Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Episode 68: How to Give Directions

A few years ago, my mother took me to Yosemite National Park. She and Dad lived just a couple of hours away from it, but it took a couple of me-visitings before I could get over there. I was very very excited to go and I pored over maps to figure out the best way to get there and how we would spend the day and everything we would see. As we were headed by big wide super-highway and then a nice two lane regular paved road, I noticed that there was a tiny hairline road on the map - Chowchilla Mountain Road - that would deposit us right there at beautiful Wawona, exactly where we wanted to go, since we were headed to the Mariposa Grove first. It looked like it would cut our drive time by about a half hour and hey, we'd get to see something other than paved highway. Yes indeed, it delivered on that promise....not only did we NOT see a paved road, we also saw our lives flash before our eyes.

Within seconds, we knew we had made the wrong decision. We were in a tiny Volkswagen Beetle on a twisty, rutted fire road that basically went straight up and then straight down. Over and over. If I looked off to my right and down 10,000 feet, I could see the exact spot where we were going to end up exploding into a giant ball of flame. While on the nice paved roads, Mom and I had been chatting merrily about any little old thing but once we hit Chowchilla Mountain Road (it just SOUNDS evil, doesn't it?), the sparkling repartee dried right up. After twenty minutes of brushes with death, Mom finally said "We can't turn back." To which I replied "sure we can!" and she said again "no, we CAN'T TURN BACK." And she was right; there was no way to turn around; the mountain went steeply up on the drivers' side and steeply down on the passenger side. There were none of those fancy wide spot pulloffs you frequently see in your more hillbilly areas.

This went on for about a half hour and a half hour of no talking is a LONG TIME when you're driving to your doom, let me tell you. We were so deep into the wilderness - having wisely told NO ONE that we were coming this way - that we passed D.B. Cooper's parachute hanging from a tree. We were so focused on getting off of that godforsaken road that we could have happened upon a band of Bigfoots dancing the Mashed Potato and not blinked an eye.

And then, as if by magic, the road descended and crossed a creek and there was a small sign announcing that we had entered Yosemite National Park! Oh, praise Jesus, mainly because now I didn't have to tell my father that I had killed my mother in a fiery car crash down a mountainside. A few more twists and turns later and we came out of the woods and...onto a golf course. There were several players teeing up and they all froze in mid-swing as a little silver Volkswagen drove across the fairway, across the paved road and into the Wawona Hotel parking lot, where we hopped out and bought a sandwich.

It ended up being the best part of the Yosemite trip and now that I know it's there, I'd go on the same road again. But it's funny how frightening it was at the same time - what's around that next bend...if anything? That's probably some Deep Thought that we should all think about or needlepoint onto pillows.

And just in case you think I'm exaggerating about this road, some other idiots did the same thing. But THEY didn't make it to the golf course! HA! Babies.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Episode 67: How to Keep Warm

My father used to be a hunter. Before that, he was a golfer. After that, he was a sailor. We had a sailboat (named the Andelé) with stained glass windows because you know what? That's how the Strong Family rolls. He has also been President of his model train club (sssshhh, don't laugh) but he got impeached because he called another member of the model train club an asshole. He is a man of many interests. I would not be at all surprised to pop into his basement workshop lair and find him at a loom, mid warp or weft, hard at work weaving his own camping tarp.

ANYWAY. What we are going to discuss today is the Great White Hunter period. This was when we lived in Ft. Worth, Texas and Dad's company had a lease or something on a not insignificant parcel of scrubby land somewhere in a southerly direction from Ft. Worth. I know what you're imagining: a great stone and wood lodge rising out of the desert, with a giant antlered chandelier in the main dining room and a terrace that overlooked the wide open space of central Texas. Hmm, yeah, not so much. What you should be imagining is an un-level trailer, furnished with dirty sofas and Miller High Life wall clocks, jammed into a tangle of mesquite trees.

So Dad decided to take me hunting one very cold winter. We were going to kill a deer, about which I had mixed feelings. I wasn't interested in killing anything, but I was very interested in eating venison sausage. So we go to the "hunting camp" (EYEROLL) the night before and go to sleep and Dad shook me awake at 3am because we had to sneak quietly down a dirt road (to trick the deer who were sound asleep in their SOUNDPROOF bushes, I guess) and climb up into this plywood box jammed in a tree which I can guarandamnedtee you was not up to any sort of building code. Seriously, like hillbilly moonshiners would have taken one look at this thing and said "uh, no, I ain't getting in that."

It being the 80s and all, and because it was a million degrees below zero, I was wearing a puffy down coat (I was also wearing my Close Encounters of the Third Kind "We Are Not Alone" t-shirt, but that's just a value-added detail; it has nothing to do with the story). The coat was one of those nylon shell kinds. Swiff swiff swiff. That's what it sounded like whenever I moved. Swiff swiff swiff. It sounded like someone was constantly letting air out of a balloon. So that was making Dad insane and finally he told me to just get in the corner of the wooden box and go to sleep. Which I did. So a couple of hours passed by and I woke up to a click click click sound and I looked up and there was Dad, cocking the big rifle gun thing and pointing it over the edge of our rickety perch. I peered out through the seam where two sheets of very thin plywood met and saw a buck having his morning breakfast of nubby leftover foliage. And I couldn't do it, I couldn't let him shoot the deer. So I suddenly moved as if to see what was happening. Swiff swiff swiff. Swiff swiff swiff. And the buck heard me and bounded into the mesquite underbrush!

And then my father slowly turned the gun on me and shot me. Ha ha, no, not really, though frankly the fact that the story doesn't end that way surprises me as much as it probably does you, especially if you ever met him. Dad gave up hunting soon after that - mainly because we moved to Tennessee, though in the intervening years I think he did once whack a gopher on the head with a shovel.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Episode 66: How to Visit the Continent

A decade or so ago, I was really lucky to get to go to Italy for three weeks. I went with some friends - Beth, Thom and Giles - who were all far more well-travelled than me and when the plane landed in Milan I was almost electric with excitement. So of course, I was one of only two or three people pulled out of line to be frisked, touched, searched and almost danced with. These jackbooted fascists opened up my luggage and went through every single pair of my boxer briefs. They opened up the box of Breathe Right strips and made me demonstrate how they worked. They asked me if my friends smoked pot. And they did all of this in Italian which despite what you probably think sounds very accusatory, so I of course said "yes!" to everything. Luckily (eh, for my friends), "yes" was a word they didn't seem to know. So after about an hour of stress and frantic worrying about what prison I was going to end up in, they let me go and we then went by bus and train and train and train to Alba, home of the white truffle, where we eight some hilarious eight-thousand dollar meal that was worth every penny. I still don't know how they got that sliver of truffle into the middle of that egg yolk.

Three weeks later, Beth and Thom and I sat in the middle of a McDonalds in Venice, proclaiming the Filet-o-Fish to be the best single recipe ever invented, a judgement I still stand by.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Episode 65: How to Vote

Back on Election Day 2000, before the coup, Sister Meg and I were lucky enough to snag tickets to the Gore/Lieberman victory rally in downtown Nashville on Legislative Plaza. We arrived early and parked far far away and made it through three levels of security and pat-downs and purse-investigation. We stood on the granite plaza in front of a giant bank of journalists and TV screens, all ready to listen to President-elect Gore come out and we waited and waited and waited. Hundreds of people were gathered and roped off in different access-level areas. Lots of "No New Texans" lapel buttons. I saw one that said "Gay Men Hate Bush." There were giant TV screens on either side of his eventual stage and they kept blinking in and out so we couldn't really follow the story of what was happening. Evey now and then, we'd see some good news - Hillary over Lazio in New York, Gore takes Florida, etc. Then Florida was un-Gored and the journalists on the tiers behind us were going apeshit.

Being 2000, not everyone had a cell phone so there were just a few people on the phone for several hours, relaying the news or the not-news or whatever. Hours went by without us knowing what was happening. Never-was-been Marilu Henner came out - though as far as I know, she was not on the ticket - and sang a song from Chicago where all the lyrics had been changed to reflect politics and Al Gore and it was mind-bogglingly bad, though everyone smiled and laughed that way you do when a child tap-dances to "The Good Ship Lollipop" and doesn't fall on her face. Then another hour went by and Cher came out - also not on the ticket, though maybe she should have been! - and gave us a cheering-up speech, telling us we'd pull this out, but she didn't sing. More hours went by.

