Saturday, February 28, 2009

Trapped in Little Miss Sunshine Hell

After enjoying a week of a relatively uncrowded hotel with fawning staff, the Little Miss Sunshine convention moved in today. Not a beauty pageant exactly, but a kids' dance competition. Hundreds of obnoxious, pre-pubescent girls in short shorts, leg warmers and garishly painted faces practice their 'moves' poolside, in the elevator, lobby and hallways. Most of the moms are either drinking or looking like they need a drink. No dads in evidence. All of a sudden, Philly is looking very appealing. I don't even mind waking up at 5:30am to leave. Hopefully those hyper-active gyrating children will still be in bed. 

L.A. Myths

Myth #1: L.A. is smoggy
Maybe I was there on a good week, but the air was clean. I met some guy at yoga class who told me he is an official government 'air tester'. He confirmed my suspicion that the air quality has vastly improved. It sounded like he had a primo job. How many of us can take yoga class at 10:30 am?

Myth #2: L.A. is full of beautiful, rich, snobby people
I didn't hang out in Beverly Hills, where the rich and beautiful were probably hiding, but my hotel was in Hollywood. I was surprised how friendly and nice everyone was. Lots of normal looking people. Very culturally diverse. My yoga class did not have anorexic actors or maniacal musicians.

Myth #3: L.A.'s traffic is the worst in the nation
So this isn't a myth, this is true. I took the bus and metro, thus avoiding some of it. I now understand why road rage is rampant. 

Myth #4: L.A. is culturally deficient 
New Yorkers like to bash L.A.--full of vapid entertainment low brow culture. L.A. has a great art scene. Lots of interesting work. So avoid the grammy, ripley and disney museums. The visit to the Getty for an evening gala was worth the entire trip. What  spectacular architecture and grounds. MOCA has a comprehensive Dan Graham retrospective and there are over 300 galleries. The L.A.  art critic scene puts Philly to shame. 

Myth #5: L.A. is full of gang-bangers and scam artists
This one is kind of true as well. I just wasted $35 (how embarrassing to admit) going on the WORST sightseeing tour ever--Haunted Ghost Tour. It was 'research' for my Dark Tourism in Philly class that I'm teaching next Fall. Not only did the guy charge me $10 more than the other 'tourists', but we didn't even get to ride in the 1961 Caddie featured on the brochure. 12 people squished in a van with a guide whose jokes were awful. "This is the house where Michael Jackson transformed from a black boy to a white girl."  I didn't get to see the haunted Marilyn mirror in the Roosevelt Hotel or even enter into a haunted house, as promised.  Stay AWAY from Starline Tours.

I was prepared to HATE L.A. and confess to LOVING it--except for the scammers.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

New York--the Best and the Worst

People either love or hate New York-- there's not a lot of neutrality. I teach a class on contemporary art in New York, so have an excuse to enjoy the best and the worst on a regular basis. I was going to make a best/worst list, but I'm torn about where to categorize certain things. For example, this past Saturday I saw rats scurrying  on the subway tracks. Now you might have an 'ugghh' reaction, but I thought it was kind of cool. I mean how often do you get to see rats, up close without having to interact with them? They weren't in my house, thankfully and they seemed to be happy eating up bits of garbage strewn throughout the stations, thus serving a civic duty. 

Within a span of a couple of hours, I saw a delusional man sob profusely and a guy puke into the subway grate. Again you might wonder how this could make the 'best' list. 

While waiting for my students at the Bolt Bus stop, I witnessed a man (who was clearly hallucinating) transform from an agitated, aggressive state to one of complete remorse. Within minutes, he began to sob with profound anguish. Oblivious to the spectators, his crocodile tears conveyed a raw, unaffected emotion. We are so used to donning our masks, holding our emotions at bay or burying them with our efficient and busy schedules, that we don't take time to release our pain or sadness. 

Puking in the subway grate--what can I say about that? It happened to be in Times Square on Broadway in the midst of a crowd. His friend was patiently, but unapologetically  standing next him, waiting for the heaves to subside. I had to laugh--it was right outside a 'gentleman's club'. Was he puking because of the bad booze or the bad entertainment? 

