Musical Review: The Dead Weather

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The house lights come down as we are attempting to find our seats in the nosebleed section.  I pull out my cell phone to find letters or numbers or any indication of organization on the ground so I can finally find a place to rest my weary bones and soak up some rock and roll like a senior citizen.  I sense my days standing in the youthful General Admission heap below are on the wane; half of my attention is always taken away from the magic on stage and diverted to the ache in my lower back and the ringing in my ears.  I am aware this is lame.

We are still searching for our seats when the room goes completely black, save for the patch on stage that is awash with purple and teal. ¬†The band takes the stage. ¬†A bass line pulsates and people cheer. ¬†Singer, Alison Mossheart from The Kills, wears a navy boyfriend blazer, black striped tights that I can’t figure out are mixed with white or silver, and some boots. ¬†Jack White is on drums in the back, banging around like the most talented primate in the jungle.

The stage backdrop looks like a twisted botanical spider web.  This is Disneyland as interpreted by Tim Burton, and The Dead Weather has come to replace The Country Bear Jamboree, having skinned them alive and proceeded to dance on their pelts.   A series of spot lights pulse and flood the stage and dance on my retinas.  At times all you can see are the blinding spots of white and blue blaring over the band, obliterating the art deco details of the Wiltern and rendering the music being played the only thing decipherable.

Alison writhes around in her trademark stripper influenced, rock chick “fuck me/fuck you” dance. ¬†If The Kills is the lusty early courtship, The Dead Weather is the psychotic aftermath. ¬†Each song instills in me a desire to be completely bat shit crazy; to spit in people’s faces and smoke cigarettes incessantly, to ruin family picnics and disappear for months at a time.

After a few songs Jack White comes out from behind his drum set and gets on the mic. ¬†I haven’t seen him perform before, unless you count the five minutes I gave to the Raconteurs at Coachella one year (There was something distinctly irritating about that duo, with one possessing infinite charisma and the other appearing to be lost in the wrong industry – sorry Benson). ¬†He is lit from below, allowing for a distinctly vaudevillian effect. ¬†His facial features hollow and shade in strange places and his hair flops in front of him. ¬†And when he stands center stage he fills up the room with an extreme density. ¬†He picks up his guitar and a guy behind me yells to his friend, “This is what you paid to see.”

I remember the first time I saw Prince. ¬†He got on stage, wiggled his jive thing, played his guitar, and squealed like a girl. ¬†But aside from that, what he really did was fully embody the music itself. ¬†I am convinced that Prince was put on this planet to create music; every muscle, every brain synapse, every bone was made to essentially deliver music to the public. ¬†The body as instrument, if you will. ¬†As I watch Jack, I think the same thing. ¬†Although Jack doesn’t gyrate emphatically while wearing assless chaps, when he gets on guitar his feet hop around as though he’s being electrocuted, his arms going stiff and straight when hitting certain chords, his hair falling in his face. ¬†He is music. ¬†And at this point Alison is entirely overshadowed, turning into a mere puppet in Jack’s musical world. ¬†She is the tits and ass in an advertisement, the dog in the dog and pony show. ¬†Mr. White orchestrates from somewhere far above us all.

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Raising The Bar

Pam offers to treat me to a free class at The Bar, a group exercise class combining movements borrowed from ballet, pilates, and – in my ¬†own personal summation – hell. ¬†But all of the bun-searing, muscle burning horror is rewarded with a firm body and an exercise regime that warrants its own PR Celebrity Kit. ¬†Yeah, me and Drew…you know, Drew Barrymore…we’ve got the same ass. ¬†Well, we would have the same ass but I’m not sure I have the stamina to return.

I sign in at the front desk, greeted by three smiling faces. ¬†I later feel that this enthusiasm is a little misleading; like farmers leading the cows to slaughter. ¬†But for now, it’s charming and beguiling. ¬†I am thus beguiled. ¬†I fill out a piece of paper limiting their liability if I somehow destroy myself in the next few hours. ¬†Mom is listed as my emergency contact, per the usual, even though she is 400 miles away in Los Angeles and in this case there is probably someone who could more quickly aid me if said destruction were to actual commence.

Pam leads me to the ladies locker room, across the way from the gentlemens’ locker room. ¬†Judging from the predominately female crew hanging around the water cooler (literally), I imagine this to be a mere visual courtesy, giving the illusion that men might actually join in the frolicking to tighten up their backsides. ¬†Behind that door I imagine cardboard cutouts of toilets and sinks. ¬†After placing my purse in my personal locker, safety code 4444, I remove my shoes and put on my little gray and pink socks purchased from Marks & Spencer the day I wore Veronica’s size 8 shoes on my size 10 feet.

