Monday, June 30, 2008

Up Next: Balloon Doggerel?

In my Highlights days, I picked up an usual talent. It was a job requirement -- one I’m positive I’ll never have again, though words like “can’t” and “never” aren’t exactly Gallant-sanctioned.

At office events -- open houses and the like -- I twisted.

Not that sort of twisting, Chubby Checker. I’m talking about balloon twisting. Lots of dogs. A few rabbits. One or two snakes (my favorite, since snakes require no twisting at all). No swords, per H’lights policy.

I got pretty good. Someday, I might even try this:

A balloon Kathie Lee Gifford (right, next to the real Kathie Lee – left. Can you tell the difference?)

This twisterpiece was created by my Boston co-worker Naomi, on “The Today Show” a couple of weeks ago. How cool is that?

Daytime celeb-twisting may not be in my immediate future, but Naomi and her friend Sara have faith. The tagline on their directorial debut -- the film they discussed with K.L. -- is: “Once you can make a balloon dog, you can do anything.” Twisted: A Balloonamentary is showing in a few theaters, and it’s available on DVD.

The storyline follows eight balloon twisters who gripped their lives firmly, made a few turns, and ended up with Trojan horses, flying octopuses, and happily ever afters. See it!

On the morning of Naomi’s NBC appearance, my officemates and I camped between the glow of our iMacs and our one, impressively large TV. “I think she’s up next!” someone shouted. “After this carpet commercial!” We suffered several false alarms: the very short guy from “Will and Grace,” a K.L. monologue on Jamie Lynn Spears, and a live performance from Rihanna. With every not-Naomi event, our rancor grew. Some people went for more coffee; others checked their email. I began rhyming.

The following lyrics will only amuse if you know the Rihanna song “Umbrella.” Even then, maybe they won’t be funny -- I’m so out-of-practice with rhyming and writing that my “Goofus Muse” is looking for temp work. I am only hoping that Naomi and Sara’s philosophy of twisting applies to “moon” and “June.” Once you’ve got the basics, you’re set?

Rihanna's "Umbrella"
Rewritten for Only Children, Misanthropes, and People Who Don’t Like Getting Wet

By me

When it’s sunny out,
You can know without a doubt
You’re part of my very core
An’ I just can’t love you more
But now the sky is dark
I’m going to my car
My umbrella’s there –
Really wish that I could share
But, see -

When the clouds meet it means bad weather
And I just bought a brand-new sweater
Well, of course, I am your friend –
If it weren’t J. Crew, y'know I’d give in
Now that it’s raining more than ever
Can we stand farther from each other?
Would you please get your own umbrella
Go on an’ buy your own umbrella -ella –ella eh eh eh
You can afford your own umbrella -ella –ella eh eh eh
Go purchase a new umbrella –ella –ella eh eh eh eh

These cowgirl boots
TJ Maxx, yeah aren’t they cute?
Only $30.96
A pleather/cowhide mix
Really hate to see ‘em drip
On account of your mental slip
Weatherman predicted rain
Really, boo, where was your brain?


You can go to CVS
Pay with cash or pay express
They’re on aisle 3
Near tha candy
You can try another store
But you’ll end up paying more
It don’t matta, see, because


A poncho – ooh, baby, a poncho – one size fits all, one size fits all

Galoshes – ooh, baby, galoshes – try the mall, yeah try the mall...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Nice Work, If You Can Get It

I just returned from my first business trip. Two words. First word, one syllable: sounds like “shoe” and “blue.” Second word, two syllables: sounds like God laughing.

Bon temps rouler...and rouler again. Isn’t it ironic?

Because I haven’t blogged in ages, I’ll go easy on you. I swear on an Emeril’s cookbook, I won’t use the word “closure” in this post. My second NOLA evacuation occurred over eight months ago. Purely voluntary, but entirely necessary. In my second year of graduate school, I dropped 17 pounds. Another year would’ve turned me into Calista Flockhart on heroin.

But I didn’t revisit Chocolate City to fatten my shriveled soul, nor OD on etouffe. I went for a conference. Also, because my company paid.

