Imperfect 10

TheWorst

There’s nothing to get excited about anymore. Except Liz Lemon.

When I was young and stoopid(er than I am now), it seemed daily life was full of poignant things to write about. By hand, in college-ruled notebooks. Would I barf from eating those Pringles so soon after returning from Friendly’s? Was I the only person on earth whose hair was immune to Elnett? What would happen when Jan and Lew noticed I had added a third hole to my left earlobe? Did Doc Martens come in size 5 1/2? Whhhhhhhhhy did that douche who sat behind me in English class not love me, and why did I care? You see. Material a-plenty.

Now it’s not so easy. I don’t even know why, because I basically worry about the adult version of the same things. But this blog is dusty. The novel I’ll never finish has been 40 mediocre pages long for two years. I keep reminding myself that the actors I’ve mentally cast in the big screen adaptation are about to age out of their theoretical roles, but I’m still mentally paralyzed. Besides, now that I’ve moved from notebooks to bloggery, it’s all public – and anything I’d logically think to write about would cause a hefty number of people to file restraining orders and/or stop speaking to me. So in desperation, as you may know, I sometimes turn to the interweb and the array of writing prompts it offers, from places like Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.

Among her latest batch of prompts was this one: “List 10 things that make you feel excited.”

What is this word, “excited?” You mean excited like, “agitated?” Excited like, “I’m so excited with rage that Imma* punch you in the balls?” What else COULD it mean?

What’s that? Some people actually get excited about GOOD things?!  Come on. You don’t expect me to believe that load of crap do you? I mean please. That’s absurd. Clearly I need to move on to the next prompt. 

That one turned out to be, “You know you’re a mom when …”

Okay then. 

My eyes went back to the first prompt and suddenly the bold words of one Barney Stinson came into my head: “Challenge accepted.”

So can I do it?

10 Non-Everyday Things That Fill Me With a Faint Hint of Excitement

  1. The first hot day of summer and the first cold day of winter, because they mean a new season and a new atmosphere are upon us, and that today will be at least a tiny bit different from yesterday.
  2. Similarly, the promise of a massive blizzard that may result in the office closing, for its novelty and reminder of youth. And because junk food eaten in extreme weather conditions doesn’t count. Nor does junk food eaten after extreme weather conditions because it would be a terrible travesty to let it go to waste. Or, for that matter, junk food eaten before extreme weather conditions to make sure it’s safe for consumption.
  3. A jam-packed schedule of urban adventures with the Communettes (or as millennials might say, “my squad”), to destinations including but not limited to Russian nightclubs (whence comes the name “Communettes”); burlesque supper clubs (my burlesque name, in case you were wondering, is Andromeda Muscle Strain); ancient bath houses; nail art emporia; Tim Burton-themed bars; circus side shows (see Item 5); and other not-as-sordid-as-they-sound locales. You know who you are, Communettes. Come back to me!
  4. Duran Duran concerts, because nothing is more life-affirming than singing and dancing like an asshole to Rio live while you ogle an aging but gorgeous bass player.
  5. The Coney Island Circus Sideshow, because one of the snakes there makes me feel real loved and I myself love the smell of lighter fluid in the morning. (That’s a fire eating/Apocalypse Now joke and I find it hilarious.) Also, very few things compare to the sight of stomach slime glistening on a freshly swallowed sword.
  6. The virgin wear of new boots, lipstick, or jeans, all of which will be perfect for approximately 36 hours, at which point someone else will walk by wearing a version that is “better” in some way that can’t be articulated
  7. Canine hugs
  8. Reunions/visits/trips with people I love but haven’t seen in eons (most notably my lil sis, my Texans, my aforementioned Communettes)
  9. A completely empty New York Times crossword puzzle on a page that’s in pristine condition, paired with Wite-Out and a satisfying rollerball pen. Similarly, a brand new pack of multi-colored Sharpies/Flair pens/smelly markers.
  10. The exact moment of touch down on the runway at a new airport. But only that one moment, because a nanosecond later, panic sets in about whether or not it’s safe to drink the water wherever I’ve just landed.
  11. AND A BONUS NUMBER 11 … FINISHING THIS BLOG POST!

*Please note first-ever use of “Imma,” perhaps incorrectly. 

