Friday, December 12, 2014

Minority Retort

I just read an article about the 2003 film "The Last Samurai," and I was reminded of a story one of my good friends told me.

If you're unfamiliar with the plot of this movie, Tom Cruise plays an American military officer who is training Japanese soldiers in the 1870s and eventually embraces the samurai culture. It's basically Dances With Wolves, but with katanas instead of tatonkas. 

Anyhoo, my friend went to this movie in the theatre. During the first scene in which our hero dons traditional samurai garb, there was a startled outburst from several rows back. 

"What the -- I didn't know Tom Cruise was Chinese!"

Friday, December 5, 2014

Secret Service With a Smile

I went to see a play the other night at a local theatre. My friend and I arrived quite early, and there were very few people around. So when one of the ushers offered to take us to our seat level in the elevator, we agreed.

It was just the three of us on the way down, and we started joking that it felt like such special treatment, as if the usher were escorting us to safety. When I remarked that he even had an earpiece like a secret service agent, he joined in the game mock-seriously.

ME: "Do I have a code name?"

HIM: (totally straight-faced)  "I'm not allowed to reveal that information."

ME: "Why not?"

HIM: "It's a liability issue.  In case I have to take extreme measures for your protection."

ME:  "Ah. Plausible deniability."

HIM: "Exactly."

When the elevator reached the main floor, he insisted on going out first to check the hallway, then led us to our seats.  I, however, decided that a pre-show trip to the restroom might be advisable. As I re-entered the theatre, my bodyguard happened to be standing outside the door.

"It's all clear," he whispered conspiratorially. 

After an excellent show, my friend and I lounged quite awhile at the theatre bar . . . long enough that a couple staff members joined us. One of them was the secret service usher.

HIM: "I see you made it out safely."

ME: "Yes, thanks for your excellent protection."

There was a long silence, during which we all sipped our drinks.  Then he added, "Your code name was Hootenanny, by the way."

I laughed so hard I almost spit out my wine.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Aging Like a Fine Whine

I was unintentionally rude the other day. I was standing in the liquor store, pondering which bottle of wine to buy, when I suddenly became aware that someone was speaking to me. I looked up to see a woman standing at a small table, evidently handing out samples of some promotional cocktail. And evidently, she had said the same thing to me several times:

"I see you don't yet have a drink in your hand, young lady."

It wasn't that I didn't want to sample the signature cocktail. It was just that hearing the words "young lady" automatically made me assume she couldn't possibly be talking to me.

You see, I have officially accepted that I'm well out of "young lady" range and deep into "ma'am" territory. It's not ideal, but it's certainly a vast improvement on "sir," which I was called at the grocery store immediately following the liquor store incident.

The woman brandishing booze was likely using the phrase to sweeten her pitch. However, I will take even insincere flattery with the same delight as when I get carded. Any time a server asks to see my ID, I simply think, "You're adorable."

Or perhaps she was being super ironic, like calling a fat guy "Slim," or a tall guy "Shorty," or a woman on the wrong side of 30 "young lady." I don't know! I didn't detect any sarcasm, just the faint whiff of alcohol and ginger ale.

I turned her down as politely as I could, and then made my wine selection. The guy working the register was not fooled. I didn't even get carded.

Friday, November 14, 2014

That's Nuts

I have a friend whose child is attending daycare for the first time. Since he's nearly three and this is all new, he's understandably had a little trouble adjusting to the change. After a particularly rough day that required an early pick-up, I asked my friend what his son had done that caused the daycare to text him in a panic.

DAD:  "He was just crying a lot."

ME:  "But kids cry sometimes. Your daycare provider can't handle that?"

DAD:  "Apparently not. She said she's never seen a child do that before. But I think, since you work with kids all day, surely you can imagine a child doing that. It's conceivable."

And then he gave the greatest, most bizarre example ever.

DAD:  "I mean, it's a kid crying.  It's not like you saw a squirrel pick up a tire."


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tricks are for Kids

I'm going to go out on a limb here, since I'm not a mom, and say this: Kids can be assholes. I think many of my friends with children would agree with this statement in general, and some of the best parents will even apply it to their own offspring.

But I'm thinking of a specific case that happened a couple weeks ago. I showed up at my local grocery store, ready to restock my oft-bare kitchen cupboards. As I wheeled my cart through the produce section, I noticed a woman and her daughter, maybe four or five years old, strolling ahead of me.

