What’s That Thing On Her Head?

I know, I know. I like to start the week off with a recipe, but I don’t have one. Mea culpa. I plan on getting into the kitchen later to do some cooking so I can share it all with you, but it was a weird weekend and when I did cook, I didn’t have the luxury of time to take photographs. Which is a little bit of a drag, but, silver lining! I’ll be forced to make yummy food all over again.

In the meantime, I want to present you with….this ad. I have carried this ad with me for years, it’s survived two moves, through Texas and back east to my little home in central PA. After a decade of puzzlement, of staring at this ad and shaking my head, I confess I am no closer to comprehension than I was ten years ago. I’ve spent more time trying to understand the mindset of the advertising agency that gave this the green light, than I have most pieces of abstract art. I still have no idea what this ad is getting at. Ok ok ok, here. Feast your eyes. (Identifying details removed. Mostly. :))

Hey...what's that thing on her head?

Hey…what’s that thing on her head?

In case you’re staring at this ad in stricken disbelief–which is totally understandable–I will explain. This is an ad for stores that sell jewelry. A jewelry mall, if you will. Glamorous, high-end jewelry, not the “Buy three pairs of earrings, get the fourth free” kind that I usually buy. And the model, in her LBD and thick golden rope of a necklace, is wearing a cat on her head. A cat. On her head. Here’s a closeup.

Shmexy.

Shmexy. Hey, wait. Is that terror I see lurking in her eyes?

Indeed, this is certainly all I’ve imagined and more. I know that when I think about which lovely lady ought to get the fancy jewelry, it’s almost always the one wearing an animal on her head. 

Only opposite. “Give in to the luxury”, the ad says. But how does wearing a cat on one’s head indicate “luxury”? Or something that should be given in to? I fight the urge to accessorize with my cat every day, and I feel like I’m a better person for it. Because if she were wearing pajamas–and you know I’m right here, people–she would be a crazy cat lady. This should be instant birth control. Instead, this ad was meant to create allure.

Herein lies my befuddlement. I don’t understand. I mean, if I want to buy shoes I don’t look for someone with an egret perched on her head so I can think, “Oh, wow, that must be a great shoe store I can’t wait to shop there.” Maybe I just don’t grok high-end jewelry in this way, but…why is this lady wearing a cat on her head? And what does that say about…oh, good Lord, about any and everything that’s weird about the advertising business?

Please, internets, if you can explain, I would be most grateful.

Thanks, I guess? For the memories…

Recently I came across an article on the internets featuring photos of abandoned Pocono-area honeymoon resorts. I don’t know if this was something people knew about across the US, but for east coasters, the Poconos dominated the honeymoon and couples-getaway market with a plethora of romantically-themed resorts to choose from. I can recall the theme songs from the commercials pretty readily, because that’s the kind of effluvia that clutters up my synapses.

This article took me for a walk down…ummm…not quite Memory Lane, because everything about the upcoming story is just so weird. Should Have Been An Acid Trip Lane? I Must Have Made This Up In My Fevered Brain Lane? Here’s the deal:

A thousand years ago, when I was but a slip of a paisley, I was married. For the purposes of storytelling, I’ll call my ex Snidely. Snidely had a very good friend who had just ended a very bad relationship; a few weeks after that ugly breakup, this friend was at his office holiday party and won a romantic weekend getaway for two to a resort in the Poconos. Since friend was unattached and had sworn off women for a while, and his vacation package came with an expiration date, he gave his vacation to Snidely and me–here you go, Merry Christmas, have crazy fun. So far, so good, right? We picked a weekend (off-season, of course, because that’s the block of time the voucher was good for), booked a room, and planned to whoop it up.

In all honesty, I don’t remember exactly which resort we stayed in. I suspect it was, indeed, Penn Hills (see the above commercial), but the Poconos are littered with abandoned resorts that shared similar sensibilities. These are the hotels that kitschy dreams are made of; the places with heart-shaped tubs and round beds with mirrored canopies. With red accents on every available surface and shag carpeting on the wall. Because carpet on the wall is for lovers.

