Wile E. Coyote and the Fiscal Cliff

I never promised I wouldn’t broach politics. Like you, I have strong opinions on the way this country stumbles along as the self-acclaimed greatest show on Earth (after the real circuses, of course). I have expectations living in this one nation, indivisible, blah blah blah, rah rah rah. That said, do not expect this blog to become another one-state, two-state, red-state, blue-state bashing free for all. It’s been done. To death. And by more clever people than I. Or is it Me… I? Dammit.

Moreover, I would venture a guess that if you’re reading this blog, you know me at some level. Even if it’s the “we’ve gotten drunk together before” level, or the “I say hi to that gay dude in the hall at work and sometimes he says something funny” level. My political views are well known, and well established, and no I won’t change my mind, let’s not have this conversation.

However.

Long, long ago in the before time, I was required to take classes in civics and government. I learned about bicameral legislatures, electoral colleges, the presidential line of succession, and how Jackie Kennedy redecorated the White House always in that fabulous Chanel suit. I learned about Supreme Court rulings and the abuse of the filibuster and what Lady Liberty is wearing under that sexy toga of hers. (Hint… nothing, she’s such a minx)

But in the dusty textbooks and during the hours of lecture and debate and examination, I somehow missed out on the fact that, at its base, the federal government and those we elect to make laws, e.g., members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, have all of the decency, patience, and ability to compromise as a kindergarten class at 2:30pm that happened to skip nap and snack time.

I’m talking about the hand-wringing, deal-spinning, grandstanding sack of horseshit that is the looming “FISCAL CLIFF” and just about every news story and soundbite I’ve heard about it.

ImagePeople. We live in a diverse, multicultural country with people of different races, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, boxers versus briefs, the list goes on. And I realize that my political views don’t match those of the evangelical Christian wife living in the rural mountains of West Virginia, or the cute lesbian couple raising organic flaxseed in Oregon. That’s the point. We’re all different. And we all vote different, so that there can be a diversity of interest and opinion when it comes to the laws that govern a flawed but ultimately kickass country. We expect that this diversity of opinion and <GASP> logic might actually filter up to those we elect to try not to run the whole damned thing into the ground.

So why is it that, given this diversity of opinion, this great American Melting Pot, this steaming pile of humanity has given birth to a political system that has but two main political parties; that at the moment seems to be split in two on the future of tax policies, entitlement reform, and increased government revenues; that espouses one cultural viewpoint where you’re either on my side or the enemy; that point blank refuses to compromise on ANYTHING which is why we’re facing the financial abyss yet again by our own making?

Why is it that after centuries, we continue to be our own worst enemy by pointing fingers and laying blame instead of sitting down, talking things out, and getting shit done? And, when the Powers That Be don’t do their job, why do they not only get paid, but get to go on vacation?! If I showed up to work on an average of 49% of the year, and didn’t get my grants written or my reports done or my data entered, you know what I would get? Nope, not private, subsidized healthcare and a pension for the rest of my life. FIRED. Yep, that’s right. When people don’t do their jobs, unless they work in Congress, they get fired. Funny story.  My god I feel like I’m taking crazy pills! (Zoolander reference, nailed it)

No, I don’t have any answers, and yes I’ve signed 72 online petitions demanding an end to the current system with term limits and an end to Washington cronyism and all that jazz, and yes I’m frustrated and no I won’t buy a button saying I’m part of the 99% because dammit I want a real change. I want the slow grinding gears of DC to find a bottle of lube and get with the program.

In short, I want a unicorn: something that exists in stories and myth, but that no one outside of a cartoon has ever seen. If only my old civics textbooks had cartoons, I think I would have retained more.

Dental Torture 2.0: The WaterPik Flosser of Doom

On one of my various jaunts to my most favorite discount department store with a dear friend (rhymes with Mohl’s, and yes that spelling is intentional) I came across one of those modern inventions that you didn’t realize you needed until you saw it in shiny plastic opulence. The WaterPik water flosser. A marvel of oral engineering triumph and splendor.

