Holden Caulfield was Right. (Or was he just a douche?)

16 Aug

About ten years ago my husband interviewed a young man with an interesting tattoo on his forearm. In simple script it read,

“Holden Caulfield was right.”

I was in awe of this guy, and more than a little jealous. I wanted a tattoo that was so cool people would talk about it at dinner. But more than that, I wanted to believe in something so fiercely, to know it so deep in my bones that I’d be willing to have it inked on my skin forever. And if it came from a classic bit of literature? That would be, like, on another level.

Sadly (or possibly luckily), nothing ever jumped out.

Eventually I got over my delusions of being the coolest kid in the room because I had some deep, meaningful tattoo, but I never got over the fact that I didn’t know if Holden Caulfield was right or not. Hmmm. All those years as an English major and I’d never read Catcher in the Rye. Totally unacceptable.

While this realization stuck in my bookish little heart like a freshly sharpened number 2 pencil, it was also very quickly pushed aside, kicked to the back burner by T-ball practice, swim meets, “What’s for dinner?” and “Mom! I neeed a TOWEELL!”

And so the years passed. Swim meets have turned to track meets, dinner is what fits around marching band practice, and somehow my daughter is a freshman in high school. But I’ve never forgotten about the tattoo. Had that guy found a subtle way to give every established adult the finger, even as he sat before them interviewing for a job? Was he some kind of smart ass genius, or did he regret the whole thing and was just keeping his fingers crossed that he got the job so he could afford to have it removed? Only Holden Caulfield could tell me.

Interestingly, Fahrenheit 451 was assigned reading this summer for the incoming freshmen. It reminded me of all the gaping holes that were still in my literary education, that I still hadn’t read Catcher or Animal Farm or 1984. Or Fahrenheit 451. I guess we spent so much time on Shakespeare and Dickinson, not to mention that god awful novel where some kid dies of a broken leg (A Separate Peace by John Knowles), that we skipped the basics. And since I’d also turned forty this summer, making this right seemed a good way to mark the decade.

I cruised through Fahrenheit and liked it, though my favorite part was the interview with Bradbury at the end. Here’s just a taste:

There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian, Irish/Italian/Octogenarian/Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-Day Adventist, Women’s Lib/Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.” Censorship: Coda from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

What an ass-kicker! RAY BRADBURY FOR PRESIDENT! I haven’t heard it put so well since Neil Gaiman told the world that “George R. R. Martin is not your bitch.”

But what of Hauldon Caulfield? Was he right, like the young man’s tattoo proclaimed? Does he deserve his iconic status as the angst-ridden teen, fighting for innocence and youth like some mop-topped, moping version of Peter Pan? Or was he, as my stepdad says, just a pretentious dick?

I still don’t know, but this time I intend to find out.

If You’re Not Watching, You Should Be

11 Jul

I’m not much of a sports fan, but when July rolls around and it’s time for the Tour de France, I’m all in.

Not only does this race have bitter rivalries and the nearly insurmountable feat of cycling through France over ridiculous mountain passes, but it’s dangerous. I mean really dangerous. And that makes for exciting tv.

So far there’s been a broken pelvis, concussions, and tons of scrapes and bruises. Then in Stage 9 a rider actually got clipped as some jackass driving a media car tried to pass him.  YouTube – ‪CAR CRASHES INTO CYCLIST – TOUR DE FRANCE 2011‬‏.

This caused the guy behind him to flip over his handlebars into a barbed wire fence and eventually the field. Unbelievably both riders got back up and limped to the end of the stage. You can’t make this stuff up.

A few days earlier another guy had his bike drug down the road by a passing motorcycle. YouTube – ‪FAIL – Crash caused by motorcycle ( Tour de France 2011 )‬‏.

Come on, what other sport can boast being hit by a car as a hazard? At least in Nascar everybody has a car. Seriously. These guys are tough as nails. 

But that’s not the reason I love it. 

You might think it’s because of the beautiful coverage, how watching the Tour makes you believe there isn’t an ugly place in the French countryside. Because it does. There are castles and ruins around every corner, surrounded by rolling green hills as far as the eye can see. Instead of cows they have percherons, instead of corn they have sunflowers. One look at the perfectly crumbling whitewashed little towns and you know how good the wine tastes. 

