Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Freaking Satan-Loving Halloween

Not to be too, too much of a buzzkill, but nothing pisses me off more than adults who insist on celebrating Halloween at inappropriate times and places. Like the post-middle-aged woman working at the supermarket dressed as Ted Bundy — or maybe she was just a clown, which is even more disturbing — and I don't want that freaking thing touching something that I'm gonna eat. Seriously, you're an adult: you can buy your own goddamn candy, you no longer need to extort it from your neighbors.

I remember my final Halloween. Fourth grade was the first year I didn't win Most Creative Costume at the annual Halloween parade, fifth grade was the year some fucking teenagers vandalized our jack-o-lanterns while we were at the parade, and by sixth grade, I kind of stopped believing in the magic of Halloween. It was two years since Grandma passed the costume designing torch to Mom, and Mom tried to take Halloween in a new, artsy, and heavily misunderstood direction. She'd come up with these weird-ass costume ideas: an anthropomorphized toothpaste tube, an anthropomorphized sandwich, an anthropomorphized model of our heliocentric solar system. I was an aquarium one year, and what clinched the deal for me was sixth grade, when Mom turned me into a spider web. Unfortunately, that was a bit too cerebral of a costume for my sixth grade peers... and teachers, and everybody thought I was Spiderman, who's totally puerile.

Here's the moment I knew I outgrew Halloween. I was trick-or-treating with my next-door neighbors, Jerry and Laura. It was cold and raining — it always rains on Halloween. We were at house number four, the folks next door to the Bartlesons. The woman there answered the door; we stood on her front porch, staring, expecting candy, but instead we got, "You're not even gonna bother to say 'trick-or-treat?'"

I guess our hearts just weren't in it anymore.

Which is the thing about when adults get all dressed up — it's this half-hearted attempt to get back some vestige of kiddieness that's invariably futile. There's nothing more pathetic. Well, there's one thing more pathetic, and it wears an oversized Battlestar Galactica t-shirt and yammers incessantly about Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

But of course my mom is the one in the neighborhood who bought boxes of raisins to hand out to the poor trick-or-treaters tomorrow. I told you about her new health kick, right? Now, even though I hate kids, and I especially hate costumed kids, I still tried my best to convince Mom that no one — absolutely no one — likes getting raisins for Halloween. I don't get what's so tough to understand about this. Personally, I'll never forget that disappointment and swelling resentment rushing through me each Halloween, getting all dressed up, trudging through the cold rain up to some stranger's house, expecting a bite-size 3 Musketeers or Plain M&M's or I'd even settle for a Kit Kat bar, but instead they'd come out with a fucking bowl full of those little red boxes and you just wanted to beat the living crap out of them right then and there. I can't believe Mom doesn't sympathize — she was a kid once, too.

Anyway, I won't be handing out candy or raisins or anything else for that matter to kids, because kids suck. But if I were to hand out candy to kids, here's what I'd do.... Most of the kids would get candy, but I'd give the portly kids raisins, because they don't need any more candy. Then I'd castigate them in front of their parents: "Here you go, I've giving you a box of raisins cause you're a fat little piggy and it looks like you've been eating too much candy and chocolate already. I mean, you look like you could eat your little fakey Harry Potter friend there... Oh, you want a Snickers bar like I gave your healthier-looking friends? Well, there's always next year, Fatty. Probably without Dracula there, he's obviously more popular and he'll probably be dating by next year while you'll be eating a carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream on Friday night and picking at your acne scars. But, you know, come back next year if you want some more raisins."

Now that I'm planning all this out, I think I'll also have some candy corn at the ready to hand out to the obnoxious kids. And for the rest of the kids, I'll just skip the middleman and hand out sugar packets to the rest of the hyper little bastards.

That way, maybe next year, we won't get quite as many kids around.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Humilis, humilis

At the Y, they've got that late-seventies disco music playing on the radio, which I guess is pretty good workout music, considering that it sucks the other ninety-nine percent of the time. But at the same time, I absolutely refuse to be out-benched by some guy singing along to "I'm Every Woman." That's bullcrap. I mean, if it were "Macho Man" or something, that'd be different...

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Should The Need Arise...

I've gotta remember to always carry a big felt-tip permanent marker with me wherever I go in case I need to do some emergency vandalism. Like, at the train station this morning, some asshole put up these Bush/Cheney stickers up on the building. Someone tried scratching one sticker off the building, and I would've tried scratching the other one off, but I didn't want to ruin my manicure.... :-) Besides, I thought it would be a much more effective political tool to make a trenchant addition to the sticker, turning into a negative anti-Bush ad. Unfortunately, the only tools I had at my disposal were a ball-point pen, a highlighter, and an eraser.

