Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sassy Sundry Thoughts Has Moved

One of the things that happens when you have a lot of time on your hands is that you find time for projects you never thought you’d get around to doing. For me, one of those projects was revamping the look of my blog. I’d grown tired of my template a long time ago, but lacking true HTML skills, I wasn’t sure how to fix it. I tried new templates and thought about some basic customization, but I still wasn’t happy.

A couple of years ago, I registered for a Wordpress blog, but I hadn’t had the time make the conversion. Well, yesterday I found it. It’s still a work in progress, but you can find my latest post here:

I’ve updated my links, but if I’ve mistakenly left your blog off, please let me know, and I’ll add it. If you would update your link for me, that would be lovely.

I hope you like the new and improved Sassy Sundry Thoughts!

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Sassy Sundries: My Week in Review

Happy Spring! Yay! Winter is over! Woo hoo!

OK, enough of that. Been a bit of an up-and-down week for yours truly, and what better way to talk about it than with the Sassy Sundries, my weekly tally of things personal, political, and nonsensical. Enjoy!

Wound up in Southie with my roommate for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday. We got drunk in a dive bar and watched green bedazzled people make asses of themselves. I suppose I might have made an ass of myself too. Fun day, and now I can check “Went to Southie for the parade” off my Life Experience list. Plus Two

AIG bonuses. Holy fuck. I contributed to my company, and I lost my job. They ruined the economy and got gazillions for it? Something’s rotten in the state of Wall Street. It’s not a good sign that Tim Geithner knew about this. Minus 165,000,000

I don’t know if it was the lack of daytime company or what, but this week I realized that I need to figure out my next step. I spent some time thinking about what I want out of life and realized that I need to keep thinking. Ah, the joys of growing. Plus One

The Nazi Pope pontificates that condoms not only won’t stop the spread of AIDS in Africa, but that they will also increase “the problem.” Maybe if condom distributors denied the Holocaust he’d change his mind? That this happened the same week as AIDS activist Natasha Richardson died tragically only makes this asinine and dangerous position all the more galling. Minus Ten

Afternoon networking coffee meeting for the unemployed took a turn for the boozy. As the evening wore on and things got stranger and stranger, I kept shaking my head and saying, “I went out for coffee. I just went out for coffee!” Ah well. I managed to keep my sobriety pretty much intact, and none of us had to work in the morning anyway. Plus One

President Obama reaches out to Iran through a video address in an attempt to undo the Axis of Evil rhetoric and diffuse the tensions in the region. It’s a small step, but hopefully an important one. Plus One

Spring has sprung. Here’s to hope and cleaning! Plus Five

Total Plus: 10
Total Minus: 165,000,010

TOTAL FOR THE WEEK: -165,000,000

Last Week’s Total: +13

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On Magic Tricks, Pine Furniture, Hairlice, Marketing, and Hybrid Bikes

Today found me searching online for possible freelance jobs. While perusing the various advertisments, I happened upon a post looking for someone to write two five-hundred-word articles on each of the following topics:

Magic Tricks
Pine Furniture
Hybrid Bikes

I am sorely tempted to respond, saying that I will write one kickass five-hundred-word article incorporating all five topics. In fact, I’ve already written it. It goes like this:

Bruno the Magician needed to improve his act. He had the magic trick—he could turn hybrid bikes into pine Barcaloungers with just a little eye of newt and some hairlice. However, he usually had to steal the hybrid bikes, and while Bruno wasn’t the most cleanly of magicians, he did not at the moment have hairlice. Somehow, he had to find a way to get the bikes and the lice in one place. He also required an audience, as what magician wants to perform such a feat with no one to watch.

Bruno, old boy, he thought to himself, you need to find a marketing consultant. So Bruno got in touch with the guy who sold his pine Barcaloungers and asked him about how he advertised his wares.

“Oh, I go ACME Marketing up the street,” he said. And so Bruno stole his last bike, bought some hairlice from his usual connection, and with his eye of newt went up the street to ACME Marketing. There, he told the marketing consultant of his woes and showed him the trick.

Upon viewing such a magical transformation, the marketing guru cried, “Genius! You simply must continue to transform hybrid bikes into pine furniture. If you will just sign here and give me $500, I will be able to provide you with a marketing plan.”

Now Bruno was not a rich man, but since he did not want to wind up in jail (the signs for missing hybrid bikes were clogging the telephone poles around town, and the cops were on the lookout for the mystery thief), he decided to sign the papers and fork over the money.

“Excellent,” the ACME Marketing consultant said. “Now here’s the secret: Recycling. You convince people who were about to trade in their hybrid bikes that they would rather recycle them instead of junk them. In return for the bike and a small fee, they get a pine Barcalounger, or they can get a percentage from the proceeds of the sale of said pine Barcalounger. That way, you won’t piss off your dealer friend, and you’ll still get some money.”

Bruno the Magician smiled, “Yes, yes,” he said. “That’s just the thing. Recycling. I wonder why I didn’t think of it. There’s just one more thing. Where do I get the hairlice?”

While the ACME Marketing consultant was tempted to charge Bruno more for the advice, he really liked the trick and decided to help the magician.

