The Canadian Club











{November 16, 2009}   omg did u hear what he just said

stupidpeople

Russ, I know you’ve got your thing about David Sedaris, but that’s just too bad.  I am not ashamed to say that I love this passage from his story, “See You Again Yesterday.”

Potential boyfriends could not smoke Merit cigarettes, own or wear a pair of cowboy boots, or eat anything labeled either ‘lite’ or ‘heart smart.’ Speech was important, and disqualifying phrases included ‘I can’t find my nipple ring’ and ‘This one here was my first tattoo.’ All street names had to be said in full, meaning no ‘Fifty-ninth and Lex’ and definetly no ‘Mad Ave.’ They couldn’t drink more than I did, couldn’t write poetry in notebooks and read it out loud to an audience of strangers, and couldn’t use the words flick, freebie, cyberspace, progressive, or zeitgeist. They could not consider the human scalp an appropriate palette for self-expression, could not own a rainbow-striped flag, and could not say they had ‘discovered’ any shop or restaurant currently listed in the phone book. Age, race, and weight were unimportant. In terms of mutual interests, I figured we could spend the rest of our lives discussing how much we hated the aforementioned characteristics.

So you know how some words or phrases are either self-negating (e.g., “classy” or “no offense“) or self-betraying — in the sense that no one ever wears a shirt printed with a complaint about “stupid people” who is not, him- or herself, a stupid person?  Obviously, there are millions of little cues that give us insight into whether someone is OK or Not OK.  Cues that, we hope, evolve from the incredibly silly ones we looked for when we were younger (“OMG, he’s wearing Skechers!  Ew!”) into somewhat more important and telling ones (“OMG, he yelled at the waitress/drives a giant SUV/voted for Nader in 2000“).  We’re tuned into this stuff because, at least according to the genius ev-psych people, we had to learn to categorize people into Us and Them way back in the caveman days, or we’d get, like, speared, or whatever.

clanofthecavebear

Of course, some of those traits that we find intolerable boil down to aesthetics (like my ongoing appreciation for David Sedaris, whom you scorn).  Those are the ones that are ultimately forgivable, or even potentially lovable (think of the plot of every single screwball comedy).  Others, though, like the waitress example above, seem to point to actual defects of character and are thus “dealbreakers.”  And yeah, yeah, I recognize that using the word “dealbreaker” probably falls into the “dealbreaker” category.  (I’m, like, so whatever — you could do so much better.)

What I get hung up on, though, to the point of maniacal obsession — and I know you do, too, Russ, since it’s kind of the whole focus of our blog, and, let’s face it, our friendship — are the cues that fall into an ambiguous area, where the line between aesthetic and moral failings start to blur.  You know what I mean.  Excessive discussions of physical fitness, lingerie as Halloween costumes, over-use of “Any-vow-bag” cliches.  I’m sort of ashamed to admit that I love this aspect of Facebook, which is at its core just one big middle school cafeteria.  It’s so hard to resist the invitation to judge other people’s priorities, hobbies, taste and grammar (glass houses, pots and kettles, I get it).  And even as I’m scrutinizing, I know that I’m being scrutinized, and that I’m probably just about as lovely and fascinating now as I was in eighth grade.  As Russ’s Mom once said, “Nobody is his or her best self on Facebook.”  So you and I, Russ, with our fancy social networking and our blogging and all — are we, like, students of the human condition?  Or are we just middle-school brats?  Simply by virtue of our willing participation in the culture of oversharing, are we putting on the “stupid people” T-shirt?



{October 31, 2009}   I’m too sexy for this holiday

sexy_pirate_hat

You know, Dave, I’m glad you asked.  In fact, I have been brimming with impotent rage — to quote a coinage — since about a week or two ago, when I realized that there would be this holiday at the end of the month.  Fortunately, I have found some succor in this brilliant series of articles in my old, beloved and much missed Washington City Paper.  It sort of gets straight to the heart of the matter. And I have been meaning to treat at length my displeasure here on our blog, and yet kept running up against the wall of other people‘s expectations.  As if!  Can’t I just keep the stipend and you wake me up in six years and tell me if I’ve won anything?

