Monthly Archives: June 2014

An Unnatural Brunette Gets Political

Image

(freedigitalphotos.net/marin)

Once a month, like clockwork, I remember that I am not really a brunette. What I am is in denial. Over time, the gray that I like to pretend isn’t happening comes back. So I schlep to my local store and peruse the many slickly produced boxes of hair dye trying to find the exact shade of brown my hair never was. I used to describe my hair B.C. (Before Coloring) as ‘dirt brown’. My actual color now depends upon which L’Oréal product is on sale and how tired my arms get during application. (Slap slap slap. Meh. Good enough.) Sometimes I am a ‘medium frosted hazelnut’, other times I am ‘donkey balls beige’…or whatever tomfool name the marketing department has decided to call dark brown. This month, the box tells me I am going to be Medium Golden Brown. I know that what comes out of the box and what goes on my head isn’t going to be anywhere close to Medium Golden anything. If I am lucky, my hair will still be on my head and I won’t have dyed my forehead orange. You may wonder why, if I know that my hair isn’t going to be the color on the box, do I keep buying it? I have decided that it is because we all choose the lies we want to believe. Which brings up the topic of the day: politics.

Hair Dye Lies - Blog

On Sunday, I am mid-application when it occurs to me that I am wearing my illustrious Barack Obama “Yes We Can” t-shirt. (Please do not read anything into the fact that I am ‘covering up my lies with a nasty stain’ and leap immediately to Benghazi. I hate that in a story.) Because dyeing your own hair requires really good upper arm strength and the ability to find the back of your head with your hands, this is a difficult thing to do. But, once it is applied, you have to stand around for about 15 to 20 minutes (depending upon how much denial you are looking for) trying not to drip on the floor. This gives you time to think. And what I came up with while slowly turning the backs of my ears a lovely shade of ‘aardvark-ass amber’, is that politics sells the same kind of lies as L’Oreal.

It used to be every four years we would be bombarded with presidential campaigns that absolutely ruined afterschool television watching as a kid. (Although, if Greg Brady had ever run for office, I would have automatically voted for him out of association.) Unlike measles or rubella which, once exposed to and suffered through, allow some modicum of inoculation against future outbreaks, there is no cure for politics. (Please keep violent suggestions to a dull roar…while fondling your weapon in a fashion that makes everyone around you just a little bit nervous.) Today it is impossible to turn on the TV without some slick campaign convincing us each and every election cycle that this time, the candidate will come through. This time he/she will do exactly what they promised to do. This time my hair will indeed be ‘Colonoscopy Chocolate Brown’. It is such an intoxicating lie…how can we not buy it?

I am a bleeding heart liberal, but I had never jumped on a political bandwagon until Barack Obama came along. There are a lot of reasons why I got off my couch and walked around the neighboring subdivisions to promote a man who I really didn’t know much beyond being impressed by his curriculum vitae and his ability to pronounce “Nuclear” correctly. (Sorry, W, but someone in your staff should have clued you in. Perhaps they wanted you to sound like an idiot so we wouldn’t pay attention to your back office shenanigans?) I won’t bore you with the reasons for my electoral enthusiasm. Suffice it to say, it was my one and only stab at the political process. In the years following Obama’s first election, I was somewhat more invested in the outcome because of my door-to-door campaign beseeching the most apathetic voting population ever. So I watched post-election to see if all my follicles were properly camouflaged. And much like every box of self-denial I have ever bought, the reality fell short of the promise.

Before all you knuckle-dragging, tea-party nut jobs ultra-conservative republicans raise your flag and declare victory, allow me to point out that every single politician in the history of the world has fallen short of the promises made to get them elected. Every single one of them. It isn’t possible for the politician to be as shiny and perfect as the packaging and here’s why. Just as any box of hair dye promises gloriously, silken locks, there really isn’t a way to predict with much accuracy how well or how badly that product is going to work for everybody. One person might come out of a four-year presidency feeling, “Yes, my candidate is glossy and healthy and makes me look ten-years-younger.” But most of us look at our post-election results and wonder: “How did I think this was going to fix anything? I can see the grey even better and now my hair smells funny!” And yet, every election we trot back to the polls to vote for our favorite hair dye…er…candidate. Why do we do this? Why don’t we just go grey?*  Because we all love the lies we tell ourselves.

