Total Perspective Vortex
What really happened to Trillian? Theories abound, but you can see what she's really been up to on this blog. If you're looking for white mice, depressed robots, or the occasional Pan Galactic Gargleblaster you might be better served here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/.
Words are cool.
The English language is complex, stupid, illogical, confounding, brilliant, beautiful, and fascinating.
Every now and then a word presents itself that typifies all the maddeningly gorgeousness of language. They're the words that give you pause for thought. "Who came up with that word? That's an interesting string of letters." Their beauty doesn't lie in their definition (although that can play a role). It's also not in their onomatopoeia, though that, too, can play a role. Their beauty is in the way their letters combine - the visual poetry of words - and/or the way they sound when spoken. We talk a lot about music we like to hear and art we like to see, so let's all hail the unsung heroes of communication, poetry and life: Words.
Here are some I like. (Not because of their definition.)
Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Smart Girls
(A Trillian de-composition, to the tune of Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys)
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
Smart girls ain’t easy to love and they’re above playing games
And they’d rather read a book than subvert themselves
Kafka, Beethoven and foreign movies
And each night alone with her cat
And they won’t understand her and she won’t die young
She’ll probably just wither away
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
A smart girl loves creaky old libraries and lively debates
Exploring the world and art and witty reparteé
Men who don’t know her won’t like her and those who do
Sometimes won’t know how to take her
She’s rarely wrong but in desperation will play dumb
Because men hate that she’s always right
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
Life(?) of Trillian
Saturday, December 06, 2003
Okay. You all have long suspected as much: I'm a girl. A girl with credit cards. Who likes to shop. I make no apologies.
Since it's that time of year, I am going to put my finely tuned skills to good use, and altruistically post a few of my shopping secrets in the form of favorite online emporiums.
I will not recommend any site I have not personally used.
My gift to you: Safe, pleasant, unique guide to online shopping destinations.
First and foremost, my absolute favorite online retailer and a darned good artist, too: Red Tango. (www.tangoland.com). Prices are incredibly reasonable (really, really reasonable), merchandise is very good quality, and the style? Have a look, it speaks for itself. I have given Red Tango to everyone from my 4 year old God son to my senior citizen mother - and have received glowing responses from everyone. (Teenaged nieces especially) Every time I wear a Red Tango item people stop me and comment and beg to know where I bought it. (My Red Tango tote is always jealously eyed on the train.) And fast? No worries here. The shipping is incredibly fast. And just darned nice people, too. Even if you're not shopping, check out the site, very well done. You know you're in for a treat when silhouette of a blue poodle with an umbrella glides across your screen while honky tonk jazz beats away in the background. You can't not smile.
Meanwhile, I'll be at the arcade. With all the other Space junkies. If half your office calls in sick, it may not be the flu. Ladies and gentlemen: My ship has come back to port. Forget internet dating sites, head to the arcade.
Friday, December 05, 2003 Crullers, The Beer Store and Other Saintly Places I recently accompanied my parents on a visit to relatives in Canada. Envision what you envision when you think of Canada. If you're envisioning snow whipping across vast expanses of farmland dotted occasionally by a forest or a bare bones farmhouse, guys in plaid shirts, and a Rush cover band in every town, you're looking at where I was.
After arriving at my relative's house, it was decided we would go into "town" for crullers and coffee (hey, it's Canada). This "town" consists of: One main road (two lane) and two bisecting roads (two lane "in town" one lane elsewhere). (Note I didn't mention the number of stoplights. There are none.); A Royal Bank of Canada; Jim's Mini Mart and Coffee Shop; New 2 U (a resale shop); Stitch in Time (you guessed it); The Beer Store*; the local insurance agent; two churches (across the street from each other); Pat's Fish Place; Shopper's Drug Mart (locals still call it Erwin's, it's name 20 years ago when Erwin himself was the town pharmacist, before he retired to Arizona); MaxMart and Gas ("and towing and wrecking") and, um, yeah, I guess that about covers it. The whole town.
On the sidewalk was a guy dressed as Santa Claus. (I think it was a guy. I think he was dressed as Santa...all indications were that it was a guy in a Santa Claus suit). He was just standing there, talking to everyone who passed and handing out small cards ("swut," I thought, "I could really use a candy cane right about now"). My relatives cast furtive glances at each other as we approached. I could see they were trying to figure out a way to enter Jim's without passing the guy in the Santa suit. That's the thing about very small towns. There's no escaping the local charity drives, bible thumpers and lunatics. Not that there's anything wrong with any of those things. I've rang my share of bells on sidewalks and I'm fast approaching lunatic status. And who knows? By the end of the blog I might be a bible thumper. But when all you want is a cruller and coffee, well, I think you know what I mean. The onboard sensors scream "Abort mission! Abort! Abort!" but yet you want your cruller, so you keep going, trying to ignore the Abort! Abort! blaring in your head.
My relatives pulled a diversionary tactic. My aunt suddenly became very interested in a very ugly skirt in the New 2 U window. So interested was she, that she pulled my uncle over to see it with such force he nearly tripped and fell. All the while she was loudly exclaiming to my mother, "Oooh, look at that! Wouldn't that be lovely with a navy blue sweater?!" My aunt has good taste. Don't be fooled by her small town dwelling Canadian status. So we all knew she was up to something covert. Except I was stupid enough to not tackle my parents and uncle and ended up the end of the line. And right smack staring down the guy in the Santa suit.
He looked me square in the eye. A penetrating look. For a minute there I thought he was that freaky Dr. Weil guy. An awkward moment of silence. Relatives momentarily frozen, wistfully looking on at the one who didn't make it (me). Santa guy handed me one of his little cards. I glanced at it and saw what I thought was a really badly drawn rendition of Jesus. I thought, "Religious stuff? A bible thumping Santa Claus?! That's just wrong on so many levels." I instinctively wanted to shove it back at him in an incensed huff. Wanted to say: "Take that you poseur. You're the one causing all this holiday consumerism, the blind pursuit of perfect presents when in fact if we're celebrating Christmas we should be giving gifts to churches, the needy, the sick, the homeless, the huddled masses...what would He (shoving the badly drawn Jesus in his piercing gaze) think of you? Little elves, flying reindeer, North Pole...hmmmph."
