Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wardrobe Mistress of the Shakesberg Festival

You know the expression, You've got a face for radio.

Well, I got a haircut and a wardrobe for radio.

Before last week's live taping of LiveWire, I really did spend an hour trying on about 15 different dresses, for an audience of 3 to review, before deciding on what I would wear. I swear, Burt Parks could choose Miss America in less time.

I went for a classic black cocktail dress from the 1960s with rhinestone accents.
The other guests on the show may have spent slightly less time picking out their outfits. Novelist Christopher Moore wore a hideous Hawaiian shirt.
Not actually this hideous Hawaiian shirt. I was too distracted on Saturday to get pictures of the other guests, so I've just downloaded whatever the internet has to offer. But apparently Moore has left a trail of low-on-couture, loose-at-the-gut outfits across America, and thanks to Google image search, you can see the horror for yourself.

Next runner up in the thank-heavens-it's-not-a-swimsuit competition was musical guest John Roderick of The Long Winters.

This picture, alas, does not do his current look justice. Imagine his hair longer and stringier, and his front tooth missing. Welcome to the hot Northwest aesthetic, hickster - where hick meets hipster.

Don't get me wrong. Roderick rocks. He just looks as though he also crawled out from under one.

And then finally there was documentary filmmaker Dan Merchant.
The last time I saw an outfit like that, it was blasting Amy Grant on full-volume, missing a muffler, and badly in need of a smog check.

Merchant's film Lord Save Us From Your Followers is to religious zealots what Supersize Me is to a side of fries. But while the Lord is at it, maybe he could save us from bumpersticker fashion, too.

I was on the show to read an essay about my crazy family. They gave me a limit of 1200 words. Even with egregious cheating, I could only sneak in 1376 or so.

When your family is as crazy as mine, it's hard to choose just 8 minutes of material. I decided to focus on our amazing ability to bring about the premature demise of various relatives. Unlike Colonel Mustard and the Candlestick or Mrs. Peacock with the Wrench, in my family we can off each other with just four little words.

You're dead to me.

Actually, it is not just my family. Like Tay-Sachs, breast cancer, and a hankering for Chinese take-out, this condition seems endemic to many American Jews. Sure, Dan Merchant's crazy Christians can go on about family values, but we Hebes value our family so much, we are willing to commit wholesale (pardon the cheap pun) linguistic homicide to win an argument with them.

This phenomenon stretches back a century at least, as I recalled when Christopher Moore was discussing the book he is currently writing, which retells the story of King Lear from the point of view of the fool.

King Lear, Shming Lear, I say. When they adapted Shakespeare for the Yiddish stage, the far-fetched story of a king cutting off his own daughter was made more relevant and realistic. By turning it into the story of Queen Lear, the overbearing Jewish mother who runs — and ruins — her children's lives.

I learned about this theatrical adaptation when I was in grad school, getting my Ph.D. in American literature. The sort of intensive six-year study that, if you're Jewish, culminates in your mother reporting to all her friends, she's not a real doctor.

With Shakesberg, I mean Shakespeare, plots of mistaken identity, star-crossed lovers, and feuding families get so repetitious you can pretty much only tell tragedy from comedy by whether all the characters are dead at the end of the play. Since in my family we are only dead to each other, I suppose we qualify as comedy.

But don't trust me. You can listen for yourself, if they ever get around to posting the podcast this week.

And remember, a face for radio can still have a family resemblance to a podcast.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hairy Knuckles No More

Aside from my squeeze the Cheez calling me Macaroni, I've never really been nicknamed.

Unless you count the nicknames I've given myself.

The alumni office of my beloved alma mater, always looking for some emo-glow-to-get-you-to-send-the-dough connection, once asked all the graduates to fill out a form asking for such personal information as Your College Nickname. Now all my mail from Harvard comes addressed to Knuckles.

It is so nice to know they care.

If only I were really as rich as the alumni office believes a Harvard grad is supposed to be, I could endow Knuckles Hall. Or the Knuckles Professorship. Or underwrite an annual Knuckle Ball at which the guests would nibble on Knuckle Sandwiches.

