even picked out an older fellow in the front row for my “YOU make me feel” gestures. Because a kiss on the lips might be quite continental, but only a microphone pays the rental. Or, if you prefer, Halloween comes but once a year, pumpkin.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Holding Pattern, Part II

If you wonder whether we’re winning the “War on Terror,” I encourage you to hit a buffet line. It doesn’t have to be an American buffet line, either. Try the Asian Super Buffet in Kenner, LA. Like its scattered, covered, smothered Caucasian friends, the Asian Super Buffet encourages patrons to help themselves with “All You Care To Eat.” Enemy powers have been at work, but, once again, the forces of Good (that’s us, right?) have triumphed. “Care To” is not the American Way. We are a “Can” people. If we believe, we can achieve. If we build it, someone will come. And if we are presented with five separate vats of dumplings (shrimp, pork, shrimp and pork, vegetable, unidentified cheese), we will eat every last blessed one. Because we can.

Buffets are good places for people who don’t like waiting. At the Asian Super Buffet, you can begin loading your plate just as soon as you reach the table. Chopstick use is optional. I gave up my affair with wooden utensils long ago, after starting a small fire in our dishwasher at Hughes. (Note: wooden chopsticks, like silk kimonos, must be hand washed.) My dinner companions all enjoyed some measure of chopstick skill, but as a proud American I refused to feel shamed by my dinnerware selection. Humiliation came later, after I had doused my egg roll with soy sauce. “What did you just put on that egg roll?” Qi’s friend Ching demanded. “....soy sauce,” I squeaked, spearing my third dumpling. Ching sighed, shook his head, and sadly disemboweled his giant king crab.

I hadn’t planned on joining Qi, Ching, and my classmates Tara and Jill for dinner last night -- unlike the buffet, my mood wasn’t Super. Midterms won’t be over until the end of October, and the waiting isn’t sitting well with my psyche. My post-Boston Zen lasted about two weeks, despite the spiritual post-it notes I’ve arranged around my apartment (e.g. “Dear Jesse, Please take yourself less seriously. Love, God.”) If the Brussats were here, they’d be more disappointed than Ching.

But it was Qi’s 25th birthday, and she’d been plugging the Asian Super Buffet for months. She calls it the “Chinese Buffet.” Asia is a pretty big continent to tackle in a single buffet, and I guess the Asian Super Buffet fare is more Chinese than anything else. I can’t imagine, though, that spinach casserole is a Chinese food, or even an Asian food. I also questioned the cultural relevance of pizza, soft-serve ice cream, banana pudding, and macaroons. Appetite is universal, anyhow. We all left with slight stomachaches.

Qi ate the most, though she weighed less than any of us at the table -- less than anyone at the Super Asian Buffet. She managed four plates, to everyone else’s two. “I’m hungry,” she offered. And no one said “Gosh, where do you put it?” or “I wish I had your metabolism,” or other one-liners aimed to punish thin, hungry people. For Qi, what she “could” eat was what she “cared to” eat. She wanted us to care, too. “The crab legs are so good,” she exclaimed. “Have you tried the lo mien?”

The happy combination of “can” and “care” still eludes me, mostly. I wait (for graduation, for visits with friends, for dinner) because I can, not because I care to. But maybe the answer to my “real question” lies in a can/care combo (with Biggie Won Tons and Diet Coke). If waiting isn’t just a task I can do -- if it’s done with care -- then it isn’t a spiritual grind after all. Maybe the translation of “experiencing” is “waiting with care.”

That isn’t what my fortune cookie said, but it’s worth a fork-stab.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Holding Pattern, Part I

“No man should know his destiny!” * -- Doc Brown

* unless his destiny involves getting shot by terrorists or hit by a bus, in which case a few clues are OK

Last Saturday night I caught the last half-hour of Back to the Future on TBS. Yesterday I rented The Lake House. The asterisked addendum is my take-home message, courtesy of Christopher and Keanu. Artistic parallels stop there. Nothing from The Lake House is quotable, or perhaps it’s all quotable, depending on your perspective. I’m sure I’ve often implored people to “Wait. Wait. Wait for me,” though I’ve never told anyone to “Make like a tree, and . . . get lost.” The former line becomes a mantra for Sandra Bullock, who clearly never bothered viewing the BTTF trilogy, else she’d have slapped a friendly caveat in Keanu’s mailbox post haste. (What is it with Keanu and public transit, anyway?) The latter quotation is from Biff, who can wash my car any day.

I really don’t like waiting -- for buses, flux capacitors, or destiny -- so, I’m not sure I can get behind this movie review. (Also, I think playing chess with a dog might be kind of fun, depending on the breed.)

I will grant you this, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat: waiting is inevitable. I’ve waited for small things: pizza; the season premiere of “Grey’s Anatomy;” dry nail polish; cocktail hour. And bigger things: wisdom; love; the new Christopher Guest film. Some things I’ve waited for, you’ve waited for: birthdays; dental appointments; comets. But waiting can be lonely, and it brings no guarantees. Waiting is a gamble.

“The Gambler” is not the love theme from The Lake House. Sandra and Keanu don’t waste screen time knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. Holding ‘em is the default bet. When her leading man doesn’t appear at a coffeeshop, Sandra waits at the eponymous House. Eventually, one of the star-cross’d couple -- I don’t remember which -- resolves to wait two years for the other. Where’s the DeLorean when you need it?