You'll notice that "my capacious wit" is conspicuously missing from that list. Anyway, I wrote — in big letters with my little clickey pen — "SUCK" on top of the sticker. Yes, yes folks, this is why Kerry's getting an Al Gore-style ass-whooping: Democrats do not think well when it comes to making scurrilous accusations against the evil empire under pressure. "No, you're a weenie. I know you are but what am I?" Like fucking third grade here.

Truth is, I wanted to come up with some way of fitting "Bush/Cheney hate America" on the sticker, but it wouldn't fit. I settled for outlining "SUCK" several times with my sad, sad pen so it reads "SUCK", if you happen to be standing close enough to the damn thing.

That's the thing about Fanwood, it's a fricking Republican town. And there are all these signs messing up people's front yards: "Ferguson for Congress" and "Elect Mawby/Strauss" and the dark prince of political lawn advertising "Bush/Cheney." (Seriously, the Democratic candidate for Congress is running ads where he says, "I'm probably gonna lose this election." What the fuck???) Every time I drive down the street, I fantasize about taking a joyride through some Republican property, getting points for every sign I knock over. You see, this is why I need a dog — a large dog, like a Saint Bernard or a mastiff. I get to walk the dog and let him do his dirty business on some right-winger's lawn, day after day, night after night, until Bush's ass gets kicked out of office and Ann Coulter is locked safely away in a mental institution.

Then I was thinking.... Better yet, I wish I had a monkey, cause I could train it to throw its feces at the offending Republican advertising. I would've brought my simian friend to the convention in New York City, too. I mean, what are they gonna do, arrest a monkey? We could call it a "Freedom Monkey." Or a "Liberty Ape." I like the sound of that.

"No self-respecting man would come here [the press "spin room" at the third Presidential debate] with his hand up a puppet's ass. Except Dick Cheney." — Triumph the Insult Comic Dog

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

What Could the Columbia College Young Alumni Association Possibly Want From Me?

Got a letter in the mail today from the only people who send me mail: my college alumni association. (Okay, the college loan people also send me stuff in the mail.) What a shock; they want money. Now, first of all, am I the only person who finds it slightly odd that an organization with a $4.4 billion endowment is claiming penury, begging me — with one one-millionth of that in my savings account — for ten bucks? Seriously, from like the minute I matriculated, Columbia's been more desparate for ten bucks than I've been. And it's not like I haven't given them $140,000 in tuition already. Can't do a damn thing with $140,000, but with $140,010 you could turn Columbia into a regular lyceum. Or put a foosball table in Lerner Hall. Or something.

So, here's another Columbia plea for money. In the past, they've tried manning tables in front of Low Library, cold calling me, even sending a couple of the more popular members of the Class of 2004 to ambush me in my dorm room and offer me a Class of 2004 shot glass in exchange for ten bucks. Now, they're tugging at my heartstrings. According to the CCYAA, there are so, so many poor, poor kids who are just dying to go to Columbia, but who can't afford the obscenely high tuition. But my ten dollars can provide enough financial aid to support an underfunded Columbian for about three minutes of college. Or it can provide two students with one and a half minutes of college each. Which, to be honest, is about as much college as most doctors say is healthy for you. And if those incoming freshmen can't get their financial aid, they'll be spending that minute and a half at Princeton or Harvard or equally overpriced, snooty college.

I threw the letter in the garbage, but here's a friendly tip for the Columbia trustees from an ex-student with a grudge. If you actually give a crap about lessening the financial burden on the students, lower the fucking tuition, assholes!!!! I mean, even a Yalie could come up with that idea.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Holy shit, poker makes for some boring-ass reading.

Another Fortune Cookie Post

This evening's fortune cookie: "The secret to good friends is no secret to you. Lucky Numbers 1, 6, 13, 19, 30, 44" Hmm... you know, the fortune might have been a little more useful if it actually contained the secret to good friends.

Meanwhile, in Marilyn Vos Savant's column in the generally insipid, right-leaning, status-quo-maintaining Parade magazine, a thirty-one year old loner asks Marilyn what advise she'd give to someone destined to be forever forlorn. (My paraphrasing, not hers.) Marilyn tells her lonesome reader to go out and take a class or volunteer for church or civic organizations; it's a great way to meet people and have some fun. To me, there's an answer that feels hopelessly naive.