Prevaricating to academic institutions about my name has become something of a habit. When I was in graduate school back in the heady days of the early 90s, I managed to convince the university email system that my middle name was Puts the Femme in Feminist. I was quite pleased with myself, both for thinking up the phrase and for knocking the (argyle) socks off all the other humanities dorks when my "official" name appeared in their inboxes.

Until the day I realized it was a dirty lie.

Well, maybe not dirty, but not as kempt as femme is supposed to be.

Sure I sport long hair, bright lipstick, and short dresses. But really, my hair is long because I'm too lazy to get it cut very often. I actually have a kind of salonaphobia. And it's easier to wear dresses than pants, because you make one fashion choice and the whole outfit is done. And the lipstick? Just think of it as the chromatic equivalent of an exclamation point, drawing attention to the big mouth out of which the feminist rants come.

But what's really kept me off the editorial board of Vogue magazine: I haven't shaved my legs since 1990. Specifically, since my roommate Christopher went nosing around in my tackle box of toiletries and knocked my 69 cent BIC razor behind the dresser.

I was too lazy to dive back with the dustbunnies and retrieve it. And way too lazy to travel one whole T-station to the drugstore to buy a new one.

Eighteen years of hairy legs qualifies as putting something in feminist, but I'm pretty sure it's not the femme.

And then, this week, I did it. I shaved my legs.

It took for freakin' ever. Probably because I had to rinse hair out of the razor every 2 inches.

All that raze, rinse, repeat action gave me ample opportunity for calculating how much time I've saved by not shaving. Figure at least 15 minutes a week, average. Times 52 weeks per year. Times 18 years.

That would be 234 hours. Nearly ten full days.

I would have calculated how much money I'd saved, too, except it turns out I was the only one in North America who still believed you could shave with a 69 cent BIC razor.

It could take me 234 hours just to figure out all the shaver options at the local Walgreen's.

Instead I directed my attention to avoiding shaving over any bug bites, for fear I'd start hemorrhaging. So I have this hairy Cyclopes just below my right knee. And another an inch and a half above my left ankle.

Still, the effect was transforming. Gazing down at my newly shaven legs, I realized I looked like a celebrity sex symbol.

Unfortunately, it was this celebrity sex symbol.

So maybe I never really will put the femme in feminist. And maybe Puts the Johnson in Feminist doesn't have quite the connotation I was hoping for.

At least no one can call say I put the Hairy Knuckles in Harvard.

My armpits, however, are a whole other story.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Home Sweet Homo: Or, Pardon My Real Estate Pontification

What's in a name?

A lavender-menace worth of demographic and geographic convergence, as it turns out.

When my squeeze the Cheez and I were taking the plunge into homeownership, we must have looked at about fifty different houses. In two weeks.

What can I say, I was trained to shop at Loehmann's, where if you don't snatch up a bargain fast, some other broad will, and won't you be sorry.

In order to remember all those houses, we gave them nicknames.

La Maison des Deux Ages, a 1918 Craftsman Bungalow onto which someone had added a second story (in both senses of the word), replete with 1970s vertical wood paneling, sky lights, oversize fish tank, and let's-get-naked-under-the-stars balcony hot tub.

Russian Survivalist House, which contained enough store-bought Borscht to stock the fallout shelter of two small Soviet satellite nations.
Or perhaps three, depending on whether there would be access to post-Apocalyptic sour cream.

Asparagusless House, where our realtor snapped the last spear of asparagus growing in the garden and ate it. He was sort of a jackass.
Polish Wetnurse House, which contained an illegal mother-in-law unit decorated with several stunning portraits of Pope John Paul II, a huge Polish flag, and an entire deep freeze full of breast milk.
And then there was Dutchboy, as we named it — for its Dutch-style gambrel roof.

We were in love.

We're buying a house called Dutchboy, I told my friend Matt.

Matt, who when he is not busy listening to me discuss my latest major purchases, is a linguist, promptly informed me that Dutchboy is slang for the male equivalent of a fag hag. That is, a guy who hangs out around dykes.
We moved in and, lesbo and behold, discovered that the neighbors on one side were a pair of retired Montana school teachers, very comfortable shoes and Subaru station wagon.

And on the other side, our neighbor was a Rottweiler-wielding, pantsuit-wearing, Hot Flash Dance-attending single Sapphic.