I head into the exercise room.  The floor is covered with delightfully padded carpet and the walls are mirrored.  It feels like Mommy and Me class gave birth to a ballet studio.  Pam gives me a set of 2 lb weights and other set of 3 lb weights, something that seems unnecessary until I realize that every additional ounce make the difference between my arms falling off completely and immediately or just shaking uncontrollably, attempting to run away from my body.  I make note that Pam is expert enough to use the 3 lbs and the 3 lbs only.  She is my hero.

The instructor wears a headset even though the room is small enough that her voice would carry just fine on its own. ¬†It’s an impersonal device in a personal space and I am perplexed by it for the duration of the class. ¬†She compresses the sound of her own voice neatly and tidy as pre-sliced deli meat, packaged and vacuum sealed. ¬†She’s like an 80s work out video vixen with the voice of a thoughtful child therapist. ¬†“And tuck…tuck…tuck…tuck…” ¬†she continues while I burn.

We start off with arms, an experience that leaves me with a debilitating charlie horse and a greater respect for a 2 lb dumbbell. ¬†Pam corrects my posture which makes it harder. ¬†Throughout the next hour and a half I will continually cheat with my body, making it infinitely less painfully and also less effective. ¬†I had initially dreamed of Drew’s bum, but now all I want to do is get through to the end without running for the door like an wimpy little nancy pants.

My lack of skills is increasingly apparent when instructed to do a move aptly called “The Pretzel.” ¬†It involves a sort of splayed contortion¬†that I am capable of, but movement from that point forward that I struggle to achieve. ¬†I stare at myself in the mirror, legs splayed face down in the shape of a swastika, watching while everyone moves a specific leg up and down, up and down. ¬†Pam motions for me to move my leg. ¬†And if I could, I would. ¬†The instructor kindly mentions over her headset that those of us who cannot do the lifts are suggested to mimic them. ¬†So I try that. ¬†I look like a sand crab with broken back legs. ¬†I stifle a laugh for my own benefit.

At the ballet bar, I throw my leg up in a most unladylike fashion and am then told to touch my toes. ¬†I go for my shins instead because toes have always been out of the question for me in terms of flexibility. ¬†I am convinced that I have the hamstrings of someone a foot shorter than me and when I try to touch my toes I look like a fat man trying to look over his gut to his shoes somewhere below. ¬†Impossible. ¬†We switch sides, at which point Pam looks over at me and says, “For someone so tall, you’re sure not graceful.” ¬†Nope. ¬†I am most definitely not.

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Eight Hours in a Car

IMG_1899And you’ll start thinking, falling asleep, waking up, going numb, keep eating trail mix and beef jerky, resort to energy drinks, and remembering things you meant to make physical note of and never did…

  • [PAST] ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†At the top of Runyan Canyon, while rewarding myself with a smoggy view of Los Angeles, my detention is diverted away from the giant movie posters eating up the city below and over to a group of sparrows. ¬†They fly against the backdrop of million dollar homes and the Hollywood sign. ¬†Up. ¬†Up. ¬†Up. ¬†And then they dive, wings tucked close to their bodies, sliding on their bellies in an invisible upside-down bell jar. ¬†It gets me thinking about the nature of work: the struggle, the battle, ¬†the “up” and then the subsequent release in a swoop through the air, uninhibited by stress or gravity – the moment in which you can relish in the evidence of your efforts.
  • [PRESENT/ PAST] ¬† ¬† ¬†Edward Sharpe and a song about the proverbial “Home.” ¬†Yellow fields ripe for fire. ¬†The sun is similarly golden and moves on my legs as the car winds around the 101. ¬†I saw them play downtown awhile back. ¬†My memory is red walls and multi-colored Christmas lights, low ceilings, and a band that inspires synchronized jumping and yelling and smiling uncontrollably. ¬†Jade and Alex sing at each other on the corner of the stage and Stewart’s cheeks go big and round. ¬†I go home feeling independent.
  • [PRESENT] ¬† ¬† I want to get flowers on the way home for my Nana. ¬†She is dying. ¬†Tyler tells me that it’s morbid and I argue that it’s only morbid if you think of it that way. ¬†It’s supposed to be nice. ¬†They’re not supposed to be funeral flowers. ¬†I would like to get her a potted plant because this is more her style but there’s no point because she will die soon. ¬†The brevity of pink carnations seems more appropriate. ¬†Otherwise I’m going to find myself in an empty house with rugs I used to play on when I was little and a new plant that will mock me with its life. ¬†I buy purple flowers with white hydrangeas at a super market. ¬†I stare at the bouquet while Tyler drives. ¬†Four of one variety, three of another, one of the hydrangea. ¬†Three silvery green leaves. ¬†I focus. ¬†Focus. ¬†Focus. ¬†And I get sad when I think that this is the last thing I will ever give my grandmother while she’s alive.
  • [PAST] ¬† ¬† San Francisco night. ¬†It is cold. ¬†Well, it’s not actually cold. ¬†It’s feels cold because I don’t dress appropriately. ¬†I walk behind Tyler’s brother, his girlfriend, his old roommate. ¬†We pass a building the color of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. ¬†It is purple, too purple to be appropriate for an entire building. ¬†For whatever reason I am already nostalgic for this moment. ¬†Walking at 11 PM and being cold and thinking about me as a kid and the colors in that movie. ¬†I imagine that when I die I will think about this moment and other moments and it will pain me terribly.
  • [PAST] ¬† ¬† The dock is brown wood and not too splintery. ¬†The five of us sit down, our tennis shoes dangling down and reflecting off of murky green water. ¬†A bee has fallen in the pond. ¬†It struggles on it’s back, belly facing up to a blue sky and our faces. ¬†“Once the wings get wet, that’s it,” Taylor says. ¬†Tiny fish nibble at him fiendishly. ¬†His little bug legs bend and wriggle. ¬†Turtles come up for air nearby. ¬†Geese float. ¬†And we get up and walk away before the event of his official demise.
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Dedicated to Amber Lindauer

