Tuesday, January 30, 2007

leave all puns related to wands and engorgio charms in the comments

I think that Daniel Radcliffe will do a smashing job in Equus. It's a great play, and he is an underrated actor. He was hilarious as a bratty little horndog in Extras. However...

There was a time when the phrases "Harry Potter" and "love trail" existed far, far away from one another. I miss that time.


When I was in Michigan taking care of my Dad, I dug through what remains of my childhood possessions. After a combined nine moves since I graduated from high school, my parents and I have become expert purgers of memorabilia, ruthlessly throwing out anything not deemed necessary to survival because we know that soon we will have to carry it across state lines with our bare hands. In the snow. And all we get for Christmas is an orange and a nickel.

I'd planned on bringing back a bunch of my old drama club t-shirts for the gym, because nothing makes the Jappy girls who hog the elliptical wrinkle their noses quite like having to share air with someone wearing something reading "Theatre Guild 1996 presents Sartre's No Exit." What I hadn't planned on, however, was the awesomeness of the photos I found buried underneath my Goo Goo Dolls: Dizzy Up The Girl Tour souvenir hoodie.

Paging through them in my parents' basement, I fell on the cement floor laughing. My dad (who had just had surgery six days before) hollered down to make sure I was okay. He thought I was having a seizure.

Wouldn't you fall apart laughing if you pulled these photos out of storage?

[As a primer for what is about to happen, I suggest that you first catch up on the concept of bershon. Read it? Understand it? Did you live it too, seething with silent disdain at everything around you as you awkwardly lumbered your way through the wonder years? I hope so, because you're about to get a crash course in bershon from my adolescence.]

My first Homecoming dance. I went with three of my girlfriends from middle school, none of whom actually WENT to my high school, because I was so scared and embarrassed by life. That's me in the maroon dress (which at least five other girls were wearing that night) and that's my best best best friend Carol in the blue. Note her expression of relative happiness and contentment versus mine of utter humiliation at being forced to take a group photo, like, Mom, can we just GO already? Jeez!

Looking at this picture, I'm very angered by all the time I wasted thinking I was fat. Sweet Mother Mary, I'd kill to have those legs today. Of course, I'd be much nicer to them now. I wouldn't swaddle them in sheer nude pantyhose.

Let's move on:

Bershon: The Play

Scene One: San Juan, Puerto Rico. Our heroes are on the last day of a swanky Caribbean vacation.

EJ: God, this is so MORTIFYING. I can't believe our parents took us on this CRUISE and now want to take pictures in front of this spectacularly gorgeous ocean. What if someone from school is in San Juan and walks by and SEES me posing for this photo?!

Jenny: Nice attitude there, killer. Aren't I adorable with my little short bob and skinny limbs? I'm so lucky I haven't entered my awkward phase yet, unlike SOME people. Everyone says I'm just so cute.

EJ: SHUT UP YOU LITTLE BRAT. GOD, if you could SEE my eyes behind my John Lennon sunglasses, you'd see they were ROLLING BACK INTO MY HEAD FROM DISDAIN. Why is everyone trying to ruin my life?!

This is the stage crew for my high school theater group production of Much Ado About Nothing. If you want to replicate the effect, here's the formula: gather the ten most awkward misfits from every grade, dress them in black and give them power tools and walkie-talkies. Of course, even if we hadn't just finished running the show, everyone would still probably be in all black anyways. God, we were so deep.

I'm not in this photo because I was in the cast, so I'm probably backstage putting on six layers of eyeliner and white tights. Of course, I did run stage crew for a number of other plays and spent my fair share of time in blacks, listening to the Cure over the whirr of the handsaw in the workshop while waiting for my mom to pick me up after school.

I look at this picture and think "Bershonsplosion."

This is not so much "bershon" as it is "awesome." Before I did the redesign yesterday, I was going to make this photo into my new banner with the tagline "EJ Takes Life: Reveling in Awkward Moments Since April 2005." But I think it's better for everyone if we don't have to be greeted by that photo every single day.