 

 

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Imperfect 10

Some Day Comes

Why yes, that IS Mexican corn from Dos Caminos in the background

For review, please see Sunday’s post.

Greetings from “some day!”

After learning that place-holders would not be allowed at the book signing — i.e., no paying unemployed friends to stand in line so you could sleep late and then roll in at 11 — Rachana realized it didn’t make sense for her to come in from NJ.  Between this, the crack-of-dawn rising, the four+ hours of line-waiting with strangers, and the possibility of crushing disappointment, I really wasn’t sure I could do this anymore. But I kept hearing my dad’s words … Some day … on the street in New York … and I knew I had to try.

Armed with an Olive & Bette tote bag containing non-perishable rations and my finest Duran Duran memorabilia, some with original scotch tape and mauve wallpaper fibers, I headed across town. On 54th Street, nothing looked out of the ordinary — I had been expecting a squatter’s village and tents. That was a good sign. Inside, there was no line to buy the book – “In the Pleasure Groove” (favorably reviewed by the HuffPo, I might add)  – either. Upstairs, a kindly older woman escorted me to the end of the line and told me I was roughly number 40. SCORE! If I could deal with four hours of mind-numbing boredom, I would almost certainly make it to the front of the line.

Very weirdly, the time passed quickly and pleasantly. I made myself comfortable in the aisle where they’d stuck me (Personal Growth). I enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and mediocre bagel, I became BFFs with ladies in front and in back of me, and Barnes & Noble had curated a special Duran Duran soundtrack for the occasion. The camaraderie was incredible! We spelled each other for bathroom breaks. We shared iPhone chargers and Tide pens and hand sanitizer. I killed a stink bug that had waddled out from under “IBS for Dummies,” accidentally spraying one of the other “Duranies.” We passed around our BOP and Tiger Beat and 16 posters. We told stories about the 80s and assessed the various girlfriends of Simon Le Bon and John. We talked about why we loved them and why we still loved them. We talked about our favorite albums and videos and the stupid things we used to think.  We talked about the different times we’d seen them live, what it was like being 12 and how, in some places that shall remain nameless Scotch Plains, a girl was a traitor to Bon Jovi and could get thrown in locker for loving Duran Duran. My modern-day friends cheered me on via Facebook and text message.

You can do eeeet! You can do eeeet!

Exactly at 12:30 we heard the front of the line start screaming and I knew that “some day” had come. Up until that point I had been a mix of excited and sad (about lost youth and how much time had passed since the first time I heard “Rio” on the way to school in 5th grade). As the line moved along, I realized there was a pretty good chance I would puke, pass out, or lose the power of speech. My hands were shaking too hard to take pictures and I tried desperately to think up something hilarious to say to him.

Then I could see him and then I was in front of him! He was gorgeous and smiling and felt like an old friend I hadn’t seen in eons. This is how the conversation I’d dreamed about for 30 years went down:

OMFG OMFG OMFG OMFG

JT: Hi Traci, how are you?

Me: The only thing I can think to say to you right now is ‘Holy Fucking Shit.’

JT laughs

Me talking very fast and trying to squeeze a lifetime of chit-chat into 10 seconds: I have two books for you to sign but I also brought some potentially horrifying stuff from my personal collection I know it’s a little creepy this has been in my family for 30 years it actually hung on my bedroom wall you can see the tape.

JT views the ancient pictures of himself. He actually puts his hand on the faded posters that Rachana and I bought in 1984 at Baron’s in Westfield.

JT: Wow this stuff is like heirlooms!

Me: I apologize for any New Jersey molecules that might have contaminated you.

JT laughs or at least I remember it that way. Then he signs both books, shakes my hand and says it was nice to meet me. I tell him it was SUCH an honor to meet him.

Downstairs, my new friends and I realized we were starving and bordering on hysterical in a totally mature way, so we headed to Dos Caminos for sangria and guacamole. Then, we parted ways and I returned to the “Ordinary World,” running errands on the rest of my day off and wondering what Keith would want for dinner. Nothing had changed, except that it kind of had.

And now I’m thinking about a conversation between me and my 12-year-old self. I know what she would say and ask. She would want to know if she gets married to someone nice and cute (she does); if she ever gets her braces off (she does, but could use another round); if she will always be friends with Rachana (she will); if she moves to New York (she does); and if she’ll barf at her bat mitzvah (she won’t). She will be impressed that she eats sushi and drinks sangria! She will love finding out that a Gear bag is in her near future. And now of course, I can tell her when she asks that some day, on the street in New York, her dream will come true.

