Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Does This Christmas Tree Make Me Look Fat?

Tonight my roommate and I went to "Cheap Charlies" for one of my favorite Christmas traditions. The trees were lined up like sad, wounded puppies at a pound. Charlie wasn't around, but a very surly purple-haired lady stared at us from a turqouise trailer.

"Hi!" I said to the lady, "We're here for a tree!"

She looked at me like, big duh lady, we ain't selling cocktails. She broke down the cost of the trees. "They're color-coated. These are the prices plus tax." Then she snarled, "I take cash only. I don't like messin' around with change!"

Uh, someone better start being nice or Santa might not show up with some color-corrector home hair dye.

We wandered around, looking at trees from all possible angles. I'm now an expert at scoping out hidden bare spots. The lady sat with her space heater, rolled her eyes and lit up a cigarette. It's fine with me if she wants to be a Hater, but lighting up at a tree lot? This is California. The only thing worse than owning a cigarette is smoking it in a tree lot.

We picked out two trees. One skinny and one fat. I voted for the fat one because it made me look skinny. Afterall, this is California. The only thing worse than being fat, is owning a tree that adds ten pounds.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

As Seen on TV! or In Your Closet!

Have you ever watched someone laugh so hard that you start laughing and you don't even know why you're laughing? Have you ever told someone something SO FUNNY you could pee your pants? Lucky for you, ladies and gentleman, this is such an occasion.

If this story, after all the hype, turns out to be a "Um...I guess you had to be there" kind of moment, I will be highly disappointed in my ability to convey one of the truly funniest moments of all time in recorded history. Since I hear all the time about ya'll reading my blog but not commenting because you have to register, or what would you say, etc...Then here's the dealio: You MUST hit me back (yes YOU, first-time caller) and tell me that this is not the most freaking hilarious thing you've EVER heard of.

We're in paragraph three, so by now you should be really fired up. Admit it, you are starting to chuckle a little, maybe giddy in anticipation. You're saying, "That Jaynel is pretty funny. I wonder what could happen to seriously crack her up." You're probably already laughing.

Ok, well. Last night Renee and I were in our garage. I was looking through some boxes for this pair of knee high black boots I bought it Italy last year. While I was lost looking in boxes and finding random junk, Renee says, "Oh, nuh uh!!" (Maybe you'd have to know her for that to make sense.) She starts laughing so hard she has to sit down. I'm trying to ask her what is so funny, but now I'm laughing just watch her crying with laughter. She's really losing it. She's holding these two forms that look like a certificate. She makes me promise not to make fun of her, which I do. (I never say anything about not posting it on a blog entry, though.)

She hands me this teeny tiny yellow nylon suit, that fits in the palm of my hand. She is laughing so hard, I can't understand anything she is saying. Like a dork, I'm laughing just looking at her, so I'm in no position to ask questions. She calms down for these two second intervals enough to tell me that a few years back she thought she wanted to buy a Parakeet. She did a lot of research on Parakeets and started buying things for the Parakeet. Keep in mind, she did not have, and still does not own- a Parakeet. This yellow thingee, she explains is a little Parakeet Outfit with a cable (or commonly known as a "hair band") to keep the bird from flying away. She throws two circular cotton face cleansers at me. The kind that come 100 for a dollar or whatever. Gross, right? Then she says between hiccups of laughter that those are BIRDIE DIAPERS! She's holding the receipt, which looks like a certificate, and it says she paid $29.99 for this! She pulls out a little birdie ladder that she bought for the fictional Parakeet.

It wouldn't be so ridiculous that people actually sold this stuff, if there wasn't some kind of demand for it. Enterprises like this one make me truly believe we live in the greatest country of all time. Freedom of speech, religion, and to create a dynasty from hair bands and cotton swabs disguised as birdie diapers. Or, as they like to call them, "Patented Poop Pouches."

One of my boyfriends in New York had a bird named Squeaky. Squeaky was an incessant shit-talker. I'd commonly go in the back room and gossip about my relationship to my girlfriends. What's the harm, right. No one was there except adorable cute little Squeaky. Well that little fucker ratted me out! "If you want loyalty, get a dog!" my boyfriend told me, actually defending Squeaky.