In lieu of Bourbon St. tonics, my co-worker/hotelmate and I binged on reality television. After long days of suits and extraversion, we wanted the sleaziest fare available. Think: glitz, innuendo, hosted by anyone from the ‘80s “TGIF” lineup. We hit gold, of the capped tooth variety, with (hold your breath) “Your Mama Don’t Dance.”

Co-eds in sequined spandex compete in tail shakin’. Their partners? I’m afraid Donny and Marie never had it this incestuous.

If only Bob Saget hosted -- the ick triumvirate would be complete. I guess “Steve” from “Melrose Place” will do.

My colleague and I got the biggest “ick” out of Eric and Brooke, a stepfather/daughter pair. As a devoted stepchild, I’m not one to question the difference between biological attachment and step-bonding. But you can’t deny, the nature/nurture debate becomes more interesting when family members are separated only by Lycra.

“Those people are the same age!” my co-worker insisted. “He adopted her for the show.”

“Shh!” I hissed. “They’re about to ‘Boogie Oogie Oogie.’”

My second-favorite trip experience is owed to Jacques-i-mo’s, where we dined on the last night of the conference. Jacques-i-mo’s has the best crawfish etouffe in the city. The restaurant’s namesake wears Hawaiian shorts and a chef’s top, always. He greeted us at the bar -- a location from which, judging by his breath and diction, he hadn’t strayed long.

“Where you ladies from?” he posed.

When we replied “Boston,” he shouted, “Yankees!” (Sorry, Murk.)

He then bought us a round of shots, followed by a glass of Pinot. When Jacques-i-mo drinks, you drink. Jacques-i-mo continues drinking while you order too much food and tip 85.5%.

Jacques-i-mo asked us where we work. I don’t intend to reveal that info on this blog, but I’ll share the chef’s rough translation: in art, or literature, or artsy literature, or literary art. “Huh,” he said. And promptly walked out the door.

“Where did he go?”

“I think we bored him.”

Ah well. Like a respectable, dull Yankee, I finished my wine and willed our server to appear.

Instead, Jacques-i-mo came back carrying three, square packages.

“Art!” he proclaimed.

His prizes were three gallery pieces -- sketches, he said, by a local artist friend. All garish but cheerful, like the chef’s pants. Something to remember the city by, Jacques-i-mo smiled. I assured him I wouldn’t forget.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ode To Hall & Oates, 12/8

‘Twas a night in December
And through Our Fair City,
The T was a’hummin’
With a Hall & Oates ditty.
“Watch out,” the crowd sang,
“The woman is wild!”
“She’ll chew you up faster
Than ol’ Sara smiled.”

Murk in his jacket
And I in Clinique
Through the Orpheum’s curtains
We stole a quick peek.
“I see him!” I squealed
To my cute blogger beau.
“That’s John Oates himself!
And he’s still got his ‘fro!”

Up three flights we shuffled
A nosebleed? Who cares!
With tissues in pocket,
We dashed to our chairs.

“Here’s a number,” Hall grinned,
“That you’ll know very well!
It’s a holiday hit,
Called ‘The First Noel.’”
The audience puzzled
Ah well, ‘tis the season...
A carol to start?
There must be a reason!
They’re saving ‘Maneater’ for tune #2
A full Christmas concert? No way! No can do.

Like sheep to two shepherds,
We followed along,
Then perked up our ears
For the duo’s next song.

The first chords swelled up
With a tambourine’s clatter
“This can’t be...,” I murmured.
“Something’s the matter.”
“This next one,” Hall laughed,
“Takes me back to my youth!”
Was he born singing “Rich Girl”?
Or would that be uncouth?
“Children, Go Where I Send Thee!”
Daryl chuckled with glee.
“Bathroom,” I whispered,
“That’s my cue to pee.”

In the aisles, eyes were wandering,
Wondering, too –
Could this be a dream? Was our dream coming true?
All eggnog and thistle,
And no “Private Eyes”?
Had they talked to their agent?
Was this really wise?

“Enough!” someone shouted. “Get on with the show!”
“No Santa! No Rudolph! No ‘dreaming of snow!’”

