Trouble Follows a Girl Named Veronica.

Twenty minutes into searching in vain for a parking meter on La Cienega, I give up and illegally park in the Norm’s lot up the street from my destination.  The yellow light from inside the diner bounces off of the black asphalt and angled white parking lines.  It is the last normal and balanced thing I will see for the next hour.  I shuffle between cars, hoping that a manager or parking attendant hasn’t seen me.

Veronica and Alexis are already inside, surrounded by black and white photographs from an old and dead Hollywood photographer.  The crowd is wrinkled and creepy and looks like what happens when you stay in Los Angeles too long and you never make it.  Used up, gray hair, eager eyes.  On the walls are photographs of vintage Hollywood royalty.  Black and white.  Marilyn.  James Dean.  Elizabeth Taylor.  Everything no one here actually is.

I don’t know why I am here, or who has extended the invitation to one of the three of us.  We are the youngest in the room by at least fifteen years.  We are also in the midst of a strange sausage fest: most of the people here are lecherous men, some of whom we will be properly introduced to by the end of the night (a total of 33 minutes).

After scanning the walls of Frank Roth’s photography and noting that Veronica closely resembles one actress and fancying myself similar to Ursula Andress, we venture into the back of the building where more old people are congregated around food and booze.  The spread is decidedly Ralph’s supermarket fare: trays of shrimp cocktail, a whole fish (gone largely untouched), cured salmon, fruit plates, white bread, Swiss cheese.

A woman approaches us.  She is wearing all black and her nose has the chiseled angles of an unnatural kind.  Her accent is vaguely foreign: not Russian, not Middle Eastern, but somewhere in between.  “I am a matchmaker,” she says.  “Are you ladies single?”  Alexis giggles and drinks her white wine.  Veronica lies and says she is taken, which she later rescinds upon the woman’s mention of a particular someone that might be good for her.  I laugh and bury my head in my hands because I can’t believe this is happening.

“I get the best men.  Rich.  Successful.  They dress nicely.  No one meets in bar’s anymore,” she says.  Veronica retorts that she still does and that’s her problem.  After it has been established that Veronica will be the most cooperative with this theoretical situation, the woman with the fake nose zeros in on her.  Veronica is wearing a plum peasant top with jeans and studded boots.  She got her hair done yesterday next to Lydia Hearst and she still has makeup on from her job today.  My hair is too messy for this matchmaker.  I am wearing shiny rain boots and imagine I don’t look like her idea of “expensive.”

Madam Matchmaker asks Veronica what her type is.  “Dirty, but not actually dirty.”  I could have told her that.  After mentioning she has a thirty-three-year-old musician on her roster of most likely pathetic, socially inept gentlemen that would be perfect for her, she hands Veronica a business card and leaves.  I feel on par with a prostitute just having been in such close proximity to this woman.  Once I walked in on Heidi Fleiss drinking white wine in a hotel room.  She was wearing a powder blue pantsuit and crazy eyes.  This was kind of like that.

It only gets worse from here.

We stand alone, drinking and eating shrimp cocktails off a paper plate, until daring man approaches.  I can’t remember what his opening line is, but a few sentences in he is rambling on about how we must have height competitions at home.  Of course, because this is what tall girls do.  This makes no sense; nothing this man will say to us over the course of the next twenty minutes makes sense.

He is Middle Eastern and his accent warbles along through broken English and terrible jokes.  The man is also a fantastic liar.  And I don’t mean fantastic in the terms of being good at it.  I mean it as he is totally and completely the most ridiculous human I have ever met.  His first fib comes in the form of his occupation.

“I do fashion consulting for Elle Magazine.”

Uh, huh.  I look down at his shoes and know immediately this man has nothing to do with the world of clothing.  Veronica points down at her own shoes and says, “Yeah.  Sure.  Okay, then who makes these?”  The man stares down at her leather heels pocked with grommets.  It is a fashion game of Russian roulette.  “How could I tell that?” he asks.  We assure him that if he were actually in the industry he would be able to tell what designer this was just from looking at them.  He ponders further.  “Gucci,” he says.