Al Gore never came out, though we had heard rumors he was staying in the hotel beside the plaza, watching from a penthouse window. It started to drizzle. It was 11:00 or so and the crowd started dwindling and eventually we broke up and trudged back to our cars, dripping wet, denied a victory speech - or indeed a presidency, though we didn't know that just yet - by Al Gore.

I guess that's my Woodstock, the thing I can say "I was there" about. It was a terrible night, all the way around. But mainly because of Marilu Henner and her idiotic song.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Episode 64: How to Go to an Art Show

So this one time, my friends Beth and Thom and Griffin and I went up to Chicago for a weekend of art and eating. I think we might have gone up specifically to see this big Monet show at the Art Institute but maybe not because even though we did go to the Monet show, I've never been a huge Monet fan. I mean, I like him fine but I find that like licorice and the novels of Hermann Hesse, a little goes a long way. So in other words, I have no idea why we went up there.

When we got there, we checked in with our friend E* with whom we were staying the first night. We made our way to whatever side of town he lived on and Griffin and I were shown to our quarters in the basement, where we were to be sleeping on two giant black leather sofas arranged in an L shape. We were exhausted so we went right to sleep without even turning on the light. Five hours later, at the crack of dawn, cock-a-doodle-doo! cock-a-doodle-doo! Now I was pretty sure I had not been transported to a faraway homestead in the middle of Iowa during the dark of night so I opened my eyes and hmmmmmm. There, staring at me from the laundry room door, was a full-grown rooster, leashed with a sad little string to the washing machine. Turns out our friend E's mother was a high priestess of Santeria! And our little cock-a-doodle-doo-ing friend was set to be that night's sacrifice. Which is a lot of information to wake up to, let me tell you.

Later that day, we went to the Monet show. Long lines of people who pretty much just wanted to get to the gift shop. We were all standing in the octagonal room that had different examples of Monet's hay-stacks on each wall so you could see how he had painted them at different times of day to capture the different qualities of light. A lady swept in, sniffed, and declaimed quite loudly, "I don't get it; it looks like a big muffin!"

And that, my friends, is how to not go to an art show. Even though it totally does look like a big muffin.

*name obscured because I don't want a menacing, doomed rooster in my laundry room

Monday, October 13, 2008

Episode 63: How to Select an Airplane Seat

Okay, so I just got back from a vacation in Palm Springs and other than riding on an airplane out there (and coincidentally on the way back as well), this fascinating anecdote has nothing to do with actual flight. But it's a good story and I don't really want to call a Psychopedia entry How to Be Racist because some people have found the Psychopedia through Googling and I'd hate that to show up at the top of a search result.

On the first day that I was in Palm Springs, I went on a tour of the stars' homes. I know, you're thinking this must have been the most glamorous thing imaginable but in actuality it turned out to be a cross between hilarious and appalling. First off, our tour guide Ed (his quotations will be in parentheses) was a hundred and eleventy years old and his idea of a movie star was Marie Dressler. Marie Dressler! ("Yes sir, here's where Tugboat Annie lived!") So I just went and looked up Marie Dressler and here's something: she was born in 1868 and Tugboat Annie was made in 1933, which was in fact the last year whoever the hell Marie Dressler is even MADE movies. Who exactly did Ed think was on this bus? Grandma Moses? Methuselah? Joan Rivers? Though I confess I would like to see her 1918 opus, Red Cross Nurse.

ANYWAY, that was Marie Dressler's house. We also saw a house Marilyn Monroe lived in for twenty minutes ("I used to come here and watch her get the mail. Or male. If you get my joke") and Madonna's Palm Springs cottage ("there goes the neighborhood") and also where Liberace died, which was just this funny little house with a GINORMOUS candelabra in the front and Elvis' honeymoon house ("I didn't get Elvis.") We drove by one of Paul Newman's places and everone on the fucking bus "awwwwww"ed like he was their freshly-dead uncle or something so then when we drove by Lucille Ball's house, I "waaaaahhhhh"ed appropriately, but no one laughed because people just don't get me.

We also visited some famous mid-century modern buildings ("I guess all I can say about modernism is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.... now, have I told you about Marie Dressler?") and sites of old hotels and racquet clubs that aren't there anymore - seriously, we were parked in front of a hospital for twenty minutes while Ed told us about how he and his friend the tennis pro used to "do the joints" and run into Eddie Cantor or somebody and it was all just insanely tedious in a smells-like-mothballs way.

But things got verrrry interesting when he started in on the Indians. And that's what he called them, Indians. Only he sped up the middle syllable so that it really did sound like "Injuns." Actually, he only called them Indians when he wasn't calling them "lowly savages," and no I am not making that up. But it turns out that this particular band of lowly savages is like the ONE band America didn't exactly get to cornhole ("all the other Indians are poor and alcoholic!"), because they ended up with a ton of land in the Palm Springs area and according to Ed, they have whitey by the shorthairs because they don't pay taxes or have to abide by building codes or even, I don't know, wear pants if they don't want to. Ed was quite worked up about them and really, he did go on quite a bit ("They're sitting pretty and don't pay taxes! And we GAVE THEM the land!") Which of course made me snort out loud since we took it from them in the goddamned first place. Ed must have had a particularly painful Indian-burn or Indian -giving-incident in his past.

Then Ed went on to tell us a "hilarious" joke about former Palm Springs mayor Sonny Bono that ended with "I've Got Jews Babe." The whole thing really made me want to go put on a headdress and some moccasins and hatchet Ed to death. Which if I had been on Indian land I probably could have gotten away with. I should have asked Ed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Episode 62: How to Pack a Suitcase

I'm in a suitcase-pack-y frame of mind because I am in the last stages of packing for my trip to Palm Springs for a long weekend. I think that in the face of a nationwide-possibly-worldwide economic depression the best thing to go do is spend a bunch of money on cosmopolitans and expensive tee-shirts! I'll be hiking around in Joshua Tree National Park a little bit with my friend Carol, who won the trip because she's GOOD at her JOB and she decided to take me with her. So we have to hang out with all of her co-workers and I have to pretend to be all interested in what they're saying. I'm sure I'll say something that gets overheard incorrectly and misinterpreted and all sorts of misunderstanding will occur so in other words it's like I'm Mr. Jack Tripper from Three's Company.

I'll be back next week, tanned and rested...unless drinks aren't included and in that case, I'll be yellow and shaky.

By the way, my mother says she once saw a Miss America contestant pack a suitcase live onstage as her talent show talent, but I just can't believe a thing could ever happen. Though in 2002, I did see Miss Nevada, Teresa Francisca Benitez, recite the father's courtroom monologue from The Laramie Project. She came in third. While I'm gone you should think about that.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Episode 61: How to Order Mexican Food

When I was in the seventh grade, I lived in Fort Worth, Texas. I attended Wedgwood Middle School and took Spanish. I was a terrible Spanish student, though I quite liked my teacher, Señorita Flores, who looked like a cross between Lily Tomlin and Rita Moreno. But I had come from North Carolina, where there were no Spanish classes and I thought it would be fun, like art class. I didn't know you actually had to learn it and I think the window had already closed on the new language thing for me. All I ever learned to say was "Cuando arrelgran me cuarto! No encuentro nada! Tia Luisa!" which might (or might not, shut up) mean "My room is a mess and I can't find a thing! Aunt Louise!" I don't even have an Aunt Louise so how dumb is that language?

But! We went on a field trip to Mexico! Can you imagine? Two teachers and thirty students on a bus, across a national border by dark of night (they woke us up and we had to go into a sad green room and get the fuck scared out of us by the Mexican police) and then in the lovely city of Monterrey for three days? It just seems crazy and un-doable now. Like it sounds illegal or something. The other teacher was the eighth grade Spanish teacher, Señora Ornelas and she was one miserable bitch, let me tell you. All of the meals were orchestrated and planned and they were all in the dining room of the Gran Hotel Ancira, which seemed fancy to my seventh-grade eyes but was probably just a normal hotel. All of the meals involved roasted chicken and one night there were a couple of us who wanted to try other things, you know, like MEXICAN FOOD. Señora Ornelas shut us down right quick and told us we were going to eat the roasted chicken because it was already PAID FOR and we were GOING TO LIKE IT. And she said it all in Spanish, and when I was later given a D on a Spanish test in the eighth grade, I tried to argue that a D simply wasn't possible because I had understood all the words Señora Ornelas had said that one time in Mexico. Señora Ornelas said "DG, you've made your bed and now you must lie in it." And I said "I choose to sleep on the floor." I was then sent to the office where I was paddled by the vice-principal, after which I vowed revenge against Señora Ornelas, a vow I have kept close to my heart all these years later and I swear to you if I ever lay eyes on that beady-eyed Señora Ornelas again, I will give her a piece of my mind. In fluent Spanish: ¡Tu cara de madre estas mismo mi culo!