Tobo the Beaver

Here's the much anticipated installment about Tobo, my recently adopted, insane greyhound. 
(see posts from February 10) After he bent the metal of his crate, the adoption agency suggested a 'baby' gate. This would keep him contained in an area, without aggravating his fear of small, confined spaces. The combination of the gate and  his 'reconcile' anti-anxiety medicine was supposed to fix all our relationship problems. Two days later, my friend left me an urgent page at the university. When she arrived at my house, there was a huge pile of wood chips about a foot long and 6 inches deep, where my sliding glass door frame used to be. Shredded carpet everywhere.  I am convinced that my dog is part beaver. Everyone (vet and adoption agency included) cannot explain how a dog could do so much damage. It will cost $1000 to replace the door, so for now, we look at the creatively chewed remains,  while pondering our existence. I thought the dog was for sure a goner. But grace was smiling down on him that day and my husband didn't make me send him back. The adoption agency suggested a new medicine which is a 'light' sedative (non-addictive--yea right!) as well as a muzzle. Funny how when they sent me home with the muzzle, they didn't tell me that he 'needed' it. This is why God makes kids and animals cute--so you don't murder them. 

Friday, February 13, 2009

Extending the Male Life

Transitioning from the Philly Metro to the Penn Academic News, one does not expect to find correlations. However the recent study done in the Vet school about fertility in mice, reminded me of the raccoon rapist. "Just Living With Females Extends the Reproductive Life of the Male Mouse" says Penn Veterinary  Researcher (January 22, 2009)

This should be good news. I know many heterosexual men think that women decrease the man's life expectancy due to stress. So this new study shows that straight male mice are more fertile when living with female mice (as opposed to living with a gay male mouse or alone). I think this is a phenomenal break through. Of course the researcher is already projecting the implications of this study on the human population. That means that the male can procreate more efficiently with his female cohort and produce more offspring, contributing to the world's overpopulation. Now the 'straight' feminists can rally, saying that men NEED us. Well we already knew that. How does this relate to the raccoon rapist? Well it's 2009 and everything still seems to revolve around the penis. 

Raccoon Rapist

This is embarrassing to admit. I should be following the news about the atrocious fire in Australia or Obama's economic stimulus plan. Instead, I'm obsessing over trash news. I found it impossible to let this one go by without some sort of comment. In case you missed this newsbreaking story, a drunken man went to the hospital after attempting to rape a raccoon, who bit off the guy's penis. In case you think this is an urban myth, I'm typing the story below. It appeared in newspapers worldwide. 

Toothy Raccoon Bit Off Manhood by Leon Watson Published 26 Jan. 2009.
A feisty raccoon has bitten off a pervert's penis as he was trying to rape the animal. Alexander Kirilov, 44 was on a drunken weekend with pals when he leapt on the toothy, but terrified fur ball. "When I saw the raccoon I thought I'd have some fun", he told stunned casualty surgeons in Moscow. Now Russian plastic surgeons are trying to restore his mangled manhood. "He's been told they can get things working again but they can't sew back on what the raccoon bit off said a a pal. "That's gone forever, so there isn't going to be much for them to work with."

As a side note, my Septa train conductor, who I fondly refer to as Karma Joe filled me in on this breaking news event when it was featured in the Philly Metro. So I have some questions. First of all, why would the man ADMIT to raping a raccoon? That does not make any sense at all. He could have claimed some sort of freak accident. Second, how is it physiologically possible to conduct such a feat? Raccoons are not the most passive animals, nor are they well... large. I'm not even sure that it would work anatomically. So if I get past the skepticism and choose to believe that this actually occurred, I'm left with a few comments. I figure if the guy is so desperate that the raccoon is his only option, perhaps he doesn't deserve to have his manhood in tact. They might need to send out a sexual predator alert to all mid-sized mammals in his geographical area. My other thought is that it reveals such a desperate and sad state of our culture. Not only do these events occur, but  we relish reading them in the news. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Paradoxical Conundrums a.k.a. puzzling contradictions

Have you ever noticed how many contradictory messages come our way on a daily basis? Or how we conveniently ignore those contradictions, passing them off as the normal course of routine living? Here are a few anecdotes from the latest installment of THIS IS YOUR LIFE.