When I heard that President Obama had authorized an assassination of a purported American terrorist abroad, I was appalled.  Yet, I also fervently wanted to believe that the  administration had the legal authority to authorize this action. You can read the complicated details in the New York Times here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/24/us/justice-department-found-it-lawful-to-target-anwar-al-awlaki.html. I am not a legal scholar and no doubt this issue will be waved in the upcoming elections. However, it is part of the job of politicians to make incredibly hard decisions. (Along with deciding what should be the official snack of a state, apparently, #WTH?WhyYogurt?.)  If we go into a political arena filled with mud believing that any candidate will come out of it squeaky clean – and with perfectly coiffed hair – we are buying a whole nother level of delusion! If we know that our expectations are a lie, we cannot really complain when the ugly roots start to show.

Self-delusion is our default setting. When the television starts spewing candidates who promise “More Body” or “Better Coverage” we all lap up the promises we like best and take them home to rub on our heads. (Whinny. Whoa girl. Settle down. Note: If this makes no sense, you are not reading your asterisk bedazzled footnotes. )** If your political beliefs are thin and frazzled and your candidate promises “Extra Keratin”, you take that thick-coated promise and stampede over the elderly volunteers to punch your ballot. If another candidate promises “rich, radiant, revitalized” representation, well, then that person really likes alliteration and, unless it is Jesse Jackson, I’d steer clear of anyone but a poet laureate. Regardless of our politics, beliefs or hopes, we all go to the polling centers hoping that this time we will come out of the booth with shiny, spunky-monkey brown hair. (Neigh…jumps fence…trot trot trot.)***

Why would I tell you this? Because sometimes, we all have to agree on what the lie is in order to recognize it as the new truth. Maybe it would help in the process if we admitted up front that we knew the candidates were going to lie—at least some measurable Pinocchio-nose amount anyway. (Wouldn’t you just love to see Wolf Blitzer moderate that debate? “Senator what percentage of your campaign contains bald-faced lies, fibs, faradiddles, and deliberate obfuscation?”) Instead of pie-in-the-sky promises we’d hear: “This product may cause an allergic reaction, please rub a small portion of the candidate against an undisclosed part of your body and wait 24-hours to see if you react.”  No longer would politicians label their opponents as a bleach bottle, whitewash artist while busily touching up their own roots.  Perhaps our candidates could be upfront? Maybe we could get election ad disclaimers like this: “I may cause premature balding or the tendency to look like Lucille Ball.”  Or is that just wishful peroxide-blonde thinking?

It doesn’t hurt to tell ourselves that the dye we use on our hair will make us look younger. But maybe we need to admit that the lies we tell ourselves at election time have graver consequences? Perhaps the simple solution would be to regulate the marketing of politicians as we would any product: WARNING, The Surgeon General states that this politician may cause astronomical expenditures on an unwinnable war which will ruin the economy for millennia and yet will cower from gun-toting Second Amendment enthusiasts while watching the nation’s schools become a war zone. Apply with caution.

At least, this is what I was randomly thinking while I was dyeing.

DING. Times up. I have to wash this gunk out of my hair or I will fry it into an unmanageable, snarly mess.  Never spend more than twenty-five minutes covering things up…it just makes the problem that much worse. Besides, that is just about how long I want to spend contemplating politics. I would imagine that is why, when I look at Washington, I kind of feel the gray is showing. Nobody has the energy for that large a dye job.