Hall glanced at Oates, with a grimace most dour.
“We’re saving your faves for the end of the hour.
Be patient!” he grumbled.
The crowd merely hissed:
“Your holiday music is not on our list.”

The bellows and sneers were too loud to deflect.
They triggered a sort of “Reverse Grinch Effect,”
The more protests rang
Off each woofer and tweeter
The more Christmas came,
With no sign of “Maneater.”

At last, Hall obliged,
But his cheer came too late.
For types “lean and hungry,”
We’d just have to wait.
Two encores, and then - the band drove out of sight
With nary “Maneater” to wrap up the night.

And it could be my heart
Is two sizes too small
But I’m holding a grudge
Against Srs. Oates and Hall.
They gave us our Christmas,
Like good little elves,
But the biggest, best present
They kept for themselves!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Not Another Pretty Face

Zen Master/’80s queen Belinda Carlisle once informed us: “Heaven is a place on Earth.” This week, friends, I’ve located that fabled “place.” In a word: Facebook.

What other venue allows, nay, encourages your ninth grade bully to peacefully cohabitate with your office’s IT guy? Weddings, funerals, heaven, and Facebook. You can’t play Scrabble at weddings or funerals, and there’s no sheep-throwing in heaven. Yesterday I threw a sheep at myself on Facebook, just because I could.

I resisted adding my visage to the ‘Book for over a year, dismissing it as a virtual under-21 club. “Oh mah gaw, did you see what he wrote on her wall?” twittered the undergrads in my teaching assistantship. “Soooo funny.” Like any mature B.A.-holder, I did my social networking on Friendster. Sometimes MySpace. And the Times society pages, naturally.

My new co-workers quickly Botoxed the wrinkles in my Facebook faith. “It’s great networking!” they exclaimed. “And you can turn people into zombies!” I tried to protest, but my doubt muscles were paralyzed.

Who welcomed me into the pearly gates? Not my best friend from grade-school. Not the cheerful HR lady who passed around chocolate eyeballs at Halloween. One of my first “friend requests” came from: The Other Jesse (TOJ). Toto, we’re not in Friendster anymore.

To most of my high school classmates she was just Jessie. Short-for-Jessica Jessie. Also blonde, also diminutive. No mascara in her bangs.

It wasn’t like Heathers. She didn’t hide my geometry book, and I didn’t, well, kill her. I’m not sure we shared a class. She got asked to the prom in eighth grade. Some time after that, I stopped turning around when my name was called.

(Not to sound like your junior varsity softball coach, but: there’s no “I” in Jesse. It’s cute, yes, but unnecessary -- like those homes people knit for Kleenex boxes. It certainly isn’t the “girl” version of Jesse. English words don’t have gender. Stick that in your long, fancy cigarette, Pierre!)

TOJ’s “i” blinks at me from the Facebook homepage. So far, our Facebook friendship much resembles our high-school relationship. We’re each aware of the other. We get along fine. We have nothing to say. I hope someone brings Scrabble to my upcoming 10th reunion.

That is, if the Honor Code still discourages sheep throwing.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Here I Am, There I Went

What's that noise?

Do you hear it?

It’s the sound of my keystrokes, echoing in an abandoned blog!

I plead no contest to your charges of blog negligence. Alas, there’s no detox resort for bloggers who’ve overindulged in less creative activities (e.g. reading, shamelessly downloading the latest Britney, and, oh yeah, working). I can only promise to do better. I will. Do better. Honest, officer!

The past five weeks have flashed like a cheesy movie montage, set to the tune of Peaches and Herb. Mid-October, I flew from Boston to Washington, D.C., where I reunited (feels so good!) with three TFA buddies (“liberal Commie do-gooders,” as our Administration would call them). Last time I saw this trio, they were living together in a converted Arkansas brothel. “Remember the monkey sex room?” L. sighed wistfully. Ah, yes: a.k.a. the attic.