In any case, I think the worst of it came it last Sunday when I read this Op-Ed piece in the Times.  At first, I was surprised to see Peter Mayle alive.  I guess it must be that wonderful French red wine, fermented on the time-worn clichés of French villagers and their shocked bewilderment at AngloSaxon customs.  I would have to guess that the startling success of his Year in Provence series has likely shaped an entire generation or two of gatekeepers.  But honestly, did we need one more frackin’ article about how Halloween is catching on in continental Europe?  Can we stop congratulating ourselves on the continuing victories of the British Empire?  Does the New York Times have to open its pages to every writer coming out with a book? (Fortunately, the answer to that, is no, it doesn’t.)

OK.  The coffee only begins to kick in around mid-way through my second rant.  I’ll try to focus, forthwith.

In answer to your question, it should be pretty clear that any adult celebration of Halloween is taking the joke too far.  The only time it isn’t is when the adults in question invite me to their party.  Then, they are granted a momentary reprieve.  But the first time someone walks in the door wearing lingerie as a costume, count me out.

The Meaning of Lila

You grew up in the Valley, so you might have had an entirely different experience — but I don’t recall the fact of life whereby being an adult meant making up occasions to strip down to one’s underwear until our college years.  In addition to the misnomered Pimps and Hos parties (I hear they were giving that shit-my-pants away!) and the uniquely well thought-out stagings of poorly thought-out plays, there were the Halloween parties that became increasingly indistinguishable from the aforementioned Pimps and Hos parties.  Given this context, then, it is difficult for me to tell whether Halloween began to take on its current lupanaresque dimension in the early 90s, or whether my parents had just shielded me from it during my delicate childhood and adolescent years.  (Thanks, Mom!)

Speaking of these latter, I think it should be noted that perhaps my current distaste for the holiday also stems from the extent to which I thought it was rad during a couple of years of high school.  Believe me, had you been there, you would also want to distance yourself from that phase of life.  Now, however, listening over and over to Samhain (with a little Coven thrown in — remember how you hated that album?) via the Youtube for about the last twelve hours, I am beginning to feel quite tenderly toward that period of credence in the coolness of wearing black leather, kohl eyeliner, and chicken blood.  Perhaps, also, the inability to take that aesthetic fully seriously combined with the distaste it elicited in me for skimpy, bunny-eared costumes, protected me throughout college from succumbing to any unfortunate entanglements with the ladies.

Now, I envy your being able to approach this holiday from a parent’s perspective, as it seems that the holiday shoud cater to the 4 to 13-year-old crowd almost exclusively.  After that, really, what else is it but glorified paganism?  Still, you are faced with this problem, expressed so succinctly over the past week by Luann, of what to hand out to trick-or-treaters in this era of health-counscious paranoia.

Luann

Can candy still be a viable way to treat kids?  I have to ask that question or else I’ll end up wearing down my enamel by crunching tubes of Spree.  So, what’ll it be, Dave?  Are you handing out old children’s books?

Now, as you have noted, given that I have actually been invited someplace for the first time in about seven years, I am obliged to do some costume thing.  Unfortunately, when I moved, I left behind the disparate elements of the home-made glam rocker costume that won me 25 bucks when I was waiting tables.  And I still hold as a firm principle that never should one be forced to shell out more than ten bucks for a costume.  Which leaves me with few options at this late date.  I have alternatively passed through my mind taping balloons and fake vomit in strategic places and going as “sexy balloon boy”; also just getting blue greasepaint (We all know how much I love face-painting!) and going as Grouchy Smurf — but then I worry that I might be confused with Vishnu, which would be blasphemous.  So, digging through my possessions that could turn an OK costume, I have found a green salwar kameez and a pasthun hat.  Understanding fully that this is not a costume, I thought of taking along the acoustic guitar that SMP recuperated from my childhood home and calling myself Cat Stevens/Yusuf.  So:  Thumbs Up?  Thumbs Down?  Whaddya say?

My only other thought, in keeping with the true spirit of the holiday goes something like this:



et cetera