ANYWAY. The day after being denied authentic Mexican food, we went to the neighboring town of Saltillo, where Señora Ornelas rode a sombrero-wearing donkey. Like most people who choose to ride a donkey, she looked like an idiot.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Episode 60: How to Budget

Well Christ on a cracker, people. Thanks to the monstrous, mind-boggling incompetence of, oh, every elected official since 1967, I'm now officially on a budget! And also it seems that my Great Drive Across America in early August wreaked (wroke?) a little havoc on a credit card I wasn't supposed to be using very much and now I am practically like a member of the goddamned Joad family, eating locusts for dinner and washing my clothes with a stick.

It's hard but I have discovered some ways to keep things cheap. The main one is: drink at home. You'd be surprised at how much money you can save by not going to bars. For one thing, the drinks are about 80 percent cheaper and for another, you aren't tempted by drinks that cost thirteen dollars in the first place because let's face it: you don't have any elderflower liqueur at home so you won't be needing to make any drinks that have that in it. You also won't be tempted to buy other people drinks, which I almost never am anyway because every single time I have done that, they're all happy with beer until the drink offer comes and then it's all "ooohhhh, could I see the wine list?" and it's all downhill from there; before you know it, you're pulling out the previously mentioned verboten credit card so you don't have to pay with loose change from your car. It really is surprising how many drinks I've paid for with loose change. Drinking at home also cuts down on the number of DUIs that might come your way, so it's win-win.

ANYWAY! Another way to save money on strong waters is to be friends with restaurant owners. You just show up and say "hey! Is there any sample wine? How about any marked-out-of-stock bourbon? Or wait, I know - GRAPPA!" And there always is and they hand it over like I have a gun to their heads. It's like magic. If magic involved putting a keychain in a hat and pulling out a dry Manhattan instead of a rabbit. Which it should be, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, let's face it - who the fuck needs a rabbit?

Episode 59: How to Change a Tire

Oh sure, I know what you're thinking. "Why changing a tire is as easy as pie! If those dirty mechanics can do it, surely I can as well!" And you're right...you can! But here is a cautionary tale, just in case you're getting a little too big for your britches.

My very first automobile was a 1972 Chevrolet pickup. Rust-colored. Not originally; I think she was brown first but gradually rust sort of became the overall color-scheme by the time she came my way in the early Eighties. Her name was Angel and she had a wooden bed. A bed made of wood! Gee, the Seventies were a long time ago, weren't they? Anyway, Angel was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and let me just say...nothing good ever came out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama and I have seen the list of things that have come out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. So Dad and his friend Charlie went down to buy Angel for me - she cost ninety dollars - and hmmm, my mom or someone (this part's fuzzy) followed them back while they drank fifty six-packs of beer (it was the 80s!) and suddenly she noticed something...empty beer cans were falling from underneath Angel as Dad drove her back! No, Angel wasn't some sort of beer-can-laying magical hen - I wish! - no, she just had holes in her floorboards and the empties were falling out through them. The good thing was if Mom fell too far behind in the second car, she could just follow the beer cans.

So Angel was mine. We had many adventures together: I rear-ended an Indian family (dot variety, not woo-woo) on the way to a rock concert at the Armory. Once my friend Julie and I stole some blinking road signs and put them in the back of Angel and then we shoved them all under our other friend Greg's car so that when he started his car and put it in reverse, he'd tear his muffler off, which he totally did along with busting his gas tank. Oh ha ha ha ha, those were the carefree days of innocence, were they not?

But here's the story I am supposed to be telling: Angel once had a flat tire and since she was the sort of car held together with eight pieces of masking tape and a rubber band, it was easy enough to change the tire myself...twirl twirl, flap flap, switch. My parents were in the process of moving to another house, so after I changed my tire, I loaded up Angel and carried some stuff over to the new house and then on the way back, (cue dramatic music!) the front left tire just flew off and sped across two lanes of oncoming traffic! Sparks from the disc-y wheel-y thing flew into the open drivers' window as I slammed on the brakes and veered into the center turning lane. I hopped out and had absolutely no idea what to do - the tire had rolled off into a field, lost forever, and a good inch or two of that metal disc had gotten worn down. And having been schooled in the nighttime soap opera intrigue of Falcon Crest and Dynasty, there could only be one explanation for this latest turn of events: someone was trying to kill me. So I sprang into inaction and left Angel there in the suicide lane and walked home, where I fixed a lovely glass of strawberry Quik and settled down to watch a very compelling episode of Knots Landing, where an eerily similar plot was unfolding, when one Miss Jill Bennett committed suicide by tying herself up and gagging herself and putting herself in someone's trunk, where she died, thus framing the owner of the car for her murder. (Which might possibly have happened later in the run of Knot's Landing, but this is how I remember it).

Mom and Dad were quite surprised to see Angel in the middle of the street when they followed me home an hour or so later. Dad says he remembers cop cars there; Mom says he's exaggerating (which is a family trait, so....) but the end result was that Angel got towed home and I got in trouble (no one bought my murder plot explanation) and I also didn't get to watch the rest of that episode of Knot's Landing... so if someone could please tell me what ultimately happened with regards to the Jill Bennett plotline, that'd be great. And it was all because I didn't put the lug-nuts back on when I changed the tire. Hehehe. I said "lug-nuts."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Episode 58: How to Be Charitable

Okay, so this one time I went to this big fancy benefit for some charity or something and it was a dress-up thing, sort of costume-y or at the very least formalish. It was in different locations; you moved from one to another over the course of the night, which never made much sense because the event was sponsored by Absolut and they practically forced us to drink fifteen vodka cocktails at every stop and there were like nine stops, so you can just pull out your stupid iPhones and calculate that right up right now, whydontcha? A bunch of friends and I all decided to go together; the theme was something Vegas-y but also somehow Nashville-y so my friend Jeff and I decided to go as Siegfried and Roy Clark, but we couldn't find the right outfits so at the last minute we went as Liberace and an employee of Caesar's Palace, like maybe a doorman, dressed as a Roman centurion. Trust me, it made sense at the time.

So anyway, there were like ten of us and we couldn't quite figure out how to move everyone around from place to place, so we ended up renting a big U-Haul and putting my living room furniture in there (it's very safe, I'm sure!) and everyone piled into the back of the van while Liberace drove around town from place to place trying to figure out how and where you parked a giant U-Haul full of drunkards. We ended up just pulling in front of each place and unspooling the ramp and parading down the ramp into the various parties while everyone stared at us like Apollo 10 had just landed. But! Before we did that we picked up our friend, hmmm, Fleffanie (name changed to protect almost everyone involved) , who is one funny girl but when she has to go to the bathroom, this girl has to go to the bathroom. And, as it turned out, she had to go to the bathroom. So all my friends are sitting in the back of the U-Haul in the dark when suddenly there came a hissing/dribbling/peeing sound. Psssssssss dribbbyyy driiiibbbbyyyyy and then: sob sob sob sob. Sobbing crying. And deadly quiet from the other people in the back, who were all silently praying that there wouldn't be a sudden lurch forward. Which there was! And everyone backed up against the very front wall of the truck and stared through the inky black darkness in the general direction of the crying peeing girl.

So you remember that when some Girl Scout comes to your door trying to get you to donate money to her organization. You might end up with pee-feet. Sure it's a good cause but in the end, pee-feet are still pee-feet.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Episode 57: How to Stalk a Celebrity

I know, I know. You're thinking to yourself "gosh, after just learning how to use a fake ID I wonder if I can use those same skills to manufacture an all-access backstage pass to Suzanne Somers' upcoming county fair performance!" Devoted reader, I advise against it mainly because it's simply easier to just outright stalk a celebrity in his or her natural setting. In the case of Miss Somers, I suggest you start hanging around the Dairy Queen; she's surely due for her shift any time now.