Dutchboy really is a Dutchboy! I told Matt. Surrounded by lesbians on both sides. What are the chances of that?

In Southeast Portland, his boyfriend answered, higher than you might think.
Home Sweet Homo!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Host Can Also Mean the Thing Off Which the Parasite Feeds

Dear Native People of Hawaii,

Just wanted to say sorry.

I don't just mean for how our country colonized yours. Stole your land. Exploited your natural resources. Decimated your national sovereignty. Subjugated your people. Made that Brady Bunch episode in which your islands seem to be a source of greater tabu than even polyester flares.

All that was bad stuff. But I knew we'd done it. This weekend I learned of an even greater evil we have visited upon you and your beautiful home.

Self-righteous, self-proclaimed hippies.

The ones who refer to a five-week vacation as a spiritual journey.

Sure, just like the souvenir shop is the Stations of the Cross and my spoon collection is Holy Communion.

Back in April, my squeeze the Cheez and I caught a couchsurfing wave in Rotterdam (not usually known for hanging-ten). So when someone contacted me on couchsurfing and asked us to host them, it seemed karmically correct to say yes.

Until I found out he was a clown. Worse than that, he turned out to be one of those guys in his mid fifties who's all about embracing the universe. Particularly, it seems, embracing women somewhat younger than himself, given the Grecian formulaing of his hair.

We invited Bozo and his traveling companion, who had just arrived in Portland the night before (and thank heavens had opted for a week-long sublet somewhere in lieu of a couple nights on our couch), over for brunch. When I asked over the phone if they had any food needs, Bozo said We only eat healthy food.

I meant, do you have any restrictions? Like, do you eat eggs? I said.

We do if they're healthy eggs he answered. Whew, good thing he told me that. We had a whole carton full of salmonella eggs we were going to serve. We'll just put those aside for when people we actually know and care about are coming over.

Within about thirty seconds of their arrival, the Cheez and I had both taken a distinct dislike to Bozo. I distrust tanned people Cheez whispered to me. Not brown people. Not black people. Just tanned people.

Bozo was tan because a year ago he made his life's spiritual quest to move to Hawaii. Now, after a year, it turned out Hawaii wasn't right. Because apparently in Hawaii you actually have to trim the flora and clean up the poop from the fauna. How could a spiritual paradise be so damn full of nature? Oh, and the jobs don't pay as well as he'd like.

Thus, he was checking out Portland.

It was a beautiful day here in Portland. So I made a point of mentioning the rain as often as I could. I believe I mentioned the early February suicide rates. More than once.

But really it was the mid-June homicide rate that was the risk.

We need someplace where we can be artists and activists Bozo proclaimed. Then he took his juggling balls into the backyard while we cooked his meal, served his meal, then cleaned up after his meal.

There have been many occasions when I have wanted to separate a man from his balls, but never more so than with Bozo.

After brunch, we headed out for a bike ride. Cheez and I took our tandem, lending Bozo and his friend our commuter bikes.

I'm sorry we don't have extra helmets, we said.

I don't wear a helmet. God is my insurance. Bozo said. We could only wonder who the actuary was that penciled out that policy.

Your third gear doesn't work Bozo informed Chuck. This apparently is Hippie for I cannot figure out how to work this mechanism. Rather than ask for help, I will declare it defective.

We took them through many lovely neighborhoods. In the spirit of art and activism, they inquired diligently about the real estate prices. Bozo also insisted there was some special deal chocolate he needed, so we took them to the local health food supermarket. After interrogating several staff members, he turned to his traveling companion and snortled Can you believe it? They don't have any raw cacao.

Yeah, but now that you're here, we've got a heap of steaming fresh kaka.

Bozo was subtle. He hinted that he wanted us to give him our bike map by saying it sure would be great to have that bike map.

I told him we'd take him to Powells where he could buy a map. Cheez showed him the map rack. He bought a bike map. He asked Cheez to show him where all the health food stores were. But when Cheez pointed them out, he complained that the streets were hard to find.

Because of course the bike map highlights bike routes. Not big commercial streets.