Hot cha cha! Image from roadtrippers.com

Hot cha cha!
Image from roadtrippers.com

As an aside…is anybody else interested in spraying shag-carpeted honeymoon suites with Luminol? I’d imagine we’d need sunglasses. And I digress.

The thing is, there’s a desperation to these sorts of places. They wink at you and grab your hand before you can stop them. They’re designed with this message: You? Are saucy. You? Can finally let go of your inhibitions! You? Can do IT. That’s right. The big IT. And we all know what’s going on, because we’re doing IT too. It’s like you’re obligated to have sex while you’re there, because it’s racy and naughty and expected and then you can go to breakfast the next morning and do that shy smile-giggle as you see your freshly-laid neighbors coming out their hotel rooms too. 

Can we also take a moment to consider how mirrored-everything is a nightmare for anyone with body image issues?

Oh, no, that's just...great! I'm...naked. And can see myself from every angle. *kill me now* Image from dcist.com

Oh, no, that’s just…great! I’m…naked. And can see myself from every angle. *kill me now*
Image from dcist.com

We pulled up to the parking lot and of course, this resort had a sign out front to announce events or welcome special visitors. You expect them to say something like, “TONIGHT! MAGYCK MOMENTS PERFORMING LIVE IN THE TIKI LOUNGE” or “GIVE HER SOME MORE MEAT WITH OUR TUESDAY NIGHT PRIME RIB SPECIAL FOR TWO”, right?

What you don’t expect to see is this.

Who brings the party?

Who brings the party?

That’s right. Accordion players.

I’m sure I had photos of this, at one point. I looked for them last night. If I had any, they are long, loooooong gone. Please enjoy my artistic rendering.

It seems that we had booked our romantic, couples-only resort weekend on the same weekend that an accordion players association was hosting a convention. And while I appreciate the works of the noble accordion, we were surrounded by two hundred men (and only a tiny handful of women; ladies, you gots to represent!) with a country mile of great bushy eyebrows between them all, decked out in tuxes, accordions strapped to their chests. They would play accordion all day long. As they walked down the hall. If they took a smoke break and went outside. You couldn’t get away from it. This doesn’t say “sexytime” so much as it does “polka party”.

If we had gone there for a polka weekend, it would have been perfect.

To get away from the 24-hour polka party people, we stopped in the hotel bar. And indeed, Magyck Moments (or whoever they were) were playing in the lounge, torching up songs that shouldn’t have been torched. (Wait…I remember having to get up and go to a different seat, because from where I originally sat at the bar I could still see and hear the goings-on at the accordion banquet, while listening to the bewitching sounds of Magyck Moments. It was pure sensory overload.) The Magyck Moments singer, a woman, was murdering something totally poppy, taking “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” from bubblegum to dirge. I remember she had a Linda Evans, Dynasty-era haircut, only it was screaming red, and she was wearing some kind of holdout, ’80s-leftover prom dress. It was blue and had copious amounts of sleeve. Like this one; though I remember hers being even more shiny.

Everybody wang chung. Toni-i-i-i-iiiight. Image from liketotally80s.com

Everybody wang chung. Toni-i-i-i-iiiight.
Image from liketotally80s.com

Since she was clearly past the age of prom, I can only assume she pilfered it from her daughter’s closet.

I can’t tell you much more about that weekend. I remember things were kind of tense with Snidely because the whole situation was so weird, and this was at the point in our relationship where we still liked each other. Since we were there off-season, all the activities they advertised–things like horseback riding and nature hikes and tennis and golf–were not operational, so there was a lot of wandering around relatively quiet hotel grounds. It was as though I dreamed of all the ways that weekend could become an insane, not-romantic spectacle and it all came true. All it was missing was some sort of brute strength. If there was an assemblage of Scotsmen playing highland games, it would have been ahhh. maaaa. zing.

You know what else I remember? I remember that the burger I got at Flood’s was excellent. Please note: the honeymoon hotels are reduced to monoliths, sad reminders of the limits of kitschy romanticism. Snidely and I have long split. But Flood’s is still in operation. It seems that a good burger withstands the test of time.