Anyway, as I'm sure you can imagine, living in Nashville does have its advantages. Did you hear my eyes roll? One of them is that a lot of celebrities are here and I always enjoy seeing them doing mundane things. It's funny to see Emmylou Harris at Target looking at clock radios, which I did one time. Or Nicole Kidman enjoying a nourishing hot bowl of steam at a local bistro, which I have also seen. Tipper Gore - soon after the 2000 White House loss - once looked over my shoulder as I operated the computer at a restaurant. She seemed interested, but then maybe she was trying to figure out where her next paycheck was coming from and perhaps thought she should brush up on her skillset. Bonus feature: the valet reported that she was listening to an Usher cd in her car. I've managed to be in the same room as both Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin (though not at the same time), thus inching me closer to the 9 to 5 trifecta. One Jane Fonda to go.

I waited on River Phoenix one year to the day before he died. He was with that snooty Samantha Mathis and it was the Halloween shift and I was dressed as a Sprocket (remember when Mike Myers was funny? Gosh, that seems so long ago!). He didn't laugh a single time at any of my touch-my-monkey jokes, but perhaps he was not a Sprockets fan. However he was a militant vegetarian and ordered everything all crazy complicated and we were super busy so I sort of forgot to write any of that down and when his pasta dish came out, he ate it all up, slurp slurp slurp, even though there were about two cups of chicken stock in it. And there's your Psychopedia lesson for the day: avoid canned chicken stock. It's a gateway drug that will eventually lead to your eventual heroin overdose on the Sunset Strip.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Episode 56: How to Tailgate

There are two deep dark secrets I have (hahahaha, no, there are like a hundred and seven) that seem to surprise people: I like to go camping (more about that later) and also I love NFL football. I don't know why those things are so surprising; I guess people think I'm just sitting at home obsessively polishing my Fabergé eggs and combing out kitty wigs. But no, I'm not doing either of those things, at least not on weekends - those are more like Tuesday-ish activities. The football thing seems to surprise people the most. I can't imagine what they'd do if they knew that I was also a fierce Fantasy Football participant (team name: Awesome Thunder, though it used to be Mincing Prisspots and before that, Beaver Patrol).

Over the last four years, I have been the beneficiary of free tickets to Tennessee Titans home games, and over the last decade, I have supported them through better and worse, richer and poorer, cheaper beer and not cheaper beer. NFL games are not really a place for liberal-leaning Democrats. There's lots of standing and praying and heart-covering and anthem singing and military plane flyovers and GINORMOUS waving American flags and, oh, I don't know, slitting of fingertips and mixing up all the white people blood. It's a lot of American rah-rah, and you have to mean it, or you get the hairy eyeball from every Klan member this side of Pulaski, TN - birthplace of the KKK - which is almost all of the people in my section, as far as I can tell, except for the delightful Catholic family I tailgate and attend with...and we all take a nap during the third quarter anyway, which is when all the white power snake charmers get up to their recruitment mischief, I'm sure.

It's super stressful right now to go to a game and endure all the enforced patriotism because of the upcoming Revolution or possible not-Revolution, where they just might sell us all into oil-company slavery but that's okay because Jesus wants us to drill offshore and ruin everything his supposed father spent all those seven days making all pretty and shit and... wait, what was I talking about? SEE? That's what happens at football games: you go to drink seven dollar beer and root for some two-digit-IQ-having-quarterback and a bunch of hulking guys who never wrote one single college paper and you end up signed up for a no-sex-before-marriage promise ring and you're singing backup for the motherfucking Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But! At least there are nachos.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Episode 55: How to Not Kill Yourself on a Friday

Bad things happen on Fridays. I just looked up a few of them. For instance, Peter the Great imposed a tax on beards on a Friday. Squeaky Fromme tried to shoot President Ford on a Friday. John Roberts was nominated for the Supreme Court on a Friday. On the Road by Mister Jack Kerouac was published on a Friday! And those are all just some of the things that happened on just the Friday, September 5ths throughout history! Imagine if you look at all the other Fridays how many that multiplies out to. (Um, upon fact-checking, I realize that I have it wrong; all those things happened on September 5th, not necessarily a Friday. But I'm not re-researching; that's for the lovely people at Alfred A Knopf or the kind gentlemen at Farrar Straus and Giroux to do. Hint hint.)

One thing I do have right is that you should never ever ever go to lunch with the boss on a Friday, especially if the boss initiates it. If such an invitation comes your way, I am here to tell you that you are about to be fired. This very thing happened to an old boss of mine just a few years ago, when her boss called her at home and asked if she'd meet him for lunch at a very fancy restaurant later in the day. Now my boss was a smart lady and she said "are you going to fire me?" and her boss said "we'll talk at lunch" and my boss said "fuck that; if you're gonna fire me, I don't want lunch...I want the fifty dollars lunch was gonna cost." She ended up falling in love, moving to Louisville and going to the Kentucky Derby, where she hit the trifecta or the doubledown or the quadraplegic or whatever it is those gambling addicts call that stuff. So you see, skipping lunch really pays off.

I myself never even bother going to work on Fridays just to avoid getting fired. So don't say you never learned anything from the Psychopedia.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Episode 54: How to Slice a Sandwich

Ugh. If there's one thing I can't stand it's baby talk, or more specifically full-grown adults who infantalize every word with more than three syllables. There is nothing grosser on this earth than listening to a forty-five year old otherwise normal person say "veggies." It makes me want to choke them, seriously. You can talk to a BABY that way or if you have a dog that weighs less than five pounds, maybe. Or if you've had a stroke and have to spell everything out with your blinking eyelid and that extra syllable or two really might cause some sort of irreversible eyelid sprain. Other than those exceptions, just say the goddamned word.

Another one I've noticed a lot of lately is people who say "samwich" instead of "sandwich." I can't decide if people are being cute or if they're just stupid; it's hard to tell because the line between those two things can be so, so fine. And don't get me STARTED on "sammiches." And I just KNOW that that is the sole responsibility of one Miss Rachael RAY and I suggest you don't bring HER NAME UP around me EITHER.

I think I'm ranting too much today. I better go eat some Lemonheads and calm down.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Episode 53: How to Use a Fake I.D.

I recently ran into a college sophomore who insists that college students don't have fake i.d.s anymore and it was all I could do to not call up her dean and have her expelled for wanton stupidity. But then, she's in the science club, so who knows; maybe science students are too busy trying to come up with cold fusion to really need a Long Island Tea. But I mean! No fake i.d.s on a college campus! Hahahaha. Okay, good luck with that research paper, Einstein.

Anyway! I used to work at a restaurant where we had this rich spoiled kid come in to drink all the time. His name was Jaime and he was small - like not midget-y small, but Garanimals small - and we all knew he was underage but we were all so drunk ourselves we never carded him so he drank and drank until his little tiny body couldn't hold any more drinks (so like three drinks total) and then he would get in his Trans Am and squeal the tires all the way home to wherever he lived, the orphanage or something. This went on for years and years and one day one of us said "wait, he's been drinking here for years...surely he's legal now!" and then we dared another of us to card him. Turned out he was 27, so we had been thinking he was underaged the whole time when really what the deal was was that he was one of those people who stop aging, like Joan Rivers. Turns out he was also a big time drug dealer who I suppose went to schools and sold drugs because he'd fit right in with the K-12 crowd. The whole thing freaked us all right out, let me tell you. But not as much as it freaked us out when Jaime went missing and his decapitated head turned up in an elementary school sandbox a few weeks later.

So there's your lesson for today! Act your age or you end up headless.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Episode 52: How to Pass a Psychological Evaluation

I know a lot of crazy people, but they're not crazy in any sort of medically measurable way. They're more nutty than crazy, I guess. Eccentric, one might say. I mean, I know one person who makes a living singing funny songs about skunks. I know someone who brought along a month's supply of Cipro on vacation to Charleston, South Carolina four years ago during the Democratic National Convention - which was where? NOT CHARLESTON! - because she was certain we were all going to get anthraxed to death that week. I know someone who doesn't like Mark Twain. I know someone who wears her hair in a beehive shape and isn't doing it to be funny; it's just the way she likes it. I know a guy who is obsessed with fish ponds - and I mean obsessed, like he is one step away from putting on a mermaid suit and swimming around in there with his stupid bug-eyed carp. I know someone who drinks Courvoisier and Sprite...together. I know someone who leases his car. Totally nuts, right?