ImageGone would be the days of having to tighten angry pieces of floss around delicate fingers in order to tackle the sensitive gum line that keeps one’s pearly whites in check. Goodbye, you godless technology of yesteryear, for I was to harness the power of water, of electricity, of something that I would otherwise shrink away from at the dentist’s office but that now under my control would become yet another tool in the vanity box of self-esteem. I even convinced my skeptical friend that not only was the WaterPik something that I desperately needed, but that between my Mohl’s Cash and coupons, would inevitably be purchased at a really good price. Smiling patronizingly at me, she took the box from my hand and proceeded to guide me away from the 40% off 300-thread count sheets and cupcake makers so that the shopping experience could be over, the reward of which was almost always trip to Wendy’s for a Frosty.

Fast forward three months.

I’ve been using the WaterPik for a while now, off and on, and I can say without a doubt that using it is like sticking a fire hose in your mouth. What I didn’t anticipate upon purchase of my oral health torture device is that water, that cool and vital resource running through our veins, that whisper of life that makes up anything with a pulse, when traveling at 85 miles per hour is like igniting lighter fluid in your mouth. After the mistake of trying it out first on “high” (shit, I can take it, I ran an assault course in college I’ll have you know!), I have moved back to the “low” setting, and it still feels like I’m running a razor blade between my teeth. As I watch in horror while the water running from my mouth moves from clear to a rust red, I recognize belatedly that sometimes the marvels of modern technology are painful. And not in that John Cougar Mellencamp “Hurts So Good” way. In that “I must have tortured baby turtles in a previous life and this is my penance” way. And yet, I return to it time after time because, frankly, it works. Really, really f-ing well. Is it painful? Sure. Is it causing future irreparable damage to my mouth that I will ultimately regret? Probably.

But sitting here, running my tongue over what’s left of my gums and feeling nothing but sleek tooth enamel, I have to say that if 2 minutes of torture is what it takes to keep my chompers in smexy condition, then bring. it. on.

Brown Paper Packages Tied up with Judgment

As Julie Andrews would say, these are a few of my favorite things. No, not doorbells or sleigh bells, or schnitzel with noodles. None of which I particularly care for, or frankly run into with any regularity enough to form any sort of informed opinion. But, seriously, schnitzel with noodles? Unless Kraft has it in a blue box, I’m dubious. Plus, you can’t beat macaroni and cheese. Then again, the woman made sport-jorts and dresses out of some pretty terrible curtains while singing about fleeing the Nazis. So I guess 1940’s Austria is a fundamentally different place than Salt Lake. South, I owe you a nickel.

While I wrote sanguinely about my love affair with Utah yesterday, I find today’s travails pushing me (as they are wont to do) towards discontentment as a trip to the good ole DABC has wrapped up another eventful Monday in the Capital City.

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Here’s where I go.

Say you’re a rather conservative state, founded in the late 1800’s, with a dominant religious ideology that is so inbred with the formative and nascent political process that your Archangel graces the towers of city’s municipal building. Hypothetically. This particular cultural hegemony dictates, and has dictated, that alcohol is fundamentally bad and that no one should drink it, while winking at its own heritage of owning distilleries all over the city-state. Again, hypothetically. So, in is efforts to curb vice and poor judgment, the powers that be decide that in order to save reasonable adults from making responsible choices on their own, that “the state” shall regulate and be the sole proprietor of liquor sales to save us from ourselves. You with me so far?

Good.

Fast forward a few generations, where religion is (arguably) farther removed from the political process than it was in, say the 1920’s. To a time where there is at least political discourse, even if it is lopsided. Where one can discuss the pros and cons of waking up in someone else’s house in their mid-twenties wondering why their head feels like it was hit by a dump truck (we’ve all been there).

Please take note, I come from many a state that controls liquor through state-owned stores and distribution centers (e.g., Virginia, New Hampshire, etc.). That’s not the crux of the biscuit, as my late adviser would say as he tried good-naturedly to pound the holes in the coffin of my thesis as gently as possible. Utah, with its quirky history and subsequent legacy, is… different. Unique. Special.

