Freaking Out Squares

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Play's The Thing

By the grace of G-d and the Jewish holidays, I managed to swing two days off from the brain trust. I spent my first day sleeping and arguing with my psychopharm about the necessity of my taking a so-called "mood stabilizer," particularly since the last one they put me on caused my muscles to ache and my knees to feel like they were coming out of their sockets. Although I suppose it's better than arguing with Upper East Side parents about the eventuality of them getting their children's meds to them like, yesterday. It's like waitressing, but I sit all day. Kind of reminds me of when I worked at Friendly's in high school and folks would come in at five and say they had to be at mass at 5:30. What can I tell you? Go to Wendy's. Don't wait till the last minute and then accuse us of delinquency.

Thursday night, my friend dawnybird and I caught our gal Sarito in a series of one-acts at the Producer's Club (358 W. 44th Street between 8th and 9th). Actually, Sarito was in only one--the last one, as luck would have it--playing a seventy-year-old woman with a penchant for, well, dick. (Sarito, for the record, is 59, and if you've seen her picture on her blog, you'll agree she doesn't look 70.) Although I was tempted to be a bad friend and skip out on the evening, beings that my brain felt like it was encased in cement with a cloud of noxious gas swirling around it, I'm glad I went. My favorite play was a poignant story of an estranged uncle showing up at a young lawyer's office to bring him news of his estranged father and his own impending mortality. There was nothing gratuitous about it, thank god--it's a very easy topic about which to be gratuitous.

Also, it occurred to me as I was watching the first play--a strange number about a woman who lies to her new boyfriend about having cystitis to see if he'll stay with her even though they can't have sex for a month--how strange most plays really are. I can be no more or less articulate than that. Seems like, beginning sometime in the late '60s, that plays started to take on this deliberately "quirky" mien, laden with bizarre character details that do little to service the plot but nonetheless give it an "edge." I'm working on a David Lindsay-Abaire play at the moment, and the husband's character has a sexual fetish for eating Barbie doll heads and shitting them out. The whole play is like that--not about shitting Barbie doll heads, but full of bizarre details that just leave you going, "Huh?" For instance, another character's wife was killed when a huge peanut butter jar they bought at Costco fell on her head. I mean, it's not that I don't enjoy the play, but it's so laden with kooky things that it kind of makes me seasick. What happened to going straight for the action? Oh, for the halcyon days of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams! Even David Mamet is a welcome respite.

Anyway. Speaking of seasick, that plate of lobster ravioli in tomato cream sauce I ate at the Irish pub next to the Producer's Club severely disagreed with me. Not sure if it was my dairy sensitivity or the presence of some rogue bacteria, but ugh. Not the night before the opera, please!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Dreams, Reflections, and Memories

What a way to start off yet another exciting week at the brain trust: My back seized up in the shower this morning, so now I'm lumbering around with my gut thrust out like a pregnant lady, and I'm still reeling from the nightmare I had about being stuck in the middle of a roundtable discussion about prom in my AP English class. As I was the only one not going, I requested we cease the discussion because I found it painful, and the whole class booed. Like THAT didn't have any basis in reality or anything.

On my way to work, I tried to quell the rising tide of nauseated panic (oh, the stench of those hallways! The fetid stew of the cafeteria, the locker rooms, and hormonal adolescents! How you've seared yourself into my brain; how impossible you are to capture in mere words) with some internal debate about the Andy Warhol documentary I saw on PBS yesterday--unless I missed something at the beginning, how can they do a film about Andy Warhol and not mention Edie Sedgwick? Usually, thinking about passive-agressive hipsters of yore serves as a pleasant diversion from youthful traumas, but in this case it was like trying to salve a burn with butter. So then I tried to resurrect the lovely Tennessee Williams discussion I had with my acting teacher yesterday--FYI, the streetcar named Desire is now a bus (thanks, Claudia, for that disconcerting piece of information)--but that just dredged up the memory of my evil 11th grade English teacher, who dismissed my paper on The Glass Menagerie as "too depressing." I wish I'd known then that TW died with a pill bottle lodged in his throat, or that his sister, Rose (geddit, Mrs. Teacher? Rose? Blue Roses? Laura Wingfield?) was the recipient of the first prefrontal lobotomy in the state of Mississippi. Ah, l'esprit de l'escalier.

Anyway. You think you have this shit resolved, and it turns out all you've managed to do, yet again, is pave over it with a particularly cheap brand of cement.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I'm Pro-Biotic, And I Vote!

It appears my dad has seen the light at the end of the tunnel of his epic battle with his diseased intestines. He discovered the magic potion known as kefir at a local health food store--local in Harrisburg, no less! I know there are health food stores there, because my mom dated this macrobiotic dude for two years and they used to drag me there to get tofu, but I always assume they'll be closed down because they sell Commie food. Anyway, he's getting used to the taste, but he's hoping the influx of good bacteria will enable him to move his bowels like a normal fifty-eight-year-old who lives on frozen dinner entrees. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like he'll be able to sue the dentist who gave him clindamycin. Although clindamycin, as I've stressed on these pages, is notorious for causing intestinal upset, he was taking other antibiotics for other problems at various times throughout the year, and while the clindamycin probably pushed him over the edge, he can't prove that the drug itself was the sole cause of his problems. Not to mention, he neglected to read the small print, and without that, you don't have a case.

In other news, I'm back in touch with my college drama director, who loathes my undergraduate institution as much as I do. I was on their website yesterday and my eyeballs were bleeding with all those pictures of clean-cut preps in their Polartec fleeces. I'm tempted to add something to the class notes about working as a dominatrix (false) just so I can imagine the gasps of "Well, I never!" (To which Groucho Marx responded, "Well, you should, you might like it.") Ugh. What was I thinking, attending the undergraduate institution which shall remain nameless so I can make fun of it? Even my dad warned me against going there. I will never forget his words--"Those kids are really preppy, and you know how you feel about preppies." But noooo, I was seduced by ivy-covered walls and a beautiful lakefront. My hypothetical kids will do no such thing. They will attend the ugliest state school known to man! Fortunately, my drama director made it somewhat more bearable. I will forever cherish the memory of the playwriting class in which he gently responded to a girl who gave, as an example of stage devices, the story of seeing a play in Dublin about the life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde, in which the playwright recreated her childhood molestation with a huge monster puppet that forced her to fellate it, "This is not a good example, because we have to deal with our feelings about sex, and we have to deal with our feelings about puppets." You may have had to be there. I won't reveal his name either, even though he has tenure.

Nothing doing this weekend. Just sleep, the brother of death. Next weekend, I hit the opera with my friend in the Bronx, who promised to wear a tie.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Baby, I Can Put My Name In Lights

Thanks to everyone who stopped by yesterday for the interview, and a million thanks to Amy Guth and her publicist Jen for affording me the opportunity to host it, and to get to know Amy. Yay!

