"My only argument is with those who do not view the world as cynically as I do." Michael Korda
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Mr. Yuk Is Mean, Mr. Yuk Is Green
To really get the full impact of the story I'm about to tell you, you have to know a little about my childhood. I was raised by a mother who was deathly afraid of germs, food toxins, and generally any kind of bad thing one might accidentally ingest. While shopping, she ruthlessly examined all canned goods for any sign of a dent (botulism kills!), and she had the Poison Control hotline on speed dial. Once I inadvertently colored my tongue with a magic marker (long story). First, she washed my mouth out with soap (I am perhaps the only child in history who has had her mouth washed out with soap for reasons other than bad language). Then she got right on the line to Poison Control. Although I was only six or seven, I remember thinking that something made for kids probably wasn't toxic. That thought apparently never occurred to my mother.
Growing up in that sort of atmosphere, you can either become completely crazy and avoid anything potentially dangerous, or you can go in the opposite direction and not worry much about anything. I went in the latter direction. (This may have something to do with my father, who was pretty much the opposite of my mother and used to do things like feed me raw ground beef.*)
Anyway, fast forward many years. A few weeks ago, I offered to cook dinner for my mother and grandmother. My mother's dietary restrictions (she's pretty much only allowed to eat dew off petals**) mean that there are only two or three dinner options available, and I was bored with all of them, so I figured that I could easily cook something within her restrictions. I brought all the ingredients to her kitchen and got to work. She tried to micromanage the whole endeavor, and she forced me to overcook the chicken because she was convinced it wasn't going to be done enough not to give us salmonella. The only ingredient I got from her kitchen was a tablespoon of olive oil.
"You used the olive oil in that cabinet?" she said, in a tone that implied I had taken the olive oil off a public bathroom floor.
"Yeah." I didn't want to ask, but I did. "Why?"
"Well, it's just that it's really old."
"How old?" I said, examining the bottle.
"I don't know. Maybe a year or two."
"That's nothing," I scoffed. "It doesn't have an expiration date on the bottle. I'm sure it's fine."
"If you say so," she said, which is of course what people say when they don't believe you.
She did manage to choke the dinner down, and it wasn't terrible (although a bit overcooked, which was totally not my fault.)
A few days later, she called to thank me for cooking.
"It was really good."
"No problem. I like cooking," I said.
"So, I hope you don't mind, but I was a little worried about the olive oil," she said.
"What did you do?" I asked.
"Do you remember the Poison Control hotline?"
This is a ridiculous question. OF COURSE, I remember the Poison Control hotline. The Mr. Yuk jingle starts running through my head and I try my best not to curl up on the floor in the fetal position. "Yes."
"Well, I looked them up and it turns out they're still in business," she said, sounding delighted.
"Huh. You would think most people would just look stuff up on the internet these days," I said.
"Oh no. They're a much smaller operation now, but the woman who answered the phone was so nice, and it turns out they're located just up the road."
Fascinating. "But did you feel sick after you ate the food?" I asked.
"No. We were both fine. I was just... concerned," she said.
And it turns out that, according to the nice lady at Poison Control, the olive oil probably wouldn't have killed us, although it's always possible that if it was old enough, some bacteria might have grown in it, but it would have only given us garden variety food poisoning and not actually killed us.
So, that was ok. More problematic is the fact that my mother actually thought I had tried to poison her and my grandmother. Sigh.
With the current economic crisis, I have been reading a lot of “helpful” advice on penny-pinching. Occasionally, it’s disgusting Depression era suggestions like boiling your dental floss and then reusing it. But since I read a lot of fashion magazines and blogs, it’s more often really obvious advice like:
Buy stuff on sale. Actually like consider whether you really need something before you buy it. Buy less crap. And my personal favorite: Go shopping in your closet.
I’ve been using the first three for years, and I sort of can’t believe they’re even offered up as advice because they seem so obvious. I’ve always had certain rules for shopping:
1. Don’t buy anything I can’t afford (i.e., I don’t charge clothes. Either I have the money or I don’t. And if I don’t, I don’t buy it). 2. Ask myself whether the item fills a need in my wardrobe. 3. If I answered no to #2, I then ask myself, is it such a fabulous bargain that I’ll be kicking myself for months if I don’t buy it? 4. Recognize when I have enough stuff and stop shopping.
These techniques work pretty well for me.
But let’s go back to the shopping in your closet advice. I’ve read this little gem of advice in a number of places. I can only assume it’s geared toward women with closets the size of a studio apartment who wander into them and say things like, “I totally forgot about this Chanel suit” or “Why don’t I ever wear these Miu Miu pumps?”
Still, it’s not the worst advice. I have a lot of clothes, and there are many pieces I forget about for months at a time. So, maybe it’s time to reassess my closet.
There’s just one problem with this: If I walked into a store that looked like my closet, I would turn around and walk right back out again.