Let me be clear on this. At no point did I antagonize this kid. I didn't make eye contact or wave at her or smile or mouth a greeting of any kind. I certainly didn't make a face.

However, for some reason, this kid decided to act super scared of me. I say "act," because when her mother wasn't looking, she was fine. But as soon as her mother turned in her direction, this girl looked in my direction and cowered behind the cart.

You know how you cross paths with the same people over and over again when you're shopping? Unfortunately, that was the case here.

It was quite the performance, so I don't blame the mother for starting to cast wary, confused, and/or pissed off glances at me. I didn't know what to do. Protesting might make me look even guiltier, as would suddenly veering off into a different aisle.

And what reason would she have to doubt her daughter? I'm a potentially harmful stranger who might be doing all manner of things behind her back, and such an angel would never lie. Except that kids do lie. All the time. Because they're assholes.

So there I was. A creepy, childless woman trailing well behind a mischievous little thespian. She might have been having a blast, but she was making me look like a real weirdo. I desperately wanted to draw my index finger slowly across my neck while giving that kid crazy eyes the next time she shot a trembling lip at me.

But I didn't. Because I left my apartment to get food, not arrested.

These are the kinds of moral victories you sometimes have to sacrifice when you're dealing with assholes of any age.  You win this time, little girl. This time.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Attack of the Killer Vac

The woman who lives next door to me likes to keep a clean apartment. A very clean apartment. I know this because she vacuums every day for at least an hour, usually between 11:00 and noon. This seems just a bit excessive, even though she does have a potentially messy little tornado of a two-year-old (and possibly some OCD?) But it never really bothered me  . . . until she got a different vacuum cleaner.

This new machine does not emit a low, white-noise-like drone. It sounds, for lack of a better comparison, like a swarm of very angry bees. And it's SO LOUD. You can hear it throughout the entire building, including from the parking lot. It's the kind of high-pitched, whiny tone that worms its way so deeply into your brain that you can't remember a time when you weren't hearing it.

I should probably mention that I'm not good with repetitive noises. There would be no surer way to drive me insane than making a recurring annoying sound, especially one that I couldn't identify. There you go, future torturers. I handed you that one on a silver platter.

For example, not long ago I was enjoying a lovely afternoon when an animal (I'm assuming a bird) started screeching outside. It was piercing and unrelenting, and paced at regular intervals.

SCREEEECH!  Roughly a minute would pass.  SCREEEECH!  Another minute.  SCREEEECH! This went on for hours.  Hours.

It got to the point where I considered going out to track it down. But what would I do if I found it? If it was injured, I couldn't nurse it back to health. Alternatively, I couldn't bring myself to put a hand over its beak and choke it out while whispering, "Shhhhhh . . .  shhhhh!"

I decided that soft-hearted people with no restorative skills should probably let nature take its course, and I resigned myself to hoping that something would just eat it. Or have sex with it. Maybe it was calling for a mate. In any case, I could offer no relief.

Eventually, the screeching stopped, as the vacuuming does -- as most noises do. Except my other neighbor's overly abundant cacophony of wind chimes. [shakes fist] Wind chimes!!! Soothing in a mild breeze, absolutely maddening in a winter storm. They should be sold with a warning label: May cause pleasant drowsiness or fits of rage, depending on weather. I like the sound of that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Oh, Snapshot!

So apparently it's senior picture time. On every recent visit to the riverfront on a semi-clear day, I've been surrounded by youngsters in their hippest threads looking for the perfect light.

I don't blame them. It's a beautiful location and an even more beautiful season to capture what will likely be the best their thighs will ever look. 

The equally young, hip, freelance photographers trailing behind them are a far cry from the stuffy, traditional studio I visited back in the day for my pics. I brought with me three outfits and an extra pair of glasses, minus the lenses, so I wouldn't have to dip my head forward. That flash glare was a real problem. Every previous school picture made me look like I either had a severe neck injury or was silently plotting someone's death.  

The only drawback of this empty frame workaround was that I'm pretty much helpless without my prescription. So the photo shoot went like this:

Photographer: "Ok, now stand next to the window."
Me: (squinting) "There's a window?"