So I'm on the mailing list for the New York NeoFuturists, a theatre troupe that was started in Chicago and featured none other than the awesome Ayun Halliday and her husband, Urinetown author Greg Kotis. The Neos are famous for Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, an attempt to perform thirty plays in sixty minutes. I get this email today that says they're looking for actors to fill out their troupe, so what do I do? Email them to set up an appointment! Oh, I delude myself in spades. Assuming they would take my fat amateur ass, am I really up for turning my Friday and Saturday nights over to late-night theater? What about my acting class? What about my therapy group? How am I going to explain this to my family--oh, wait, that's not an issue, thank god. They'll probably just ask me what the hell has taken me so long. Breathe. Just breathe.

Anyway, we shall see. Chances are not great, but what the hell? Clearly I'm stage-sick--the latest draft of my novel begins with my narrator explaining that the reason she temps is because she's in a comedy troupe called the Misanthropes, the toast of every dank basement in Chinatown and Williamsburg. Maybe I'm just doing it backwards.

I forgot to mention that while Ruth was here, I saw a hilarious show on Queens Public Access. No, I swear--it was genuinely hilarious, not accidentally so. It was a comedy troupe called Cheese Theatre that bills itself as Queens' only sketch comedy troupe. For all I pay attention to my borough of residence, they might well be. The awesome thing about NYC public access is that they're somehow allowed to use words you've never heard in the Bible (christ, they show porn over in Manhattan!), and these folks made good with plenty of "shits" and "motherfuckers." My favorite was an ad for "Gun Clock" by "Malo" in which one fellow is telling another how he was on an elevator with Bill Maher at the same time he was fucking a girl up the ass. Then the clock strikes five and--boom!--the two guys get shot. That's my kind of sketch comedy! I can't tell if this means I'm tremendously evolved or severely emotionally underdeveloped. Perhaps I should get to know my neighbors...?

Anyhoo, wish me luck. I can't tell if I've put my foot in it or I'm about to change my life. Maybe neither.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Amy Guth Has Really Fucking Cool Glasses

If you haven't yet heard of author/blogger Amy Guth, chances are you'll start hearing her name mentioned a lot in the upcoming months. Her debut novel, Three Fallen Women, which is currently in pre-release from So New Media Press, chronicles the lives of "a frustrated painter newly-aware after a breakdown; a heroin addict whose organs are attempting to warn her she's dying; and a woman who finds serious catharsis in prostitution, castrations and mercy kills – as they individually fall apart, reconstruct, rinse, lather, repeat" and has been described as indispensable for anyone "who thinks the patriarchy needs a suckerpunch to the ballsack." (You'll be hearing that line a lot too.) While you're waiting for your copy to plod its way through the mail, check out Amy's monthly "socio-feminist" column in Outcry magazine and for god's sake, make damn sure you visit her blog and post some comments.

Amy is a former New Yorker who has claimed residence in various other cities, and she apparently has the accent to prove it. Currently living in Chicago, Amy further adds to her contemporary Renaissance woman cred with a stint as an improv-er/collaborator for the hallowed Second City troupe, where she distinguished herself with a little skit about snorting improv coke off a dead hooker.

As I was compiling this interview, I discovered that Amy and I have more in common than smart mouths and cats. Turns out that Amy herself had the same job at NYCO that I did, pimping opera during the 1999-2000 season! Did I mention she also has really fucking cool glasses? And a friend who lives in a yurt! Aces!

Enough patter. Let's let Amy speak for herself...

Where did you come up with the idea for the "What I did with Her Book"

I lived near a drycleaner in New York City who ran this contest where you
had to make something out of drycleaner bags and wire hangers. The winner
got six months of free dry-cleaning. So, I thought of that one day and
wondered about applying it to myself and that's where it ended up. I've
had a big response so far.

I read your interview on QueerCents, in which Nina says that Three
Fallen Women "has been recommended for anybody who thinks that the
patriarchy needs a suckerpunch to the ballsack." Did you begin this novel
with such, um, lofty aspirations in mind?

No, but I couldn't be happier with that line that has emerged about Three
Fallen Women. I began the novel at a time when I was suddenly very aware
of some women around me having trouble enforcing their boundaries and then
ending up in these extreme situations. So, more or less, I suppose I was
trying to make a statement, whether or not I would have realized that at
the time, and ended up doing it through the mouthpieces of these

You are a very funny woman, and I'm not just saying that because
you're doing me the honor of appearing on my blog. Do you still find a
huge resistance to being a smart, self-deprecating funny woman? It seems
like for every Janeane Garofalo or Amy Sedaris, there are about thirty Meg
Ryans-that whole brand of fresh-faced, cutsey-pie thing that Hollywood
tries to convince us is high comedy. Do you see us making any headway on

You know, I see a lot of instances of women being faced with a situation
where they can either be supportive of another female artist, or they can
be catty, and they keep opting to be catty, and I just don’t get it.
There's not a cap on success or creativity in the world, but a lot of
women act like it's this crazy competition and it makes me crazy. I
totally believe in supporting people who are out there doing their thing,
and if someone is cool, I want to be friends. It’s really as simple as
that, but people make it needlessly complicated and I wish they didn't. As
for your original question, yes, I do think there is a lot of resistance to
women who are smart and funny. I think it exists because most people want
to be able to categorize everyone they meet and when confronted with
someone who defies categorization, they don't know what to do, so,
unfortunately, a lot of people switch into a negativity mode.

It does seem that a lot of what the cattiness is about-and this is
something I struggle with all the time-is focusing our frustration on each
other, rather than trying to create something new and dismantle this
stronghold from the ground up, or deifying women as peaceful, nurturing
warrior goddesses. It leaves us no room for growth.

I think that's probably true. I just feel like there isn't a cap on
success, or abundance, not really anyway nor, am I wired to really mess
with competitiveness. I just don't see the need for it. So, I I feel like
sharing and outward supportiveness is really necessary to any kind of

Along with "smart-ass," "vegetarian," and "cat lover," one of the
credentials you claim on your blog is "Jew." Your practice strikes me as
awesomely heterogeneous-the sacredness of yoga here, the Wiccan practice
ofswirling honey and sugar and herbs into a bottle there, along with the
traditional apples-and-honey on Rosh Hashanah. How do you see Judaism et.
al. as having shaped and continuing to shape you?