It’s a terrible, terrible closet. It’s not even 18 inches deep. It extends two feet on either side of the door, but it’s nearly impossible to see anything that’s more than a few inches beyond the doorway. There’s a light, but it doesn’t illuminate anything. I suppose one solution would be to get rid of about half of my clothes, but that just isn’t going to happen. In my last two apartments, I had fabulous walk-in closets, both of which were really well-designed and made organizing my clothes very easy. Not so with my current closet. Sometimes I look into it, and I want to cry. We met with a realtor last week, and when he asked what our requirements were in an apartment, big closets were my only dealbreaker. Everything else is negotiable.
The only good thing about my closet is that, since it’s so hard to see things, I do occasionally come across an item of clothing I haven’t seen in months, and that can be sort of exciting. Sadly, it’s never a Prada bag that I’ve totally forgotten I own.
As you may have noticed, this blog has been a ghosttown for many months. Lots of things have conspired to make it difficult for me to make regular updates. Lack of time is the biggest issue, but lack of motivation has been an issue as well. I’ve tried to write a few posts recently, but they never manage to see the light of day. I can’t quite seem to kill the blog entirely, and gosh darn it, I’ve still got stuff to say. But how to get back in the habit of regular posting?
When Jordan Baker posted an interview on her blog and offered to interview anyone who was “lingering in a creative void,” I jumped right on it. I thought perhaps with someone else giving me the topics, I could actually manage to pull something together. She provided some excellent questions, and the answers are below.
If anyone else is having my issues, I’d be happy to help. Here’s how it works:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. Be sure you link back to the original post.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions
And without further ado…
1. What's the strangest thing you've ever done in the hopes of combating insomnia?
Despite having chronic insomnia, I haven’t done anything that crazy to combat it. Mostly, I just lie in bed and hope for the best. Sometimes, I embrace it. About a year and a half ago, I was in the midst of a really bad, months-long bout, but I just went with it, started getting to work at the crack of dawn, and spent much of my waking time writing. It was actually pretty productive. I would still prefer the ability to sleep.
2. You're stuck in an awful place where there are only four television stations; you have to choose one to watch in perpetuity. Each station shows a different awful ongoing storyline from a different season of House--Evil Vogler; Lusting for Stacy; Evil Tritter; or Thirteen's Pretty Dying Girl Tragedy. Which one do you choose and why?
This is a really hard one. I can eliminate Evil Vogler and Evil Tritter immediately, because of my complete and utter loathing for both storylines, which were, in essence, the same storyline. I wasn’t crazy about the Stacy storyline, and I stopped watching shortly after the Tritter mess, so I haven’t seen the Pretty Dying Girl Tragedy, but everything I’ve heard about the addition of the new characters sounds exceptionally annoying. Also, the actress who plays Thirteen seems really annoying, and I have a feeling that having to watch her tragic life would make me want to throw things at my TV. So, I’ll have to go with Lusting after Stacy, because it would cause the least amount of teeth grinding on my part.
3. You mentioned having a bunch of half started blog enteries that for one reason or another, you haven't finished. Give us a brief (1-2 sentence synopsis) of 3 of them.
a) A post about the overuse of the term “style icon” and how it’s lost its true meaning and how no matter how many times Vogue tries to tell that Sienna Miller is a style icon, I am never going to drink that Kool-Aid. It’s also a listing of my personal style icons, and it’s at a more finished state than most of my other unfinished posts, so it may actually see the light of day sometime soon.
b) A post praising guilty pleasures. I have had a lot of guilty pleasures over the years and I was trying to write about why I should stop feeling guilty about them. Sadly, most of my guilty pleasures are so guilty, I’m embarrassed to write about them. See item 4 below.
c) A post about why I’ve been neglecting the blog for so long. It’s a boring recitation of excuses that no one really wants to hear.
4. I know you would totally never watch potentially embarrassing TV shows like One Tree Hill or anything, but if you did, what would be a) your longest lasting guilty pleasure program; b) the guilty pleasure program you currently enjoy the most; and c) the one you feel guiltiest about? (You can use the same choice for more than one, but we'll need a detailed explanation of why it qualifies in each category).
a) My longest lasting guilty pleasure is Guiding Light. I’ve watched it on and off since I was 9. Sadly, a little over a year ago, Guiding Light pushed my patience to the breaking point and I had to stop watching lest I turn into a crazy lady who throws things at her TV and yells things like, “You dang writers are ruining my stories!” I still haven’t forgiven them.
b) I currently don’t have a TV guilty pleasure. This feels very strange. A couple of years ago, I stumbled up Season 4 of One Tree Hill. In the first episode I watched, a married pregnant teenage cheerleader nearly suffered a miscarriage and was then deliberately run over by a car driven by a gangster who wanted revenge on her husband for not throwing the state high school basketball championship, which he was supposed to do to pay off his debts to the gangster. Right after the hit and run, the husband’s half-brother suffered a heart attack while his brother was attempting to beat the gangster to death. It takes three or four months to achiever that kind of drama on a daytime soap. I was totally hooked and ended up watching the earlier seasons on DVD. It was very much in the “so bad it’s good” category. Sadly, season 5 was so excruciatingly awful that I gave up watching it.