But that’s not it either.

It’s the names. They’re so exotic and foreign as they roll off the tongues of the British commentators that it’s kind of enchanting.

There are strong names that make you think of steel and iron, like Thor Hushovd and Linus Gerdemann, and some that remind me of bad guys in old Rocky movies, like Alexandre Vinokourov and Vladimir Gusev

There’s Johnny Hoogerland (our hero of the barbed wire) who you know goes by Hoog. Every time they say his name I see him walking into Cheers and everyone shouting, “HOOG!”

And of course, there are the slinky ones, the names that make you blush and go weak in the knees, like Fabian Cancellara and Damiano Cunego. Just say those out loud. Ahhh….It’s a good thing there weren’t guys with names like that in school. I’d still be cruising around Italy on the back of some motorcycle. Sorry babe, but Domiano Cunego is an ass magnet.

Even some of the teams have strange and wonderful names. There’s Euskaltel-Euskadi, Katusha, Omega Pharma-lotto and my favorite, Vacansoleil

And the American teams have some special juice too. Riding for team BMC is George Hincapie, who actually looks like a comic book superhero,
and on Garmin-Cervelo is a Canadian who was obviously destined for the sport from birth, Ryder Hesjedal.

So if you’re not watching the Tour, you should be. Watch for the carnage, for the countryside or even just to see what the yellow jersey can drive a man to do. Or watch for the names. You won’t be disappointed. 

The bad news is you’re late. The good news is that we’ve got two more weeks and the Pyrenees still to come.

That’s What She Said

25 May

Maybe it’s because I grew up with brothers, or maybe it’s because I’m from the generation that gave us Beevis & Butthead (Beavis and Butt-Head | Full Episodes, Photos, Episode Synopsis and Recaps | MTV), but I’m beginning to realize that there’s something wonderful about middle school boys.

Relax. Before you set your Tivo to record my tearful confession of undying love for some 14-year-old (complete with stylish orange jumpsuit and assurances that our love was mutual), that’s not what I mean.

I mean I think they’re funny.

Every Thursday I head to the middle school for a few hours over lunch, to supervise Game Room. It’s a place where kids can come if they want to hang out and play games, away from the chaos of the general lunch crowd. 

The rules are simple. No cursing (you’d be amazed at the discrepancies in what constitutes a swear word), no bullying or running anyone down, if you burp you have to say excuse me (which never fails to elicit an eye roll), and because we’re in a very small room attached to the library they have to keep the volume low (definitely the hardest to enforce). 

There are a few girls that drop in once in awhile, but generally it’s just the boys. The bell rings and they burst though the door in a storm of t-shirts and backpacks, already negotiating for each other’s food.

“Dude, can I have your milk?

“Shut up, you still owe me from last week.”

Come on! I’ll pay you double.”

“Huh, huh. Your mom pays me double.”

Do you know how hard it is not to laugh at shit like that?

They crowd around the tables and devour their lunches, crumbs flying, while they play YuGiOh, which by the way, is very serious business. They wage fierce battles with things like Monster Reborn and Zombie Madness, with Needle Worm and Final Flame. 

It’s like miniature poker night with cheezy poofs and lunchables instead of cigars and booze.

It’s a complete crack up. Life (at least for two hours at lunch) consists of sports and boogers. Who knew things could be so simple? Life with girls is not like this.  

Girls, for example, do not obsessively follow every sentence with the timeless classic, “That’s what she said.” 

Which is kind of a shame, because it’s super funny. And that’s why, much to my daughter’s disgust, I have adopted it as my own, kind of as my new favorite thing. 

It’s perfect. Whenever I’m having a pleasant (and tediously boring) conversation with someone, that one simple phrase is always there to spice things up, like Tabasco for talking.

“So, how was your trip to Atlanta?”

“Nice, except we had a rough landing in Houston.”

“How hard was it?”

Huh, huh. That’s what she said.

It’s like there’s a 12-year-old boy inside me that can’t wait to sneak out and pollute the world with juvenile sexual innuendo. 

It’s awesome.

