Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Good Guy Syndrome

I have a huge problem: I'm dating a really nice guy.
It's terrible. He opens doors for me, shows affection, and always remembers my name.

On our first date, he reached for my hand while we were walking. I shook it.

"No, no. I want to hold your hand."

The words sounded funny coming from neither John nor Paul and without the back-up of George Harrison's hand clapping. Nevertheless, I obliged, offering up my right hand as a sacrifice to the dating gods.

It wasn't too long into the hand holding that I began to get antsy: How long do we have to do this? Should I be moving it around--massaging, caressing? My hand is getting really sweaty--is it OK to break away? Damn it, I must! My hand feels like it's covered in vegetable oil! And it's just sitting there, defenseless, in the dark, unable to move or cry out for help. I just ... need ... to...

"Give me my hand back!"

Well, at least it wasn't awkward. My date looked at me like he wanted to give the whole night back. But, like I said, he is such a nice guy, and seems to really like me, so he let it go--literally. The poor fool.

I've always had a thing for the "bad boys" and musicians, although I guess that's rather redundant. Maybe it's the thrill of the chase more than the badness factor, though. The guys who don't care are harder to catch, but once caught, the interest level plummets.

My mind keeps telling me I'm getting too old to keep going after just-for-fun and dead-end relationships and any relationships that involve hyphenations, but my emotions sometimes shout over these thoughts, and before I know it, I am back to my old ways, smiling at the guy on lead guitar with the cigarette dangling out of his mouth and the dangerous glint in his eyes.

Which brings me back to my nice guy situation. He neither plays an instrument (I will restrain myself from making a joke here), nor has a body-piercing of any kind, and always buckles his seatbelt for safety. He laughs when I tease him, but never teases me, and as much as I'd like to think there's nothing to tease me about, I know that's just not the case. I have an unfortunate Most Outrageous TV Moments addiction, and a tendency to wiggle my fingers a la Homer Simpson whenever I see pastries. But that is neither here nor there.

The point is, nice guys can sometimes be too nice--it lends itself to blandness. I mean, never cracking a joke at someone else's expense, or indulging in some gossip, or laughing at the people who make a mad dash for the T only to wipe-out in a humongous puddle--how fun is that? Even the Beatles, with all their "I Wanna Hold Your Hands" and "Michelle," my belles got crazy with a "Revolution" once in awhile.

Despite my hesitations, I'm not going to give up on our new relationship just yet, because, well, good guys are really hard to find and I'd be the fool not to give it a chance. And who knows? He might dump me when he finds out I canceled a date to watch a new episode of Most Outrageous TV Moments. Whatever the outcome, though, I know it's gonna be alright, alright.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Insane in the Plane

As a little girl, I loved to fly. Hell, I even liked airports: the anticipation of going on vacation, the people-watching (and I'm from Jersey so you know there was plenty of opportunity there), and of course, the glorious fast-food stands that were your only chance at escaping United Airlines mystery meat of the night (they once served us chicken so small I started crying because I thought they'd killed Tweety Bird).

But actually boarding a plane was a magical experience for me. The beautiful people who would come and give me any kind of soda I asked for, the never-ending flow of peanuts, the thrill of takeoff, leaving all earthly frustrations 30,000 feet below for a suspended moment of time. Of course, that's all in the past now, the good old days when I believed in magic. Now the only thing I believe in when I fly is that there's not enough alcohol aboard to stop me from flipping out a la Twilight Zone man when we hit a little turbulence.

I'm not sure when the exact moment was that I began to fear flying, all I know is that it came about soon after I graduated from college, and that it came with a vengeance.

Unfortunately for my nerves, I love my family a great deal. Otherwise, I wouldn't do half the flying that I do today. It's almost as if my parents are testing my loyalty down there in Virginia, the ultimate measurement of love.

Of course I always get a ton of suggestions on how best to curb this fear from friends and random nosey strangers who feel more than educated on the subject, even as we fight for possession of the armrest of life, which everyone knows if squeezed really tightly while chanting, "Fuck, fuck, fuck," will prevent a plane from nose diving into the Atlantic Ocean. I've also averted almost certain crash landings by wearing my lucky opal earrings and counting backwards from 30 right after takeoff. And me, being the truly altruistic person that I am, I need no recognition for my heroism from others. Knowing I've saved hundreds, possibly thousands of lives is thanks enough for me.

