Friday, March 26, 2010

The Workout Gift

Sometimes I like to think I am training to climb Mt. Everest. Even though I have no desire to actually climb Mt. Everest, and only if by climbing it, I would be carrying a giant bag on one shoulder that contains necessities like Advil, ear muffs and hand sanitizer. (I mean, mountain goats are probably full of germs, right?) 

Clearly I do not need to be trekking all over town with a bag full of "things you rarely use," especially on a day like today when I might as well be climbing Mt. Everest since I've been knocked over twice by the gale force winds. You might think I am joking, but you would be wrong. Literally - off the sidewalk and into the street. I can't walk without bowing forward and plunging head-first into my intended direction. So maybe it's a good thing I have a bag stocked with snacks, an umbrella and gum. You never know when you might be swept into a gutter and need to survive for days. Just like on Everest. 

Of all of the things I stuff into my mountain climbing apprenticeship bags, I somehow did not bring a pair of gym socks today. To the gym. Which means I was forced to work out in giant giraffe socks. And in case the clarity of the pictures of giraffes on the sides of my mid-calf socks is not up to par, in total nerdtastic fashion, my socks say "GIRAFFE" in big block letters along the tops. 

I can't say that I am totally embarrassed by this. These are my seventh pair of giraffe socks and I wear all seven pairs with impressive regularity. As an extension of the inside joke about giraffes that I have with my dad, every Christmas I find a new pair of socks in my stocking adorned with the gangly African animals. My dad gets everyone a pair of goofy or cool or crazy socks every year in their stocking. The first time my mom received a pair of socks covered in horses, she cried. She has gotten horse socks ever since. 

My brother usually gets sports-related socks, and I have gotten two pairs of Colts socks. But usually it's giraffes for me. And I love them. They are like little foot surprises, brown speckled heads peeking out atop my shoes and into the world. My giraffes keep me grounded as they clomp along under my work clothes. They make me a little taller, a little more interesting, a little less serious. A little like I am porting tiny foot Muppets.

And as such, they are not my first choice for workout wear. I like to feel like I am way awesome at working out, like I was just cast in an action movie and my workout is part of the movie’s video montage. Super warm socks that shout “GIRAFFE” from my ankles would not make a cameo in this sequence. What DOES fit in this sequence is an iPod. (Which I also forgot to bring today.)

For Christmas last year, my brother and I combined forces to buy my mom an iPod nano. We found one in her favorite color (purple) and told her it would make her long walks and exercises way more fun. My brother made her a mix CD and a certificate that promised to help her figure out how to use the iPod. (My brother is even broke-r than I am, so we split the cost unevenly, and then G took on these extras to make up the difference. Plus he’s really good at picking out music and I listen to anything that’s on the radio. G is embarrassed to even look at my iPod.)

My mom called a few weeks after Christmas last year to say that her new purple friend had revolutionized her workouts. She had successfully uploaded all of the Broadway musicals in her collection and was walking to work faster than usual. Her iPod was starting to become the soundtrack to her own action movie. It was becoming her own little foot Muppet. Only designed for workouts. Like an aerobic giraffe.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Entrepreneurial Gift

Someone just asked me if I would buy her $25 Olive Garden gift card off of her for $15. This is after I heard her explain this plan to her friend on her cell phone. She loudly announced that she was desperate enough for money to do this, but also that "once the unemployment money comes in, that can be my spending money."

This is why everyone hates programs like unemployment and welfare services. Because people use them for the wrong reasons. Unemployment insurance is not spending money. It is not for new handbags and dinners out. It is not, (as funny as I think this would be,) for lottery tickets. It is to replace the money you were making at the job you lost so you can pay your bills. It is essentially paying you to search for the best job you can find.

I say this all preachy like I've been looking day and night for the best job I can find. Really I have been looking between other jobs for the best job ever. I am finding that I am qualified for nothing. Except teaching, but I tried that and I didn't like it. So now I can do something I hate or lots of things that are free.

While Olive Garden-of-crazy was hustling me, (that's not fair, she's probably not crazy - even if she had spectacularly sticky-uppy hair, lipstick on her teeth and asked me if there was "a dress code for this neighborhood,") I was trying to eavesdrop on the other table next to me. This is what I got out of my efforts:

"If you offer a group of people a bunch of candies and tell them to take as many as they want for free, they won't hoard them, they will most likely not take any. But, if you offer the same group of people the same candy and say it's inexpensive and that you can take as many as you want for a nickel, they will start buying them up."