This is me in seventh grade. I believe that we're at start of term nature camp, and that my arm is in a sling because Ian Olson (the class bully) stepped on it during a game of what was supposed to be touch football.

I have no explanation for the glasses, perm, white denim shorts, pose or the sheer horrible awkwardness of it all.

Monday, January 29, 2007

or a pony. i always wanted a pony.

I've been so busy over the last month, I'd forgotten it's almost my birthday until my mother called last week and asked if I'd email her an Amazon wishlist. Specifically, she said "If I don't have it in my inbox there's no way I'll remember to buy you anything." Oh, how my heart sings at such warm, maternal sentiments.

So what should I ask for? I know what I want, but for some reason Amazon doesn't have a listing for "fistful of cash." Amazon really doesn't have any of the other things I'm considering asking for, which include but are not limited to:

- Tap dancing lessons

- For my father to go another 30 days without having major surgery

- A plane ticket to Austin or San Francisco for vacation this spring

- A case of El Mawby champagne

- An effortlessly perfect score on the GRE, which I am taking in three weeks

- Mothereffing inspiration, because damn, I haven't thought of anything remotely decent to blog about in, oh, foreverish


Friday, January 26, 2007

what happens when too much higher education happens to otherwise fun people

Jen: think i figured out why i really don't like my clinical prof

EJ: why's that?

Jen: she's the type who mentions Woody Allen when talking about Neuroses

Jen: also, she has Anne Geddes portraits of Celine Dion and babies in her powerpoints

EJ: oh ew

EJ: in what context?

Jen: a sort of attachment theory

Jen: dyads

EJ: as examples that dissociative sociopathy is alive and well in art?

How we both don't get laid more is just beyond me.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

my highly informed insider opinions on the state of the union

Of all my "DC Moments," my most favorite is when I watched the 2004 State of the Union from the House press gallery. It was my first week as an intern at a DC paper and I'd already thought that I'd died and gone to Nerd Heaven when I got my press pass. The SOTU invite, which was tossed off to us interns at the last minute as a afterthought, was like getting in the gates of Nerd Heaven and being greeted by a horde of angels who looked like Jake Gyllenhaal holding platters of delicious candy-coated orgasms.

I had absolutely no business being there. I brought my handy-dandy little reporter notebook, but they told me just to enjoy the show, that we didn't need to bother reporting on it. I did make the rookie mistake of clapping when Bush came in-- because, um, he's the President, and think what you will about the man who holds the office but you clap when the President enters-- but a second later learned that if you are in the press gallery, you do not clap, you do not react to anything that is being said, you just scribble. Or, if you're an intern who scammed her way in there, you stand tree-like at the back.

I did feel a mite ticked off as the speech progressed and I realized that I was attending the most ridiculous SOTU ever. My big chance to witness history as it was being made, and I got the SOTU where Bush used the podium to lecture professional athletes on steroid use. It's fantastic to re-read the speech itself three years later, since it's basically a half-hour of "stay the course, stay the course, stay the course" followed by twenty minutes of a deliciously random grab-bag of election year wedge social issues. Bush has never been particularly statesmanlike, but that night he basically just shouted nouns from the Culture Wars ("Abstinence! Defense of marriage! Patriot Act!").

Watching SOTU tonight, though, I felt better about the speech that I'd seen. After all, at least I wasn't there to witness this gem live:

“We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips, stalks, or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years.”

I really think that if I had been in the press gallery to hear George W. Bush talk about cars running on wood chips, I would not have been able to contain my snort of derision. And if clapping is frowned upon by reporters, you know that snorting is not exactly encouraged.