“I know. You perform you magic trick at a school. School children are filthy beasts, and one of them almost always has hairlice. So you get a group of hybrid bike owners ready to surrender their bikes, schedule a magic show, and presto! You’ll do your trick and stay out of jail!”

So happy was Bruno that he could have kissed the ACME Marketing consultant. “Perfect! I’ll start advertising today! How can I ever thank you?”

“Well,” the ACME Marketing consultant said, “I could always use a pine Barcalounger.”

I think I’ll send the man my story and see what he thinks. I could make fifty bucks!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why I Owe My Existence to Saint Patrick and Green Beer

Thirty-eight years ago today, friends dragged a young art-school dropout living in Hanover, New Hampshire, out to a Saint Patrick’s Day party. She didn’t want to go—drunken green-beer fests weren’t her thing—but as she didn’t have plans that evening, she reluctantly agreed. She chucked her body paints into the car, just in case the evening was really boring and she needed to spice things up a bit.

One of the party’s hosts was a man in his mid-twenties finishing up his duty to Uncle Sam by working in a lab. He’d come home from Vietnam relatively unscathed the year before and welcomed the cold regions lab work as an alternative to a war zone. He and his friends had invited everyone they knew and everyone everyone knew. They readied the green beer (this being America in the 70s and the hosts being not exactly sophisticated gentlemen, they assumed that this was how the Irish celebrated the day). “Let’s celebrate the luck of the Irish!” they said, as they turned on the music and friends began to arrive. Little did they know what kind of luck the evening would bring.

The party was well under way when the lass and her friends walked in the door. Oh dear, the woman thought. I’m not going to like this. Why did I let myself get dragged here? She also, however, notice a guy regaling his friends with a funny story. She also noticed the half-empty mug of green beer in his hands. Still, she thought he was cute, if a bit old. He must be one of the Army guys. His hair is too short.

As for the guy, well, he almost stopped telling the story when she walked in the room. Her long brown hair was in two braids, and she was wearing some kind of gauzy shirt with jeans. He thought she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

The party went along, as green-beer parties tend to do, and the guy finally worked up the courage to go talk to her. Funny and charming, the guy made the woman laugh, and her friends noticed that she liked him. He seemed too old for their friend, but the woman assured her friends that she’d asked, and he was only a few years older than she was (while she appeared to be about seventeen, she was actually twenty-two).

She learned that he had been to Vietnam, that he was from Philadelphia, and that before he got drafted, he’d studied to become an engineer. He already liked the Red Sox. In short, she learned that while she was a bit of a free spirit, he was shockingly normal. He was actually a grownup, too, even if he and his friends entertained themselves by throwing parties with green beer. For some reason, this appealed to her.

“I think I’m going to go get my body paints. He’s so normal. I bet it will shock him,” she told her friends, smiling. The party didn’t need spicing up, but she liked that guy and thought it would be amusing to see his reaction. If he could handle the body paint, then maybe he could handle her.

Out to the car she went, and she returned with her paints. And as she started painting on the man’s chest, he fell head over heels in love. The woman noticed and smiled a bit to herself. She liked him too, so when he asked her out for a date, she said yes. A while later, she and her friends left the party, and her friends tried to talk her out of going out with the old guy. She didn’t let them.

The rest, as they say, is history.

And that, dear readers, is how my parents met and why I owe my existence to Saint Patrick and green beer.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Sassy Sundries: My Week in Review

Phew. What a strange week. I think that’s all I have to say about that. Without further ado, here are the Sassy Sundries, my (sort-of) weekly tally of things personal, political, and nonsensical.

My dad’s alive. My mom’s alive. They might drive me crazy sometimes, but I love my parents. Too Much Trauma to Rate

Can someone please tell me why one of the most intelligent and incisive interviews I’ve seen by an American was Jon Stewart’s grilling of CNBC’s Mad Money host Jim Cramer on the Daily Show? Stewart exposed how Cramer (and by extension, other financial reporters) had gotten into bed with Wall Street honchos, and in the process fucked the country. He did his research, that thing reporters are supposed to do, not guys who tell fart jokes. News networks, let this be a lesson to you. Plus Five

Date called it quits with me in what had to be the most honest, kindest way ever. We had a great time, but the magic just wasn’t there with us. I’ll miss what we had, but I’m looking forward to our friendship. Plus Five

In a GQ interview, Michael Steele admitted that he believed in a woman’s right choose abortion. He’s also compared quitting being gay to quitting being black—impossible. Conservatives railed against him for the break with their anti-choice, homophobic platform. Man, this head of the Republican Party is just walking in a shitstorm. Heh. Plus One

Bernie Madoff pled guilty to stealing from everyone from celebrities to little old me (my retirement plan had investments with Madoff). I’m happy that he’ll spend the rest of his life in jail, but I’d like my money back, please. Minus Two

This week we marked International Women’s Day. President Obama created an Interagency Task force on Women and Girls. This isn’t everything feminists wanted, but it sure as hell beats the eight-year assault on women’s rights by W & Co. We’re not there yet, Baby. Plus Three

Long, long ago, I won the top-seller award for my Girl Scout troop because my friend’s grandfather purchased two hundred boxes of Thin Mints. Would you believe he was a rail? Times have changed. An enterprising Girl Scout took to YouTube to boost her sales. Alas, Internet advertising is verboten for Girl Scout Cookies, and the young girl had to take the ad down. Honey, you just need to find my friend’s grandpa. You’ll do fine. Plus One

Total Plus 15
Total Minus 2
Last Week’s Total: -651,000

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

One of Those Moments When Everything Comes into Focus

Sunday afternoon found me walking toward Inman Square from Union. The day was one of those days we New Englanders long for—sunny and in the 60s after a long, cold and snowy winter. Wearing a tee shirt and a light cotton sweater, I was bobbing my head and wearing a ridiculous grin on my face as I strolled. Yay! Winter won’t last forever!