His point was that whatever you have to offer, you have to show that it has value. He said to start thinking about what you do for free and start assigning a value to those services. I wanted to keep listening to this because it sounded really smart. Also because I think this is where I stopped paying attention in my college economics class and therefore I typically de-value my own worth in the work world. But then I also started thinking of all the things I do for free and I'm not exactly sure I can charge for any of these "services":

Cooking dinner


Playing Sudoku

Pretending I am famous and practicing my obviously imminent conversation with David Letterman

Watching TV

Searching for four leaf clovers

Making up stories in my head about strangers that I stare at during the day

Maybe it's just me, but parlaying any of these into a lucrative career choice could take more initiative than I am inclined to have. If someone offered me a salary to solve Sudoku puzzles or read the Classics one by one, I certainly wouldn't turn them down, but an empire built on talking to myself in the mirror does not seem to be on the horizon.

This idea of taking something you would do for free anyway and turn it into something valuable is intriguing to me. Partly because I do this already with gifts. I have mentioned before that I draw occasionally and this is something that crops up often in my gift giving. My first go at this was back in fourth grade when I discovered my own extraordinary talent at drawing flowers. At least according to my own ten-year old self. And my parents. Looking at these flowers now, I have the utmost respect for my parents and their ability to believe in an artistic talent that was clearly not awesome on any level.

Anyway, these flowers had vines flowing behind them and covered entire pages in my notebooks and drawing pads. Finally, one of my parents suggested drawing them on greeting cards and sending them to friends. (How many friends did I have to send cards to when everyone I knew lived in a four block radius? Not sure.) The flowers-of-epic-amazingness grew to include different colored backgrounds, done in colored pencil. As my mom was the ultimate fan of this series, my dad helped me color copy a selection of four flowers-of-epic-amazingness into a box set of greeting cards. We bought some envelopes and wrapped it all up for Mother's Day. (I say "we" like I had any income of my own at ten. Half the time I didn't even get my full allowance due to my aversion to doing the dishes.)

I'm pretty sure my mom still uses these cards. Probably because I made like 700 of them. I really thought this would launch my career as a greeting card designer. Let's be serious here - flowers-of-epic-amazingness never go out of style and can be used for any occasion. Too bad Etsy didn't exist in 1991. Even if the flowers never *ahem* bloomed into anything professionally, they made a great gift for the person who appreciated them the most. Sometimes the things you do for free can be coached into something that furthers your career. And something the things you do for free make excellent gestures of love and friendship. So, friends, watch out for transcripts of my pretend conversations with Letterman. They will be epic.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Tournament Gift

Two days ago, M woke me up in the middle of the night:


Me: "Wha-huh?"

M: "We can't keep staying here in this bed!"

Me: (Starting to take offense because we are in MY bed.) "What are you talking about?"

M: "We can't keep paying to stay in this bed. At $7 a night."

Me: "Um, where do you think we are?"

M: "Your parents' house?"

Obviously he was dreaming, but the combination of those thoughts is HI-larious to me. What scenario would necessitate a lengthy stay at my parents' house that would also cause us to pay the equivalent of half a breakfast per day? M doesn't remember the scenario, or the fact that he was genuinely worried about our future bed placement. I think it has something to do with the impending move-in-together date and our increasingly intense apartment search.

Luckily, both of us know exactly what we want in a place to live in sin. We are very picky, in exactly the same way. Which is great for us, not so great for our quest for the perfect place. Also, we don't have any money. Which makes apartment hunting a little harder.

When we see potential apartments, they always ask if we have pets. To which M always responds, "Well, I want a dog but I've been told this is not happening anytime soon." He thinks this is HI-larious - in the same way I thought his crazy dream about us daily renting a bed was. The truth is that we both want a dog, but he thinks that since I have less work, that I will be able to just take care of it. And this is not the kind of dog situation I want. Plus, I know how I am with change, (not good in case you're wondering - picture a crazy person, give them some caffeine and show them a sad movie and you have an idea of "me plus change") and moving in together on top of moving in general and all of the other potential new that I might have if I ever get hired to be something cool does not bode well for a new dog. Or M.