It will be interesting to watch the reaction to this speech, since Bush displayed an uncharacteristic humility in talking about Iraq. He's finally moving beginning to inch toward an approach that may revive support for the war, though at huge expense to his legacy. He can never convince people like me that we had any business getting into Iraq in the first place, but he could convince me to support our continued presence there if he accepted responsibility and framed it as a moral or humanitarian issue, not a political one. Of course, Bush admitting that he was wrong to lead us into Iraq has approximately the same likelihood of Dick Cheney assfucking Al Gore while burning American flags in an abortion clinic.

We created the circumstances that allowed the current chaos in Iraq to start and flourish, and I happen to think that we have a moral obligation to try and fix the mess we made. We're still in Germany and Japan today because of the democracies that we imparted onto them following World War II, and those followed a war that we didn't exactly start (yes, that master's in history is coming along very well, thank you for asking). Did we really once think that America can enter a sovereign nation with no history of democratic political traditions, depose its leader, start a democratically elected government and peace out within six months? I don't remember the entire nation being stoned in the spring of 2003, but that's the only explanation I can think of now. But what the hell do I know? I'm just an ex-cub reporter who snorts when the President talks.

This is really a whole other post, but my points are that Bush is the exact opposite of a statesman and is that I'm not as partisan as you might think; that yes, I could agree with a Republican on Iraq if we could clarify exactly what the mission would be. They'll never get me on gay marriage, though. After all, if Bush ever does apologize for Iraq then Cheney would need to do that assfucking within the sanctity of marriage.

Friday, January 19, 2007

glitter and hand-me-downs

The sky here today reminds me of one of my favorites lines from one of my favorite books, The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter.

"Because it's the Midwest, no one really glitters because no one has to, it's more a dull shine, like frequently used silverware. We were all presentable enough, but almost no one was making any kind of statement. Out here in Michigan, real style is too difficult to maintain; the styles are all convenient and secondhand. We're all hand-me-down personalities. But that's liberating; it frees you up for other matters of great importance; the great themes, the sordid passions."

Driving to Panera for lunch today, my father all giddy from the dual thrills of wearing pants and leaving the house, commented that it was a beautiful Michigan day. I smiled and agreed with him as I steered the Crown Vic into the slushy parking lot. It's not a beautiful Michigan day, but it is typical. As I write this now, the sky and ground are the same shade of smudged white and the sun, what little of it is lighting the scene, will probably begin to set around 3:00. The sky is as unobtrustive as a sky can be, hanging low over the train tracks and Ag College fields like a watchful parent.

I opened the car door and stepped into a pile of melted snow, soaking my left foot. When I packed I knew that these heeled boots would be all wrong and when I put them on this morning I knew I'd be lucky if I didn't fall and break my neck on a patch of black ice. But I wore them anyway. Usually, whenever I come back to Michigan I do things like this; wear three-inch heels in the dead of snowy winter or wear unnecessarily attractive outfits to run to Meijer's when we're out of flour as if to communicate to any passerby "Okay, I am sort of from here but I am certainly not from here now." My snobbery glares brighter in Michigan than it ever does in DC.

Of course, today was the first time I've worn the boots all week. The rest of the time I've been in hiking socks and sweatpants as I cook and clean and generally act like I'm the parent. I say things like "Time for your nap," and "no animal crackers until you finish your vegetables" without a trace of irony. The situation that brought me here, much like the place itself, has a way of killing my usual twisted sense of smartassness.

My mind is always quieter in Michigan. It's as if that low-hanging pewter sky blocks out all the chatter and noise that decorates normal life, both the good and the bad. This week, my mind has been even quieter than usual. It's numbed by daytime television and then sharpened into focus every time he coughs, slowly stands up and winces from the effort.

There is no glitter to distract me this week. Just hand-me-down pain and gray skies.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

putting the "ok"

To those of you who have emailed, called, IMed, whatevered, thank you for your kind words for me and for my dad. I wish that I was capable of focusing only on the good that comes from people like you; people who take time from their day to wish someone well even if the recipient of those good wishes is a stranger. It is a lovely thing you do, and I am so thankful for it.