And that's coming from a pessimist who's tried both. Because as all us loners know, it's not like we're monkeys during mating season. You can't just hang around others of the same species and let nature take its course. You've gotta be proactive and endearing and a little suave and a little intrusive, qualities that some of us just don't possess. I guess we could learn, though. Maybe Marilyn meant for her reading to take one of those Learning Annex courses about how to make friends.... What a refreshingly self-referential suggestion!

Grandma: I called you last night, why didn't you pick up the phone?

Jay: [hesitates] I was busy masturbating.

[Grandma gives me a dirty look.]

Jay: Well, you asked.

Grandma's not satisfied. Strangely enough, she wants to continue this conversation; and, to be honest, I really don't have much of a problem with doing so, now that I've gotten myself started. "So why didn't you call me afterward?" she asks. Well, by the time I finished, forty-five minutes later, it was 11:30 and I figured she was asleep. I told her the second half of that.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Next Victim in Mom's Low-Carb Craze... that frosted shredded wheat cereal with one powdered sugar side and one supposedly-healthy side. Instead, Mom bought me standard, unsweetened shredded wheat. "You can add your own sugar," Mom said, "This way there'll be less." I mean, it's not like I'm eating that marshmallows-in-milk Lucky Charms crap, but I like my cereal to not taste like it came straight from the ground, if that's at all possible. Still, I guess it'll be okay: this way, I can make both sides of my shredded wheat frosted.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Found the following classified for a copywriter at Random House. Note the job requirements:

Candidates should have 2-3 years experience in copywriting and have some writing samples to submit. Excellent writing skills, proofreading, strong verbal and communication skills are required. Ability to set and meet deadlines, brainstorming and multi-task is essential. Knowlege of the publishing industry and insight into market needs and consumer demands is a must.
I just have to say that if I had excellent writing skills, insight in market needs, and two to three years of copywriting experience only to get another job writing lame-ass copy, I swear I'd shoot myself.

Don't worry, I'd shoot my unappreciative boss first. :)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

I always liked ESPN2; while the original ESPN was always catering to the testosterone-crazy with football and baseball and SportsCenter, the sad ESPN bastard child was showing semi-sports like log rolling and billiards. I watched... well, I wouldn't say "voraciously," but I would've watched voraciously had there not been school, masturbation, and other wastes of time in my life. I felt a kindred spirit with those overlooked sports — not that I actually wanted to be part of, say, the National Spelling Bee or Westminster Kennel Club subcultures, but unlike a lot of my peers, I just appreciated them enough to want to see them thrive, to provide a niche for the people who actually do want to be a part of those subcultures.

So, right now, there's the 2004 National Scrabble Championship on ESPN2, which highlights another nice trend as ESPN2's programming turns more and more towards the cerebral (while the Game Show Network's programming — excuse me, GSN's programming; apparently "Game Show Network" is too long and confusing for some viewers — turns more and more towards the moronic). As an amateur bootleg Scrabble player myself, I've gotta say that I'm pretty proud of ESPN2, even if the Scrabble grand prize ("the better part of twenty-five thousand dollars") pales in comparison to the World Series of Poker grand prize. Disappointing. But not quite as disappointing as the fact that "awa" and "ree" turn out to be actual Scrabble words.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Classes At The Learning Annex: A Sample

I found a fall catalog for the Learning Annex in NYC, which is the best kill-a-few-minutes reading there is at Barnes and Noble, aside from Yoga Journal magazine, which, truth be told, isn't nearly as humorous as it used to be. Here's just a short sample of why the Learning Annex catalog is the best reading in the city.... Mind you, I'd never be caught dead at one of these classes, right?

How to Make Big $$$ Buying and Selling Ugly Houses. Nice job with the subtlety, there. Now the ugly house is gonna have low self-esteem, too, and then it just won't be worth anything.

Talking to Heaven — How to Receive Messages from the Beyond with James Van Praagh. Yes, that's right James Van Praagh. That other guy on TV who talks to your dead relatives.

Earn Over $250 an Hour If You Look Like a Real Person. I don't even know what this means.

How to Have Your Own UFO Encounters. "Have you witnessed what you believe are UFOs? Do you have a mysterious sense that you've been contacted by visitors from the beyond? Or - if you haven't yet been contacted - would you like to be? Then don't miss this fascinating workshop with extraterrestrial contactee Jeremy Vaeni."