I did, however promise one thing as a gift for our anniversary this year. We have been planning the big move for a while and have finally gotten our leases on the same cycle so we can move in without any subleasing or breaking leases or any other lease trouble. With this idea on the horizon, for our three year anniversary, part of my gift to M was to renew my Sports Illustrated subscription that I had let lapse for our new address, whatever it may be.

This is the first year in almost ten years that I have not had my SI for March Madness. This means I am sans paper bracket. I know there are like 47 million online brackets you can fill out, or print out or bet against. Whatever. I want my glossy-page SI bracket that I fill out in gel ink with pretty font. As I am not a gambling type by nature, and as I started reading SI before I realized that betting was involved with the NCAA tournament, I have always done with my bracket what I originally believed you are supposed to do: I fill it out as it happens, recording the results in permanent pen. I do NOT predict on paper. You might be shaking your head at me right now, and that's OK. I am fine with my gambling naivete. I still fill out my bracket the same way. This is also why I do not participate in fantasy sports. I do not enjoy having to root for a team I don't like just because it gets me points, or even money. I want to be a fan for the teams and the players whom I want to win, and fantasy just messes it all up for me. You could say that I am a pure fan. Or a puritan fan. Or a pain in the ass.

Anyway, even with all my fan loyalties and my long-term relationship with SI, I cancelled my subscription earlier this year. Actually, it was cancelled for me. As example number 642 of why I hate the USPS, they did not deliver my magazines for a full two months. I called so many times to complain that I now have the best USPS supervisor on speed dial. She eventually fixed this problem, (at least until December's Bon Appétit went missing,) but since two months' worth of SI magazines came back to the magazine, they figured I went delinquent on them and cancelled my subscription. This is when the renewal offers started coming through the mail. (THESE get through. The actual magazines, not so much.) And I realized that I had been paying exactly $67 MORE than a first-time subscriber. Come on, SI, ten years?! You can't cut a sports fan a break?

I know that magazines have to hook new readers in, especially as more content moves to the Internet. But there has to be some incentive to long-term subscribers as well, or magazines will lose their majority readership every year. I don't have a clear way to fix this, but something along the lines of discounts to partner businesses or free special issues twice a year. Even access to online video or streaming coverage of games for customers who have been with the program for at least two years. Doesn't this make more sense? Maybe most people sign up and let their renewals happen automatically. At least with Bon Appétit, the difference between initial and renewed subscriptions is only $4. But for SI, I would rather cancel each year, miss a couple of months and sign up anew to save that $67 a year.

So when my subscription was cancelled, this became the new plan. And moving to a new address seemed the perfect target date to re-establish my relationship with SI. (And M.) M used to have a subscription with them as well, but cancelled for similar reasons. Our new subscription is like I am taking care of our preferred sports publication the same way M wants me to take care of a dog. It's like a little compromise. With brackets.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The St. Patrick's Day Gift

You are dying to know what the number one question cocktail waitresses get asked while working, aren't you? I thought so. I'm sure recently there have been many "Has this job improved your golf score?" or other more crude Tiger references. But if you are me, the number one question you would receive while working in a bar is:

"What's your heritage?"

Usually this is followed by something lame like, "Whatever it is, it's working." Just so I don't feel like I am extraordinarily odd-looking. Which is what this question makes me feel like. If I were even just four inches braver, I would adopt an accent and pretend not to speak English. 

Anyway, my "heritage" is that my dad's side is Latvian/Lithuanian (I usually just say Russian because it's easier and that's the language they speak there,) and came to America by way of South Africa. My mom's side is a combination of French, English and Irish and came to America by way of Canada. Confusing, yes. (I distinctly remember my parents explaining this combination to me using post-its in the shape of oranges to display pie charts with fractions.) Conflicting, yes. My dad's side is Jewish and my mom's side is Catholic, which essentially means that no one other than my parents has ever gotten along, and that my knowledge of religious events is based on the holiday calendar. Hence the obsession with gift giving, I guess. 

You might notice that the holidays celebrated in this blog so far are heavy on the Christian side. And this is because there are very few true blowout holidays in the Jewish calendar. Give a kid the choice between a hard candy made of sesame seeds and honey or a Cadbury egg and the clear loser here is Passover. And this is before the seven hour dinner where you only eat in hour six, and the week of no bread. This is not to say that I don't appreciate the Jewish side of things, and I actually love that I was given total freedom to experience all the great parts of each. Just when it comes to holidays, I certainly lean a little more on Christmas, St. Patrick's Day and Easter. I am not ashamed to admit that this is for the presents. 