Some Day Comes

Ordinary World

From the private collection of me.
Note that John Taylor is a total fox.

It was the spring of 1984. I was 12, the clothes were Esprit, the hair was bi-leveled, and the night was sultry. (Or maybe it wasn’t. I was in the basement watching Suburban Cablevision for most of it, so I can’t say for sure.) John Taylor, Simon Le Bon and the rest of Duran Duran were the reigning MTV Friday Night Video Champions. It was during this reign that my middle school bestie Rachana and I became obsessed with the band Tiger Beat and BOP used to call “The Fab 5.” Ours was to be  an unrequited love story that would span three pathetic decades and media from vinyl to cassettes and CDs to iPhones. Chuckle away. But you will never convince me that “Rio” isn’t one of the greatest masterpieces of all time.

A few years in, Duran Duran paid a visit to Z-100 and listeners were invited to call in with questions. What this really meant, if you were lucky enough to get through, was that for a few seconds, John Taylor and Simon Le Bon would know you existed.  So I redialed and redialed and redialed and got only a busy signal. I was devastated. Trying to console me, Lew said, “You never know. One day, you could just be walking down the street in New York and bump right into them…” And it is those words — that tiny possibility  — that still gets me through my darkest days.  I don’t know why, but I never got over this obsession. They are my first loves. They taught me nothing I know about eyeliner. And when you have loved something as long as I’ve loved them, even without a shred of personal contact, they kind of become part of your psyche.

Cut to 2012. Rachana and I are 40. The clothes are J. Brand, the hair is flat-ironed, and the night might or might not be sultry. But it doesn’t matter, because John Taylor is signing copies of his new memoir in the city on October 16th.  Dressed in our finest skinny jeans, uber-stylie fall tops and shiny new booties, Rachana and I planned to hit the bookstore, experience the nirvana that is John Taylor, capture the whole thing on our iPhones, then enjoy a delightful ladies’ lunch as we analyzed our interactions

For some reason, I pictured this going down at the famed Fifth Avenue bookstore Rizzoli. Rizzoli hasn’t actually been on Fifth Avenue since 1985, and the book signing is really taking place at a non-descript Barnes and Noble in a midly depressing part of town. Tuesday is also supposed to be way too warm for booties. I might have to meet John Taylor in … GASP … ballet flats. Since my other long-running friend, Nicole, lives in Germany, she’s obviously not coming. That feels wrong. Then came the big blow. The signing starts at 12:30. The store is opening at the inhuman hour of 7 am to accommodate the massive line of screaming ninnies expected to show up. Most likely, I was told, those who arrive much later than 7 will never make it to the front of the line. This seemed like the gods of childhood dreams playing a cruel trick on me. Really?! I had to choose between sleep – my most beloved body function – and JOHN TAYLOR? REALLY?! Thankfully, this disaster was averted when Nicole’s sister Rebecca suggested I pay someone to hold our spots in line. I hadn’t known this was a thing, but apparently opera fans do it all the time for tickets. Brilliant!

Yet with so many of the details unraveling, I started to question the whole thing. Assuming we even make it to the front of the line, it will take him two seconds to sign his name. Photos might not even be allowed, and if they are, I’m entirely confident I’ll look grotesque and cross-eyed in mine. There is no possible combination of words we could conjure to leave any kind of impression in that situation. He probably won’t even look up.

But what really concerns me is the end of the fantasy. What if he’s a total douche bag? What if he looks like a sad, washed up Happy Ending Sundae Story? I don’t want to meet that version of him. I want to meet him in 1984. I am so used to looking forward to this – how will I feel when I have to look back instead? When the thing I’ve waited for all these years has happened, will I be happy about it? Is it better to have the hope than the memory? Is this a really bad idea?

Maybe. But fuck it. We’re meeting John Taylor on Tuesday!!!

Ordinary World

Angels, Demons and Bloodsuckers

It started with Evan.