Photo credits

Heart-shaped tub: www.roadtrippers.com

Round bed: dcist.com

Welcome sign: Me :)

Prom dress: www.liketotally80s.com

The New Year Thus Far

Yes, I know, it’s been a while. Christmas always seems to knock my blogging off-kilter. There’s just so much to do, what with decorating and festivities and a bajillion cookies to make and some writing and teaching shoehorned into the middle of all that…

What’s that? You think I exaggerate when I lay claim to a bajillion cookies? Oh ho ho, my friends. Behold!

Bajillion.

Quantity: One bajillion.

Plus pumpkin fudge and green tea marshmallows (OMG YES) and Turkish delight, which is like eating soft and beautiful rose-flavored clouds. I could hoover that all day long.

The last few years have had rough beginnings/endings to them. Two years ago, January ushered in back-to-back funerals and the most vicious stomach flu I’ve had in a decade. A year ago in December, George and I got into that terrible car accident and totaled our Honda.

And just last week, as I was getting set to emerge from the Christmas cocoon without a funeral or a car accident in sight (all good things!), I dropped my external hard drive and broke some kind of connector thingie inside. The hard drive had EVERY SINGLE PHOTOGRAPH I’VE EVER TAKEN (more or less, minus what was on my phone, and the few files I’ve loaded onto the new computer) on it, moved there after my old computer’s hard drive died on me earlier this year. It is dead to me and all my photos are completely inaccessible. Yes, I know I should be in the cloud and your well-meaning point has been taken, but that advice? Is no good to me right now.

To say I laid around for two days wallowing in despair…that’s not so much of a dramatic re-interpretation of my days as it is a spot-on description of what I did. Every. Photograph. Thousands and thousands of them. (For those of you who know I’ve written a book, don’t worry. The book is the safest thing I have, backed up in several places–including a copy in my email–and sent in full to the writing partner. At least there’s that.) As we speak my hard drive has been sent off to a data retrieval service, and so I wait. And wait. At least I’ve crawled out of my apoplectic coma. The howling in my head has stopped. And I feel the need to write again. These are all good things.

So. Here is one of the few photos I currently have in my possession, taken in a nearby corn field on a cloudy, yet bright, day.

What happens to corn stalks in the winter.

What happens to corn stalks in central PA in the winter.

Ever forward.

Just Say No: Selfies With Bears

Apparently, there is a new and incredibly stupid trend making its way around the interwebs these days.

You know, I am a fan of both animals and nature photos. I post a daily squee on my Facebook page so we can start the day off by looking at something cute and fluffy. And I will be among the first to admit that bears–all kinds, all sizes/shapes/ages–can be pretty frickin’ adorable.

Bears. Cute, even when wet. Image from matyuphoto.com

Bears. Cute, even when wet.
Image from matyuphoto.com

I mean…look at those wet baby bear ears. D’awwww! D’oh! Who wants a skritch?

My point is, I like cute animals. Right? Right.

Unfortunately, Lake Tahoe officials have had to issue warnings lately because people have been taking too many selfies with bears.

That’s right. Selfies. With bears.

Apparently, in the Taylor Creek area of South Lake Tahoe, bears have been out in relative abundance, primarily to get in a good feeding at the ol’ fishing stream before hibernating. Nature photographers get great photos of bears when they’re eating, sure. From a distance. With a mega-powered zoom lens.

What they don’t do is stand in front of a bear with their iPhones at the ready.

Bear: Pardon me, miss. Can I talk to you about our lord and savior GRAHTHTMTHMAGRRRAMACHUKCHUK *nom* Image from buzzfeed.com

Bear: Pardon me, miss. Can I talk to you about our lord and savior GRAWRRAWRGRRR *nom*
Image from buzzfeed.com

I don’t normally try and blame the victim but seriously, this girl would have had it coming.

I thought I would lose my mind with fury when I read this. Initially, I was mad because it’s just so stupid. Bears are unpredictable, kind of territorial, and (if they’re on their way to fish), hungry. And you, dearest friends and readers, sport a relatively fragile body made almost entirely out of meat. And the thing is, if a bear mauls someone who’s doing something incredibly stupid and provocative around a bear, then people will still go after the bear. And kill it in revenge, while the bear’s all like, “What did I do?”