So, given that part of my "heritage" (and I say this in quotes because it now reminds me of drunk men betting on which country I herald from,) is Irish and that this Irishness comes from my mom, celebrating St. Patrick's Day has become a little ritual between my mom and I. This, however, was a long road. When I was little, my mom would make corned beef and cabbage for all of us and give us each a little token, like a sticker or a handkerchief. I loved that part, but hated The Chieftains record my parents would play and claimed it made me dizzy and nauseous. One time, we went to a parade or a St. Patty's festival or something with a crowd to celebrate. I was around six years old and clearly did not know what was going on. My mom gave me a "Kiss Me I'm Irish" button to wear and I burst out crying. My mom was insulted and thought I was rejecting my Irish decendency. But really I was just picturing hundreds of strangers rushing up to kiss me and it freaked me out. 

I'm not sure when this changed - maybe when I realized that wearing a button that says "Kiss Me I'm Irish" does not mean you are asking for sexual assault, or maybe when I realized that The Chieftains do not induce illness of their own accord, and that Dropkick Murphys are delightful. However it happened, I now fully embrace St. Patrick's Day flair. For the past four years, my mom has sent me a box of Thin Mints (green box, get it?) with a card. If I see her in person, I get a loaf of soda bread too. One time she sent me shamrock stickers but the postal service hijacked them and I never got them. This is one example in a long battle between me and the USPS. 

Anyway, this year, I found green amazingness in the dollar bins at Target and decided to send one of each to my mom and my best friend K, who is Irish in full. I found a sparkly green headband for K and some socks for my mom. I bought one of each for myself as well. Then I went to the post office and waited for 45 minutes to send my presents out and was greeted by the most unpleasant postal worker I have encountered yet. I tried to be nice. I tried to be assertive. I failed on both accounts and wound up asking which kind of delivery she had chosen for me too quickly for me to see. Obviously the slowest one. So I have no idea if these presents got there on time. 

Undaunted, today I sent K a multi-media text message that looked like this:


And my mom a message that looked like this:

Kissy feet!

(If you can't tell, the socks say "Kiss Me I'm Irish." The pink blob is lips.) I have clearly come a long way in my road to embracing my "heritage." I have no fear of strangers tumbling forward to kiss my feet. Because that would be weird.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Retrospective Gift

I have entered my own personal Hot Tub Time Machine. Only without the hot tub. Or actual time travel. So maybe it's more like I am inordinately excited about the upcoming Hot Tub Time Machine movie and cannot stop saying the title over and over in my head and have therefore made one too many parallels between the plot and my own life.

However, here is what led me to the conclusion that I have dipped into a bubbly vat of existential warp:

1. The gym where I train moved to the exact location of the office of the teaching program I joined almost seven years ago.

2. Over the course of last weekend, I did enough phone interviews for said teaching program to completely revisit all teaching phobias accrued almost seven years ago.

3. M and I are moving in together on May 1st, and have been looking at apartments, most of which look like or are situated in or remind me of places where I have lived before during my almost seven years in Chicago.

I mean, these are weird, right? Well, the first one is definitely weird, but the other two happening at the same time makes it all a little eery. The difference between this convergence of events and the plot of Hot Tub Time Machine is that I cannot do anything about my life of seven years ago. I am just visiting. But, if I could change anything, here are the top ten things I would change about me, circa 2003:

10. My hair. (My hairdresser at the time cut it crookedly and it was short to begin with so I ended up with an unfortunately biased bob.)

9. My eating habits. (A diet of peanut butter and Baked Cheddar and Sour Cream Lays does not make for a happy body.)

8. My clothes. (If there's anything I have learned from What Not to Wear and a zero balance in my checking account, it's dress the body you have now and spend money on classic clothes when you have it so your wardrobe will last when you don't.)

7. My relationships. (Not that I had a lot of time to give to this while living and breathing teaching, but I certainly did not do myself any favors here. Drama begets drama.)