Other things I am thankful for since I arrived in central Michigan earlier this week:

That Dad seems to be doing okayish, and that he agreed to be brutally honest with me the second he is not feeling okayish because after the events of last week he maybe has finally realized that he does not have to be the valedictorian of gallbladder surgery as well as heart surgery, because, well, at this point it would just be bragging. Right?

Snow. I had not seen snow until today. The SHAME, people. The SHAME. I used to wake a half hour early from October to March so that I could scrape off my windshield before going to first period, slogging out into the driveway in the dark because of course the parents' cars got the garage slots. And now I am not seeing snow until the middle of January? What of my roots? Have I become a wimpy Mid-Atlantic urban soul so quickly that I seriously have to ask which is better, to salt a driveway before or after the nighttime freeze? I am one missed snowball fight away from no longer being able to lay claim to a Michigan heritage here, friends.

24. Yes, I know 24 is awesome. I will watch 24. I said, I will watch it. I said, soon. Look, I work a full-time job and go to school and my Netflix queue is very full already, mkay? I will get on it, when I get the time. But yes, that premiere was excellent. Especially the last ten minutes of Hour 4. Yes, yes, very good. What, you want me to watch The Wire, too? Okay. No, not right now. Look, I will watch it when I watch it.

Playing gin with my Daddy, only to later realize I'd accidentally been cheating the entire time. Well, look, he didn't remind me that the runs have to be in the same suit, okay? I mean come on, I haven't played a card game that didn't involve waterfalls of Miller Lite since like 1999.

Friday, January 12, 2007

breakdown on the blue line

"Ladies and gentlemen, we will be stopped at the station while the train in front of us holds for a sick passenger. Thank you for your patience."

Everyone else around the Metro car wears the resigned, vacant expressions of rush hour commuters at the end of a long day, but at this our faces fall just a little bit more. It's 6:30 and we're all tired and not feeling particularly charitable, even towards a person so sick that s/he is halting Metro with ill health.

I know I'm in a mood. Because all of my comfortable work shoes are at the cobbler I'm wearing six-year-old boots with a broken inner sole on the right shoe and am walking on a blister roughly the size of Ted Kennedy. Tomorrow is the big biannual work event I'm in charge of and maintenance couldn't be bothered to set up the space on time, so I will just have to cross my fingers that there are tables waiting for me at 7 AM.

Oh, and my father is back in the hospital and today underwent his second major surgery in less than a month and I'm taking indefinite family medical leave to go to Michigan and take care of him and am kind of incredibly scared and for the last three days have started to cry at the slightest provocation, such as when a song by Nizlopi or John Gorka pops up on my iPod or when I see a tall white man with silver hair on the street or, y'know, the act of being awake.

I am not to be trifled with today. Even by people who aren't trying to trifle with me.

I look around me and for the first time see a twentysomething guy in a suit and leather jacket sitting two seats behind where I stand. He's poking at his Blackberry, which he then sets on the empty seat next to him as he rummages in his pocket, extracting a cell phone. Yes. He is using two electronic communication devices on the Metro while taking up two seats, surrounded by fellow commuters packed into the car and almost falling on top of him as he stretches his lower half into the leg space for the window seat.

Oh NO he did not.

I start polite. I turn around and look at him smiling, almost simpering "Excuse me, is someone sitting there?" as I point to the empty seat next to him. Obviously no one is sitting there, except maybe his imaginary childhood best friend.

He stares at me for the briefest of seconds, then lowers his head and begins to poke at his cell phone keypad. It's as if I spoke in Klingon. Maybe he's deaf, I too-generously think to myself. It's my better side trying to stem the tide of my growing anger. Oh, this is going to be so fun.

"EXCUSE ME." I am loud enough that the people sitting behind him (facing the other direction) and the several passengers in the aisle space between us look at me, all probably hoping that the angry girl isn't speaking to them. "CAN YOU PLEASE MOVE OVER? THERE ARE LOTS OF PEOPLE IN HERE WHO COULD USE A SEAT."