The idea of baking appealed to me from an early age. ¬†It is fair to surmise that I was obsessed with sweets: the gooey deliciousness of a brownie (or blondie, if you like), the sometimes crispy outside of a giant chocolate chip cookie, the way a piece of pumpkin pie turned into two then into three then into an empty aluminum pan and a stomach ache. ¬†Elementary school bake sales were my favorite national holidays. ¬†Going over to a friend’s house meant free perusal of a foreign and exotic pantry, full of Peanut M&M possibilities.

My constant and unrelenting need for anything involving butter and sugar meant that learning how to make the stuff myself would aid in the speed in which I could enjoy said treats.  Mom baked chocolate chip cookies and cakes shaped like teddy bears, baseball gloves, and debutante Barbie Dolls.  The bar was set, and it was set high.

In fact, I became such a cake snob as a result of my mother’s exceptional frosting application skills and sour cream chocolate cake recipes, that I would refuse anything but homemade. ¬†Sheet cake from Ralphs? ¬†I think not. ¬†It should be noted that this was long before the idea of a preservative free kitchen or Gwenyth Paltrow demonstrating how to make DIY locally harvested egg white omelets on the Internet. ¬†My snobbery was attributed solely to the truth in my taste buds. ¬†Mom’s was better.

Her friends were privy to the fact. ¬†Our family friend, Laura, commissioned a Barbie Cake for her daughter’s birthday. ¬†Barbie Cakes were reserved especially for me. ¬†The actual cake part was formed out of a large bell shaped bowl and atop was a reusable Barbie torso and Barbie head – we had both blonde and brunette options. ¬†After the cake was done baking, my mom would pipe on frosting like George-Pierre Seurat. ¬†Voila. ¬†A masterpiece.

The birthday party was a successful demonstration in excess. ¬†There was a rented pony and polaroid camera to document the occasion. ¬†We played games. ¬†In all honesty, I do not remember much aside from the fit I threw when I found out that the Barbie Cake was to be saved for the family and I was to be served some bullshit from Sam’s Club. ¬†Where were we? ¬†North Korea? ¬†I had been looking forward all day to a piece of this cake. ¬†Mom’s cakes were things I was only treated to twice a year: one for me and one for Phil. ¬†This birthday party was an excuse to up the intake. ¬†And they had the audacity to deprive me of the chance!

Of course, I didn’t take this personal affront lightly. ¬†I had watched my mother work on this thing for hours, teasing me with the smell of batter and the whiff of frosting hovering in front of my nose for what seemed like eternity. ¬†I cried. ¬†I fussed. ¬†And by the time we left Laura’s there was one sad chunk of Barbie’s gown missing, now swimming in my stomach with Coca Cola and buttered popcorn. ¬†There were few instances in my life where I used my bratty kid card and this was one of them.

And so set the stage for my own culinary adventures. ¬†First to learn was how to make chocolate chip cookies, the recipe simply borrowed off of the Tollhouse bag. ¬†These seemed easy enough. ¬†Easier still was to forgo the baking process altogether, placing the raw dough in the refrigerator and scooping out spoonfuls for days on end until a 48 hour sugar high began it’s inevitable crash…or the bowl would be empty enough to warrant tossing the rest without feeling wasteful. ¬†My brother was more of the instant gratification variety. ¬†His specialty was boxed brownie mix. ¬†He would incorporate the requisite ingredients, beat on high until smooth and buttery, and then sit down on the sofa with a giant spatula and watch TV while encouraging type 2 diabetes. ¬†Needless to say, there was little real fear of salmonella poisoning in our house.

