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Touring the Filthy South, Part II June 10, 2009

Filed under: Do Re Me,Life, Whatnot — indiakonstanze @ 8:59 pm
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Okay, kids, it’s time for a very serious lesson. The moral of today’s story is this: NEVER EVER EAT AT HOOTERS.

Okay, not really. That’s only part of it. The real lesson is this: if there’s something you don’t want to do but you’re considering it because someone else tells you “it will be a good experience for you,” RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN IN THE OTHER DIRECTION. THE OTHER PERSON IS LYING TO YOU FOR HIS OR HER OWN BENEFIT.

It doesn’t matter whether they want you to have sex, do drugs, shoplift, or eat the squirmy octopus thing on the sushi boat. It is always a BAD IDEA. Stick to your guns and tell that person to fuck off, the way you’d tell Hitler to fuck off if he came up to you and asked you to read Mein Kampf, the way you’d tell Mohammad Atta to fuck off if he came up to you and asked you to hold his flight jacket. Be true to your instincts, because they’ll save you from abject misery.

In my case, it would have saved me from dining at Hooters. I’ve always said I’ll never set foot in one of those places. I think they’re dumb, and I don’t even like wings. Aside from the whole exploitation debate, I just knew I wouldn’t have a good time there. Yet I allowed my stated preference to be overruled, and sweet Jesus, I have never had a more uncomfortable meal.

To start with, the noise inside was overwhelming. I could barely hear my own thoughts, and even simple communication became a shouting matches (“Do you want to sit here?” “What?” “Do you want to sit here?” “Huh?” “JUST SIT.”)

Sit we did, at a small and sticky table near the door. It took 10 minutes for a waitress to come say hi and take our drink orders. “It’s my first night back,” she said, blinking mascara-crusted eyes and wiggling a glitter-dusted body. Not since the days of the Spice Girls have I seen this much body glitter. She was passably cute, if a little more rounded than the elastic waistband of her tiny shorts wanted to permit.

We ordered two waters, and sat back to peruse the menu. Once I eliminated the things I don’t really like (wings and fried chicken) and the things I wasn’t willing to pay for ($15 seafood platter), I was left with a burger. I decided I’d go with a blue cheese topping, just to be different.

Next, I scoped out my surroundings. On the window to my left was a poster advertising a bikini contest, with an oily blonde leering at me in a skimpy turquoise bikini. I looked across the aisle to my right, where there was a framed picture of a waitress rolling around on a bed in her Hooters uniform. Sitting at that table was a family of four, with a blond, freckled 12-year-old boy posted directly beside the nauseating photo. Assholes, I thought, glaring at the parents.

The family’s waitress was different than ours; theirs was a tall brunette wearing shorts that angled so high up across her cheeks that the entire curve where butt meets thigh was visible to all and sundry. And believe me, there were plenty of sundries. The night’s crowd included a family having a birthday party FOR A LITTLE GIRL, and a family eating out with GRANDMA AND THE KIDS. What kind of fucked up family takes their little girl to Hooters for her birthday? The girl was sobbing, and I would have been too if my parents were stupid enough to take me to that Junior-League-reject whorefest for my birthday party.

I looked at my watch. We’d been seated for at least 20 minutes and still had no water.  Parched from the long drive, I looked around for our waitress. She did not reappear for quite some time. When she did, she blazed past us to the table of guys to my right. She talked and flirted with them slowly, shamelessly, as if no one else could possibly be seated in her section. I tried to collect enough spit in my mouth to swallow, as a replacement for the nonexistent water.

It was at least another 10 minutes before she acknowledged us again. When she returned, it was sans water and sans any order-taking paraphernalia, like paper. She apologized for forgetting our waters, apologized for taking so long, apologized for being so disorganized, then wrote our order on a napkin with some sort of aqua magic marker and waddled off, shedding glitter behind her like a rave-enabled Gretel.