6. My e-mail habits. (A routine of procrastination and lame excuses does not make for happy friends.)

5. My confidence. (Delirious idealism is not the same as belief in your own self-worth.)

4. My extra-curricular activities. (Why was I not taking classes like French conversation or drawing?)

3. My social skills. (2003 was the only year I can remember when I was mean to everyone I came into contact with - Starbucks baristas, Borders employees, grocery store cashiers. I was unhappy and took it out EVERYWHERE.)

2. My initiative. (It took me several years to figure out that you have to call people to keep them in your life and not just wait for them to call you. And then get mad at them for not calling.)

1. My presents. (I am mostly sure that I gave terrible presents in 2003. I know I didn't send Valentines or get any birthday presents out on time. I couldn't keep anything in my head.)

I am predicting that the end of Hot Tub Time Machine will come to the same conclusion I do when looking at this list - that if you didn't go through the difficult or desperate or awkward times, you would never learn anything to make yourself better. I wouldn't have this list if I didn't have the original 2003. And really, as much as things were difficult or desperate or awkward seven years ago, revisiting the past this week made me a little homesick for when things were new in Chicago. And then I remember the list.

I also know that the 2003 me would look at the 2009/2010 me and still be jealous of that life. And I can't blame her. Hot tub or no hot tub, I am much happier now than I was seven years ago. Case in point, I talk to strangers all the time. Starbucks baristas, Borders employees and grocery store cashiers. Yesterday, the Jewel cashier gave me the coupon I was missing to get the buy one get one free special, and it was totally because I was nice and chatting him up before I realized you needed an additional ticket to score the freebie. While buying my brother's Christmas gift this year, I befriended a Best Buy floor manager to ask which camcorder was the best bet.

My brother, as mentioned before, is studying musical theater, and as such, needs to continually review his own progress. Memorizing lines, practicing monologues, working on dance sequences - these are all things best seen via an objective lens. I decided he could use a video camera to tape rehearsals and his own private practices. But I couldn't afford the Flip. So, at Best Buy, laden with the ever-present computer bag and fourteen layers of winter wear, I found myself looking homeless and sweaty in the electronics department. No one approached me to ask if I needed help. I think they were secretly hoping I wouldn't steal anything and leave within minutes. Instead, I sat on the ground and piled boxes of camcorders around me and studied their labels. Eventually, I spied a very nice, young Best Buy-ite who did not run away from me like I had fleas.

Because my brother would be taping segments at length, and not just for short YouTube clips, she recommended the version I had seen initially. Better battery length, able to attach to a tripod or set on a shelf, automatic playback, steady quality and good sound. These are all qualities I stupidly hadn't thought of. I was looking for a video camera, solely on the merit of being able to record video. And this is why places like Best Buy have actual employees. And this is why you should be nice to them and ask them questions. Not resent them for having a job that does not involve screaming children and constant insults. It seems I have in fact learned a lot in my seven years in Chicago. One of which is how to successfully buy electronics as gifts. I told my brother that with this gift, I expect to see samples of his recent work. I haven't seen any yet. But he did send me a random, unrelated YouTube clip. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Secret Gift

You know you are having a good day when it is raining and grey and oddly humid, and all you can think of is how the fog makes you feel like you live in a magic city. I love when half of the Hancock Tower is missing, tucked in the drapery of the clouds like Jack's fabled bean-stock. Today is a day that I can believe someone planted a magic beam and grew the Hancok Tower.

Today is also a day when the smell of a dampened raincoat sticks in my nose for no reason. Well, other than that it is raining, which makes me think of raincoats, but I haven't actually had a shiny, snap-festooned, heavy-as-a-dental-x-ray-smock raincoat since age 11. But today I can't get that rubberized plastic scent to leave my sinuses alone. Maybe because my rainboots are broken and I long for splash-worthy outerwear? I don't know.

There is something about splashing in puddles without fear of wearing puddles that makes me happy. When I first bought my now-gimpy rainboots, I found every puddle on every walk to plunge into, just because I could. Which might explain why they now leak. That and my aforementioned proclivity for shoving extra jean material where it doesn't belong. Anyway, in releasing my, (well, not so much inner child as actual personality,) I have discovered lots of sidewalk cupfuls of beautiful hearts. Everywhere there are heart-shaped potholes in the sidewalks of Chicago. My favorite part of these accidental works of art is that they are usually full of dirty water and old cigarettes. They are like concrete spring, emerging out of the dead of winter, still grey and downtrodden, but a familiar signifier of beauty just the same.