Stop Being Nice — Living Authentically and Loving It! Because there's just too many nice people in New York City.

Selling to the Federal Government. "How to sell anything to the government! Toothbrushes, cheese graters, uniforms, pasta, buttons, banners, equipment…anything!" The government wants my toothbrush??? Can it be used?

And my favorite, creepiest class:
How to Pick-up Girls — Seduce Any Woman, Anywhere, Anytime! "Famed Erotic expert Palagia [I mean, her picture on the website is blurred out, to give you some idea about this woman] has researched and created a 'super seduction' system that can take you from a frustrating life of unreturned phone calls to actually living your wildest fantasies." A frustrating life of unreturned phone calls to actually living your wildest fantasies? It's called Japan. Look into it sometime.

There was a news story about some kid in North Carolina being arrested and sent to jail for thirty days for saying the F-word to his teacher. God, disenfranchisement pisses me off to no end! I mean, Dick "The Penis" Cheney drops an F-bomb on the Senate floor, and nothing happens, but some poor kid tells off his teacher and he's going to jail. I think the archetypical last line of the news article is telling: "School officials declined to comment."

I don't know — the news article describes the kid as a troublemaker and a miscreant, although we don't get his side of the story — and I think if I knew him, I'd hope he died and burn in hell, but the undue abuse of power really bugs me. Especially with the school's tacit goal of conformity; if the teacher can't indoctrinate the kid with books and lectures, they'll indoctrinate him through jail. And they'll fail, because what these so called educators with their teaching certifications and Ph.D's and Ed.D's don't understand is that kids — well, anybody, really — mouths off because they're angry over the destruction of their personal agency.

Damn, I should be a school principal. Griping about those bastards in the blog just isn't satisfying.

Okay, in another news story, it's that beatification time of the year again! In case you skipped Sunday school, beatification is granted by the Pope as the last step on one's road to sainthood, and you're going to Hell. This year's candidates include two anti-Semites who seem to have gotten Jesus's message of love just a little bit garbled. (Okay, in all fairness, Pope John XXIII is also getting beatified, although I think his soul should be rather mortified being honored in the same ceremony as that bitch nun whose writings were Mel Gibson's inspiration for "The Passion.") I guess I wasn't really expecting any great moral proclamations from an organization that passes child molesters from parish to parish like a gangsta ho. But I am expecting some sort of Catholic outrage from the true followers of Christ's message as opposed to those following the traditions of a church gone astray and power-mad.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Mom went to the doctor a few days ago and found out that she, like the rest of America, has high cholesterol. I'm not sure if she actually has high cholesterol, or if she has average cholesterol that only looks high thanks to new federal guidelines (that I can't find a link to) recommending that cholesterol levels previously thought healthy aren't so. Either way, Mom's freaking.

Making matters worse, over the past few weeks, my jeans have been telling me that I'm getting a bit tubby. I've gained twenty or so pounds in the last year; my doctor told me, "It's all muscle," but I couldn't tell whether he was joking or not.

Now, there's an easy solution to all these health concerns and its name is Lipitor. But for Mom, getting loaded on high-cholesterol medicine isn't gonna happen. Instead, she insists on making, ugh, dietary changes. In other words, if it's not low-fat, low-sodium, low-carb — if it's not healthy, it's not coming in our house and it's not going in her mouth.

Only one problem: this is America, where nothing is healthy. First, Mom cut back on red meat — she now feels guilty, for example, buying me roast beef. And pasta's out 'cause it's too high in carbohydrates. Ditto with pretty much all bread products, or actually, all grains (except rice for some reason). Basically, nothing in our house is any longer edible, so I asked Mom, "What do we eat?"

Mom: Vegetables.

Eeewww. Plant matter. Besides, you can't eat vegetables either; they're full of pesticides. And fish, which contains the "good" cholesterol, also contains high levels of mercury. Chicken has salmonella, you get trichinosis from pork, and veal is just plain evil. In short, there's only one ultra-innocuous thing left in the world that you can eat without worrying that it'll kill you: tofu.

Friday, October 8, 2004

Another Case of Me Taking a Fortune Cookie Way Too Literally

I got a fortune cookie today that says: "Nothing in the world is accomplished without passion. Lucky Numbers 12, 18, 19, 33, 36, 38." That's bullshit. Like, for instance, I just farted, and I accomplished that without any passion whatsoever. Or taking a math test, or doing my laundry, or taking calls in this godforsaken security office — complete mechanical perfunctory bullshit. Take that, fortune cookie!

