Thursday, December 29, 2011

Of "Big Boned" Cats, "Happy Endings," and Vogon Poetry

Seymour, indicating how big his butt USED to be...
For the past few months, our cats, Francis and Seymour, have been on a diet. They are not pleased about this development, to say the least. And, believe me— it’s been even less pleasant for their owners. According to the vet, at 20++ pounds, both cats have “an acute weight problem.” I think they’re just “big-boned,” but apparently Fat Acceptance is not so much a thing in the veterinary community, as I've discussed previously
Back in September, the vet put the cats on a serious weight reduction (a.k.a. “money reduction”) diet. Unless we’re bad people who want our cats to die a horrible death in the near future, she suggests, we have to give them a reduced-calorie cat food that, for some reason, is mostly made of rabbit meat. We get this at a local "vintage shop/pet grocery" called Happy Endings. (Despite the misleading name, they do NOT offer organic cat food “with release.”)

If you’ve never put a fat housecat on a diet, it’s exactly as much fun as you would think. The cats meow in long, sinewy wails that seem to channel all the pathos in the world. It’s like listening to Vogon poetry. In the morning, they get all gangsta on me. Around 7 AM, they start batting my head with their paws, as if to say, "Wake up, Bee-atch!" If this doesn’t work, they start knocking things over until I wake up and feed them. A cat on a diet is a lot like a junkie who’s been forced to go cold turkey. Even without the diet, owning cats is a lot like living with furry little drug addicts. They lie around on the couch all day. They throw up all over the place. They flip out over laser lights, and they never manage to make rent.
Francis (the one on the left), Dec. 2011. Alas, this is the "AFTER" photo.
On the upside, I’m pleased to note that, since September, Francis and Seymour have each lost nearly FIVE POUNDS! Considering most women in America want to lose five pounds, and they are generally much larger than housecats, this is quite an accomplishment. On the downside, they’re now svelte enough that they can actually jump up on the kitchen counters, which they were too “big-boned” to do before. They use this as a weapon, knocking stuff off the counters until I relent, and feed them.

Sometimes I wake up to find Seymour standing, ominously, just over my head. He lightly rests his paw on my forehead. “I will cut you,” he seems to be saying. “Just give me the stuff. If you love me, you know you will.” So I get up, and reward his bad behavior with some ridiculously expensive cat food that is undoubtedly sold under a different label at Dean & Deluca, where they call it pâté.

My problem is that I have a hard time saying “no.” This is one reason I think I would be an extraordinarily bad parent. While an inability to say no can be very helpful when it comes to conceiving children, it’s not such a good thing when it comes to raising them. Heck, if I had kids, I’d probably just let them eat all the cat food they wanted. Their veterinarian undoubtedly would not approve. Not one bit.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Want to know where, when, and in what positions people around you have recently had sex—say, before you sit on that park bench with the questionable stain on it?

Now, there’s an app for that, called (cue the Barry White soundtrack) , “I Just Made Love.”

This Android/iPhone software uses GPS technology to pinpoint the location of people (read: 14-year-old virgins) who feel the need to anonymously brag (read:  lie) about the fact that they’ve just nailed some…ahem, “made luuuuurv.”  Like its parent website, this app exists at the strange intersection of Victorian prudishness and (Too Much) Information Age prurience.  Take the name, for instance. If you’re old enough to say “made love” instead of “had sex,” you’re far too old to be using this app (i.e., over 17). They’d might as well call it “I Just Had Relations” or “I Just Knew Someone Biblically, If You Know What I Mean.”

According to, the site has recorded more than 200,000 (non-verifiable) sex acts. Based on IJML’s world map, the most active users by far are in Eastern Europe—mostly in Poland, for some reason. The site doesn’t offer statistics on the male vs. female posting ratios, but in my (admittedly unscientific) research, the vast majority of posts were by people who identify themselves as straight men (I know, shocking, right?!). Since more detailed demographic data wasn’t available, I created a Venn Diagram to illustrate who we all assume is using this technology:

To test out the user experience, I went onto the website and made the post below.

To decode the symbols: you can tell that I am a) female (pink icon), b) had sex in multiple positions with both two men, and—in an icon that looks like a nuclear waste hazard warning— I also had zero-gravity sex with two other women! The pink house icon means “in a hotel,” and the wee condom means exactly what you think. The opened padlock means… OMG, you guys! It was MY FIRST TIME EVER!!  ( NOTE: no actual goats were harmed or molested in the making of this anecdote.)
As far as I can tell, my, like, totally true declarations went entirely unnoticed by most other humans. It was an experience not unlike publishing poetry.

My problem with this app isn’t that it’s tasteless and depraved, or that it gives too much information. Rather, it’s not tasteless enough. For this to have any point, we'd need more deets. What kind of boat are you on? A kayak? A sailboat? Underneath the all-u-can-eat shrimp buffet on a Carnival cruise ship? Under “Indoors,” why not add a drop-down menu to include, “In the Bathroom at Friendly’s,” “On my Roommate’s Futon,” etc.  Likewise, for those rocking the backseat of a car, give them the option to up the ante to “On a Fire Truck,” or, Outdoors: “On the Back of a Unicorn” (hey, as long as we’re making shit up…).

Unless the punchline is always, “at your house, with your mama”—I totally fail to see the point of this technology. And I say this as someone who regularly horrifies those around her by soliciting and/or offering far too much information about sex.

Looking at all those isolated points on a graph, they seem to form a strange cartography of loneliness. We don’t know what any of these people look like, or how old they are, or under what circumstances they ended up fucking someone in a kayak, in the middle of a day, in a land-locked corner of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Now, that’s the story I want—not a visual of stick figures simulating sex acts. The stick-figures, in this context, become the symbols—harbingers, if you will—of a world with far too much information, and far too little meaning.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Surly Throw Pillows, and other Ill-Advised Gifts

When a simple "I Want to Break Up With You" just isn't enough...
I surreptitiously snapped this photo at my Local Purveyor of Surly Throw Pillows. Just in case you need a last-minute Gift That Will Make Someone Break Up With You Immediately (may I also suggest a copy of Personal Hygiene For Dummies?), this pillow can be found at a place called NuBe on Pine Street in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. All their stuff is made out of “re-purposed materials” (also known as “trash”). But, seriously, it’s a cool place, and I bought some Xmas presents there. The only downside is the prices are a bit steep. For instance, a purse made out of old car tires or whatever seems to be more expensive than a purse made out of a brand new car. 

As for the pillow pictured above ($103—no, seriously; that’s what it costs), I’m not sure how I feel about my home textiles getting all up in my business about my exercising habits.

Here's how I'm afraid things would go:

PILLOW: Go to the gym, you lazy fuck!
ME: Why don’t you?  You’re pretty soft around the middle, you know.
PILLOW: Go to the gym.
ME: Why, so you can invite over that slutty Tempur-Pedic pillow for some “pillow talk”?
PILLOW: Go to they gym!
ME:  Going to the gym sucks. If you ever got up off the couch, you might realize that. Besides, I’d rather stay home with you. We could kick back, order a pizza, maybe watch some TNG on Netflix…
ME:  You know, Pillow, I feel like you’re not even meeting me halfway in this relationship.
ME:  That’s what I’m talking about. Every time I bring up our relationship, you change the subject.
ME: That’s it. I’m leaving. But I’m NOT going to the gym. Why? Because I don’t want to give you the satisfaction!