__________________________________________

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes

*Okay, that analogy wandered off track like a cantankerous filly, but I drag it back from the fields…

**They are put there for your safety.

***The filly has left the paddock.

For the curious out there...Ta Da!
For the curious out there… Ta Da!

 

BONUS FIND

(You actually read the whole thing. Enjoy this extra piece of deliciousness)

For your edification, my made-up list of hair dye names that did not make the above article alongside their actual counterpart.   Feel free to send in your own or vote for your favorite:

Actual Hair Product Names:                                    Made-up Name:

Black Leather                                                  Refuses to Washout Black

Starry Night                                                      Depressing Goth Onyx

Blowout Burgundy                                         Velvet-lined Casket Mahogany

Ruby Fusion                                                      Crime Scene Red

French Roast Deep Bronzed Brown         Overly-caffeinated Starbucks Brown

Moonlit Tortoise                                              Desiccated Leaf Blower Extract

Extra Light Ash Blonde                                   Oozing Fungus Infection Yellow

 

Advertisements

On the Fence at El Barrio

Cartoon Chef

[freedigitalphotos.net/iosphere]

[I want to practice having ‘topics’ on my blog.  Basically, I want an excuse to play around with my basic 20/13 format.  Here’s hoping it is more socially acceptable than playing with one’s food.]

 ^^^

I have always secretly wanted to be a food critic.  And no, it’s not just because I want to eat for free.  I think I would make an excellent cuisine diva. You know, the nose-in-the-air snob who slinks into a posh establishment wearing sunglasses (as if they won’t recognize the terrifying taster at a glance anyway) orders one of everything on the menu and then delivers pronouncements from on high that make or break the restaurant’s reputation.   Only I have a small problem.  I don’t eat meat.* (Meat, for the purposes of this article refers to red meats: beef, pork, lamb, musk ox, bambi…)  I’m not a vegan or anything like that (no offense to Vegans intended) but, I just don’t like the taste or the texture or sometimes the politics.  (Okay, who out there can eat Veal? I mean, seriously.  The Vegans aren’t entirely wrong about their Eating Animals is Cruel stance.)

You think: “Okay.  You don’t like meat…but you could try all the seafood restaurants…”  Wrong!  I am anti-seafood.  I lack the gene or whatever it is that makes water-based life forms appetizing.  I find crustaceans to be thoroughly repellent.  Shrimp are just about the worst thing ever.  How can someone willingly put a watery cockroach into their mouth, bite the head off, and spit out the crunchy leg parts? Eaugh!  (The sound you make when you suppress vomit.)

So you say, “Well that’s because you have never had good seafood.”  For some reason, people who like seafood cannot fathom a world in which people like me exist.  Vegans don’t count.  They are aliens to our planet and therefore cannot be used for statistical purposes.  As to the attitude, I get it, I really do.  Whenever I meet someone who doesn’t like chocolate, I suspect them of being a terrorist with an anti-confectioner’s manifesto: “The Cocoa Bean Has Had Its Day.  Bring Back Saltwater Taffy.”  Now, where was I?  Oh, right, seafood should only be served to other seafood.

Regarding good seafood: I have tasted several dishes at the behest of many astounded people who don’t believe me when I say, “No, I do not like eating something that swims in its own feces.”  I have tried ‘good’ lobster (stringy rubber bands), ‘good’ calamari (chewy rubber bands), ‘good’ crab, (eek, giant sea spider), ‘good’ shrimp (nasty, filthy, gelatinous horrors of the sea) and don’t let me get started on octopus.  The suckers…oh god…the suckers.  As for regular old fish…if it is coated with a shield-layer of deep fried breading, slathered with a quart of tartar sauce and wedged between a soft Kaiser roll with a fistful of hairy lettuce…I can manage to suppress the gag reflex long enough to swallow it. Not exactly “Yummo”**.

