Saturday, September 18, 2010

One More Night in a Glamorous Life: the Sleep & Skank Edition

We have new tenants here at Chez Merde. The departure of the nice half-Brazilian, half-Norwegian (Brawegians? Norzilians?) family upstairs has heralded the arrival of the the Sorority Sisters. A pair of young hotties who are are badass night owls, they arrived with a handful of boxes in the back of their banana yellow Chevy Cobalt, a craptacular car festooned with fake floral leis and beach resort stickers on the bumper. (I wonder if I should tell them that the last resident here with a banana yellow car somehow managed to raise the ire of a mentally unstable neighbor on the block who brandished a pistol and left rambling, multi-page manifestos tacked to our lobby message board - all because she hated yellow cars.) Within a week of the duo's arrival, one thing was clear - they weren't used to living in shared housing with working adults.

I swear to God, even when I was a teen or in my early 20s, I could not go out and party every night of the week without turning into an utter zombie. These guys? They're animals. And honestly, I couldn't give a shit if they were the biggest party critters on the face of the earth, save for two things: 1) they're moronically loud when they come home late at night; and 2) they don't seem able to master the challenges of the laundry/trash room. I say this after following a trail of thong underwear (and food trash) down the stairs to the entryway today. Apparently, they don't have a laundry basket or garbage bags - maybe I should buy them some. Unless that would undermine their secret plan to lure hungry, horny elves, fairies, or trolls up to their second-floor lair. Who knows? (This actually was a point of discussion between me and another neighbor this afternoon - we both refrained from picking up the discarded undies.)

If it wasn't for the sudden bursts of late-night noise, I might find them amusing. One had her 21st birthday shortly after their move-in. There was something deliciously awful about watching their flashy-trashy white stretch Hummer limo attempt a u-turn on our narrow dead-end street. Classic! Except that some of their drunk-ass friends were using my car as a place to rest their drinks as they observed the maneuver. That's the only interaction I've actually had with them - yelling to their friends to move their crap off my car.

But I think some fresh interaction may be coming their way - if their downstairs neighbor (with the cute toddler) doesn't beat me to it. It's the nearly nightly arrival home, accompanied by screaming. Last night, it was 2:45 in the morning when Sister #1 got home and made the drunk walk back to the building, announcing herself to us all: "OMIGOD!!! LET ME IN!! I NEED TO PEE!!! WAAAAAAAAAH!" (Keep in mind, there's no lock or access code for the front door of the building. It's just a matter of getting your own damn apartment door open.) Immediately, you could hear and feel the building coming quickly and unhappily back to life. The silence of sleep was shattered, and floors started to creak as we all padded around, trying to sort out our broken rhythm.

For me, it was useless. The specter of insomnia is always lurking over my shoulder, and it was more than happy to envelope me in its misery. I curled up on the sofa and turned on the TV. A friend had alerted me to a freebie HBO/Skinemax weekend for FiOS users, so I flicked through the late night offerings.

There's a reason Skinemax *is* Skinemax: most channels had one form of soft core porn or another. It's a constant parade of lame scripts, bad new age funk elevator music, and enormous fake boobs. All I could think was "God, her back must hurt all the time" or "Oh, Jesus, what happens if one of them pops? Will it just deflate? Will there be a flesh explosion?"

I'm not kidding. You show me cheap Skinemax porn, and that's what I'm thinking.

Well, actually, it's worse than that. I find it so lame, I'm usually looking into the background of the scenes. This time, in one flick, a couple flopped around on a desk in a classroom somewhere in Asia, where a blackboard featured a set of algebraic equations, sans solutions. I love algebra. Things always come out right if you respect the formula, after all. So, there I was, at 3-something in the miserable a.m., mentally completing equations and multiplying out fractions, while some bored "actors" in a tract house in the San Fernando Valley bumped uglies and pretended to be in Bali. I was psyched to finish all the equations before the couple wrapped things up. I may have flunked out of Calculus in high school, but I've still got the basics down, baby! (Oh, and that chick had a heinous tramp stamp for those keeping score on the actual porn content. Seriously, I've seen better porn between fuzzy lines on channels we didn't pay for back in the days of crappy 90s cable.)

