Friday, July 20, 2007

This Is A Nice Find.

I'm on the farm with Deb and Steve during perhaps the most inopportune time of the year. My mother goes through phases where she thinks she hosts a show on Home and Garden Television and as a result 3,000 random projects ensue simultaneously. I'm reminded of her scrapbooking/stenciling summer in the early 90's. Half of the pictures from our childhood were cut and pasted to the pages of "Footprints In The Sands of Time" (her scrapbook's actual title) and all of our bathrooms had seashell borders.

This summer will be remembered as "The Clearing." She must have gotten her hands on some books about Minimalist design because I swear she is determined to wipe out the contents of the home. Everyday there's a carload of things to be dropped off at the Volunteers of America and every night my father asks what has been thrown away. "Debbie, where did the table by the door go?" And my mom's eyes grow wide as she sort of shakes her head to say, "oh I don't know." But we all know she knows.

The other day she went through each cabinet in the kitchen and basically threw away everything. To be fair, so much was not needed. She had a crystal deviled egg tray with actual grooved out little place holders for deviled eggs. This is not necessary in life. How often do people make deviled eggs that a tray made specifically for that food would be warranted? And she kept pulling out tons of stuff like this. In fact, so much random stuff that my sister and I had no choice but to play "Antiques Roadshow."

If you've never seen Antiques Roadshow, a part of my soul weeps for that incomplete part of your soul. But for those of you who have, you must agree that the best part of the show is when people bring something they think is valuable only to learn it's worth 11 cents. Anyway, Nessa and I took turns playing owner and appraiser and would have to tell the story of how we acquired the item or share the actual history of the item. Note to reader: This is instant fun.
We must have spent an hour making up fake stories about strainers (Viking helmet), metal kebab skewers (ancient Korean sword), and a lemonade pitcher with "Happy Holidays" written on it (lemonade pitcher with "Happy Holidays" written on it).

When my mother emerged from the basement with a bag of stuff to be given away she found me standing over a pile of ice cube trays giving a detailed account of their history as Ness listened intently. We ignored the random thing she was doing, she ignored ours.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Bobby, You'll Be Tree Number 4.

I saw an article online that said a man robbed a bank in New Hampshire dressed as a tree. I can't help but love everything about this story. I love thinking about his mindset going into the robbery, I love the cartoon nature of the disguise and I love imagining what the other people in line at the bank thought as a tree waited patiently to make a transaction. Crime is wrong, obviously, but if someone demanded my wallet dressed as some sort of shrubbery (or anything really) I think I'd go along with the whole thing. Yes, I'd be out some cash, but just think of how many times I could mention that I was robbed by a pencil (or cat, or spruce). You can't put a price on that.

For anyone who has ever seen The Bushman at Fisherman's Wharf in SF, you have to appreciate how hilarious this story is. I hate Fisherman's Wharf, but 5 minutes of watching this guy scare people was worth getting stuck behind slow-walking tourists. The Bushman is brilliant for 2 reasons.
1) Watching startled people jump and scream is one of life's simple pleasures.
2) People are actually surprised someone is behind a random group of branches sprouting out of nothing on a city sidewalk.

I like to think the Tree-Man in NH had the Bushman in mind when he robbed the bank. "I'll just move slowly along, la de da, I'm just a tree, nothing to see here, and then when they least expect it, 'Give me all your money!'' The more I started to think about the whole thing, the more I started to really like this guy. How sad is that? I just can't help but smile when I imagine him breaking twigs off the trees in his yard. "Oh, this one is good! I am so going to look like a tree."

But all of this raises the question, why? Why would a grown man think dressing as a tree and robbing a bank would work? Or, not even work, but why would he think this was a good idea? Or, not even a good idea, why would he even think it? I know little (read: nothing) about the origins of the criminal mind but I'd say the source is a childhood trauma. For this man in New Hampshire, it's quite clear to me that he played a tree in one too many an elementary school play.

Do you remember elementary school plays? The quiet kids were ALWAYS trees. It was the only way to get Shy Sally on stage so her parents could get a picture and she wouldn't feel left out. But even when I was in first grade it amazed me that these kids didn't tell the teachers to fuck off. Trees never had lines, they literally stood there, and I swear to you, I remember one kid being a tree that didn't even have a hole for his face. He was literally behind the tree, holding it up. That kid is without a doubt in jail right now. Telling a child to be a tree (particularly during aquatic scenes) does very little to build his sense of self and establishes within him the idea that he won't be noticed. Enter Tree-Man, stage right.

I like to think that if he'd been given a few lines in a play as a kid, he might have done something more sophisticated than robbing a bank dressed as a tree. Maybe a soft soliloquy delivered at the ATM.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Existential Crisis On A Bun.

Today I watched the Nathan's Hot dog Eating Contest for the first time ever. I've seen enough highlight footage to get the gist, but I thought I owed it to myself to actually witness the full 12 minutes. I tried to go into it with an open mind. I thought, perhaps it isn't the worst display of gluttony the world has ever known. Perhaps there's a level of sportsmanship that trumps the blatant disregard for millions of starving people. Maybe it's just really fun to watch.

It turns out, the answers to those thoughts are as follows:
1)Yes it is.
2) No there's not.
3) Are you effing kidding me?

Around 3 minutes into the event (which is of course, an eating competition but also,"The World's Biggest Dumbass" contest) I grew predictably nauseous. If there is anything more disgusting than consuming mass quanities of hot dogs, it's eating wet hot dogs. The dipping of the buns into water caused me to dry-heave in a manner that is usually reserved for finding hair in food. But the eating wasn't necessarily the main source of my discomfort. I think it was the spectacle.

The announcers introduced each competitor with a laundry list of their achievements. World record holder in oysters! World record holder in cheesecake! Birthday cake! Fried Asparagus! Chicken Wings! Ribs! Shoo-Fly Pie Champion of the World! This man ate his own baby! And with each name announced the crowd roared with enthusiasm. Roaring crowds for people who eat. "Hey! I eat food too! But you eat waaay more food than me so I painted your name on my face! I love you! I love the way, you know, you eat food... and stuff."
I don't understand the cheering. If you've ever been to a buffet and noticed the gross guy who keeps going up with the same plate, you might not be inclined to clap so hard.

And I'd like to think the announcers weren't being 100% serious with their commentary but it was honestly hard to tell. When introducing the American hopeful Joey Chestnut one commentator said that some American heroes people think about on Independence Day are "Abe Lincoln, Neil Armstrong, Taylor Hicks, and Joey Chestnut." Normally I'd find this comical. But coming from a man who is paid to moderate a hot dog contest, I'm not so sure what to think.

Events like this, where there seems to great excitement over something I don't understand on any level, send me into introspective overdrive. People could be cheering or dressing up or taking pictures and I'm left in a slight panic questioning what the hell is going on. So as each minute ticked off the clock, and 30, then 40, then 50 hot dogs were devoured by each eater, I heard my inner Alvy Singer grow louder and louder. The universe is expanding and these idiots are eating 60 hot dogs.

It was impossible for me to make it through the 12-minute gorging without questioning our collective purpose. And maybe, that's what this whole thing was about. Nihilism, solipsism syndrome, and the meaning of life all called into question outside of Nathan's on Coney Island, Brooklyn.

Or maybe it was about eating hot dogs really fast.