You know how sometimes when you have spent the day with your young niece and nephew, you are in the habit of having to sometimes remind your interlocutors We say please when we want something or We say thank you when someone gives us something or We look with our eyes, not our hands or You are being a real whiny shit, cut it out.

Well, that's not how it was with Bozo. Because it wasn't sometimes that he forgot those things. It was freakin' constantly.

You are a very patient woman I told Bozo's traveling companion during a private moment at the end of the afternoon. That is non-Hippie for This guy is a rude, selfish jerk, and honey, you can do better.

To which she responded, He's such a great guy. I've been in love with him for two years. But he says I don't have my stuff together enough for us to be a couple.

To which I responded, You are beautiful, warm, caring, and thoughtful, and honey, you can do better. That is an alternative non-Hippie way to say This guy is a rude, selfish jerk, and honey, you can do better.

We hugged. She cried. Then I read her the essay about my crazy family that I'm going to be reading on Live Wire this coming week.

We sent them on their way and made sure to double-lock the door.

And, as much as I feel bad for all the crap we've done to the people of Hawaii, I really hope Bozo stays in their time zone, and keep his rubber nose and oversized clown sandals out of mine.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Those Rotten Fruit

Why lookie there, if it isn't US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, decrying the so-called homosexual agenda in his 2003 dissenting opinion Lawrence v. Texas.

It gives new meaning to the phrase oral arguments, doesn't it?

Is there a homosexual agenda — beyond the usual sing a little opera while I fluff the throw pillows, or perhaps strap on my birkenstocks and head out to the womyn's softball game?

There must be. Because the internet says there is.

I read all about it on the Conservapedia, a wonderful resource created just so home schooled kids wouldn't have to be exposed to any diversity of viewpoint. Because new ideas and anyone who isn't in your family — those are the last things you should encounter as part of your education.

You are probably expecting me to mock the whole idea of the homosexual agenda as ludicrous. Or, as Scalia etal. might have it, lewdicrous. But I will not.

Yes, Virginia, there really is a homosexual agenda. And I have fallen victim to it my very self! I will tell you all about it, so that you can protect yourselves and your children from the awful fate I now face.

It all started when I received an email from a woman I'll call "Monica."

Because that is her name.

Monica and her girlfriend invited me to attend a charity event as their guest. The charity is called p:ear - perhaps I should have guessed there was something fruity going on. Note the typographic reference to aural penetration.

p:ear purports to be a nonprofit that mentors homeless and transitional youth. Maybe in their spare time they do. But clearly they are mostly pushing their homosexual agenda onto people like me.

First by inviting me to their fancy fundraiser, even paying for my ticket.

Oh, and telling everyone that because they are raising funds for their new building, the dress code is "under construction" - as if I don't know what power tools are code for.

That's how they seduce you in.
Free ticket!
Free booze!
Free use of the electric drill!

The next thing you know, it's a lifestyle of fine wine and witty repartee.

That is the sick truth of what those people are all about.

But it's only funny until someone loses an arm.

And a leg.

Don't worry, I'm not talking about fisting. This was a far more depraved and degenerate form of seduction . . .

The charity auction.

They push the booze on you, feed you nothing but weenies and nuts (the weenies were small and the nuts were salty, and I think you know what that means). Then they get some platinum blond flitaroo to keep whispering in your ear until you bid more and more and more.

And more.

And the next thing you know, you wake up the next morning the proud owner of 1,001 tulips.

A garden abloom — how faggy is that?
I ask you, is there no Justice in this world?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Limousine Democrats

He's popular. Smart. Handsome. Athletic. Voted most likely to succeed.
So now the question is, who's he going to take to the prom?Jeez, I hope it ain't Hillary.
Not that I'm a Hillary basher. I'm sure she'd look good with an up-do and a wrist corsage.

But honestly I don't think adding her to the ticket would bring as many assets as it would liabilities. Do we really need to hear about Whitewater and Lewinsky and landing in Bosnia under fire oh-my over and over between now and November?

Of course, I'm a feminist. I would love to see a woman on a major party ticket. And I know that just like the surest way to be king of the prom is to court the votes of everyone from the slightly menacing kids in shop class to the AP nerds, Barack Obama could damn sure use a running mate who can appeal to working-class voters. And rural voters. And women "of a certain age" (because, you know, a lot of characters from Edith Wharton's House of Mirth might be voting this year).