#Truth Image from allthatspam.blogspot.com

#Truth
Image from allthatspam.blogspot.com

And then I was extra-furious, because…people…the world is not one big Disney amusement park. Not everything is sanitized for your protection, all situations are not rendered safe, and bears aren’t all friendly creatures with whom you can eat honey and trade belly rubs. This isn’t reality TV, this is reality. If you saw that weird, twitchy guy at the mall, you wouldn’t pose for a selfie in front of him, would you? No, you’d give that guy some space in case he’d snap. So…why on Earth would you pose in front of a thing with less capacity for reason, who’s got, essentially, scimitars on the ends of their paws?

Ready to open up a world o' hurt.

Bear claws: more than just a pastry. Image from delong.typepad.com

Please, people. In the interests of bears, and sanity, stop living as though your world view has been taken from a Disney movie. It’s not fair to the bear. And it’s potentially really…really…detrimental to your well being.

I realize that now, bears are going down for the winter, so this information most likely won’t be relevant until the spring (though, of course, bears can be woken up fairly easily during hibernation, so…no rattling cans of bear chow on winter hikes, people). But for the love of all that is sensible, leave the 600 pound killing machines to themselves.

Here’s what to do if you find yourself on the wrong end of a bear attack.

And for the members of the gay community who love their big ol’ bears…go to it, friends. This has nothing to do with you.

Here’s a little ditty by The Magnetic Fields to play you out.

A Restaurant Rant

I just read this excellent article by Amanda Cohen, chef and owner of the NYC restaurant Dirt Candy (get it? It’s a vegetarian restaurant? Dirt Candy? I like it! And after reading her menu, I’m dying to try celeriac ice cream, but I digress…), and I’m with her. She discusses how most restaurant employees honestly do want their patrons to leave happy. It’s true. I did my time in the restaurant biz. For the most part, my objective was to try and make sure customers had a good time. That they liked their food. That the service and overall restaurant experience was positive. That they’d want to come back.

I’d try and hold the perspective that my job in a restaurant wasn’t centered around a battle between Us and Them but rather, it needed to be seen as a healthy and productive working relationship. It didn’t always work, and I wasn’t always perfect at it, but I tried. It’s hard to maintain because you’re basically part dirty grunt/part performance artist, and the surly, tired, my feet hurt, I’m exhausted, I’ve already had to clean vomit, make $2.13 an hour and I’ve still got five hours left on my shift, I’ve got a ton of homework/bills/housework/family concerns that are distracting me, human, non-performer side of a restaurant worker can break through the veneer of pleasantries pretty easily. However. Generally, in response to a customer’s special requests, my answer (and the answers of most of my fellow restaurant peeps, who were often well-intentioned waitstaff and bartenders and hosts and managers who don’t go into that biz because of a relentless desire to stoke the fires of inner rage) was yes. Yes, we can deviate from the menu, yes we can accommodate your allergy, yes we can seat you as soon as possible, yes we can get you that extra whatever on the side.

Image from crayonsglueandtyingshoes.blogspot.com

Image from crayonsglueandtyingshoes.blogspot.com

Because that’s how it works.

Because that’s the nature of the job.

I get insanely offended when restaurants aren’t managed, at the very least, decently.

Recently, I was told something wouldn’t be done by a kitchen, for all the wrong reasons. I’m still shocked.

George and I called a local restaurant (for the moment, staying nameless) to order some take-out food. George did the talking. Hi, he said. We’d like dinner A and dinner B, and we’d also like an order of your extra-spicy sauce on the side. The woman taking the order was new, writing everything down with someone watching her to make sure she got all the information she needed for the order. She conferred with the trainer in the background then got back on the line. “I’m sorry.” she said. “I can’t give you that sauce.”

What? We just want an order of it on the side.

Sorry, she said. The chef says it will make the dish you ordered a different dish. He won’t do it.

Fine. Whatever. We were hungry, we’d already mentally committed to dinner from this place. Don’t sell us the sauce. Be that way. We’ll be by to pick it up in 10 minutes.