Sometime during 1995, I ventured into the world of peanut butter cookies. ¬†This was my most unsucessful bake ever. ¬†Somehow I misread TSP and TBSP, the result being 3 TBSP of baking soda overwhelming my batter instead of 3 TSP assisting in an ever so slight rise of dough in the oven. ¬†However, I didn’t realize what I had done and merely thought the recipe to blame for this terrible salty mess. ¬†I attempted to compensate by adding another cup of peanut butter. ¬†Then another. ¬†None of this worked. ¬†I was incredibly disappointed in myself.

It’s funny, now, to look back on a child interested in baking. ¬†The allure of it wasn’t just in the resulting tasty product. ¬†Baking appealed to me, even then, because of its precision. ¬†The fact that all you had to do was follow directions and you would end up with an intended replica of someone else’s culinary creativity. ¬†Measure, level, mix, sift, take a gander at your cookbook. ¬†It was all a matter of control. ¬†And even as a child I needed to be in control. ¬†It confuses me when people struggle with baking and excel in cooking. ¬†There are too many variables in cooking, too many “what ifs.” ¬†Adding random spices not called for by Martha Stewart or demanded by Emeril scare the hell out of me. ¬†What if I destroy a perfectly good fillet? ¬†What if I burn my potatoes? ¬† ¬†What if?

Whoever thought a damn batch of cookies would so accurately encapsulate the way in which I live most of my life.

eating cake mix

* Photo courtesy of someone else

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It Ain’t Brain Surgery

Rocket Launch

Nor is it rocket science…Ironic then, that I will be modeling today in a place where they build rockets for NASA. ¬†Time to feel stupid, for a bit.

I make the drive over to a rather unsavory part of Los Angeles, where the rent is cheap and companies can keep the overhead low on their government contracted projects. ¬†The lobby of the building doesn’t look any different than other lobbies I’ve been in. ¬†It has the standard pseudo modern, partially minimalist influence that dominates in lobby world. ¬†There is a black binder in which I am instructed by the receptionist to sign in to.

Name.  Jenny      Company Representing: Elite Models      Country: Huh?

At this point in my day I thought I was going to be shooting at a car testing facility; somewhere they raced Ferraris around in circles or slammed them into walls with a family of dummies inside. ¬†Asking what country a visitor is from is not standard practice, in my personal experience. ¬†As I quickly realize that we are, in fact, at a facility where astro-gear is painstakingly manufactured, the country question makes more sense. ¬†The two British citizens on the shoot are subsequently labeled “High Risk” visitors, requiring special yellow necklaces and personal security escorts: the makeup artist had to take a pee with a woman waiting for her outside of her stall. ¬†Awkward.

The heightened protocol is an understandable matter of homeland security.  Out of a possible 17,000 square feet of warehouse space, our shoot is relegated to a modest corner near the front of the building; the rest being out of the question for photography purposes.  While I look on to this Costco-meets-physics-lab-on-steroids and see nothing but shiny things, blue tubes, and people in front of computers, competitors around the globe might actually be able to decipher top secret astronaut code out of the sterile landscape.  This blows my mind.

Even things that would be relatively simple for me to describe are actually beyond my regular vernacular. ¬†Are those boosters? ¬†Self-propelled jets? ¬†Rocket doohickies? ¬†Even when something looks familiar, I can’t remember the name of the damn thing. ¬†I just keep recalling similar items falling from the sky and into the ocean a la Apollo 13. ¬†Tom Hanks was in that! ¬†I am an idiot.

Speaking of idiots, there aren’t any in this place. ¬†I look around the cafeteria. ¬†All men. ¬†Some older with scraggly pony tails, looking more like roadies than astro-geniuses. ¬†There are younger ones who could easily pass for members of Good Charlotte. ¬†It’s a motley crew, to say the least. ¬†Each cafeteria table has a two-tiered basket of oranges that never seem to get eaten. ¬†Along the walls are refrigerators stocked with sodas and waters. ¬†And in the center there are bins of crappy junk food. ¬†Against my will, I am forced to dig into this for sustenance after realizing that no food will be provided on this shoot.

The level of restrained testosterone in this place makes it all the more awkward for me when it comes time to drop trough and do some open-air changing. ¬†Like the food, no space is provided for me to get naked in close proximity to the rolling rack. ¬†As the bathroom is a distance away and I technically need a security guard to walk me over there, potentially flashing some boob to some science nerds is more efficient. ¬†The situation comes in a distance second to another shoot I did some years back: we were in a public park on a weekend, stripping down to our nude thongs in front of families riding their bikes – the designers were “really sorry” they forgot a sheet to set up for us.