I haven’t laughed so hard, so frequently, in a long time. In fact, I think everyone should start doing it. (Huh, huh. You said do it.) The next time someone says something even remotely risque (you know, like, “How was your day?” or “Paper or plastic?”) just smile, drop your voice an octave and say, That’s what she said

Try it. I dare you not to smile.

With the school year coming to an end, sadly, tomorrow is the last day of Game Room. No more raging sessions of Uno (which I’ve learned has as many house rules as Monopoly), no more rigorous chess matches, or back room deals for the last half of a chewed on, gooey burrito. I will miss it.

And with my daughter headed to high school next year, I wonder if they’ll ask me back. I hope so. I can’t wait to do it again.

Huh, huh. That’s what she said.🙂

Downward Facing Moron

1 May

Last week I tried a new yoga studio.

As I sat on my mat waiting for class to begin, I breathed deep, relaxing in the warmth of the room. Literally. It was at least 85 degrees and we hadn’t even started moving. The moist heat settled around me like a blanket, warming my body, preparing me for my practice. Ahhhh. This was why I had come.

The instructor set the music low and walked to the front of the class. Then she said this:

“I’d like everyone to get up and meet someone they don’t know. Introduce yourself and tell them your favorite childhood story.”

Ugh.

I sat there, unmoving, while everyone else began milling around the room.

Okay, what was my favorite childhood story? Does she mean a book I read, or one that someone else read to me? What the hell was my favorite childhood story? 

And so I sat, for what turned out to be a conspicuous amount of time, preparing for the introduction.

A flash of memory hit me; I’m eight years old, sitting in the back of my parent’s car, reading. The book was blue and hardcover.

Was it about witches? What was it called? 

I didn’t know. The only thing I could remember was that I never marked my page. I started over from the beginning each time. It was like, a thing. I never did finish it.

No way, too neurotic. What kind of favorite childhood story is that?

One minute slipped into two. The rest of the class milled about above, tossing names of books about, all innocence and ease.

“…I loved Goodnight Moon…,” “…and he read The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” “Oh yes, and remember The Pokey Little Puppy?”

It began to get slightly weird that I was the only one still sitting.

They probably think I’m purposely not participating. That I’m being a jerk or something. But what’s the point of getting up until I have something to say? What is your problem? Books are your thing, jackass.

And then the instructor headed my way.

Great. Now I’m the lonely kid who needs a friend. WTF. 

She knelt in front of me and smiled, her blue eyes drilling into my shallow, story-less soul. “I always loved The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.”

Of course you did. 

“Yeah,” I said, sweating like a kid failing a pop quiz, “that one was good.”

And if my life depended on remembering a sentence from that book right now, I’d be dead.

She waited, those eyes plumbing the depths of my sad little life. “What was your favorite childhood story?”

Yeah, thanks. I remember the assignment. 

Even a Disney movie is fine.”

Now I’m the girl who doesn’t read? Super.

I fidgeted and smiled. I was completely blank. And then, my mind latching onto the Disney prompt like a life preserver, this came out, “I always liked Bambi, I guess. You know, how her mom dies in the fire.”

Nice. 

I wish I could say that I’d planned it. I wish I could take credit for the way those penetrating blue eyes widened, then settled into a curious squint. Sadly, no. There was no calculated manipulation, no purposeful play to appear crazy. Just me being a spaz.

And while it is true that Bambi left an impression on me as a child, it was more because the fire terrified me than because it was a favorite, exactly. But back me into such a tight social corner as an unexpected introduction in a room full of strangers and apparently all bets are off.

She slipped back to the front of the room, watching me a little as she went. As she told everyone to return to their mats, I couldn’t help but smile.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that I’d recalled Bambi as my favorite story because the mother dies in a fire, I’m pretty sure that Bambi was a boy deer, not a girl. I had gone from sad and lonely to strange and delusional in about 2 seconds.

So much for the new yoga studio.

Drippy the Sandwich Fail

19 Apr

When I was little, visiting my great grandmother meant crowding around her little kitchen table while she cooked and fussed. The adults would laugh and talk, and within no time there would be food on the table.