The first suggestion I get to assuage my fear is to always to make full use of the cocktail cart, no matter if it's coming from my all-knowing Mom or the fat, balding lady who's taking up more than her fair share of the armrest. I did try this on a couple of occasions, but both turned out to be utter failures:

The first was on my way from Boston to Washington, D.C. to visit my family. I filled an empty Nantucket Nectars bottle with Absolut and added a splash of OJ to make it look authentic, seeing as my flight was at 8 in the morning and all.

My friend, Mel, had dropped me off at Logan, and, seeing how nervous I was getting out of the car, thought she would calm my fear by kindly informing me she was under no circumstances going to tell me what the airline I was flying used to be called. I should've just left it at that, but I figured if I was going to be sent off to certain death, I at least wanted to know who the executor was going to be. So as I'm closing the door and turning towards the airport of doom, I hear my wonderful, wonderful best of friends shout, "You're flying on the old Value Jet! Have a safe trip!" and I swear to you I heard the word "sucker" come out of that car before she zoomed off to the safety of I-93 during rush hour traffic.

I hadn't even hit the security check-point before I took out that bottle and downed it like I was actually drinking a bottle of Nantucket Nectars and not 7 ounces of vodka with a splash of juice for camouflage.

Afterwards, when I reached the security check-point, I had a little trouble understanding and communicating with the security guard who was trying to smoothly get me to take off my flip-flops before stepping through the metal-detector, because, as you well know, it is so very easy to smuggle a make-shift bomb in between the little piggy who went to market and the little piggy who stayed home.

"Miss, it would be very nice if you could take off your sandals."

I looked at the guard blankly, smiled, and proceeded on my way through the metal detector before I was stopped by the guard in a gruffer voice, "Miss, it would be REALLY nice of you if you would take off your shoes."

My flip-flops had quickly moved up the security-risk ranks of mere sandals to full-fledged shoes. This was serious. It suddenly occurred to me, even in my Nantucket Nectars induced state, that these were no polite requests to remove my flip-flops/sandals/shoes/heat-packing metal-toed military boots, but hidden threats to make it seem as if I had a choice in the matter. I may have been wearing flip-flops in Newark airport, but I was no beach bum fool.

I slowly took off one sandal, then the other, and rationally explained to the guard, "I am very thorry offither, I'm a little drunk tho I didn't underthtand you at first. I'll be on my way now." I then waltzed through the metal screener, retrieved my flip-flops, and proceeded to walk to my gate to the sounds of, "Was that English?" and "She must be a foreigner," floating behind me.

When I found my gate, I crashed down hard on an empty seat and slept off most of my morning pick-me-up. About an hour later, I woke up to the sound of a screeching mike and an over-the-top friendly Air Tran worker chirping, "Ladies and gentlemen, do we have a present for you! Your airplane has just rolled in, hot off the assembly line, and woo-hoo! I can still see the tags on the tires! Your plane is just a few days old, how about that? We will now be boarding all first-class passengers and people with disabilities."

If the nap hadn't sobered me up, then the announcement that we were all about to become involuntary guinea pigs for Air Tran Airlines certainly did the trick. When it was my time to board the plane, the ticket collector looked up at my panicked face and mumbled, "Good luck," while tearing my ticket and sending me off to almost certain death.

Before I even fully sat down, I pulled out a ten dollar bill from my wallet and gripped it in anticipation of yet another early morning cocktail, "Maybe a Bloody Mary," I thought, "That seems almost breakfast-y."

After take-off, the pilot made his usual announcements, and informed us we could now use our electronic devices. I pulled out my disc man and stared, horrified, as I watched the already-powered instrument of death spin around and around, mocking my increasing panic. I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed we were all about to fly tragically off-course, crashing into another plane as a result of a tiny blue Panasonic portable disc man and my little morning cocktail. Death by disc man. What a way to go.

I barely had time to absorb the immensity of the situation before the plane swung violently down, then up again. Holy crap! Damn my obsession with Dave Matthews and his catchy tunes!