In the meantime, P. went off to wash his hands and I sat there trying not to stare at the jiggling butt cheeks of the passing waitresses. Not five seconds after he left, our waitress came back to our table to find out what kind of sauce he wanted on his wings, and what kind of dressing he wanted with his side order of celery. I knew the latter, but not the former. I told her he’d be back in a second and could answer her then. She got a worried look on her face and said she had to guard the computer to keep our ticket open. Apparently, something dire happened if she failed in this objective. She apologized again (third time? fourth time?) and ran back to the computer/drink station.

By now, we’d been seated for about half an hour and we hadn’t even had our order placed. I was upset because this girl was clearly incompetent, I still didn’t have anything to drink, and everywhere I put my eyes, I was confronted with some co-ed’s glittery breasts, thighs, or butt cheeks. Not appetizing. Not relaxing. Not the kind of scenery I wanted on my vacation.

Finally, P. came back from the restroom. She pounced as soon as he sat down, crouching near him so he had a clear view down her shirt. He told her what sauce he wanted, and she ran off the put in our order. By some miracle, she returned with two water glasses and placed them in front of us before turning to clear a table across the aisle. I looked at what we’d been given: P.’s straw still had the paper top on it to assure him of its cleanliness; I had no such luck. “How come yours still has the paper thing?” I said. Our waitress heard me and turned around with a Cheshire cat smile. “Oh, yours came off in my hand,” she said. “It stuck to my finger when I put it on the tray.”

Now I know this is Hooters, with nary a Michelin star to its name—but still. If you’re bringing out two drinks, and only one has the requisite sanitary protection, you do something to make them match. Either you bring BOTH drinks out WITHOUT straw wrappers or you grab another straw and bring BOTH drinks out WITH straw wrappers. I don’t want to think about her sticky fingers touching any part of my straw, but now I have to. Thanks, you germ-infested bitch. Thanks a lot.

While we waited for our food, I stared at P. long enough to make him nervous. I wasn’t doing it on purpose; I was just looking for some neutral ground. If I looked left, I stared right into the crotch of the bikini girl on the poster. If I looked right, I ended up seeing the butt cheeks of a passing waitress. Even weirder, every time I averted my eyes from butt cheeks, I saw some guy at a table on the right staring at me while I was staring at the waitresses. I’m telling you, you can’t shake a stick in a Hooters without smacking a possible sex offender. (Do any normal guys eat at Hooters? I only found one.)

Eventually, the glittery waitress deposited my burger in front of me, patting my shoulder for no apparent reason. The side of celery and ranch P. ordered arrived in its own basket, which was kind of like reserving a limo for a mouse. Three or four thin, spindly stalks of cheap-ass vegetable fiber and a plastic cup of off-brand Ranch dressing…talk about .99 well spent, folks. My burger looked pretty good, except for the fact that I had to hunt for the blue cheese on top. There was one dollop, about the size of a dime, resting calmly on my patty.

Since the burger came with slaw, the waitress left me a set of utensils. They lay face-up on the tray she’d given me, all the better to see the small pieces of crap crusted onto the fork. It was probably just a few pieces of stuck-on lettuce, but still. She was oblivious, and I ate my coleslaw with a spoon.

She came back to check on us twice. Once, she deposited a stack of fifty napkins next to P. She’d already left him plenty when she brought the food; I think she just wanted to bend over next to him. The second time, she placed a paper ticket on the edge of the table. I didn’t even look at her. When I was dying of thirst, I had to wait half an hour for a water. When I was dying of hunger, I had to wait for her to accost my husband to place our order all because she couldn’t remember what she had to ask to complete the order itself. Now that I had my food and simply wanted to eat it in peace, I had to keep interrupting my meal to reassure her that she’s doing a swell job and that we (finally) have everything we need.