So why do I want to be a food critic if I don’t eat 90% of what is on the menu?  It’s for that remaining 10%.  I eat chicken because it marvelously doesn’t contain feelers, veins, or protoplasmic tendencies like a mollusk does.  Also chicken can be smothered by a thousand different toppings and taste completely different each time—if it is cooked well and with care.  I love veggies and, even though they are considered an afterthought at most American restaurants, there are some incredible variations at the Ethnic establishments.  Countries where living on vegetables is a necessity and therefore, the flavoring of said staple is given some thought beyond “Let’s toss some bacon in it and call it good.”

That said, on occasion, when I have been out to a fine dining establishment that does not involve “Would you like fries with that?” inquiries, I may be moved to share my epicurean wisdom.  For example:

                                 Fence - The Barrio

(Freedigitalphotos.net, moggara12)

The title of my article, which was the intended subject of this rant blog, was meant to pique your interest about a Mexican Restaurant I enjoyed yesterday.  El Barrio http://www.elbarriomexicangrill.com/ is located at 545 Michigan Street NE just East of College Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids, MI.  I recommend it with only minor reservations.  I have only dined there twice, so my exposure to the food is limited.  But what I have had there has been well cooked, hot and served in a timely fashion.  The chips are crisp and the salsa is a nice, mild accompaniment.  The service is friendly and considerate to families with special needs.  (Spoiler Alert.) Two things detracted from my most recent experience.  It is located at a section of the road just before a highway entrance/exit.  At rush hour, be prepared to nose your way through aggressive drivers to access the parking lot. (I blame their discourtesy on low blood sugar.)  The other detractor I would say is they LIED on their dessert menu.  I ordered the ‘fried ice cream’ expecting, silly me, to get fried ice cream.  No, what we got was a ball of ice cream that had been rolled in a crushed nut topping and then served with stale ‘crisps’ which I think would have been delicious if they weren’t old.  I say that because the taco salad I ordered came in the most amazing bowl I have ever eaten.  I mean, it was traffic-stopping good.  I had the leftovers today and the bowl, while a little soggy still tasted fantastic.

I may not be Julia Childs but I can appreciate a decent meal and a lovely ambiance.  Anyone who wishes to challenge my street cred as a food critic is welcome to take me out somewhere for dinner and test my acumen.  (I promise, I can accurately identify kale from radicchio at ten paces—which is as close as I am willing to get to either of those bitter weeds.  Not all veggies are created equal.)  Just don’t ask me to taste your meat.* There are things I am willing to do for a free meal…but that isn’t one of them!

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*All those of you who are of a prurient mind and are snickering to yourself about the use of the word ‘meat’ in this article—shame on you. (Okay, you are allowed some license for the last reference.  That was intentional.)

**Yummo is a trademarked phrase of Kitchen Goddess Rachael Ray.  If you don’t know who Rachael Ray is, she just hasn’t reached your village yet for occupation, wait a bit.  You might want to stock up on EVOO before she gets there though.

The Care and Feeding of Zombie Hamsters—Or The Way of the Angry Lotus

WARNING, a blatant and oversimplified generalization is about to follow. You may or may not recognize the fault of personality with which I am going to whitewash the entire human race. It doesn’t matter. Call me Tom Sawyer and pass me a brush.*

People learn lessons very slowly. In my case, make that very, very slowly and with rerun episodes that are so familiar I can practically recite the dialogue by heart. The reason I mention this is that today was a prime example of my tendencies of running myself into a rail and then over the edge of a cliff. I would say I didn’t see the warning signs …but that would be a lie. I practically ran the sign over as I sped Thelma and Louise-style toward the abyss. The sad part? I was trying to reach a perfect state of Zen.
Blog Hamster
(FreeDigitalPhotos.net, James Barker)
It might help if I explained my brain to you for a moment. Uh…perhaps a visual would help. Imagine a giant warehouse somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Even GPS can’t find this spot with any accuracy. Now picture this building stuffed to the rafters with squeaky hamster wheels, rusting in place because all the little hamsters died of starvation while the owner was lost looking for kibble. That is my brain…oh…and it’s located on a fault line that occasionally threatens to suck the entire works into a massive sinkhole. In other words, I live a frantic existence. Now, back to the search for Nirvana.**

