Tuesday, November 30, 2010

December's Television Challenge

I have always had a love affair with television.  When I was young, my parents allotted me a fixed number of viewing hours a week.  Usually, I'd try to save up my time for Saturday morning cartoons or Mousercise (if you've never Mousercised, you've never lived), but the trick was learning to love what my parents watched.  Parent shows meant extra hours of tube.  What were they going to do... force me to stay in my room every time they turned on the TV?  So began my friendship with Crockett & Tubs and Captain Jean-Luc Picard.  Not only did I have "Star Trek" trading cards (I may never get a date again after writing this...) but I had "I Love Lucy" ones, as well.  She was my queen.  My idol.  If I could grow up to be Lucille Ball, I would have won the life lottery.  I dreamt of making audiences laugh by stuffing too many chocolates in my mouth or drinking copious amounts of Vita-Meta-Vegamin.  I even named my first cat Lucy.

Today, I cringe when I hear people say "Oh, I don't watch TV" with their noses turned up as if simply saying those two letters is beneath them.  Even worse are the "I don't even own a TV"ers.  If you can't afford a set, that's one thing, but normally that line gets tossed around at hipster dinner parties as people try to impress one another with their non-conformity.  In my opinion, television writing has hit its peak.  "Mad Men," "Justified," "30 Rock," "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia," "Modern Family," "The Walking Dead," "Boardwalk Empire," "The League," "Eastbound & Down"... the list of incredible writing, acting and directing seems endless.  Sure, there's a load of crap out there, as well, but there's a load of crap in any art form.  Even I have been known to watch a reality show or two (ahem, "Top Chef"), so I try to withhold judgment.

But while I love the medium... and my new Sony Bravia... I have to admit it's become a bit of a crutch.  When you write for a living sixteen hours a day, nearly every day, the last thing you want to do is tackle your own writing when you have an hour or two off or, heaven forbid, pick up a book and ingest more words.  What I want is a stiff drink and back-to-back episodes of "Psych."  Yet, I need to enrich my own body of work.  I need to read the lonely unread books staring sadly from my shelf.  I have music I haven't listened to.  Letters I haven't written.  People I should make plans with.  Movies I should go see (at the theater, not on On Demand!)  Blog entries and scripts and short stories that are calling my name in the night, wondering why I've deserted them... why I've abandoned the characters I love so much.  This doesn't make me lazy.  It doesn't make me a bad person.  What it does is make me numb.  My love affair has turned into a drug... a very delicious drug... but a habit none-the-less.

I'm not going to do anything drastic.  You won't find me selling my Bravia on Craigslist anytime soon or giving up TV all together, like the friend who inspired this challenge in the first place.  What I will be doing for the entire month of December, and would like to challenge my fellow TV addicts to do, is to limit myself to two hours of TV a day, including movies both at home and in the theater.  To many of you that may seem like more than enough time, but when you add up the "Today Show" I flip on while answering emails and making my breakfast in the morning, the hour I watch at lunch so I can totally shut down my brain, the fifteen minutes breaks I take in between drafts to clear my head and the couple of hours I watch at night to relax before bed, its adds up faster than you can say 'dependency.'  And I know I'm not the only one.

Tomorrow morning it begins.  If there's anything I love in life it's a challenge, no matter how small.  And damn it, if I can climb Mt. Whitney in a day (self promoting plug), then I can control my TV watching.  If you decide to take this challenge with me, write a comment.  That way, we can feel like we're in this together.  Strength in numbers, friend.  Strength in numbers.  Come January 1st we can celebrate over tea and Tolstoy... or we can watch a "Gossip Girl" marathon instead.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Oh The Possibility...

I was watching some god-awful romantic comedy the other day (really none can compare to "When Harry Met Sally") and started thinking about possibility.  You know 'possibility'... that overwhelming feeling you get when you meet someone new and begin to image all the wonderful things they might be.  Sure, we make assumptions on them based on the way they look or what they do for a living, but there is still this fantastic, vast abyss of mystery we can't wait to plunge into.  Once you become better acquainted, however, 'possibility', that ephemeral little minx, begins to fade away.  It's inevitable.  A part of nature.  Unless the person you're seeing keeps their cards close to their chest the rest of their life, you can pretty much bet what flavor of ice cream they'll pick or that they volunteer at a homeless shelter every Thanksgiving or that camping isn't an option for a vacation or that they prefer vinyl over CDs.  Possibility is replaced by actuality. 