I don't think there is one true religion or way of thinking. Whatever
works and creates positivity in a life is valid for that person. Again and
again it strikes me that there are so many bridges that exist in various
religions to perhaps develop a deeper understanding of each other, and
ourselves, by seeing and understanding those similarities. And, personal
ritual has always fascinated me, particularly in secular contexts. So, to
me, and for probably a lot of other Jews, Judaism isn't a set of beliefs
or practices, but a way to filter things. I mean, we really consider the
hell out of things and I'm no exception. I try to consider as many sides
to any given subject as I possibly can, and I think my decisions are
temporary. By that I mean, why lock myself in? Why should I aspire to feel
the same things and practice it the same ways at 30-ish as I will when I'm
50-ish, right? That would freak me out to lock into one set way of doing
things forever. So, that was a tangent, but basically, I really put
Judaism to work for me because it's like having an organized way to
intentionally disorganize things to run freely in order to see what works
at any given time. Does that make sense?

Works for me! You posted an interesting piece about practicing lashon ha-ra, which
is not spreading "negative truths" unless the person to whom you're
speaking needs the information. How's that working out for you?

I adhere to it everyday. I think it's really important. I mean, haven't we
all slipped and said something crappy about someone? I have and it always
made me feel bad afterwards, to put so much negativity out there like
that. So, I decided to adopt the practice of lashon hara because it's a
solid name for something that's really important to me. There just no
reason to knock other people down and by talking smack, it's like you're
trying to tell people how to feel about someone, which seems manipulative
to me. And, it's easy to keep lashon hara in practice in my daily life,
as I just tell people that I don't have an ear for gossip and that usually
shuts it all down.

Okay, here's a light, dipshitty question to finish up: Tell me about the tattoos.
How many, what are they, the fun stuff. Also, as an ex-New Yorker, can
you recommend a safe, reputable place to get one?

Well, get a tattoo whenever you feel comfortable. You'll walk into a shop
and know it is the right one for you, and the same applies to your artist.
You have to really get along and feel comfortable with the person giving
you a tattoo or you'll always have that slight memory of what a
not-positive experience it was. For a jumping off point, stop people on
the sidewalk with beautiful tattoos and ask them where they went. Ask your
friends. People know good artists.

I have a back piece in progress. The first part has been finished for a
while, so I need to get off my ass (what was I busy doing? writing a
novel?) and add the other three or so sections. But, I also have a little
tattoo on my abdomen, just below my navel. It originally was a memory tat
for my grandmother, but it's fading so I have my eyes open for a way to
redo it but evolve it at the same time.

Thanks a million times over, Amy, for letting me play hostess, and my apologies for not putting this up sooner in the day. Hope everyone played nicely while you were waiting for me to post this.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I Am A Pirate King

I'm still pushing paper and answering phones at the brain trust, and I am still convinced every kid on the Upper East Side has ADHD. My question is, how many of them actually have ADHD, and how many of them have Upper East Side parents? Oh, what a shitty place to raise your kids. How will they ever learn the fundamental lesson that life's a bitch? Oh, well, maybe they won't have to. Don't cry for them, Argentina. It's not the kids' fault that their parents are such arrogant shits, though.

Last night, I descended further into the bowels of reality TV with ABC's "Wife Swap," which marathon I missed thanks to the always illuminating presence of Ruth and the yoga workshop I attended. Holy shit, these people make poor Jo Frost, SuperNanny, look like Alistair Cooke. Sadly, because ABC is owned by Disney, there's no swinging here. That's a shame, because I'd really like to see John Q. Preppie discover the erotic maelstrom that is Jane P. Scullery Maid and vice-versa. I'm not really sure there's a point to this show other than pure exhibitionism, but who am I to visit judgment? Leave that task to Bitch magazine. I'm just a temp.

The swingin' couples in question were a professional organizer from Southern California and a woman of questionable employment means in Oregon who, along with her husband, have carved out a lifestyle based on "pirate-itude," which as far as I can tell, involves dressing up like a pirate and refusing to work a 9-to-5 job. Works for me! Is there some whole pirate subculture here I don't know about? Aren't pirates typically rapists and plunderers? The only pirates I know about, besides my friend in the Bronx, who just looks like a pirate, involve my beloved loser baseball team, and that's more about Pittsburgh than anything of the walk-the-plank variety. Speaking of, big deal, Mets, you beat the Pirates! I, too, can shoot fish in a barrel!

Anyway, so the professional organizer made the pirate chop off his ponytail and take a job in an accounting firm, which I was thrilled to hear him describe as "the most soul-crushing four hours of [his] life" and the scullery maid forced the kids at the anal retentive ranch to quit cheerleading and football and write a pirate play instead. Here's where I'm torn: I want to support the scullery maid to shake the Stepford kids' world up a little bit, but she didn't exactly go about it in the right way. Forcing a poor thirteen-year-old FemBot to ditch cheerleading and makeup at the drop of a hat is not going to bring about the subversion you crave. Why not start slow? Play her some Patti Smith; read her some Allan Ginsberg. Or start off even slower and show her some old "Daria" DVDs. (Birthday alert!) Don't go running about claiming you're Mad Sally. And Professional Organizer, I hate to say this, but I could use your help. As long as you don't force me to get a job in accounting or "take pride in my appearance," which is your codespeak for spending two hours on my hair and makeup, could you please come over and help me clean up my charming prewar apartment? I am really glad you're not my mother--you know things are bad when I'm grateful that I had Vikki the Crackhead pushing me out of her uterus--but I could stand to have a cleaner pad. Thanks.

Enough of the pirates. Please stop by tomorrow and check out my interview with the awesome Amy Guth, who has pirate-ittude to burn. In spades.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Chinatown, My Chinatown

I'm back after a lovely weekend playing hostess to my dear AF (henceforth to be known as Ruth, her given name), traipsing around Chinatown and the East Village with her buying a lot of cheap crap I don't really need, but was too cute to resist. The piece de resistance was a $3 figurine of two Chinese people having sex, procured in a little tchotchke shop on Mulberry Street. Why? 'Cause. In my defense, I picked one of the more discreet ones--a man and a woman having conventional intercourse sitting up. If you look at it quickly, it probably wouldn't register that they're fucking, but once you do a double take, it's pretty clear what they're up to. I may have to go back and buy some of the more Too Hot For TV ones because, dude, they're figurines of people having sex! Anyway, the copulators are now residing on my night table, next to the Feng Shui kitties I picked up the last time Ruth was in town. They haven't yet complained.

While Ruth attended a two-day workshop with a world-famous acupuncturist (apparently, he's world-famous among acupuncturists, and no one else), I went to a yoga for weight loss workshop with a fellow named Brandt Bhanu Passalacqua at Integral Yoga on Sunday afternoon. Bhanu, as he's known in the yoga world, lost a hundred pounds in a year practicing a very gentle form of hatha yoga and modifying his diet to gradually include wholesome, organic foods (and eventually, no meat, but he doesn't soapbox). Awesome is not too strong a word here. Basically, everything we know to be true about weight loss is wrong. Carbs are not "bad," and you are not going to guarantee a safe, permanent weight loss by putting yourself through boot camp, unless that's your thing, because the number one cause of weight gain is stress. So, what do you do? Breathe a lot! Do gentle hatha poses without straining! Eat good, wholesome food six times a day! Buy his book! (Of course I did. Do you think I'm going to pass up a chance to lose weight without depriving myself?) The workshop ended with Bhanu passing out some of the yummiest dark chocolate I've ever tasted. We took deep breaths while we were eating it, which essentially forced us to savor what was in our mouths. Oh, what a relief to know I can still lose weight and give my poor creaky knees a break. (Christ, I probably sound like a fucking "Cathy" comic, don't I?)