I will sometimes have one of my hamsters spring to life. (Side note: these are zombie hamsters and are not to be trusted out of their cage!) The zombie hamster will insist that I absolutely need to do something like, say, learn how to make an origami lotus flower. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfMGjjW4avc] I will search for a how-to video and I will immediately plunk down hard earned cash on the most expensive paper you will ever find. It might have been cheaper to make lotus flowers out of actual currency, if dollars came in the right dimensions. I followed the step-by-step instructions and, voila, success. I made a perfect replica of the one on the video. I am the Queen of Arts and Crafts. All bow down. The zombie hamsters are activated by this achievement and immediately start churning out all kinds of ideas: Maybe we could make a bunch of these flowers, figure out how to laminate or waterproof them and turn them into floating lotus lanterns and host a summer river festival of lights. You will be happy to note, the other zombie hamsters captured and ate the one that produced that idea. Yes, they are cannibalistic zombie hamsters. It saves on buying kibble.

Now, you may be wondering why I insist that this beautiful and perfect moment was such a disaster? Allow me to explain. Once one zombie hamster has risen it makes more zombie hamsters…that is its sole motivation. After the idea to create floating lanterns died a grisly death, the zombies got together and decided… “If she can make origami lotuses, she should be able to make ANY kind of origami flower.” So I am back at the YouTube altar, trying to find a way to make roses. How hard can it be to make roses? Do you want to know HOW hard it is to make an origami rose? I’ll tell you how [expletive deleted] hard it is…Making origami roses is harder than raising hamsters from the dead.  It is also as far from approaching Nirvana as you can get. I tried four videos with different instructors. I folded, I crimped, I re-folded, I re-ran the 18-minute video (I kid you not) trying to recreate what these disembodied hands made as if they were manipulating the dna of the paper to transmogrify it into a rose in full bloom. I failed, repeatedly and spectacularly. The zombie hamsters were booing and goading me to find a better video. Things were getting ugly.

I was getting frustrated. “Why can’t I make the stupid fold slide into the slot the way the guy on the video is doing it?” I was aggravated and the zombie hamsters were running amok. Meanwhile, in the background my poor son has restarted his favorite concerto for the 330 millionth time and I just SNAPPED. I yell at my son. I threaten to melt the CD if I have to hear it one more time. I just absolutely lose it. My son ran off to his room crying. Even the zombies laid down and pretended to be dead.

And this is the moment when perfect clarity strikes. I should have stopped at success. Success for me is a recipe for disaster. I’ve done this before.

I once played a carnival game that I now know is so stacked against the player the odds of winning are probably astronomically against it. I am not sure, I do not have Stephen Hawking on speed dial to corroborate.  The game involved throwing quarters and having them land in a square on the board. Sounds easy, right?   (The zombie hamsters applaud.) Well, in my case, it was. There was this stuffed unicorn I wanted so badly, I could taste it. I had a few dollars in my pocket burning to be thrown away. I plunk down a dollar and I get my four quarters. The first quarter lands in a square with a 3 in the middle. The man frowns. “Okay, you got a three. That will get you a prize in this row here.” He points to the worthless crap that even zombie hamsters would turn their noses up at. I point up to the delicate and beautiful unicorn floating overhead. “I want that one.” The guy, probably used to whining, sniveling brats, just says, “The unicorn is 7 points. You need four more points.” I get out my next quarter and boom, it lands in a box with an X. Now, if I have failed to mention it, the quarter has to land exactly in the center of the box. The box has a relative dimension just a hair past of the width of a quarter. I look up at the man and say, “What’s the X stand for?” I swear, he looked at me like I had two heads. “That’s worth four.” He reaches up and grabs the unicorn and hands it to me. I take my unicorn, ecstatic to a degree that I have never quite managed again in my life, and I am about to turn away when one of my hamsters (they aren’t dead at this point) squeaks: “Maybe you can win more?” I turn back, and plunk a few more dollars worth of quarters on the board and every single one of them misses. The man in the booth says, “Maybe you should just stick with what you already got.”