For our schmaltzy tourist activity, we chose the International Spy Museum. I gave up on becoming an international spy long ago -- specifically, when I ripped my purple stirrup pants while playing FBI agent in my neighbor’s yard. (Man, those were great pants!) After elbowing through the Museum, I believe I made the correct career move. Thanks to Jennifer Garner (and maybe 9/11) everyone’s cousin wants to engage in transcontinental espionage. There’s nothing glamorous about being wedged beneath another spy-wannabe’s armpit. Even if you’re carrying a lipstick pistol.

We squeezed through the last exhibit with several daylight hours left, so I sweet-talked my friends into purchasing a board game and hauling it to one of the city’s two million Starbucks cafes. I don’t recall the name of the game (A., maybe you can help?) but the gist was: player 1 reads a question (“What’s one risk you’d never take?”), players 2-4 answer the question (“Skydiving,” “Sushi buffet,” “Tapping my foot in a toilet stall”), and player MC-squared has to match each answer with the person who wrote it. I haven’t ordered so many caramel apple ciders, nor had so much fun, in a long time.

My former co-workers at Highlights furnished last weekend’s reunion. Mary flew from sunny CA to chilly MA, and we drove to chillier northeastern PA in the world’s ugliest rental car. I could post a photo or link to the model, but it’s more fun to give your imagination free reign. We christened the car Bananito, the Little Banana -- owed, of course, to its hue. Yep, bright yaller. Our coche’s license plate read Florida, and I can only guess that it was pre-owned by a blind retiree. The GPS didn’t work. The windshield wipers groaned like rusty dental tools. For the return trip, we changed Bananito’s name to Lemony Snicket.

I’ll let you in on a bit of classified information: I miss Honesdale. I miss ordering garlic eggplant take-out at “China Castle, may I help you?” I miss gulping cocktails from shot glasses at The Limerick. I miss Dave’s Super Duper, the strangely scented discount grocery. During my dysfunctional graduate school existence, I frequently pined for Honesdale, the way one might lust after a lost romance. But on this recent trip, I realized: like most ex-loves, my adored borough looks better from afar. As I stirred my teeny tiny SoCo-Cran at The Limerick, I couldn’t help wondering what Murky was up to. At the exploitative jukebox, I paid a dollar for “Ruby” by the Kaiser Chiefs -- one of Murky’s favorites. The clientele, who might’ve been good for ten more rounds, promptly left. See you in the a.m.!

So, I’ve now returned to my regularly scheduled reunion, already in progress. I’ve lived in Boston for over a month now, but I still can’t believe I’m here. The Prudential! The ducklings! The snow! The...boy (blush). I’ll always be a Southern gal at heart, but can I tell you something? This feels like home.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ode To My First Day In A New Job, In A New City*

I cannot go to work today
There’s too much Scrabulous to play,
Clothes to buy,
New ‘dos to try,
And bills I should pretend to pay.

Plus, I think my car won’t start
My brand-new shoes have come apart
See? My toe is poking through....
Work, today, I cannot do!

My favorite show comes on at 3,
And Netflix sent a DVD.
It’s obvious I have to stay!
The houseplant wilts when I’m away.

The server crashed, and--what?
What’s that you say?
You say today’s....Columbus Day?
As’s a paid holiday?

Hm! I thought that’s what you said!
Goodbye, I’m going back to bed.

* apologies to the great Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Shades of Dorian Gray

“There is a big difference between 24 and 27.” – a former co-worker to me (age 24)

“Happy birthday! 18 is a big year!” – a florist to me on my birthday (age 27)

I’ve been waiting my whole life to turn 27. In my family, 27 is a magic number. My mother was 27 when she gave birth to me. 27 years separate two essential members of my immediate family. (I’ll let you guess which ones.) 27 is evenly divisible by 3, the universally accepted magic number. If you add 2 and 7, you get 9, which is also divisible by 3.

“Schoolhouse Rock” producers, take note: I’m a 27 year old seeking employment.

I have reached 27 at last. Let me shout it from the rooftop: I am 27! Not 18, as the florist guessed. Two people recently pegged me for 14. To be fair, one woman -- an elderly neighbor -- originally settled on 16, but as I smiled and trotted off, she shouted, “No! You look more like 14!” I’m sure she was hoping I’d turn around and proffer Girl Scout cookies. I didn’t. I haven’t been a Girl Scout since I was 7. I’m not 7 today; I’m 27. I am, too! Am, too! Mooooom, they’re picking on me!