Excerpted from Scenes from a Relationship With a $103 (+tax) Throw Pillow.
Original Broadway cast (Barrymore Theater): Parker Posey as Me, and Jonah Hill as The Pillow.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Best Pickles

I am resisting the urge to make any number of very obvious jokes...
Today’s unsolicited plug is for Paul and Morgan’s new podcast, The Best Pickles, all about their lives and loves “at the bottom of the barrel” of the music industry. The superlative comes into play, “because the best pickles are the ones at the bottom of the barrel.”

The podcast is a lot of fun. I especially love the “best pickles” concept. This is in part because I really enjoy deli sandwiches that come with a dill spear, and I’m a bit hungry right now. Also, I tend to like phallic-shaped foods better than all other kinds. But more to the point, there’s something liberating about the thought of those lonely, well-marinated pickles at the bottom of the barrel. The image is sure to resonate with anyone who’s ever poured untold amounts of time, effort, and/or money into an interest or passion that, at least in any tangible sense, may never pay off.

While I've never been in the music barrel, I, too, have been that fuckin' pickle (a sentence that could have a tragically different meaning if you switched only two of those words...). I've spent time at the bottom of the Mason jars of dance, writing, and cat ownership, among myriad other ill-advised pursuits.

Music in particular is a harsh mistress. She expects you to give up several evenings a week, including Friday and Saturday nights, to be with her. She always needs you to buy her a lot of expensive crap that you can neither eat nor wear. And, worst of all, she won’t even have sex with you.
This is what some bands make me want to do...
Having lived in New York, Gainesville (FL), and Seattle—all towns known for their music scenes—I’ve been to a LOT of live “rock & roll” shows. Many suck. But what never ceases to amaze me is how many truly incredible and talented Promising Local Bands and musicians are out there. For instance, I’ve really enjoyed all the bands that Paul and Morgan have been in (OMG, plugz!! Check out Kids on Fire and Steel Tigers of Death, a.k.a., the STDs!!). In Seattle alone, there are quite a few other local bands that I absolutely love, such as Bat Country, which has great songs and features an accordion (sorry, guys, but everything is better with an accordion—flashbacks in movies, Paris subways, Reuben sandwiches, you name it). Why all of. these folks aren’t super famous—whether or not that's their goal—is as much of a mystery to me as why Justin Bieber is. Maybe it’s the haircut?

Of course, I have absolutely zero musical talent (and don’t aspire to change this state of affairs), so maybe I’m just easily impressed. But I don’t think so. I know what I like, and what I don’t. Listening to some music makes me wish I were a cat, just so that I could flatten my ears against my head and hiss, and then use the musician’s guitar/piano/violin case as a litterbox.

There must be some mystical and mysterious algorithm that explains the success of any given musician or band (despite the fact that, in many cases, they suck donkey balls). It has to do with luck + talent + timing, multiplied by an imaginary number and raised to the power of God Loves Justin Bieber Just a Little Bit More Than He Loves You.

In some ways, those of us who have been the Bottom Pickles are the ones who understand [insert art form] the most intimately. When you do something for years and years without any resulting fame, success, or monetary reward, you come to understand/love/hate that thing with a depth of passion that is normally reserved for our closest relatives.

There’s a not-so-fine line between dedication and masochism. In fact, you might even say there’s an entire zip code. It’s easy to spend your whole life in this place. The question is, is that such a bad thing? I used to think so, but now I really don’t. Take me, for instance. Despite my best efforts—and against the recommendation of any number of psychiatrists, veterinarians, and Russian ballet teachers—it’s unlikely that I’m going to stop dancing, or writing, or owning cats and unwittingly over-feeding them. C’est la vie.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Monroe Ficus and the Case of the Morbidly Obese Jello-Rapists

Once upon a time, in the mid-1980s—the Golden Age of the Very Special Episode—a television event took place that scarred a generation of young people. The show was Too Close for Comfort, and the episode was (inexplicably) called, “For Every Man, There's Two Women.” In it, a character called Monroe Ficus (Jm J. Bullock) was raped in a tub of Jell-o by two morbidly obese women. At this point, I should emphasize that I AM NOT JOKING. This actually happened.

For years, this episode existed only in the dim, mostly-suppressed memories of the children and coke fiends who made up the core viewing audience of the show (if you were neither a small child nor a drug addict at the time, you had no excuse for tuning in). Recently, this episode became available on You Tube, eliciting crazed shouts of, “See?!  I told you I wasn’t making that up!” all across this great nation. (Trigger Alert: The content may bring up disturbing memories of repressed traumatic events, such as previously watching this episode.) 

The episode left Little Me with a lot of questions. First and foremost, what’s up with Jm J. Bullock? Why doesn’t he have an “i” in his first name? What does he have against the letter “i”?  Did the vowel also attempt to fondle him in his swimsuit area?  Or is he on some sports team, and he wanted to prove how selfless he was by shouting, “There’s no “I” in Jm J. Bullock!”? But I digress.

Too Close for Comfort is one of those shows that make you hope to God that ours is the only so-called intelligent life form (granted, an ironic term in this context) in the universe. Aliens watching this show would have to conclude—like Little Me—that a tub full of Jell-o (“or tapioca, or shredded wheat,” as a police detective states in the episode) is somehow integral to adult human sexuality. They’ll also assume that one of the main problems facing humanity in 1985 was the scourge of morbidly obese women raping self-described gay icons in tubs of Jell-o. (Good thing we didn’t have any nuclear proliferation, or homophobia, or racism … or even rampant cocaine use among sitcom writers!)
Back in the '80s, this was the tub filling of choice for all those
Women's Libbers who went around raping  self-described gay icons..
In case you were lucky enough to miss the long national nightmare that was Too Close For Comfort, here’s the upshot: Ted Knight played a cartoonist named Henry who lived in a phat rowhouse in San Francisco, back in the days when people who aren’t Mark Zuckerberg could actually live in phat rowhouses in San Francisco. For some reason, his smokin’ hot adult daughters had to move back in with him, his wife, and their young son. Most of the plots centered around Henry’s attempts to keep said adult daughters from having sex. Hilarity, and undoubtedly a lot of battery use on the part of the adult daughters, ensued.

The family’s upstairs tenant was the aforementioned Jell-o-rapee, Monroe Ficus. Even if you watched this when you were too young to what gay is, it was pretty obvious that Monroe was gay. This will be immediately apparent even to the Alpha Centaurians who may end up watching this show in a thousand years.  But for some reason, this was never overtly stated, or even hinted at. (Yes… in the 80s, you could have a character who’s a single man who never has a girlfriend and who  lives in San Francisco, and you weren’t supposed to assume he might—just might!—be gay.)  I only mention this lest you think the show was in any way progressive for having a gay character, way back in the homophobic mid-80s. It was not. In fact, Too Closeted For Comfort might’ve been a better name for the whole show.