"Sometimes if you do the job badly enough, you don't get asked to do it again." —Bill Watterson

I'm sitting behind the security desk at Theatre Row, which has got to be my third least favorite place in the world to sit. (The first two are the dentist's chair and next to a fat, sweaty guy on the subway.) The problem is that the security is more chock full of mindless beeping blinking gizmos than a 1950's science fiction lab, and I can't figure out any of them. First off, there's this intercom system that not only sounds like it's from the fifties but looks the part, too. When it beeps, I've gotta push the button above the blinking light, then push the black button to the left of the blinking light, and then push the buzzer for the studio, theatre, or hallway door depending on which light is blinking. This unlocks the appropriate door about ninety percent of time, meaning that ten percent of the time, I look like a complete dunderhead who can't push a button, like it's my damn fault that this ancient obscure door-opening system isn't working.

And there's an elevator that dings every now and then, which wouldn't be so bad except that I'm hyper-aware of all manner of alert noises. I've gotta jump up in my seat every time the bell goes off — Quick, what am I supposed to do?! Oh, nothing, the elevator's smart enough to handle itself. Not like this lame-ass intercom.

But the absolute goddamn worst is this frickin' mutant uber-telephone they've got sitting here. It's like the fucking phone from hell. First of all, it's got like ninety buttons, which to be honest, is seventy-eight more than a phone really needs. And everybody in the office acts like it's the simplest thing in the world: Okay, to transfer a call, let's say a call is coming in on line three, now you don't put them on hold, you push transfer and then the extension, it's 204 for Adam and 206 for Peter, 222 for the box office, but they don't like talking to people. Now, for the voice mail, that's a bit more complicated, you've gotta dial pound-407 then the extension then pound again. Now, you can use a computer, so I'm sure you can figure out the phone.

Okay, let's first forget about the plain and simple fact that I have absolutely no idea what's going on at this theatre — out of eight phone calls so far and three in-person visitors, I was only helpful with one: "where are you located". And let's forget about the fact that I have no phone manner whatsoever, I despise the telephone like most people despise skunk musk. I hate the ettiquite of the phone, I hate not being able to see whoever I'm talking to, I hate not knowing who I'm talking to. Well, if you forget all that stuff, then I guess I'm fine back here behind the security desk, cause those are my only gripes with the position.

This is what the psychologists call classical conditioning, learning to fear the beep of an odd corporatized giant telephone. Pretty soon, I'll run away and hide under the sink whenever anything beeps: the microwave oven, a contestant buzzing in on Jeopardy!.... what a way to live.

Or I suppose I could look at this as an opportunity to improve my phone skills. Hah! I'm funny!

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

A Completely Impartial Review of the TECHXNY Convention at the Javits Center

Instead of going to work yesterday, I went to what I thought was a technology trade show at the Javits Center. I was invited by one of these IT recruiting companies that most likely has no idea what sort of employee they'd get in me. Now, I have to say that, despite being a technophile, I was hesitant about going at first: I assumed I'd be the only guy there who (a) wasn't wearing a tie and (b) looked like he was sixteen. I was only half right.

So I went to the convention center and got this sweet-ass I.D. badge on a string so I'd fit right in. And I have to say that I never could've imagined a technology convention being so damn BORRRRRING!!! Display after display of routers and bridges, LAN and WAN setups, backup storage... where're the latest iPods, the X-Boxes and Playstations, anything remotely interesting? Okay, to be honest, I never took a very close look, since I spent most of my wandering through the techno-geek jungle worrying that if I made eye contact with a nerd, he'd try to sell me something. But, to be honest, the best part of the convention was the discount book sale, even if I couldn't find any discount books that I wanted.

Still, I'm glad I went, because this way I can avoid the damn thing next year and not feel like I missed out on anything. Really, my only regret was not walking out of the convention center with armloads of free stuff.

Monday, October 4, 2004

Maybe Mom's Adopted

"Everyone has an uncle who's an amateur magician." — Fox Mulder

I went out to dinner last night with my more popular extended family, my mom's cousins who moved out west to Arizona before I was born. They — my nuclear family and extended family — were really close when they all lived in the same three-family house on Springfield Avenue in Newark; they're still relatively close, just not physically. Fact is, the only times they bother taking a trip up to New Jersey is when some cousin dies (which happens not infrequently given that a good eighty percent of the family is well into their geriatric years) or when some cousin gets married. In this case, it was for my cousin Jennifer's wedding, to which I wasn't invited and I'm not quite sure how to feel about that.

