Saturday, November 22, 2008


Wow, work has really gotten the best of me these last couple weeks! However, just because I haven't posted doesn't mean I haven't witnessed several highly entertaining incidents in the meantime. What I'd really like to talk about is one word:


Function: adjective

not appropriate for a particular occasion or situation
graceless, improper, inapt, incongruous, incorrect, indecorous, inept, infelicitous, unbecoming, unfit, unhappy, unseemly, unsuitable, wrong

Example #1. Last Friday I did what any red-blooded American woman would do with a free afternoon ... I caught the new James Bond movie downtown. Despite the fact that it was 2:30, there were still about 50 people in the theater, including a large group of rather loud teenagers. About half an hour into the film, one of the girls stood up and started yelling "Fuck you!" at the top of her lungs. Obviously she was unhappy with someone in her crowd and didn't care if we all knew it. She yelled it several times, arms outstretched (and rather drunk I believe, judging from the slurring and total indifference to the rest of us) She then settled down, but after about 20 minutes was at it again. I was just ready to go ask someone to remove her when she not-so-politely removed herself ... and as a parting shot, she left us with her favorite two words. Needless to say, her outbursts were distracting, and consequently, I have no idea what Daniel Craig did with the unconscious woman he saved from the boat accident and missed a too brief shirtless scene. I paid $6.00 to see some high-octane British ass-kicking, not some adolescent drama playing out five rows ahead.

Example #2. On my way home from work earlier this week, a car cut off my bus in traffic. Granted, it was annoying, but not completely unheard of. In response, the bus driver sped up and drove angrily next to the car, then stopped right on its bumper and proceed to flash his headlights off and on for the entire length of the red light we were waiting at. In other words, he pretty much had a complete mental break because we lost a Saturn's-length of time on the road. While I usually appreciate an aggressive driver, I was not only scared but embarrassed for him.

Example #3. The other morning I sat right behind a chubby, middle-aged couple on the bus who periodically gave each other cute little kisses. At least, they were cute at first. But they had to kiss each other every time the bus stopped. The kissed when she pulled the cord. They kissed when they stood up to exit. It was as if they needed constant affirmation that they were in love, or constant convincing that it was real. In the span of 30 minutes, I went from "Awwwww..." to "Get a room!" And that's not just the perpetually single woman in me. It was a gut reaction to unnecessary PDA. I don't care if they were 18 or 80, there should be a three-kiss maximum in public places. One kiss says "Yeah, we're together." Two say "We want everyone to know how much we're together." Three say "We've only been together a month and this is still super awesome!" Any more than that and you're trying too hard. Or you know your ex is watching.

I'm not saying that any of these people are terrible human beings, or even that they should be punished in some way (although that girl from the theater should probably be detoxed.) They weren't hurting anybody (although the bus driver was about a blinker flash away from extreme road rage), and they weren't breaking any laws (except the laws of decency, makeout-couple!) The things they were doing weren't horrible ... just inappropriate.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Love at First Bite

Last weekend, I celebrated Halloween. No, I didn’t wander out into the night to create mischief and mayhem (although I did find myself standing in line at the grocery store buying both eggs and toilet paper, oddly enough). I didn’t wait by my front door with a bucket of candy -- the good stuff, not Tootsie Rolls and toothbrushes. I didn’t even dress up as a sexy fill-in-the-blank, since almost any revealing outfit can be justified with devil horns and a little extra eye makeup … case in point, I have a friend who attended a party as a sexy zombie. She said she wanted people’s first reactions to be “Ew, that’s hot.”

I rang in All Hallow’s Eve the old-fashioned way. I watched horror movies. On Friday night I viewed the original “Psycho” with someone my age who had never seen it before. Here’s the kicker: not only had he never seen it, but he also had no idea, not even the faintest whispered rumor, of what was going to happen. It was priceless. Of course, the rest of us watching baited him terribly (no pun intended). Whenever we heard the “mother” voice, we made comments like, “His mom’s a real bitch,” or “Isn’t she terrible to him?”