Interesting. I sort of thought that's why I got a boyfriend.

That same friend had an entire closet full of "As Seen on TV" merchandise. When he opened the closet door, it was like he had really taken his insomnia to the next level. "It made sense at the time," he said holding up a Flowbee windtunnell hair cutter. Did I mention he had no hair?

"In advertising that's called strategy. They flash a number in your face and tell you things when you can't think clearly," I tell him. He picks up a box of unopened Ginsu knives.

"Well these can cut through cans!" he tells me, side-stepping a bright blue Thigh Master with Suzanne Somers face slathered on the side.

"Right," I say, "For all those circus show dinner parties you have lined up."

He shuts the door just as I'm getting a sneak peek at a total body solution kit and a revolutionary tooth-whitening two-tier tray system. That was six or seven years ago, but Renee's discovery sparked the same revelation. We all own weird shit purchased in vulnerable moments we knew we absolutely could not live without that thing that makes no sense to buy. Yet someone asked for a credit card, and we gave it. Gladly. Excited, even. We spoke slowly, having the numbers recited back to us, so as not to miss out on this one time opportunity. We make shipping arrangements and small talk with the telemarketer. We may have even have made installment payments, or maybe came to our senses the second it showed up and realized it had to be shipped back to the tooth whitening palace or the Beanie Baby factory.

Your turn. What was the strangest thing you ever bought? Where is it now? Leave your answer in Comments. Winner gets their choice of hearing what the weirdest thing I ever bought was, or...a Miniature Yellow Nylon 100% Authentic Avian Flight Suit!

Friday, November 24, 2006


The dreaded GRE is tomorrow. Have I studied enough? Do I know how to find the test site? Shouldn't I review just ONE MORE chapter? What about those breathing excercises I never mastered?

I can't help myself from cramming. I haven't even looked at the Math section because all that does is lower my self-esteem. But I found a boost in the most unexpected place. When I was at my Dad's this summer, tucked behind my high school yearbooks was a little envelope that was dated in 1982. It was two years of my report cards.

I forgot about these ancient relics, until I found them in a box. "Jaynel is our number one speller AGAIN!" Mrs. Kinney writes, "She is a Spelling Whiz!" Moving on to math, I saw that I had mastered my multiplication tables to the 5's and 6's. "Jaynel understands division, and scored 98% overall."

"Jaynel expresses a high level of creativity and originality"

"Jaynel is reading from Sunshine Days, our highest reading group." and then "She sometimes forgets what she reads." (It's called Sunshine Days. Isn't that enough?)

"Jaynel can create complete sentences and write in paragraph form."

"Jaynel is becoming a good listener."

"Jaynel likes to share with others."

"It was a pleasure working with Jaynel. She will make a very successful fourth grader."

Why can't I submit these report cards as my letters of recommendation and GRE scores? Not much has changed, it appears. Except somewhere between then and now, I've convinced myself that I suck at math, and know less than I do.

I talked to my mother on the phone a couple of weeks ago. Since she works in the same town where I grew up, she recognizes people all of the time. "I saw your second grade teacher, Mr. Brink," she told me. "He asked about you." I admit to my mother for the first time that I was the only student in second grade that did not get the NIGHTHAWK AWARD. It was a little blue slip of paper recognizing strengths. It also meant that you had to eat lunch with the Principal which meant you didn't get reccess that day. Skip reccess?!

I told my mom that on the last day of class, Mr. Brink said he had to make an announcement. "Your yearbooks say that everyone in the class recieved the NIGHTHAWK AWARD, but ONE student did not." Of course that was me. I was a little troublemaker, running when I was supposed to walk, talking too loud, wearing weird outfits.

"Well," she said, "I remember they told me in a conference that you were creative and have a very high IQ."

"You never told me that!" I said.

"Yes!" she said, "So remember that."

Since she told me, and I didn't read it, it would appear the chances of me remembering it are pretty good. And just in time for this heinous test I must take tomorrow.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Even Rudolph Scares Me

I grew up on a farm with cows, horses, dogs, cats, and even the occasional pig and donkey. Remi and I learned the hard way that farm animals aren't pets. We once named three adorable little pigs "Cindy, Jan, and Marsha." Soon after the Brady Bunch girls were gone, my Dad was telling us to finish our bacon. You could say that was my first very unpleasant "a-ha" moment.