I met up with Ruth after our respective workshops ended, and followed her around while she sought out the perfect jade roller for her face (it's an acupressure thing). Then we had to go into a few Chinese pharmacies. Then tchotchke shops. Then another Chinese pharmacy, and then the store where I bought the Chinese-people-fucking figurine and Ruth perused a box of three-for-a-dollar jade medallions for, like, a half hour. As exact and perfect opposites (Ruth is an Aries; I'm a Libra), this is one area that causes some friction between us. I go into a store, and if I don't see something I like for a reasonable price, I leave. Ruth browses and browses and browses and frankly, I don't know how she can stand for that long. But for some reason, the same behavior that would drive me into a spitting rage with a whole host of other people makes me like Ruth all the more. Not that I don't whine and roll my eyes at her and step out about fifty times for a cigarette when she's looking for the perfect aquatic woodcut for her office. We have our schtick, but it works well.

The evening concluded with the two of us watching the vomitatory "The Girls Next Door" on E!, a show I would not watch by myself unless I were being paid a substantial fee, but watching the TV-deprived Ruth watching Hef's girls cavort around and generally behave like thirty-year-old adolescents was all the entertainment I needed.

I'm now trying to get Ruth to go to India with me, but she's pretty much under contract to go to China at some point, and she can't afford to do both. Oh well, we have five years. Hey, didn't Stalin say something about that...?

Speaking of, if you're in Chinatown, pick me up a Chairman Mao watch. I'd get one myself but 1)broke and 2)birthday in less than a month. Thanks!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I'd Rather Have A Bottle In Front of Me...

How do people stand working at doctor's offices? How do they stand dealing with patients demanding the doctor deliver their son's Concerta prescription right now, by laser beam? I cannot imagine anything more suffocating than making a career of being a medical secretary, and I'm only a goddamn temp. If you are a medical secretary and you genuinely like your work, I am in awe.

Been working on the novel this week for the eight billionth time. I've been starting and restarting that damn thing since I was about twelve and trying to make a grand statement about teen suicide. I actually wrote a play about teen suicide that won a Scholastic writing award when I was thirteen. Got to come to New York and have lunch at the Waldorf Astoria and everything. No lie! And it was the day after my first kiss, no less.

The two bright spots this week were an awesome documentary on POV called The Boys of Baraka about four poor black boys from Baltimore who went to a boarding school in Kenya for a year (the school was forced to close when the embassy in Nairobi shut down--isn't that the way it always works?) and an article in a yoga magazine whose name escapes me about yoga charter schools. Roll your eyes all you want, but I think it's a great idea. Why aren't schools incorporating yoga into their curricula? Because it's "faggy"? Beats the hell out of lining up for forty minutes to wait to hit a field hockey ball into a net.

In other news, today is Sarito's birthday, so send her some love. Oh yes, and lest we forget, my 30th is coming up in one month and one day. Still don't know where I'm having my party. I'm leaning toward Two Boots in the East Village. Of course, I'm terrified only two people will come and I'll be sitting there like an asshole all night while my two true friends give me pitying stares. Has that ever happened to you? I'm not saying it's happened to me, either. Yet.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Book Tour, Brain Cases, Yurts and All

On Wednesday, September 20, I will be hosting author Amy Guth on these pages as part of her book tour for her new novel, Three Fallen Women, which has been described as a must-read "for anybody who thinks that the patriarchy needs a suckerpunch to the ballsack." I'm there! In the meantime, check out Amy's blog and spread much-deserved words of love. She's hilarious.

In other news, having lost my job at NYCO for failing to sell more than four subscriptions in the almost two months that I was there, I'm back to temping until I can figure out what the hell I want to do next and/or I find a job that doesn't make me want to stab myself (and who'll have me). My current assignment is at a neurologist's office on the Upper East Side. Very chichi. It's a bit disconcerting to see patients come in and know there's something, well, wrong with their brains, and yet they look normal. The doctors are quite congenial, which is a plus because the office is a mess, and the patients insist on telling me their life stories over the phone and expecting me to call in their authorization codes and precerts and book them for MRIs. Ah, the power of the phrase "I'm just a temp." Meaning there is none. Not only am I "just a temp" with no power to convince their insurance companies that their brain scans are not some luxury like teeth whitening, the patients don't give a rat's ass. "Well, can you do this?" No, I cannot. "Well, how about--" I can have the doctor call you back. That's it. Now go tell your spouse that the bitch at the doctor's office wouldn't help you because she's a bitch and fuck her. But oh, those case files! Far better than People, I must say.

And in other other news, I'm torn between saving up for a trip to India when I'm thirty-five and buying a yurt. The Times real estate magazine ran a little item on these adorable little homes in the round, and I'm seriously considering moving into one. There is a yurt-ville somewhere in the Grand Tetons, but I think I'd install my yurt along the coast. Which coast, I'm not sure. I'm also not yet sure if I'd do away with electricity or if I'd install a generator. As for what I'd do for a living, I'd probably grow organic vegetables and trawl for clams or something. I might learn to knit better than I currently do, too.

Of course, I could buy a yurt and move to India, but that might just be taking this hippie fantasy a bit too far. Then again...

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 Redux

I can't decide if MSNBC's "historic, real-time" re-broadcast of "The Today Show" from September 11, 2001 is tasteless or cathartic, and I'm not sure what it says about me that I have it on in the background. (I can think of a few choice epithets for myself, given that five years ago today, I was working as a temporary receptionist, and now I'm doing the same thing again. You probably can too.)

If nothing else, it's important to remember that, as my therapist pointed out, even with the horror of the attacks, America was not an innocent victim in this. This was the culmination of years and years of crappy politics in the Middle East. No, I don't suppose we "deserved" it--no one who died in the attacks deserved to lose their lives in such a way--but there's only so much a person or persons can take. We must be more vigilant, and I don't mean by monitoring people's Internet activity or even forbidding liquids on airplanes. We need to think about how we're living our lives. Maybe it's too late for that. I don't know.

But hey, how about that SuperNanny! Just watched a marathon on the execrable ABC Family network yesterday and dag, I wish I'd had her when my momma was beating the shit out of me! I love her Cockney accent and her firm, loving, not-at-all-condescending way of stating what should be obvious but isn't. I'm kind of waiting for some scandal to break about Jo Frost beating the kids or sleeping with the father when the cameras go off, but that's because I'm a sick fuck. Thank god we have SuperNanny to make us comfortable during these last days before the Apocalypse!