Long, long ago (the 70s), in a galaxy far, far away (New Jersey), Evan was my best friend. Together, we prepared and served gourmet plastic steaks in my Playskool kitchen.  We plotted against the Eager Beaver Diaper-Clad Toddler you read about in Mmm…Pie. We picked outfits together – Danskin hopscotch-motif top and pants? Strawberry-adorned sundress and matching bloomers? We acted out suburban dramas with Fisher-Price people.  Who would pick up the dry cleaning, Blue Marilyn or her good-for-nothing husband Bald Green Bob? OMFG – was that a WEEBLE with Purple Susan at The Silver Bucket the other night?! Did her two-inch boyfriend know?! Did she know that Weebles wobbled but didn’t fall down?!

Now, based on some of the aforementioned activities, it might cross your mind that Evan was gay. I can see why you’d think that, but he wasn’t. I’ll tell you what he was, though: entirely imaginary.

That didn’t stop me from becoming completely unable to think or talk about anything else – except maybe candy. And this drove Lew absolutely crazy – in fact, it drove him to homicide. One day, going 55 mph on the Parkway, he threw Evan out of the car, never to be “seen” or heard from again. Which I’m sure had noooo lasting traumatic effect on me.

RIP Evan.

Gone was the first of my many obsessions: a series of long-term fixations that I could not control.  From him I moved on to Ziggellette, a  small, soft doll so named because of her resemblance to Ziggy. Hailing from the Fluff ‘n’ Stuff at the Woodbridge Mall, Ziggellette had several mangy strands of mustard-colored yarn hair, a bulbous, three-dimensional nose and the words “LOVE ME” written across her red torso. She told silly jokes, sang sillier songs, and served as my alter-ego, often expressing the things I could not bear to. I took her everywhere.

Then came the fire.

Jan, Grandma Ethel and I were sitting around the kitchen table when we began to smell smoke. In a panic, Jan attempted to rush us out of the house, but I refused to leave the premises without Ziggellette. Racing down the hall to my room, I discovered the unfortunate source of the smoke.  It had been my sister’s turn to play “Hide Ziggellette,” and it appeared she’d chosen to put her in a lamp so that her oversized head hung out over the shade and her floppy derriere rested against the lit 100-watt bulb. The bulb had already burned a quarter-sized hole in Ziggellette’s nether regions, but I was sure she could still be saved. I raced back to the kitchen and threw her in the sink, where her bean-filled body let out a sad little sizzle. She was lost. Lew did come home a few days later with Ziggellette II, and I loved her like my own, but it was never quite the same.  (Side note — Ziggellette II stayed with me until Philly. There, she was either mauled by an unnamed Wheaten terrier or stolen … I have my suspicions but no DNA evidence. In any case, RIP Ziggellettes I and II.)

So, on to a new obsession: Charlie’s Angels. It isn’t hard to see how I, a short, picked-on and bucktoothed suburban Jew, would develop girl crushes on these ample-bosomed, totally glamorous and kick-ass women. What wonderful role models! What a realistic show! I hoped my boobs — I mean I — grew up to be just like them.

Thankfully, they were safe from my family’s tendency to kill the things I cared about, and this particular obsession ended bloodlessly when the channel 5 syndication line-up changed.

Enter Duran Duran (see 1984), possibly the most intense, mocked and long-running of my obsessions, followed by Conan O’Brien (see NBC Order and Team Conan), Pistol Pete Sampras (see Sleepless at the Service Line), and of course, Ollie (see Ollie’s CV).

It’s obvious that these obsessions have served as an escape for me, and/or provided me with something to focus on when there was nothing else.  They give me something relatively painless in which to lose myself.  I’m like a 12-year-old with a crush on that kid from Social Studies.

In some cases, it’s also pretty obvious why I choose – albeit subconsciously – a particular subject. But for the most part, I’ve never understood why this happens to me, or why one thing captivates me and another doesn’t. Why Ziggellette and not Potbelly Koala or LeMutt? Duran Duran and not The Police or U2? Pete Sampras and not Andre Agassi? And why does it suddenly overcome me for no apparent reason?

It has actually been quite some time since my mind went down the old road of obsession. And you might think that, as an engaged middle management woman on the wrong side of 35, I’d be mature enough to avoid that road going forward. You’d be wrong.