When it came time to pay up and get the hell out of there, P. slapped his card onto the ticket and she whisked it away. When she brought it back, she failed to whisk herself away. She lingered, standing over his shoulder, looking at the receipt he was about to fill out.  She straightened the ketchup bottle, pushed the salt and pepper back into place, and touched every menu in the metal wire holder to make sure they were straight. P. made eye contact with me, and I mouthed, “Just wait.” I felt sure she’d realize how rude she was being, and give us a moment to strategize about the tip without her boobs touching my husband’s shoulder. No such luck.

She changed positions a few times, always leaning over P. or over the table, but never moving out of eyesight of the as-yet-blank line where we’d insert our tip. Bitch, please. If you’re so afraid of a shitty tip, try not being a shitty waitress. Every inconvenience we encountered was her fault; we had no problem with the food, the chef, the manager, etc. I would never have left without giving her a tip, but it would have been nice to indicate my displeasure with a solo dollar bill, or maybe even two, which would still have been 10%.

I fumed as she idled and fidgeted, moving items on the table around as if she were arranging a Thanksgiving centerpiece. P. and I made eye contact again, asking each other a silent what-the-fuck-is-she-doing? Finally, he picked up the pen and gave her the standard 15%, just to avoid a scene and get the hell out of there. He signed the receipt, and we stood up so fast you might have thought our seats were on fire. She’d taken away our one method of satisfaction…giving her a tip that matched the quality of her service. The worst part was…she knew she’d done a shitty job. She knew she deserved a lame tip. But she banked on the fact that we wouldn’t stiff her with her looking over our collective shoulder. It’s a dirty waitress Jedi trick.

I knew I should have stuck to my guns and never set foot inside a Hooters, but I was seduced by the siren song of vacation, and the lure of “new experiences.”  My bad. It won’t happen again.

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Touring the Filthy South, Part I May 28, 2009

Filed under: Do Re Me,Life, Whatnot — indiakonstanze @ 7:53 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Last week, I experienced a healthy dose of what some people refer to as “the dirty South.”  I would rather refer to it as the Onion does:  “the filthy South.” Dirty just doesn’t capture it all, because dirty things can be cleaned up. The word implies underlying cleanliness, and boy, is that wrong. “Filthy,” on the other hand, has no such connotation; it implies lasting dirt, sort of like Pigpen in Charlie Brown comics. That’s far more accurate.

We set off from Little Rock early last Saturday morning. Somewhere around Memphis, my 10-month old car received its first bullseye, which isn’t a tragedy on a regular day but on a day when PMS hormones are on the rampage, it’s the equivalent of nuclear meltdown. I fumed all the way through Mississippi and part of Alabama, until we reached our first destination: the Barber Motorsports Museum in Birmingham.

Holy crap, who knew this was in Alabama?

Holy crap, who knew this was in Alabama?

Note to those wanting to visit: eat before you go. There is no food available at this exit, and all they had inside were a few vending machines. I ate two gas station hot dogs for lunch. They were rubbery and the buns were suspiciously chewy. Also, you had to tell the cashier exactly what toppings you wanted, and she gave them to us in packets (mayo, mustard, relish, ketchup). I’m not opposed to packets, but I am opposed to estimating how many I’ll need before I even eat. It kills the joy of spontaneous consumption, in the same way that asking someone what time sex will be over can do. Besides, is there really a need to ration ketchup packets? Are people in broke-ass Alabama so poor that they hoard gas station packets of pickle relish?

Perhaps. The ride into Birmingham was like descending into Africa’s Rift Valley, only with bingo parlors instead of roadside stations selling bushmeat and Maasai warrior blankets. Apparently, there’s not much people there can afford except Bingo and chicken. There were empty storefronts by the truckload, and entire strip malls sat vacant, mile after mile. What I don’t understand is…how can these people even afford bingo? You have to pay to play, right?  So if there’s money for Bingo, why isn’t there money for any of the businesses that used to inhabit the empty space? Seriously, there are like twenty Bingo parlors between the freeway and the Barber Motorsports Museum. Someone is making a killing.  And someone is hella stupid, forking out money to Bingo parlors that could be used to, oh, I don’t know, FIND A JOB.