I looked behind me and saw the flight attendants pulling out the drink cart, and breathed a sigh of relief. At least if we were going down, we were going down drunk. But just as a flight attendant made his way to our row, the pilot clicked on again, "I'm sorry folks, but because of severe turbulence on our route, I'm going to have to ask passengers and crew to remain seated for THE DURATION OF THE FLIGHT." I turned around to look at the flight attendant, ready to make my plea for just one drink, but they were all gone. They had packed up and shipped out before the pilot even finished talking. Damn bastards took the booze and ran. Looking back on it, I can plainly see that I should've shoved a couple of nips in my pocket for emergency use, but I was drunk so I hadn't thought of it.

Panicked, I reached for the sick bag in the seat in front of me. I figured I could put it over my head thereby decreasing my oxygen intake and creating a nice alcohol-free buzz. I also figured that by doing this, I risked looking like a complete jack-ass. I then made the kind of quick-second, life or death decision that only people in similar urgent situations can make: I decided to look like a jack-ass. I had just fit the bag nicely over my head, when I felt a sharp jab in my side. "Hey! What do you think you're doing? Get that bag off your head—you'll suffocate!"

I peeked my head out of the bag. It was the fat, balding woman who had shoveled a good dozen or so Oreo cookies in her mouth before takeoff. I wished I'd had some at that moment to shut her mouth, "Hey, mind your business. It's either this bag on my head or this head in your lap, puking up the scrambled eggs, bacon, and banana- strawberry smoothie I had for breakfast at 4 a.m. this morning. Now what's it gonna be?" I bluffed. I never had the smoothie.

The fat, balding woman made a "harumph" sound (if she had been from Jersey it would've sounded more like "fuck off"), opened a bag of Chips Ahoy and went back to eating. There were probably some really pissed off Jersians that day in Newark Airport, angrily buying beef jerky and Nutri-Grain bars due to the fat lady cleaning out the cookies.

I was just about to continue with my self-abuse when the seat belt sign flashed on and the pilots informed us that we were making our descent. I did a little dance in my seat, and guessed at our increased chances of surviving a crash as we cruised lower and lower to the ground. This also makes a great game to play with the kids for some family fun in the air.

When we finally landed, I jumped up, hit my head on the over-head and crashed back down into my seat. I then got up slowly, watching my head, and before exiting the plane, thanked the pilots for saving my life and bear-hugged the flight attendants until they told me I had to clear the aisle for the other passengers. They looked surprised but I could tell they were secretly happy I hadn't used the barf bag.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Scrabble is a Blood Sport

My family banned the game of Parcheesi from our household when I was ten years old.
Now I can't tell you who won that last game we ever played, but I can tell you it was neither me nor my older sister, as she was blocking my game piece with two of her own. When I pointed out that by not moving her pieces she had no way of winning herself, she replied, "I don't care. I just don't want you to win."

I don't remember much after that, some harsh words were likely exchanged, zingers along the lines of "retard" and "poopeyface," possibly I put the smackdown on her, I don't know, but I do know that after that ill-fated game, my parents banished Parcheesi to the bowels of our basement, never to be played again. That game followed us around the country, bouncing around from house to house, most likely hoping that once enough time had elapsed, the incident we now refer to as "the Parcheesi block" would be forgiven and forgotten. It has been seventeen years since that day, my sister is now married with two beautiful children, and even mention the word "Parcheesi" in my family and the "poopeyfaces" and "boogerbutts" go flying.

I also don't remember winning so much as a game of Candyland against my father growing up--he'd laugh and point at me, (as I'd predictably be stuck in some gooey gumdrops) while skipping his piece merrily on to the glory that is Candy Castle. Come to think of it, gumdrops aren't even gooey--how lame. Not that I'm bitter or anything. My dad also used to take my younger sister and I to the putt-putt course whenever he was in the mood to kick some ass. Being five years old, not even having the walking thing down all that well, we'd inevitably hit the ball into a bunker.

"Oh! What a shame! Put the ball back on the tee, sweetheart, that's a two stroke penalty!"

"But Dad! That's not fair!"

"Those are the rules, kid! Hey! Stop your crying! There's no crying in putt-putt! Damn it, that's another one stroke penalty."