I reached into my purse to grab my phone, as I thought I’d heard it ringing, and I saw that I had missed a call from my sister. My nephew’s first birthday was on Monday (my trip to Inman was to get his present), so I figured she had called about arrangements. I dialed called her back, and she answered.

“Hey, Sister! GORGEOUS day! Are you outside?”

“Um, Sassy, something’s happened. I just got off the phone with Mom. She thought she was dialing 911. Dad passed out while driving, and now he’s throwing up. I had to tell her how to get 911 where she was and then I called 911 too. Now she won’t pick up the phone.”

My heart sank.

My body started shaking.

Oh shit. My Dad is having a heart attack. I just talked to him this morning. How can he be dying?

“Oh my god. Dad’s having a heart attack,” I said to my sister.

“That’s what it sounds like to me, too,” she said.



Sister said, “I’m going to keep trying Mom, but I thought you should know.”

“OK. Call me if you hear anything. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

I snapped the phone shut and turned around to head home. Then I turned back toward Inman. Then I turned back toward home. Then I turned around again and kept walking. You can hold it together if you keep walking. Just keep walking.

I kept walking.

Then I called my mom. She didn’t answer. I almost started to cry. Then I called again. This time she answered.

“Hi, Sassy. Yes. We’re in a snow field. The State Police are here, and so is an ambulance. We’re off 93 in Concord. Dad is conscious and talking, and he looks a little bit better. It might have been an issue with his blood sugar, but we don’t know. It doesn’t look like it was a heart attack, but we are going to Concord hospital. They won’t let me go with him. I have to get the car towed out of the snow field, and then I’m going to go. Pray. I have to go now, but keep calling. I’ll pick up.”

“I love you, Mom.”

“I love you too, Honey.”

I called my sister. She’d talked to Mom too. We were both relieved that he was alive at this point, but we were trying to figure out what had happened.

“Sassy, Mom took the wheel. She steered the car through THREE LANES of traffic on I-93. She did donuts in a field until Dad came too and hit the brake. She didn’t know how to dial 911 on a cell phone.”

“Oh my god.” Then, “We need to get her some First-Aid training. What happened?”

“Did you know his blood sugar was an issue? I didn’t.”

“You didn’t? I did, but I thought he was controlling it.”

We talked some more about how to talk to Mom and Dad about how they need to take better care of themselves before it dawned on us that we should go visit them. I had a phone interview early that evening, and even though I said I’d cancel it, my sister insisted that I take it.

We wrapped up the call, and I said, “OK. I’ll call Mom and let her know we’ll be there this evening.” I went in the toy store to catch my breath. I bought Nephew a present and walked back outside. Then I called Mom.

“Things are OK, Sassy. Dad walked to the ambulance. That made me feel better. I’m still here with the car. I’m so glad you’re coming. Don’t skip your interview. My god, that whole thing was so scary. Sassy, I did DONUTS! I don’t know how I did that. Will you call the hospital? I don’t know what is going on with Daddy. They didn’t let me go in the ambulance—those movie scenes are bullshit. Will you call the hospital?”

I called the hospital, and they actually let me speak to Dad. He sounded weak, but he knew what was going on, and he sounded OK. “I think they’ve ruled out heart attack. My blood sugar might have dropped. Or it could have been a reaction to some medication. Mom saved my life, you know.”

“I know, Dad. I’m really happy to talk to you. Sister and I will be there tonight.”

I went to a coffee shop in Union Square and finished making my phone calls while sitting outside in the sun.

On my way home, I called Date to cancel our plans for the evening. He came over and hugged me before my interview. The woman blew me off, which was just as well, as I doubt I would have made much sense. My sister came with Nephew, and we headed to Concord to visit my Dad.

After two days in the hospital, where doctors ran every test in the book, it was determined that he needed a lower dose on his new blood-pressure medication. He got a stern talking-to about losing weight, but his blood sugar was actually OK. Everything else was OK. More terrifying details about my mother’s driving feat came out, but she’s OK too. The first night, she told my sister and I that she was going to go in her room and cry for an hour, but after that, she seemed better. We had Nephew’s first birthday party at the hospital.