Clearly, I'm not the Skinemax target demographic. I actually yelled back at the screen during an improbable kitchen sex scene. The woman was shown burning her hand on the metal handle of a hot pan on the stove (oven mitts, honey) and then, almost immediately, the dude picked her up and plopped her on the stove for what passes for a good rogering in this level of cinematic non-achievement. Of course, my first reaction was: "Jesus! Hot stove! Hot stove! Her ass must be on fire!"

I was also thinking "Christ, that has to be painful - nothing like having the metal grill of a stove burner plate pressed into your rump, full force, over and over again." (I may be an unadventurous party-pooper, but I'm looking out for your ass, pornstress!)

This reminded me of an event I attended in Baltimore a gazillion years ago (oh, I bet you're wondering where this is going - and no, John Waters was *not* involved.) The cast of the brilliant - and wretchedly underappreciated - TV show "Homicide: Life on the Street" did this series of wonderful live events now and then to support the Fells Point Creative Alliance. "Homicide Live" allowed the cast members to stretch their wings, performing theatrical vignettes, poetry, and music for a very appreciative audience. I went one year, and it was a blast. In one piece (culled from a play I sadly cannot identify tonight) actors Peter Gerety (late of "Rubicon") and Ellen McElduff recounted the misery of a sexual encounter up against a wall, including back pain, balance and height challenges, and some horrific wall-based form of rug burn. It was hilarious and awful and always comes to mind when I flip past bad cable porn (and whenever "The English Patient" is on TV.)

What's the point of all this ramble? (Well, other than the fact that I just outed myself for shamefully watching execrable adult fare on cable in a fit of insomnia last night.) I honestly don't have a point this time. It's just another Saturday night here in suburbia, and I spent it at home alone again, spilling out more words about the inherent weirdness of my life. Trails of thongs, screaming sorority girls... Jesus, maybe I'm actually Stephen Tyler. Jury's out on which one of us breaks a hip first.

G'night, kids.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Oh, I think I should feel a little bit bad about this

Some poor soul using a public school system computer in Arizona did a web search for "Dian Fossey discoveries and difficulties" and Google directed him/her to my Interview With a Silverback post.* And, while I am very proud of my fake interview with a gorilla (and wish more people read it), I would hope there is not now a child in Tucson writing a report about great apes using a blog post as research. Especially one featuring a fictional talking silverback discussing his virility and gorilla gas with me via satellite phone.

Then again, part of me hopes it happens.

The same part of me that once told a stoned college student who dialed up the American Embassy in Moscow for help with a paper that Karl Marx was the father of the Marx Brothers and John Lennon was the illegitimate child of Vladimir Lenin.

Good times.

*I checked. "Interview With a Silverback" shows up on Page 8 of the Google search. Hilarious. And a little sad. Apologies to the late Dian Fossey. My gorilla is 100% fake.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Archery of My Middle Ages

So begins a series of occasional posts that I originally wrote as radio commentary for the "Metro Connection" show on WAMU, the public radio station here in the DC area. As that gig has gone belly-up for me, I'll be posting the narratives of my unaired commentary pieces here now and then. This first one is about my pleasant obsession with sharp, pointy things.

Well, here goes. I guess you'll just have to imagine the sweet dulcet tones (snerk, cough, cough) of my voice reading this on air...

Some people hit their forties and have the stereotypical mid-life crisis: buy a fast car, have an affair, bungee jump over a gaping crevasse. My own crisis unfolded over the first half of my forties after a series of car accidents, a pile of broken bones, and partial vision loss. I felt defeated, and I needed some inspiration. But fast cars and affairs aren’t my thing, thanks, and I’m way too chicken to bungee jump. So what did I do?

I took up archery.

Other than paying a few bucks to shoot warped wooden arrows at ye olde Renaissance Faire a few years ago, I hadn’t had a bow in my hands since high school gym class in 1984. Back then, we were handed a few splintery arrows, assigned a beaten-up bow, and pointed in the general direction of some equally beaten-up targets... targets placed directly in front of the faculty parking lot. I always assumed our gym teacher had an axe to grind with her fellow educators as we heard the unmistakable sound of projectiles bouncing off hoods and windshields – and occasionally impaling a tire.

Or maybe she was just a sadist. She usually didn’t hand out protective arm guards until after we’d shot a few arrows and half the girls had walloped their arms with bouncing bow strings. As novice archers shrieked in pain, the teacher would casually point out the bucket of crispy leather straps, stained with years of high schooler sweat. And, faced with the choice of bruises or contact with God-only-knows-what on those diseased pieces of cow skin, most opted for the bruises.