And my mom was no better. A game of Pictionary once brought my little sister to tears after teaming up with my mother:

"You call that a cherry?! That looks like a lemon with hair!"

"I'm sorry! I'm not an artist, OK?"

"Damn you! Now they're going to win because you can't draw a cherry! It's just a circle and a line for Christ's sake!"

My sister, who could draw neither a circle nor a line, flew from the table in tears, and we slowly packed up Pictionary and sent it off to live with Parcheesi in the basement, where its foster games Yahtzee and Life were already keeping it company.

When I was away at college, my little sister called me with some more bad news.

"Scrabble's out, dude."

"What? You mean it's banned?" It is a testament to my family's competitive nature that I could make sense out of those three words without any other background information.

"Yeah. I don't know what happened, dude. I think Dad and I were taking too long or something putting down the tiles. All I know is that one second, we were all waiting for Dad to put down his letters, and the next second, the game is in the air, tiles are flying everywhere--one fucking hit me in the eye--they're like fucking wood, man! And Mom didn't say a word--just stormed off to her room! It was ugly."

"Damn! Well what the hell is left?"

"Memory and Hi-Ho Cherry-O."

"Yikes--we might as well start doing shadow puppets on the wall."

"Uh ... actually, that was banned back in '88. Remember? Mom got pissed at Dad for not being able to put his hands together for a butterfly."

I sometimes wish my family would be able to play a friendly game of pool or Yahtzee or even Go Fish without it turning into a Dr. Phil special, but then I wonder how much fun would that be? A game of ping-pong with no profanity? Scrabble without a scuffle? We might as well just hold hands and sing "Kumbaya" until someone is impelled to shove a pencil in their ear. Scrabble just wouldn't be the same without a little blood on the board.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

This Love Boat Don't Dock Here

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I'd share one from my past. A couple of years ago, I was "treated" to a Valentine's Day surprise: a three-hour tour around the Boston Harbor, complete with dinner, dancing, and loving couples gazing into each other's eyes as they rocked and swayed to "My Girl" while the only thing This Girl wanted to do was grab a life preserver and hurl herself off the boat.

I tried my best to look excited and even forced a smile when the crew took our picture before boarding. It reminded me of the snapshots amusement parks take of roller coaster riders right before they take the plunge. We didn't end up purchasing our photo at the end of the night, but I can only imagine the look of fear the camera caught in my eyes as the strains of "Mandy" wafted from the cabin.

We sat down at our table and helped ourselves to the cold, damp bread awaiting us, for what was probably a good day or so judging from its springing action as I chewed until my jaw ached. Our server came over to take our drink order. My date ordered the water.

"I'll have whatever's in a martini glass!" This was an emergency situation.

My date fiddled with his napkin, "So I wanted to get tickets for this other cruise, but it was too expensive. I hope this is OK?"
Huh? Was he really telling me I was getting the second-rate version of his dream Valentine's Day gift? I was on the Ponderosa of cruises, was sitting behind Door Number 3, smelly donkey braying into my ear, "Swim! Swim for your life! Please take me with you."

"Uh, yeah, this is great!"

The DJ told all us "crazy kids" to get out onto the dance floor and surprisingly his choice of "Venus," which I'm pretty sure Adam and Eve danced to on their first Valentine's Day, did not deter anyone from taking him up on his request. The dance floor was instantly flooded with giddy couples. I looked around for the ballot box to put in my vote for Prom Queen.

"Do you want to dance?"

I cringed. I just couldn't force myself to do it. I could not! It was not in my being. Oh why couldn't I at least pretend to be having a good time? Dear Lord, is this Michael Bolton?

"I'll take that as a 'No.' "

I felt like a complete jerk. And perhaps I am. When my date got up to use the restroom, I grabbed my cell phone and text messaged, "Shoot me now" to my best girl friend.

All around us, couples were holding hands and making lovey dovey faces at each other. They ate up the limp spinach and over-cooked salmon, drank up the cheap, bitter champagne (free with the package!), and closed their eyes as they danced to painfully bad music (I will grant that the pain was due mostly to my shoving a pencil up my ear when a Backstreet Boys ballad blasted from the speakers).

The server approached us again with the dessert list: cheesecake or chocolate cake. I ordered the cheesecake.