There is absolutely no way that a hearing person in his seat could not hear me. How do I know he can hear, you ask? Because he lifts the phone to his ear and begins to speak into it. "Dude, the Metro is stuck. I'm running late."

I'm pretty sure that by this point there is steam coming out of my ears, nose and pores. I've been feeling utterly helpless and alone and impotent for days, asking myself what kind of universe allows terrible things to happen to a man like my father and a family like mine. It's not this guy's fault that Dad can't catch a break with his health or that the four people in my family now live in four different states or that I don't have someone I feel close enough to to fall apart in front of like I need to, because if I don't get the inevitable breakdown out of my system at least once during this whole mess than I run the risk of doing it in front of my family and they shouldn't have to deal with it on top of everything else. Technically, yes, he is a jerk, but an innocent bystander/jerk.

But he is going to pay for it all anyways.

"Who the HELL do you think you ARE?!" I yell at him. Oh, he's heard me now. He's resolutely staring straight ahead still talking on the phone, but the color rises in his face from his dress shirt collar. The train jolts to life and lurches into the tunnel, right on cue as I start to really get into a groove. "No, really?!" I cry. "You think you're so damn important that you get two seats while everyone has to smash into each other in the aisle? Are you really that much of a self-important asshole that your fucking Blackberry gets its own seat at rush hour? Ooh, look at the big important man with his big important toys! There are PEOPLE STANDING RIGHT OVER YOU, you shit. What the hell kind of person thinks he's soooooo special that everyone else has to stand while he gets two whole seats to himself?!"

I'm so worked up that I barely notice we've reached the next station. He gets up, still staring straight ahead, refusing to acknowledge me or my tirade as he parts the sea of passengers and squeezes his way to the door, leaving the two seats in contention wide open. The older woman who had been between me and the seats looks at me like she's asking for my permission to sit down, like if she does so without my consent I might bite her. Oh God. What the hell did I just do?

"Ma'am, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry you all had to hear that. That is not me... he... people like that."

She nods silently and slides into the window seat, then pats the aisle seat next to her with her purple-gloved hand. I plop myself down and stare ahead just like the guy had moments before. I'm afraid to try and explain or say anything at all, so I take the yuppie way out and shove my iPod buds into my ears. And... and I swear I'm not making any of this up... my sister's voice suddenly fills my head.

I met a man without a dollar to his name
Who has no traits of any value but his smile...

I grit my teeth. I will not lose it any more than I already have, I will not lose it any more than I already have.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

but he said mission accomplished

"There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship."

- George W. Bush, 10 January 2007




George. Honey. I don't know how to put this.

Somewhere deep in space, the universe is now collapsing into a gigantic black hole of irony.

Monday, January 08, 2007

thicker than water, but not champagne


I promised I wouldn't write about my family on my blog. But this weekend was apparently designed to test that promise in every way possible.

Look, it's not my fault if most of my extended family is wonderful and the remaining people are completely, one hundred percent without the ability to function in society.

The people who are wonderful are really, really wonderful. The kind of wonderful that family members only occasionally achieve, when you would want to be their friends even if you weren't related to them. They are the ones who are goofy and warm and start conversations with "So this one time in Kuala Lampur, when were on top of an elephant..." and not, for example, with pursed lips, raised eyebrows and "Wow, EJ, that sure is an interesting dress. Be careful you don't fall out there."

THANKS. Because when I've been on a plane for the last ten hours, I LOVE being greeted by you telling me that I look like a slut.

Flying to a family wedding this weekend, my flights were ridiculously messed up, and I enjoyed an unscheduled three-hour visit to the airport in Columbia, South Carolina that caused me to miss the actual ceremony. My mother's cousin picked me up at the airport, I threw on my ("interesting") dress and we booked it to the church in time for photos, the first and hopefully only time I will be in pictures for a wedding that I did not actually attend.