Sometimes this actuality is better than you could have imagined.  I believe some call this "true love."  Other times, actuality is just good enough... hell, no one is perfect, right?  And most of the time it sends you packing for the hills.  As in my experience, you learn that Mr. Possibility sitting across from you at the restaurant table is an aspiring actor, a psychopath, a name-dropper, definitely batting for the other team (this has happened to me twice.  One of the guys came out, eventually.  The other I ran into at the West Hollywood 24 Hour Fitness... enough said), is a Republican, smokes two packs a day, doesn't like movies, kisses like he's trying to eat your face, is a complete stoner, a cheapskate, a stalker who throws rocks at your dorm windows while screaming your name, lazy, waaaay too young, a former professional juggler, drinks too much, snores or even worse sleep walks, never learned that you have to wash your sheets (yup, I'm serious), has a kid and an ex-wife named Candy, or a girlfriend he decided not to tell you about, has a Tweety Bird tattoo, hates cats, lives in a pigsty, thinks reading books is too much of an intellectual endeavor, has a gambling problem, and so on and so on and so on.  But even with our long list of terrible past actualities, we keep coming back for one more hit of that possibility drug.  Why?  Because maybe, just maybe, this time truth will triumph over mystery.

Friday, November 19, 2010

8 Months And Counting...

Eight months from now I will have ventured into a new realm of life.  My thirties.  Duh-duh-duh...  But this is not a rant about fearing the future.  It's a rhapsody about enjoying my twenties until July 14 2011.  And how will I enjoy this fountain of youth to the thirst-quenching, pore-plumping, metabolism-boosting, delicious last drop?  What it really boils down to is reminding people, and myself for that matter, over and over and over again that I'm not thirty. 

Lately I have taken it upon myself to drop the terms "20 something," "twenties," "29" and the not quite as cheerful "late twenties" into casual speech.  For example, to the woman who carded me at the wine bar, "My i.d.?  Yes, I have it, one second...  Here it is, 29."  I grinned, showing off my lack of crows feet and smile lines.  Then to the guy hitting on me at the car wash who asked what college I was attending (bless his poorly mistaken heart) to which I answered, "Already graduated."  "Oh?" he asked.  "But you look so young!"  "Still in my twenties," I reply confidently.  To the producer on the conference call who wonders, "Do you have kids?"  "No.  I'm only in my late twenties," as if I don't know a soul in their late twenties who has kids.  Of course, one look at my Facebook friends list with nearly every profile picture now featuring babies and toddlers, and you'd call my bluff.  Then there's the article in Elle Magazine with wardrobe tips for women in their 20s, 30s and 40s, that asked, "What age do you fall under?" to which I responded giddily, "20 somethings!" even though the skirts were too short and the tops too tiny and the girls looked like they could be my little sisters.

Now these answers all had some kind of merit.  They weren't out of left field entirely.  But as the big day draws nearer I think it's time to get a bit more brazen.  I may, for instance, start saying my age along with my name when introduced to people: "Theresa.  29.  Nice to meet you."  Or in restaurants when the waiter asks if I want a second glass of wine, I'll say, "Of course!  I'm in my twenties!  I don't go to bed until the sun rises!"  So what if I end up crashing at 10pm and have a hangover the next day from only two glasses of Pinot... it's the declaration that counts.  To the creepy guys who ogle me when I'm out walking I'll cry, "Go ahead!  Take a good long look at the 20-something ass!"  Or to the person at the movie theater box office, "One senior ticket for my mom and, well, I'm only in my late twenties, so the standard  adult ticket for me, thanks."

Yes, I'm really going to enjoy those beautiful, youthful syllables while I can.  "Twen-ty"...  How they roll off the tongue so sweetly, speaking to me of late nights and dive bars and cheap liquor and empty bank accounts and bad dates and failed relationships and entry level jobs and vulnerability and low self-esteem and crowded apartments and... hmm, hold that thought... all off a sudden "Twen-ty" isn't sounding like such a great moniker.  Maybe I shouldn't throw it around town like confetti, after all.  Maybe, just maybe, I should start to say, when introduced to new people, "Theresa.  Almost 30.  Nice to meet you."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bartering 2.0

As I get busier and busier with work and there are fewer and fewer hours in the day to check off my to-do list, it's nice to know there's someone there ready to lend me a helping hand.  Yes, that's right, I have finally gotten myself a personal assistant.  I'm sure you're wondering how I can afford such an extravagance.  After all, I'm no Hollywood celebrity or superstar athlete or corporate hotshot.  I'm just a simple writer making a modest living.  So how do I pay for my newly acquired personal assistance?  In frozen yogurt, of course.  To be exact, a Eurotart frozen yogurt with blackberries (and on occasion mochi) from Yogurtagogo in Sacramento.