Halfway through the show, my friend turned to me and said, in all earnestness, “Do you ever get to see the old woman’s face?” And I was like, “Um …. yes …. as a matter of fact, you do!” When the final reveal in the fruit cellar occurred, he simply said, “Whoah!” I asked him if he truly didn’t see any of that coming, and he replied, “Not in a movie this old.” And it’s true. Back then we didn’t have a nightly celebration, courtesy of 15 versions of Law and Order and CSI, of seriously damaged people who commit gruesome crimes and end up being fascinating as well as freakish.

Ah, that Alfred Hitchcock. He knew how to thrill. The two movies I watched on Saturday, however, weren’t as good. Well, they were good in their own special way, much like a car wreck. They were terrible, but you couldn’t look away. One was an unbelievably bizarre 1970 flick starring Sandra Dee and Dean Stockwell that had something to do with a warlock, some weird chants, a Rosemary’s Baby-ish theme, and a crazy monster with tentacles that you were never actually allowed to see.

The other was a 1958 movie called “The Horror of Dracula” starring Christopher Lee. It basically featured Dracula lurking around the neighborhood preying on hapless women who left their windows open at night, while good ol’ Van Helsing tried to catch him sleeping in his coffin during the day. Part of the story line involved a woman who was bitten and converted to vampirism but was later cured and returned to the husband who’d never given up hope that she would recover. He’d even given her a blood transfusion after Drac just about sucked the life out of her neck.

What struck me most about the story wasn’t the idea of true love overcoming all odds. It was the idea that, because of his devotion, that guy had earned himself the ultimate argument-ender. For the rest of their married lives, he had something to hold over her head that was just awesomely unbeatable.

It wasn’t “Remember the time you gained 20 pounds and I stuck around?” or “Remember when your grandmother died and I took three days off work to drive you to the funeral?” or “Hey, remember when I agreed to quit school and move across the country just to be with you?” It wasn’t even “Don’t forget, I gave you a kidney.”

It was “Remember the time you were undead? Yeah. That was me by your side.” I imagine the conversations would go something like this:

“Honey, did you take the trash out?”

“No, but you were a vampire.”

“Well, do you think you could turn off the football game?”

“Do you think you could not have been a vampire?”

“Are you listening to me?”


Not even Hitchcock could come up with a scheme that diabolical.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Would You Like Prejudice With That?

Last weekend, I went out to Benihana to celebrate a friend’s birthday. I was having a great time watching Kenny, our samurai-esque chef for the evening, create a smoking volcano out of onion rings, when another friend leaned over and whispered, “I think the table over there has a problem with us.”

Sure enough, I glanced across the griddle to find five or six middle-aged people glaring not very subtly in our direction. This came as a surprise, since we were neither drunk nor loud nor shouting obscenities. We were eight women with chopsticks sharing some stories and laughs. Oh, and seven of the eight were gay.

I say that as an aside, because it wasn’t the most defining characteristic of the group. Nobody was French kissing, there was no heavily-tattooed, spikey-haired uber lesbian grabbing our waitress’ ass and tearing up an 8x10 of the American family. We were nicely-dressed women in all shapes and sizes. We didn’t even all have short hair. We were all wearing lip gloss for Christ’s sake!

But someone at the other table must have seen the couples sitting a little too close. A look here, a touch there, and suddenly it didn’t matter that we weren’t shouting obscenities. We were the obscenity. And I say “we” because, even though I was the only straight girl at the table, in their eyes I was just as offensive. So they stared, hating me for something I couldn’t control, something they misunderstood. They hated me, essentially, for daring to eat chicken and sing “Happy Birthday” in public.

I’ve often told people that until you have gay friends or family members, you don’t truly understand how crazy it seems that some people can look at them and say, “Because of who they love, they are not as good as you.” As if, in some inexplicable way, who they share their life with negates the fact that they are great people.

