My First Time

Keith and I started watching “Friday Night Lights” on Netflix this summer and quickly became addicted.  If you’ve watched the show, you know how intensely it sucks you in. You start to feel like you’re living right there in the small, football-obsessed town of Dillon, TX.  You find yourself motivating co-workers by saying, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” You crave Alamo Freeze. You realize you actually know what number and position each of the Panthers plays.  Especially Riggins. And if you’re me, you are mentally transported back in time to the trauma that is high school.  So it struck me as rather uncanny that Mama Kat’s weekly writing prompts would include “Your first panic attack” – which, in my case, took place at the end of my senior year at Spiffy High.

Nowadays, the classic panic attack is almost de rigeur.  (I mean, have you really even lived until you’ve experienced the joy of clammy hands, sudden onset hot flash, racing heart, severe tremors and impending sense of unidentifiable doom?) I think about panic attacks a few times a day in my modern life.  But in 1990, anxiety was simpler.  We didn’t know from panic attacks, as Grandma Ethel would have said.  I just always understood that I was a nervous person who worried a lot and lived under a cloud of melancholy.

With graduation looming on the horizon, I felt totally isolated (which may or may not have actually been the case); I absolutely could not bear the thought of choosing a college and then leaving home to go to it; I was in a bad relationship; and I despised myself more than you can imagine. So really, things were fabulous!

You won’t be surprised to learn that “my first time” took place in gym class, the morning after I lost a huge fight with my high school boyfriend, B.  I had barely slept and probably skipped breakfast, but gym stops for no man. I had no choice but to hit the weight room circuit, and made it through two or three of the machines. Then came the leg press. As I situated myself, I felt my stomach drop to my feet. My heart was pounding so hard I could hear it, and sweat began pouring down my face. I tried to push the five-pound weight into the wall, but found that my legs were rubber.  I would have stood up and run to the bathroom, but I was pretty sure I’d pass out. I froze in place.  Clearly, I had some sort of sudden onset virus and would need to be airlifted out of school. Perhaps they would even quarantine me. It never occurred to me that this was anything other than physical.

I headed to the nurse’s office post-haste, and felt better as soon as I sat down among the derelicts with faux migraines.  My pulse seemed to have slowed to no more than 200, but still, I was obviously quite ill.  I waited for the nurse and when I went in, she asked me a lot of questions about my health in general.  Then  she asked what was going on “at home.”  As a regular watcher of after-school specials, I was compelled to assure her that no one was beating or molesting me, and that neither of my parents drank heavily or abused drugs. Strangely, I also felt compelled to tell her about my college angst and B – and then, for dessert, started crying.

Hmm.  I’d never known that to be a symptom of the flu.

The nurse looked at me with sympathy and said, “I think you had an anxiety attack.”

Wait, I’m not being airlifted?! You don’t have to call my parents? Frick on a palpitating stick and Panic McNervoustein!

She had me lie down for a few minutes and told me to go back to class when I felt up to it.  And sure enough, I was fine. Except that now, I had a new bully in my life … one that still follows me everywhere I go.

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My First Time

10 Days in Texas, Part 3

 

Alright, I’ll get on with it. I’ve been motivated to write by a new book I just procured, entitled “I Was Told There’d Be Cake.” I haven’t read any of it yet, but I already love it and the author — Sloane Crosley — because her bio includes this line: “She also wrote the cover story for the worst-selling issue of Maxim in that magazine’s history.” Ergo, I must finish these mind-numbing Texan tales before I can move on with my blog, become an honorary member of the Sedaris clan and ultimately land a book and movie deal.
 
Our Lone Star story picks up on Monday, the first day of the year’s biggest educational technology trade show. That day, I met the four riotously funny and tireless educators who were in San Antonio leading workshops and presentations for us — Teacher Patrice, Teacher Lorraine, Teacher Robert and Teacher Scott. Props to all four of you for a great job! If you’re interested in this kind of stuff, check out Scott’s blog — TeacherTech.
 