Since weddings get planned more in advance than funerals do, the nuclear family knew about the Arizona relatives' upcoming coming, and it was Dad's idea to get together with them in New York to celebrate my graduation very, very belatedly. Before I go on, I should say: everyone has an uncle who's an amateur magician, and my uncle Peter is mine. Actually, he's an amateur hypnotist, but same difference — he's a loud, gregarious, irritating attention-hog. So is his wife, who teaches physical education down in the desert, and their three grown kids, providing more inconclusive evidence in the nature-versus-nurture debate. But I figured I should be a good sport about it, I'd get some decent free food, and, as bitchy as I'm being right now, I really do want to get to know the extended family better.

Okay, that last one's not true. In the spirit of schadenfreude that envelops me, I really want the rest of the family to be estranged and alienated from each other as I am from them. But that goal becomes easier and easier the closer I am to the family. Anyway, Mom and Dad told me that it would just be Peter and his wife, Vicky, coming to this little shindig, and I figured that it couldn't be that bad especially since I made Dad promise myriad times that he'd be on his best behavior. (Last May, we had a graduation dinner with the people who, for twenty-two years, I believed were my last remaining relatives in central New Jersey. It couldn't have possibly been more embarrassing. There was a miscommunication, and Mom made reservations at a restaurant Dad didn't like, so he turned surly and aloof for the whole meal. Then Mom, with her infinite lack of compassion, kept on goading him to feel better and intruding upon his reserve, which just made him angrier.)

Now, what I didn't realize about Peter and Vicky was that... remember when you were in high school, your parents were out of town, and you threw a party for some friends? Me either. Cause that never happened. But if your parents weren't quite as omnipresent as mine, you probably had this one friend who you told about the party and then (s)he told fifty-eight other people and suddenly there were strangers and junkies and ex-cons at your party. Well, Peter is that one friend. Peter told his daughters Gina and Donna, who were supposed to fly back west right after the wedding. Gina and Donna brought the guys they fuck at night, as well as their cousin Stacy, the dancer. Stacy brought her parents Joanne and Eddie, who I'd never seen before in my life. And Donna called some dude Sammy from Brooklyn, who brought Trisha along, all to celebrate my fucking graduation!!! 'Cept it was really all about the extended family getting together and leaving me out, as usual. I hope they die.

Fine, that's harsh. It's simply frustrating being in this group of people with whom you're fundamentally incompatible.

Also, we didn't get to eat where I wanted to eat. Dad insisted on making a shitload of arbitrary rules when it came to choosing the restaurant where we were celebrating my graduation, all designed to rule out every restaurant in New York City with the except of Dad's favorite hangout, an Italian place two blocks from Columbia called Cafe Pertutti, where there's nothing on the menu that I eat. It had to be an Italian place, cause the Arizona relatives are uncomfortable around sushi (as if pasta and raw fish are the only edible things on the planet); Brooklyn was too far out of the way (but no more than Morningside Heights); they had to have round tables so all fifteen of us could talk to each other. Of course, this is all coming from a guy who insists that we never park his car in a parking lot, so you'd think that sooner or later, we'd get used to this anal behavior.

He didn't get his way on the round table thing, I'm seated at one end of the table, awkwardly sandwiched between Mom and Dad. Naturally, the conversation turns to how great the wedding was — the wedding to which I wasn't invited — and how the caterers were fattening up the guests to sacrifice them to the bride and groom. No, I'm just kidding. Ha ha. There was lots of food, that's the point. And lots to drink. And apparently Mom was doing shots. Off some co-ed's stomach. No, I'm just kidding again. Ha ha. Mom doing shots is disturbing enough. Seriously: I've never done shots, and thanks to these crazy frat-boy Arizona relatives, Mom is subsuming the identity that I'm too timid to have. Bitch!

And I'm sure there's more than a little resentment hanging around from the fact that I'm unwillingly estranged from all these folk. Like I said, I used to think I had exactly two relatives living within driving distance; turns out there's an entire additional branch of the family — the Jennifer branch — living about half an hour away. But from my point of view, they might as well live in Singapore — with all the e-mail and phones and horseless carraiges we've got nowadays, I know absolutely nothing about these people other than the fact that they ask about me on the blue moons when they see my mom.

You know what, fuck it. I give up. From this moment on, I officially repudiate my extended family, my cousins, my aunts, my uncles, everybody once, twice, and thrice removed. Screw you all.