My god. My nerves are shot, but I am so so so so so happy that I still have parents. I might complain about them a lot, but I love them. They are OK. So am I.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Sassy Sundries: My Week in Review

This morning I awoke to the sweet clang of the recycling truck. Today is Friday! I am so happy! I thought, singing my old Friday Song in my sleepy head. Or, I sang until I remembered that I had once again forgotten to take the recycling out. Then I started reciting “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out,” and envisioned waste overflowing the confines of my apartment and spilling onto the street below:

At last the garbage reached so high
That it finally touched the sky.
And all the neighbors moved away,
And none of her friends would come out to play.
And finally Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout said,
“OK, I’ll take the garbage out!”
But then, of course, it was to late…

— Shel Silverstein, from Where the Sidewalk Ends

Hrmph. Happy Friday indeed. Anyway, I thought today might be a good day to resurrect the Sassy Sundries, my occasional weekly roundup of things personal, political, and nonsensical. In a blatant ripoff of the Bean Counter in the Weekly Dig, I assign points to each item and then tally them up to reveal just how my week went.

Here are the week’s Sassy Sundries:

The unemployment figures for February came out today. I am in good company—651,000 of us lost jobs last month. While personally, unemployment has treated me well, our economy has officially landed in Hell in our handbasket. Minus 651,000

Rush Limbaugh, the ignorant hypocritical prick, misquotes the Constitution he accused President Obama of bastardizing. At the beginning of his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, he bellowed, “We believe that the preamble to the Constitution contains an inarguable truth that we are all endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life. Liberty. Freedom. And the pursuit of happiness.” In so speaking, he bastardized the Declaration of Independence. By making Rush the de facto leader of the Republican Party, the conservatives have given us an even bigger present than Sarah Palin. Minus Five for Rush, Plus Two for the future of the Democrats.

The International Criminal Court indicted Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir for war crimes. The government there then retaliated by ordering the expulsion of all aid workers. It’s unknown how the Court intends to follow through with the indictment, but right now many people are suffering. An old friend of mine is working there. Not Sure How to Rank

Earlier this week I met Date’s best friends. It went well. Tonight I meet more of his friends at a party. Plus Five

I never thought I’d hear Karl Kassel, of NPR fame, put his gravitas behind the news that a foot of snow fell in New Hampshire. Unless, of course, it happened in August. Less than a foot fell here, and you’d think that the flakes ushered in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from all the national attention they received. Minus Two

This week marked fifty years of Barbie. For fifty years, girls have learned that their bodies would never be good enough. Oh, and how to make her get it on with Ken. One of these days, Barbie! Poof! Those boobs are going to sink to your knees. Minus Two

President Obama holds a healthcare summit yesterday to begin to address one of the issues that has gotten us into this catastrophe. Ted Kennedy (now an honorary knight) was able to make an appearance. I’m not sure if Obama will be able to pull off what others have tried and failed to achieve, but I am hopeful. Hope counts for something. Plus Two

Total Plus: 9
Total Minus: 651,009


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

No Bad Feelings or Regrets . . .

Psycho Kids

Alpiner Kuntsverlag Hans Huber, Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Nothing warms the cockles of my heart so much as finding a kitschy treasure. I scour flea markets and bazaars for little pieces of tacky delight, and sometimes I find gold. One of my prized possessions is this postcard, sent in 1965 from the Netherlands to a certain Marty Shulman of the Bronx.

I bought the postcard for the sweet, drunken young blonde things in their Alpine splendor, but when I got home, I flipped the card over and realized that the true gem was the message from Joan and Martin to their friend Marty.

Psycho Kiddies Postcard Back

It reads as follows:


Dear Marty,

We are having a good time getting drunk every night on wine so that we can hardly get back to the pensione. However, there are no bad feelings or regrets in the morning, as we scourge ourselves of these sins by spending our days looking at everyone’s religious paintings.

Write + come to see us soon.

Joan and Martin

P.S. You can come now as we have rugs on the floor

I can add nothing further except to wish you all no bad feelings or regrets in the morning!

Monday, March 02, 2009

A Flake Falls in New England

Sometime around 8:30 this morning, I rolled over and looked out the window. Or, rather, I looked at the snow piled up on my windowsill. I grabbed my phone off my desk and snapped a picture of it, thinking, Damn, maybe this really was the storm of the century the news folks hyped it up to be?

All day long yesterday, the media warned us about the Godzilla of snowstorms. Never mind the economy, war, and Barbie’s fiftieth birthday (may her knockers sink to her knees), it was going to snow! In New England! In March! Stock up on milk, candles, and bottled water, because we were going to die! I scoffed at the warnings. Judging from the view out my bedroom window, however, perhaps I should have bought some comestibles.

I got out of bed and wandered into the living room to check things out. Sigh. While snow drifts covered parts of my windows, the scene below revealed that it had snowed only a bit. In New England. The snow we’d had before had melted away, and so the snow isn’t even all that deep. Mabye six inches. I felt ashamed for having momentarily believed the hoopla.

Seriously, folks. I really do hope you enjoyed the snow day. There’s nothing better. But my god. This is New England. It snows here! Every winter! This isn’t news. Get out there, shovel the stairs. Dig out your car if you have one. Complain away. If you drive, don’t be an asshole. But with everything going on in the world right now, a few flakes falling in New England does not news make.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Looking on the Bright Side of Unemployment

Earlier this week, Date forwarded me an article from the Boston Globe about people delighted to be among the newly unemployed. “We’re so fing cutting edge,” he wrote in the subject line. I suppose we are. He’s taken to calling unemployment Funemployment. I am in complete agreement.