Pile of Bull
For the most part, these trade shows stink on ice. They are absolutely exhausting, wreak havoc on the hooves regardless of shoe-age, take place in hideously lit, massive exhibit halls, leave you unable to speak in complete sentences and, frankly, are just plain Boring McBoringstein. This one was no exception, but there were a few notable highlights. First of all, one of the booths had, as its centerpiece, a mechanical bull.  Out of deference to Dave and Rob, I vowed to prove that I had an inner Texan and could stun all of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center with my unapproached ability to triumph over the bull. I’d be the talk of Bexar County — the 100-pound, midget Jew (in $150, low-rise jeans) from New York City who broke all bull riding records, ever. I’d be recruited for the Olympic rodeo team! Jan and Lew would be so proud. At last, I’d have found my special gift.  What I had not counted on was how high or wide the bull would be. I had envisioned something similar in size to Merry-Go-Round ponies, which should have been my first clue, because Merry-Go-Rounds, along with taxis, elevators, planes, trains and automobiles, make me nauseous. It took the assistance of two Mexican mechanical bull engineers to lift me up. I was horrified. I was 10 feet off the ground! What the hell was I thinking? There was no way I could do this without becoming paralyzed. I would have to seek national glory and a gold medal some other way.  Quickly, I attempted to dismount, but the bull was already starting to move in a clockwise direction.  Hanging off the bull with one leg still wrapped around “him” and the rest of me dangling, my entire crack visible to all, I began screaming hysterically to Jorge. “I can’t do it! I can’t do it! I need to get off! Stop! Help!” Thankfully, he did, and I received my “Yee-Haw! I Rode the Mechanical Bull at Booth 8659!” button despite my complete and utter humiliation.
 
76,000 Points
After the catastrophic results of my date with the mechanical bull — which left my thighs so sore I could barely walk — I attempted to come to terms with the fact that I am just a nerd in good clothes and lip gloss. If I wanted to join the rodeo, I’d have to do it as a clown or as an employee of the Bud Lite concession stand. But redemption was actually just down the ginormous aisle. While making the rounds in search of free candy, I noticed that another booth was running computerized, interactive games of Jeopardy! I sized up the competition. Sure, the gathered group was comprised of teachers who had devoted their lives to imparting knowledge, and sure, knowledge was power. But I could take ’em. And I did. I scored 76,000 points, due largely to my knowledge of Ponce de Leon and Eastern European capitals. The bull may have beaten me, but I became the all-time conference Jeopardy! champ.  I beamed as history and science teachers from around the country looked at me with amazement.  The sales rep told me that I’d done so well I’d be asked to participate in an all-star round at the next big conference.  I continued to beam, before a co-worker told me he was kidding.  I did not go home empty-handed though. I was allowed to take as many bite-sized Snickers as I wanted.   
 
Remember the Alamo
No trip to San Antonio would be complete without a trip to the world-famous Alamo, site of what may be the only Texan Revolution battle anyone anywhere can name. Of course, it was the historical importance I cited when I reported that I’d be taking an extended lunch break to visit the Alamo. But let’s be real. What I really wanted to see was the place where, in 1982, Ozzy Osbourne had lifted up the dress he was wearing and taken a big ol’ Texan leak on the national landmark. Oddly enough, there was nothing denoting that particular spot. I did, however, pose for a photo with a menacing Texas ranger by the name of Officer Ramirez.
 
The Marriott Spa
To thank us for all the manual labor, the CEO of our small company offered to treat us to massages at the hotel’s spa. I was concerned about the credentials of the spa’s staff – after all, what kind of expert Shiatsu or Swedish masseur ended up in San Antonio? I did, however, desperately need a pedicure, and opted to use my spa time for that purpose.  My sister wisely suggested that I bring my own nail polish, because outside of major metropolitan areas, one can never be sure there will be a decent selection of hues. (I was once stuck, in Michigan, with a choice of frosty turquoise, fire engine red and crusty bubble gum pink.) I hit the mall that abutted the hotel and purchased a bottle of “Clutch Me If You Can,” a delightful cherry-chocolate shade. The Texan pedicure was actually quite good, but the “technician” made me a little sad for some reason. She asked a lot of questions about New York (she’d never been) and seemed to think that life there was very glamorous. (It ain’t.) She also told me several times how pretty she thought “Clutch Me If You Can” was.  At the end of the procedure, I asked her if she might like to keep the bottle so that her other customers could enjoy it. She was so touched I thought she was going to cry.  I didn’t want to make anyone cry, but I was glad to do something nice.  I figured it was good karma for all the snide comments I’d made throughout my time in San Antonio.

 

That evening at dinner, riotously funny PG said he wasn’t going to avail himself of the free massage and gave me his gift certificate.  Sore muscles trumped my concerns over the qualifications of the massage staff, and I underwent a 30-minute treatment when we were done packing up the booth the next afternoon. Stupidly, I had expected that the masseur would be a muscular, wholesome-looking Texan who obviously ate steak three times a day and had a name like Ricky or Danny.  Alas, the guy was about my height and size, with a voice so soft and gentle it literally gave me chills. Every time he asked me to shift positions or told me what he was going to do, I shuddered.  I wanted to ask him if he really spoke like that in the outside world, but I didn’t want to encourage him to open his creepy mouth.  I felt bad and tried to blame the shuddering on the compressed nerve endings that I claim short people have.  Ick. And, I’m fairly sure I flashed him inadvertently when rolling over. Ick again!