But since my parents and relatives were there and were close enough to see it was a religious themed item, I politely accepted with a "thank you Santa" and a smile, and shoved it in my pocket and beat a hasty retreat into Jim's. My parents and relatives are of the school that politely and quietly accepts all religious themed "gifts" or items out of fear of seeming ungrateful, sacrilegious or even Satanists. We've got enough potential issues at the gates in our family, we don't need to add any suspicion or doubt to the list. Not taking any chances these days.
My parents are definitely NOT Catholic, but a few years ago they were driving by the Baraga Shrine to the Snowshoe Priest and, in need of restroom facilities and a cinnamon roll, as anyone traveling on US 41, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof sooner or later does, they stopped. You can't miss it, it's an enormous gleaming bronze guy in a dress holding a cross and a snowshoe looking out over the trees. (And just look at the tasty treats available in the Shrine Pasty Shop (yes, pasty, not pastry) and the new and improved gift shop!) It was a slow day at Baraga, and my parents were greeted by a legion of nuns. One of them offered my mother rosary beads. My mother was too polite and the situation too awkward to refuse the "gift." She still has the rosary beads because she doesn't know what to do with them. She can't throw them away, that can't be right, they're not "nice enough" to give as a gift to any of her few Catholic friends, and so, there they are, tucked into her jewelry box right next to the many items of adornment I made her over the years. Brooches featuring items unique and bizarre, necklaces made of Shrinky Dinks, marbles, weird plastic things that fit together, and rocks collected from Stonehenge; bracelets of macramé, colored vinyl cord (complexly braided), and a special leather embossed beauty made one summer at camp. (Hey, for an 8 year old I did a darned good job - it won first place in the end of camp Leathershop show. I selflessly presented it to my mother as a gift of my homecoming from camp that year. My father used the wallet I made him (third place, thank you very much) until the whip stitching was completely frayed and the fold cracked apart (yeah, awwww. My parents are pretty cool.))
This is why I couldn't make a scene, particularly over a religious motifed item, particularly in this very small town.
I forgot about the card from Santa until the trip home while fishing for change in my coat pockets. I pulled it out and took a good look at it. It was then, upon closer inspection, I realized it was St. Andrew, and not the aforethought Jesus. Ah yes. Of course. It was the day before St. Andrew's Day and we were in Scotland West (Canada), hence the St. Andrew prayer card. For my family, and most of the other families I know who celebrate St. Andrew's Day, it's all about drinking, eating (lots of eating) talking about the old days back in the old country and comparing golf scores. But then my family is not Catholic. Nor are any of the other St. Andrew's Day Celebrants I know. Heck, I've even been in Scotland on St. Andrew's Day and not seen much other than drinking, eating and toasting going on.
Oh sure, I know who St. Andrew was, know he is the patron Saint of Scotland - and his story - how he got to Scotland, the cross of St. Andrew, the Union Jack, all that jazz. And I suppose somewhere deep down I know there are St. Andrew prayers. But not being Catholic, the whole saint thing sort of falls on deaf ears. Sorry.
What I learned from the back of the card was that by reciting the St. Andrew prayer 15 times a day from Nov. 30 - Dec. 25, apparently St. Andrew and I guess God grant your most desired wish.
That I came by this information via Santa in Canada the day before St. Andrew's Day is nothing but ironic, funny and more than a little bizarre.
My first thought was to become more angry at the Canadian Santa poseur. Shirking off his duties to St. Andrew and God. The St. Andrew Prayer cards were nothing more than a disclaimer for him. "Whoa, now, don't put this all on me, I'm just one guy in a red suit. Dolls, sleds, toy trains I can handle. Anything else, a new job, broken heart, world peace...way out of my league. You'll have to talk to the big guys if you really want something major. I know a guy. Here's his card. Get in touch with them, tell 'em Santa sent you, they'll set you up."
Then I gave it more thought. The hope Jesus' birth brings is the reason for the whole holiday. So was Santa shirking, or merely handing back the responsibility where it belonged in the first place?
Ah. I see. I understand. All is revealed.
Those Canadians. So clever in their seemingly backwards ways. Enigmas wrapped in riddles. Well. Insight wrapped in Santa suits.
I've obviously encountered prayer cards before, but never really studied them apart from checking out the anglicized artistic renditions and reading them at funerals, weddings or baptisms - or dismissing them as they are handed out on subways I have known throughout the Universe. Last year when Godcat was so sick, someone gave him a St. Francis card and medallion. Godcat's dad and I weren't sure what to do with it (not being Catholic) so we put the medallion on Godcat's collar, placed the prayer card in Godcat's basket bed and hoped St. Francis would take it from there. When Godcat rallied we thanked the vet and St. Francis. When Godcat then took a downhill turn and had to be put to sleep, we thanked the vet for doing her best to save him. We didn't blame St. Francis - wrote it off to us not being Catholic, not knowing the proper use of St. Francis gear...so yeah, not a lot of saint experience here.
While we were stuck at the border crossing, I showed the card to my parents. And asked them what one does with one of these things. I expected from my mother: Put it in your dresser drawer next to the chintzy rosary beads the nun gave you. From my father: Long dissertation on St. Andrew, canonization, the Catholic church, prayer in modern society and what it means to the future of the world for the rest of the trip home. Instead, they examined the card, and from my mother: "Not a very good likeness, is it?" From my father: "Vatican must be cutting back on their art budget. Trillian maybe you could offer your services."
As if my mother knows what St. Andrew looked like, and as if my father thinks I'm going to just call up the Pope and offer him design and printing tips.
My father, further examining the card, "says here you're to recite this prayer 15 times a day between November 30 and December 25 and you'll obtain what is asked."
"I read that. Does is work if you're not Catholic?"
Mother and father: Burst out laughing in unison.
"No, seriously, do Saints only listen to Catholics?"
"That doesn't seem very saintly, now does it? No real saint would turn down a prayer from anyone." My mother. Ever the trusting one. "But we're not Catholic so we don't pray to saints."
Father finishing the remark, "God, Jesus, they're our men."