I'm slightly bummed that I'll be missing the "Wife Swap" marathon next Sunday, but the AF is coming to visit and I'll be going to a yoga workshop. So!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

...And Many Happy Returns

Last night, Sarito and I went to hear my pal Tessa Souter at Joe's Pub. Sarito, as you'll recall, as my sometime acting buddy and frequent spiritual mentor. Tessa and I met in a memoir writing workshop last spring. Not only has Tessa published a book, she's an awesome, awesome chanteuse and songwriter who's also--wait for it--gorgeous and a total sweetheart. Sigh.

Anyway, before the set started, I was telling Sarito that I seemed to be going through a strange period right now, what with my thirtieth birthday right around the corner. Much of it is the predictable jazz--no career, no money, no motivation save fear--but some of it is positive, if unnerving. For example, I've made a decision to take more responsibility for who I am instead of passing it all off on my shitty childhood. Sarito explained that what I was going through was what the astrologers refer to as the Saturn Return. Hmmm.

The Saturn Return, which is the period between 28 and 30, is the first time Saturn completes its cycle through your birth chart and returns to where it was when you were born. According to Skye Alexander, "Few people describe Saturn Return as a pleasant period. While undergoing your Saturn Return, you may find yourself turning inward and reflecting on your individual may feel lonely and alienated from those around you, while family and friends think you are shutting them out. But this is a necessary period of consolidation, when you must retreat from the distractions of the outer world and focus on yourself at your most fundamental level." (See, therapy group! I was going through my Saturn Return! That's why I've been such a cunt these past two years. Hee hee.)

It does make sense to me, in an odd way, but I suppose we can cook up any explanation for any phase of life. There's too much about astrology that makes sense to me, though, for me to dismiss it as sheer coincidence--not least the fact that my birthday was designated "the day of the world's stage."

The question is, what to do with all this information? I do kind of wish that we could all be more attentive to this and let it shape us in some real way that doesn't let us off the hook of, as Jerry Springer puts it, taking care of ourselves and each other. I mean, I don't endorse constructing a legal defense along the lines of Dan White and his Twinkies--"My Saturn Return made me do it!"

Anyway. The show was great, the writer's block continues, but I can feel something trying to push its way out of there.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Drugs Are Bad, Mmmkay?

I’ve been doing a little research into my dad’s intestinal condition, which as you’ll recall he developed after taking clindamycin after having a tooth removed. (It can also be spelled “clyndamicin.” If you type the former in on Google, you’ll get a lot of official websites; if you do the latter, you’ll get a lot of message boards for people who’ve had similar trouble with the drug.) It’s been two months, and he hasn’t been able to get rid of it. The hell of it is, he was given clindamycin as a preventive measure, not to treat an existing infection. Naturally, he’s pretty pissed off to be so full of shit.

Many people who take clindamycin develop a condition called Clostridium Difficile Colitis, also known as c. diff. With c. diff, the “bad” bacteria—the clostridia difficile—kill all the “good” bacteria, thereby generating a lot of shit, to put it bluntly. Sometimes this condition can be cleared up in a few weeks. In other cases, it takes more than a year. Many people who take clindamycin develop it, to the point that the pharmaceutical companies developed a drug, Flagyl, to combat its aftereffects.

At this point, we aren’t sure if my dad has full-blown colitis. He’s taken Flagyl, which has helped up to a point. Just when he thinks he’s in the clear, he has another attack. Fortunately, in our case, it’s been more of a pain in the ass (literally and figuratively) than anything else. My dad’s secretary’s sister took clindamycin, developed c. diff, and lost seventy pounds over the course of a year. As portly people, my dad and I have joked about losing seventy pounds, but that’s a hell of a way to do it. And no, I am not recommending you take clindamycin if you want to lose weight by shitting your brains out.

In fact, I’ll say it again—please do not take this drug unless you have to. Even the NIH website warns you not to take it if you develop severe cramping and bloody stool.

And while we’re in PSA mode, when it comes to street drugs, lay off the hard stuff. You don’t know what you’re getting, and you’ll probably end up getting shot.

Have a nice weekend, kids! Check out my friend Tessa Souter and her torch songs tonight at 9:30 at Joe's Pub in NYC.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tom and Katie, Sittin’ In A Tree

In case you haven’t read Tom Shales’s review of Katie Couric’s debut on CBS Evening News, here it is. And here’s my attempt to sound erudite about it.

When he’s not oozing condescension (replete with snarking about Couric’s outfit, and his subsequent assertion that commenting about it isn’t sexist), Shales does make some decent, if obvious points that what transpired Tuesday night isn’t so much news as it is news magazine, riddled as it was with such “special features” as “Eye On Your Money” and a “free speech” segment that, as Shales put it, “turn[s] out to be the oldest idea in television: Have some well-known or obscure blowhard pop up and do a rant into the camera.” Blowhard, indeed—tonight’s segment features none other than Rush Limbaugh.

It’s hard to tell if this bells-and-whistles approach is Couric’s doing or her producers’, but it’s a bit disingenuous given who Couric is, and it’s not clear what she and they are trying to do. Is this a not-so-subtle statement that Couric is too femme to tote the manly yoke of the nightly news? Is it an attempt to make CBS Evening News more populist, as Couric’s appointment was supposed to accomplish?

Yes, Couric is “perky.” Yes, she’s the first woman to anchor the evening news solo. My reaction to that is simultaneously, great, and what the hell took us so long. No, Katie Couric’s appointment is probably not some great leap forward on the road to equality, but it’s nice to see, anyway. Couric is no revolutionary. She is who she is—a perfectly competent broadcaster with some endearing qualities, some grating ones, and the good fortune to embody most of which we prize in contemporary American womanhood.

If Couric wishes to revolutionize the American news broadcast—and I’m not saying she should just because, hell, she’s a woman, and isn’t it our sole responsibility to be the change we see in the world? —she’d do well to look to the BBC’s fine tradition of delivering the news straight, no chaser. Of course, the current “populist” approach doesn’t allow for this. We need ten million more reminders that obesity and smoking can kill. I suppose that makes it more interesting.

My message to Couric: Just do it. Just give us the news. If you have to throw some obesity ultimatums in there, I’ll cut you some slack. You’re good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like you. Kick Limbaugh's ass for me.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

'Round the Outside! 'Round the Outside!

We have here a word from my friend and de facto little sister Marcia, whose opinions were formed, tainted, and rendered unreliable thanks to nine years under Ceaucescu:

I personally hate the term "well-rounded." Hate it. It just evokes the whole American guidance counselor philosophy on how to get into college by adding as much self-involved, superficial crap as possible such as 'Participated in "Pep Club" and "Cheerleading Squad" and "Student Council" (which evinces one of your favorite qualities: "leadership")' to applications. Oh and it also usually involves volunteering at your church.