ERRRRR.  Wrong.  Try again.

The liar doesn’t care that he is busted and continues on with his aggressive assault on my vomit reflex.  Veronica gives him another chance.  “What was your favorite collection this season?”  I sense that very rarely has this man actually been asked a question with “collection” and “season” in it.  I feel like he hears “fuck off” and “douche bag” with greater frequency.

Next, he moves on into assuming he knows what type of guy Veronica goes for.  “Rich and good looking,” he says.  I chime in, telling him that he is incorrect in his assumption and Veronica only goes after dirty and ugly boys with bad mothers.  None of my jokes go over well, and it is obvious that I am the third wheel cock blocker – the “grenade” if we’re going to get all Jersey Shore up in here.  This, of course, is his perception of this situation if his perception of it is that he actually has a shot with Veronica.  He does not.

Finally, he asks Veronica’s name.  I know what is coming because I know Veronica.  “Victoria,” she says and extends her hand.  I want to get the hand sanitizer Alexis found earlier and apply it to Veronica’s whole body.  It’s a similar instinctual reaction as when a mother catches her child eating M&Ms off of the floor of a JC Penney.  “What a fancy name,” he says.  I stroke her fur jacket and tell him it’s a fancy name for a fancy girl.

A few seconds later Veronica breaks form and tells him her real name and says that she can’t lie.  To which I think, “Yes you can” and “Why the hell did you just do that?”  His response is the last of his before we make our way to the bar, laughing and horrified: “Oh?  Veronica?  That is porn name!”

The girls refresh their glasses and we walk back into the gallery.  We are stopped by a silver haired man who looks like the sixty-seven-year-old version of Christian Bale in American Psycho.  “Can we take your picture?” he asks.  He is flanked by a smaller Asian man with a camera and a notepad.  I glumly cooperate.  This guy is like the geriatric Cobra Snake, and I want nothing to do with it.  As I shimmy up to get closer into frame, the old man raises his hand to my face and asks if he can move my hair.  Um, no?  The following responses run through my head.

1)   You’re a weirdo and I hope you don’t have grandchildren.

2)   I like my hair the way it is, dirt bag.

3)   I can do it myself.

Despite my greater desire to be a raging diva bitch, I go with answer 3 and quickly pull my own hair out of my own face with my own hand.  The Asian “photographer” takes our names down, thanks us, and walks away.  Veronica asks the old man what the photographs are for and he hands her the second business card for the evening and says, “This is a very popular blog in Hollywood.”  He leaves and Alexis grimaces, saying something about how we’re going to end up on the Internet tomorrow with our heads Photoshopped onto the naked bodies of whores.

Veronica needs to smoke so we go out on the sidewalk.  The girls keep their plastic cups of wine and I ask if that’s legal because I don’t think it is.  All of a sudden the Middle Eastern man reappears.  The conversation goes something like this.

Him: Can I give you my business card so I can buy you dinner so you forgive me?

Her: I’m not looking for a sugar daddy.

Him:  Good.  It cost me cheap date and I love that.

[Veronica reads his card]

Her: Kevan.

Him: No, Kay-vahn.

Her: Are you Israeli?

Him: Yes.  You dated Middle Eastern Man before?

Her: Yes, but I got tired of walking five steps behind him.

[Later on…]

Him: For the record, I am the future emperor of Persia.

Her:  You know Persia doesn’t exist anymore, right?

Him: (Laughs) Three abortions under my belt.  I take credit for it.  I make the baby.  She make the abortion.

At this point, I am entirely confused and borderline offended.  I think this guy is trying to tell us that he has no heirs to his fake throne yet and that he wants to impregnate Veronica and make her the empress of Persia.

His friend George, an overweight Russian man with hands I don’t want to shake, comes out and introduces himself, at which point it is my cue to leave.  I give the girls hugs, turn on my heel, and take off – yelling at Veronica to take notes if anything further happens in the “Ridiculous Los Angeles Bullshit” category of our lives.  Because it’s always a shame to miss out on that, you know.