I’m here today as an accessory for a luxury electric car. ¬†Unpaid. ¬†Wearing sunglasses. ¬†This is the modeling equivalent of “a big waste of time.” ¬†When my stomach has utilized every last morsel of my breakfast consumed five hours before I got on set, this reality sets in heavily and I begin to get exceptionally cranky. ¬†Not to mention I arrived promptly at 11:29 in the morning and by 4:00 in the afternoon I have not been shot once. ¬†I grab a Diet Dr. Pepper, deciding to reward myself with some cancer down the road. ¬†Then I scan the junk bins and opt for pretzels. ¬†Salty and fake sweet.

Finally I get some camera time, although my camera time amounts to looking “real” and not “modely” which is pretty damn boring. ¬†Even worse still is having to sit behind the wheel and look like I’m driving. ¬†The doors close in on me like a vacuum and I place my hands at 10 and 2, my right hand covered in rings. ¬†There’s not much you can do to make driving look interesting. ¬†If you look interesting, you don’t look like you’re really driving a vehicle; you look like some negligent chick who’s about to get in an accident. ¬†So I keep my position, tilting my chin up and down so it looks like I’m at least trying to work. ¬†On more than a few occasions I get that fish bowl sensation: trying to keep my eyes open under my sunglasses, staring out at a photographer and an art director staring back at me, watching the stylists chit chat amongst themselves, sitting in silence by myself. ¬†Click. ¬†Click. ¬†Click. ¬†I feel like I’m drowning.

My second outfit involves plastic pants made by Acne. ¬†I don’t know why anyone would ever even want to construct these things and then allow them to see daylight. ¬†As I pull them on, my body temperature immediately goes up. ¬†These would be great for wrestlers to put under their sweat pants and run around the track for a few miles when they need to drop some pounds – if any thing, they are much more practical than wrapping ones entire body in cellophane. ¬†They are see-thru and gray and make me look like a human sausage. ¬†I watch my skin turn unholy shades of jaundiced yellow and make note of where the garment is depriving my legs of circulation, most noticeably at my knees, turning said patches white as to indicate negative blood flow. ¬†Whatever strange wrinkles I have on my legs are petrified in these pants, like mosquitoes in amber.

I am sitting at the cafeteria table, watching the crew eat Pizza Hut and occasionally turning my attention to the conversation being had between a woman who works for the rocket facility and our art director. ¬†Her eye shadow is applied heavily in fluorescent peach, so as to bring out the blue in her eyes. ¬†In theory, this is the right direction to go in order to take advantage of cherished features. ¬†In practice, I feel as though she’d be better off sticking to engineering. ¬†Periodically, I will chime in with a question or an uninvolved comment like “This is a really interesting space” like I’m talking about a new club or restaurant. ¬†My blood sugar is so low, I’m borderline comatose and if I could expect to keep up with anyone employed here six hours ago, those hopes have long vanished for the present moment. ¬†I look down at my legs and remember you can see through my pants, down to the black underwear I have underneath. ¬†Sigh. ¬†How on earth am I to be taken seriously in this world…

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22 Hours of Steerage: Hours 2 thru 10

Seat 12 B. ¬†I am situated somewhere between business class and full blown steerage with its rows upon rows of coughing, sniffling, wheezing unfortunates. ¬†In front of me is a divider separating me from the privileged, behind me is a food prep station saving me from the plague. ¬†My mother, God bless her, picked the seat for me. ¬†And I am happy with my little area, my little piece of this plane. ¬†Instead of 150 people surrounding me, I’ve only got to deal with about 28.

Still, I am tortuously close to the business folk; just a stone’s throw away from a more pleasant experience. ¬†I watch a man flipping through his in-flight menu, sipping a glass of orange juice. ¬†Later I will have to watch him actually eat each delicious course. ¬†Hot fudge sundae? ¬†How nice.

The pilots introduce themselves on the radio. ¬†My plane will be flown by John Cheverhorn and James Hart. ¬†I love America. ¬†No muss, no fuss. ¬†Just a Texan accent and a lack of prose. ¬†As much as I love traveling to distant and strange lands, there’s nothing better than coming home. ¬†The plane begins to make its way down the tarmac, gradually speeding up until the rain batters against the window like a car wash. ¬†And we’re off. ¬†Ciao, Italy. ¬†Hello, purgatory.