Farms involve manure to step in, hay bails with dead snakes inside, and electric fences. We had the most attractive wood fences that lined our farm. My Dad built them (I helped!) and Remi, my Mom and I painted them white. I can't vouch for what they look like now, but I used to like sitting on them, slathering them with paint. My other favorite things to do were sprinkle salt on slugs and watch them shrink, ride my horse Cocoa, and go to my Grandpa's to drink orange pop and throw apples near passing cars with my cousins. I suppose I was more mischievous than I looked, and not nearly as squeamish as I am now.

But that's what city living and watching years of 48-Hours Investigates shows about stalkers and murderers will do to a girl. After living in New York City and San Francisco the past eight years, with a small hiatus in Colorado, I am downright uncomfortable in the great wide open. I've left my city digs for a house that sits in trees and oleander. Blue Jays, squirrels and raccoons run around like I'm in their way. It's more unusual to see a jogger out here than it is to see deer running around at night. We usually see at least 2-4 every night.

Back on the farm, when the cows got loose, it was a big deal. But the deer are peaceful, awkward creatures. They are slow and frightened, it seems. No matter how carefully my car passes, I have this feeling that I am in their space, that I am forcing them out of the way, and that I shouldn't be there. This is why I don't understand hunting. I've shot at clay pigeons, my whole body shaking afterwards. Guns aren't for me. When I see a dead animal on the road, I feel really sad. And when I imagine that a hunter will photograph or stuff his conquest as a prize, I struggle to understand that. As wrong as this may sound to some, I rationally know that some people use animals as the source of nutrition. I'm not judging that. I just would like someone to explain the "sport" of hunting. It seems to me that most people who enjoy this also truly appreciate nature and the outdoors, so why wouldn't they strive to protect it's natural habitat?

While you contemplate that, I'll say that I'm a little more nervous out here than I was living in the city. In the city, I'm aware that there's people and things, cars and public transportation around me ALL the time. It's loud and busy. The homeless people are aggressive, but after you learn their name and their favorite sports team, even that gets less threatening. Out here, my place is surrounded by a huge wall of windows, a large open deck which unfolds into nothing but a blanket of trees. It's calming. But on the other hand, I'm always on guard. Someone could hide out or break in and no one would find me until later. My roommates are all in a separate wing of the house. (Wow-I'm really glad I'm detailing this for all you stalkers out there.)

Last night I was working on my applications to grad schools, and I heard footsteps. I'm serious. The lights to my study were on, which meant whatever was out there could see me. Don't laugh. I was freaked out. I called my roommate on my cell. I didn't want to move and like I said, we live in separate places. Renee said she'd come down and check it out. Once she got down there, we creaked open the door, and walked out slowly on the deck. I was serious and looking for anything or anyone to jump out at me. I was convinced that something was hiding out. Even the dog wasn't coming in right away. Maybe the intruder was feeding it meat like they do in cartoons? Who knows! I was freaked out!

Just then Renee decides to come up behind me and startle me by screaming. I had no idea she was even anywhere near me, so she scared the shit out of me! I started screaming bloody murder. I was sort of running around I think and holding my head, I can't remember! But then I heard her laughing, and I would have been mad, if I wasn't still scared.

I heard something that sounded like a person walking through gravel.

"Omigod! Did you hear that?" I said.

"No, dude," she said, still kind of laughing.

I don't know what was scarier, that I thought someone was in my backyard/forrest, or that in California, girls call girls "dude."

"I hear someone walking around! You know there's that rapist loose!" I said.

"Whatever, it's probably a deer," she said. "They come back here all the time."

We went inside and ate ice cream. Dreyers has a new Ice Cream Sandwich flavor, and it's genius. That night, I tried to sleep. I had two blankets and a comforter on top of me. When the trees sway they create shadows that I swear to God, look like people wandering around. This has created so much anxiety and insomnia, that I bought a night light at the dollar store last week. Plus I sometimes sleep under the covers. Yes, I know. I should not have said that.