Standard

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I remember grocery stores, but the one I remember plainly was the local joint – the place where the butchers knew our names and how my mom liked her ground beef.  Jim’s Market was around the corner.  The floor was a worn-out linoleum, the type with flecks of brown and gold in it, giving the illusion of both grandeur and grime simultaneously.

There were two doors.  One put you immediately in eyes view of glass-encased slabs of red meat, the pale and jaundiced skin of chickens, and the bread aisle.  The other was where the check out counters were; close to the nook where I would buy all of my Jolly Ranchers and Big League Chew.  Although there was never an indication which door you were supposed to enter through, we always went in through the meat way.

All of the employees were ruddy faced, manly men.  If they weren’t stuck living on the outskirts of LA County, I would imagine they would be working a farm somewhere.  They were all like the two field hands in the beginning of The Wizard of Oz before they turned into a cowardly lion and a tin man.  The uniform was always a punchy red shirt with “Jim’s” stitched above the breast.  The butchers wore baseball caps and white smocks covered in dried crimson smears of blood.

I was too young to do much else but wander the store, pondering how I could convince my mother to buy a rectangular blue box of Chips Ahoy cookies.  My mom took care of the big things like asking for some poundage of black forest ham for my lunch and buying cold containers of Haagen-Dazs Coffee Ice Cream for dessert.

My favorite place in the small building was the fruit and vegetable wall towards the back, across from a poster of Elvira back when she used to be the face of Bud Light or something like that.  Her breasts and squid ink hair always terrified me.  She was pale and buxom; I was kid-in-the-sun colored and blonde.  I wondered why she wanted every day to be Halloween.  I liked Halloween just fine, but every day?

The produce was stacked on top of each other.  Heavy things were always within my reach.  Heads of lettuce.  Red apples.  I could never get at the green onions or the Bartlett pears.  Everything was always covered in a fine mist released from some delicate hoses somewhere under the metal grid I used to run my nails over compulsively.

Check out time came soon enough.  My mom paid in cash or with credit we had amassed with Jim’s for some landscape work she did at the entrance, planting lavender and some other drought resistant plants by the two doors.  It was the early 90s and my family still utilized the barter system.

Eventually we stopped going to Jim’s, largely because Trader Joes had come into existence and was markedly cheaper.  TJ’s also carried a variety of cookies, all of which I enjoyed thoroughly.  It was located in the corner of a shopping mall and we had to battle with people wanting to buy new khakis from the Gap for parking spaces.  I never knew anyone’s name that worked there, and I sense that my presence came and went wholly unnoticed.  I had begun my emersion into the anonymity of the future, distancing myself from a more intimate past.

Standard

Vegas: Part II of II

Mother this is not me.  This is a bird that looks like me in a cage, not me in a bondage cage.  That would be wrong.

I am sitting in the Las Vegas airport, holding a paper Starbucks cup and munching on trail mix.  This is what I eat in airports.  Everything else is disgusting.  Veronica chows down on a gigantic piece of pizza housed in a triangular slice-shaped box.  I think there is pepperoni involved.  She finishes, closes the lid, and moans an “I wish I didn’t do that” moan.  I peck at the remnants of raisins and almond bits.  This is what it’s like to be a bird.

Walking towards us are “S” and “M”.  For lack of a better alias, this is what they will be known as from here on out.  Neither has slept, not really slept.  M took an hour-long nap after gambling until 8 am, accompanied by her friend “K” and someone else’s money.  These are the kinds of things that happen to beautiful people.  The girls lament about having won $3,000 a piece and only having been able to keep $1,000.  Bummer.  I gambled once with $100 of per diem that was supposed to be for food and strong-armed my way through a game of craps.  I came out $600 on top, which I attribute to dumb luck and being coached by a girl who actually knew what she was doing.  I kept that money in my underwear drawer and used it to buy produce from the farmer’s market for nearly five months.  Think of the damage I could do with a $1,000.  Organic kale for a year, courtesy of a Middle Eastern man with too much money and a taste for pretty girls.