Now, the next obvious question is, 'where in the world did I find such a gem of a PA?'  It was quite easy, really.  All I had to do was look no further than the gene pool from which I crawled.  Yes, that's right, I'm speaking of my mother.  For a trip to CVS to pick up contact solution or a dry cleaning delivery or a deposit of paychecks at my bank, she collects one heaping cup of froyo.  Pretty fair trade really for any of us who live and die for the frozen dessert.  I get the hummus I forgot to grab at the Safeway, and she gets a pint of Eurotart.  This whole fantastic transaction has got me thinking about the days when people used to barter for goods and services.  A fur coat for perfume.  Eggs for milk.  Yard work for construction.  Two virgins for six goats.  And on and on and on.

With the economy the way it is (aren't you just sick of hearing that line?), it might be a good time for a bartering resurgence.  In fact, I'm publicly offering my writing services to anyone who cuts hair, does nails, drives a cab, leads a boot camp class, cooks, massages (not that kind, sicko), has theater or concert tickets or teaches banjo.  What can I do for you in the way of writing?  Well, I can write letters of complaint, church bulletins, party fliers, threatening stalker letters, marketing materials, pitches and love poems (although the latter will cost extra as it goes against my nature.)  But we need not limit the movement to services.  I can see people trading books, clothes, music, shoes, pets, apartments (anyone live in Bali?  I have a terrific flat in Sacramento you might be interested in trading for a week), cars, electronics...  Hell, boyfriend swapping is perfectly reasonable if, say, your friend's bf is a lawyer and you need someone to impress the folks at Thanksgiving dinner this year.  In return she can have your hot out-of-work musician boyfriend to make her look cooler at her high school reunion.  It's win-win.

As a way to get this system started I encourage anyone with LEGAL good and services they're willing to barter to please list them in the comments section on this post.  If there can be a reality show about swapping wives, then we can certainly start swapping DVDs, no?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Top Seven Worst Dates

"Whenever I date a guy, I think, is this the man that I want my children to spend their weekends with?" - Rita Rudner

Recently a friend suggested she set me up on a blind date.  The sentiment doesn't really scare me as it does most people.  Not because I'm brave.  Not because I'm especially open minded or a risk taker.  And certainly not because the prospect actually sounds fun.  No, blind dates don't scare me because I've already had so many laughable, cringe-worthy, 'did that really happen?!' dates in my life that nothing seems to phase me anymore.  In fact, if a date is going to be bad, it better be extremely bad so that I can at lest get a good anecdote out of it to amuse my friends.  So in honor of being back out on the market (I love this expression... makes me feel like a prize-winning pig), I thought I would air out my dirty dating laundry and share the top seven (I like an odd number) worst romantic rendezvous I've had the exquisitely painful pleasure to partake in.
  1. During a dinner date with a basketball player I met at a nightclub in Sacramento (this should have been a warning sign, no?) the guy... and I kid you not... actually fell asleep at the table as I was talking.  I mean, he literally dropped his head beside his brick oven personal pizza and slipped into REM.  This same guy then attempted to call me every other night for the next two weeks wondering why I wouldn't go out with him again.  Must have hit his head quite hard on that table.
  2. Here's the next scenario broken down into scenes, which is appropriate seeing as though it was a movie date.  Act I: Guy takes his retainer out at the dinner table and sets it in the middle of said table on a napkin.  My eyes remain fixated on the trail of saliva running from his mouth to the retainer as he tries to engage me in conversation.  Act II: In the middle of the movie guy realizes he left retainer on table and runs out, leaving me by myself at a particularly gruesome horror film.  Act III: Guy comes back upset, sweaty and smelling of garbage after having searched for retainer in the restaurant dumpster without luck.  He mumbles about the $500 he'll need to scrounge up to get a new one during the rest of the movie.  Needless to say, there was no Act IV.
  3. My first date in LA was with a photographer I met on the plane ride over there.  He was quite a bit older but looked like Sting so I thought I'd take my chances.  Unfortunately, the entire date consisted of him ranting about his ex.  What sparked this diatribe?  I had asked him how he got the bloody cut across his face.  Turns out she went to town on his cheek with her car key.  I spent the rest of the night looking over my shoulder waiting for her to seize me by the hair and smash my face into my vegan meatloaf.
  4. One guy actually had the nerve to call me an hour before our date and ask if his buddy who lived near me could pick me up and take me to my date's house.  This way, he wouldn't have to drive across town to get me himself.  His buddy who I'd never met.  His buddy who drove a pick-up.  I told him "sure", hung up and then called him back five minutes later complaining of a terrible stomach flu.  A stomach flue that lasted the three weeks it took for him to stop calling.
  5. I made the mistake of inviting a new guy to my office Christmas party.  He showed up wasted (to calm him nerves, he said) and then proceeded to brag to my boss during a smoke break on the restaurant balcony the very intimate details of our first date.  Thankfully, my boss was a woman with a bad date list of her own.
  6. A guy bit me.  I believe he thought it would be sexy.  Perhaps on some occasions.  But in the middle of a Mexican restaurant over a plate of enchiladas?  Not so much.
  7. I was taken on a date to a very chichi restaurant.  The guy I was with insisted that we order the sweetbreads, promising me it was a vegetarian dish.  I ate them, of course, trying to look the part of 'classy lady'.  He said, and I quote, "those are just mushrooms inside."  Later I learned the guy had forced me to eat cow thymus and pancreas.  I still haven't forgiven that one.
So there you have it.  The worst of it.  Funny how the running theme seems to be dinner dates.  Perhaps I need to cut eating out of the dating equation entirely.  Nah.  Without the bad, how can you know what's good?  And without the horrendous dates I'm infamous for, who would my friends turn to to make their own horror dating stories seem timid by comparison?  So I guess it's fingers crossed for a terrible blind date in my near future... 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Honking And Yelling