But sometimes I think how it would be really easy for any of them - us, really - to go just that one extra step and look or be certifiably committ-able if a stranger were to size us up. Sometimes I catch people giving me the stinkeye and all I'm doing is like walking down the street wearing one of those giant Vietnamese rice paddy hats (I usually do it without the ox, though), and I just know that they think I'm a menace to society and so they lock up the children when they see me coming. So I'm thinking of not calling people "crazy" any more because I'm worried it'll bounce back and stick to me. But I can't come up with what the new word I call them will be. "Retarded" is definitely out, because the word police say so. I'm going to have to put my thinking cap on and come up with one. My pointed, Vietnamese rice-paddy thinking cap...

BY THE WAY. Did you all know that some dumb company called Google has stolen my idea? Mmmm hmmmm, they have How-Tos every day on the little iGoogle home page! Two of them every day that link to WikiHow, whatever the fuck that is! And maybe they did it before I started this. BUT! I go every day to see what they're doing and then I make sure I don't do that. But today was close, because I have a How to Stop Being Jealous in the pipeline and they already did it (WITH A QUOTATION FROM THE BIBLE!) and now I'm in a quandary because it'll look like I'm copying. In a quandary, I say!

Episode 51: How to Ride a Horse

I've only ridden a horse once that I can recall and let's just say it did not go very well. I was young, like seven or eight and I was visiting with my cousin T-Bird. People sometimes ask if I'm making that name up but no, that was his name. I'm sure he had some other name but I don't know what it is. He was just plain old T-Bird...and I can't really think of what that might be short for, so who knows? And I'm not sure if he's my cousin. His father (who we call Uncle Sam even though he's not an uncle) and my mother were cousins, so actually I think T-Bird and me are third cousins. ANYWAY. T-Bird lived with Uncle Sam and Aunt Nancy (who isn't really an aunt, because...oh, nevermind, you get the picture) on a tobacco farm outside Raleigh, North Carolina. And I was summering there, and that might clue you in as to exactly what kind of eight-year old I was - the type that used the word "summering" with some regularity.

So one day on the farm, T-Bird teased me about never having ridden a horse and to show him, I climbed up to prove I could do it. I don't recall the horse's name but I'm sure it was something like "Child-Hater." I also don't remember anything about the riding part of it because I was pretty focussed on figuring out why I was all-of-a-sudden face down in the briar patch. I think I was only on the horse for like five seconds before he threw me off.*

Two other things of note happened to me this same summer. The first was when Uncle Sam made T-Bird and me move a stack of boards from one side of the road to the other to keep us busy one day. I ask you why reading a good book wouldn't have achieved the same thing but I suppose that's neither here nor there. I ended up stepping on a nail on purpose so that I wouldn't have to move the boards anymore, but then I had to go to the doctor and get a tetanus shot, so that little scheme didn't quite work out as planned, and this is a character trait I still have, the "oh, I'll do this thing!" and forgetting that there are consequences, which I will probably finally realize one day when I burn down the house or something.

Then a couple of days later, Uncle Sam asked me which I would rather do: go pick tobacco in the field all day with him or would I perhaps like to stay behind with Aunt Nancy and bake blueberry pies all the livelong day? Even at eight years old, I was fully aware this was the dumbest question ever asked in the entire history of question-asking and I jumped up and stood on a step-stool and quickly began rolling out dough as fast as possible.

Which pretty much explains how the rest of my life worked out, now that I think about it. Sigh.

*Honestly, this might or might not have happened. I have told this story so many times I can no longer remember if it happened to me or to T-Bird but I needed to tie this post to the drawing somehow...so you get a slightly embroidered version. The other stuff is totally true, though!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Episode 49: How to Be the Craziest Person in the Neighborhood

I admit that I do not have the absolute craziest neighbors in the world. Some of them are odd in that way neighbors are always odd, like the lady who keeps asking me what church I go to (exactly how she keeps forgetting my NO COMMENT reply I have no idea) or the guy who has a twenty-foot-long yacht in his yard just sitting on its keel. It's been there for ten years without moving but this is the same guy who's always trying to start petitions about cleaning up the neighborhood and I never sign them because I think he should look in a mirror just ONE TIME. I also think he's the one that put all the anti-John Kerry stuff in my mailbox, but that's a different story for another time. And I have a nearby house or two where there might be a chicken...or at my hopeful best, a goose. And we did have a guy for a while who had a wooden cut-out of Santa holding an AK-47, which he put up the Christmas after 9/11 and sort of misses the idea of Christmas in almost every way but whatever, I guess.

But I am jealous of people who have a true nutcase or two next door. My parents did when they lived in California; they would just turn out the lights and stand in their darkened kitchen and watch the shenanigans next door, where it was like Cops or Jerry Springer every night. Hours and hours of entertainment, seriously, that would go on until the lady couldn't get another cork out of a bottle and would literally fall down for the night after banging into the side of the refrigerator one too many times. They finally moved away to Southern California, where all the crazy people end up anyway.

I do hold out hope for my new back-diagonal neighbors, though. They're circus-folk! Or carnys or something. There's a tightrope in their front yard, about five feet off the ground, and they have people over all the time, odd-looking but interesting (but not midgety or inappropritely-bearded or anything) who all jump up on the wire and start doing stuff. Jumping and looping and hopping and falling off and making jazz hands. They also have a bicycle built for three, which is just enough to start edging into crazy, if you ask me. I sort of want to befriend them because I do have a thing about circus people but I'm afraid if I do, other neighbors will see me and think I'm the craziest person in the neighborhood. Which might be what all this is about, now that I think about it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Episode 48: How to Be a Vegetarian

This Episode is brought to you in the interest of fair play. Since I instructed you how to order a delicious, died-for-your-sins steak just one episode ago, I realized that some of you may be toying with the foolish notion of becoming a vegetarian, so here's some advice about that.

I used to work at a natural foods market in Memphis - the Squash Blossom, in case any of you are reading from that god-forsaken city. I worked in the kitchen of the deli, cooking up vegetarian delights for all the no-deodorant-using-hippies in a fifteen-mile radius. This was back in the days before SUV-driving lady-types clogged the aisles of Whole Foods, when the only people at these sorts of markets were unwashed art-school students and that skinny lead singer of R.E.M. Anyway, my boss was this nice lady named Bonnie, who taught me all the vegetarian voodoo lingo - rennent and stevia and Spike and cilantro and tempeh and tofu and tamari - and in almost no time flat she had me being a vegetarian too! Because it was convenient and at hand because I worked there and also because it was basically free - whoops! I made too much vegetarian lasagne! Better box that up! - it was really easy to do. Plus Bonnie was quite evangelical about it. It was sort of hard to ignore her; it was just easier to do what she said than to have to listen to her rattle on about it every day with no apparent end in sight.

So months went by where I pretty much ate shredded kale excelsior and bean sprout gelato and one day I went into the kitchen pantry to get some chickpeas to make fifty-something gallons of hummus and sitting there on a crate of asparagus was Bonnie....stuffing about eleven beef tacos from Taco Bell into her mouth! I pointed a fourteen-inch daikon radish at her and hissed j'accuse! and she mumbled through a beef-taco-stuffed mouth, "Forgive me! I couldn't help it! They were only forty-nine cents a piece!" So I sat down and helped her finish them off. And that was, as they say, the end of that.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Episode 47: How to Order a Steak

On recent occasion, I found myself "lucky" enough to be spending the night in Dodge City, Kansas. I know what you are thinking, I do! "Gosh, how lucky can one person be?" And you'd be right in thinking that; it is indeed a veritable Garden of Eden, especially if the Garden of Eden is actually where all those nutty Mormons think it is - like in Ohio or something - and also if it had been burned up in a grass fire and/or hit with a meteorite. Other than that...Garden of Eden!

After I had visited the fake Olde West Towne and the fake Ye Olden Photographie Shoppe and Deputy Dawg's Authentique Funnel Cake Factorie, I was vexed about a place to eat; there really were not many options besides Miss Kitty's Jitterbug Dance Hall and Mashed Potato Bar. So I called my friend Chris and he called his father, who I think is from there, and he didn't know, so he called HIS friend who still lived there and then the guy next to me's phone rang, so that was probably him. ANYWAY, I got sent to this little steakhouse and I strolled in and it was as expected until the waiter said "we get our meat from right across the street!" and I looked up and out the window to see a bunch of cows staring at me right as I started to saw with a knife and fork into their distant cousin Phyllis. It did make it a little hard to eat. But! Not impossible. It was a good steak. A strip, which they call a Dodge City strip, though they call it a Kansas City strip in Kansas City and a New York strip everywhere else, but since it came from across the street, Dodge City strip sounded about right, though they really should just go the whole nine yards and call it an Across the Street strip, I guess.