At the opposite end of the spectrum was the Barber Motorsports Museum itself. The highlights: gorgeous grounds, millions of dollars of cars and motorcycles, and a track where people were learning to race Porsches. This Barber guy shelled out a lot of money to his architect—the building has a sweeping multi-story curved walkway, floor-to-ceiling glass elevator, and stacked rows of shelving for cycles that go all the way to the rafters. There are weird art sculptures scattered all over the place (the ones out front look like angry Soviet-era proletarians on Segways), and I’m really surprised I didn’t see personal memorabilia mixed in with the bikes. This Barber guy seems content to let the machines steal the show. Then again, nothing screams “I’M RICH, BITCH” like a hand-picked collection of Lotus racecars.

I discovered that if I were to ever own a motorcycle, I’d want what’s called a café racer.

Bitchin' cafe racer

Bitchin' cafe racer

Very simple, linear bikes with a hunk of metal for the gas tank, horizontal handlebars, and a big-ass headlight. They look freakin’ cool, and they’d look even better in pink and black, with maybe a few rhinestones or black pearls superglued onto it somewhere. And a quilted seat, with an embroidered Chanel logo. Dude, that would rock so hard.

Somewhere toward the end of our visit, a very large man started talking to my husband about a particular make of Italian motorcycle. He walked with a cane, and couldn’t stand up for long. He asked P. what kind of motorcycle he had, and P. said he didn’t have one right now because we live in a place where it’s really boring to ride.  When the man found out we meant Little Rock, he cooled. He seemed offended that we think the Ozarks are boring, but when you’re used to the Sierra Nevadas, a couple 3,000-foot-tall bumps in the road don’t really faze you, do they? The man was quick to point out that he’d ridden in from Atlanta on his Gold Wing, and this is totally evil, but all I could think was, oh my God, your shocks and tires must be shot from carrying all that weight. Seriously…if you weigh as much as your bike, are performance features not affected?

I know, I know. Sometimes I’m not a very nice person. I blame PMS.

Next time: my tour of the filthy South continues, through Atlanta and down Florida. Highlights will include bad drivers, fried chicken fragrance, and more bad drivers.

 

This Is Gonna Sound Crazy, But… May 14, 2009

Filed under: Do Re Me,Life, Whatnot — indiakonstanze @ 8:51 pm
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Think of something you fear deeply…something you’ve always been afraid of, as long as you can remember.  For me, it’s fire. I’ve never lit a match in my life.  I can’t do it; I just stare, paralyzed, at the strike box on the matchbook and wonder how the fuck people put their fingers so close to it. Every candle I’ve ever lit has been with a cigarette lighter, and even that’s pushing it. That represents years of growth.  I used to use those long-stemmed BBQ lighters.

Why do you suppose we fear the things we do? I’ve never been burned, never been in a fire, never watched a house burn down.  My parents both lit matches without fear; I saw it done a million times.  But what in my brain instinctively said HELL TO THE NO when it came time to do it myself?  Where did my juvenile brain get the notion that I would be irreparably harmed if I let myself get that close to fire?

I have a theory. I think these strange, illogical fears are the cosmic leftovers of some traumatic event that happened to us in a past life.  (I can hear you now…whoa, this chick stepped off the deep end with that one…what kind of head case believes in past lives?)  I do.  There’s no proof, of course…most people would say there’s not only a lack of proof but a lack of any evidence whatsoever. That’s fine. All I know is that there must be a reason why I start shaking when I pick up a matchbox. And this is the one that makes sense to me.

If you pay attention to history, you see that it starts repeating…if you think Iraq and Afghanistan are a mess, take a look at the Crusader kingdom Europeans tried to create in the Holy Land in the 12th century. Just put George Bush’s face on the Pope’s body, replace the Knights Templar with Halliburton, and it starts making sense.