Special in the sense that there must be a requirement that in order to work in a liquor store that isn’t the clusterf&ck that is the downtown location, you have to judge each and every individual coming in for their weekly vodka or bourbon of dare-I-say-it 40 oz of malt liquor purchase as a complete degenerate. Yes, you steely-eyed emaciated chick at the Avenues store, I am talking about you. Along with your aged, grey-maned companion that looks like the next door neighbor everyone hated in 1970s sitcoms. I see you sighing heavily, asking whether or not I need a paper sack and anticipating my method of payment. That’s right. I drink. That’s why I’m at the liquor store.

Listen, I don’t have a beef with teetotalers. I could care less if you drink or don’t drink, and frankly, if you don’t drink I’ll probably enjoy you more because you’re my potential ride home from my next booze-brave adventure. But if you have an issue with people drinking, don’t work at a goddamned liquor store. Find a job where you’ll be better appreciated for your baseless judgment. As a judge on a reality television show perhaps. Representing known criminals on Maury or Judge Judy. Or as a newscaster on Fox News.

My only wish is that, as I walk towards the cash register with a bottle of wine I anticipate sharing with friends this weekend, I don’t encounter the Care Bear Stare. At least, not again this week.

Return to the Land of Zion: A Primer

Aaaaaand we’re back!

After a brief hiatus in the boozy hills of northern California I am back to business in the Busy Bee State. I spent almost a week I wining, dining, and praising the sweet Lord baby Jesus that I didn’t end up wrapped around a telephone poll with my parents and close friends. And this evening, when I was slowly circling the promised land in the world’s smallest and probably most dangerous aircraft, whispering my prayers to God, Allah, and Mother Gaia (you’ve gotta have the bases covered) I thought to myself: “Matthew, dearest, you haven’t explained why you went from an East Coast junkie obsessed with planned neighborhoods and regional ginger ales to someone that wants to buy property in an area where one can raise chickens with impunity. IMPUNITY!”

Let’s take a step back, shall we? Whenever I talk to my family, both immediate and extended, and when I talk to old friends that cannot fathom living below the Mason-Dixon or west of the Mississippi, I’ve found myself on the opposite side of myself four years ago. You see, when I moved here, all I saw were the negative aspects of the Salt Lake Valley, which were shaped and seen through the prism of a graduate program that was not… how you say… the best fit for me.

And that is as diplomatically as I can state that psychological history.

Yet, after a time of living here, upon finding my path, leaving places that became toxic to find new places that were a better fit, and getting to know my gayborhoods and places to get indescribably inappropriate, I find myself defending the salt flats and deserts of my chosen hometown. I become defensive towards the haters of Crossroads of the West. “You haven’t tasted our honey, you son’s of bitches!” I shout with an angry fist raised, “And don’t even front like you know what a Navajo Taco even is!

Don’t get me wrong. The “inversions” where the pollution gets stuck in the valley and everything has a film of brown shart on its cover is gross. The interstate traffic can make you want to murder pre-term infants. The liquor store is closed on Sundays. And the fact that Utah is one of the reddest states in the country is not lost on a queer progressive Democrat with a political chip on his shoulder the size of Park City.

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Yet I digress. The central reason that I love living in the wild, wild West is that the rules are skewed in my favor. People here recognize that wearing a tie is like wearing a little noose knot around your neck. They accept that wearing a tuxedo is not only uncomfortable, it makes you look like a drunk penguin. They believe that people are truly professional in their deeds and acts, not necessary in how much they invest in their appearance.

Plus you get to drive 70+ MPH on the highway legally. I mean, what’s not to like?

So as I continue to contemplate buying a housing in the valley and placing permanent roots, I find myself in need of a “pros and cons” list that I can present to the Doubting Thomases of my life. Because, ladies and gents, things are about to get real. And in looking at the financial realities of working in the non-profit landscape, I can afford a decent home in a far flung suburb of Salt Lake City above and beyond the refrigerator boxes I might afford in Washington, DC or Boston on the same salary. Holler!

Celebrating cultural slaughter through binge eating

I know, I know. It’s so easy to pick on Thanksgiving. We gave the Native Americans plastic beads and syphilitic blankets for fertile land, relegating them to the wastelands of the Dakotas and the deserts of the southwestern US for things we pass over in K-Mart bargain bins. We spend significant amounts of time and money to be with those we consider our most loved for a feast of the senses, only to have the smorgasbord interrupted by deals on plasma televisions that have begun encroaching on what I consider “my pie time.”