You know, it's odd, but I don't have a huge problem with "well-rounded," as long as it's accurate. I do have a huge problem with high school guidance counselors insisting upon students amassing these particular activities for their CV in order to give colleges the oft-false impression that these kids are, in fact, multifaceted. ("The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Suppe is tripping through my brain as I type this.)

Oh, and by the way, kids? If you're not at a parochial school, the National Honor Society admissions committee has a Constitutional obligation to absent religion from its selection process. You probably already knew that, but clearly the folks at the brainwashing pen Marcia and I attended do not. Or maybe they do, and like Ceaucescu, they're just making shit up and ripping the Constitution unit out of the history texts, except for the 2nd Amendment. Wouldn't put it past them. Hey! Teachers! Leave those kids alone!

She Blinded Me With (Political) Science

Songwriter and Communist Abel Meeropol once said during a political education class, “I know who the bosses are, I know who the workers are, and I know which side I’m on. Why do I need to know more than that?” My assessment of the PA Senate race is just about as sophisticated. Here’s my position: Do not vote for the guy who equates homosexuality with hot dad-on-daughter action. Simple as that. (Did anyone else out there watch Meet the Press this Sunday besides the guy who called in to Brian Lehrer yesterday claiming that while Rick Santorum was focused and on message, Bob Casey Jr. “just sat there nodding his head”? I can’t seem to get the transcript.)

In keeping with our “Back to School” theme this week, here’s a little political education for you. I’ve included the answers right after each question, just like my 12th grade Government teacher used to do.

Section 1. Who Said It?

1. “What the Christ is wrong with the Jews, Bob?”
a. Bud Dwyer
b. Richard Nixon
c. Carl Bernstein
d. Pat Buchanan

If you guessed (b) Richard Nixon, sing “Hava Nagilah.” Tricky Dick was not only, well, tricky, he was also a Halcion –popping Jew hater. But hey, how ‘bout that thing with China and the pandas?

If you figured out that “Bob” was H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, give yourself an extra gold star (of either the David or the Christian variety).

2. "What a waste it is to lose one's mind--or to not have a mind. How true that is."
a. Ross Perot
b. George W. Bush
c. Dan Quayle
d. Nigel Hawthorne

Although George W. Bush hasn't the brains God gave a leech, and Ross Perot is certifiably something or other, the correct answer is (c) Dan Quayle. Bonus points if you recalled that J. Danforth was speaking about the United Negro College Fund.

Section 2. True or False

3. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted for stealing the secret of the atom bomb and transmitting it to the Russians during WWII.

FALSE. Patently false, actually. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage, a crime that is technically punishable by death, although their co-defendant, Morton Sobell, received “only” thirty years in prison, eighteen of which he served.

The only evidence the government had against Ethel was a letter she allegedly typed outlining “atomic secrets.” In 2001, Ethel’s brother David Greenglass revealed on “60 Minutes II” that his wife, Ruth, was the actual typist.

4. Actress Jane Wyman claimed that one of the reasons she divorced Ronald Reagan was she “couldn’t stand to see that damned King’s Row [Reagan’s only critically acclaimed film] one more time.”

TRUE, as far as the story goes. Or she may have just woken up one morning and realized the person sharing her bed was totally icky.

Section 3. Presidential Fun Facts!

5. Name one other president, besides Thomas Jefferson, who had red hair.

Trick one! NO other president was thus coiffed. According to Schott’s Original Miscellany, Andrew Jackson, Rutherford B. Hayes, Calvin Coolidge, and JFK were all “questionable.” JFK’s more of a strawberry blond, don’t you think? And he’s nowhere near as hot as Bobby. Mmm, Bobby, baby.

6. Who was the last president to own slaves?

Well, hell’s bells, it’s none other than Ulysses S. Grant from Ohio, of all people and places! Hey, didn’t he fight for the Union?

All right, kids. Put your pencils down. Your teacher would like to recommend an awesome place for you to pick up beer to drink in your parents’ rec rooms after school. Heliopolis on Broadway at 33rd in Astoria not only has a vast array of brews from Magic Hat, including the awesome “Mother Russia,” which we’ll be covering next month, but it’s also the only place I’ve ever been able to find rose water for your mango lassis, which you shouldn’t mix with beer. ‘S all right? Good. Now go and carpe diem or whatever.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Language Arts 101: Professor Karla’s Word Allergies

Welcome back, class! I hope you all had a lovely summer. Actually, I don’t, since I spent mine working two dead-end jobs and didn’t even get to hop the Q train out to Brighton Beach. So I am going to vent my broke, spinsterly spleen on you young’uns and slap you with a thousand-word theme on The Scarlet Letter, which I told you was mandatory if you wanted to come into my Honors English class, but which you probably didn’t read when you were summering at Mummy’s mummy’s house in the Hamptons, did you? Oh, paybacks are hell! Mwoohoohahahahahahaha!

Ahem. You know, it occurs to me that I was supposed to have read The Scarlet Letter for an Honors English class, but I think I just skimmed the Cliff’s Notes. Pity, that, because it might well have been a good read. I’ve just never liked doing what I was told (spoiled brat), especially by English teachers who refuse to believe that Tennessee Williams died in the Hotel Elysee with a pill bottle lodged in his throat. Oh, well, perhaps when I’m in the iron lung.

Anyway. Today’s lesson is on word allergies. You have ‘em; I have ‘em in spades. So here are a few words and phrases that set my teeth on edge. Pay attention; I expect a six-hundred-word theme on this topic by the end of the week.

Leadership. The most offensive word I can think of. Every time we use it in therapy, I am so tempted to ask if we can use another, like “splunge.” (Extra credit if you can tell me where “splunge” came from!) It reminds me of high school band camp and the National Honor Society, the latter from which I was excluded by a fraction of a percentage point and the former which gave me a bone spur from roll-stepping in the ninety-degree heat for five days on end. “What the fuck is so goddamn important about leadership?” I screeched to my dad. “Why can’t I just go off and do my thing and they go off and do theirs and we just leave each other alone?” My dad basically told me I was preaching to the choir and don’t worry about it. Plus, it’s jargon, and Glomer no like jargon, Punky friend.

Take Responsibility For. Again, whuzzah? Many would disagree, but I’m not entirely opposed to the concept. I think we need to take more responsibility for our actions (like, by actually thinking about whom we elect President and not just going, yipe! 9/11!) and yes, our feelings (“When you do A, I feel B. Would you mind trying C?”). But like accepting Jesus as your savior, it’s at once vague and oppressively specific. Plus, I’ve been held solely responsible for too many things that weren’t my fault at all or in which I played only the smallest part whilst the responsible party got away with murder that I refuse to trust anyone who uses the phrase with me. (Spoiled brat?)