I went into this weekend prepared to judge. I mean, it was a wedding that basically joined their frat and their sorority. There were something like ten attendants on each side. I hadn't seen that relative getting married in five years, and the wedding was in Wichita, which, while it is home to both excellent steaks and Kirstie Alley, is not known for being a huge party town. Once we got to the reception, my judgmental predictions seemed to be coming true. Guests were drinking Bud from plastic cups and the DJ interrupted a Hootie and the Blowfish song to announce "John Smith, please come to the bar, John Smith, your shots are ready."

I also went in with clear expectations about how some of my family members would treat me. As my mother put it when we dissected the weekend later on, "Sweetie, it's not that they don't like you, it's that you represent all the choices that they prayed their children wouldn't make." You'd think I'd be offended by this, but it's so true. I don't want to get married and have lots of babies, I don't live a 15-minute drive from home and I vastly prefer the easy delights of indie pop to the coolie labor of Gilbert and Sullivan. My entire life, I've played the role of the loud bitchy single city girl who has an opinion about everything. They'll never see me as anything else and I can never make them accept me or care about me because they're too busy judging my every move.

But something strange happened this weekend. For the first time ever at a family gathering, I decided I didn't give a crap what those people thought of me. Somewhere in between the bacon-wrapped cheese cubes and my aunt wandering around with her fingers stuck in her ears to display her displeasure with the music, I stopped caring and I stopped judging my surroundings. Okay, so, if I ever get married, I strongly doubt that my husband and our bridal party will enter the reception to the dulcet strains of "In da Club," but the couple seemed to like it. So who gives a crap? What, only the people behaving like petulant children in the throes of a temper tantrum? Well, I'm not going to be associated with them, that's for damn sure.

The wedding definitely took a turn for the ridiculous after that epiphany, made all the more so because my mother was at my side about eighty percent of the time. It's one thing to acknowledge to your mother that you are human, that yes, you smoke and drink and make out with inappropriate people. I've only become comfortable admitting these activities in the last year. It's entirely another to perform them all in front of her, particularly when she is in the kitchen of the hotel room holding the afterparty, watching your uncle shotgun a Bud Lite at 4 AM. After the events of that night, there are not a whole lot of boundaries left between my mom and me. Not that there were a whole ton before.

Looking back on the wedding and the entire weekend, I feel like a line has been crossed. In some ways, I regret that my mom has now witnessed me at my most ridiculous behavior. Just as it's nice to idealize your parents as infalliable creatures, it's nice to have them think of you as somehow being untainted by life. Plus, fair or not, it's different for daughters than for sons. My male cousins have no problem palling around with their dads, and I'm pretty sure that they aren't writing diary entries or blog posts about their conflicting emotions over substance consumption in front of former authority figures.

But the thing is, she doesn't care. Most of my family members didn't care that I was out all night partying. They were just glad that I eventually made it there and wound up having a good time. Empahsis on there-- most of the snotty people in the family were too busy being snotty to even both to attend the event, and the ones that did stayed only enough to criticize everything from the flowers to the band. I may have been a silly drunk, but I was a silly drunk there celebrating the choices of a family member, which is more than can be said for the people riding their high horses into bed at 9:30. It's certainly more than they've ever done for me.

They chose to remain on the fringes the entire weekend, looking on as the rest of us hugged and gossiped and talked travel and food and wine and film. They were concerned with "propriety" and "decency" and "appropriateness," but I can't resent them because they're too lonely and angry to resent. I finally stopped taking it personally.

No, I didn't like it when one of them marched into the kitchen and acidly announced "So, EJ, I hear you had a good time with one of the groomsmen last night," in front of the entire extended family at brunch the next day. But instead of getting mad and stumbling for words , I smiled a Cheshire Cat smile and beatifically answered "It was a terrific party, thanks for including me," turned on my heel and walked away. And got some Advil. Because Lordy, did I need it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

merry and bright

Some of my favorite photos from Christmas Up North. Comments and more shots over in Flickr.