A few weeks ago, my future SIL Christine and I engaged in a book trade. I gave her Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Committed” and she gave me … wait for it … “Twilight” and its sequel, “New Moon.” I couldn’t have been surer that I had zero interest in the teen angst of a high school junior torn between a vampire and a morphing werewolf in Bumblefuck, Washington. It seems absurd even as I write those terms.

Christine had felt the same way, but assured me I would get hooked like the rest of the world.  I remained skeptical.

The next thing I knew, I was up every night until 2 a.m., unable to put down the story, Googling vampire legends, figuring out where Volterra was, and deciding whether or not I was on Team Edward or Team Jacob (tough call — and I also find Carlisle strangely attractive).

Vampy McVamperstein and frick on a bloodsucking, daylight-fearing stick!

Add “Olympic Coven” to the list.

Angels, Demons and Bloodsuckers

1984

To the untrained eye, the photo above depicts five humans of indeterminate gender. But, ladies and gentlemen, the faces you are looking at actually belong to the first men I ever loved: Simon Le Bon, John Taylor, Roger Taylor, Andy Taylor and Nick Rhodes, b.k.a. Duran Duran. (Please note, their official web site is ALSO powered by WordPress!) And tonight, I spent two divine hours with them in Central Park.

Thanks to Kiki, who called in a favor and secured tickets for us, she and my sister and I had the privilege of attending the first of two Duran Duran concerts in the park. Since I first fell in love with the band nearly a quarter of a century ago, I’ve seen them or some combination of them perform at least six times, but I’ve never been physically closer to or better able to see them than tonight. And I have to say that – despite their freakish appearance in this 1981 photo – Simon (turning 50 in October) and John (turning 48 on June 20) are still absolutely the hottest men I have ever encountered.

Furthermore, they happen to sound as amazing as they did in their heyday . I know. I know what you’re thinking. They’re talentless (vicious lie). Their lyrics are non-sensical and/or idiotic (not as vicious a lie). They’re just pretty boys (I don’t know what to tell ya. They’re pretty. Sue ‘em.). They’re like a spoof of a cheezola 80s band. That’s valid. The stage was adorned with two Ds covered in light bulbs. They themselves were adorned with black leather pants, black blazers, black button-downs and black skinny ties. With black and white bandanas around their arms for some reason. And make-up.

But honestly, I think they know what they are.  I don’t think they were trying to pose as serious musicians, and I don’t think they were trying to be young whippersnappers. I really got the sense that they were having fun making their overgrown teenybopper fans happy. That they liked giving the audience what we wanted – an escape, an hour or two of 1984. Not at all to my dismay, I had a perfect view of John for the bulk of the concert. And I use as evidence the natural, playful way he interacted with the lucky bastards (all whores) in the first few rows.  Of course, it’s also  possible he was high, but let’s assume the best.  

The concert included several highlights, including moving renditions of “Ordinary World” and “Save a Prayer,” during which Simon asked that we open and hold up our cell phones instead of the traditional cigarette lighters, even though it would annoy Al Gore. Much responsibility for singing was placed on us, and it is with great pride that I say our versions of “Girls on Film” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” should win Grammy Awards.

But the evening’s real joy was in its real joy. It will come as no surprise to you that nary a soul would use the words “sunny disposition” to describe me. Kiki and my sister both told me they couldn’t recall another time I’d gone so long without complaining, expressing a hypochondriacal concern, making a snide comment or experiencing some sign of panic. I just screamed and sang and danced like the tone-deaf, palsied dork that I am. I’m not sure exactly why I was able to behave in such a carefree, unbecoming manner. But for a little while, with Duran Duran in front of me, all was truly good in the world. Perhaps the intensity of my 12-year-old passion for these silly rock stars was so strong it still allows me to be transported back in time. Before cell phones and laptops and iPods and the internet. Before flat-irons and Brazilian bikini waxes and $150-jeans.  Before marriage and divorce and global warming and September 11th. Before complete and utter failure. Perhaps, in that fleeting state of mind, I am able to forget that it isn’t 1984 and that my whole life isn’t ahead of me.  

When the loves of my life left the stage at the end of the show, a group of Brazilians behind us began to chant, “DRIO! DRIO! DRIO!” A few minutes later,  the band reappeared, singing about a famous woman who dances on the sand. Rather poetically, John was now sporting a Barack Obama t-shirt that read “PROGRESS” at the bottom.   

1984