Then the bill came. An Across the Street strip, a baked potato, some corn, a creme brulee, two glasses of red wine ("This Little Penguin cabernet is delicious...I think you'll like it!") and a glass of scotch came to....$34. I almost laughed out loud. I actually said "I don't think I can pay you just this much." I felt especially badly about it since those cows were still looking at me.

So if you're ever in Dodge City, I do recommend Casey's Cowtown Club. Just don't sit near the window.

P.S. Did you know it used to be illegal to put ice cream on cherry pie in Dodge City? WELL IT WAS.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Episode 46: How to Go on Vacation

Faithful readers, I hope you are all sitting down and I hope you have bomb shelters full of cans of Dinty Moore beef stew, Fanta Orange soda and Little Debbie Oatmeal pies, because I have some bad news: The Psychopedia is going on a two-week hiatus. Yes, it seems I have run out of things to tell you to how to do. Hahahahah! No, don't fear! I will never run out of things to tell you to do, trust me. Why just this morning, I felt an uneasy vibration from a general westerly direction while I was in the shower and I was fairly certain that it was caused by someone somewhere putting toilet paper on the holder incorrectly, so right there in my bathroom I wrote "How to Put Toilet Paper on the Thing" on my mirror with toothpaste so as not to forget to write that one up when I got the chance. I don't always come up with them in bars - contrary to popular belief - and when a cocktail napkin isn't readily available, a mirror and toothpaste just have to do.

I'll be visiting the following states: California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, so I should have a lot of How Tos ready for you when I get back. Look for:

How to Not Burn Up in a Forest Fire
How to Visit a Bordello
How to Have Eight Wives
How to Prank Call the Focus on the Family People
How to Not Fall Asleep While Driving
How to Get the Hell Out of Oklahoma as Fast as Possible
and How to Get Out of Arkansas Even Faster

...all when I get back. Feel free to go back into the archives and study up on some of the classics Episodes you might have missed. I would hate to get a bad vibration while on vacation because you boiled an egg incorrectly.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Episode 45: How to Choose a Paint Color

People are always asking me to come help them choose paint colors for the different rooms in their houses. They always say "oh, but your house is so pretty, you MUST come help me choose!" and what they're totally forgetting is that ninety percent of the rooms in my house are painted "Neutral Beige." Seriously. What they're remembering is the fancy green pillows my sister picked out or the artwork on the walls. No one ever remembers that the whole damned house is the color of a day-old biscuit. So I go over to their houses and I choose the most outrageous colors just because I never get to. "Lilac Explosion." "Chartreuse Cocktail." "Camel Toe Camel." And I always choose whichever one based solely on the name of the paint chip, which is how at least one friend ended up with a "Bruised Clavicle" living room. What makes it all funnier is that I'm almost completely color blind. Why do you think all these dumb drawings are in black and white? I can't see red when it's mixed up with green, or vice versa, which makes things interesting at the grocery store. Bag of limes, bag of tomatoes, what's the difference, right? And also I have trouble in the teal/aqua/turquoise department, but that's probably perfectly fine since I'm not decorating the set of Miami Vice anytime soon.

I recently got asked by my friend Carol to help her choose paint colors and stuff and before things got out of hand, my sister stepped in and did a little damage control and the decorating day was saved so to celebrate we all went to a furniture store to look at fabric for a fancy custom ottoman and the salesman who was helping us was very terse and condescending with my sister (who has an interior design degree) and he slammed the sample book shut and said "so, are we done here?" and that was a big mistake, let me tell you. Because whatever happened next was not going to be fun...for him. It's like when my mother gets mad: you know you're in trouble when she starts a response by saying "now you look here...." My sister's "tell" is the raised eyebrow. And when he slammed that sample book shut, her eyebrow shot up so fast it hit a chandelier that was on display far overhead. I think I actually said "uh-oh..." out loud. So all that ended badly and he lost the sale because my sister did some research and found the ottoman elsewhere and cheaper. So there's a lesson for you, somewhere in there.

Episode 44: How to Start a Collection of Something

Everybody collects something. Dolls, baseball cards, addictions. Whatever, everyone's got something. I once looked at a house for sale that had an entire room turned over to Barbie dolls in their original boxes, stacked on top of each other, floor to ceiling, wall to wall. Which is mainly an indicator of a lousy real estate agent if you ask me...those should have been the first things out of that house when they put it on the market.

Anyway. I used to have a friend back in the olden days who killed someone in a drunk driving accident. He was driving too drunk and too fast down a boulevard and clipped someone getting out of their car, and the victim was thrown some crazy long way and died instantly. I know, it's a terrible story. My friend kept driving but someone with a cell phone was following him and called the police and finally the police caught up with him several neighborhoods later. He was yanked out of his yellow Chevrolet Malibu and the car was searched quite thoroughly. When the police pried open the trunk, they were quite interested to see that it was full of serial killer biographies - like fifty of them. Paperback copies of Helter Skelter, the Jeffrey Dahmer story, and Ted Bundy's and Richard Speck's and on and on. And also (to coincidentally tie it together with the first paragraph!) a bunch of doll parts. A big pile of them. Now of course, having serial killer books and dismembered dolls doesn't make you guilty of anything per se, but consider this a cautionary tale. When my friend went to trial, those serial killer books kept coming up as "evidence" of something sinister and in his closing argument, the prosecutor brought them up at least three times and I remain convinced that they affected his sentence (guilty, almost four years, he served the full sentence and was denied parole every time he came up for it). So be careful about what you collect - or more importantly, where you display the collection; it could come back to haunt you and you could end up in the slammer. Think about that the next time you pick up a Precious Moments snow globe.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Episode 43: How to De-Kernel a Corncob

I KNOW. This is the second corncob-related How To in a month. But corn is everywhere right now...it's in the grocery store, it's in my CSA basket, it's in our gas tanks, even! Gosh! It's practically all I can think about, corn corn corn. Even last night I had a dream about going to Cracker Barrel and seeing corncob dolls smoking corncob pipes. In honor of corn season, I'm including a recipe for corn pudding because it's my grandmother's recipe...though I think she got it out of a Parade Magazine actually, but for women of a certain era I suppose that was pretty much home cooking. Anyway! It has bourbon in it!

Her name was Virginia Speed Strong. She was a schoolteacher. My grandfather called her "Jinx," which is the best girl nickname ever, as far as I'm concerned. "Jinx"! I mean! Doesn't she sound like a World War one fighter pilot? Or pilotrix? I just this very second decided that if I ever get a standard poodle I'm going to name her "Jinx." Not because my grandmother was poodle-like in any way (though she did have Fancy Hair, now that I think about it), but just because I like the name and I've always wanted a standard poodle, so I might as well kill two birds with one stone.

I heard about this de-kernelling method through a friend of a friend and I thought it was some crazy original invention but no: it's all over the internet, so I don't feel guilty about spilling the secret.

So blah blah blah, the corn pudding:

3 large eggs
1 1/8 cup evaporated milk
3 cups canned creamed corn
3 cup fresh corn kernels
3 1/2 T melted butter
3 T brown sugar
3 T cornstarch, mixed with 3 T water
3/4 t fresh grated nutmeg
5 T bourbon (optional - AS IF!) plus a swig for you
1/2 t salt
1/2 t white pepper

Oven at 350°F. Butter a dish. Beat eggs and evaporated milk together. Stir in everything else and add to eggs and milk and dump it in the dish. Drink six or seven fingers of bourbon, neat. Bake 45 minutes; should be slightly brown and a knife should come out clean.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Episode 42: How to Prepare for a Parental Visit

Okay, so my parents are moving back to town after a few years in California. They want to live in my neighborhood, but until they can find a house, they're putting everything in storage and moving in with me. So if you need me, I'll be at the liquor store....I kid! I kid! They'll be at the liquor store too! Because I know I'm not easy to live with. I mean: it takes a long time to adjust to The Way I Do Things. Like for instance, there are three cutting boards in the kitchen, but only one of them is for cutting. The other two are for displaying vegetables and putting the olive oil and balsamic vinegar bottles on. There are two colanders: one is for onions, one is for draining things and you cannot mix them up. There's a knife that has the word TOMATE (it's French! or something!) cut out of the blade, and it must only be used for cutting tomates. No other vegetable. If you write any words on the new chalkboard wall in the kitchen, you must print...no cursive.