When I recently went with a friend to choose a new recurve bow, I told him about the bruised arm phenomenon back in the day. But I realized I rarely ended up with bruises. (I also never winged a teacher’s car.) Instead, I managed to hit the target with surprising regularity. Turned out, I wasn’t half bad at archery. And when you are a clumsy fat kid in high school, if you find you excel at anything in gym class, you hold on to that. For once, I felt like an equal with the nimble girls who moved in ways I never could. I felt strong. I felt confident and self-assured. And that felt pretty cool.

But like so many things, archery got lost in the haze of college. And then, in work. And work. Aaand work. Over the years, I told incredulous friends how much I’d loved archery. But I never seemed to find the time – or place – for it. Then I hit forty and became a magnet for vehicular disaster. As I thanked my lucky stars to still be alive and mostly in one piece, I started to take stock of what I enjoyed most in this life. And that’s how I ended up happily schlepping a weapon through a Montgomery County park this spring.

There’s a public archery range at Lake Needwood Park up in Rockville. It’s located in a quiet meadow - safely across the street from the nearest picnic area – and has a handful of hay bales and stone markers noting distance. You have to bring your own targets to hitch onto the hay, but the ones I’d ordered hadn’t arrived yet for that first day. All I had in hand was a six-inch by six-inch piece of sticky paper from. The small square was marked with a single red triangle encompassed by a single black circle. It was ludicrously small for a beginner (especially one with crappy eyesight), but I figured, what the hell - I was here, and this was, after all, just a first attempt.

I picked a target and slapped the sticky paper on the hay. When I’d limped the forty feet back to my bow, that little red triangle looked ridiculously tiny, and I wondered just what the heck I was doing. But as soon as I had that bow in my hand, it felt right. I nocked my first arrow, took a deep breath, and drew back the bow string. And when I heard that arrow zing straight into that little scrap of paper? Man, it was good. It was kinda Zen, even.

The score at the end of my first day? Well, I managed to step on my arrows once. Somewhere along the way I lost a fletching off one of them. (I have no idea where it ended up.) And on one shot, I actually snapped the bow string behind my protective arm guard. (That shot briefly voided my Zen.) But it didn’t matter. I shot sixty arrows and had to retrieve only two that I managed to embed in the hillside. The rest? They all landed true on that tiny target. Not bad for a chick with 1.5 eyes and a numb leg, eh?

Another archer arrived while I was shooting. Older than me, with a fancy compound bow, he shot at another target and occasionally stopped to watch me. We wrapped up at about the same time, and he came over to me. “Don’t know how long you’ve been shooting,” he said. “But you’ve got talent. I hope I see you out here again.” How ‘bout that? I’ve got talent! And a big bruise.

Now, I know I’m never going to be called up for the Olympics - or defeat the French at Agincourt - but I’m hooked. Best. Mid-life crisis. Ever. I found out there are at least two other archery ranges in Montgomery County waiting for me. So, consider this fair warning, hale bales of Maryland! Beware!! I’m armed, I’m ready, and I’m coming to show you who’s boss!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

No More Radio Days

With the departure of my friend/host/producer @ WAMU, it appears that my time as a public radio commentator is apparently over. I am very grateful for the handful of times that I was able to tell stories on-air. It was fun while it lasted, but like all good things, I suppose it had to come to an end.

I guess now I'll just have to come up with my own podcast, eh?

Several weeks ago, I forwarded a few pieces for broadcast consideration, but never heard back on coming in to record them. So, rather than let them languish and grow stale tucked away in a file, I've decided to share the pieces here. Keep in mind, these were written for radio performance - and a 3 minute, 30 second-ish performance at that. The words are sparse and the rhythm specific. These are words edited down to the bare bones of stories to meet a stopwatch countdown. I just figured you might find it interesting to see what the radio script looks like out here.

I'll reformat the first one tomorrow and post it. It's not snarky, for the most part. It's all about how I'm handling what passes for a midlife crisis in a household that operates paycheck-to-paycheck. No electronic toys. No fast car. No international travel. (Hell, not jack shit, really! Not even a savings account these days.) Just something simple and very much to the point.

More tomorrow...