In the episode in question, Monroe comes home one morning, after being gone all night. Disheveled and ragged, he reports that two massively large women grabbed him in the parking lot of a shopping mall, blindfolded him, and threw him in a van.

“The Big One sat on me, while the Little One drove,” Monroe reports. The women took him back to their apartment, where they “had their way” with him. For some reason, this took place in a tub full of Jell-o.

This is followed by an uncomfortable family debate, in which the actors seem as confused as the audience. Henry insists that his wife and daughters “have a double standard,” because they question the seriousness of the crime relative to man-on-woman rape, in addition the questioning the logistics of how a woman can rape a man (you know, because we kids weren’t confused enough about what was going on). But let’s put that aside for a moment.

Although Monroe was blindfolded while in the van, Henry encourages him to try to remember the route they took based on the number and direction of the turns (because, you know, that would totally work). Monroe lies down on the kitchen table, which somehow allows him to access some magical, retroactive internal GPS (gaydar?) to suss out the location of the women’s apartment. Pinpointing the address on a map, Monroe and Henry rush off to confront the zaftig female Jell-o rapists.

When they get to the apartment, a 500+ pound middle-aged woman in a mumu throws open the door. It’s time for Monroe’s big laugh line. (Wait for it…)  “It’s the little one!” (You know, ‘cause she’s super fat, get it?!)

At that point, Monroe runs away, literally shrieking. The Little One then pulls Henry into the room with ravenous, lustful gesture, the way most women do when random white-haired cartoonists appear at  their doorstep. When Henry attempts to flee, the Little One physically blocks the door. “Heat up the Jell-o!” she yells out, to her (offstage) partner-in-crime.
As a child, I knew next to nothing about the potential sexual and/or BDSM uses of Jell-o (thankfully, I still don’t). But I did know a little something about the physics of Jell-o. When you heat it up, it ceases to be Jell-o. It turns to liquid.  But, whatever.

By the end of the episode, we have a brief, glimmering moment when it seems like the whole thing will be explained when Monroe tells Henry, “I learned a very valuable lesson.” (No, seriously. He actually says that.)

We all sat up. Leaned forward. Tell us, Monroe! Tell us what you learned!  You learned that it’s really creepy to make light of sexual assault? You learned the writers of this show need to go into rehab? You learned that the letter “i” doesn’t really want to kill you and eat you?

“I learned,” Monroe says, turning to Henry, “that, if anything else ever goes wrong in my life, you’ll be there for me.”

In the 80s, the abbreviation “WTF?”  wasn’t yet in common usage, but that was nonetheless exactly what we all wanted to text to all our friends on our nonexistent cell phones. At the last minute, the whole train wreck of a storyline was reframed as a “buddy plot.” WTF??
My theory about this episode? This was a time when the women’s movement was slowly making some inroads.  This plot reflected a latent cultural anxiety about women’s equality.  “If we let women have equal rights,” the plot seems to caution, “before you know it, they’ll be raping self-described gay icons right and left!”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way condoning sexual violence against men. With or without Jell-o, it’s a serious, awful crime and should be treated as such. Nor do I think the subject is great fodder for comedy. (Remember—I’m not the one who wrote this episode!) Strangely, by the end of the episode, Monroe seems to be thoroughly un-traumatized by this experience, as if to diminish the weight of the crime.
Sadly, all of us who tuned in were not so lucky.  It was a little bit like America was touched inappropriately, but, like Monroe Ficus, we just didn’t want to talk about it afterwards.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Seattle Fun Fact #69!

In no particular order, #69 in  the files of Things You Never Asked Me to Tell You About Seattle (and would probably rather not know...)

You’re probably going to see a lot of your friends naked. Not necessarily because you’re having sex with them, but because it’s not uncommon for people to have one or more hobbies that involve gratuitous nudity. If you ask me, this is pretty cool, and almost (almost!) compensates for the unfortunate rain situation. In their free time, Seattleites do things like burlesque (i.e., stripping, but with much better costumes…and irony!). Or they're in "clothing optional" baton-twirling troupes, or they host parties with themes like, “Come Dressed As Your Favorite Naked Person!”
In a similar vein, non-monogamy is sort of a thing. If you’re married and you also mention your boyfriend, girlfriend, and/or 24/7 sex slave, nobody will bat an eye. Don’t be surprised if you go to a party and you meet someone who describes himself as a “bi, poly, kinky switch who’s really into horse-play.”  When you first arrive in Seattle, you may not know what that means. Don’t worry. You will. Whether you want to or not, you will.
Seattle is where a chicken can live out his dream of becoming a Cher impersonator...
Tangentially, you may even find yourself wondering, as I have, what you should wear when going with a friend to deliver a live chicken to a gender-queer BDSM sex  farm (HINT: floral, brightly-colored kilts are a bad choice). (NOTE: no chickens were harmed in the making of this anecdote. The chicken in question was actually being saved from death, because he was a gender-queer hen who turned out to be a rooster, and thus wasn’t allowed to live within City limits).

Which brings me to Thing #32 About Seattle: Everyone has chickens.. I hear the "urban chicken" thing is even worse in Portland.  My next-door neighbors have about eight of them. Really.  Who needs that many chickens?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thing #37 You Should Know, But Never Asked Me to Tell You About Seattle

Because I'm lazy, I've decided to serialize my lists of Things I've Learned About Seattle. In no particular order, here is #37...

Everyone is covered in tattoos ... and I mean covered. I have nothing against tattoos, or anyone who has lots and lots of them. It's just that this is something that jumps out at a lot of people who come here from other places. On the East Coast, tattoos are far from unusual, but we tend to have one or two, rather than one or two thousand, and they tend to be on parts of the body that are normally covered when wearing, say, a full-on snowsuit.
I kinda have a crush on the guy who has this tattoo...
Here, the one-upsmanship among Body Art aficionados has escalated into a full-on proliferation on a par with the US-Soviet nuclear arms race.As I write this, I’m sitting in a café called Bauhaus, where I’m the only person with less than twelve visible tattoos. What’s amazing is that most of these people seem to be under 25. It’s one thing to cover yourself in tattoos slowly, but if you’ve taken up all the real estate on your skin by age 22, you’re going to want to start over by age 35. At that point, it’s possible—just possible!—that you may not still be into that Emo band whose name is prominently tattooed on your neck and/or eyelids.

Instead of having single, separate tattoos, in Seattle it’s common to have your arm covered in what’s known as a “sleeve,” which means that if you have extra money, you should consider investing in the fast-growing industry of laser tattoo-removal services. I predict they will be doing an excellent business in about 15 years, when the current 20-year-olds move to the suburbs and are trying to get into the local country club and finally realize the irony of those ironic “Fuck Irony!” tattoos emblazoned on their knuckles.

Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike tattoos. I have two myself, but in the Pacific Northwest, they don't count, since a) I only have two b) they're small, and c) they're not on my eyeballs. 

In general, I feel about having lots of tattoos the way I feel about dogs. I like other people's dogs/tattoos of dogs. But I don't feel the need to have them personally. As I type this, I realize that I'm feeling the need to apologize for my lack of Body Art. (Note: Feeling the Need to Apologize for Weird Random Things=Sign #48 that you've been in Seattle just a little too long...)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gingerbread Train Stations, and other Things Seattle People Like

Gare du Palais: it's to scale, AND it's made out of  food!
Each year, starting around Thanksgiving, the small-city sized Sheraton in Downtown Seattle hosts an annual display of elaborate, so-called “gingerbread houses.” Amazingly, people pour in from all over the Puget Sound Region to gawk at these little carbohydrate palaces. Crowds largely made up of families with young children line up in two separate, orderly lines for as long as 40 minutes to see the “gingerbread” “houses”—which, this year, have almost nothing to do with either houses or gingerbread.
Ironically, the whole thing is somehow-or-another supposed to benefit, of all things… juvenile diabetes. A very worthwhile cause, to be sure. But raising money through literal and figurative monuments to refined sugar seems like a giant “Fuck you!” to kids with diabetes.

“Look, Diabetic Kids!” The candy houses seem to be taunting. “It’s ‘art’ made out of all that stuff that could kill you!  It’s funny, because your pancreas doesn’t make any insulin! Get it?!”

This year's motto could be: "At least it’s not as ironic as using ‘art’ made out of food to raise money for starving people!" But it probably is not.
Sadly, this "Misfits" train station has nothing to do with the punk rock band of the same name.
(Now, that's a gingerbread house I'd wait in line to see...)
The display takes place in the middle of a vast hotel lobby, so it’s not really clear why people are willing to line up to gawk at the confections. You can just as easily see the gingerbread houses by pretending you’re just walking to the other end of the lobby. In fact, if you want to go to the bathroom, you actually have no choice but to walk past the sugary display. But Seattleites would rather pee in their pants than be perceived as People Who Are Not Following Rules.

In 2011, the theme of the display seems to be “Train Stations of the World.” (I know that because the entries are all train stations… from around the world.) Entries include supposedly-edible versions of New York’s Grand Central Station, King’s Cross Station in London, and the Gare du Palais in Quebec. This year, the gingerbread houses in the display are closer to architectural renderings than the kitschy cottages that the name evokes. Train stations? What's next, gingerbread cell phone towers? Gingerbread power plants? Sewers?
Gingerbread Public Works (doesn't have the same ring, does it?)
Personally, I like my gingerbread houses to look like something  from a fairy tale dating back to the Golden Age of Misogyny. You know, when candy cottages were always the home of a witch, or some other woman who is rude enough to be unattractive and/or elderly and/or a lesbian, and who is deemed evil because of her choice to live apart from society in a house made entirely out of gumdrops (and because of her choice to be unattractive, of course).

This year's gingerbread train stations resemble the fairytale cottages of yore about as much as a taxidermied horse resembles My Pretty Pony. That said, some of the edible “architectural features” are eerily accurate and lifelike, even if they are made entirely out of Skittles. Most of the decorations rely heavily upon small, colorful candies such as M&Ms, red licorice, and what I can only assume are edible electric lights.

What amazes me is the fact that local families pour out en masse to wait in line--with small children--to see this display. I don’t want to sound like a hater, but if I’m going to wait in line for 40+ minutes, there had better some free (or at least highly discounted) couture items at the end of that line. Or at least something very delicious that I can actually eat.

On the whole, the poor kids forced to bask in the wonder and joy of the “gingerbread” train stations looked like they needed a drink. The parents tried to make up for this by feigning more enthusiasm than the display could’ve possibly inspired in anyone, including people who recently gained the capacity to see after a lifetime of blindness.

“Oh, look, Cody! It’s Grand Central Station!” an exhausted-looking woman in front of a prominently labeled King’s Cross Station said to her young son.   

Cody shrugged. “It’s not like you can eat it or anything.”

My sentiments exactly. Poor Cody.  I wished somebody would give that kid some candy. But, except for the untouchable confections all around us, there was none to be seen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Things You Should Know, But Never Asked Me To Tell You About Seattle--Part 1

Ceci n'est pas le "Seattle Freeze" (see below)
At a party the other night, I was briefly chatting with a nice gal named Jenny who had recently relocated to Seattle from New York City. From across the room, I guessed that she was a New Yorker, because she dressed the way I used to (or, would have, in the fantasy world where I could afford couture footwear)--in a short skirt, well-accessorized, in purple leather heels with Louboutin's signature red sole. Just a few short years ago, I was in her still-impractical (albeit knock-off) shoes as a recent transplant to the Pacific Northwest. Jenny was still in the honeymoon phase with Seattle, in part because she could rent an entire house for what she was paying for a tiny one-bedroom apartment in the West Village.

“How do you like it here?” Jenny asked.

“Oh, I love it!” I paused. Bit my lip. Looked out at the cold, falling rain. “Except when I don’t.”
My fellow ex-New Yorker looked worried. “Why is that?”

At that moment, I realized that, as with all the best and most passionate relationships in life, I have something of a love-hate thing going on with Seattle.It takes a few years to get to know a place, so I thought I’d save some time for any of you recent transplants. So, Jenny from the West Village—here are a few things I’ve learned about Seattle, in no particular order…

Everyone claims to be a “foodie.” In Seattle, people salivate over food in the way that New Yorkers salivate over rent-stabilized apartments with outdoor space. You’ll find that every resident of the Greater Seattle Area (perhaps due to some zoning regulation?) is required to have a food blog.  Via said blogs, Seattleites ruminate and obsess over “hot” local chefs in the way that people in L.A. obsess over the celebrities that New Yorkers pretend they’re too intellectual to be bothered to obsess over (but do anyway). Here in the Pacific Northwest, chefs who are even a tiny bit innovative are congratulated and fawned over as if they were toddlers finally using the “grown-up toilet” for the first time. Members of the local media and blogosphere line up to verbally fellate the chef of that new restaurant that exclusively offers, say, "artisanal” sausage made from organic rabbit anuses wrapped in a goat scrotum. Naturally, this will be served with “artisanal” ketchup and “artisanal” Tic-Tacs for desert. 

Let's play "guess the inner organ of beast and/or fowl!" 
(Shhhhhh! No help from the Brits seeking toilet paper holders!!)
The rabbit-anus sausage will, undoubtedly, be plated with a pile of foam that looks like some sort of contraceptive. This will be strangely appropriate, given the orgasmic tenor of the general Foodie response. The anus-sausage restaurant will, inexplicably, be called something like Being and Nothingness, or Baudelaire’s Left Testicle, or otherwise make reference to an obscure poem and/or literary movement that bears absolutely no connection to the food. Nobody will entirely love the place, but Foodies will continue to flock to it, for the same (unknown) reason New Yorkers will line up for hours in the cold to get into douchey night clubs with only one name.