Twenty minutes later, George came home, full order and extra sauce in hand.

Here’s what happened: when George gave his name, the new waitress wrote it down, and the owner recognized it. Oh, him!, the owner said. He’s a nice guy! And so, they did make George’s order as he requested, which is bad enough. Because for real, just do it in the first place, no?  But then, when George got there, the owner/manager ACTUALLY SAID, “Yeah, when you first called, I thought you were one of these entitled jerks in town so I didn’t want to make it for you. But you know. It’s you. So that’s different.”

Image from imgflip.com

Image from imgflip.com

He didn’t say, “We misunderstood your initial order and said duh when we realized our mistake, here you go.” He didn’t say, “I was having an aneurysm during your phone call. Of course we’ll make this for you.” He didn’t say, “I was temporarily possessed by Satan. Sorry ’bout that.” Instead, he justified his change of heart by winking and nudging, because we’re special. Awwww. Shouldn’t I feel all warm and fuzzy now?

What? No! Hey, manager dude, let me get this straight: you didn’t want to sell us an item that’s on your menu, because you thought we might be dicks? Not because we were being unreasonable or making insane demands, but because you had a bug up your ass? And when you found out who was doing the ordering, you decided to let us in your petty fiefdom of a club? And you’re training new employees to behave this way? Holy. Moly.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want to learn the secret handshake, I don’t want to know the password, and now? I don’t want your food. We ate the food that night and I felt dirty. I just want to be able to order off a menu, without a hassle. You’re in the restaurant biz, you’re going to deal with people EVERY DAY. Some of them will be total pains, some of them will be awesome, but all of them deserve a fair shake at the start of your interactions.  This manager is someone who’s recently talked about being dedicated to growing his business. He’s sure got a funny way of showing it. It’s too bad, really, because I’d prefer to support local businesses, and the food was pretty good. But we haven’t been back since.

I’m still not going to say which restaurant it was, but feel free to circulate this among local folks and restaurant friends. Maybe the owner/manager will see it and recognize himself. Maybe he’s been wondering why we haven’t been in for the last two months. This is why. View this as a huge learning opportunity, and you’re welcome. Other restaurant folks, if you see your own behavior reflected in my story, then take my advice and get over yourselves. If you don’t, then I recommend a job in an accounting office, or perhaps filing books at a library, where human interaction will be kept to a minimum.

T2 disapproves.  Image from tvtropes.org

T2 disapproves.
Image from tvtropes.org

And please, everybody (that includes you, you difficult customers) stop perpetuating the Us vs. Them mentality. It hurts all my brothers and sisters in the service industry. We’re all in this together, folks. Start acting like it.

The Tucson Weekly Gets The Angries Over Internet Satire

While poking around the Facebooks this morning, I clicked on a link a friend posted to the satire website The National Report, and I’m intentionally not linking to them. Because I don’t enjoy them. It’s not that I don’t enjoy good satire or comedy, it’s…that…I don’t think they’re very good at it. Like the Daily Currant, the National Report.comes up with absurd premises, but they don’t take their articles to the point where they’re both thought-provoking enough to be relevant and outrageous enough to be clearly satirical (unless you’re completely myopic). For an outstanding example of brilliant, relevant, outrageous, thought-provoking satire, see The Onion’s article about 9/11 hijackers and their surprise to find themselves in Hell.

So I was mentally pretty open to the headline on the Tucson Weekly claiming that not everyone on the internet can write satire. Failed satire does become clutter. These articles are noise. I often find myself in the position of having to point out that something posted as an “OMG CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THIS???” article is, in fact, failed satire, false, and not part of the legitimate conversation. I really wanted to like the Tucson Weekly article, I did.

Only…dude…you sound like the nerdy kid in school who’s pissed that the smart-ass gets all the attention, so you’re taking your pen and showing ‘em all. ALL! Let ‘em have it, Holden Caulfield.

Somebody needs a nap.  CLICK THE PICTURE to see it bigger...oooooh...magic...