Where the Rubber Hits the Road. So male go-getter. Puke.

Stocks and Assets. Fine if used when conversing about the stock market, dehumanizing when talking about, uh, humans. I’ve never forgotten the guy from college who told me I didn’t have enough “assets” to make “investing” in me worth it. Not a day goes by that I wonder if he wasn’t right.

Principled. Too self-righteous. I prefer “Ethics.” Like “responsibility,” I’ve had this one used against me, usually by someone behaving completely unethically.

Moral Values. Gee, wonder why.

Decent People. See above.

Not to Be Rude, But…Ohhhhh, maaaaan, if I had a nickel for every time I heard this slime out of the mouth of some chick in junior high/high school. You know the one I mean. She’s so beautiful and charming and she plays field hockey and she’s going to Villanova! How on earth could you doubt her veracity? One of these days, I’m going to make a T-shirt that says “Not to Be Rude, But…” and go up to someone and tell her she’s a fat bitch and see how well it works. Probably not very, since I’m none of the above and I sneak cigarettes behind the band room.

Disrespectful. I’m not entirely sure why this one gets my goat, because I sure as hell think we need to learn to treat each other with a hell of a lot more respect than we currently do. I think it sounds too much like a Marine barking at me. (“Don’t you dare be disrespectful to that cop! He’s got a right to crack your hippie skull open if he wants!”)

Choices. They talk about “choices” a lot in therapy. Maybe that’s why it gets me. “You have choices.” “You made your choices.” “Good choices.” “Bad choices.” Oh, my fingernails!

You’ll Never Amount to Anything. How often does this go pounding through my brain? It sounds like something India Wilkes would say to Scarlett O’Hara. (Sorry—I know at least one of y’all has a massive GWTW allergy.) Here I have to confess, I feel bad for India Wilkes. I actually think in a different time and place, if finding a husband weren’t the celebrity death match it was in the antebellum South, India and Scarlett would have decided this boy-chasing stuff was absurd and gone off and been punks together and started a ‘zine and taught the Tarleton twins how to give them orgasms. And did you ever notice that the actress who played India, Alicia Rhett, was actually very pretty? And that Scarlett O’Hara, according to Margaret Mitchell, “was not beautiful”? No, India definitely got the short end of the Confederate stick, but she insisted on hoisting that little nub into the air. I can relate.

We have five minutes until the bell rings, so why don’t YOU tell ME what words make you want to punch something and why? You can post them here or email me. I’d like to share some of the more creative ones, so if you’re emailing me and you’d like to remain anonymous, please let me know and include a pseudonym (along with your real name, of course, which I won’t publish.)

Okay, class dismissed! And don’t run in the halls, and stop stuffing poor Jimmy into his locker. He can’t help it he hasn’t hit puberty yet!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Weekend Wrap-Up (or, Dispatches From the Road, Part 2)

I'm back at my computer in Astoria, so technically this is not a dispatch from the road, but I did write several drafts of this on the train ride back. Anyway, I'm far more relaxed and refreshed than I was when I left this mess for the immutable boredom of "the Midstate," and although my dad's intestinal disturbances (remember, folks, that's "clyndamicin," and don't take it unless you're infected with flesh-eating staph) prevented us from delving as deep into PA Dutchland as I would have liked, I still got some good pictures of local tack that I'll past here later this week. (And really, doesn't the guy have a million better things to do than haul my sorry, spoiled ass around Lancaster County so I can take pictures of kitschy oddities?)

Some highlights:

1. The Ku Klux Klan held a rally at the Gettysburg Battlefield this weekend. The local newscasters kept tripping up and saying "Klu Klux" or "Ku Kux." All together now, folks...

A peace-loving gent (he was wearing tie-dye) was arrested for hurdling the barricade separating the Klan from the normal folk. The charge? "Entering an enclosed space." As my dad says, what's next--"breathing restricted air"?

2. The outskirts of Lititz are turning into exactly what I'd prayed for as a kid, a suburban megalopoly that, if not quite up to the standards of the Main Line, at least contains more than one Starbucks. Careful what you wish for and all that jazz.

3. Route 441 is the most boring road in PA. (Gee, how many PA roads fit that description?)

4. Even the blandest food tastes like manna when your dad cooks it for you.

5. According to Grandpa, "accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior" has no metaphorical bent. It means what it says--worship Jesus. Grandpa's problem with this is that Jesus, while a great prophet with wonderful ideas, is not equal to God, and thus is not deserving of worship. My problem is with the idea that I need to be "saved" from something. We both agree that most churches are not teaching the Word of the only begotten son of our Lord (hmmm...what does THAT metaphor mean?)and thus we are both heretics who will burn in hell. But we already knew that.

6. Speaking of burning--Grandpa, in his quiet way, gave me a much-needed smack upside the head regarding smoking. (As did the lovely young med student sitting next to me on the train ride back.) "I don't guess I need to tell you how bad smoking is," he said. "Your grandpa can't breathe, and your uncle died from emphysema." Ouch.

I'm nowhere near ready to quit, but sweet jeebus, the smoking thing is really fucking with my newfound ability to go into head voice whilst singing "The Sound of Music." Therefore, I've resolved to get myself down to a steady half-pack a day within the next two weeks, where I plan to remain until I decide what to do next. (Which, we hope, would be to quit, young lady?)

7. Gray's Anatomy really is a good show.

Thanks to Dad, Grandpa, and Vera for the free eats, therapy, and all-round hospitality this weekend. Vera, I promise to get out more this year, even if it kills me, because it's too expensive to be a hermit in NYC. I mean, it kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

Back to school tomorrow, kids! Sharpen those pencils and spit out your gum--I'll have a little Language Arts lesson of my own up here when the bell rings tomorrow morning.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Midnight Express (or, Dispatches From the Road, Part 1)

I wrote the following mess o'pages during the very loooooooong, boring train ride from New York to Harrisburg yesterday...

9/1/06. 4:50 pm. On the Keystoner from New York to Harrisburg.

Just got out of the loo after a mildly epic battle with the sink. It wasn't until I had Amtrak soap smeared all over my hands that I realized the spigot was one of those push-up jobs. Is there a good reason for designing train sinks thus? Is some kind of immutable law of physics at play here? Will my train fare skyrocket from a reasonable $56 to somewhere around $560 if Amtrak installs normal sinks?