It is unclear what S has been doing since I saw him last, dancing under rows of scantily clad borderline prostitutes at 2 AM.  But from what I can tell, he hasn’t slept either and when he walks towards us he continues to dance the way he did last night as he led us from dinner into the club.  The fun never stops, only halts temporarily during sleep or blackout.

As the group reunites, we bark the events of last night louder than anyone in the terminal cares to hear.  No one else wants to relive our evening but we willingly subject others to our tales.  I look to my left at a woman my age reading The Economist.  That used to be me, I lament, …before this weekend.  Seeing this former vision of myself, I also know that this woman loathes us.  Our obnoxious and self-absorbed banter, the high-pitched and shrill giggles, the tales from multiple degenerates.  I know she hates us because I would hate us.  In fact, I sort of hate us even while being part of the group.  That was always my problem; I could never take being naughty or bad that seriously.  I lacked dedication and form.

The girl with the broken toe stumbles in laughing and wearing flip-flops.  Her name is “A”.  She broke it the night before I arrived in a freak tub accident involving, well, I won’t go there.  Her legs are covered in bruises so bad she looks like a hemophiliac, not your run of the mill Las Vegas partygoer.  Your average drunk will have one, maybe two, gnarly bruises on the knee, maybe a cut above the eye.  This girl looks like she’s was thrown down a garbage chute and came out the other end with a Jack and Coke still in hand, begging for more.  She is everything I am dumbfounded and intrigued by in life but never want to be.  “Most Fearless Partier” is not something I imagine will ever end up on my resume, however boring that may be.

Veronica and I had gone to bed comparatively early – a respectable 4 AM.  Our night ended in the bondage suite at the Hard Rock Hotel with a musician Veronica had met in Mexico the month previous.  Having connected with him over rock and roll, Veronica (and subsequently, myself) were invited to join his entourage of Whoever the Hell back to his hotel.  He had been provided a party bus complete with a stripper pole and hepititis.  Although Veronica eyed this pole during a Vanilla Ice song that she was eager to perform to, I gave her an “Oh, no you don’t” glance and killed the buzz.

Upon entry into said suite, we were immediately greeted by a white leather spanking table (paddle included).  To the left was a bathroom-sized room with what looked like a very tall birdcage and a wooden cross with shackles.  Veronica and I immediately took the opportunity for a photo shoot.  After all, we are models [insert arrogant, terrible person laugh here].

In the bedroom there was a wall-sized projection of an S&M instructional video.  Whip here, behind the knees.  Don’t let them turn their head to see you.  Contort face in pain.  Voila. Our musician friend claimed to not have chosen this room; the hotel insisted he take it.  I believed him.  I don’t know how many people can actually get off in a place like this knowing how many other people have gotten off to the same exact thing in the same exact room.  It makes your fetish feel so…pedestrian and unoriginal.  And you thought you were the only one who liked to be hung from the ceiling by meat hooks.  Lame!

Veronica and I danced alone while the others quietly and tamely sat and drank some more.  The evening was mild and aside from the hotel room décor, not terribly rock and roll by any stretch of the imagination.  My dignity would have to be defiled another night…unlike some people I am currently waiting to board an airplane with.

The Southwest intercom makes an announcement and we get in line to get home.  People keep their distance from us so as to protect their ears from more terrible conversation.  I feel hung over from lack of sleep and uncomfortable proximity to debauchery.  The last girl in our party, “J”, is still not here and we board without her.  But that’s Vegas, baby.  Vegas.

Standard

Sort of Review: Riverdance

It is said you can’t judge a book by its cover.  I say that is bullshit.  Because you most certainly can judge a performance of “Riverdance” by its audience.  I could stop here and say “Enough said” but I won’t.  Instead, I will write.  Here’s how it all went down.

My hunch that this is going to be a most interesting affair is confirmed when I pull into the $10 parking lot adjacent to the Pantages Theater.  It is raining and drivers that would otherwise be going faster, drive slower.  Oh, wait.  No.  These people are ancient.  They would be driving this speed regardless.  A silver mini-van with a handicap conversion kit affixed to its tow hitch passes by in slow motion like an apparition of my future.  The Ghost of Christmas Future.  Shudder.