Usually it was chicken pot pie. And let’s just be clear. I’m not talking about some messed up creamy thing with frozen vegetables and a crust. Grammy Great’s pot pie was a steaming bowl of magic; a rich and salty golden broth, each spoonful bursting with chicken flavor, the homemade egg noodles light and fluffy, like little pillows of deliciousness. (Unless my Pap and I got ahold of them. We’d sneak around her and scrunch them up so they’d be kind of tough when they cooked in the simmering broth). And of course, there was chicken. Pot pie wasn’t right without a plate of pan-fried chicken thighs. Is there a better piece of chicken than a perfectly cooked thigh? Don’t think so.

The house was always too hot, and after you packed everyone in, plus all the cooking, the air got so thick you could feel it settle on your skin. The little window over the sink would steam over, making the room a bit of a red neck sauna. It got close.

But it didn’t matter. It didn’t even matter that there was a perfectly nice living room a few feet away, probably with cooler air. But that was for comp’ny, and we were family. So we crowded around the little table in the kitchen and laughed like hell over endless bowls of Charlotte’s pot pie.

My whole life has been full of women expressing their love through food. For better or worse, it’s part of who I am.

So now, as an adult, I take pride in the lunches I make for my family every morning. My husband likes his sandwich with toasted bread, my daughter not so much. My husband likes peppers and manchego with his ham, my daughter prefers provolone and black olives.

Over the years, I’ve taken some criticism for being an over-stuffer. I guess a big sandwich is hard to eat, or so they say. But a thin, wimpy sandwich is sad and tells the world, very clearly, that your mother doesn’t love you.

So I stuff.

You can imagine, then, how it went the day my daughter told me that her sandwiches had become famous at school.

I puffed up with pride, imagining other kids with sad PB&J’s, jealous of her delicious ham and cheese.

“Yeah,” she said, “they call you Drippy the Sandwich Fail because everyday I have to eat a sloppy mess. The bread is so soggy I almost have to squeeze it out. It’s pretty gross.”

“What? Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked, my mouth hanging open.

“Because I knew you’d freak,” she said casually. “It’s no big deal. It’s just funny.”

“No big deal?” I stammered, my delusions of sandwich grandeur slipping away. I could almost hear the other mothers whispering. Poor girl. Can you imagine? Nothing for lunch but a soggy sandwich… 

“Not really,” she said, grinning. “Why are you being crazy?”

“I don’t know! Because! Because it’s just…it’s my expression of love. And it’s all jacked up!” By this point I was pacing around the kitchen, in full lunatic mode.

“You’re expression of love? Really?” Insert generic teenage disdain.

Exactly, I thought. Like when I sent little notes in your lunch box and cut your bread into cute heart shapes.

I sighed and laughed. It was pretty funny. Drippy the Sandwich Fail kind of has a ring to it.

Since then we’ve nixed the black olives, which were soaking into the bread all morning causing the problem. I guess her sandwiches are better. I don’t ask anymore. If it matters, she’ll tell me.

Just the other day she came home smiling.

“Mitchell forgot his lunch today, so I gave him half of my sandwich.”

I slumped. Feeding your own kid a soggy mess is one thing, but other people’s kids? Not okay.

“He loved it. In fact, he laughed and said ‘Drippy the Sandwich Fail makes a pretty good sandwich after all.’ Thought you’d want to know.”

It made my day. Not only because it was culinary vindication, but because she knew I needed to know.  And besides, if Drippy the Sandwich Fail is the worst thing her friends call me, well, how bad can things be?

Shark Apocalypse

28 Feb

A few months ago my family and I caught the 2009 apolcaypse film, 2012. YouTube – 2012 – Official Trailer 3.

It was pretty good. As disaster films go, this one was right up there. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s got the whole ancient Mayan thing portending doom, innumerable narrow escapes (including my favorite: a small 4-seater plane taking off as an entire city below is swallowed by the sea), cold-hearted government operatives, giant waves rolling jumbo jets and aircraft carriers onto destroyed oceanside cities, and even an appearance of an updated, sci-fi version of Noah’s Arc.

Good stuff.

So good we were inspired to make a disaster movie of our own.

What follows is the result of a Sunday afternoon, a box of old Barbies dressed in original duct tape fashions (circa 2007), a 14-year-old director, and an iPhone.