The past couple of weeks of not having to work have left me positively giddy. My hellish commute? Gone. My should-I-stay-or-should-I-go dance I’d been doing with my job for the last couple of years? Over. Sitting in an office all day, doing someone else’s bidding? Nope. Not me. Aside from the still, small voice telling me that the money is going to run out sometime soon, I can’t remember a time in my adult life when I’ve been happier.

In the days that followed the layoff, I followed the advice those gurus offer the newly unemployed and got in touch with contacts and friends to share with them the news that I’d become a statistic. The results amazed me. Not only did people promise to be on the lookout for jobs, they also reached out to let me know that they cared for me and wanted the best for me. Those close by invited me over to their homes, or out for a meal or a drink. I’ve been in touch with old friends I haven’t talked to in years. My old coworkers pitched in and sent me a care package. However cheesy it may sound, knowing that people value me and my contributions to the world has been affirming.

My life has a natural rhythm to it these days. I get up without an alarm clock. I stay in my jammies long past when it is proper. The Great American Novel this blog ain’t, but these scribbles represent the first writing I have done in over a year. I’ve been cooking real food again, with joy instead of begrudging necessity. I made bread this week! Last week I cooked dinner for Date, and yesterday I had my sister and nephew over for lunch. Sure I also spent Tuesday working on my résumé and sending out applications (I can’t be completely impractical), but I’ve also spent a lot of time imagining how my life could be. Because if I am really honest with myself, if I could get away with it, I would never work in an office again.

Yesterday I went to the Pink Slip Coffee Meetup, and until Date showed up, I might have been the only one happy with my current lot. I know I am lucky, in that my severance was generous and that I have a little bit of time before I need to scramble, but I really talked up the upside of unemployment. It was the first time I’d admitted to anyone outside a few close friends that I do not want to rejoin the rat race. It felt really, really good.

What am I going to do? I don't know. I do need to figure out a way to make a living, and soon. But right now, in this moment, with the sun shining through my open window (it’s warm!), life is absolutely perfect.

I have to go now. I’m going to go to my favorite North End caffè and then to a wine bottega. After that, I will pick up some fruit, veg, and cheese at Haymarket before heading home to cook some more. Date is coming over this afternoon to watch Twin Peaks.

It’s Friday. And I don’t have to work.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hash Wednesday and Why Sassy Is Going to the Bad Place

This year I forgot all about Mardi Gras. Drat! I love dressing up in masks and beads and partying down. In times past, there was often a big party, and Mardi Gras was one of my favorite holidays.

No partying this year. So busy was I on Tuesday polishing up my résumé, applying for jobs, and following what was going on with Obama’s non-State-of-the-Union address that the whole whoopdepoop happened without me. Sigh. I not only missed the show, but also Obama has ruined the State of the Union drinking game. How are we going to get smashed without “nuke-u-ler”? Maybe by the time he gets around to delivering an actual State of the Union, we’ll have figured out some new rules. Every time Obama speaks in complete sentences, drink one shot. When the policies make sense and will do the country some good, drink two shots. Something like that.

Anyhow, yesterday I was in the Post Office to pick up a registered letter (I have learned that getting laid off involves tons of certified mail), when I noticed that the woman at the counter had a giant ink stain on her head. A dripping continent of ink. Gorbachev would have envied this inkblot. Given that postal workers work with ink pads and such, I figured she had had a mishap and thought I would be a nice person and tell her about it.

“Um, I’m sorry, but I think you have a little ink on your forehead.”

I saw her mentally roll her eyes at me. She replied flatly, “Religious holiday.”

Oh shit. It’s Hash Wednesday! “I’m so sorry,” I said, trying to recover, “I forgot all about Ash Wednesday.” Because I’m going to burn in the Bad Place. “My sister is Catholic,” I offered weakly in an attempt to redeem myself. At least I didn’t say Hash Wednesday?

I’m an asshole. Drink two shots.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Mmmmm Doggies! The 89 Bus to Outer Space!

Yesterday evening, I caught the 89 bus to meet up with Date in Davis Square. As I tapped my card, the bus driver called out, “Good Evening! Thank you for riding the T! Doors are closing!”

Startled a bit, I said thanks and took a seat near the front. Another rider pressed the stop button, and even though the mechanical voice registered the request, she called out, “Stop coming! Woo hoo! We’re riding now!”

As she jerked the bus to a halt at the next stop, she thanked every rider. “Thank you, folks, for riding the T! Doors are closing! Mmmmm doggies! We’re riding now! Yahoo!”

I looked around the bus at the other riders. Many wore nervous smirks. Was this the bus to Davis Square, or an alien abduction? "Yes, indeed, folks! We are riding!"

“The bus driver is insane,” I texted to Date. Next text, “She keeps saying whoo doggies! And then she thanks us for taking the t.” I kept looking around. A few riders shrugged their shoulders. Language barriers tumbled down. Amusement registered everywhere.

The bus driver kept it up. “Mmmmm! Doggies! Yahoo! We’re riding. Eighty-nine to Davis Square! Thank you for riding the T! Next stop coming! Bus connections!”

A decided freak she was, but the thing is, people started responding kindly to her. A rider sitting next to me got off the bus at Winter Hill and thanked her for the ride. “My pleasure. People ain’t got no manners these days. I always say thank you. Thank you, folks, for riding the T! Mmmm doggies! Yes, we are moving now!”