Bush With Pope 2' x 3' Magnet (2913)

History is the product of human nature…what we do, how we act, emotions and deeds that create other emotions and deeds in those around us.  Those are all ephemeral things you can’t quantify.  And if situations occur over and over again, does that not imply that the same emotions and ephemera can occur over and over again, too?  Why shouldn’t some fragment of human thought/spirit/whatever pass from one generation to the next?  And why shouldn’t it sometimes give the recipient a taste of what the donor experienced?

As a result, I’ve translated some of my strange fears and behavioral characteristics into possible past life experiences. It’s a fun yet frightening game.  Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • Illogical fear of fire: burned at the stake
  • Inability to leave food on my plate: starved to death (no, my mother never made me clean my plate as a child, no “starving children in Africa” blackmail)
  • Paranoid mistrust of open water/swimming: drowned or was shipwrecked

And not everything has to be about death.  I also think the things you like may be influenced by things you liked before:

  • Strange obsession with royalty: must have been one at some point
  • Strange obsession with Russia: must have been Russian at some point

Once these things started to occur to me, I ran with them.  They make more sense to me the more I let the idea rumble around in my subconscious. Some things I fear have an actual logical reason in my childhood. Dentists, for example. I fear and loathe them.  But from age 8 to age 15, I was having the roof of my mouth widened, teeth pulled (14 of them, to be exact), spacers, braces, braces again, cavities, tooth resurfacing, etc. There is a very good and very clear reason why I do not ever want to sit in a dentist’s chair again. So this would have nothing to do with a past life.  I mention this only to explain that yes, I do know the difference between a logical fear and an illogical one.  I’m not trying to pawn off my fear of dentists on some past life where a frontier dentist ripped out my front teeth without anesthetics.

There isn’t a rational conclusion to my rambling here.  There’s nothing I can do to prove this idea, and even if I could, there’s nothing I can do to help the past me who was burned at the stake. It’s just making me realize that historical speculation suddenly has a real-life application. It ties you to history. It makes you a part of it. And it makes you think about what makes you you. If you can give your fears some base of understanding, maybe it’s a way to try and fight them.  Plus if it works, it’s way cheaper than therapy (which I obviously need lots of).

 

This Is Why YouTube Was Invented May 5, 2009

Filed under: Life, Whatnot — indiakonstanze @ 7:57 pm
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This is one of the coolest videos I’ve ever seen:

And once you get to checking out the kind of wacked-out shit they do in the Middle East, you find stuff like this:

And this:

Holy smokes. These people know how to have fun.

 

The New Frugality, My Ass April 27, 2009

So here we are, 7 months after Lehman Brothers folds and knee-deep in a painful recession.  Yes, it hurts.  We’re all doing what we can to get by, but…in the back of my head, I still really really really want a new dress, a new bag, and a flat-panel TV.  If I had the slightest bit of disposable income, I would buy them all.  But I don’t, so I just bought the dress.

Anyone who says otherwise is lying.

Anyone who says otherwise is lying.

For the past few issues, TIME Magazine has been getting on my nerves–they’re a bit too preachy about this recession and consumer spending habits.  The cover story a few weeks ago, “The End of Excess,” was all about how spending is down, saving is up, and nobody will ever look at the mall the same way again.  Perhaps, but if my own tendencies are any indication, I’m itching for some good news so I can reward myself with a completely frivolous treat.  Yes, I am a shopaholic, but after the easy credit of the past ten years, so are most Americans.  How many of them, like me, are just itching to get back to the days of buy, buy, (best) buy?

This past week’s cover story, “The New Frugality,” looks to be pretty much the same story.  I can’t bring myself to read it because, well, time is valuable and I feel like this cover is a pound-for-pound repeat of “The End of Excess.”  Why reinvent the wheel?  Tell me if you feel the same, but I’m getting the feeling that TIME is trying to make something true by printing it over and over.