That said, I’ve had some amazing meals in Seattle, sans or avec "artisanal” Marshmellow Fluff. And many of the local chefs really are worth the hype. But, on the whole—and at the risk of having a Seattle Foodie fatwa placed on my life—on the whole, I prefer the restaurants in New York. In Manhattan, there’s a fierce Darwinism to the success of any restaurant; if it’s not good on every level, it’ll last about as long as Charlie Sheen in rehab. Much in the way that nobody’s going to give you a lei at the airport when you touch down at JFK, nobody gives a crap if your New York restaurant is successful. So it has to be very, very good if it's going to stay in business, and it has to be ten times better than just to get a tepid review in Hoy! Nueva York. I always wonder why more of those chefs don’t just pick up and move to Seattle, start calling their food “artisanal,” and call it a day.

A less ridiculous version of the term "Seattle Freeze."
You’ll hear about this stupid concept called “The Seattle Freeze.” You’ll be disappointed to know that this does not involve soft-serve ice cream of any sort (not even the artisanal kind). Here’s the concept in a nutshell: People in Seattle are really friendly when you meet them! But—and here’s the shocker—not everyone who is nice to you at a party will end up being your immediate and lifelong BFF!!  You may meet someone new, and they’ll say, “Omigod, we should totally go check out Baudelaire’s Left Testicle together sometime!” The “freeze” part comes in when--get ready for your mind to be blown!--they don't actually follow through. 

You know where else this goes on? Everywhere else on the entire fucking planet. But when you first move here, everyone will feel the need to take you aside and warn you about The Seattle Freeze, with an urgency normally reserved for issuing warnings about dioxins in the food supply. So, be warned--not about the Seattle Freeze, but about the fact that you’ll have to constantly hear about the effing Seattle Freeze.

Seattle rains. No, seriously. It. Fucking. Rains. A LOT.  People say “you’ll get used to it!” But this is a lie, I tell you! A lie! Unless you happen to enjoy cold, wet, bleak weather that can best be described as “soul punishing,” in which case you’ll absolutely LOVE Seattle weather.

Remember Tolkein’s fictional land of Mordor where it's dark all the time? It's just like that in winter. Mordor was home of the dark wizard Sauron, who created an army of uruk-hai for reasons that were never entirely clear, but probably had something to do with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or "SAD." In winter in Seattle, you, too may find yourself wanting to create an army of monsters who have no back-stories. If so, you’re in the right place, because…
At least, after society collapses, they'll be ready for... something.
The nerd quotient in Seattle is extremely high. If you’re like me, this is an excellent thing. You can like Science Fiction and fantasy with impunity. You can allude to Mordor and uruk-hai, and it’s safe to assume that most people will know exactly what you’re talking about. In New York, my fondness for Sci-Fi and fantasy was something I kept well-hidden, like some dirty little secret. (One of these days, I'll tell you about bringing up Star Trek: TNG at a very tony opening at the Guggenheim; it did not go over well.) Even most of the people in New York who ever saw me naked had no idea that I was a giant, yet deeply closeted geek.

Meanwhile, in Seattle, you can feel free to bring the term “D-20” into the conversation, and it’s safe to assume that your interlocutor will know that you’re referring to the 20-sided die that is used in role playing games including, but not limited to, Dungeons & Dragons. The only problem is that, in Seattle, when someone admits to being a “Dungeon Master,” you may need to ask for clarification as to whether they’re talking about D&D, or if they work in and/or frequent an actual sex dungeon (more on this tomorrow). In the park near my house, grown adults participate in something called Live Action Role-Playing. These people are called LARP-ers, and they dress up like elves and wizards and what-not, and play out elaborate fantasy battles that supposedly take place in Middle Earth (a.k.a., Ye Olde Municipal Park). For me, that’s a bridge to far, but for some reason, I always want to go up to the LARPers and shake their plastic-armor-covered hands. God bless ‘em. On behalf of megadorks everywhere, they’re truly Living the Dream.
New Yorkers playing a LARP version of Frogger...
Seattleites are ridiculously law-abiding. To a fault. This is something that will come as a serious shock to any expatriate New Yorkers, or, really, folks from any other city that isn’t in Singapore. I blame the original Scandinavian settlers, who imbued this region with their excessive sense of order and the rule of law. For instance, jaywalking is treated like a capital offense. On my first visit to Seattle, I found myself at a traffic intersection downtown. When the “don’t walk” sign came on, everyone stopped. Instantly and abruptly, as if they were playing a game of freeze tag in some dystopic teen novel where the loser will be instantly shot and never spoken of again. I looked both ways. There were obviously NO cars coming in either direction, so I set out across the street. 

This is where the story takes a dark turn. Yes … I jayawalked. In the full light of day. My fellow pedestrians just stared, mouths agape. One lady gave me the kind of dirty look normally reserved for child molesters. Here, pedestrians always have the right of way. Okay, technically, this is true everywhere in the country. But in most places, this rule is treated like a quaint anachronism, kind of like those old laws that linger on the books in some states, like, “A landowner may not have sex with his horse on Thursdays!” Not so in Seattle. The sacred rights of pedestrians will be baffling to any New Yorker. Crossing the street in Manhattan is a bit like LARP-ing a game of Frogger. To make matters worse, NYC taxi drivers seem to be permanently involved in an elaborate LARP-ing of Grand Theft Auto.

In Seattle, if you're a pedestrian--even if you're not at a crosswalk--and you look like you might, possibly be considering maybe-someday-eventually crossing the street, cars will just stop. Sometimes, just to mess with drivers, I like to stop on the sidewalk, and just look longingly at the street, and wait for a paroxym of much-resented, but inevitable politeness on the part of the oncoming drivers in the street.

Tune in tomorrow for more Things You Should Know, But Never Asked Me To Tell You About Seattle (and would probably rather I didn't).

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Pundits of Tomorrow....

I haven't written in this blog for a while. It started to feel a little bit weird and lonely to write in a blog that mostly goes unread, except for my husband (Hi, P! Could you pick up some cat food on the way home? Thx!!) and legions of misdirected Britons looking for effing toilet paper dispensers.Sigh.

I'm retiring from writing. It finally occurred to me that there's nothing I could ever possibly contribute to human discourse that would be half as salient as the wisdom shared by Stina and Mossy, "the two talking cats," linked below. Really. It's like listening to Gandhi, if he were two tabby cats. After seeing this, my life has never been the same. 46,328,922 (no joke) viewers cannot be wrong.

As I've said before, my prediction is that in the future, our species will entirely lose the ability to read or write. All  human communications will take place in the form of videos of Adorible Kittehs! I, for one, am ready to embrace that bold vision of what we may become.

Listen. Learn. Transcend.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Our Parasites, Our Selves

I’m completely fascinated by parasites. And no, I'm not talking about the lesser-known Baldwin brothers, or anyone from The Real Housewives of Schenectedy, Celebrity Housecat Rehab, or related programs on Fox. I mean literal parasites. The kind that, right now, may be dwelling in your brain and compelling you to buy a pair of terribly impractical shoes, and/or making you more neurotic.