She kept this up all the way Davis, where everyone thanked her profusely as they got off the bus. What a fun trip to outer space.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Disney, My Heart’s Devotion! Let It Sink Back in the Ocean!—Another Eavesdropping Story

Last Friday evening, before Fresh Hell played “It’s Fun to Smoke Dust” (see post below), you could have found us at a packed bar in Union Square. There we had discussed, among other things, Florida. Specifically, how much we hate Florida. “See,” Fresh said, “when I think about Florida, I don’t feel so bad about global warming . . . Florida is just going to go away.”

I shook my head. “Ah, Fresh. You really do know how to push buttons, don’t you?”

“Come on, now!”

She had a point, I suppose. Maybe part of a point.

Anyhow, like I said, the bar was crowded. A birthday party had gathered at the end, and the hostess asked Fresh and me if we wouldn’t mind moving down, so we did. We talked some more, and then I had to go off to the loo.

Three women, friends, were already in the stalls when I arrived, and they were gushing about one of the friend’s upcoming vacation.

“Aren’t you excited about going to Disney?”

“Yes! It’s going to be so great. I know I haven’t been there in, like, ten years, but it’s going to be so great!”

“Oh yeah. There’s so much to do there as an adult.”

“Shops, restaurants.”

“It’s just so clean!”

They all flushed at the same time, and came out discussing Magic Mountain. Upstairs, they rejoined the birthday party.

Hmm . . . Maybe Fresh is onto something.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fundamentalists Are Dope! Queen, Backward Masking, and Sassy’s Warped Education

Friday night while driving me home from an evening out, Fresh Hell played Lobsterdust’s mashup “It’s Fun to Smoke Dust” (Queen vs. Pastor Gary Greenwald vs. Midfield General) from Best of Bootie 2008. Overlaid on Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” is Pastor Gary Greenwald’s passionate sermon about how the song contains an evil “backward masked” message, saying, “It’s fun to smoke marijuana!” (Thank you, Freddy, for stating the obvious via satanic technology). I’d heard the mashup before, courtesy of Date, but I hadn’t really listened to it. Now that I was listening, it sounded very familiar.

“Wait a minute! I’ve heard this before! Is this from Hell’s Bells: The Dangers of Rock and Roll? We had to watch this movie in high school!*”

Even though Fresh knows I was raised by fundamentalist Christians and had to go to fundamentalist school, sometimes my knowledge of such things still manages to surprise her. I thought perhaps it might surprise you. Here is a tale of an attempt to inoculate me and my fellow inmates against what fundies call “The World.”**

Sometime during my junior year in high school, our Christian Education teacher, who had also been our eighth and ninth grade history teacher (she had an associates in physical education), decided that my class had grown too worldly and that we needed to be aware of the dangers of backward masking and other messages hidden in rock and roll music (aka “Worldly Music”). To that end she had signed out the school’s VCR (usually reserved for showing anti-premarital sex videos) and told us that we were going to watch a movie during class. That movie was Hell’s Bells.

Oh, Hell’s Bells. Made in 1989 at the height of the satanic cult scare, it saw the Dark Lord’s sooty fingerprints everywhere. The early middle-aged narrator, still sporting a mullet (all the better to appeal to “the youth”), left no stone unturned. From the usual heavy metal suspects to the Bauhaus, XTC, and the Cure, according to him every genre had but one, singular goal. To turn young people into knights in Satan’s service (yeah, Gene Simmons. We’re onto you).

While degenerate rock musicians peddled messages of sex and drugs as a matter of course, far more insidious was the phenomenon known as backward masking. Hidden in certain rock and roll songs, were messages discernable only when the track was played backwards.*** The subject of these messages? Pure evil. Groups like the PMRC blamed backward masking for everything from suicide to Satan worship. Listen to rock? Become a zombie for the devil.

Most of the examples of backward masking in Hell’s Bells had to do with worshipping Satan, but Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” announced that it was fun to smoke dope. So I guess when I was bopping my head, skating around the roller rink, I should have been thinking about toking up instead of shooting the duck. Sigh. I’d always misheard lyrics.

Thing was, when mullet guy played the backward masked message to “Another One Bites the Dust,” it didn’t sound a bit like “It’s fun to smoke marijuana!” It sounded like this:

Eetssss nnn te kehhh erijNAH!

Excuse me? Don’t you think Satan would make himself a bit clearer? I was trying rather hard not to laugh, but some of my classmates couldn’t help it and started snickering. That pretty much did it for the effectiveness of Hell’s Bells. We weren’t going to be burning our Led Zeppelin albums and replacing them with Steven Cutis Chapman any time soon.

When our teacher left the room to return the video player, Queen was all we talked about. We tried to figure out what the heck was going on. “That didn’t sound anything like marijuana!”

A number of us tried, but the young Smokestack imitated the backward masking best. She’d grunt and yell, and then someone would follow with “Hey hey!” and we’d bop our heads to the tune in our head. At some point, someone (maybe it was me, but I don’t remember) realized that the backward message sounded a heck of a lot like “Another One Bites the Dust” written backward:


That clears things up. Of course it says, “It’s fun to smoke marijuana!” Hail Satan! Pass the bong!