The clouds that sent me into my usual case of premature death paranoia proved to offer little along the lines of violent bumps. ¬†It was actually quite smooth. ¬†We reached cruising altitude without any real gut wrenching fan fair. ¬†The flight attendants began their journey with the beverage cart. ¬†Meanwhile, my buddy in business class is on his second course, the clinking of his real silverware distracting me from my writing. ¬†He is watching CSI on his personal television and his gray comforter covers his legs. ¬†Monsters vs. Aliens begins to roll on the community television located closest to my right eyeball. ¬†I’d complain but 27 Dresses is coming up next and I sense that’s going to be infinitely worse.

My blonde flight attendant with large round nostrils and pink lipstick asks if I would like cheese tortellini or beef with rice. ¬†Bugger. ¬†I stare longingly at the vegetarian plate served to the girl across my isle: couscous and other indiscernible items. ¬†Another word of advice from my mother has always been “Order the vegetarian plate. ¬†It’s much less foul.” ¬†Again, I regret not heeding her words. ¬†“Beef and rice, please.”

My tray fits neatly between my torso and the seat back in front of me, allowing me enough room to bend my elbows to shovel food in my mouth but not enough to make a mess on my leggings. ¬†The salad appears to be dehydrated astronaut food, although if it were I am sure it would have been marketed to me as such. ¬†The radish looks like something that fell on my kitchen floor during a dinner party that I’ll sweep up 7 days after the fact. ¬†I open the plastic seal that has “Beef Strogganoff” printed on it by a computer. ¬†I appreciate that the flight attendants didn’t try to over hype it. ¬†“Beef and Rice” really sets the mood for reality, leaving no one with heightened expectations.

Beefy soupy mess on the right, rice on the left, and overcooked carrots and one broccoli floret disintegrated in between. ¬†I accidentally eat a piece of beef hidden under the soft orange stub that once was a vegetable. ¬†Given that I only have two more carrots to go before I’m done with what I want to eat of this meal, the mistake does not have the opportunity to be repeated again. ¬†My dry brownie, sad salad, Jacob’s Table Crackers, a plastic wrapped white roll, and my Kerrygold Original Irische Butter pat go untouched. ¬†I pull out my wheat Italian breadsticks fortuitously stashed in my carry-on and proceed to dip them into the 20 grams of Laughing Cow cheese provided. ¬†This ample meal lasts all of 31 seconds.

Pink Lipstick comes around again. ¬†She takes away my tray, surely assuming I have an eating disorder. ¬†“Anything else to drink for you madam?” ¬†It makes me feel comfortable, more comfortable than I ever did in First Class. ¬†Having a perfect stranger asking me by last name if I wanted hot fudge and berries on my sundae seemed awkward. ¬†Having a perfect stranger call me madam thirty years before I ever want to be called madam is more on my wavelength. ¬†I hope this doesn’t mean I have low self esteem. ¬†She serves me a cup of coffee with two containers of Millac Maid “Tastes Like Fresh Milk” milk, which might be the liquid equivalent of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.”

The people nearest me are quiet as mice and no one is coughing leaving me to think I might actually not be sick for two weeks when I get home. ¬†My Mullet Man doesn’t get up the entire time, not even to use the restroom and he says things like “Cranberry Yoos.” ¬†When we land I will see him cross himself. ¬†I sense he was perhaps more nervous than myself about this plummeting to your death business. ¬†I find him endearing but I never tell him so.

In front of me is a woman so large that she requires a sort of self-propelled launch into her window seat.  She pulls her legs up onto the aisle seat with her arms pulling on the seatbacks, then slowly swings her nearly obese body in tangerine capri pants above the chairs where I imagine there is more space for her thighs to navigate the trip.  Then she slowly lowers herself into chair 11 A.  The act brings to mind gorillas in the wilderness, forklifts at Coscto, and Olympic balance beams.

The hours pass by excruciatingly slow. ¬†Dehydration kicks in and I go to scavenge the food galley. ¬†There are others on the hunt: short, muscular Italians with tight Football t-shirts on and their arms crossed. ¬†The flight attendants are no where in sight and I sense they don’t mind that we’re raiding the air pantry. ¬†Seeing as my “Help” light has been lit for the last 45 minutes to solve the problem of my Italian language customs form, the flight attendants are on auto-pilot at this point. ¬†I steal four more packs of Laughing Cow and a cup of water and sit down.

Things get desperate and I treat myself to a reality show Hola Mundos: The Hookup. ¬†The premise involves Frankie J the singer/producer helping out this nobody named Ivan who wants to be a professional singer. ¬†It’s like social charity, I don’t know. ¬†Ivan is in the studio being lectured by Frankie about the lack of soul he is putting into the lyrics “I can’t believe you ended this relationship.” ¬†Frankie implores Ivan to think about the first girl who ever broke his heart and then sing from that place. ¬†Acting, if you will. ¬†Yet Ivan still struggles. ¬†Cut to Ivan outside talking about the interaction: his voice is high pitched and effeminate. ¬†I surmise that Frankie’s advice wasn’t sticking because – shot in the dark here – Ivan likes boys?