There are two ways Americans love to express joy.  Perhaps above all other options.  And those two things are honking car horns and yelling.  The heroine of joyful articulations.  Last night, after the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, the streets of Midtown Sacramento came alive with a cacophonous mixture of piercing car horns and blissful, unhindered outcries.  A mixture that wasn't at all unpleasant.  In fact, it put a smile on my face.  Sent my heart racing like on Halloween night when kilos of sugar surged through my veins robbing me of sleep.  The way the horns sliced the air like knives and drunken men of all ages sent expletives flying into the night sky like confetti had a thrilling, almost punk rock quality to it.  We're not just celebrating... we're making some f'in noise!

It's not just the sports crowd that get into this.  We dress up bridal vehicles just for the sake of making complete strangers honk and holler in celebration of matrimony.  Sometimes I'm even tempted to do it when a funeral procession passes just as a way to cheer everyone up.  Can you just picture a row of car following a hearse with everyone honking horns and whooping it up out the windows?  Would be one hell of a send out.  (That may actually have to go into my will.)  We stand at street corners holding up signs that sum up our political beliefs in catchy slogans in hope that others will agree and unleash a litany of honking.  We do it as parades pass.  Or when we arrive at a friends house to pick them up for a night of debauchery, "HONK! HONK! HONK!  Get your butt down here!  And bring the flask!  HONK! HONK!  Woohoo!"   

My first introduction to this celebratory audial expression of delight was in 5th grade when the 6th grade teacher led his class and our own out onto the sidewalk to demonstrate against the war in Iraq.  The first one, that is.  Bush Senior.  We held up handmade signs in our little Catholic school uniforms and screamed at oncoming traffic "Honk for peace in the Middle East!" like pint-sized UN cheerleaders.  With each pounding of a horn or holler out a car window, my excitement grew and grew.  To a near feverish state.  I'll never forget this one guy in a white convertible with a matching white suit and tight Jheri curls literally driving around the block in circles to up the ante on his fantastic rave of honks.  At one point (while stopped at a light) he jumped up onto his seat and started honking with his foot.  I kid you not; I couldn't make this stuff up.  I had no idea what the war was about, but if raging against it caused a grown man to stomp on the steering wheel of his Chrysler Sebring, then I was a peace crusader.

It was this man I thought about last night as the honking and yelling lingered well past midnight.  That if I had planned better I would be an hour and a half away in San Francisco with my head out the moon roof of my Rav4 tapping out "We Are the Champions" on my steering wheel with my boot heel.  Well... there's always next year.