P.C. #1(not to be confused with politically correct, which this is not. see above header)
Imbibing: I went to a party last Friday night where the featured drink was Red Bull and vodka. You may be asking yourself what in the world I was doing at a frat party? Admittedly, it did feel like a frat party with guys trying to convince me that I NEEDED the heinous concoction. I don't profess to vast medical knowledge, but thank drinks sounds like a heart-attack in the making. Conversation snippet--"No thank you, I have to teach yoga early in the morning." Response #1--You can teach with a headache. Your students won't know the difference. Response #2--It's so awesome, just like snorting cocaine. (I so didn't make that up) Response #3--Just drink one, come on, it's not that bad, it won't hurt you. The reality--not a frat party, but a 44 yr old man's birthday party. The guys are still pushing drinks 20+ years after college. It was a real family affair. Kids ranging in age from 4-17 were running around watching their parents get smashed. There's a conundrum. We tell them DON'T DRINK. DON'T DRINK & DRIVE. DRINK RESPONSIBLY. What great role models we are. 

P.C. #2 Why do we take better care of our pets than ourselves? You may be wondering if my newly adopted greyhound has fully recovered from his traumatic concussion experience of last week. His physical head seems to be fine, but he is suffering from a severe emotional disorder. TOBO (short for Tony Bone-who would name a dog THAT???) was diagnosed as having an extreme separation/anxiety disorder. The dog must have superhero strength teeth, because he managed to bend the metal of his crate. It no longer latches. He also shredded two blankets into confetti-sized pieces in a matter of hours. Today we tried a baby gate, which he knocked down with seconds. The doctor prescribed Reconcile, a doggie form of Prozac. I'm wondering if I should be taking the meds to reconcile the fact that I have an insane dog. Funny how I will fork over the mullah for the doggie anti-depressant, but wouldn't even consider it for myself. Xanax take me away. 

P.C. #3 Speaking of mullah, have I told you that my squash pro instructor's name is Enamullah? It's pronounced like anomaly except with an 'uh' on the end. He is a bit of an anomaly. He can stand in the center of the court, with both arms extended to either wall, kind of like the evil monster dude in Spiderman. He enjoys (and I pay for this privilege) making me run to every corner, missing the balls, until I'm gasping for breath. What is the appeal of squash anyway? I am paying money to a man who encourages me to hit a ball against the walls of a small cell-like structure. He neglected to tell me that squash was a full contact sport. Yesterday my friend Marianne and I decided to practice, which resulted in a head-on collision. My face crashed into the back of her head. I didn't realize that you really DO see stars. As I was spitting out blood into the sink of the locker room, I was wondering what exactly is fun about this? The sick thing is that my lip looks better swollen and purple. All of a sudden, I have the collagen-implanted supermodel pout. Now I just need the other side to complete the look. 

Domestic Chaos

Quoting my cousin Heather Camille who bills herself as the CEO of Domestic Chaos, my recent experiences indicate that a domestic if not national merger may be in order if not immediatley pending. Background info--Friday January 23rd, we adopted a 2 yr. old red faun male greyhound--trained as a racer, but never raced due to lack of 'chase'. Friday January 23--after my teenager touches my Mac G4, it stops working. I'm sure it was a coincidence, since it was an 8 yr. old computer and not due to the massive downloading of crap from the Internet. As you probably guessed, Jesus saved better than I did. So I am freaking out that I cannot access any of my files. 

January 27th: I'm up at 6am to get the kids on the bus by 6:50am. Come home. Close my office door, so the new doggie doesn't 'access' my files. Apparently there was a demon in my office, who thrust open the file cabinet drawers thus blocking off all entry to my office. Shock, quickly replaced by immediate panic. Only my cell phone, laptop, car keys, purse, house keys, brief case and life are in that office. And I'm already late for the first of many appointments that day. 

In the movies, it is very easy to break down a door. In real life (bruised hand and jammed knee later), it's not that easy. I had a choice--to either break the office window or the door. I chose the door--no slivers of glass to pick out of my papers. After punching and karate-kicking it, I did not manage to budge the door a single inch. However, I completely freaked out my poor dog, who ran full-speed into the sliding glass door, conked his head and knocked himself flat on his back (in the yogic dead bug position). 

How could I take a concussion-laced dog to the vet with no car keys or purse? Thankfully he recovered and I put him outside, while I continued to pound on the door with my feet and hands. I was late to work and traumatized my dog, but eventually managed to break down the door without an ax. Rock-0n Girl Power. I am proud of my Laura Croft Tomb Raider Warrior strength. Ian is not so happy, since I splintered the door frame. 

Did I mention the rabies-infested rat-like rodent, which leapt from the kitchen counter, touching my foot and scurrying under the refrigerator? It was probably a large mouse. My lame-ass cat couldn't get his fat body off the couch long enough to even smell it, much less kill it. The dog was scared. 

Of course this is hilarious when it is a sitcom, not so much when it is really happening