So, I have no TV guilty pleasures anymore. I tried Gossip Girl, and it was ok, but it didn’t do it for me. I liked Dirty, Sexy Money, but it was actually pretty well written, so I’m not sure it really qualified as a guilty pleasure, and then it was cancelled. The few TV shows I watch currently are generally literate and well-acted. What’s a girl to do?
So, I was forced to turn to another medium for my guilty pleasures. I ended up reading all of the Twilight books and seeing the movie. And they were an excellent guilty pleasure. Sure, the books and the movie aren’t great, but it definitely fulfilled my need for fun trash and furtive pleasures.
c) I definitely feel the guiltiest about Twilight. With other guilty pleasures, I’ve sometimes claimed to be enjoying them ironically. And sometimes, I actually was. But there’s nothing ironic about Twilight. Sigh. My shame is now bared to the world. (On the plus side, Twilight introduced me a large world of vampire/demon/fairy-related fiction that I had no idea existed, so that was another guilty pleasure in the making. But that’s really the topic of its own blog post…)
5. You're a (native? long term resident?) of the DC area, so the new First Family has come to you looking for advice--how to fit in, where to eat, where to shop, and Malia needs the names of the best dive bars for future reference. However, because of security concerns, you have to tell them everything they need to know during one three minute covert interview in the back of their limo. What essential knowledge do you manage to impart during that time?
I’ve lived in the area since age 4, so I can give some good advice. But I also have decided prejudices against some of the newer elements in DC, so my advice is more about what to avoid.
a) Skip Georgetown entirely for food since it’s mostly overrated and overpriced. For shopping, there are a few smaller boutiques in Georgetown, but don’t bother with anything else. They’re chain stores you can find in any suburban mall. Shop the smaller stores that are located all over the city and keep them in business. DC doesn’t need to be another Times Square.
b) Don’t ever read Washingtonian magazine. If you do, do the opposite of whatever they suggest. It appears to be written by and for people who believe that chain restaurants serve the best breakfast food in the area. Sigh.
c) Avoid any place that has a line. People are sheep and just because everyone is going there doesn’t mean it’s any good.
d) DC does dive bars well. Check out [redacted], [redacted], and [redacted]*. The dirtier the bar, the more awesome it is in my opinion. Anywhere too clean and you get the khaki and striped shirt douchebag crowd. The stickier the bathroom floor, the more likely they are to stay away.
*Redacted for security reasons (i.e., there are enough douchebags overrunning DC’s bars and I don’t want to advertise anywhere they haven’t invaded yet).
Ok, so that last post wasn’t perhaps the triumphant return it could have been, seeing as it’s only my second post this year. But things are really quite dull lately. And you should see the topics I considered but didn’t write about:
1. How this season of One Tree Hill totally sucks. Yes, the previous seasons also sucked, but in a compelling can’t look away sort of way, not in a do they really expect me to watch this crap kind of way. 2. How I have recently developed an allergy to cats. And I how I am totally bitter about this because I love kittiez. 3. How I cleaned out over 1000 unread messages from one of my email accounts, forcing me to confront the fact that I am (a) lazy as all get out and (b) possibly addicted to shopping since the bulk of the messages were store notifications. That actually could have been a good post, but like so many addicts, I’m not yet willing to admit I have a problem. 4. How I am still number one on Google for shrinking breasts. Actually, I would be hard-pressed to write an entire post about this, but I just couldn’t help sharing (much like the original post). 5. How I’m thinking of breaking the no white until Memorial Day and getting a little crazy.
Consider yourself lucky.
In the fall, I started a new job, and I work a lot. I have a firm “no blogging about work” policy, so this leaves me with not much to write about being that other than work. I suppose my life is a bit dull. And lately, I’ve actually been sleeping reasonably well, so I don’t even have my insomnia posts to fall back on. I have thought about just giving up the blog entirely, but I can't quite bring myself to do it, so I guess it’s just not time yet. But if I’m not going to let it die, I really need to make an effort to post now and then. So, I should be back now and then.
Sometimes, the week just starts off badly. Having jury duty on a rainy Monday certainly qualifies as the bad. Coming thisclose to being on a jury but getting off at the last minute counts as the very good. I was hoping that was going to be the theme for the rest of the week.
Sadly, my hopes were quickly dashed. Yesterday, I left the office for lunch for the first time in months. I figured, lovely day, why not? I should really have learned by now to ignore my occasional fits of optimism. On the way back from lunch, a bird shat on me. And it was so efficient at doing its business that said business landed on my hand, my bottle of lemonade, and inside my jacket pocket. Inside my pocket. That bird had some aim.
I would pass this off as an unfortunate occurrence, but it’s the fifth time this has happened to me in the last 10 years or so. They say that a bird crapping on you is good luck, but isn’t it supremely bad luck if it keeps happening? I don’t do well with birds in general. In addition to voiding themselves on me, I have other issues. A pigeon once flew straight into my head. I’m not sure which of us was more shocked. I promptly ran home and scrubbed my head for a half-hour because, euww gross, pigeons.
At this rate, I’m expecting my life to turn into a scene from The Birds any day now. Except with scarier and more realistic looking birds. (If I can have Tippi Hedren’s wardrobe, I might be able to live with this.)