So why tread on such familiar territory?

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I won’t belabor the finer points of the tradition that is overindulgence while watching parades and putting up Christmas decorations as soon as the green bean casserole is cleared. Because while the traditions may be marred by a shared heritage we should both bemoan and accept, the fact remains that for one brief moment, every year, virtually everyone in the good ole U.S. of A is eating the same thing. Which I think merits a positive point or two. My beef (er… turkey?) is with the continuing encroachment of Black Friday on the actual pseudo-holiday of binge eating.

And this is key, people.

As someone who has made consumerism and capitalism two central tenets of their existence, it is telling that I (OF ALL PEOPLE) would revolt against the Black Friday creep that continues to defy the Julian calendar. Now, for those that truly know me, it is well recognized that I will knock over an elderly Jehovah’s Witness in a walker for a discount. I scour ads throughout the year, clip my coupons, save my savings cards for the ultimate impact at the cash register. One would think that I would be the consummate consumer of Black Friday holiday deals. TV/Clock Radios for pennies on the dollar! Gadgets I didn’t know existed but that I now need desperately! DVD/BlueRay/UltraViolet/Fill-In-The-Spectrum movie experiences that make me feel the floor shake while I wet my pants!

How can we resist?!

How? I’ll tell you how. I may be someone easily swayed by a holiday circular and a few too many vodka tonics. But I will be damned if I am going to accept that “my pie time”, replete with coffee spiked with whatever liqueurs I can find in my neighbor’s pantry, is to be interrupted by the drumbeat of great digital deals. If I am to accept the travesty of food that symbolizes one of America’s most trusted traditions, I refuse to accept my bargain television sets before the clock hits the Ante-Meridian hours. For the love of Pete, just wait a goddamned 6 hours or so. Let me clear the table of the culinary refuse of my friends and family. Let me ensure that the drunk guests have made it somewhere remotely safe, even if that means they are passed out in my driveway.

For the love of Jesus, let me catch a nap!

Because at the end of the day, if I am going to participate in the annual tradition of boosting our economy with money I don’t have on shit I don’t need, let me at least have the peace of a few hours on the futon with the future bright with visions of a cup of coffee and the shared humanity of discount commerce?

Please?

The Jetsons lied to us

They lied. They lied to us. On so many levels.

While robots have been built to clean our floors and give us bad directions (that’s right, Siri and your Android clones, I’m calling you out) all the while seeming so goddamned smug about it, they have yet to walk and talk and wear French maid costumes and make us cocoa after a hard day’s work. My light switches do two things, “on” and “off”, unlike the keypadded, glass-domed skyscrapers I was promised. And the work week, the central promise of those future-forward years of technicolor, was an hour a day twice a week. Total. Bless those eternal optimists who I think now were working the storyboards with those markers that purposefully smelled and encouraged you to huff up the grape-scented glory.

But the one thing I was so thrilled to see, not only as a child but in the occasional glimpse of an old rerun on the Boomerang at 3am on a Tuesday, was their method of transportation: a neon flying contraption that you could shoot your children out of while schlepping it to those two dreadful hours of actual employment. And here we are, decades beyond my childhood, and we haven’t even made a dent in the future of transportation.

I’m looking at you, airplane. You aluminum doom tube filled with screaming, germy children, angry flight attendants, the horror that is passed off as food (oh who am I kidding, I’m happy in coach if someone throws me a stale 100 calorie pack of “cookie snacks”), and the joy of being told every. single. time. that in the event of a water landing (e.g., burning crashing firestorm death) your seat cushion can be used as a floatation device. Because that’s the first thing I want to think about in that situation. Oh, and can I pay three times what I paid for ten years ago for poorer service? Pretty please with vicodin on top?

The biggest indignity of the age of threatened security is the fact that airplanes that used to service say, 30-45 passengers have now been “redesigned” to accommodate (and I used that term VERY loosely), approximately 15,000 passengers in seats designed for anorexic runway models and their pet ferrets.