I read their quotes from people who are freelancers growing their own vegetables or laid-off auto workers who can’t pay for healthcare.  I feel for them.  It is a terrible situation, and I would never wish it on anyone (except possibly Gwyneth Paltrow…I really do despise her).  And yet…until I am in that horrible position, I am not strong enough to deny myself a dinner out or a new book or a new dress (clearance only, but still). I want it, life is hard, and sometimes just surviving another day means I want to reward myself.

If I feel this way, I’m guessing some of you do, too.  My spending habits have been changed, but not for good.  I’m riding out the storm, waiting for the clouds to clear.  I’m not building a bomb shelter or stocking my nuclear survival kit.  I think TIME is talking about extremes, hoping to cause a peer-pressure sort of situation in which we think everyone is hanging onto every dime, and thus do the same.  It’s like they want us to believe America is full of Puritans again, so they proclaim it loud and proud, and hope the message sticks.  But I’m not buying it.

Do I have any evidence to support this?  If I did, I’d be a journalist, not a blogger.  All I have are my own feelings, my intuition, and some observations.  But here’s what I see:  The girls at work haven’t changed their spending habits.  We all still shop, just like before.  One of them just took a vacation to Paris.  One of them is buying a house.  One of them just bought a new car.  It is still impossible to get into pretty much any chain restaurant in Little Rock between six and eight pm on Friday or Saturday night.  They’re packed.  Lines out the door.  Fat-ass families who get appetizers, meals, drinks and possibly dessert.  That shit’s not cheap.  Every meal out is $50-$90 when you’ve got a family of 4 or more.  And they’re everywhere…Outback, Olive Garden, Friday’s, Applebee’s, Chili’s…you name the bastion of mediocre Americanized fare, it’s packed to the gills on an Arkansas Friday or Saturday night.  These are not people holding back or pinching pennies.

And this is in Arkansas, land of Midwestern values and third-world salaries.  If anyone would be strapped or hurting more than usual, it would be here.  This leads me to believe that Arkansas is either a strange deviation from the TIME Magazine norm, or things aren’t as terrible as fear-mongering TIME would have me believe.  The end of excess?  I’d say more like the pause-button of excess.  It will be back.  It has just been temporarily silenced by forces larger than itself.

After the privation and horror of the Civil War, we had the Gilded Age. Gilded. As in PAINTED WITH GOLD. As in THE ERA WHEN PEOPLE LIKE ROCKEFELLER MADE ALL THEIR MONEY. If Gordon Gecko had a great-grandpa, he would have given these fools a run for their money.  If the gut-wrenching Civil War couldn’t make people embrace each other and good old-fashioned American values, how the fuck is a recession going to do so?

After World War II, when six million Jews were cruelly murdered and 25 million soldiers died fighting to save the world they knew, we had the suburban boom of the 50s and early 60s.  Cars, refrigerators, TVs, houses, pools…everything with a price tag got snapped up.  If the horrors of our most evil and insidious war didn’t make people grateful just to be alive, how the fuck is a recession going to do so?

I think we as Americans are programmed to want more.  It’s called Manifest Destiny, and every single US history textbook talks about it.  It’s in our blood.  We’ve lived it since 1776.  Every horrible thing that happened only tamped it down; it never extinguished it.  I mean no disrespect to people who have been hit with the loss of a job, home, health care, or retirement portfolio. But this recession is not the end of the world. We’ve had worse, and always come out on the side of survival-and excess. I imagine Gordon Gecko, dressed up as the Terminator, aping Arnold’s voice:  I’ll be back…to kick TIME Magazine’s ass.

 

Anna Wintour Has Lost Her Shit April 15, 2009

Vogue. It’s the holy grail of fashion, right? Infallible, envelope-pushing, compulsively devourable…the bible of fashionistas everywhere, beloved by Carrie on Sex and the City.  Right? Wrong.

This magazine is lost. Editorially and artistically, it’s the equivalent of a girlfriend who knows she’s about to be dumped but insists on faking a pregnancy in a last-ditch effort to salvage the relationship. In short, it sucks.  Ms. Wintour, I’m here to tell you that you can only stuff a basketball up your Prada dress for so long before someone starts to wonder what the hell you’re doing.