"Does this come with the package?"

I groaned audibly.

"Yes, sir, this is included."

"OK, then, I'll have the chocolate cake."

It was becoming obvious to me that my date was El Capitain Cheapo of this Love Boat Lite. I wanted off. Badly. So badly I asked a crew member exactly how cold the water would be this time of year.

My date I know had put a lot of thought into the idea and just wanted to make me happy. He figured I like boats, I like dancing, and by Golly, I like food, so what could be better than a combination of the three all condensed into one cookie-cutter romantic night?

It broke my heart when he asked me what would've made me happy, and I thought, anything, anything but this! If you didn't have much money to spend, then why did you take me out? A home-cooked dinner and a bottle of wine would've been much preferred, and cheaper for that matter. I was conscious of every cash bar drink I ordered. I was tempted to write a check for my portion of the package, but instead wound up writing him off.

It wasn't just because of this one night, but rather a culmination of things that unfortunately came to a head on what was supposed to be the most romantic of days. I didn't have it in me to break things off that night; I figured the day after Valentine's would be much better. It's possible though that the feeling iwas mutual. I sincerely hope this was the case, that we both sailed off into the sunset with no regrets, me with a very strong cocktail in hand.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Caviar Emptor

It was so cold in Boston this week, people stopped abusing each other on the street and turned it on the weather.

"F%$* this weather!" a guy with salt-and-pepper hair wearing head-to-toe Bill Blass screamed as he passed me on the sidewalk.

Negative 20 degree temps have a way of turning the most courteous of people into drunken sailors like that. As for me, I was in my own hell, having switched out my warm toasty mittens for my flimsier gloves due to the influx of asshole drivers on the road recently. Sure enough, as we stepped onto the crosswalk, albeit not on a Walk sign--but screw that, walkers should get a free pass on days you can't feel your ass--a car honked loudly at us, upon which my middle finger shot up defiantly in the air. It's been on auto-pilot ever since the holidays, when a mom running a red--most likely to make it to the Christmas tree lighting festival going on that day--almost mowed me down. The soft glow of the tree lights illuminated my finger quite nicely, I must say.

Partly to get warm and partly because I'd been existing off of vending machine animal crackers for the past week, I ducked into Whole Foods. I love the free samples at Whole Foods, and that night, I hit the jackpot: a special Valentine's Day sampling throughout the whole store. I quickly forgot about the bread and milk I needed--whatever, rum was serving me just fine in my Cocoa Krispies--and started sniffing out the free food.

There was ice cream and cake and chocolate and cheese--all my favorite food groups. I took a cup of ice cream and stood there patiently as the guy serving it to me waxed poetic about the bold flavors of chocolate and coffee all merging into one beautiful creamy concoction of ... whatever, dude! Just give me the damn ice cream and no one gets hurt. It was like being on one of those "free" vacations you see advertised sometimes, where you have to sit through hours and hours of salespeople going on about timeshares before you're allowed to go into a sugar coma from too many pina coladas and burn yourself to a crisp in the sun.

Despite my tendency to swear like a sailor, I am too f#$ing polite. I also feel tremendous pressure to buy whatever it is I'm sampling as well. I was obviously Whole Foods' dream customer that day. I thought I could put one over on the woman serving caviar, casually asking where I could pick up a jar, making like I was a big caviar spender and not just a big mooch, thinking they must be over on the other side of the store with all the fish.

"Oh, they're right over there," she said, pointing to a shelf right behind me.

"Uh ... oh, uh ... great! Thanks." Damn. Foiled again. I couldn't even abandon the jars on another shelf further down the road as they had to be refrigerated.

I left the store with two pints of ice cream, hot pepper jelly, dark chocolate malt balls with raspberry filling, and two jars of caviar. No bread, no milk, yet not one, but two jars of caviar came home with me that night. Caviar! There's no buying caviar in a recession! Oh, these people are good. Thank goodness they weren't giving away any filet mignon or beluga caviar or I would've had to have taken out a loan to pay for my groceries. All this free food is hurting my wallet. Next time I'll play it safe and go to Stop & Shop, where the only temptation for me are the Cookie Monster cupcakes in the bakery section. Better a fat ass than a skinny wallet.