It turned out fine, my somewhat bewildered poses on cheesy sets. There was a window.  There was also a ladder and a chair where I sat with my guitar. That last one cements my nerdiness, but honestly (and inexplicably) was the most popular selection among my classmates.

I know my parents were happy with them, unlike the mom I observed from a riverside park bench a couple weeks ago. To get that special angle, she goaded her daughter into wedging herself in the crook of a rather tall tree. The girl awkwardly got a leg up but couldn't quite make it the rest of the way. As she begged for help getting down, her mother apologized ... to the photographer. 

"I'm really sorry about this. She can't do it. If it was my other daughter, it would be no problem."

EXCUSE me, madam. She just gamely attempted to climb a tree for you without complaint. Do not publicly shame her for not having the agility of a spider monkey, while implying that you love her sister more. 

These are things I should say out loud sometimes. Picture that. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bros Before "Boo!"s

Sometimes I think I'm at a distinct disadvantage because I didn't grow up with a brother.

If you haven't noticed, dudes really like to mess with people. And I find that I'm ill-equipped to deal with their teasing and hijinks, simply because I haven't had a chance to develop a thick skin against these good-natured deceptions.  

Case in point:  Recently I returned home with a friend after lunch and a movie.  My apartment door is set to lock automatically behind me, which is awesome when rushing to the bus in the morning but more troublesome if I dare to step outside without keys.  (Once I literally whirled around and karate-kicked the door open at the last minute while signing a pizza delivery receipt, but that's another story).

On this particular day, I discovered that the deadbolt-only mechanism had somehow been disengaged, and my apartment had been easily accessible the whole time I'd been gone.  I remarked worriedly on this subject and stayed behind to fiddle with the lock while my friend stepped inside ahead of me.  It was at this point that he decided to say loudly, "Oh! . . . Hello."    As if he'd encountered someone lurking in my apartment.

Just to reiterate, he thought it would be hilarious to pretend to greet the person who'd broken into my home while I was out.  Me.  The woman who lives alone and frequently checks all her closets before bedtime because, hey, I don't have the only key out there.  Me.  Who accidentally locks herself out on her balcony because a security bar will prevent pervy Spider-Men from scaling the wall to the second floor.  Me.  Who automatically jumps to the worst-case scenario every time.

If your stomach has never plummeted directly into your feet, I can't quite describe the sensation. But after hearing those words, for a split second everything stopped.  I was already in fight or flight mode, and he was smirking at me from the living room.  When I finally breathed, words came with the exhale: "I'm going to kill you."

Of course he laughed, and I laughed (eventually).  I'd made the same threat only a few months before, after we'd seen a horror movie. I'd confessed that the scariest part was when something mysterious had yanked on a girl's leg in the dark.  As a preemptive measure, I quickly followed this admission with, "If you sneak into my bedroom tonight and pull on my leg, I will kill you."

There was a long silence while he considered feigning innocence. He then shouted, disappointedly, "But that's what brothers DO!"

Yes, I am learning this, sir.  I am learning.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hi, My Name Is

A couple weeks ago, I boarded a bus home from work, as I am wont to do.  It was crowded, and I ended up crammed into the very back. Across from me sat a guy in his mid-20s who had just returned from a year serving in Afghanistan and was severely disappointed in everyone who dared look at a smart phone during this ride.  If you're wondering how I could possibly know that much personal information about a stranger, it's because he told me.

Sipping what I can only assume was liquor from an obscured can, he started his tirade with a Malcolm X-like "Look at yourselves!" before going on a loud public shaming spree.  We shouldn't be on our phones!  We should be having conversations!  This isn't what society's about!  We gotta have community! We gotta talk to each other!  We gotta make connections!

Ironically, his outbursts prompted me to do exactly what he was railing against.  I averted my eyes and tried to disappear.  Nobody engage him, please nobody engage him . . . . nope.  Idiot next to me chimed in with an argument that people used to read newspapers on public transit, and how was that any different?

"Come on, man!  We ain't talkin' bout newspapers.  You know that's just propaganda!"

I had to admire his conviction.  He was like an overly aggressive, anti-establishment motivational speaker who was dropping knowledge on us.

"You should talk to people!  Say hello!"  He then started gesturing at random people sitting around him.  "See this guy?  Introduce yourself!  Maybe he knows something you don't!  Maybe that lady over there marched during Civil Rights!  Maybe that dude's been through something that you don't understand!  Like this lady over here . . ."