Yesterday, I was listening to an old podcast of This American Life that featured an interview with Carl Zimmer, author of a gross-but-interesting tome called Parasite Rex. He was discussing the subtle, yet diabolical agendas of various parasites, including my very favorite: an intracellular protozoan called Toxoplasma gondii, or “Toxo,” to its home-protazoans. It may seem a bit weird to have a favorite parasite, but I have a soft spot for these critters. (And yes, I have written about this in previous blogs, but mind-altering micro-bugs are a topic that never gets old.) 

According to some evidence, infection with Toxo makes women want to go shopping, and turns men into jealous slobs (no, seriously). Infection most often comes from exposure to raw or undercooked meat (esp. red meats, such as steak tartare), or through exposure to cat feces. The worldwide infection rate is about 30%, whereas in France, the infection rate is estimated to be as high as 85%. This is possibly because of the French fondness for eating raw foods, such as cat feces tartare.
Really, my parasites made me buy these.
In humans, infection is usually asymptomatic. However, if you're a woman, it might cause you to dress like a hooker, and may lessen your impulse control. If you're a man, Toxo may make you chronically jealous, only in part because your girlfriend dresses like a hooker and lacks impulse control.

Professor Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague has postulated that Toxo infection can actually alter the personalities of those infected. He found that women with latent Toxoplasma "spent more money on clothes" and were consistently rated as more attractive. Also, they were “less trustworthy” and “had more relationships with men.”

Infected men, on the other hand, tended to pay less attention to their personal grooming habits, were more quick to fight, and tended to dislike following rules [INSERT TIRED JOKE ABOUT MEN NEVER ASKING FOR DIRECTIONS].

Soooo ... the parasites make women like to shop, wear makeup, and have sex with lots of different men. And it causes men to be slobs who are often jealous. In other words, they've finally discovered the cause of heterosexuality.

Of course, we all know that a correlation is NOT the same as causality, blah, blah, blah. But that's really boring, and quasi-scientific speculation is much more entertaining. For instance, I wonder if someday, the bad behavior of Toxo hosts will be excused with a doctor's note?

"Honey, it wasn’t my fault – I didn’t want to impulsively buy all those clothes at Bergdorf's, but I had to have something to wear for when I went to that hotel to meet all your friends to make that raunchy video that's been going around the Internet! My parasites did it for the lulz!"

Why do the parasites have this effect on humans? What are the ultimate motives of this brain-altering micro-bug?
"Dude, I'll bring over some beers, and we can throw on some tunes and just chillax..."
As it turns out, we’re just collateral damage in a very literal cat-and-mouse game in which parasites are the puppet masters. Toxo typically spends the first part of its life—the “asexual phase”—in a rat or mouse. However, sexual reproduction can only take place in the digestive tract of a feline (and you thought your ex-boyfriend had some weird fetishes…). For these guys, Fluffy’s intestines are like Cabo San Lucas during Spring Break. But to get there, the parasites have to rely on a bit of manipulation. They chemically alter the brains of infected rats and mice so that the rodents lose their innate fear of cats.

Infected rodents are also more likely to engage in “novelty seeking” behavior, such as walking right up to a cat and saying, “Hey, man, we should totally hang out sometime!” To which Fluffy says, “How about now? I have an Xbox 360 in my intestines!” The cat then opens his mouth, and the mouse walks on in, looking forward to finally getting to play Portal 2. 

For the mouse, this story does not end well. But for Toxo, this is when life gets good. It’s the moment the plane touches down in Mexico after a long, cold semester back at Michigan State. And they're headed straight to Señor Frog’s (with my renewed apologies to that purveyor of fine food and Jello-based libations) to get it on with those slutty protozoa from Parasites Gone Wild.

Eventually, the cat expels the Toxo oocytes through the scientific process known as "pooping." A hungry mouse will then eat the cat poo (mice, it seems, have a cat scat fetish). And the beautiful dance of life continues…

Humans are a "dead-end" host for this parasite, which just wants to go about its business via the magical cat poo/rodent/cat poo merry-go-round.  Ending up in humans is just an added bonus. Or is it???

Maybe, deep down, the parasites really just wanted to go to Neiman Marcus to buy impractical shoes, but lacked the feet?  So they went to Oz and the Wizard gave them a magical hot-air balloon made of cat feces, to take them home ...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

An Open Letter to Brits Seeking Toilet Paper Holders

If you’re reading this, chances are:

a)      You’re British
b)      You’re looking for a toilet paper dispenser, and
c)       I owe you an apology.

A month or so ago, I jotted off a post about the odd search terms that have brought people to this blog. One example was “Whimsical toilet paper holder man riding unicycle.“ At the time, I had never written anything about toilet paper dispensers, whimsical or otherwise (point: search-engine algorithms are funny!).

Since that time, EACH AND EVERY DAY, legions of poor, unsuspecting pilgrims are led to Marguerite-aville in their quest for a More Perfect Toilet Paper Holding Device. According to my trusty Blog Statistics counter, a hefty percentage of these searches originate in Great Britain. This is not surprising, as the English have a long and proud tradition of utilizing toilet paper. (The Anglo-Saxon love affair with “TP,” as they affectionately call it, dates back to the little-known King Charmin the Incontinent, back in the Golden Age of Gout and Dysentery.)

So, to my accidental British friends: Welcome! When I implied that people scouring the Interwebs for “quaint” and/or “farting” TP holders may be mentally deranged, I didn’t mean you!! I meant, somebody else doing that exact same thing.
But/t, is the paper orientation "Over" or "Under"??
If the traffic that comes to this blog is any indication, the global hunger for toilet-paper-related hilarity rivals our species’ appetite for videos featuring cats with their heads stuck in things. If I had the ability to do anything practical whatsoever, I would stop doing whatever it is I don’t-do and start making and distributing novelty toilet paper holders. Unfortunately, Stanton College Preparatory School didn’t offer anything so useful pedestrian as shop class or home ec, where we might've learned valuable life skills, such as how to assemble plastic and/or wooden buttocks with tissue sticking out of them (I could've been rich!). Instead, we just learned to write flippant essays speculating about, say, the latent post-colonial Weltschmertz that drives British subjects to seek out such contraptions (again, dear reader, NOT YOU!). 

Out of curiosity, I Googled “toilet paper dispenser,” to see what would come up. You are strongly cautioned to NOT try this at home. The depth and breath of scholarly information on this subject is astounding, and full of facts you can’t un-know. To wit: "Toilet Roll Holder" has its own entry in Wikipedia. The article takes care to elucidate the finer points of this admittedly hard-to-grasp concept. VERBATIM QUOTE: “A toilet roll holder, also known as a toilet paper dispenser, is an item that holds a roll of toilet paper. “ (Thank God somebody finally cleared that up!)