I sit in my now parked car, waiting for my dad to drive in from Santa Monica.  The rain pelts lightly on the windshield.  I talk on the phone to Karen about old the past and the future, travels to Hungary, birthday parties.  My talkative reverie is interrupted with the dense thud that can only mean some asshole has thrown their car door into yours.  I twist my head around and yell, “What the hell?!” like a banshee on Sudafed.  I follow loudly with, “Excuse me!” as I wind down my window to better acquaint myself with the fifty-year-old female culprit.  She looks like a second grade teacher which makes scolding her feel awkward and strange, like being the twenty-five-year-old CEO of a dot com company bossing around forty-year-old engineers.  I go out to inspect the damage, which is none from what I can tell, and I don’t even feel vindicated by the tongue-lashing I have delivered her.  It is altogether a worthless experience.

Oh, yes.  What am I doing at in the parking lot adjacent to the Pantages Theater waiting for my dad to show up so we can go see a “Riverdance” performance?  Good question.  Allow me to explain.

A decade ago my dad was quite smitten with Michael Flatley and his bevy of toe tapping, leg kicking, sort of Celtic ladies and gentlemen.  I cannot explain where the fascination stemmed from; we are neither Irish by heritage nor dancers by trade.  My only explanation is that my father is a delightful weirdo – a man who, for as long as I can remember, has worn things like clogs and leopard print Keds, shirts with the Virgin Mary in a blaze of burning crosses (not the blasphemous kind) to Christmas parties.  This is my dad.  He is amazing.

So in December, when I saw that “Riverdance” was coming back for their swan song final tour (sans Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance), I knew that I had to take my dad to see this spectacle, if only to wean him off of the teat of embarrassingly strange taste.

I meet my dad outside of the Pantages, which is a beautiful testament to Hollywood Art Deco dipped in silver and gold.  It reminds me of what it might be like to be inside of a very expensive wristwatch.  The crowd, it appears, is either fifteen years younger than me or at least twenty years older.  How strange that “Riverdance” is not popular amongst my peers.  Pity.  We take our seats across from what looks like a group of white hairs out for a retirement home field trip.  The lights dim and the magic begins.

Before this moment, I really didn’t know what to expect out of “Riverdance”.  I was under the impression that the show would include numerous Celtic dance numbers and that is all.  Not so.

“Riverdance: The Journey” opens with a booming MovieFone narration about “our people” and some reference to a fictitious war.  It is hard for me to follow because I keep flashing back to sitting in high school lit class, reading Beowulf and the Canterbury Tales while pulling at the edges of my corduroy pants.  I was sure that that would be the last time that I would be subjected to such versions of ye ol’ English, but “Riverdance” seems to be attempting to bring something similar back from the dead.

From the black of stage right, a man walks out until his flute gleams under a strategically placed spotlight.  At first I am sure that this is merely a visual ploy and he is not playing at all, but he remains there for the rest of show, along with a group of five other nerds who manage to turn Celtic tunes into top 40s, contemporary elevator music a la the Titanic soundtrack.

Fog spills out from center stage, creating a bog-like atmosphere around which the dancers come to march, stiff legged and swathed in velvet Ice Capades numbers.  The girls are shorter and stalkier than any dancers I have seen; the men are only slightly taller than that and similarly ample in girth.  Their movements lack the levity of that found in the anorexic professionals at Lincoln Center or Julliard.  Their marching subsides in an explosion of synchronized pony kicking and the clacking of shoes.  This is the “Riverdance” I sort of grew up with.

The female lead, the prima Riverdancerina as it were, is the most petite of the group.  She is (of course) also the most physically attractive…in a failed Dallas cheerleader type of way.  Her hair reminds me of a babysitter I had in middle school.  She had a broken leg and tan arms; she made giant scrunchies out of fabric scraps and she’d put her thick, waist-long blonde hair in them before driving us to a pool in Thousand Oaks so she could hang out with her boyfriend.  My mom fired her after a month.