I know: the minutiae is overwhelming. But that's how I am. One time I was throwing a Shakespeare dinner party with my friends Beth and Thom and there were like twenty people there and we were all dressed like we were from India (I'll explain one day, if I can work up the energy) and we had spent all day cooking crazy Indian food and I had tracked down this fig ice cream for dessert. Or maybe it was date ice cream. Hmmm. Something Indian anyway. And I almost had a nervous breakdown because I couldn't get everybody back around the table to eat the ice cream because everyone was busy trying to figure out the hookah. Like it made me mad, which makes me think I might be a little bit bossy and controlly. Nobody ever did eat that stupid ice cream. Anyway, it was a fun party. The lead singer of Big Country was there, before he went to Hawaii and committed suicide. But better before than after, I guess.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Episode 41: How to Save Money

First off... avoid Las Vegas like the plague. I've never been anywhere where every single thing visible in between the spot my feet stood and the far horizon was designed to take money out of my wallet. And I didn't even gamble! Unless you count the ten dollars in quarters I spent on the "That Girl" slot machine that featured a giant photograph of Marlo Thomas-Donahue on it, but that wasn't so much gambling as it was giving back to the person who gave so much, right?

But it's hard to blame Las Vegas for making you spend your money; they have so many fun ways to get rid of money, you almost don't notice you're doing it. I went with a group of friends and my sister, ostensibly to surprise another friend for his 40th birthday and the Big Joke Idea was that we were going to go to the very expensive Barry Manilow show at the Las Vegas Hilton. Well, we made the host pay for all the tickets because I mean! BARRY MANILOW!? I like a cheese sandwich but I do have my limits! But I figured what the hell, and we all got dressed up and went to the show and I was all grumbling about it because it was going to be cheesy and awful and luckily there was a bar just for the people who were going to the show called the Copacabana so I had eleventy glasses of wine in about six minutes and then of course three-quarters of an hour later, I was standing on my seat waving my glow-stick over my head, singing all of the words to every song he ever sang, including that one that was the theme to that Goldie Hawn/Chevy Chase movie with the albino, the dwarf and the Pope.

The lady next to me got very excited when he sang the medley of commercial jingles that he'd written (State Farm, Dr Pepper, etc), especially when he got to the I Am Stuck On Band-Aids song and she grabbed my arm and squealed I have Band-Aids in my purse right now! So then when he sang You Deserve a Break Today, I asked her if she had an Egg McMuffin in her pocketbook I might could nibble on.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Episode 40: How to Visit the French Quarter

Eleven or twelve years ago, I went to New Orleans (after a week in Gulf Shores, AL) with my friends Melissa and Adrienne and Suzy and Frank. It was May but it was already a hundred and sixty-seven degrees, and for some reason now lost to the fuzziness of time and probably also the fact that you can drink liquor drinks all hours of the day even right out on the sidewalks, as we prepared for our evening out on the town, I decided to wear a red bobbed Prince Valiant wig...you know, like one does. This item belonged to Adrienne, who had quite the wig collection, and I suppose she dared me to wear it. She apparently under-estimated both my daringness and my sobriety! But if it's anything to judge by, one girl in the group was wearing a denim ball gown with the Hee Haw logo printed all over it.

So anyway, there we were, the five of us, traipsing up and down ye olden Rues of New Orleans. Being a five-some of not-uncomplicated tastes and needs in food, we did what every tourist in New Orleans does: we ate at an Italian restaurant. Then we went from bar to bar, where I swang high on a swing above a crowd at one bar and also got invited up to be the sexy dancer for a bachelorette party at another, which I'm sure they're all puzzled about when they watch the video nowadays) and then we suddenly found ourselves lost and on the bad end of one of the Rues. Sure enough, some malfeasants accosted us, threatening and demanding and generally making me question my costume selection. Right as we were about to turn all of our worldly goods over, one of them leered at me: "yo dude, why are you wearing a wig?" And you know what? I knew exactly what to do. So I sprang into action! That's right: I lied. "It's because I have cancer and the chemo has made me bald!" I wailed, and then I started crying like Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice.

WELL! Those are the magic words, lemme tell you. Suddenly, the group of guys who had been one millimeter away from robbing us were patting me on the back and telling me it would be okay...and let me tell you, if they give Academy Awards for being able to cry on cue, which I think they might actullly do based on some of the ones they've handed out, they can just put the Oscar in the box and send it to Sunnymeade Drive. I threw in a little Jesus Blah Blah and a little bit of Uninsured Blah Blah and before I knew it, the Crips and/or the Bloods (I never did get who was who) were suddenly not robbing us and were instead walking us back like a security detail to civilization, where tourists throw up in the gutters. Which is not something you read about in stupid old Henry James's travel books, you can be sure of that. Anyway, Lassez le bon temps le blah blah!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Episode 39: How to Choose a Pet

There are some stories that should never, ever be told. Things happen that should just pass by and never be spoken of again. Never alluded to, never joked about. This is probably one of those stories because every time I tell it my sister says "you know, you should really quit telling that story." So this is the last time!

When I first got my grey tabby cat Fanny from the pound (they had named her Ariel, which I quickly boycotted), she was approximately a year old. I had her at home for a few lovely days of new cat fun when suddenly she started hollering to beat the band and sure enough, turns out Sweet Fanny was in heat. I didn't have a car at the time, so I loaded her up in her cat cage and as she yowled out loud nonstop, I bicycled her over to the vet I had chosen, who turned out to be a hippie voodoo vegetarian veterinarian, who believed rubbing singed rosemary on an elderly cat would heal cat arthritis or whatever. That type of thing. I was into it back then, sort of. So I busted in with my yowling horny cat and said "make it stop! make it stop!" And Dr. Sensitive Manson Family said he wouldn't operate in the middle of a heat cycle, that it would unduly stress out the cat and also it was expensive and since I didn't even have a car, I probably couldn't afford it anyway, so why didn't I just put Sweet Fanny back into her cat cage, peddle home and masturbate her?

(I'll give you a minute here).

Okay, so I KNOW! However you just responded when you read that, multiply it times about fifteen; that's how I responded. I was advised to go purchase a super-nubby oven mitt at the grocery store and to put it on my hand and with the help of mood lighting, the dulcet tones of Natalie Cole and a can of Chicken of the Sea, I was to place my be-oven-mitted hand between Fanny's hind legs and let her, well, um... see, you can just finish thinking about it your own self. This is the part of the story where my sister says I can be a little vague, that people get the picture long before I say the phrase "stimulate your pussy," as the vet put it. I'm not making that up.

So that number-one-on-the-list psychologically shattering life moment came to pass and then when her heat cycle was over about a week later, I pedaled her back to the vet and got all of that ladybusiness taken care of because I threw that oven mitt away toot suite and didn't really want to have to go buy another one anytime soon. I just knew if I went and bought another one, the cashier would know that I was some sort of chronic crazy cat masturbator.

Anyway, now Fanny is a happy spinster cat. I have noticed all these years later, though, that when I'm in the kitchen baking or whathaveyou...anything that requires oven mitts... Fanny - now almost twenty - comes and sits in the kitchen doorway and looks at me with lowered cat eyelids and makes a low purring sound as if to say "you wanna go again, big fella?"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Episode 38: How to Select a Parking Space

Oooooo, parking lots. Is there another public space - other than that hideous WW2 Monument on the Mall in Washington DC - that instigates as much outrage? Between the people driving one mile an hour around and around in a circle until a front space opens up so they don't have to waddle an extra five feet and those stupid RESERVED FOR EXPECTANT MOTHERS signs, I almost lose my mind every time I drive into one. You don't have to obey those signs, you know, the expectant mother ones. It's not a law. And it drives me insane that they would think I would obey them. I mean...I know it's a medical condition and all but so is my hangover and nobody's reserving me a close-up parking space. But I think some mothers (of course, I'm not talking about you) these days are like a whole privileged class, what with the fancy parking spaces and the way everybody gets out of their way when they barrel down the mall hallways with strollers. I make a point to never get out of the way because you know what? I didn't knock them up. It's not my problem. I once even kicked a stroller as it veered too close to me when I was window shopping at the mall and the lady navigating it glared at me and I think she was thinking of saying something smart-alecky but I headed it off and said DON'T EVEN! right out loud and she wasn't expecting that and she scurried off to load little Madison up into her Suburban, no doubt. Which would have been parked in the RESERVED FOR EXPECTANT MOTHERS spot if I hadn't parked there myself. Ha ha ha. Too bad, lady. Maybe if you had saved it for marriage you wouldn't be in this predicament.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Episode 37: How to Take a Nap