And he pointed squarely in my direction.

"She might be a fuckin' . . . nuclear . . . geophysicist!  You don't fuckin' know!"

I was torn.  On one hand, I'd been singled out, and I hate attention.  But on the other hand, he thought I looked smart enough to be a nuclear geophysicist.  So . . . I called it a wash and simply smiled back.  Hey, man.  Let's find some answers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fight It!

I found this on the back of an envelope at my parents' house recently.

I don't have a good chronological reference for this piece of ... let's call it "art." Whatever my grandfather's malady, it appears that I wanted to send him my best wishes, along with some very wise advice that I felt the need to repeat three times.

I also drew an example (or maybe a continuum) of wellness and what seems to be a mountain range with people falling into chasms. I have no explanation for this illustration, but I welcome any and all suggestions for what it might be. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fair Play

Oh!  Hello there.  Fancy meeting you here.  I can't believe you're even on this site, especially after I abandoned you without so much as a fond farewell.  My apologies.  Well, it's good to have you back, and it's good to be back.  I'll do my best to make sure returning was worth your while.

We begin with a story inspired by the recent conclusion of the State Fair (if you're a close friend, there's a strong chance you've heard this one . . . nearly two years of archived information will naturally result in some recycled tales).

I've now lived here for 11 years, and I've been to the Great Minnesota Get Together five times. The first was a very quick trip with my first roommate, who basically bought me cheese curds and then took me home.

The second was the day after I'd moved into my first solo apartment, when I severely underestimated how sore I'd be from hauling boxes up and down four flights of stairs. I spent the day wishing I could curl up in a fetal position in the Miracle of Birth barn. Who would notice? The 4-H kids. They'd rat me out, those savvy rural bastards.

The third time was so packed and hot that I didn't last more than a couple of hours. My friend and I, soaked in sweat and absolutely fried, toasted with 1919 root beer: "To a great State Fair.  (glug) Now let's get the fuck out of here!" 

By the fourth time, I'd learned some important lessons. I was rested. I was ready. I was wearing proper shoes and plenty of deodorant.  This was the year I discovered, to my surprise, that the Fair was actually bearable -- nay, magical -- on a weekday in the evening.  It was still quite hot, but the crowds bore less resemblance to an impenetrable, red rover-esque wall of death.  

Maybe it was the extra personal space, or the calming night air, or the fact that I'd been strolling about with a delicious beer, but apparently I felt that life was good enough to risk on the midway.

I know what you're thinking. "Cotonee, why on earth would you voluntarily board a contraption that was cobbled together by carnies just days before?" And to that I say, I didn't just volunteer.  I PAID to do it.

I'm blaming it on the lights.  They were so colorful and delightful.  I'd just been whisked across the lovely, glowing fairgrounds by the Sky Ride cable car, and I was still in one piece.  So when my friend said "roller coaster," I thought it was a brilliant suggestion.

The ride we chose sat four people to a car.  When it was our turn to board, there were two kids, a boy and a girl, roughly 10 years old, already seated.  My friend slid in first and was promptly shouted at by the ride operator until we switched places. (Evidently strange men aren't allowed to sit next to children, but strange women are just dandy.)

Crammed into the tiny car, we took off.  It wasn't particularly fast or high, or even alarmingly rickety. The kids were in good spirits, and I was having a great time. What I didn't realize, however, was that the coaster cars swiveled.  So when we hit the first big turn in the track, we whipped around, hard, about 180 degrees.

At that moment, in my terror, I forgot that I was supposed to be the adult in the situation.  I yelled, at the top of my lungs and with total conviction, "Ahhhhhhhh . . . we're gonna die!"

That's right.  Instead of calmly reassuring the kids next to me that everything was going to be fine, I not only confirmed their mortality but announced their imminent demise.

Everything was NOT going to be fine.  Their giggling and chattering quickly turned into high-pitched screams that didn't stop until the ride did. And even then, as we rattled to a standstill, their expressions told me that this park was no longer amusing -- the experience had been both a literal and figurative eye-opener.

So that's how I unintentionally traumatized two innocent children during what still remains my best State Fair experience to date.  Suck it, seed art.  I'm out there changing lives.