Among other oddities, Queen’s supposed backward masking has become a symbol of our warped education. So when I got back home after hearing Lobsterdust’s mashup, I immediately sent the following e-mail to Smokestack:

Run. Do not walk. Google directly "Best of Bootie 2008," and download the Queen song. You will laugh yourself peeless.

She replied with the suggestion that we use it as a theme song to our next reunion.

*The particular sermon in the mashup was not drawn from the documentary, but the message is the same.

**“The World”—To fundamentalist Christians, existence can be bifurcated into two groups, Christians (meaning born-again fundamentalists—no Catholics or “mainline” churches welcome) and everyone else. Everyone else = “The World.” The customs and music of the others are viewed by fundamentalists as the slippery slope leading directly to the Bad Place.

***It is indeed possible to add a “backward masked” message to an album track. The new wave band the Waitresses added a backward masked message on “I Could Rule the World if Only I Could Get the Parts,” and then slapped a warning label on it. I’d heard the story, and when I was in college, I convinced my computer science geek friend to feed it through his computer. The message? “Anyone who believes in backward masking is a fool.” Genius.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Oh, the Horror!

Blood, guts, slasher gore, psycho clowns, fangs, ghouls, monsters—my childhood best friend lived for horror movies. The scarier the better. I, however, lived to avoid horror movies. My overactive imagination recreated the movies, altering the plot so that all the mayhem happened to me, in my room, at night, while I was trying to sleep.

“Chicken,” CBF would taunt when I tried to beg off watching the latest flick to come on HBO. In the bright light of day, I’d deny everything. “I’m not a chicken! I can watch anything you can watch. I just thought making cookies would be fun.” It never worked. Watch the movie I would. Then night would come and no amount of daytime bravado would save me from the terror.

For her tenth birthday party, we all watched Poltergeist. That clown. Oh my god that clown. Clowns still freak me out. Poor Mrs. CBF. She had a roomful of traumatized children. If my mother’s reaction was any indication, Mrs. CBF got an earful for allowing CBF to screen such fare at a birthday party.

But Poltergeist was the parent-sanctioned horror. That wasn’t the year that Valentine’s Day immediately followed Friday the 13th. That wasn’t the year that CBF had me watch My Bloody Valentine, immediately followed by the first Friday the 13th. That wasn’t the year I completely lost my shit.

That fateful Friday the 13th I slept over CBF’s house. All day at school she’d been talking about how her two favorite horror movies were going to be on cable that night and we were going to sneak downstairs and watch them while her parents were sleeping. “It’s going to be so scary!” she said. “Just you wait! It’s going to be great!”

I was quaking in my boots on the inside, but I just said, “Yeah!”

Later that night, as CBF’s parents snoozed away, we crept downstairs to the living room. We grabbed some cookies from the kitchen and some soda and settled in. The first one we watched was My Bloody Valentine. I’ve blocked out most of the carnage, but I do remember that this wasn’t the one that did me in. That mask certainly creeped me out, and there was a lot of blood, but I managed to hold it together. At least kind of. I knew I’d be up all night, but I figured it would be OK after that.

Then it was time for Friday the 13th. I’d heard of it. I heard it was the scariest movie ever made. It took place at a summer camp. I went to summer camp. All the counselors get killed in the woods. What if I got killed in the woods? These thoughts were racing through my brain as the opening scene started. What was that? “Kill kill kill”? “Ha ha ha”? Then something slashed those counselors to death. CBF was bouncing up and down, she was so excited. I was bouncing up and down because I was catatonic.

Kevin Bacon got a spike through his neck after having sex with one of the other counselors. Then a girl got an axe in her head. There was a creepy old guy warning everyone. More blood. More blood. More blood. AIEE! The mother showed up. “His name is Jason. He was my son. And today is his birthday.” AIEEEEEEE!!!!

Then the plucky girl cut Jason’s mother’s head off. And then Jason popped out of the water. That did it. I couldn’t even scream. His skin was falling off. And he was still there. In the water. What was I going to do?

All night, I kept hearing, “Kill her, Mommy! Kill her!” She was coming after me. So was the dead boy in the water. CBF slept soundly. I didn’t dare wake up her parents. CBF would get in big trouble, and I would forever be known as a wimp. I was eleven. And eleven year olds are supposed to be able to take it.

I sat up in bed. I pulled up the covers. I shrank away from the window. I listened to CBF breathe. I didn’t breathe. Every little noise made me die a little inside. We went to bed really late, but daylight never came. I kept hearing the voice hissing, “Kill kill kill! Ha ha ha!” I don’t mean I heard it in my head. I heard it. The streetlight reflected in the window was the glint of the blade. CBF rolled over. I nearly fell of the bed. When will morning come? I can’t see! They are going to get me! What am I going to do?

I stayed awake all night long. The next day, my mom asked me why I looked so tired. I just burst into tears. I didn’t rat out CBF, but I never watched another horror movie with her again. I also didn’t sleep for a month.