So I have been taking pictures of them. There is one in particular, just outside of (I am reluctant to even tell you for fear it will no longer just be my secret cheer, but it needs to be told,) the North and Clybourn el stop, next to a signpost. It is crinkled in the corners like a happy heart with crow's feet. It has, without fail, a cigarette or a train ticket submerged in its puckered depths. It is unmistakably a heart, no misshapen curves or too-wide humps. I have taken several pictures of it. I even bought a tiny silver frame with a red grograin ribbon to give to someone as a present.

But I haven't been able to do it. I don't know who to give it to. My secret heart that cheers me up on raincoat-scented days. My smiling, muddy friend who sends cigarette winks my way. I think because it is mine I am having trouble giving it away. So, my friend, you are a secret gift with a secret destination. And someone will get you soon. Maybe wrapped in a raincoat.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Cameo Gift

The scene: I have just finished my workout at the gym and have taken a fake-shower. (In which I do not wash my hair and instead use lots of body spray on top of my head.) I am in front of the mirror with my makeup bag on the counter and my lotion poised above my hand, ready to moisturize. A woman in her mid-thirties enters the locker room. She looks at me. I say hi. She says:

"Oh, to be nineteen again."

What? What does this even mean? Does she think I am a teenager or is she commiserating on the skin-drying disadvantages of age? At the end of this month I will be exactly ten years older than 19. I am definitely closer in age to her than to a recent high school grad. Because I can't tell what she means, I decide to say something entirely stupid.

"Ah, tell me about it!"

What is wrong with me? I certainly do not mind looking younger than I am, but apparently the thought of being 19 again compels me to act like an old person. Or what I imagine an old person would say to something equally inane.

Another old-person tendency I have adopted lately is calling the Olympic games "Olympics." I know, you are thinking, "that's what they are." But think about it: when you talk about watching them, you say, "THE Olympics." Yet for the past two weeks, I have been inexplicably and consistently saying things like:

"I was watching Olympics last night."

Like an old person. It could be worse. I could impersonate Morgan Freeman and say:

"I was watching THE O-lympic Winter Games last night."

(Although if I could talk like Morgan Freeman, that would make all my stupid responses sound way cooler.) I love Morgan Freeman's voice and I am so happy that he was chosen as the disembodied spirit of Visa Vancouver Olympics. (Seriously - they can't at least fly him to Canada? I would have loved to see his reaction to the McTwisty Death-on-a-Board trick. Plus then we would have seen at least one person of color in the audience.) Mr. Freeman's voice is extremely distinctive and I'm sure 90 percent of Americans knew it was him the first time they saw the very first Olympics-related Visa plug. But he is hardly the first celebrity voice-over in commercial-land. I happen to be extremely good at picking out voices. Anyway, here are some of the voices I picked out while watching the final women's free skate last week:

Jon Hamm = Xfinity

Ed Helms =

Patrick Dempsey = Mazda AND State Farm Insurance

Thomas Hayden Church = DirecTV

Michael Douglas = The NBC Nightly News (ok, not a commercial, but weird that he's the voice-over, right?)

John Krasinski = Carnival Cruise lines

Kevin Spacey = Honda

(You may have noticed that all of these voices are male, which may be because I do not pay attention to women. Or because clearly people buy more things when they are told to by a trusted male voice. Or because I place a higher attractiveness value on men with cool voices. Don Draper? Meh. Don Draper's voice? Mmm.)

Also, I may be good with voices, but I am terrible with names. Before some intensive Wikipedia-ing, the first half of my list looked like this:

Don Draper

Guy from The Hangover


Thomas ?? (Sideways?)

Anyway, speaking of Kevin Spacey...(see, Honda, above)...he is great. This is an inside joke in my family. For a while, Kevin Spacey was in every movie that we liked, every funny cameo appearance, every profound commercial voice-over. So, when playing the "Who is that" game for voices or guest-starring roles, the unknown answer was always Kevin Spacey. The "he's great" part came about when someone mentioned him, and my dad and I said, "Oh, he's great" at the same time. Which then obviously had to be repeated every time his name was mentioned thereafter.