I find moments like this liberating. Now I need to get rich so I can leave them all out of my will. :)

Sunday, October 3, 2004

Happy Fanny Wood Day!

October 3 is officially Fanny Wood Day, which commemorates my hometown, Fanwood, NJ, as well as its unfortunately-named founder. We celebrate Fanny Wood Day with a street fair in the middle of town. There's a classic car show in the train station parking lot, the Little Miss Fanny Wood pageant, and, of all dumb things, a beard-growing contest. Of course, it's the best — or only — thing happening in town, so I was planning on checking it out, but today's the day of the big Medieval Fair at the Cloisters.

Halloween came early for this older couple.The pitch: "Okay, this is gonna sound strange, but there's this medieval festival at the Cloisters this Sunday. I'm not even all that interested in medieval stuff, but for some reason, I feel like I should go to at least one Renaissance fair before I die." Erica could not have been more thrilled at the idea — all the excitement I was stifling so I wouldn't be judged, she let flow effusively. Good for her. I mean, we took the subway up to Fort Tyron Park and we hadn't even made it past the entrance before Erica's suggesting that I get my picture taken with three bawdy wenches (read: chicks dressed like extras from a Robin Hood movie) soliciting donations for the Renfest. It takes me a while to warm to things, so I said I'd do it on the way out.

The medieval festival was amusing (and free) enough that I'd go again next year, if only to hit on bawdy wenches, but it was really more of a combination street fair/limited Halloween than a Busch Gardens recreation of dark ages Europe. Which I found a bit disappointing, especially since they already had the castle right there. And it's like the only genuine medieval castle in the Western hemisphere, so if you can't have a good Renfest at the Cloisters, where can you have it? The crowd included time-travelling tourists like Erica and myself, die hard Society for Creative Anachronism guys in full armor and corsets and Lion in Winter regalia, kids dressed up as Cinderella and Disney's Snow White (God, don't you hate how the Renaissance festival is getting more and more commercialized every year???), Dungeons and Dragons freaks, and the occasional moron who's dressed as, say, a goblin or Jason Voorhees and clearly isn't quite getting the concept. I'm sure that for a lot of the young and young-at-heart (read: vapid adults), it was just a fun costume party, but I actually felt kind of bad for the real die hards, the ones who feel like they were born eight or nine centuries too late. I mean, they get one day of the year when they're in their element, eating giant turkey drumsticks off the bone and rocking out to plainsong and motets. Then tomorrow, they'll go back to work in the office, there'll be a traffic jam, their computer will crash.... I mean, if the little anachronisms, the guys wearing devil horns and girls wearing butterfly wings, the five-dollar beer served in plastic mugs bothers me, imagine how much worse it is for those folks.

One of many irritating weirdos at the medieval festival.I told Erica that I could imagine myself in the role of Official Fair Pedant, engaging the festival cast in discussions on Charlemagne — "I believe civil war to be an inevitable consequence of the Holy Roman Empire tripartite division" — or the Revolt of 1178 or this new metallurgy the alchemists are working on, and generally pointing out all the inconsistencies in the festival. "Way to kill the spirit," Erica told me.

So, we went from tent to tent, window shopping for medieval-like wares at twenty-first century prices. (Seriously, what did we expect? Everything there, from the costumes to the soap to the finger puppets, was handmade. The soap with a fake plastic bug inside was straight from the factory, however. "Who would ever buy that?" Erica asked presciently as the ten-year-old knave selling that crap was right behind her.) Like I said, I have absolutely no interest in medieval stuff, and I don't think I own a damn thing that wasn't made by a machine in Taiwan or Indonesia, so it was easy for me to keep my money. Erica had more of a struggle on her hands, but in the end, I made it out with my wallet no worse for the wear and Erica only donated a dollar to the festival wishing well (it was more of a wishing grate) and a dollar to the Cloisters. Otherwise, we're going from tent to tent and Erica's looking at all the clothes and jewelry, suggesting I buy a pirate shirt for thirty-five dollars and picturing herself in one of those medieval dresses. (She wants to volunteer next year so she can wear a medieval dress for the day....) I might not know much about fashion, but I have seen Seinfeld and I know pirate shirts are a definite fashion don't. Whatever. I understand that when you go places with the fairer sex, you have to have patience and put up with things like this.