"Ah men!" my mother punned. Much laughter (Yeah, they're not always pretty to hear, but they're mine and I love 'em. They know I question and ponder their religion, they even encourage pondering and questioning, but they always include me in their "we" and "our" because, well, that's what parents do and if they sleep better at night because of it, who am I to correct them?)
My mother's pun and their subsequent cracking up over it signaled the End of Discussion.
So I dashed off a quick Happy St. Andrews Day text to Ford, who happens to have been raised Catholic. Ford. Yes of course. He'll know. His immediate (and I think slightly drunken) response?
"U-r not thinking of converting r u?! It only worx if *u* piously beleave. U dont pisly beleev in anything anymore. Or do u?!"
Hmmmm. Do I? Question of the ages. Ponder. Quiet reflection in the back of my parents' car.
I thought, what can it hurt? I'll say the prayer tonight (the first night of St. Andrew Prayer-A-Thon). And I have every night since.
What can it hurt indeed. Now I'm worried that I'm somehow mocking a) St. Andrew; b) the concept of prayer; c) the Catholic church; d) all of the above. But I've started this thing, and somehow it doesn't seem right to stop mid-Prayer-A-Thon.
I know enough to know we're not supposed to go around testing God, Jesus or probably the saints (Catholic or not, I think it's a good idea to show a little respect to the saints and to the mortals who believe in them). If there's any testing to be done, us mere mortals are the ones to be tested.
So I'm concerned if there is a St. Andrew and he does hear my prayers to him, he'll think, "Oh God, why O God, why me? Rolling his eyes. Not another one. Every year it's the same thing. That guy in Canada dons that stupid Santa suit, hands out those horribly drawn cards (it's a terrible likeness of me), and the next thing you know I've got a bunch of inquisitive protestants knocking on my door all looking for a handout, some easy answer to a really big problem, expecting me to take care of it in 26 days. 26 days they give me! 26 lousy days to grant desires like you wouldn't believe. You can't believe what people want. Stories I could tell. If I weren't a saint.
"If I don't deliver the goods, we lose another soul to disbelief. If I do deliver the goods, it makes me look good, it's good for our numbers, but raises the bar of expectation for next year. I mean, wasn't the miracle of Jesus enough for these people?
"I've tried some new ideas over the years, I thought the concept of Father Christmas, Santa Claus and the like would relieve some of the pressure from me, but it hasn't worked out that way. Kids write to Santa, oh, that part works well enough, but the flaw in that plan is that it's up to the parents to carry out the delivery. I still like that concept, in theory anyway: Mortal responsibility for mortal desires. But in practice it falls down. When they lose their jobs or Jimmy wants a Playstation they can't afford, who do the parents turn to? You guessed it, good ol' Andy here. They're all like, 'oooh, help us St. Andrew, our kids want this that and the other and we don't have the money.' Funny, they've got the money to raise a pint or two down at the local.
"And that's another thing! They'll quite happily drink and eat in my honor, bringing out the aged Oban, toasting me - but where does that get me? Thanks and everything, but it's been, like, 2000 years since I've had a drink. Sort of in poor taste to honor a dead guy with a drink when you know darned well he can't join in, don't you think? 'To St. Andrew.' Ha! you wanna toast St. Andrew? Give him a break with the prayers this year. Honestly, this saint thing is enough to give a guy a stress headache. And for what?! A few saved souls? A few re-affirmations? I don't see St. Bernard of Clairvaux putting in any overtime during the holidays. And the nerve of St. George. Every year it's the same thing, 'come on over on the 25th, they've got a big celebration going on for me again this year' as if he doesn't know how busy I am running around like crazy trying to grant the prayers of the pious who call upon me. Happy Christmas indeed. Could he lift a finger to help? Oh, he'll loudly pull the old 'we're joined at the Union Jack, mate!' shtick all year when the gang's around, carrying on like were grand old chums, but come November 30 I don't see harp nor halo of him. Bah. What's the use? Awe geeze. Now I've got some misguided woman asking me for...just what I need. Who does she think I am? As if I've got the power to give her that. She's not even Catholic, in fact, (adjusting his glasses) let's check the records, when was the last time she stepped into any church? And oh, what's this? A blasphemous blog about me? Yet she's got the nerve to pray to me? My limit. I am at my limit here, I really am. After this season I'm going to have a talk with the boss. Put in for a transfer." (raises his hands dismissively and walks away)
And that is why, even if I continue this whole St. Andrew Prayer-A-Thon thing, I have no expectations whatsoever, but will continue it more as a tribute to the guy. For the Catholics out there, good luck to you, I hope your eyes aren't burning from reading my blasphemy and that I don't bring down your chances with St. Andrew.
*Guide Note: If you've never been to Canada, and you like beer, you're in for a treat with this place. Even non beer drinkers may like the concept of The Beer Store. (don't tell them you don't like beer at the border or at customs, they might not let you in - or out. One of our non-beer drinking, in fact, beer hating reviewers once had a bit of an incident in which a few off duty Canadian cops (not Mounties) insisted she didn't like beer because she'd never had Canadian beer and told her they would detain her until she tried three different real Canadian beers. She obliged, and the reviewer now hates beer even more.) Beer liking/hating notwithstanding, we like the concept of a place called The Beer Store. So Canadian. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Direct and to the point. We like that. We here at the Guide would like to see the concept expanded to all retail outlets in Canada. We'd like to the see the entire country of Canada name everything by it's general noun. The Clothes Store. The Food Store. The Art Store. The Car Store. The Cruller and Coffee Store. The Cheese Curd Store. The Back Bacon Store. The Hockey Stick Store. Sure, it's a bit on the State run socialistic side, but it's Canada. For now, in Québec, of course, it would be "le" everything. Which the rest of Canada might get a cynical chuckle out of because no matter what the store was selling, it would immediately conjure memories of Renault "le car." Try it: Le Beer Store. Le Clothes Store. Le Food Store. What are you thinking of right now? Beer, clothes or food? Or a 70's econobox car, probably brown with "le car" spelled out on the side in giant tan letters? Thought so. 10:24 AM
Thursday, December 04, 2003
Hey, guess what? I finally know a few more things for sure! Life's been rather uncertain lately. I've been feeling unsteady. Off balance. Treading in choppy water. Aimlessly wandering. Insecure. Misguided. Irresolute. Vacillatory. Of at least two minds on many matters. Maybe even a bit fickle at times.