The show continues with Frankie J advising further with sayings like “Stay firm” and “…come out naturally” which I think was the editor’s twisted sense of humor and Frankie’s ignorance of double entendre. ¬†Ivan closes the show saying that he’s got Frankie’s contact information and hopes they stay in touch. ¬†This is emphasized with the snappy closing of his Transformers-esq T-Mobile Sidekick circa 2001.

Frankie then sings a song in accordance with the rules of celebrity and self promotion. ¬†His voice is smooth and R&B. ¬†He sings the type of songs I used to listen to in the 7th grade when my hormones raged and all I wanted to do was to slow dance with Chad Calvert to “All My Life” at birthday parties. ¬†The resurfacing of this memory is the only redeemable aspect of this mindless abomination of a television experience.

And next we have…Millionaire Matchmaker!

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22 Hours of Steerage: Hour 1

The clouds look heavy and full of impending turbulence as we drive into Milan Malpensa Airport.  Lighting splits the air on two different occasions.  Surely, I think, I am going to die.  I then reassure myself that I had read an article about planes being more than adept at taking midair lighting strikes like champs; this was in regards to the Air France flight that disappeared off of the coast of Brazil.  Comforting.  So I might not spiral to my doom due to lightening, but any other number of things are still up for grabs, within reason.  I squirm in my seat, biting my lip while wondering if 9 AM is too early for a cocktail.

When I first get in line at the American Airlines General Boarding counter, there are five attendants working at a glacial pace to see that every customer misses their flight. ¬†I am the last person in line, having not given myself the ample two hours of “just in case” time my mother has hounded me about for as long as I could remember. ¬†The fact that I rarely heed her advice does not mean that I am immune to hearing it in the back of my head from the moment I step into an airport. ¬†“You’re going to be late. ¬†The line’s going to be huge. ¬†You’re going to miss your flight. ¬†You don’t have time to stop for a coffee. ¬†You’re going to miss your flight. ¬†Miss your flight. ¬†Miss your…” pumps through my veins, raising my heart rate and giving me the spins.

As my line moves forward, the attendants begin to disappear; packing up their little AA satchels, checking with their supervisor, and making their way to what I am pretty sure is an early morning Italian siesta.  Each disappearing American minion means that I am an additional six minutes behind.  I plead with them telepathically to stay, but my non-verbal Italian is apparently about as good as my verbal one.

In my boredom, I discreetly spy on an affluent and good looking family waiting in front of me. ¬†The dad and daughter look strikingly similar, like beautiful cartoon characters. ¬†The mom stands behind with her giant white bag and a periwinkle tank top, the elasticity in her arms beginning to loosen and her chest freckled from too much sun. ¬†I wonder if she’s jealous of her teenage daughter and what appears to be a real life Electra complex in action. ¬†She looks joylessly at the Business Class check in. ¬†I imagine she longs for the days she didn’t have a husband, a daughter, and bad wrinkles. ¬†She is sour and I am happy she’s not my mother.

Finally I reach the ticket counter, assisted not by the best looking attendant I have ever seen in my life, but by his boss who looks like an Italian Jason Statham. ¬†His English is okay and as we go through the list of “Are you carrying loaded weapons?” or “Do you kill babies in your off time?” list of airport no-nos I struggle to understand what he’s actually saying. ¬†One wrong “Yes” and I’m off to a detention center, getting grilled about my puported admission of heroine smuggling. ¬†This is not something my mother warned me about, per say, but common sense tells me I would most definitely miss my flight.

By the time I finish, forty minutes of my life have evaporated and my heart is about to explode. ¬†I look out the large windows onto the tarmac. ¬†Rain. ¬†Sheets of rain. ¬†A plane lands, spraying water behind its tires like barbque smoke. ¬†It’s pouring so hard I can hear it hitting the ceiling suspended fifty feet above me. ¬†Choke. ¬†I get through security and move to the gate where people have already begun to line up to board. ¬†I have four euros left in my hot pink coin purse. ¬†One of my favorite games is spending every last foreign cent I have in the airport, it doesn’t matter on what as long as I’ve spent it – something that reminds me of my brother when he was seven.