I’ll warn you, you may find yourself somewhat overcome after watching it, your eyes squeezed behind your clenched fist wondering, “Why? Oh why?”

That’s to be expected.

And please, don’t be jealous. Not everyone can have this kind of talent. We can’t all be like Spielberg or have the blood of Scorsese coursing through our veins in quite this way.

And so, without further ado, I give you:

2012: When the Mayans Got it Wrong

Steel Wool and The Phil Sheppard Show

19 Feb

Last week the premier episode of Survivor: Redemption Island aired, and boy was it good.

Within the first fifteen minutes I knew it was going to be a great season. And not because Boston Rob and Russell Hantz (that sneaky little troll) were back, or because of this season’s Redemption Island twist: if you’re voted off you live alone on an isolated island until the next person is voted off, then you battle for a spot back in the game. I’m hoping for something reminiscent of Captain Kirk and the Gorn. YouTube – Kirk vs Gorn.

No, this season is a guaranteed winner because of the contestants.

For example, after splitting into tribes, Mike (the cute marine: YouTube – Survivor S22 – Meet Mike Chiesl) was helping Ralph (the huge farmer and token southern oaf: YouTube – Survivor S22 – Meet Ralph Kiser) build a shelter. It was hot and Ralph had taken his shirt off, leaving him bare-chested in his overalls. But “bare-chested” isn’t exactly right, because under that serviceable denim shirt was another shirt, made completely of hair.

“Your superhero name is Steel Wool,” Mike said, nodding with the special admiration that only another guy could have for such a robust display of man-fur. “You have the most impressive man-sweater I’ve ever seen.”

And Mike was right. Best one ever. Plus, you could just see this Iraq war veteran spending time in the dusty barracks, handing out the perfect nick name. I want one.

But that was just the beginning. From there Survivor morphed into what I like to think of as “The Phil Sheppard Show.” There’s always the moron who meets his tribe members and decides to be assertive; to impress them with his leadership skills and to take charge. He bosses people around, corrects people he just met and generally assumes control. Or so he thinks. This season it was Phil Sheppard, the self-proclaimed “former federal agent.” YouTube – Survivor S22 – Meet Phillip Sheppard.

After dropping the privileged information of his former special agent status on his tribe (for a grand total of four times during the first show), he also let them know that he was an expert in analyzing people’s behavior. Hmmm…

And that would’ve been plenty. Really. I would’ve been very satisfied with just that.  But “Phil Sheppard and Company,” as he began to refer to himself in the third person plural, was just getting started.

Sheppard spent the whole show wandering around the camp, shouting at fellow tribe members like he was a grouchy old school mistress. “Excuse me! Excuse me!” he said, over and over. “Answer my question! Answer me! I don’t need two people talking at once.” Then, when they didn’t obey, “We’re done with this conversation for now.”

And just for extra sprinkles, he did it all in the worst pair of faded fuschia underwear I’ve ever seen. I mean these things were priceless; sagging and out of shape (like him), and gapping in all the wrong places. Dangerous places. I know everyone on Survivor runs around in their underwear, and not everyone is in great shape. I get it. But why not boxers? Why faded, gaping fuschia briefs? I want to believe it’s some kind of awesome calculated irony, that his whole character has been written and not found among the masses. But I just don’t.

The premier episode ended, as always, with Tribal Council. And Phil Sheppard and Company didn’t disappoint. He interrupted Francesca to run his mouth about secret plans, called out the girl who’d been stupid enough to show him the secret immunity idol she’d found (Kristina), all while managing to mispronounce Francesca’s name three different ways. My favorite was Fransquesqua, like she was some kind of Indian princess. But no worries, he’s being treated for dry mouth. That’s why he was having trouble with her name. Just ask him, he’ll tell you.

It was a great hour of entertainment, with the best quote of the night going to Ralph, aka Steel Wool. “We ain’t never had a dumb ass win the million. Maybe it’s my turn.” Maybe so, Mr. Wool, maybe so.

Seriously, this is reality tv at it’s best. The producers of Survivor may have thought the two veterans and Redemption Island would shake things up enough to keep viewers coming back, but I’ll be tuning in for Phil Sheppard and Company. No doubt about it.