Suffice to say it hasn't been just Thursdays I haven't had the hang of lately.
I'm not entirely back, but, I do know a few things with high degree of certainty.
Thursday's Things I Know for Sure (This Ain't Oprah's List) Time it takes to clean your place before your parents arrive: 11 days. Time it takes you to make a complete mess of it after they leave: 6 hours.
Once cleaned, vows you make to always keep it that way: Countless. Vows broken: Ditto.
The more time you spend with your family, the more you understand why you've got issues.
The more you understand your issues, the more you realize everyone else has them, too. It means you're a normal, well adjusted human being.
Parents with grown, unmarried, childless children will re-direct their grandparent urge to any pet of said children.
Holidays are the absolute worst days to be single.
Fortunately, this time of year only comes once a year.
Humans can easily be split into two groups: Those who eat beets, and those who do not.
Humans also can easily be split into two other groups: Those who eat meringue, and those who do not. (My theory is that they are the exact same groups.)
The more time you spend away from your job, the more you realize how much you really hate it.
Elf really is a new holiday classic. (I didn't believe it, either. Until I saw it. Now I believe. I will never doubt the cinematic marketing gods again. One word: Narwhal. Three more words: Bigfoot sighting spoof.)
Now that Johnny Depp is the World's Sexiest Man (and 40-something), can he please drop the ny and go by John? Or Mike? Or Bob? (Bob Depp. I like that.) Or The Actor Formerly Known as Winona's Boyfriend? Something? Anything? Anything at all that doesn't immediately conjure 21 Jump Street or Cry Baby?
Cat, hat, in French chat chapeau. In Spanish I'm a gato in a sombrero. Poetry. Sheer genius even Mike Myers should never have tampered with. Sorry Mike, I still adore you, but...what the?
Until Stevie and Angel get enough donations for their surgery, I am not going to stop mentioning it. I'm relentless and patient, but I've got a bit of a temper. So you might as well just make your donation now. If you've already donated, thank you. Thanks to you they are halfway there (ah-ah, living on a prayer).
I've said it once before but it bears repeating: The White Stripes are absolutely amazing. If you like rock and don't see them live soon, you will always, ALWAYS regret it. Believe me now, thank me later.
Canada's really big.
So is Costco.
After reading this, I realize I've lived too long, I actually agree with Keith Richards. I will pay good money to hear an audio transcript of this from the horse's mouth. Nothing like a drunken Keith Richards slammering and mumbling irate rants for a fun evening of entertainment. (I'm taking comfort that they've obviously lived far too much longer:
Call him Sir. C'mon Keith, call him f*#king sir! Bark like a f*#king dog! On your f*#king knees! F*#king Bow down before the one you f*#king serve.
Guide Says: For extra bonus Mick fun, rent Being Mick. Wherein Elton John flaunts his insignia of the Order badge at an as yet un-knighted Mick who is clearly angry and hurt that Elton John, f*#king Elton John, is a knight, and he's not. Later in the film, Mick takes daughter Jade to a show, runs into Prince Charles, who snubs Mick but fawns over Jade and very pointedly asks Jade how her mother is doing. (Bianca, Mick's ex who's done very well for herself since Mick dumped her, thank you very much). This well timed, perfectly aimed innocent seeming but powerful punch hitting remark further snubs and rather cheekily and wittily slams Mick. (See if you think there's a sarcastic curl to Charles' smile), Classic. Classic moments. A scene with Mick's dad (Mick Jagger has a dad, who knew?!) at a kid's school tournament and a brilliant Jerry Hall moment add to the fun (Even us most devoted Bryan Ferry fans loved this scene - Go Jerry, Go Jerry...). There is a good Lenny Kravitz scene, too. Wherein Mick tries to prove he's hip and cool, but is completely out hipped, out cooled, out classed and completely out performed by Lenny. Being Mick must have been made for Stones fans, but the true fun is had by the rest of us. 9:27 AM
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Moe: Come on, don't take this so hard, Homer. You still got that other kid, uh... Lisa. Let's, uh, take her out hunting tomorrow; make her into a man.
Homer: Aw, she'd never go. She's a vegetarian.
Moe: Oh, geez! Homer, geez! You and Marge ain't cousins, are you?
Holiday Special! Meat the Family!
Behind the scenes and hidden camera of one "typical" family preparing for and celebrating a holiday.
Open with Daughter One traveling to her parents' home for a holiday celebrating hearth and home. Otherwise known as annual Four Day Assault on Personal Food Choices. In America, known as Thanksgiving.
Daughter One has recently discovered she has food allergies. It was good timing on her part. It laid the groundwork for an argument free, guilt free holiday. We hear Daughter One's side of a telephone conversation with her parents before the holiday, "I have to be very careful about my diet right now, got to figure out what caused the reaction, I'll just have some squash and green beans, apples..." Cut to her mother, standing in a suburban kitchen, already going through her cookbooks for dairy free, animal free and nut free recipe. Daughter One's father is searching online for recipes.
Daughter One explains to the at home audience, "Now that I have an apparent bona fide, doctor mandated 'condition' that prevents me from eating dairy, they're embracing my 'alternative foodstyle' with vigor."
She continues, "Fortunately my parents came to terms with my anti-animal ingestion years ago. Not happily, not without worry, not without a lot of arguments and a trip to our family physician, but they've accepted my alternative foodstyle. They're not proud, they don't really understand it, but they accept it. They'll dance around the actual word, using euphemisms and hushed tones to their friends."
The recent turn of allergy events has given Daughter One's parents the medical proof they've been so needing all these years.
Daughter One explains more of her food history. "When, at the age of 15, I proclaimed I would no longer ingest anything with a mother, my parents made me go to the family doctor thinking he'd say, 'No. You must eat part of an animal everyday.' To their dismay he actually said, 'Many studies show a vegetarian diet is the healthiest...' Not to say I didn't notice the wink he threw at my mother. The wink that said, 'Go along with me on this. It's a phase. She'll outgrow it. She'll be begging for a cheeseburger in a week.' So my parents relented and let me go my meat free meal way."