But last night I felt sort of brave. I mean, so I've lived in the city for awhile, I'm still a farm girl! How bad could it be? Bring it! So...I turned off my little night light and knelt down next to my window. I peeked out, one eye open, fully expecting some sort of freakazoid woman-killer to appear. I looked down to the ground, and there, looking around, and then back at me, just as freaked out, a little fragile baby deer.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Albinos, Anorexics, and a Music Legend

When I heard that Frank Black was coming to town, I craigslisted myself some tickets. You might remember Frank Black as lead man for the early 90's band, the Pixies. I have fond memories of the Pixies opening up for U2 in 1991 at the Tacoma Dome. It drove in my Ford Escort, tape player blasting "Trompe le Monde." That "tape" featured cows eyeballs dipped in sugar. Growing up on a farm, and having considered cows as pets, that visual was a PETA brochure waiting to happen. At the '91 concert, Kim Deal came on stage first in a red mini-skirt, and a sunglassed Frank Black was behind her. She was fall-down, F-- you all drunk. Frank tried to get through a few songs, but her limp body went between jolts of swaying and firecrackering to attention. As a 16 year-old kid at my first concert, I thought, "WOW! This is Rock and Roll!" Uh, no. Frank escorted Kim off the stage after getting booed. They cut their session short, and within months, the Pixies broke up for good.

There was no love lost. I'd moved on to writing poetry to cheesy tracks of Michael Stipe's music, finding something very deep about "Nightswimming." And yes, my poetry back then was equally as sucky.

Kim Deal went on to join up with Kristen Hersh and Tanya Donnelly, both of which are fantastic solo rockstars. The Breeders was formed and "Cannonball" became a hit. One of my favorite all time songs from highschool is "Not Too Soon" a Throwing Muses track. I was at writing camp (at Port Townsend, ironically enough) and two angry teenage lesbians gave me the tape. Yes, tape. I'm of that era.

Last night, I wore my CBGB t-shirt and painted my nails black for the occasion. Andrew and I wandered in to the purple-chandeliered Fillmore and got drinks. Frank Black came out, a little heavier, a little blacker than I remember. (Clothing, of course.) About a quarter way through his solo set he started introducing the rest of the band, and they ran out and took their spot on stage. The drummer looked like an albino with a wave perm. I was mystified. "I saw that guy earlier, and I thought he was just a freak," Andrew said. Nope, that was the drummer.The bass player looked equally freaky, anorexic with a wig-like amount of hair. His pea-sized biceps popping out whenever he'd hit a new chord.

The Pixies had reunited, but where was the real drummer? And where was Kim Deal? She's got to be almost fifty by now, and probably looks worked. Andrew and I listened to song after song emitting from the sweaty bald-headed Black. The Fillmore was in full character. That place could sell air fresheners going by no other name than "The Fillmore" and people would immediately know: Pot. Officers could no longer accuse people of holding because they could blame it on their Fillmore air fresheners. Genius! Or at least it seemed to be when I dreamed it up at the concert last night, probably on a contact high.

Andrew and I left, and walked to my car. "Well I guess that's proof that Rock is still alive," I told him.

"See, I'm not so sad that it ever died," he said. I considered that, and all of the great music that has come since certain forms of rock have evolved.

Tonight at the Great American Music Hall, we're going to see Split Lip Rayfield, a blues garage band. It's a special performance, because it's one of their last. Their lead singer, Kirk Rundstrom has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of esophsgeal cancer and decided that singing sold-out shows brings him the most joy. Also, Chris Abani is reading at City Lights in Little Italy on Columbus. At Vesuvio, the tiny two-story pub/cafe next door, I swear the ghost of Jack Kerouac is still kicking around. If you're in the neighborhood, and especially because it's holiday time, stop by Tosca and get a house cappuccino, mixed with brandy and Ghiradelli chocolate. Tiny glasses line the bar, with stir sticks coming out the top. Don't forget to bring nickels for the juke box which plays Italian opera from records that look like glass.

Andrew has another ticket to Split Lip Rayfield, so if you're interested, meet us there. I'll be the tattooless blonde with black fingernails contemplating the aroma of another famous American venue.