But homosexuality didn’t prevent the birthday girl from showing up on my doorstep with her partner three years ago, hours after I was violently mugged, with $150 in cash to tide me over and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide to get the blood out of my clothes. It didn’t stop another friend from vowing to keep a change of clothes next to his bed after he felt he responded too slowly to a 3 am assault outside his window. And it doesn’t stop another friend in his 20's from being the sole caretaker for his ailing grandmother and her sister.

Knowing that strangers were viewing me with disgust when I hadn’t done anything to them was a terrible feeling. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to know that, whenever you go out, there looms the distinct possibility that someone will give you the evil eye just for being yourself. I have to admire the quiet, everyday courage it takes to be different, to live your life without apologizing for your happiness regardless of what the "moral" majority says.

Despite the lack of love from our restaurant neighbors, I did have a great time. My food was great, Kenny made a beating heart out of the fried rice, and our waitress took an awesome Polaroid of our whole group. As I watched it slowly materialize, I thought about how lucky I've been to meet so many intelligent, interesting, resourceful, funny friends since I moved to the Twin Cities.

Afterward, the rest of the girls decided to go out dancing at a gay bar. I declined, mostly because that's not really my scene, but partly because it would have been an ego blow not to get hit on at least once. Being friends with lesbians is a double-edged sword, man. Or, in this case, a double-edged samurai sword.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Exit Strategy

Let me start by saying that I'm all for saving the planet. I may not be out there embracing the nearest knotty pine, but I do my part. I recycle, use eBay and Craigslist like they're going outta style, and take the bus. I like to say I do the latter because I'm environmentally conscious, but really it's because I can't afford to pay for both parking and gas. I also greatly enjoy having the freedom to nod off for an extra half hour on the way to work without causing a 14-car pileup. And now, with the new hybrid buses cruising the metro, I can feel even better about my commute. Nevermind that they're freshly upholstered, smell like new cars, and don't guzzle gas. I love them for their entertainment value.

It's the back doors. If you haven't noticed, the back doors on the hybrid buses require you to push lightly in the middle instead of on the handles. If this tiny detail has escaped you, don't worry. You are not alone.

I have this mental image of the folks at Metro Transit, sitting around a table, trying to figure out the best way to communicate the exit procedure to riders:

"So we'll put two strips of bright yellow tape that run the entire length of the doors, right where you need to push on them."
"We should write some instructions on them."
"How about PUSH HERE TO OPEN?"
"Okay. That should be good. No one could possibly screw that up."
"Well ... maybe we should put little drawings of hands on there, too, so riders know exactly which appendage to use and where to place it."


I watched three people in a row try to exit the back doors yesterday, and each of them did the same thing: wait for the green light, grab both handles, push two times, look back at the green light, rattle the handles, look angrily at the driver, yell "Back door!" and finally give an exasperated but proper shove that sent them spilling out into the street. The week before, I watched a girl struggle, give up, and then run to exit through the front.

It doesn't seem that complicated, really. I mean, it's not rocket science, people. It's not even "Speed." It's just reading.

Now, I have been known to push on a pull door or pull on a push door, but I try not to do it when there's a fluorescent sign two feet from my face with very clear instructions to the contrary. And I'm not picking on any ESL learners. But even when I lived in Japan, I watched how people got off a train or onto a streetcar or bought a movie ticket or accomplished other necessary daily activities. There weren't diagrams ... there weren't even letters! I couldn't read a lick, but I paid attention.