10 Days in Texas, Part 3

10 Days in Texas, Part 1

I have officially returned from 10 days in Texas! I actually arrived back in New York a week ago, but was not fully recovered from my southern travels until today. Further complicating my mental exhaustion was the aching disappointment that has plagued me since I realized my sister could not be counted on to blog-sit. Sheesh.

I shall hereby provide some highlights from my time in the Lone Star State, in installments. That way, I can ease back into blogging and there’s less risk you’ll die of boredom.

  • Friday, June 27. The trip from New York to San Antonio generally involves a connecting flight. While the exotic Kansas City and the notoriously delayed O’Hare airports were both plane-change options, I flew through Dallas so that I could spend a few days with Dave, Rob, Howie, LuLu on the way home. This afforded me another perk: the best selection of airport eateries under the domestic sun. After landing at DFW and then riding the little tram to an American terminal I’d never seen before, I came upon an incredibly vast array of international nourishment vendors: Au Bon Pain, Whataburger, Blue Mesa, Bennigan’s, Blue Bamboo, Champp’s, Chick-fil-A, Cool River Cafe, Cousin’s BBQ, La Bodega Winery, Camille’s Sidwalk Cafe, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Ben & Jerry’s, Popeye’s, McDonald’s and 360 Burrito, just to name a few. This place puts the massive food court at the Bridgewater Mall to shame! I was overwhelmed, yet drawn to the aroma emanating from Blue Mesa. Insert image of me in my Club Monaco cargo pants, black Splendid t-shirt, Nike Air Rifts and Juicy hoodie wafting through the air in a Flintstonian manner, towards Blue Mesa. Then, insert image of me crashing to the industrially carpeted ground as I remember that I will be eating nothing BUT Mexican food for the next week, and, more important, that there could be turbulence on the flight from Dallas to San Antonio, in which case, anything with flavor and/or color was a bad idea. When the puke receptacle is a puny airsick bag, better to puke turkey and brie from Au Bon Pain than to puke Blue Mesa enchilada and salsa. Thankfully, the flight was smooth and barfage-free, but still, in retrospect, I made the right call. After landing safely, I collected my 75-lb suitcase – for which I had NOT been charged, miraculously – got into a cab driven by someone named Billy and ended up at the Marriott Rivercenter, where I discovered that my Frederic Fekkai shampoo had exploded all over my Kiehl’s toiletry bag, and I had forgotten to pack socks. Thankfully, later that afternoon, Hope and I made one of five weekend trips to the Target Greatland, Home Depot, Hobby Lobby, Lowe’s, Office Max and Staples in a sketchy part of San Antonio called Balcones Heights. At Target, I was able to procure replacement shampoo, a very stylish replacement toiletry bag, a pack of socks ($1.99) and some hotel room snacks. Hope appeared to need a pick-me-up, so I treated her and myself to $2.99-bottles of delicious-smelling, appealingly pink shower gel called “Clean on Me.” We finished the night on the disappointing and Vegas-y Riverwalk, at County Line BBQ, where I am convinced I ate smoked moose.
  • Saturday, June 28. Rising at 7 a.m., which should be illegal on Saturdays, I joined PK, Hope and MPC at Booth 8074 in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, where we spent the bulk of the day attempting to create the ultimate trade show experience for our fans and potential new customers. Most of the work involved assembling the mod white furniture we’d purchased at Ikea, hoping to create an inviting, un-corporate environment. Given the size of the shelving – which would stand approximately 8 feet off the ground and weigh what seemed like several tons – and the size of me (5 feet, no inches and approximately 100 pounds) –I really couldn’t be counted on for much manual labor. I was therefore given the very important task of screwing together 14 Ikea stools made of flimsy wood and then adorning them with brightly colored, shag toilet seat covers. On first glance, the project didn’t seem that difficult, and after all, Hope had just handed me a snazzola battery-operated screwdriver! Sadly though, the aforementioned battery was on its last leg and seemed willing only to screw OUT, not IN. I had to turn the power off and manually connect the hollow legs to the round stool tops. When all 14 Ikea stools were arranged in front of me, I felt a sense of pride. What I did not feel, however, was my right hand, which had lost all sensation and was stuck in an unnatural c-shaped, claw-like position from all the heavy-duty screwdriver gripping I’d just done. The rest of the day was spent having lunch at Chili’s with PK, returning to the fine shopping district of Balcones Heights for plants and mouse pads, getting completely lost on the 27 Interstates that intersect and share numbers around San Antonio, having “China Grove” stuck in my head, and being about to pass out from hunger yet unable to find any chain restaurant anywhere without a 60-minute wait. The end result? A glamorous business dinner at Denny’s. Thrilled at the thought of actually being able to eat after what felt like five hours in the car, I glanced longingly at the beautifully photographed breakfast specials. I announced to Hope and MPC that I was going to order something sad and mockable, yet delicious: Moon Over My Hammy. Hope was going to have pancakes, but then MPC lectured us on the inappropriateness of breakfast foods at night. Hope stood firm and got her pancakes. I got a turkey melt.