Let’s start with the articles. Much like Penthouse, they’re a waste of space. There’s a really stupid column, “Up Front,” that is Vogue’s pathetic attempt to compete with the tabloids. It’s written by a different contributor each month, someone with a theoretically earth-shattering life experience that they think I’m supposed to learn from. We’re meant to empathize with the author, but give me a break…these women are too insulated, rich, and clueless to earn my sympathy.

Some of the more recent topics presented for our approval: a woman who learned her father had a secret gay past, a wife dumped by a husband who then married a much younger woman, a society belle who married a hulking and uncultured tribesman, and a woman embarrassed by an tragically unhip mother who lives in a hut in Hawaii. Their responses to these hardships usually involve wearing items of clothing that have four digit price tags and sighing prettily that life goes on despite people who embarrass them or deprive them of a date for the next charity ball.

So far, all I’ve learned is that these women are not good writers, have too much money and spare time for their own good, and treat the people around them with thinly veiled contempt. Vogue obviously has nothing to offer in the way of arresting life stories, and it shouldn’t try to compete with outlets that do.

Also, someone has GOT to do something about Plum Sykes. As if being the former BFF of Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t bad enough, she clearly has no purpose in life. She writes about the joy of finding the perfect long-sleeved dress, and how terrible it is to have such thin arms that most sleeves never fit snugly enough. Well, boo fucking hoo.  She also writes about buying a $5,000 custom-made suit for a weekend party at her country house, and how the suit made her feel like a super-chic kick-ass hostess. Oh, what a travail it must be to feel less than perfectly stylish while relaxing at your country house! Give me the rack or the iron maiden, but SWEET JESUS IN HEAVEN, don’t let me feel unchic whilst serving brandy in the drawing room. This woman is as relevant as an 8-track player. Thank God I’m not the only one who thinks so.

There is nothing worth reading in this magazine. Even cover stories with theoretically interesting actresses like Reese Witherspoon and Anne Hathaway offer nothing new or novel. Most of the writers get the actresses to dish fantastic secrets like their personal philosophies on how to wear clothes they have neither paid for nor will ever wear again. The magazine’s big coup, getting Jennifer Aniston to let loose with an Angelina sound bite, was broadcast to the world in large black type on the cover, as if in competition with the National Enquirer. Again, this magazine is having relevancy issues. A whiny Jennifer Aniston who protests too loudly that she’s really and truly happy yet can’t wait to play the victim card AGAIN…boy, there’s something we’ve never seen before.

In the “Dispatch” column, fantastic foreign locations are reduced to blather by models and socialites, who dish about what they love about exotic locations, and what you need to bring when you visit them yourself. They say things like, “I just love white sand beaches! I never come to Tahiti without a bikini and my boyfriend!” or “The energy here is so young and fun…a great place to relax!”  No shit.  I never would have guessed that a beach would be relaxing. Thanks for the insight.  You’ve really opened my mind.

Now, a word about the art direction. I am SICK TO DEATH of seeing jumping models with ponytails flying above their heads, staged on a plain background. I am not the only one who thinks this.  THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE FOR THEM TO DO. Or maybe stop playing Van Halen and Kriss Kross at the photo studio. Try a little harder to earn those six-figure salaries, people. Also, I am sick of seeing models with their hair wrapped in some tight sheath, at the end of which the hair poofs out like it has been electrocuted. Stylists who do this should be fired.

Wintour’s favorite models appear with the regularity usually only bestowed by Metamucil. If I see Coco Rocha or that godawful Agyness Deyn one more time, I will lose my lunch. I do not agree that it was “brave” of Coco Rocha her to dye her hair red, nor was it necessary to document the “transformation” in the worst piece of ass-kissing since the liberal media discovered Obama. What does Coco have on Wintour? I’d love to know.