Nonplussed, Daughter One adds, "It wasn't a phase, I didn't outgrow it and I've never wanted a cheeseburger."
Of her parents, she says, "They don't embrace it, but they've learned to live with it, too tired and too unwilling to argue about it."
On camera, The Parents provide their side of the story. "We always knew she was different. Not like our other children," her mother concedes, listing off the contestant's divergent ways."I couldn't get her to nurse, she wouldn't have anything to do with it! We had to put her on formula, and when that didn't work we had to find soy formula for her. A very particular and sensitive palate, right from the start."
Daughter One's father interjects his fond memories of Daughter One's babyhood, "And back then (as if she were born in the depression or during The War or when the species was living in caves) it wasn't easy to find soy formula, and it was expensive, twice the price of regular baby formula. The other kids, well, you know, it didn't cost us a penny to feed them the first few months. But Daughter One, well, she cost us double right out of the womb."
Back at Daughter One 's home, Daughter One says, "They didn't bring up the whole breast feeding thing again, did they? On national television? You'll edit that out, right? They always do this, especially when a boyfriend or one of the rare occasions a cool kid from school happened to be around. So embarrassing." (covering her face in shame)
Caught in a moment of reflection, gazing out of her suburban kitchen window, Daughter One's mother is looking back on this. The newly added doctor proof, connecting dots and feeling a bit guilty that maybe, in fact, Daughter One was born this way. A...a...vegetarian. That it's not something over which she has any control.
Viewing the tape of her mother's reflection and guilty feelings, Daughter One says, "See, that's making me feel bad because I don't want her beating herself up over not embracing my meat free choice sooner, or worse, that she is the cause for my body's rejection of animals, that it's due to something she ate or did when she was pregnant with me. I've never been out to make my parents feel guilty. About anything." As she steadfastly looks into the camera.
The parents embrace holidays with food gusto. Particularly holidays where enormous quantities of food are an expected part of the celebration.
They go all out - both of them. We see home video of them hosting huge sit down seven course candlelit dinners, a brunch buffet a jaunty backyard barbecue. They treat it as if Henry VIII and entourage were coming for a visit. We see the mother fussing over her children and guests. Unless they all eat as if they were Henry VIII, she won't sleep. She'll fuss and worry that "something's wrong" with either her food or the children. We watch them gorge themselves during past holidays, having learned it's just easier for everyone if they gorge themselves and deal with the ramifications of diet lapses or indigestion later. It's only a few days a year, she's not getting any younger, it makes her happy, so they eat.
As part of their gusto for holidays, The Parents have always been very generous to people alone on holidays. We see more home video of past events. There are always "extra" people visiting for holidays. Church people, work people, widowed neighbors... The Parents are tapped into the underground network of knowledge of people who will be spending a holiday alone. They never single them out to make them feel weird or sad with something like, "Hey we heard you're a pathetic loser with no family or friends with whom to spend the holiday, so come on over to our house!" No, The Parents have ways of diplomacy Henry Kissinger couldn't top. "We know how hectic the holiday can be, but if you have time and would like to stop in, we're having a little get together and we'd love to see you, the kids just thrill over your card tricks." Yeah. They're good. The home viewing audience now realizes they are viewing professionals in action.
The guests arrive.
Daughter One arrives the day prior to help with the preparations. She does this happily, though on hidden camera we see her frequent looks of disgust when Daughter Two is mentioned in terms of being too busy to help. Later, at the show wrap up, Daughter One reveals her displeasure with her sister's lack of concern or help with the preparations. "I traveled five hours, took an extra day off from work to get here to help, and she can't find the time to drive fifteen minutes to lend a hand or even bake something to bring to the dinner?! This has been going on for years. She's the oldest, yet the most irresponsible. Everyone always makes excuses for her, she's so spoiled. I'm sick of it."
Daughter Two is shown her sister's tirade. She responds with, "That's so typical. She always acts like she's the only one who cares about The Parents. The rest of us have our own lives and families, you know? She doesn't have children. She doesn't have clue what it's like to be a single mother with three teenagers. And she's always such a little goody two shoes. Why even bother to compete with her? Always sucking up to The Parents. She's so spoiled. I'm sick of it."
Cut to Daughter Two arriving. With her are her Egyptian co-worker who had nowhere to go for the holiday, one of Niece Two's friends whose parents are in the throws of a messy divorce and literally left the kid stranded on his own for the holiday, and Nieces Two and Three. Egyptian co-worker is carrying a shiny new covered Pyrex carry and serve dish.
They enter the house. Daughter One is feverishly preparing hors d'ouevres. Daughter Two immediately begins eating them as fast as Daughter One can arrange them on the serving dishes. An argument ensues. Egyptian co-worker interrupts, hoping to change the subject and stop the catfight. "I've brought a vegetable dish, is there room in the oven to warm it?" Apparently, green bean casserole is popular in Egypt, too.
Meanwhile, friend of Niece Two has found his way into the den and is watching football with The Father.
Neighbor couple are the next to arrive. Neighbor Man beelines to the den. Neighbor woman beelines to the kitchen with Jell-O® and cookies.
Shortly thereafter, Weird Guy from Church arrives with Widow from Church. Weird Guy and Widow from Church find their way to the kitchen.
After much organizing in the oven, stove, JenAir, microwave and convection oven, all items that are supposed to be hot are simultaneously hot. It's time to eat.
But Niece One and two of her friends have not yet arrived from college. Weird Guy provides entertainment. He brought his guitar. He gets things rolling with a medley of John Denver hits. Daughter Two sings along. Daughter One asks if he knows Michael, Row the Boat Ashore. She was joking. Weird Guy doesn't understand this and delivers a moving rendition, followed by If I Were a Carpenter. Weird Guy is just getting into Time in a Bottle when Niece One and her two friends arrive. Niece One's friends are not able to conceal their laughter over folk singing Weird Guy. Niece One would laugh if she could, but she is obviously very ill. She eschews her own mother (Daughter Two) and collapses into The Mother's (her grandmother's) arms. She is taken to a bedroom where the womenfolk from the kitchen administer diagnosis and advice.
Daughter One leaves to check on the over-cooked state of food in the kitchen. The situation is not as dire as she suspected. The rest of the womenfolk and Weird Guy return, having taken care of Niece One, who is sleeping and will not be seen or heard from again today.