Prima Riverdancerina has an ample rack, as does 98% of the remaining dance squad.  It seems as though giant jugs are a prerequisite for entrance into “Riverdance” glory.  I find this aspect of the show particularly amusing because while “Riverdance” does not advertise itself as a terribly sexed affair, it most certainly is.  Michael Flatley took what drunk Irish peasants used to do in a bar and added glitter and a push up bra, proving that if you add sex to anything, you’ve got a franchise.  Baywatch, Doritos, you get the idea.  I doubt the people around me are willing to admit to being subconsciously tantalized, as the audience (even in Los Angeles) seems to have a down home, God fearing quality to it.  Sex?  Oh, heavens no!  But as this little pop tart bounces up and down, I can tell just by watching the live band that everyone in the room would like to fornicate with this woman.

Michael Flatley, who is probably fifty by now and can longer jig like the dickens, has been replaced by a raven-haired dandy with lightening legs and an impressive wardrobe.  For his first number, we are treated to Seinfeld’s pirate shirt plus rhinestone embellishments.  For his second, a snug leather bondage outfit probably purchased from Rough Trade and then retrofitted with some elastic to afford more room for leg kicks.  More glittery weird things follow, but the first two make the greatest impression on me.

There is something about the show that reminds me of an equestrian center on Fire Island or a subdued rodeo.  The severe kicks and pony-like manes.  The glitter.  Dear God, the mass amounts of glitter.  During the second scene, Prima Riverdancerina bounds around in a purple mini-dress, flanked by ladies swathed in pink.  They are the new and improved My Little Sex Ponies.

The curtains go down on the first act and I am confused as to what I was just watching for the last hour.  There were solos, the occasional synchronized act, a group of Charles Dickens-era singers who waddled in singing incoherently.  The live band took over a few times playing instruments I don’t know the names of.  A flamenco dancer appears inexplicably within the act a couple times.  Perhaps I wasn’t expecting such a smorgasbord of vaguely international influences.

Things get even more confusing at the start of the second act, when the narrator talks about how the battle has been won or some nonsense and the “people” are on to a new era.  I suppose this is how they justify what is to come, which is the most amazing thing I have ever seen in my life.

The background changes to a terrible graphic rendering of the Manhattan skyline.  A man with a saxophone takes stage left and the music veers off into jazz infused with, of course, a Celtic feel to it.  Two African American dancers glide onto the stage like the smoothest cats in town, pants baggy and shirts unbuttoned.  They start to soft shoe and tap around freely.  This is by far my favorite part of the show.  Whereas “Riverdance” feels like the musical version of Dungeons & Dragons, these boys make me think of Paula Abdul videos circa 1992.  In other words, a damn good time.

A few scenes later, the new Michael Flatley comes in with two tight-assed gentlemen.  They are then taunted by the softshoers.  Don’t worry; it’s part of the act.  This insights faux rage in the Riverdancers and a dance off ensues.  Literally.  I cannot describe this with words and do it justice.  You have to see it for yourself.  But just imagine what your grandparents could do if they could still move agilely.  Now imagine them reenacting moves from their hay day and then expecting you to come at them with some sort of body language informed response.  Hey, Grandkid!  [Grandpa does the Charleston] Take that sucka! [Grandma starts to Fandango] What you lookin’ at me like that for, fool?! [Both end with a Foxtrot, to which you respond with Crypt Walking and getting Crunk]

By the time the lights come up to indicate the end of the show (no encore, needed, thank God), I have laughed out loud three times.  I surmise to guess that my dad enjoyed the spectacle.  I certainly have, albeit in an entirely different manner.  We rush to the aisle to exit, making our way past old women creeping up hill with their walkers and little kids screeching about how they can’t believe how fast the dancers can move their legs.  We leave the Pantages, getting into our cars before the rain begins to fall again.  And just like that, “Riverdance: The Journey” is over.

Standard

F-You, Very Much.