So isn't there some woman out there who fits the bill?Sorry, Liddy Dole, I meant some Democrat woman.

It turns out, after a quick wikipediation, I discovered there is. Or are. More than one, actually.

Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Oh wait, here's her voting record. Supports Bush's tax cuts. Supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. One of only six Democrats to vote against renewing the ban on semi-automatic weapons. Voted for the Protect America Act, an amendment to the Patriot Act further expanding government wiretap privileges.

Because you know, when I am not paying any taxes I will be able to stimulate the economy by buying more petroleum products so I can drive my entire personal arsenal around. And I don't care who knows it, even if they are listening in on my phone line just to find out.

Um, well, what about Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas? Let's see, she voted to ban late-term abortions (what I like to call the "Screw the Woman, She's Just an Incubator Act" - why should the anti-choice people come up with all the cutesy titles?).

Sorry, but restricting reproductive rights isn't any snugglier a position just because some woman takes it.

Okay, so perhaps the only way for a woman to be elected from a largely conservative region is for her to be fairly conservative herself, even if she is riding in on a donkey.

But isn't there any woman politician out there who is rural but more righteous than right-wing?

You betcha. Meet Wilma Mankiller!
No, that's Wilma Cavemankiller. This is Wilma Mankiller.
First woman elected chief of the Cherokee nation. Dude, you do not get more rural and working-class than the Rez. And if Obama wants to prove he can support the political ascendancy of powerful women, who better to start with than a Mankiller?

Besides, just imagine the time Rush Limbaugh etal. will have trying to make a mean nickname for someone whose given name already means "watch it buddy, or I'll Lorena Bobbitt you to the great beyond."

Now if those two aren't a prom-ising couple of pols, I don't know who is!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I da ho? Oh no, you da ho

Summer tourist season is upon us. And thus, like every newspaper and magazine in the country, I suppose macaronimaniac should have special Travel Issue.

Or two, if I can figure out how to milk the topic again later in the week.

Let's start with this exciting vacation destination:
The Old Idaho State Penitentiary!

It must be a bona fide tourist site, as it has the three internationally recognized elements.

1. AAA discount on admission

2. Bronze plaque attesting to vague historical/
architectural/cultural importance you would never be able to detect were it not for the plaque on display

3. Jacked up cost of a bottle of water

But the Idaho Pen goes even further in welcoming visitors.

Especially return visitors.

By 1973, living conditions in the over 100 year-old penitentiary were so bad, the prisoners rioted, forcing the state to move them to a modern penitentiary south of Boise. Almost immediately after being closed as a prison, the facility was registered as a historic landmark and opened to the public.

Who apparently, weighed down as they are by their fanny packs and sunscreen, are not as quick to riot.

To further edify visitors, several of the prison buildings now house museum exhibits, on seemingly random topics: medieval weapons, electricity, and telephones.

Makes for a very strange version of One of These Things Is Not Like the Other, doesn't it?

Although it's hard to choose a best part of the exhibits, I'd vote for how incredibly outdated they are. A thick layer of dust covers both the treasures and the accompanying curatorial tags. Which is probably for the best, given their mutual obsolescence.

Of course, if you are the type who just likes to laze away the vacation day, you may find the Idaho Pen is not the place for you.

Or perhaps the loafing reference is an allusion to la cuisine d'hôtel . . . better known as bread and water.

Truth be told, the Pen no longer billets overnight visitors, although I suppose the accommodations are on par with the average youth hostel.

Note the can of Right Guard spray deodorant left by a former lodger, circa 1973.

What are you in for?

Crimes against the ozone.

Though we were only there for the day, my squeeze the Cheez and I felt the Idaho State Penitentiary was a highlight of our visit to the Spud State.

Draw your own conclusions about what that means regarding the relative attractions of Pocatello or Twin Falls.

Seriously, the Idaho Pen had a certain romance to it.

And by certain, I mean deeply morbid.

So if you're looking for a fascinating place to visit this summer, you really can't do better than the Idaho State Pen. Pick up your touch-tone Mickey Mouse phone, and make your reservation today!