More amazingly, "Toilet Paper Orientation" also has a page of its own. I had no idea this was the subject of a heated national debate. Who cares if a mature, consenting roll of tissue wants to have sex with another roll of tissue? It’s a free country, right?

Turns out, they're talking about how the roll is hung—over, vs. under (illustrated below for those of you who may be unfamiliar with the concept of toilet paper).The Wikipedia page notes that advice columnist Ann Landers said this subject was "the most controversial issue in her column's history.” And she wasn't the only moral arbiter in this ongoing debate. VOLUMES have been written on the topic. Some sociologists have even posited that one's preference for over-vs.-under speaks volumes about “gender roles, the public and private spheres, race, ethnicity, social class, and age.”  (Full Disclosure: This blog takes a firm editorial stance in favor of "Over.")
"Over "Orientation, i.e., "Right Way"
"Under" Orientation, i.e., "Wrong Way"
"Bunny" orientation, i.e., Very Wrong Way
In summary: if you orient your toilet paper to the back, you are probably very sexually repressed, and have some serious Daddy issues. And if you have one of those farting TP holders that obscures the orientation of the roll… well, you probably have at least one human head in your freezer. 

This is a crucial issue, and I urge you to contact your lawmakers. Those perverts who orient their toilet paper to the back are taking away from MY normative toilet paper experience!! Hopefully, Congress will get its act together and pass a Federal law to prevent weirdos from living the Rear Dispensing Lifestyle.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why I'm Super Glad I'm Not Fabulously Rich and/or Famous

Lately, I’ve been reconsidering the whole concept of being a Late Bloomer. Is there really any such thing, or is it just something we tell kids who are going through an “awkward stage”? Mine has lasted about twenty years now, and I’m getting kind of sick of it. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the boobs aren’t going to happen (at least not without the eventual help of a handsomely-compensated plastic surgeon). But I still actively harbor plenty of aspirations that, according to things like “logic” and “probability,” may very well never pan out.

If there was a school for magical thinking, I would be its Dumbledore. On the boob front, for instance, I held out hope until long after it had ceased to be a rational. Well into my 20s, I kept expecting to have an unexplained, highly localized growth spurt. A second, more effective puberty, if you will. In the way that some people buy jeans a size too small for when they loose a few pounds, I would buy bras that were a bit too big. You know, just in case.

Part of the fun of being very young is imagining the things that could be a part of one’s future. Over the years, those possibilities are slowly infringed upon by the unflattering neon spotlight that is reality. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that, at my age, the chances are fairly slim that that I will become the first white hip-hop superstar to go up in space as part of a reality show involving monkeys that takes place on the International Space Station (Title: Best Show Ever). And I’m probably not going to marry Prince William, or even the old and fugly Crown Prince of Monaco. Which is for the best, since my actual husband is undoubtedly much more fun to watch TV with, and unlike the royals, he is in no way related to himself.

Regardless of whatever may be missing, my life is actually pretty darn good. I know that this is at least in part due to my impressive capacity for self-deception (“those tasseled gold lamé hot-pants are super flattering on me, and entirely age-appropriate!”). But I can live with that.

Besides. I wouldn’t want to be all rich and famous anyway. Really, it sounds like a giant pain in the butt. I know what you’re thinking, but this is NOT sour grapes. Well, not exactly. My philosophy is: when life gives you sour grapes, make cheap wine! Throw in some grape-flavored cough syrup and weapons-grade caffeine, call it EL Torro Loco “Wine Product” and sell it at 7-11 in states with relaxed product liability laws (hello, venture capitalists?!).

In no particular order, here are several reasons why I’m glad that success, fame, and massive wealth have thus far eluded me.

1. No need to make small talk with overly-friendly doormen who are doctors or scientists or what-not in their impoverished home countries. There’s the inevitable awkwardness when the doorman has to sign for the delivery of, say, your new solid gold foot stool
Then, you have to feel awful about the fact that, for the price of said stool, you could eradicate malaria/end hunger/build a school in the doorman’s native village. But, the coloring of the piece perfectly offsets that gilded ceramic giraffe that Carson Kressley (remember him?!)  gave you for inviting him to your place in St. Bart’s, so …

2. You’ll never see a headless, candid photo of me in a bikini on the cover of Us Weekly, a circle around my thighs and a caption, “Guess Who Has Cellulite?!”  For those of us who are so white and pasty we could check the box for “Clear” as our ethnicity, wearing a bathing suit in public is already traumatic enough. What if professional photographers with zoom-lens cameras could make serious bank for taking photos of my thighs? Egads. We are ALL better off that this is not the case.

3. I don’t have to feel a wave of relief, followed by pangs of guilt, when the Bush Era tax cuts to the richest 1% are extended, against all fiscal logic.  After all, those solid gold footstools aren’t going to pay for themselves…

4. When I make major life decisions, I don’t have to run them past my agent, manager, or anyone from the Church of Scientology. Not that I don’t like Tom Cruise. Have you seen Cocktail? It was hilarious. But still. I’m glad its star has nothing to say about my career choices, or my taste in solid gold home furnishings.

5. I don’t know the difference between an annuity and a mutual fund, but I bet it is extremely boring. Both of these terms are familiar to me from parental lectures on the ever-popular subject, “Things You Should Have, Already, At Your Age.” This is a category that includes children, home ownership, and knowing how to operate a weed whacker. “But at least I have low blood pressure!” I argue, to no effect.

Most of the things on the TYSH,A,AYA list are known to cause hypertension, ulcers, and/or a desire to wear pastel plaid golf pants. As long as I can remember, my parents have both had impressively high blood pressure. In my dad’s case, this lead to a quadruple by-pass operation some years back. Go to their house, and you’ll find lots of publications about “investment products” and "financial instruments" (which are neither instruments nor products, since you can neither play them nor put them in a landfill, but nevermind). While it would be irresponsible to suggest that the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and sundry mutual fund newsletters are the direct cause of my dad's myriad health problems, I’ll go ahead and say it – Financial Publications Are Hazardous to Your Health.When/if I ever have tons of extra cash lying around, I’m sure my opinions on the subject will change. But as it stands now, I’d rather re-watch Mannequin 2: On the Move than have to read newsletters about mutual funds. And I’d rather get a colonoscopy than re-watch Mannequin 2.

The list could go on and on. But I have to go not-read back issues of Forbes, so I'm pretty busy with that.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Brindle Cat, Fundraising Executive

For many years, I was employed in the exciting field of charitable fundraising. During that time, I worked with some amazing fundraisers—people who could convince donors to give away upwards of $100K in exchange for nothing more than the nebulous sensation of “a good feeling in their hearts.”

However, none of those nonprofit leaders can hold a candle to this cat:
Brindle Cat, Fundraising Executive
Brindle Cat, as we call him, technically belongs to the family two doors down from us. But I happen to know that no less than five people in the neighborhood (including myself) feed this little fundraising genius on a regular basis.Through a series of highly effective “donor acquisition and retention strategies,” the neutered tabby has secured a cadre of Regular Donors (a term that, deceptively, has nothing to do with fiber consumption).