The race is on. ¬†People begin to inch forward at my gate as I stand at the back of a line for a preventive espresso; I am currently quite alert but I am well aware that if I do not stock pile caffeine in my bloodstream I am going to get a slamming headache at 35,000 feet which no amount of watery pot coffee will be able to cure. ¬†I order a “dopio” and am half way through my cash. ¬†After an unsucessful search at the magazine rack, I go back to the cafe to purchase two blue boxes of hazelnut chocolates for my mom. ¬†I want to buy the hazelnut candy shaped and named after “Happy Hippo” but I’ve already blown my budget. ¬†I am officially broke in Italy.

I wait for the last few people to get on the plane, expecting it to be delayed. ¬†I strike up conversation with a boy who I had overheard talking about living in Venice. ¬†His female companion has gone to the restroom; she is apparently his new wife and this trip was their honeymoon. ¬†They look nineteen. ¬†When it looks as though this plane really is going to take flight, I relent and hand my ticket to the previously mentioned best looking attendant I have ever seen, who has magically appeared. ¬†I would attribute this to budget cuts and a labor shortage. ¬†It would not surprise me if he’s flying this plane, as well.

I take my aisle seat next to a Latin looking man with what I can only best describe as a European mullet. ¬†Although instead of the “party in the back” bit being left to its own devices to sway like Fabio’s, my plane mate has sensibly fashioned his into a braid. ¬†He looks amiable, doesn’t smell like Old Spice, and offers his foot space to me if I need it. ¬†I cannot ask for more.

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Surviving First Class

LAX is empty. ¬†The self check in line is devoid of anything save for the necessary machines. ¬†The First Class line with its rub red velvet ropes has three people waiting – all men, all in blazers. ¬†For a moment I contemplate standing behind them because my ticket is a First Class ticket and I don’t even know if First Class people are allowed to check in with the plebeians. ¬†I realize that this thought is completely ridiculous, as is waiting just so I can look like an elitist in a show displayed for nobody. ¬†I breeze through self-check, give my 33 pound pag to a friendly gentleman and I’m on my way. ¬†The emblazered crew haven’t budged. ¬†Pretentiousness is inefficient.

I head past Gate 41 to the frosted doors that say “Members Only” – a phrase that only ever meant vintage jackets and Miami Vice to me. ¬†But no, this is the Admirals Club and I have access to it per my mileage purchased ticket. ¬†The staff is chipper and I don’t feel like I’m at an airport at all anymore. ¬†A blonde woman hands me a plastic card and asks if I’m going to London to model. ¬†I’m wearing a baggy gray shirt that says “Sin City Las Vegas” and bright red sorts that double as denim underwear. ¬†I suppose I don’t look like their normal clientele.

I take an elevator and hand my card to another blonde woman with giant blue eyes who tells me that she hates when other women are taller than her. ¬†Then she laughs. ¬†I am shephered again to another room for first class passengers. ¬†I feel like it’s the first day of school and I’m the much talked about “cool girl” that everyone inexplicably wants to be friends with. ¬†This is what happens to people that spend thousands of dollars on a plane ticket: professional ass kissing.

My plastic card is inserted into a wall and more frosted doors open up. ¬†I am greeted for the third time by another woman who is brunette. ¬†I’ve been here five minutes.

The First Class Lounge is as quiet as a library and has walls of glass that look onto the planes below. ¬†I hold back the desire to giggle out loud. ¬†Money isn’t everything but this sure as hell tickles me pink. ¬†I snake my way past rows of giant leather seats and headphones playing classical music into a few pairs of listening ears.

The room opens up to a buffet and glass cases of chilled beverages. ¬†There is a printed menu of this evening’s selections. ¬†I look for a price next to the items – of which there are none – ¬†and step around awkwardly wondering if I am supposed to be here. ¬†I decide that I am. ¬†I grab a bottle of Acqua Pana natural spring water, passing on the sparkling San Pelegrino. ¬†There are absurdly neatly organized bottles of Coca Cola, Diet Coke, ginger ale, tonic water, regular water in a jug with lemon slices, a few carafes of milk and various juices. ¬†There are mini croissant sandwiches, tiny cheesecakes garnished with strawberries, barbecue chips, pita chips, granola bars, bananas, apples, various crackers, bow tie pasta, spinach salad, more crackers, tequila chicken soup, red wine, white wine, six different kinds of beer, twenty different bottles of liquor, an espresso machine, coffee pots, milk on ice.

My previous airport options have amounted to $4 Starbucks lattes, overpriced bananas, crappy trail mix that will forever remind me of sleep deprivation, and if I’m lucky, a salad with fake chicken. ¬†A scene from Charlotte’s Web plays over and over in my head ¬†I am overwhelmed. ¬†A smile crosses my face as I sit down, surveying my bounty. ¬†I am not hungry at all, but I begin to eat and drink like a bum at a soup kitchen.templeton

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