While driving today, en route to a life saving coffee and a date with my computer, I was making a left hand turn across from another woman doing the same.  She was older than me, blonde and skinny in that LA type of way.  Bony cheekbones and skin clinging to the infrastructure below, hoping to reconnect with some semblance of what it once was.  Drycleaning hanging behind the passenger seat.  She waited too long to put on her blinker, thus bringing the ire from a white van behind her, who swerved and honked and barreled past her through the intersection.  She was in the wrong in terms of common courtesy, but she still flipped him off.  The scene struck me as decidedly grosteque and unladylike, however small the gesture.  I drove away contemplating how I really felt about the practice of telling someone to f-off with a carefully chosen digit.

The middle finger has always struck me as the “c word” of body language.  When I see it, it stings and makes me wince a little bit, like a punch to the face.  And that’s what I interpret it as being: flipping people off is what you do when you really want to just slug someone in the jaw but are incapable of doing so because you are either too far away or not physically capable of doing so (uh hem, pussy).  This  means that this is most often and best used within the comfort of your car.  Flipping someone off while walking, on a subway, or otherwise exposed leaves you quite vulnerable to attack.

Like the “c word” I do not use my middle finger that often.  I can count on one hand how many times I have used it in earnest.  I’m not talking about lamely flipping off a friend in high school for telling me my ass is fat; I’m talking about stiff armed, hand extended as far as you can, straight fingered hate…a reaction you can only justify when someone nearly plows through a red light and kills you.  Or the type that you use in order to educate someone on what a fucking royal idiot they are.  That type of middle fingering.

Similarly, the times in which I have been flipped off myself have been burned into my psyche like a curling iron on the outside of an ear.

My number one memory of middle finger hate happened in high school and I remember it for a few reasons.  I was only sixteen, newly registered with the DMV and a novice behind the wheel.  This may have been before or after I got t-boned while making a left-hand turn out of the local shopping mall.  I was basically only as good at driving as experience would allow, and that experience was minimal.  School had just let out and I was attempting to back out of my parking spot in order to head over to Starbucks to indulge in my after school treat of a Grande Mocha Frappaccino and a heath bar when my efforts were thwarted halfway out of my spot.  Three juniors, all in a Japanese white two-door rice rocket accelerated into the empty spot of concrete that my rear end was heading for and a boy that I recognized but did not know leaned in from the back seat to the front of the cab where I could see him and flipped me off.

I flushed.  Red and embarrassed.  A boy in the grade above me had just flipped me off.  I felt like an idiot, a complete and utter moron.  He had effectively managed to ruin my entire day, the remainder of which I spent ruminating why he was such an asshole and why I allowed him to make me feel badly about myself for no reason whatsoever.  While this reaction was definitely heightened by a potent combination of insecure self-awareness and teenage hormones, a similar reaction is still churned up in me today.  The middle finger always manages to stay with me, because to me it always feels like someone you love screaming “I hate you and everything you do” even if it really is just a stranger saying, “You’re a retard.  I wish you were dead…or at least didn’t own a car.”  Psychoanalyze that, if you will.

The image of that boy leaning forward to flip me off also stuck with me because within a month he died in a car crash.  And while everyone cried and talked about what an amazing person he was and how they would miss him forever, all I could remember was his middle finger nearly pressed up against the glass and my red cheeks.

So when I see people flipping off strangers, or when I am driven to do it by complete madness myself, I can’t help but think what a terrible image that would be to exist in perpetuity in.  Lost in an obscure memory in the depths of someone’s brain, living forever as an asshole.  Over and over and over again.

Standard

Vegas. Part I of Perhaps II.

The adventure is planned and will take place over the course of the next 24 hours.  It will be short and sweet, exhausting and ridiculous.  It will be Vegas.

Because the woman assisting me with my flight change over the phone tells me that because I am traveling on a weekend I should get there two hours early, and because my question about if this is a requirement or a recommendation goes kind-of-sort-of-not-really answered, I arrive two hours early as instructed.  This is stupid.  I breeze through the lobby of LAX, noting that Saturday is quite possibly the easiest day to fly.  I have never been in a security line so short in all of my life, except perhaps back in the 90s when we used to fly to Reno for snowboarding trips.  This was before terrorists and before Reno Air went bankrupt.  So, in the name of accuracy, this was the best post 9/11 security line I have ever had the pleasure of being in.  Especially Southwest.  Southwest sucks.