We made it to the Cloisters and checked the place out — it's still full of medieval art, in case you were wondering. We sort of got trapped with the Merode Alterpiece when some college art history class came in and crowded around us and the professor started lecturing. In case you want to know how ignorant the people in Columbia's Art Hum courses are, here are snippets of conversation you'll never hear in an Art Hum class. The form of Mary's body on the bench depicts her in her role as the Throne of Solomon. And: The laver [that's the basin in the background — I had to look it up too] has a dual symbolic meaning, representing both the purity of the Virgin Mary and foreshadowing Jesus's crucifixion. I felt like a moron. A moron who spent $140,000 on an education. I did know the mousetrap reference, though.

A jousting guy, Sir Angus Culdahay (ostensibly) of Scotland, and his truculent horseThere was a joust, during which I learned important things about medieval times, most notably that every little thing had to be preceded by an interminable speech that no one could hear. Also, I learned that parents can be extremely pushy trying to get their little brats up to the front row, as if their kids are the only people there who want to see the action. Anyway, from what I could gather, the guy pictured to the right is Sir Angus Culdahay of Scotland, and his opponent was some English knight-for-a-day. The bugler bugled (off-key... I mean, really, painfully off-key... I made an off-handed remark to Erica about it and some guy in front of me shot me a dirty look) and they were off.... galloping to the end of the field and stopping, doing nothing. And the crowd cheered, sort of. I think they were cheering for William Wallace there and booing the English guy, but I didn't join in. I figure that the English already have enough of an inferiority complex without me jeering them. The first event was catch-a-ring-on-your-lance, which the English guy won because Sir Angus's horse refused to move.

Then there was an actual joust, which was the most disappointing thing I witnessed at the fair. It was like a comical, Monty Python joust. Both knights rode toward each other and clanked swords. Clink. Clang. Clink. Every now and then, Sir Angus's truculent horse would decide he wasn't really into it, and he'd just carry Angus away from the fight. Then the English guy would run up to Angus and clink, ding. Eventually, the English guy made Angus drop his sword, so Angus anticlimactically pushed the English guy off his horse. The crowd cheered. I was hot.

So we left. Erica remembered about getting an incriminating bawdy-wench picture of me, but somewhere between being ten feet from the exit and zero feet from the exit, she forgot about it. I didn't remind her. I was half-disappointed and half-relieved. Well, maybe 45% disappointed, 55% relieved.

All in all, it was the best medieval fair ever. Well, at least it beat Fanny Wood Day.

It occurs to me that in my twelve years under the tutelage of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District, no one once complained about my use of the split infinitive. I feel that my English teachers ought to (boldly!) be commended* for their reasonableness and not getting all up in my grill over a "pointless affectation of usage." I only wish the high school administration were so enlightened when it comes to wearing hats on the premises.

*Actually, I don't. I honestly believe that people, English teachers included, should behave reasonably just as the sun should rise every morning. But it turns out that people are a lot more likely to do the right thing if you heap praise on them for doing so. So kudos to the English teachers.

Saturday, October 2, 2004

I approach the Kohl's at Blue Star Shopping Center in (I think) Watchung with a sense of dread; there's always the possibility of running into someone I know there. Mom says I need more underwear — I guess she's as afraid of bleach as I am — and I'm at Kohl's for two reasons: (1) I doubt I'll see anyone I know there and (2) if I do, they'll be as humbled by the ghettoness of the store as I'll be. Now, if you're not familiar with the Kohl's chain because you live in an area saturated with Wal-Marts or Targets or Century 21's, it's the store for rednecks deluded into thinking that K-Mart is beneath them. It's where you get 12-karat silver jewelry, autumn placemats shaped like cornucopias, and, now that Christmastime is coming around, a Santa Face Wall Plaque for only $8.99. Because there's no better way to celebrate the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ than by saving 25% on ugly kitsch.

So, I'm waiting on line with my underwear-by-the-pound and I'm just amazed by all the tourist-trap white-trash crap people are actually paying good money for. I mean, I could understand buying say, an off-white yarn tablecloth if it actually looked good. But nothing at Kohl's looks good (least of all, the customers). Now I don't have the world's best sense of style, but I just can't imagine the mind-fuck decor these people have to be living in day in and day out.

Which reminds me, why the hell are people still undecided about the election? I think it's about time we round up the undecided voters and beat some sense into them.... Maybe we should start shaming people into voting for Kerry. I could sport a bumper sticker that says "Serial arsonists for Bush" or "My eldest son satisfied Dick Cheney's voracious appetite" or my personal favorite: "Pussies for Bush!" I mean, that one's good even once the election's over.