Here’s my real question (attn: Brussats): even if we recognize that waiting is a valuable spiritual activity, shouldn’t we stop waiting at some point? After all, waiting can’t exist without not-waiting. When it comes to the capital-Ls -- Life, Love, Lakefront Property -- when should the waiting end?

I hate to stop on this pseudo-Carrie Bradshaw note, but I have midterm studying that simply won’t wait. Allow me to continue this post later . . . (insert Sandra’s plea).

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Piiiiiiiigs Innnnnnn Spaaaaaace

After repeated requests, Murky Words has finally provided a Pigs in Space clip for me. I think Brian, Kelly, and M. Co. will particularly appreciate: pirates, Muppets, John Cleese! Manah manah.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Brief Missive To Popeye

I do not contest
That you “yare” what you “yare,”
Nor the praise that your leafy friend merits.
But what pain you’d have spared
For the salad-impaired
If you’d motioned us all
To eat carrots.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Touch Of BoMA

Top 5 Songs That Aren’t In A New Hit Musical But Should Be

1. “Sometimes When We Touch,” Dan Hill
2. “I Would Do Anything For Love,” Meatloaf
3. “All My Life,” Linda Ronstadt, feat. Aaron Neville
4. “At This Moment,” Billy Vera
5. “We’ve Got Tonight,” Bob Seger

Imagine the set-up for #5. Time: 2 a.m., the present. Place: the Wayne Hotel bar; Honesdale, PA. Characters: Bartender, age 40ish; blonde in waitress uniform, age mid to late 30s; heavily hair-gelled male of indiscriminate (but definitely older) age. Stage opens to Bartender passing a bourbon and soda to Hair Gel. Waitress hunches over a pile of maraschino cherry stems several stools down. Hair Gel rustles the ice in his drink, looks at his watch, looks at Waitress, and gives an exaggerated “What the hell?” shrug to the audience. He grunts off of his stool. He taps Waitress on the arm. He says, “I know it’s late. I know you’re weary.” Bartender pulls a high-hat cymbal stand from beneath the seltzer hoses. Lights fade.

None of my Top 5 Songs are in the new musical High Fidelity, which premiered in Boston last weekend. But the musical High Fidelity, like Nick Hornby’s book and the John Cusack movie, has a bunch of bad song-themed Top 5 lists. My favorite: Top 5 Worst Duets. I don’t recall if “All My Life” made the cut, but #1 was “Anything with Peabo Bryson. That man is a duet whore. He’ll sing with anyone.”

Eric isn’t a big fan of musicals, but he knows I am, so he landed us both on the mezzanine of the Colonial Theatre for High Fidelity’s debut. I think he enjoyed himself enough. He chuckled at the Peabo line.

Eric also dislikes “We’ve Got Tonight.” When he tells me this, as I am warbling to him on the phone, I switch to Paula Abdul/MC Skat Cat “Opposites Attract.” This seems to work. “Oh, for god’s sake,” he grumbles. “Go back to Bob.” (In the musical version, he would announce: "I would do anything for love...but I won't do that.)

We’re not really opposites, me and Murky. We’re both a little nuts about music mixes. We both sing in the car. And though I “go to bed early,” I wouldn’t exactly say he “parties all night.” He mostly plays Warcraft. (I’ve recently reconnected with The Sims -- to be addressed in a later post.)

Also, we both enjoy “Mystery Science Theater 3000,”another important staple of my Boston visit. Thanks to Netflix, Eric and I devoted much of Sunday afternoon to cohabitating in a La-Z-Boy while the mad scientists and the robots dissected The Touch of Satan. I won’t attempt to reconstruct the D-movie plot -- as with all MST3K victims, the plot is essential only in its sheer awfulness. (Memorable line, delivered by the possessed farmgirl to her unsuspecting paramour by the pond: “This is where the fish lives.” As pick-up lines go, it seems as effective as “I know it’s late. I know you’re weary.” Note to Bob: it helps if you’ve got Satan on your side.)

Probably, I like MST3K for the same reason I like the Seger tune. “We’ve Got Tonight” and the MST3K movies are both overblown, overdramatic, self-important. Not unlike yours truly. This may come as a shock -- brace yourself -- but I’m occasionally guilty of taking myself too seriously. Ex: two weeks ago, when I called Eric threatening to kill myself by consuming large amounts of packaged spinach. I meant to be darkly humorous, but Eric didn’t laugh. Suicide jokes, generally not all that funny. Nor cracks about child-killing epidemics. Oops.

If God forgives me the e coli joke, it’s likely He or She will still require me to watch a playback of my life. On the Big Screen, I’ll be strutting and fretting. God will have the bucket of popcorn and the one-liners. “What do you get when you fall from grace / You get enough germs to catch pneumonia...”

It’s true that Murky “takes it easy,” while I “get obsessed.” Thank goodness. Somewhere in the middle of all my BoMA theatergoing, Seger singing, and cinema viewing, I realized I was really having fun. Not self-deprecating fun, or tongue-in-cheek. Just an excellent time. And although the honesty might be too much, I hope there’s more to come.