I sit down next to my gate, which is still busy handling the flight before mine.  Eventually the Chicago-bound family crowd disappears down their corral and into a plane I cannot see.  I am left in the terminal alone, with the exception of five DJs who immediately tear out their silver MacBooks and begin to treat the empty room to their Las Vegas set list.  Wake up in the morning feelin like P-Diddy. The Southwest agent sits on a stool, blowing her nose under her reading glasses.  Out the door, I’m gonna hit the city. The air conditioning ravages goosebumps on my legs. When I leave brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack. A woman sits down next to me with her little boy.  Both of them eat frozen yogurt.  She asks if he likes the Oreos. Cause when I leave for the night, I ain’t comin’ back.

This is the type of scene that would drive my mother insane, which is probably reason why I like things like this.  Generational subterfuge.  Loud music, rudely played to a small group of people who might actually prefer to listen to Taylor Swift sing about love that will inevitably disappear once you go to college.  To be sure, these DJs aren’t playing anything I’d like to subject myself to on the dance floor, but their enthusiasm is palpable and they squirm in their seats like little children and rap songs over songs, imaging how they’re going to layer the music together.  Vegas, baby.  Vegas.

We board the plane.  It is a motley crew: one part partiers on a mission, another part toothless locals just heading home, and a smattering of girls who look like big boobied prostitutes.  I later come to find out that there are two conventions going on in Vegas that weekend – one for tech and the other for the adult film industry.  This combination is accurately described by Veronica as “Tits and Nerds.”

An hour later and I’m in this city that I enjoy like a weird uncle that sometimes says funny things but otherwise just sits around watching football and talking about chicks.  The taxi driver rips me off, per the usual, and Veronica meets me in the lobby of the hotel wearing cashmere and YSL.  Men are immediately gawking, watching us like three-legged giraffes.  They whistle, deliver some lame truck driver lines, and we continue on.  Veronica makes a comment about shooting fish in a barrel; I remind her that she doesn’t want any of the fish in this barrel, surely.  The unsolicited attention continues for the duration of our time here, eventually culminating in a table of twelve hand clap as we walk through a restaurant a few hours later.

Dinner is at an impossible indigestible time of 10:30.  It’s only 5 and I am starving.  I buy a $5 bag of original flavor Pop Chips and a $5 coffee from The Coffee Bean.  I eat all of them.  I vow never to eat Pop Chips again and ride out the next four hours with that haunting nausea that accompanies eating entire bags of anything.

Veronica and I get ready, all sequins and fringe.  In the lobby, accompanied by two other girls also dressed in black, I wonder if as a collective group we look like high-class hookers.  I surmise to guess that at least 15% of the men walking by make that assumption.

Dinner comes and goes – an unending smorgasbord of food that goes half uneaten.  Duck wraps with hoisin sauce, Chilean Sea Bass spears on asparagus, Lobster Ravioli.  As the servers take away the insane amount of leftovers, I feel badly for these poor animals that died just to look pretty on a table.  Surprisingly, this reminds me slightly of myself – in a ridiculous, gratuitously self-absorbed type of way.

We are ushered up to the club upstairs, where a giant security guard pushes past people allowing me to get through the throngs of whores and douche bags, which, coincidentally, only makes me look like a whore and a douche bag.  When the security guard nearly rams into a man in a wheelchair just so I can get behind a velvet rope with bottles of vodka and carafes of mixers I really want to be in a parallel universe – one with substance and respect for other people.

Girls dance on stages.  Girls writhe around in porcelain bathtubs filled with tepid water and pink flower petals, naked and bony.  Tech nerds stare and slobber and it feels hedonistic and anti-evolutionary.  It would be one thing if the music filled me with some sort of dance-inducing joy, but “Put your hands up in the air!  Put your hands UP in the air” played on loop doesn’t make me feel like a I’m having a grand old time, it makes me feel like a sheep – a sheep that drinks to numb the pain of my ordinary existence and  one that rubs up against someone else in the hopes of feeling a connection to something…anything. These are the cynical observations that happen when you don’t drink enough and you think too much.

Standard