Maybe that's why I can't help noticing all the botched attempts to flee our lovely mass transit vehicles. Old habits of observation die hard.
And so, apparently, do exit strategies.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Take It Easy

I have to begin by apologizing, because it's been almost a month since my last post. But I have gotten to do several interesting things in the last few weeks, one of which was attending the Eagles concert at the Target Center last Tuesday. I think it says something about their lasting popularity when a 30-year-old woman goes to see them with her parents, and they all know every word to every song. It was a great show, but three things troubled me about the whole experience:

1. Our seats. I realize these guys don't tour much anymore, but I think it's a little ridiculous that the best seats I could get for $57 apiece (roughly $6500 after Ticketmaster fees) were at the VERY top of the upper section. I mean the last row. Seriously, they should have put a disclaimer on the ticket warning us to bring oxygen. And I was a bit annoyed that the sherpa cost us an extra $10, although he was a pretty nice guy.

2. Idiotic videographers. (Say that shit five times fast!) The man sitting next to my dad arrived half an hour late and then proceeded to videotape the entire concert. Didn't care that it wasn't allowed, just sat there pointing his camera right out in the open. What I really didn't understand, though, was why he felt the need to sing along, extremely off-key, during every song. Which means that the microphone probably only picked up his pathetic yowling, drowning out the iconic professionals upon replay. I don't know whether this was a twisted version of karaoke, unchecked musical zeal, or simply stupidity, but if I were a bettin' woman, my money would be on stupidity.

3. My oldness. The group took the stage at 7:45 and played until 8:40, then took a break, came back at 9:00, and played until 10:45. Three hours. If you aren't familiar with the Eagles' work, the basic song structure goes like this: catchy opening, first verse, chorus, guitar solo, guitar solo, guitar solo, second verse, etc. I definitely feel I got my money's worth, and granted, Hotel California is totally kickass live. But around 10:00 I found myself wanting to yell, "We get it! You're good at playing guitar!" and then around 10:30, "Wrap it up! Some of us have to work in the morning!" My parents, on the other hand, were still rockin' out, and Don Henley was belting out tunes while playing a mean drum set.

Of course, none of this compared to the priceless moment when, just before the start of Kathy Griffin's show, two men embraced each other and kissed right in front of my dad. He simply turned and said under his breath, "That's the first time I've ever seen that in person." Talk about taking it easy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Phoning Home

This last weekend, I turned 30. It was neither as traumatic nor as monumental as one would expect, but I figured this milestone was the perfect opportunity to finally grow up and face my fears. So I took advantage of the 80s-themed bash my friends threw me and wore something I have previously never dared ... a leather mini-skirt? No. A scandalously low-cut top? No. (What would be the point?) Nothing but legwarmers and a smile? Wrong again. I donned a t-shirt with a picture of E.T. on the front.

Yes, E.T., the lovable extraterrestrial of Steven Spielberg fame and the creature who has haunted me since my cousin David took me to see the movie when I was 3. You would think that, 27 years later, my biggest horror would be the fact that I'm single and childless, but no. I'm most afraid of a small, sweet, enormously popular, Christ-like space traveler who does not even exist.

After that first viewing, E.T. 's image stuck with me. And on me, as my grandma bought me an E.T. shirt that I had to pretend to like while being secretly terrified to look in a mirror. In second grade, our teacher chose it as our Christmas movie, and I had nightmares for weeks. I haven't seen the movie since. At one point a few years ago, I thought I might someday give it another chance. That was, until I was sitting in my house in Japan, ready to watch a rented movie, when a preview came on for the 20th
anniversary release. Realizing what I was about to see, but unable to find the stop button on the remote in the dark, I resorted to panicking and yelling wildly while groping for the light switch, my eyes pinched shut.

"But Courtney," you say, "you're a grown-ass woman. Surely you can overcome such an irrational fear."

To which I would reply, "Duh, that's why it's called irrational."

Everyone, whether they're willing to admit it or not, is afraid of something that can't be conquered by reason. My dad, for example, is scared to death of snakes. No traumatic experience, just can't bear to see them, even on TV. My sister's biggest irrational fear is being buried alive. By contrast, her biggest rational fear is being wrongfully imprisoned -- still highly unlikely, but it has been known to happen. (As a side note, she's also afraid of squirrels and claymation, which you'd think was super weird unless you had other friends who feared being lost in space and the "foreverness
" of heaven.)