There is a flurry of activity. The Menfolk instinctively appear, able to tear themselves away from Football long enough to eat.
A finely tuned production of food placement ensues. All that's left is: The Turkey. The Mother calls The Father into the kitchen. Everyone else instinctively leaves the kitchen and heads to the dining room. The dining room is resplendent in it's holiday finery. The good china and silver and gleaming in the late afternoon candlelight. There is a conspicuously vacant area on the table, the place where The Turkey will land.
As the guests gather around the table, two of The Father's golf leaguers appear with Friend of Niece Two and Neighbor Man. Puzzled looks around the table. Looks that say, "Who are these guys and where did they come from - and why do they smell like bourbon?" Since Daughter Two is busy gossiping about work to her co-worker, Daughter One makes the introductions.
The Father parades in holding The Turkey high and proudly. He is followed by The Mother, who is fussing over what might be missing on the table. Since there is not room for any more people or food, the consensus is nothing can be missing.
The Father leads the table in a Thanksgiving prayer. The Golf Leaguers make a slightly off color toast to The Turkey. And the feeding frenzy begins. The Turkey is carved and served. To all but Daughter One. This does not go unnoticed by one of the Golf Leaguers.
Things take an ugly turn.
The Mother explains to the Church Widow, in great detail, how it's now medically proven that Daughter One "can't" eat dairy or shellfish and probably lots of other animals (yes, the nursing thing came up. Daughter One is hanging her head in embarrassment. She happens to be seated at the end of the table with the cool kids from The Niece's schools. She tries to redeem her fading cool status by saying, "I hope Niece One feels better tomorrow so she can go to the White Stripes show. Like we planned. All of us. Tomorrow night....") Church Widow and Neighbor Woman start passing non-animal food to Daughter One. The Jell-O® is passed to Daughter One. "Um, no thanks. I've got plenty to eat already. And, um, well, it's not exactly vegetarian..."
"No?! Why not?" Church Widow asks.
"Gelatin is, well..." Daughter One is cut off by The Mother.
"Daughter One, that's enough. We don't need to get into the gelatin issue right now." (The Mother has heard the Evil Story of Gelatin from Daughter One for several years and does not want to risk a clean history of diplomatic and genteel holiday meals now.)
Upon hearing of Daughter One's vegetarianism, Golf Leaguer chides The Father, "Your daughter's one of those vegetarians?" raising his eyebrow in innuendo.
The Father, always loyal to his family, beamed with pride, "Yes, she's our little health nut. Always been this way. The wife and I have cut back on our meat intake a lot, ourselves. Better for the old ticker, you know!"
Golf Leaguer, "But what about protein? Humans need animal protein. And don't tell me about that soy business."
A silence has fallen over the once jubilant dining room. The neighbors are self consciously covering their servings of turkey with potatoes and dinner rolls.
Daughter Two's co-worker from Egypt, "In my country we have many vegetarian delicacies."
Golf Leaguer, "What country is that again?" eyeing her suspiciously.
"Pharos and such? They ate eyeballs and brains. Saw it on the History channel."
"That was a long time ago. But even then we had many herb and spice health remedies that were based on vegetarian diets."
"That so? King Tut cured his belly ache with pine nuts and tofu?" chuckle chuckle.
"You never know. Maybe."
"And they worshipped cats!" Niece Three interjects.
"What about fish? You eat fish?" Golf Leaguer inquires of Daughter One.
"No. Nothing with a mother."
"Ooooh, I like that concept," Weird Church Guy interjects. "I never thought of it that way. You're respecting your health, your body and the institution of motherhood all at the same time. That's a really awesome concept."
Daughter Two rolls her eyes at Daughter One.
Daughter One flashes back a look which says: "Hey, you were the one singing with him a few minutes ago."
Neighbor Woman says, "Egyptian Co-worker, do you have a holiday like Thanksgiving in Egypt?"
"Not exactly, we have Eid El Fetr which in my family involves a lot of feasting. We have a sheep instead of a Turkey."
"See there? Holiday (raising one hand) - Animal (raising the other hand to show equal balance. All over the world."
One of Niece One's friends says, "Probably not in India or Tibet."
The Mother, sensing a diplomatic decorum disaster ready to strike, says, "They're predicting snow tomorrow! If we get enough you kids can go skiing!"
Niece Two and her friend enthusiastically offer the latest in snow reports from the local snow hill.
Discussion takes a more pleasant glasnostic turn to the pros and cons of making snow to supplement the natural snowfall, skiing on it, cat gods and goddesses, and Michael Jackson.
The table is cleared, dishes gathered, washed and put away.
Two more couples show up for "pie and coffee" and stay through several football games, three rounds of Yahtzee and a rollicking game of Masterpiece. (Daughter One is now going by "Bitsy" Rich Wong Dobrowski Keyes, art collector extraordinaire.)
Everyone stays late into the evening. When the guests depart, The Mother sends each of them home with "something to eat later." But the refrigerator is still brimming to capacity with leftovers.
Scene fades to black, credits roll, music swells: "Drank too much, And I said too much, And there's nowhere to go - but Down....This is the last song I will ever sing (aaw...) No: I've changed my mind again (yeah!) GOODNIGHT
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
My mantra for the week:
Love your parents, hate your issues.
Mantra, grant me the strength to not let my parents annoy the crap out of me while visiting me.
Mantra, grant me the wisdom to realize my parents' intentions are not devious, mean spirited or otherwise ill conceived.
Mantra, grant me the power to smile and graciously accept my parents' gifts of fixing my Hoover, new bottles of cleaning agents and groceries without thinking there is more behind these gifts than their surface value.
Mantra, grant me the health to maintain my blood pressure below heart attack levels when my father demonstrates the newly improved Hoover by vacuuming every rug and most of the wood floors in my apartment.
Mantra, grant me the insight to understand when my mother asks if I want a cup of tea, she means she wants a cup of tea and that when my father sneaks out back for a smoke he's not doing it to annoy me. Help me understand his lifetime addiction and forgive him for his filthy, disgusting habit.