 

10 Days in Texas, Part 1

My Texan Present

Addendum: Due to my dad’s strenuous objection to the way I spelled “turds” originally, I have replaced the “e” in that word with a “u.”

Before I met Dave and Rob, I had my own, Flintstonian method for labeling random household and personal items. It involved breaking off tiny pieces of that mesh-like First Aid tape and then writing on them with fine-point Sharpies. Given that Sharpie ink isn’t waterproof, this wasn’t always the best approach to identifying things like cosmetic products, which were oft used in the presence of a sink. Still, smeared Sharpie ink had never become enough of a problem for me to investigate other labeling options.

But over the course of my life with Dave and Rob, I learned many valuable lessons. I learned about Taco Bueno, Whataburger, Shiner Bock and the Lu Ann Platter (sold at Luby’s). I learned the subtle difference between Benjamin Moore’s Valley Forge (beige) and Behr’s Delaware River Crossing (beige) premium paints. I learned that candle wax could be removed from a carpet very easily with an iron and a brown paper bag. I learned that Wheaten terriers fear the sound of coins in empty soda cans. But by far one of the most important things they introduced me to was … the electronic label maker.

Dave spoke often and fondly of his electronic label maker — usually over our nightly glass of Orvieto — regaling me with tales of his and his sister’s obsession with this technological breakthrough. He told me that, at the height of their addiction, he saw in her house labels reading “DANDRUFF” (on the pillows); “BOOGERS” (tissue boxes); “ASSES” (seat cushions); and my favorite, “TURDS” (on the toilet seat cover).

I found any mention of the word “turd” riotously funny, of course, but still wasn’t convinced that this label maker thing was all that necessary. Then one night, it occurred to me that the colors of my 20+ eye shadows from MAC and Benefit would appear much more pure on my lids if I put each one on with its own brush. Why mix “Shroom” with “Jest” or “Mylar” with “Ricepaper” when a simple trip to the drugstore would afford each hue a personal applicator?

A quick jaunt to the slightly sketchy Walgreen’s on the corner of J.F.K. and 17th yielded a 24-pack of those Q-Tip-esque sponge tip thingies, and I was all set. Back in the apartment, I grabbed my First Aid tape and attempted to create a poor man’s label for each of my shades. Much to my dismay, I was too palsied to write out the names of the colors — or even a one-letter abbreviation — in a “font” small enough to fit on the applicators’ puny handles.

Crappy McCrapperstein! How would I keep track of which applicator went with which pot o’shadow? I voiced my frustration to Dave, who knew immediately what needed to be done.

Suspiciously, I accepted the famous label maker, which looked like a giant scientific calculator circa 1979. I typed in “Rose Quartz,” then hit the print button. Out slid a perfect label in a graceful, incredibly satisfying manner. I typed in “Vynyl,” “Heathen” and then “My Date’s My Brother.” Each time, the result was a flawless, consistently lettered label.

In a matter of minutes, I had developed an alarming addiction: I could not stop making labels. I craved the feel of the keys under my fingers. I yearned to read one and two words of text off a thin rectangular piece of adhesive-backed paper.

“Go easy on that — the paper’s really expensive,” Dave warned me.

I typed, printed out and then held up the words “I NEED HELP.”

Dave confiscated the label maker, but every time I purchased a new beauty product or transferred a moisturizer into a travel-sized bottle, I found it and indulged. It was a sickness. I could not believe how callously I had dismissed the issue at first. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

When I left Philadelphia, I missed the label maker almost as much as I missed Dave, Rob and the dogs. I often thought of buying my own, but it seemed disrespectful, somehow. The label maker I used had to come from Dave and Rob.

As I’m sure you can guess, I received a box from Dallas yesterday, in honor of the 11th anniversary of my 25th birthday. Inside was a brand spankin’ new, Dymo 150 Label Manager kit — the CADILLAC of electronic label makers. Not since Dave presented me with the Betty Crocker Bake ‘n’ Fill for Christmas has a gift so quickly brought tears of joy to my eyes. And don’t think I didn’t type out a copy of this post on a single label.

My Texan Present