Epilogue: Somewhere in my late 20s, I finally figured out that the boogie man is not out to get me. I love horror movies now, and I love watching horror movies on Friday the 13th, especially when the next day is Valentine’s Day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Riding the Rails

Until I got laid off, I took the commuter rail to get to work. My train left North Station at an unholy hour. Between the early time and the reverse commute, there were not that many fellow riders. While I spent most of my time doing Sudoku, reading, or looking out the window, I did get to know some of them a bit. I’ve found myself thinking of them these past few days.

There was the woman who either slept right up through her stop or boarded the train in a rage, talking to someone named Patty on her cell phone. “Patty Patty Patty, I ain’t gonna fuckin’ talk to Mary no more. NO! Listen to me Patty. She’s such a fuckin’ bitch. . . .” I liked it better when she slept.

Then there was the tall Southern man who often regaled us with his cooking adventures (chili—it took a couple of days, or fried chicken) or his political opinions. We once had a fascinating conversation about funk. A man from my neighborhood, always sporting a golf hat and his iPod, and a business man whose fondness of jazz made me want to find more music. There was an autistic older man who mostly kept to himself, except when railing against the lack of air conditioning in the summer. He once yelled out “I can’t find a place of solitude!” I knew just how he felt. Apparently he worked with “Patty Patty Patty,” and sometimes muttered about her foul language.

There were the two schoolgirls, one a bit of a tomboy with a sense of humor past her years, and a beautiful young girl who I hope doesn’t move too fast. The conductor always teased them, and they always gave him the business.

A silent young man had an air of mystery about him.

Several of the riders worked in a factory, and one of them was a motherly figure who I think I will miss the most. Her white hair was always perfectly done, and while she was a bit gruff, she was also warm. She loved her grandkids and was always interested in my nephew. I can’t remember her name.

It’s funny. While being able to sleep past Satan’s Witching Hour has been the best part about unemployment, I do think of my fellow riders and wish them well.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Tragic Lives of Porn Stars: An Eavesdropping Story

An admission: I eavesdrop. A lot. Not because I’m particularly nosy, but because I find the random things people talk about when they think no one’s listening endlessly entertaining. OK, I guess that counts as nosy. Sue me. Sometimes it’s worth it.

Saturday afternoon found me in my favorite North End caffé, enjoying an espresso and reading. A late middle-aged couple sat next to me, ordered coffee and grappa, and began chatting. She sported short hair, dyed, and a vaguely athletic style, and was bit younger than he. He, dressed in a forest green shirt, a bit paunchy, with white, wavy hair, reminded me a bit of a character actor. The life and times of the over 50s are usually safe from my eavesdropping ministrations, but my ears perked right up when I heard what they were talking about.

“Yeah, it’s sad, really. Tragic. These poor people think they are going to break into the movie business, but they hardly ever do.”

“There was that one. The one in the [garbled] Titty [garbled].”

Titty? What on Earth are these two talking about?

“It’s true. She was in those horror flicks for a while. She could scream. But that hardly counts as success.”

“Yeah. The poor guy in . . .”

Deep Throat.

“Yeah, Deep Throat. That poor guy only ever wanted to be a real actor.”

“He was a real victim. He had no idea that he would be famous. Infamous.”

“Do you know of any others?”

“There are always a few who get some kind of role. Usually in slasher flicks. But then, there are so many people who think it’s going to be their big break, only to wind up with nothing.”


Just at that moment, I read a hilarious sentence in my book (the secret to all good eavesdropping is to multitask. I was still reading). I’d share it, but out of context, it just doesn’t make much sense. Anyhow, I burst out laughing. Hard. The couple looked stunned, and somewhat wounded.

“Oh,” I exclaimed. “My book is so funny.” It was really hard not to say, “I assure you, I’m not laughing about the tragic lives of porn stars. That would just be cruel. That said, I’m really impressed that you even know about this. I consider myself to be pretty open minded, but I’ve never heard of the porn starlet in the titty movie. Please do tell me more.”

Instead, I left it at my book, and the couple looked relieved. I turned away from their general direction and kept reading, but the moment was gone.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

So When Will It Be THAT Bad?

This will not become the Sassy’s Miserable Unemployment Blog, I swear, but this little tidbit seems worth sharing.

My dad is great, really, a kind man, and he’s always been good to me. However, the man is a true believer Republican. Although our political fights aren’t personal, you can imagine they get rather heated. My parents came down from New Hampshire on Thursday, to see me and my sister (and the very, very cute little nephew). And he offered up this little pearl of wisdom:

“The economy really isn’t that bad. People just need to realize that they’ve lost nothing until they sell the stocks.”

Excuse me?

“Dad,” I said, “your DAUGHTER just lost her job. Her date lost his job. Several of her friends are looking for work. Exactly when does it get to be THAT bad?”


Then my mom decided to chime in with her two cents about the stimulus package and how Obama was bankrupting America.

Then snotty little me said, “Funny, I didn’t hear you saying anything at all about money when we spent all this money on unnecessary wars. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the last eight years.”

Civility eventually returned, but the whole thing really turned my head.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Unemployed in Greenland

Well, add another check mark on the life experience list. This morning I was laid off. I got the news, packed up my stuff, and, for the first time since 1999, joined the Legion of the Unemployed.

It feels very strange to be a statistic.

Bright side? Blogging is back on the agenda.