Mantra, grant me the patience to accept my parents' curiosity about my Mac and internet usage as general interest in technology. Help me realize they are not trying to snoop into my life by reading over my shoulder. Help me explain and divulge bits of advice without being bitchy or condescending.
Mantra, grant me the memory to remember all my parents have taught me and graciously done for me. Remind me that I am incredibly lucky to have two such wonderful people for parents. Remind me that all they're guilty of is caring about me. Remind me of these things when my mother unpacks and plugs in her three travel nightlights and when my father stubbornly insists we are driving North when the onboard, built-in auto compass in their brand new car and every landmark point West.
Mantra, grant me the sense of humor to laugh at myself when my parents say or do something which makes me feel like a 4-year-old. Phrases like "Better wear a warmer scarf and gloves than that! Those will never keep you warm enough." and "What do you mean you don't have a pipe wrench?!" will be met with jolly humor and not biting sarcastic remarks or temper tantrums.
Mantra, grant me the ability to love my parents unconditionally as they have loved me all these years.
Mantra, grant me the power to get through the next two days of my parents' visit without wishing for therapy and alcohol.
Monday, December 01, 2003
Wow. This Grid Blog thing is already kind of cool. I wrote the basic blog before I left to be computerless for a few days. While I was gone I spent some time in Canada. As you read this, you're thinking, "yeah, so? What's that got to do with the Grid Blog? Get on with it!" Well, as the blog fates would have it, while in Canada I ran into one of the people responsible for my take on Brand in the Grid Blog. This is someone I haven't seen in years, and could never have contrived a "run-in" if I tried. (Not that I would try to contrive a run-in.)
When I first started my illustrious career, I worked for a company with global clients. There were the premium, choice clients, accounts
everyone wanted to work on, but were reserved only for the senior members of the company.
The rest of us got to work on the local, low profile or down market clients. Basically, low revenue accounts for the low revenue employees.
But I didn't mind, it was a great way to get my feet wet and learn a lot of what they didn't teach me in college. (Like how untalented, unintelligent, uncharismatic female co-workers would be promoted above me just by spending a lot of time in our boss' office with the door closed. I wish I knew what they were doing in there...I might have been promoted, too!)
Long hours, hard work, thankless clients, clueless bosses, no pay...yeah. I was living a dream.
Then "it" happened. No. Not my turn in the boss' office with the door closed. "It" was a foreign client with very little, if any, brand recognition outside their country. They were looking to build global brand recognition. Just wanted to get their name out there. No big dreams of being the next Nike overnight, no desire to have their brand's name on every lip and back of every person in Europe and America. Just the early stages of market development, getting their name "out there" on turf other than their own. Dipping their toe in international waters to feel the temperature before diving in. They produced a quality product (sportswear) and had a loyal following. In their country. Canada.
My company took them on almost as a charity. One of the company higher ups was married to a Canadian, she was very familiar and happy with the
brand, encouraged her husband to take on the client, he did, but no one with any clout in the company wanted to deal with it, and so it it was that I, at a young and tender age, became the account lead for Big Canadian Sportswear Company (BCSC). By the time the account files landed on my desk, there were stink lines emanating from it. It appeared that everyone in the company had been given a chance at it, no one bit, and I was the end of the food chain. It was mine whether I wanted it or not. My boss didn't even try to spin it. He laughed as the passed it off on me. "You're in the Army now, kid!" beating a hasty retreat to his office and any co-worker I could possibly hope to have help me. Just me and BCSC. A few phone numbers scrawled on notes. An account ledger. A company profile sheet. That was it. No further information. I have relatives in Canada, have spent a lot of time in Canada, and so I was very familiar with BCSC. No one, including my boss, knew this about me, and somehow I knew, had an instinctual gut feeling, I should keep it that way. I knew none of the higher ups had a clue about BCSC or their brand position in Canada. If they had, they would have grabbed the account. Their ignorance, my bliss. (rubbing my hands in greed) This could be a lucky break for me. This could be my ticket to much bigger things. But where to begin? What do they even want? Print? Radio? Television? Billboard? What?! How?!
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Or a phone call.
I played the ignorant card. I'm not proud of this, but I had no other viable option. I had two phone numbers, a few names. That was it.
I called the first number. "Hi, this is Trillian, from We're So Hot We're On Fire Agency. I've just been given your account and I'd like to introduce myself and find out more about your needs, what you want and what your expectations are of our agency."
That ridiculous insurance sales pitch was the start of a beautiful relationship.
The client was so amazed and thrilled that someone from We're So Hot We're On Fire Agency was calling him AND enthusiastically offering to
help he gushed gratitude. Right from the start the lines of client-agency were crossed. Even on that first call it seemed odd to me that this guy was excited to hear from me, when, by the looks of the file, he'd been waiting a rather long time. If I'd been the client I would have long since fired us. But he was honored to have us representing BCSC. Honored? (Honor? as yet another hour passed with a co-worker locked in with my boss?)
Next thing I knew, I was Canada bound.
The initial consultation went well enough. It was mainly a fact finding mission. And boy did I find facts.
This was a hum dinger of a client. Big things here. I was horrified I was in way over my head with not so much as a buoy in the distance. I knew I'd have no back up or support back in the office. I knew it was essentially me. A one person creative, art, production and whatever else team. I was representing We're So Hot We're on Fire, but they certainly were not representing me. I was disgruntled with my employer, but thrilled with my newfound client.
Looking back I remember thinking, "If I do this well I could either get a very tasty promotion out of this, or, better, take BCSC and start my own agency. I'm doing it all on my own anyway, why not cut out the superfluous agency expenditures and make a nice little profit for myself, plus start my own agency with a super fab client already on the books!"
They sent me home with a portfolio of recent Canadian campaigns, the names and numbers of their agency in Canada, a rough outline of what we were going to do, and suitcase full of clothing and gear.
I deplaned looking like a team logo shop. A friend picked me up from the airport. Her only response? "Wow. They really brainwashed you. Can you get me one of those sweatshirts?" Little did I know I'd have those sweatshirts and more coming out of my ears over the next few years.