If you count petting sessions (get your mind out of the gutter!) as One-Time Individual Contributions, Brindle Cat has attracted more donors than Barack Obama, The United Way, and The Red Cross combined. He routinely stops random passer-bys in their tracks. He'll insist that you scratch his belly or behind his ears for at least five minutes. If you dare not comply, he’ll run in front of you and flop down on his back to block your path, as if to say, “This belly isn’t going to pet itself, bee-yach.” 
Won't YOU make a difference, by petting my belly TODAY?
Even Cat Agnostics are no match for Brindle Cat. I’ve seen people who profess to be morbidly allergic to cats stopping to pet him, at peril of going into anaphylactic shock. He’s just that good at what he does. In fundraising-speak, Brindle Cat knows the art of “The Ask.” Wordlessly, he can solicit Major Gifts in the form of cat food, caresses, and shelter from the rain and/or cold. 
A Regular Donor Provides Back Door Home #5 for Brindle Cat
I could be rushing out the door, late to an appointment, or perhaps on the way to the Emergency Room with a burst appendix, and Brindle Cat can always convince me to go back into the house to get him some cat food. If he isn’t in the mood for dry food, he can guilt me into “increasing my generous support” to include wet food. 
Brindle Cat with a One-Time Donor
They should hire Brindle Cat to be a University President. He would be great. Let’s say a school needs a new wing for a library building. Below is a transcript of Brindle Cat’s would-be conversation with a Potential Major Donor, Mrs. Henry R. Van Der Money.

Mrs. Van Der Money: Six million? Why, Mr. Brindle, that is a significant amount.
Brindle Cat: Meeeow. Meoow?
Mrs. VDM:  You flatter me. But no, I haven’t had work done! Just getting more rest, lately.
BC: Purrrrrrr.
Mrs. VDM: Well. You make a good point. I would feel good about showing up the Livingstons, who were bragging about their donation to … (ahem) I mean … I would feel good about helping to eradicate poverty.
BC: Mrrr-ow?
Mrs. VDM:  Promoting knowledge, whatever. How big would the letters be on the “Van der Money Library” signage? Will it be visible from the window of a passing limousine?
BC:  Rooow.
Mrs. VDM: Naturally, name recognition means nothing to me. But the signage will be on the main entrance?
BC: Purrr. Purr. [leg rub]
Mrs. VDM: For another four million?! Brindle cat, stop nuzzling my neck!  Normally, I don’t approve of premarital nuzzling, but …What? I’ll be profiled in the Annual Report? An article called “Mrs. Van Der Money: Best Person Since Jesus!”? My!  Oh my!
BC:  Me. Ow?
Mrs. VDM:  Okay, ten million. Really. That’s the best I can do. What with the price of jet fuel going through the roof…
BC: [Silent Meow]
Mrs. VDM:  You really want to break me, don’t you? Okay, fine. I’ll throw in a case of wet food. Don’t look at me like that, please. (Sigh) Fine. I’ll throw in some of those Fancy Feast Appetizers, too.

Monday, July 4, 2011

An Ode to Gluttony

On the Fourth of July, I like to take a moment to celebrate the most American of all sports. Specifically, I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to a man whose World Record cannot be recognized due to a technicality. 

The sport in question is, of course, Competitive Eating. And the athlete is Takeru “Kobi” Kobayashi, a.k.a. The Tsunami. Ranked among the world’s top speed-eaters, Kobayashi can stuff food down his throat so fast, and in such vast quantities, you’d think he was on a Carnival cruise (if you’ve never been on one, they’re basically a floating Golden Corral, but that’s a subject for another day).
From 2001 to 2006, the 150-pound Kobayashi was the undefeated champion of the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, which takes place in Coney Island every year on the Fourth of July. If you’re not familiar, this event is essentially the Super Bowl of Gluttony. This contest is organized and governed by the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE), an organization I sincerely wish I were making up.

For the past six years, I’ve been following this contest with more enthusiasm than I can justify to myself or anyone else. I’m not exactly a fan of this so-called sport, which is disgusting on just about every level. Still, I can't look away. Over the years, I’ve grown far too familiar with its ahem, “athletes,” who are also known as “gurgitators” (no, seriously). I have to admit that this is in no small part because of The Tsunami.

Takeru Kobayashi did for over-eating hot dogs what Michael Jordan did for basketball; what Picasso did for 20th Century art; what Vanna White did for game show hostesses. He transcended his medium. The sport—nay, the world—would never be the same.

On his website, Kobayashi notes that, growing up, he “lacked any outstanding talent.” Tragically, he didn’t grow up in America, where a lack of talent combined with a total lack of shame is a sure-fire recipe for meteoric stardom [SEE: Snooki on the cover of Rolling Stone]. But his father encouraged him to “strive for the top in whatever he decided to do.” 

In 2001, Takeru—then a 23-year-old upstart—astounded the audience and judges when he downed 50 dogs at that year's Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest. At the time, they didn’t even have printed signage for such a number, forcing the judges to scribble out the scorecards by hand.

Until that point, the record for consumption was 25.5 dogs, set in 2000 by Kazutoyo Arai, also of Japan. The previous record was 24.5, achieved by Hirofumi Nakajima, yet another native of the Land of the Regurgitating  Rising Sun. To give you some perspective, between 1916 and 1990, the official record was a measly 16 hot dogs in ten minutes. Most years, the winners downed an average of 11 or so wieners and buns.

For a while, it seemed that Japan would reign supreme in the field of competitive eating. This trend caused some people to wonder why Americans weren’t as competitive in the global Gluttony Marketplace. (While we're on the subject, are we not teaching our kids the definition of irony??) 

In 2007, the playing field changed yet again when Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, a gurgitator from San Jose, California, took back the title. In that year’s Coney Island contest, he scarfed 68 wieners and buns compared to Takeru’s 63. America, at last, had a Champion.
The Tsunami vs. Jaws in 2007
Earlier today, Chestnut once again won the Mustard Belt at the official Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, eating 62 hot dogs in just ten minutes. Although the winner by a landslide, Chestnut, whom the IFOCE non-ironically describes as “an American hero and a national treasure,” didn’t even meet his own official record of 68 dogs.
Check out the mustard & ketchup in the talons...
Meanwhile, at a posh Fifth Avenue rooftop bar in Manhattan, the great Kobi unofficially broke Joey Chestnut’s official world record by eating an astounding 69 wieners and buns (wasn’t that a Magnetic Fields album??). However, Takeru’s name is unlikely to appear on the official record. He’s currently involved in a contractual dispute with the aforementioned International Federation of Competitive Eating (kind of like the NFL of over-eating), which has the last word in food-gorging records.

Even though Kobi’s victory is unofficial, he brought honor to his country. Granted, a very disgusting sort of honor. One that kind of makes you want to barf just hearing about it. But he went the distance.

Why is it that everything Americans start has to be perfected by the Japanese? They already have the most efficient cars, electronics, and giant, city-destroying lizards. 

Why can’t they even leave us our dignity in a sport that, clearly, has none to begin with?