I am already tired of “fresh faces” Arlenis Sosa and Chanel Iman. Just because Oscar de la Renta loves Sosa, does that mean we have to see her eight times an issue?  And must we really keep recycling women like Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista? Like Vogue itself, these women were fabulous in the 90s but are quite ho-hum now. Surely there are other models willing to work for blow. Just like bitchy blogwriters, they’re a dime a dozen. Try using some of them.

I don’t know if her feud with Rachel Zoe has taxed her ability to do more than one thing at once, but the Devil needs to shape up if she wants to keep wearing Prada. As it stands, I relish each issue of Vogue only for the delicious opportunity it affords me to make fun of it.

 

The American Dream, Version 2.0 April 6, 2009

It’s finally here: the day when the albatross lifts from my shoulders. The sale of our home closes today, and I feel like wearing a party hat and throwing confetti. If I just survive until this evening, I’ll be free.

How I felt as a homeowner. I kid you not.

How I felt as a homeowner. I kid you not.

True, the sale was only accomplished by our willingness to take a big financial hit. True, the process has been more painful than an unanaesthetized root canal. True, I have learned that the two agents involved in this transaction are the moral equivalent of actual plastic douche bags turned inside out and used as pooper scoopers in a dog park where the dogs have all had triple espressos and a platter of mozzarella sticks. Realtors, I am convinced, suck. Still…the end is in sight, and I’m approaching it with a profound sense of relief.

The $10,000 down payment I signed over in December of 2006? Gone, never to be seen again, along with about $24,500 of our cash reserves and available credit. But it’s worth it. It’s like amputating a dying limb, and saving the rest of the patient. True, he might not feel whole until he’s had extensive prosthetics and physical therapy, but he’s alive. He made it. And now he appreciates everything he sees so much more, because he almost lost it.

So why did we do what home-buying gurus claim is the dumbest thing possible? It’s the economy, stupid. #1: I work in retail, which means my days might be numbered. I’ve survived several rounds of layoffs so far, but there’s no such thing as a cocky advertising employee right now. #2: I live in Arkansas, which isn’t exactly the capital of economic development. On any given Sunday, there are more dogs for sale in the paper than there are jobs. It’s not a pleasant environment in which to find a liberal arts job, let alone one that lets you live above the poverty level, with benefits (even crappy ones). Faced with these possibilities, there is only one solution: make every dollar go further by reducing what it costs to live, month in and month out.

By opting out of the house, we’re looking at a significant reduction in monthly expenses. Here’s a brief tally of our projected savings:

–No property tax: + $225/month

–No homeowner’s insurance: + $57/month

–No homeowner’s association dues: + $41 a month

–Savings in monthly rent vs. mortgage: + $400/month

–Switching from Comcast cable/internet to AT&T no-land-line-required DSL: + $20/month

–Switching from TMobile to AT&T, to use my husband’s preferred employer discount: + $30/month (yes, our contract was up; no, I did not pay an early termination fee)

–Projected savings in monthly utilities: + $120/month (electricity, gas, sewer, water, garbage)

Total per month: + $893/month

And guess what: our 2-bedroom luxury apartment only costs $850/month. True, we have taken on a total of $18,000 in debt to get out of this house. But with aggressive savings, we can push hard and repay that amount in about two years. (Less than that if we forward our entire tax refund for those years to Citibank.) This way, if I lose my job, I’m covered. We owe much less on a monthly basis, and I can enroll in my credit card’s protection program that defers payments if I lose my job.

Will we need to keep our heads down and ignore the siren song of eating out multiple times a week, new clothes, and vacations? Yes, but so will many others. It’s a recession, after all. It’s the perfect climate to buckle down and pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  In a sick way, I’m almost looking forward to it.  I have a goal, a purpose, a mission. And when it is all over and we emerge with debt paid and a long hibernation of thriftiness, we’ll be smarter, stronger and wiser. And none of it would have happened if we hadn’t taken the plunge, shaken things up, and gotten the hell out of that house.