Her brainwash remark was based on my staunch view of logo apparel. I felt then, and still do, that I should not pay to wear clothing advertising anything. Especially a product. I grew past the status logo phase in my early teens and never looked back. My bum, chest or any other part of my body should be a billboard. They should pay ME to wear their logo embossed clothes. For her to see me with any brand name emblazoned across my chest was a shock. Some of my other friends later accused me of selling out. I argued that as long as I was getting the stuff free, and getting paid to work on the account, it was the opposite of selling out. I still argue that point. Plus I truly believed I was helping generate brand awareness for my client. It was business.
The nice folks at BCSC took my enthusiasm for the project as enthusiasm for their product. And they were not entirely mistaken. Every other week, on the dot, a package would arrive in my office, crammed tight with the latest in BCSC clothing and gear. All of it always in my size.
That year my entire family and every friend got a BCSC item (or two or three) for Christmas and birthdays.
Some may have called that cheap. I called it spreading brand awareness. To this day I like to think my doling out BCSC logo merchandise throughout the world to my far-flung family and friends was the beginning of BCSC's global success.
So there I was, decked out in BCSC brand sportsgear, thinking this account was My Big Break. I lived and breathed the client and their products. Fortunately for me, the clients were really nice people. I was willing to work long hours, research issues I had no clue, experience or business researching. I told myself what a great learning experience it was, and how this would jet propel my career.
As ever, I was slightly misguided. That's not exactly what happened. The reason that did not come to fruition is because for the next 18 months I lived and breathed BCSC. As I said, I liked the client. Liked their product. It was a brand I could stand behind without reservation. I worked on their product exclusively.
I missed other, bigger opportunities because in the eyes of my superiors, I was doing a bang up job with BCSC, no one else wanted to deal with them, so why jeopardize my relationship with the client by giving me other projects?
Which now, with the benefit of hindsight, is typical of the narrow minded, uninsightful, and, well, ignorant thinking at that agency.
What happened to the girl who lived and breathed her client? She worked herself out of a job.
After all the work, long hours, creative juices spilled, and effort was put into the BCSC account, they were very satisfied with a job very well done. So much so they called a meeting with the senior guys at the agency to extoll my many virtues and the bang up job I was doing on their account. And they wanted We're So Hot We're on Fire to handle more, if not all, of their work. With the caveat that I be the lead on all things BCSC.
I sat in the big board room, a rookie compared to the other senior members, thinking, "This is it! I'm in! I made it! It's all paying off!"
The president and vice presidents were very agreeable during the meeting. "Oh yes, yes, we knew she was the one for you, our little genius, blah blah blah..." The BCSC people thought they had done me a tremendous favor. Given me a gift that would boost my career, position, power and salary. They were sincere and well intended. They were naive and so was I.
My superiors paid me tremendous lip service in front of the BCSC people. Then took a good look at what was really happening with the account. They were shocked and amazed. And horrified that little ol' me had been doing all this. They knew if word got out that me, and me alone, had handled all the BCSC work for the past 18 months, they might have some explaining to do. After all, THEY were the hotshots. I was just a lowly apprentice. And a female lowly apprentice, at that. Worse still, a female lowly apprentice who refused to be in her boss' office with the door closed. Yes indeed, they needed to take control of this situation, and fast.
So at the post meeting meeting, I expected kudos and atta girls.
I got lambasting and who the Hell do you think you ares.
I was told that I would still communicate with the BCSC people, that they were to believe I was still managing the entire account entirely on my own. But in reality, I was not to make a move without three superiors approving it.
Now that BCSC was getting acclaim and brand recognition, they didn't want to risk me making a horrible mistake. At least that's what they told me.
I knew differently. They were red-faced for not recognizing the potential of this client when it was presented to them, and even more red-faced that I had single handedly done a stellar job. They simply could not have this. Bad for business, bad for their egos.
I tried to fake it, play their game for a few months. But I couldn't stand behind their decisions or the way they treated BCSC. In the end, BCSC figured out something was "different," and starting asking me a lot of difficult questions. Difficult because to be honest with them I would have had to reveal the New Truth of the operating procedures, that I was now actually doing very little of the work on their account. That I was doing little more than relaying messages.
There comes a time in every young career when personal ethics and business politics clash.
I told my superiors the BCSC people were getting suspicious, that they were even a little unhappy with some of the recent efforts We're So Hot We're On Fire had produced for them.
Ah, you're thinking, ah ha! See! They got theirs! They'll have to put her back in charge and working on the projects now!
Only in Disney movies.
I was "laid off" three weeks later.
When I interviewed at a rival agency I touted my BCSC work, didn't badmouth We're So Hot We're On Fire in the least. Turned out one of the creative directors at the rival agency had worked with my ex-boss. He thought I was one of the closed door girls. But couldn't refute the work I was presenting, so he called We're So Hot We're On Fire to ask for a reference. My boss' boss told him I was little more than an errand girl, that of course I hadn't worked on the BCSC account, that I was lying and that was why they let me go.
I found this out when I had been called in for what I thought was a second interview and hopefully a job offer. Instead I got the "how dare you? You'll never work in this town again" speech.
I did work in that town again, and many others, on some high level clients. But not without becoming forever bitter, jaded and cynical of any profession where "biz" is an accepted moniker. Any profession where it's all about the brand and all about the higher ups covering their behinds at any cost.
To this day I have boxes full of as yet unworn BCSC clothes. I like them, I will continue to wear them, they're sporty, athletic wear, not really the sort of thing that goes horribly, noticeably out of style. And they are the only exception to my no brand or logo on my body rule.
My entire casual wear wardrobe is still comprised of mainly BCSC. On any given day off work I will probably be seen wearing at least one item of BCSC clothing. People who don't know my history think I'm either very trendy, very loyal or very Canadian. At times this gives me pause for thought: Trademarks. Brand recognition. What does it really mean? The agency representing the brand? The company itself? Surely not the people who plunk down money for the products - they're simply the end users, buying into whatever photostyle the agency chooses to sell.
Here's the weird tingly bit: I ran into one of the BCSC execs exactly three days after I wrote the above blog. I haven't seen or heard from him (or anyone else at BCSC) since I was "laid off" from We're So Hot. A) He recognized me, B) He told me they left We're So Hot after they FIRED me (never one to mince words, this guy), C) Where was I working and would I be interested in chatting about some work, and D) Where could he send me some of their new line?!