The Keystoner, so-called because of its singular route through the Keystone State (PA is the only state named after a shape, just as Libra is the only astrological sign represented by an inanimate object), is quite possibly the worst Amtrak venture on the Eastern seaboard. How so? Because it has no food or beverage service on board, that's how. I don't know about you, but if I'm going to spend four hours on a train, over half of it riding backward through cow/alien abduction country, I'd like to be able to get a turkey sandwich and a diet Coke without having to strong-arm my way through the masses at Philly's 30th Street station when the train changes engines. (The Keystoner changes from electric to diesel once it gets to Philadelphia. That makes me think of the way the fine city I call home builds medical waste incinerators in the South Bronx. Do they think because we're a bunch of Puritans who keep our lips zipped in service to the Lord that we can and should accept the expulsion of a noxious fuel into our spacious skies? Is it retribution for Three Mile Island, or perhaps William Penn's theft of the land from the Native Americans? Hey, some of us Pennsyltuckians are agnostic spoiled brats who like clean air, I'll have you know! I'll pay extra for a beverage car and an electric engine, as long as they up my Amtrak Guest Rewards points significantly.)

5:25 pm. 30th Street Station, Philadelphia.

Had a couple of cigarettes with some folks--a guy with an eyepatch, a beautiful young girl with a striking resemblance to Kelli O'Hara, and a Hispanic woman who's on her way back from Massachusetts after visiting her fifteen-year-old son in the hospital. He was in a car accident and is now paralyzed from the chest down, but he's speaking and eating. Thank god for small mercies. I offer this sincerely. Thank god this woman's son can still eat and speak. Thank god he's alive. I hope he will be able to walk again. I hope this woman and her son will be able to weather the road ahead with the same weary, matter-of-fact strength she's using now. I hope they get a few well-deserved breaks along the way.

The fellow with the eyepatch thought it would be nice if they let us smoke on the train. He was as appalled as I was eight years ago, when I first moved to New York and I was coming back to see my psychiatrist in the throes of a panic attack that made me dizzy, to discover that there's no food or beverage service on board this train. I don't mind the no smoking rule. I agree that it's a filthy habit, and I try to shield the innocent as much as possible from my disgusting, cancer-causing activities. And I don't guess it's a huge problem to buy a sandwich at Penn Station and bring it on board. But it's the principle of the thing that bugs me. That, and I'm a spoiled little bitch.

Oh, yes, and the reason they switch from electric to diesel at Philly? Because, per the affably brusque white-haired conductor who fielded my question, there isn't enough electricity to power the trains from Boston all the way to Harrisburg. Well, is it any wonder y'all are bankrupt? Save the planet, guys!

6 pm. Ardmore Station.

Ardmore, the first stop outside of Philly, is home to a little restaurant called "Peace A Pizza." The sign in the window says "Sorry, We're Open." How many times have I been tempted to blow this pop stand, jump off, and have a slice? And pizza's not really my bag, either.

Ardmore is, or was, also home to Susan Reinert, the English teacher at Upper Merion High School near King of Prussia, who was murdered by her colleague, Bill Bradfield, and her principal, Jay Smith, in 1979. Susan Reinert was married to a guy who seemed to be quite decent and steadfast, if somewhat unromantic, and she threw over her marriage to take up with Bradfield, who was not only living with yet another colleague, Sue Myers, but was still legally married to his first two wives. That's a pat assessment, but it's a big part of it. Bradfield promised to marry Susan Reinert when her mother died and she inherited $750K, but he had no intention of following through, at least on the matrimonial end. He convinced Sue Myers and two other friends/colleagues, Vince Valaitis and Chris Pappas, that Jay Smith, well known throughout Upper Merion for his sexual perversions and variegated drug addictions (he 's also rumored to have murdered his elder daughter and son-in-law and dissolved the bodies in nitric acid), was going to kill Susan because she "knew too much about his trash." According to Bradfield, the "trash" consisted of bodies he'd chopped up and spread in the Dumpsters around school. As one cop put it when he was interviewing Chris Pappas, "Did you ever think if you let go of that rope Bradfield had you shinnying up, that maybe you'd fall into a big lake of drizzly bullshit?"

The veracity of the most popular book on the case, Echoes in the Darkness by Joseph Wambaugh, came under fire about eight years ago when it was discovered that the head cop on the case, Jack Holtz, who had already taken a huge blow when it was revealed that he'd falsfied evidence in the Jay Smith trial, an act that resulted in the whole case against Smith getting thrown out, had "practically written the book for [Wambaugh]," depicting himself as the strong, silent type who rises through the ranks to save the day. Wambaugh himself admitted to paying his subjects tidy sums of money, but I think the real kicker is that it was again discovered that Jack Holtz falsified evidence in yet another murder trial. No word on what's going on there. (Bradfield was convicted in 1983 and died in prison of a heart attack in 1998, at the age of 64. Jay Smith lives in Delaware with his brother.)

That said, I still reread the book from time to time. I like to freak myself out, and I must confess a certain affection for ex-cop Wambaugh's grade-B Sam Spade writing style. I first read the book when I was eleven. How my mother let that one slip into my grasp, I will never know. Perhaps she figured I was old enough to learn that sometimes, when two people are in love, the man might put Tab A into someplace other than Slot B. I can think of worse ways to learn about fellatio than reading Jay Smith's extracurricular love letters, I guess (and by the way, I learned the word "fellatio" later that year, when i saw and fell in love with an awesome play called Biloxi Blues), but man, it was grim stuff, reading about this rubbery old guy and what sounded like he was taking a pee in there. Do, like, normal people do this, or is this kind of thing solely the provenance of dudes like Smith and his comrade Chester, Chester, Child Molester? (My mom must have been prepared for the eventuality of my asking her if she'd ever indulged, because when she mock-gasped "That is NONE of your business!" she didn't smack me upside the head. I guess we'll take that as a yes...?)

6:30-7:10 pm. Between Downingtown and Lancaster.

Nothing to see here, folks. Keep moving. You seen one cow, you seen 'em all.

7:15 pm. Outside Elizabethtown, home of M&M Mars.

Three Mile Island! Woooo! I wish we'd all make like the passengers on that flight from LaGuardia to HBG back in 1979. About a month after the almost-holocaust, my parents and I went up to Vermont to visit my aunt. Harrisburg's airport is situated such that before landing, every plane dips its wings so you get a big ol' money shot of TMI. On our return flight, the plane did just that, and then there was silence. Then, "Boo!" "Boo!" "Hiss!" and much laughter. Bow down to her now. Bow down to your queen! The queen of filth, the queen of putrescence. Boo! Boo!

*** *** *** *** ***

After disembarking, my dad and I had a lovely dinner out at one of my favorite local restaurants, The Country Oven, famous for their cheese bread and their Golden Gate house dressing (a mixture of French and Bleu Cheese, if you're interested). I had the crab-stuffed shrimp and a very strong bourbon and ginger. Upon returning to the ranch, my dad encouraged me to pet our beautiful gray cat, Hades, and she had the unmitigated gall to smack me with her claws! Jeez, my cats are more sociable than she is, and they're feral. Maybe she needs a cat friend.

I'm headed over to Grandpa's this afternoon to try and solve, once and for all, the mystery of what "accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior" really means. Tomorrow, we hit Dutch Wonderland!