Back in June 2005, close to the time I started this blog, my co-worker spoke of the maturity gap between ages 24 and 27. We’d been talking about my then 27 year old next-door neighbor, Ellie, who was about to get married. I said something like, “I can’t imagine being married now,” and my colleague replied, “You’re 24. There is a big difference between 24 and 27.”

Well, it’s too late to prove anyone wrong, but...I just don’t see it. 27 feels a lot like 24. Living with my parents may have something to do with it. The rooftop I’m warbling from is in Murfreesboro, and it covers my childhood bedroom. I left New Orleans over a month ago, sans degree. I’m finishing up my thesis from Tennessee, trying to move north again. The last time I moved from Tennessee to Massachusetts, I was 17. Starting school. College, not kindergarten, thanks.

Maybe if I look older, I’ll feel older. This theory propelled me to the Clinique counter on my birthday. “It’s my birthday, and I need make-up,” I exclaimed to a group of blondes in lab coats. The one who agreed to help wore a nametag that said “Tracy” with a shiny, pink star sticker. “Would you like product recommendations or a consultation,” Tracy-Star inquired. “How long is a consultation?” I asked. “About 45 minutes.” I signed up.

Imagine Dr. Faust selling his soul to Tammy Faye Bakker.

My make-up routine, when I remember it, usually takes 5 minutes. I slap on a cover-up. I make a fish-face and dot blush on my gills. I wiggle eyeliner on my lower lids--halfway across, because I heard somewhere that this makes eyes look bigger. Mascara and lip gloss, and I’m done.

“Do you exfoliate?” Tracy-Star demanded. When I said no, she remained silent but shook her head. “Moisturize?” Again, I admitted I didn’t. Tracy-Star’s Santa Claus Complex pulsed. I was getting nothing for Christmas, I could tell.

After properly exfoliating, moisturizing, and humiliating, Tracy-Star applied my cover-up. I’d purchased a new bottle of Clinique cover-up less than a month ago, but TS suggested a different shade. “You bought a winter shade,” she explained. “See how much better this summer shade looks?” I wanted to tell Tracy-Star that my pimples don’t distinguish between seasons, but this comment seemed immature. As a 27 year old, maybe I should differentiate between winter and summer cover-ups. To every season there is a cover-up, and a time to every purpose under heaven. Turn!

Blush and powder topped the cover-up. Concealer on my “trouble spots.” Then, Tracy-Star went for my eyes.

Like many starry ex-English majors, I believe eyes are windows to the soul. In Tracy-Star’s estimation, my windows had been sporting Venetian blinds. They needed velvet drapes. With tassels.

“Quick eye make-up do’s and don’ts,” TS said, whipping out several tiny brushes. “Don’t ever apply eyeliner to only your bottom lid. I don’t care who you are. It’ll make you look tired.” I should have cringed at my mistake, but, hey, I am often tired. Truth in advertising.

Armed with eyeliner, eye tint, and three shades of eye shadow, Tracy-Star proceeded to adorn my lids with what Gene Simmons would call “too much eye make-up.” Conveniently, she also recommended an eye make-up remover.

Of course, I bought all of it. The exfoliator. The moisturizer. The cover-up. The blusher. The powder. The eye shadow -- all three shades. I even purchased something called “mascara primer.” Tracy-Star billed it as “moisturizer for the eyelashes.” Her own lashes looked like daddy longlegs.

Not once did Tracy-Star ask my age, or try to conjecture it. At first, I found this strange. But as I gazed through moist lashes at my “after” face, I realized: at this counter, age really was “just a number.” Look older, look younger. Whatever. At heart, we are all one age. That age is: an age that requires make-up. Call it Clinique Zen.

“You look like Marilyn Manson,” my father said at dinner. I think we’ll all agree, Marilyn Manson is at least 27. Probably older. Therefore, I’ll deem my Clinique mission a success. I may toast myself with an adult beverage. If I’m carded, well, I give up.