And you know what's crazy? At least one other person reading this just identified with something in that last paragraph. I know for a fact that I'm not alone in my xenophobia. But the thing is, it's not even a fear of aliens. I don't really have an opinion on the existence of other intelligent life forms except to say who knows? It seems rather odd that hundreds of people would have the same hallucination of being abducted and probed, but then again the abundance of peyote in the desert may have something to do with that. All I know is, should a beam of bright light slice down from the stars, I will be doing 120mph in the opposite direction. I saw "Fire in the Sky." I'm no fool.

E.T. makes my skin crawl for many reasons. The telescoping neck is one. The crazy gravelly voice is two. The fact that he was lying in the living room all white and ashy is three through twenty-five. All the Reese's Pieces in the world can't make up for the scene where Elliot stumbles across him in the field and he screams. And don't even get me started on the glowing finger. But what really gets me is the part where the kid throws a baseball into the barn ... and something throws it back.

Deep down, it's that primeval fear of the unknown that keeps me awake at night. The idea that someone or something with malicious intent is lurking just around the corner. Or in the shadows. Or in the closet, surrounded by all my stuffed animals.

Which is why I was so proud of myself for taking a very small but important step away from eternal lameness and wearing that t-shirt to the party. Of course, it wasn't an actual photograph of E.T., just a cartoon rendering that was, I admit, almost kind of cute. Although the significance was lost on most, I'm satisfied knowing I tried. But wouldn't it be great if everyone made the same effort to face their darkest, most embarrassing fears?

I wonder if there's an iron-on transfer of the foreverness of heaven.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dylan, What Did You Do?

Let me start by saying that I do not intend every post on this blog to contain the F-word. However, because it is one of the most prevalent epithets that I see and hear on the city bus every day, and because that is where I find much of my general amusement, I can't help but include it.

You may have noticed that I started a list of random graffiti I've seen around town. I have to include another one that made me laugh ... then pause and think. It was scrawled in black marker across the back of a bench at a bus shelter, and it read simply "Fuck you Dylan." (It also included his last name, which I won't mention here.) Which begs the question: Dylan, what did you DO?!

Because I'm doubting that a minor transgression would warrant such a bold, public denunciation along the #4 and #141 bus route. I mean, you can't miss it. And it's not even close to anonymous. It is, essentially, the opposite of a declaration of love carved into a tree or painted on a water tower. It says very clearly, not "I heart you," but "You SUCK, and I want everyone to know it!"

This also begs the question: Why the bus bench? Did she just want maximum exposure without the cost of renting a billboard? Did he once pull the stop cord, break up with her, and bail out onto Johnson Street? Or does she know that he rides this bus and deserves a daily reminder of the fact that he is a miserable human being? In that case, have I sat next to him and failed to notice his slight wince as we pass it?

I'm assuming, of course, that the author is a jilted lover and that it is, in fact, a woman. This is normally a dangerous assumption in the heart of the Twin Cities, but I'm fairly certain that a man, even a gay one, would rather settle the matter with fists or silent fuming than be caught defacing public property with a Sharpie at 3 a.m.

Although I don't condone vandalism, I would like to hear Dylan's take on the whole issue. So I ride, and watch, and wait to see either an explanation or an apology tacked on below. With any luck, that bench may just become the foulest, most original message board ever created.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Balcony Scene

Many of you probably watched Michael Phelps make history last week. But little did you know that a certain friend of yours was also capable of a feat that, while not exactly historic, was also ridiculous and required enormous talent. That friend? Me. That talent? Stupidity.