Now that I'm a fully grown adult, I do love a nap. I think the best thing possible to have happen is to finish your job early and then be able to race home and slide into your little envelope of bed-sheets and snooze away for an hour before Access Hollywood comes on. But as a child, I hated napping. I hated it so much I would devise ways to trick time itself: I had noticed that whenever I got up from a nap, my hair was always a mess. So one day when Mom told me to go take my nap, I marched upstairs, messed up my hair and then marched right back downstairs and yelled "I TOOK MY NAP!" and I think I got away with it that one time. I was also suspicious of naps as a child because once my evil little sister tried to kill me while I was mid-nap by beating me in the head with a golf cleat. Now that my sister and I own a house together all these years later, I sleep with one eye open because you never know when she might decide to finish the job she started thirty-seven years ago.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Episode 36: How to Score Bowling

Knowing how to manually score bowling is truly becoming one of the Lost Arts, like Drunk Driving and Casual Shoplifting. But I think you'll find that all three of those come in handy at one time or another. I do dislike when I go to by local Bowl-a-Rama and there's some fancy automated machine that does all the work for you. I mean! That's like calling a cab just because you've had two bottles of wine in forty-five minutes!

I learned how to score bowling in the 7th grade at Wedgwood Middle in Ft Worth, Texas, during one of those times when you could tell the physical education budgets were being crunched because instead of Baseball or Football, we suddenly had a whole semester of the down-market made-up-sounding sports, like Square Dancing and Hopscotch or, yes, Bowling. I wasn't really good at the actual game at the time, but when it came to the scoring, I was a viking. It clicked in my brain and has stayed there ever since; despite the very nature of this particular blog, it's one of the few things I actually know how to do. I've become a better bowler since then - my family even tried to create a new Christmas tradition by going bowling on Christmas Eve, which only lasted a couple of years because we were all hungover on Christmas morning and that's no fun at all. I bowl a pretty consistent 180-200, which isn't bad considering my form largely consists of throwing the ball as hard as possible to create what I call Maxxxximum Down-Alley Pin Action(®) rather than trying to aim it in any one particular place, which is probably for the best because I've usually had a pitcher of Miller High Life before I even get my rented shoes laced up.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Episode 35: How to Plan a Cross-Country Trip

Okay, you should know that I will stop at the cheesiest, minor-est tourist attraction in the world, especially if there is a giant fiberglass animal used as a mascot in front of it. Giant Bigfoot in Willow Creek, California? Check. Giant Babe the Ox in Klamath? Mmm hmmm. Chicken holding a knife and fork next to the Boobie Bungalow in Elkton, Tennessee? Got it. It doesn't matter what it is or if there is any historical significance at all. I've seen three different World's Largest Ball of Yarns and let me tell you, each one was more satisfying than the last. You show me the exact spot in Napa Valley where Falcon Crest's Angela Channing slapped Melissa Gioberti and I will show you my own personal Lourdes.

I once went on a family trip to the Grand Canyon with my father and mother and sister. We flew into Phoenix and then drove up through the middle of Arizona to Williams, where we then got on another road to the very rim of the Canyon. On the way, we passed a highly cheese-alicious attraction called The Flintstones' Bedrock City and I yelled "STOP! STOP THE CAR!" and started pounding on the window...to no avail. My father had had quite enough of being in the car so I cried and cried and pounded on the back window of the rental car as my dream destination disappeared toward the receding horizon, in a cloud of dust. I would not be calmed. This trip was ruined and no amount of Canyon-staring or donkey-riding or Indian-mound-plundering was going to console me. I cried for a week. I was 35.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Episode 34: How to Experience a Chain Restaurant

I've worked at a lot of different restaurants in my life but the only one that really resembled a chain was a place in North Carolina called Fitzgerald's. There were only two of them, so maybe that doesn't count. But they were carbon copies of each other, with fake 1920s memorabilia and spats hung on the wall and stupid machine-gunned bullet holes in the wall. Because yeah, nothing sounds more delicious than a filet named after Zelda Fitzgerald, who went insane and died in a fire when her nuthouse burned down. Make mine well done, please!

Anyway, there was this big tall country-assed donkey girl named Mary who worked there and she had a way with the tables, yes she most certainly did! More than once, I'd hear her say something like "Land sakes, you'd think a big fella like you coulda cleared his plate! You can do it, Big Boy" and the guy would be like a full-grown forty-year old. Or "okay, y'all, you got everything? 'Cause I gotta go take a crap so if you need me I'll be in the bathroom..." She got complaints all the time but she never got fired, largely because we were all fairly sure she had a knife in her purse. Which brings me to: you should be nice to your servers, whether they're enslaved at a chain restaurant or a local independent. Because all the stories you hear about server revenge that people say are all exaggerations? They're not. I personally once saw a male server stir a bourbon & Coke with his winky and then serve it to some toothless hillbilly, who I must say totally deserved it for ordering a goddamned bourbon and Coke in the first place. I saw a hamburger bun go down someone's pants...front and back. You can complain about servers, you can even get them fired. But you can't un-eat the food they just clipped their toenails into. I'm just saying.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Episode 33: How to Make Lemonade

Being a master horticulturalist, I - like all master horticulturalists - have a Meyer Lemon tree in a pot. In the three years I've had it, I have harvested exactly two lemons off of it. I get lots of blossoms all the time and then you can see the beginnings of a whole mess of lemons but then a rainstorm knocks them off, or heavy wind, or when I get all drunk up on wine and knock the tree over on my way to answer the doorbell that didn't really ring though I swear to god I heard it at least twice. The two lemons I got, I hoarded and kept secret from my sister, who had been eyeing them as well. She noticed they were missing from the tree and asked about them. "Owls," I said. "Owls got them." Then I went on and on about how there is a scurvy problem among the owl population and they have evolved to the point that they crave citrus. Needless to say, she didn't believe me for one second, as this was before I knew How to Lie. Too many details! Drat! I ended up using the two Meyers in a single glass of lemonade and while it was the best lemonade I ever had, I was sad to not have the lemons anymore. BUT I DID WHAT THE NEEDLEPOINTED PILLOWS SAID TO DO! Life gave me lemons and I indeed made lemonade.

As summertime refreshment goes, I like iced tea too, but I don't have a tea tree or a tea bush or a tea whathaveyou, whatever teabags grow on. I'll have to research that and get back to you.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Episode 32: How to Not Vomit

Many years ago, my friends Andy and Suzy and Frank were invited to a masquerade ball one Halloween. While they were all getting ready, they decided to have a few cups of a homemade punch called Gitchee Gloomee, which was made up of little bits of this and that left over from various parties at Suzy's: Galliano, Pernod, Rum, Apple Schnapps, Bailey's; you know...the things you never know just what to do with. Several cups of this concoction later and they were, as the French say, in their cups.

Late for the party, they jumped into the car and hurried. Andy was the driver (this was back when drunk driving was a legitimate sport) and he was dressed in a traditional skeleton costume. Frank was in the backseat, dressed as Al Capone. In the passenger seat was Suzy, dressed as the Blessed Virgin Mary, right down to a realistically swaddled fake baby. As they zipped drunkenly in and out of traffic down West End Avenue, the Blessed Virgin Mary started to feel a little, uh, less Blessed. She demanded that the skeleton/chauffeur stop the Tercel and just as he did, the Mother of Christ threw the car door open, the Christ child fell into the gutter and the Blessed Virgin Mary threw a quart of neon green Gitchee Gloomee up all over him...right in front of the giant plate glass window of the original Houston's Restaurant. She lifted the blue edge of her headdress and wiped her mouth, looked up at the three dozen forks-frozen-in-place onlookers on the other side of the glass and waved at them as if she had just left a blessing behind and having witnessed this display, they would all now be cured of whatever ailed them. Which, since it was Houston's, was probably a lot of ailing.

Then she sat back upright and closed the door and a skeleton, Al Capone and the Blessed Mother drove off into the night, leaving a vomit-covered Baby Jesus abandoned by the side of the road. And if that's not a useful religious allegory, I don't know what is.