For no other reason than it was funny, or possibly my dad's birthday, I called him and left a message. At the end of which I said "Kevin Spacey...he's great." Not a traditional gift, but a little gift. A cameo gift. A voice-over gift.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Lyrics Gift

This is what I have had in my head all day:

"Pat and KEN-ny,
Read Oprah TRAN-scripts."

How it got there I have no idea. Except M mentioned our friends Pat and Katie yesterday, so that may have done it. I think it would be a really funny to give them Oprah transcripts as a gift sometime, but not everyone watches The Late Show with David Letterman circa 2002, so I'm not sure this would go over well.

Anyway, it was a short leap from "Pat and Kenny" over to the "Will It Float" theme and now I am massively annoyed because I cannot for the life of me remember how "Hairpiece/Not a Hairpiece" goes. Every time I think I am close, "Pat and Kenny" swoop in and take over all available brain space. I have tried to replace this song with something else, but the only other tune that readily volunteers itself is that dumb McDonald's commercial with the parents who race each other with the Happy Meal. I don't really understand what's happening there -- I am usually playing sudoku while watching TV, so I always miss the beginning and therefore have no idea which of the parents bought the Happy Meal. I feel as though this is the missing link to understanding the ad's premise, and therefore I cannot root for one parent over the other. I also do not actually understand the lyrics to the jingle. I can tell some of it is French, but most of it just sounds like "Mooga-tee, mooga-tee." So this is what replaces "Pat and Kenny" when I get frustrated:

"Mooga-tee, mooga-tee
Mooga-tee, mooga-tee." (over and over, usually with shoulder movements)

OMG not even "Pat and Kenny" can save me now.

This is not the first time I have made up my own lyrics to make sense of a song I can't figure out. Only I usually just sing the syllables instead of making up actual words, so I don't make much more sense than just being quiet. The only exception is Elton John's full repertoire of songs-that-sound-nothing-like-their-lyrics. I know for a cold, hard, Google-researched fact that I am one of skillions of people who have mis-heard "Tiny Dancer." You read that right: skillions. More than zillions.) Until sophomore year of college, this is what I sang:

"Hold me close,
I'm tired of dancin'."

(This makes way more sense, actually. If you ignore the title.) Post-googling, I admitted defeat to my roommates who did not know the words either beyond the idea that I was wrong. To make me feel better, they related the story of one of our other friends, who was dead-set on the wrong lyrics to Rusted Root's "Send Me On My Way." To be fair, this is a very fast and poorly articulated song. But those are the only five words in the whole thing. Instead of "Send Me On My Way" over and over, A believed it was "Simeon The Whale." And she sang it that way. At the top of her lungs. At their concert.

This is why I usually go with matching up just the vowel sounds. Most of the time no one can tell that I have no clue what the lyrics are. This is my parlor trick. I can make it look like I know all the words to every song, when in fact I have NO IDEA. Not even new songs, and especially not old-school hip hop. The only songs I know in full are the ones that made it onto the "Hot 9 at 9" on B97 in 1992, which I used to secretly listen to after my bedtime. As a result, the only songs I know by heart are by Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton or Bryan Adams. I am awesome.

I have several song books from when I used to sing, as does M. And he has an Elton John book, which is like a treasure trove of lost words. Both of us also have more studious books of arias, and if I could sight-read, I could still sing from some of them. Luckily, M plays the piano and CAN sight-read, so these books are not a complete waste of space. While neither of us actually has a piano, he has a keyboard. Visions of real houses dance in our head, with a full piano nestled squarely in a high-ceilinged room.

When I was in Paris this summer, I found a bookstall selling sheet music. There were arias from all kinds of operas and composers, and at that moment I couldn't for the life of me remember who or which was M's favorite. So I picked mine. I know he likes Mozart and I LOVE Mozart, so I figured it wasn't much of a stretch. An aria from the Marriage of Figaro, to be exact. (Fun fact: in French, it's called Les Noces de Figaro and NOT Le Mariage de Figaro because the opera couldn't be named the same thing as the book it was based on. Les noces means the nuptials, or the social event of getting married.) The sheet music is handwritten and all the lyrics are in French, and I thought it would be the perfect thing to bring back from my trip.

I gave M the sheet music as part of his birthday present a few weeks later. I framed it in a "floating frame" -- one that has glass space on all sides of the picture and a large black frame to trim the edges. I told him it was to go above the piano we will own someday.

He will play and we both will sing. We might even do a "Pat and Kenny" duet.