To this day, that is probably the best advice I have ever been given. What a shame zombie hamsters just don’t listen.

You would think that, knowing I am ruled by undead rodents and knowing they are pernicious little fu… that is to say, annoying little pricks, I would cut their tiny heads off and leave them on stakes as a warning to all the other mad ideas that try to crawl from the crypt. You’d think that wouldn’t you. Sadly, I often feel helpless in the face of the zombie hordes. It can take reaching a point of insanity for one of them to raise its little paw and say, “Uh, Boss. You might want to reel it in. You’re scaring your family and mangling the origami. Maybe it’s time to give it a rest?”

What have we learned from today’s lesson, kiddos? If at first you succeed…stop. Oh…and if someone offers to teach you how to fold an origami rose…RUN. Don’t Walk. Or the Zombie Hamsters will be eating your brains too.

Origami-astic

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*For those of you who are wincing, thinking, “But Tom avoided the responsibility of painting the fence by tricking someone else to do it. That analogy makes no sense.” You are correct. You are also welcome to go rant about it on your own blog

**Not the band by Kurt Cobain, but instead, the state of peace achieved by reaching a perfect stillness of the mind…but not a space filled with dead hamsters either.

Whistling in the Wind

This is a test…of my patience. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, what IMG_8141you would call techno-literate. I am lucky I can turn my laptop on, to be honest. I have my strengths. I love photography, so I have tackled learning how to use a digital camera and the monkeyshines that involves uploading pictures and then being able to manipulate them to fix my mistakes. (I am a GOD, with the ability to increase or decrease my contrast at WILL!) However, the problem with my skill set is that it takes me an incredibly long time to master these leaps in technology. (I still use white-out on occasion, if that gives you an idea.) No sooner have I mastered the functions of Picasa than Google upgrades its system and now all my billions of photos are held hostage on my downstairs tower-shaped computer and I have yet to figure out how to get them onto the cloud…or whatever the magic method of transition is. I suspect I will need an intervention.

So, if I am so antiquated that paper is my preferred medium, why am I entering the blogosphere you might ask? That would be an excellent question, in search of a good answer…

Hang on…give me a minute…

Uh, nope, I’m drawing a blank.

Where was I? Oh yes, blogging and why people do it. I have decided that a majority of people must be masochists or exhibitionists…or somewhere on that spectrum. Or, they have a deep-seated desire to shout in the wilderness…which is what I suspect my posts will be doing. Standing somewhere on a fault line, shrieking like a banshee, and listening to the wind whistle past. But at least I will be publishing which is the point. I think.

I have been writing, to amuse myself mostly and to keep me humble. The title of this blog (which is subject to change depending on my ability to figure out how to do it) is The Dust Season–which refers to the Trilogy I am writing by that series name. From all accounts, a writer actually needs to have a pool of readers at hand, so to speak, before he or she can even think of approaching a publisher. (Which is why I am a Luddite. I thought it was the publisher’s job to get the book to the people…but, there it is.) So here I am, hat in hand, standing on the edge of the desert trying to figure out what the hell a widget is.

If anyone happens to hear my cry in the dark, feel free to point me in the right direction…preferably one with books printed on paper and a nice cup of tea at the end of the story.

P.S.  If I manage to attach a picture…it will not be of the desert as one might expect.  I live in the Midwest.  All I have are photos of flowers and the desire to move somewhere warm during the 6-months of winter.

P.P.S. Blogging Virgin here…please be gentle.