Somebody needs a nap. CLICK THE PICTURE to see it bigger…oooooh…magic…

♦ IF you or anyone you know has gone anywhere within the internet in the last 10 years and hasn’t figured out that Andy Borowitz and his eponymous report are satirical, then you need to get out more often. He writes like a dream come true and is always over-the-top funny.

♦ IF you’re going to talk about all the clutter and distraction on the internet, then for pity’s sake, you (or your editor) ought to have the sense not to run a link to an article (and in fact, your news organ’s own article) about the newest video featuring Keyboard Cat.

♦ IF you’re going to argue that satire that fails to launch muddies the waters of journalistic integrity, and you sniffingly look down your nose at misfired satire while you define yourself as a capital-J Journalist, then really, you ought not to end your op-ed piece by calling the writers you don’t like “dicks”. Because adolescent name-calling is the earmark of professionalism (only, opposite).

I actually checked to make sure that I wasn’t stuck in some meta-satire spiral and that this article wasn’t the culmination of some perfect storm of failed satire the likes of which the world has never before seen. But no, to the best of my ability to understand, this article is real, and the Tucson Weekly is not a wannabe-Onion-style news outlet. Students, take note: this entire article is an exercise in how to undermine your own point. What this guy does? Don’t do.

Now, here’s Keyboard Cat to play us out with his brilliant new “96 Tears“.

Meanwhile, At The Restaurant: No, It’s To-Go

The other night, George and I were out at a local restaurant. A family of four came in; Mom, Dad, two little boys who, if I had to guess, were like 4 and 6. It was kind of late-ish for kids to be out eating (it had to be at least 8:00) so the boys were hungry and cranky. Dad was an impatient manly-man, so when the lone waiter working the entire front of the restaurant and seating new diners during this busy night didn’t attend to them in the first minute of them standing there, Dad took matters into his own hands. And sat his family down at the table next to us. Yay.

So they order, and the kids’ food comes out, and then Dad’s food comes out, but Mom’s is delayed because the kitchen was backed up. Ah, well, such is life, right? So the couple will talk and take care of the kids while they wait for Mom’s food, right? And if Dad were so hungry he had to eschew manners and eat immediately, then maybe he’d offer Mom a little bit from his plate so she could nibble too while waiting, right?  Yeah.  Only no.  Instead, Dad proceeded to pull out his goddamned phone and Facebook (or whatever) while he ate. Ignoring his entire family. Ignoring the wife who wasn’t eating yet. Leaving her to contend with two tired, squirrelly kids on her own. While he was sitting right there next to them all. And when her meal came…well, words fail. It looked a little something like this.

The only thing I've exaggerated here is the size of his brow.

The only thing I’ve exaggerated here is the size of his brow.

(Remember, WordPress screwed f*ed us with their photo editing changes, so there is no “open in new window” option.)

That’s right. HE FACEBOOKED THROUGH HIS OWN MEAL, AND THEN WOULDN’T LET HIS WIFE EAT HER DINNER.

And for the record, when the one little boy knocked his water glass over and spilled most of it into his mother, guess who got up to help her clean up, get fresh napkins for the table, and alerted the waiter there was a spill?  Most people would think, oh, it was the other adult at the table, because that’s what responsible, thinking, caring adults in a relationship do for one another, right?

BZZT. Wrong. It was me. I helped her. I helped get her table cleaned. ME.

Sigh. I don’t even know what else to say about this except: If you’re this guy and you’re reading this, then understand that I only have the best of intentions when I tell you, you are a douchebag. Only because I hope you recognize it to be true, and want to change your douchebaggy ways. Your kids deserve a father who’s present and engaged, not some…douchebag, really, it’s the word that fits…who trawls his phone during dinner, exhibits no sign of joy or interest in his own family, who shows such…you know, it’s not even disrespect, it’s total douchey disregard, for his wife. I don’t know if getting your wife’s food to go shows you’re the control freak type of douchebag, or if you’re the sort of douchebag who is douchebaggy thanks to a wretched cavern in your soul filled with cluelessness but dude, when a stranger at the next table and the waiter have more concern for your wife’s well being than you do?

You’re doing it wrong.

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