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Having had some disordered food habits in college, I can tell you that were a time machine to magically appear, allowing me to switch my current body with the one I had when I was popping three Ephedra tablets and working out three hours a day while rocking the Atkins diet, I STILL wouldn’t fit in the goddamned seats with any modicum of comfort. I mean, it would be better, and I’d get to meet some models and their ferrets, but is that the kind of life I want to lead?

Sort of. But that’s not the point.

The point is that every time I plan on going back East, to see family or even to visit friends that I can’t reasonably drive to visit, I start to dread the actual method of getting from A to B. Because it’s gotten so budget, so nickel-and-dimed of an experience that I actually start to find the shitty jokes by the crew of Southwest amusing. I look forward to them. Because they’re the highlight of an otherwise demoralizing experience. And because the last time our other methods of transportation, like dare I say it, TRAINS, were actually considered for human travel, there were more bison than people this side of the Rio Grande.

I recognize that the airline industry is here to stay, and that if I wanted to sit in something resembling an actual seat I can cough up the extra grand to sit in First Class and look down at everyone and everything else on the aircraft. Hell, from what I hear, you get to slap the pilot and co-pilot in the face while sipping champagne and complaining about the dated decor (navy blue and red paisley is so déclassé). But because I don’t trade in gold bullion or small countries, I’m relegated to the masses that don’t even get a full can of diet soda anymore. I just wish that I could 100% look forward to seeing loved ones without the dark cloud of Delta making me wish I had just started driving to Northern California today in the hopes of getting there by Thanksgiving. Because I hate flying. I hate it. I hate it like poison.

Calling the four horsemen: Are those assless chaps?

In listening to NPR this week, I was struck by the fact that one of the seven seals of the Judeo-Christian Apocalypse (not the Mayans, we already know that if they were right this holiday season we’re screwed) was embedded in the mundane, everyday talking points of liberal radio. Tucked into the reports on the economic shambles of our own country and the shit-show that is the European Union, lascivious headlines about our military leaders’ dalliances, and the ever-present Palestinian-Israeli “we refuse to share a country” saga was a story that demanded more attention than given. I’m not talking about fiscal cliffs or shirtless FBI guys. I’m not even talking about the impending cluster that will be Thanksgiving travel. I’m talking about the history of mankind. I’m talking end of days, hellfire and brimstone.

I’m talking about the END of TWINKIES.

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Was it inevitable? Do we deserve this? In the “new normal” that decided to tear us a new one over the last few years, I’ve had to swallow that being poor is now being middle class; that the cost of a gallon of gas today is what I paid for cigarettes ten years ago; that I have to pay for my car emissions test but that Big Oil can spend a Bonnie Bede-llion dollars as “speech” to avoid dealing with their big, smelly, dirty, cancer-causing footprint (I’m looking at you, “Clean Coal”, you smug sonofabitch).

But the demise of Hostess? Really? No more Wonder (if it’s actually) Bread? The end of Fruit Pies filled with what I can only assume is nuclear waste and blueberry flavoring?

I know I’m part of the problem. That my interests in urban agriculture, farmer’s markets, and raising chickens has placed me squarely in the “locovore” gang next to the drum-beating hippies I have always vowed to destroy. I know that moving toward food that you grow, or whose ingredients you can not only pronounce but recognize as things associated with food, pulled me away from the deliciousness of Franken-foods designed during the chemical food revolution of the mass-produced ’50s and ’60s.

But I’ve tried to balance my desire for homegrown foodstuffs of yesteryear with the convenience and sheer American-ness of bioengineered snack treats (referred to as treats as there is an injunction against calling them “food”). I wanted to have my TastyKakes and eat them too. While reading articles about canning and jarring (I get it, I’m a good Mormon woman) I snacked on cheesy Cheetos, which coincidentally do not have cheese as an ingredient. I am committed to using house cleaning products that have poly-mono-hydrazoles in them before prepping a mixed green salad on that same solid surface countertop. I just ordered a damned book of Jell-O recipes from 1967 that include such frightening ingredients as canned salmon and mayonnaise for Christ’s sake, just to prove that I am willing to try just about anything.

And the result of my attempts to balance plaztastic food products and actual produce is to wake up to a world without Ring Dings? If it starts raining frogs and locusts, I guess I had it coming.