Last Sunday afternoon, after working out on my treadmill, I decided to sit on my balcony and read for awhile. After all, I figured, if I had to power through another chapter on web design, I might as well get a little sun in the process. I grabbed my textbook and stepped outside, but just as I went to slide the door shut (air conditioning is expensive you know), an enormous spider jumped out by the handle. I jerked back, and in the process slammed the door harder than I intended. That's when I heard it. The indoor security bar fell shut behind me.

I can't quite explain how ominous that "click" was, but I knew at that moment that my day would be sharply divided between before-click and after-click. So let's begin the ordeal at 4:00 a.c. There I was, stranded two floors up, with about an inch of glass separating me from my lovely, cool apartment. The first thought that went through my mind was, "That didn't just happen." Actually, no. The first thought that went through my mind and came out my mouth was a four-letter word that started with F and ended with K, and if you're still confused it rhymes with "Fuck."

After scaring away the spider and tugging at the door like a maniac, I tried to calm down. Slowly, disbelief turned to despair. I spent the next 20 minutes standing forlorn at my railing, scanning the neighborhood for passersby. Unfortunately, all I saw was a happy-looking squirrel frolicking in the grass and, I think, taunting me a little. "Oooh! Look at me! I have a home in that tree and can come and go as I please!" At 4:30 a.c. I decided that if I didn't see anyone by 6:00, I would have to resort to shouting "HELP!" randomly into the evening air. Of course this conjured horrible images of a gathering (and snickering) crowd and possibly a fire truck, at which point I would be forced to crawl into a hole and die.

Did I mention that I was wearing only skin-tight biker shorts and a tiny tank top? You thought the treadmill reference was a set-up for physical injury, but nay. It was merely to justify my skimpy outfit and thus my increased embarrassment.

I was just leaning over the railing to decide whether I could dangle off it to the ground below without slipping and crushing either my neighbor's flower bed or my pelvis ... when I noticed two little feet propped on a patio chair. I hung my head as far over as I could and said, "Excuse me! Hi!" My neighbor, an elderly woman whom I now know as Irene, couldn't see me and therefore thought the Lord had chosen to strike up a conversation while she read the daily paper. Until I said, "I'm on the balcony above you and I'm stuck! I accidentally locked myself out."

To which she replied, and I quote, "Well, what do you want me to do about it?" I asked her very politely, if it wasn't too much trouble, could she possibly pick up her telephone and dial the apartment complex emergency maintenance number? She could.

I wished many things during the next hour, as I was forced inch by inch into the remaining shady corner of my balcony. I wished I had brought my water bottle with me. I wished I had thrown on a t-shirt b.c. I wished I owned a little monkey who could somehow understand my frantic gestures and flip up the security bar. And I wished I knew whether that spider had intentionally lured me outside to confuse and dehydrate me before rallying his buddies to strike.

Just after 5:00 a.c., the next best thing to a knight in shining armor or, rather, the Romeo to my sweaty, desperate Juliet, drove up in an enormous truck -- Josh, the on-site maintenance guy. I then had to tell him that I had forgotten to remove the bar I jam beneath my front door every night, and I didn't know how he was going to get inside even with a key. After he vowed to return with more tools, I began to formulate a last-ditch contingency plan of borrowing a wrench and smashing my patio door. While I cringed at the thought of paying for a replacement, I was secretly curious about how it would feel to shatter it.

But then ... half an hour later ... Josh magically appeared on the other side of the glass. He'd had to unscrew my chain lock and bend the bar, but he finally rescued me (with minimal damage to the apartment). I never thought I'd be so happy to see a strange man in my living room! Ironically, he was the guy who had installed the patio security bar about four months earlier. When I pointed this out, he replied, "Well, at least we know it works." And it did. REALLY well.

So I was left with my few remaining scraps of dignity to reflect on the afternoon. It could have been worse, really. There could have been more spiders. I could have had to use the bathroom. It could have been nighttime. I could have been naked. And sure, I felt foolish, but at least I didn't make the 11 o'clock news.