Thursday, July 24, 2008

Flushed With Native Pride

I didn't mean to make a big stink in the bathroom, really I didn't.

But there I was at the Walgreen's, indecisive as ever about which toilet paper to purchase.

I've been buying toilet paper for eighteen years. I'm highly opinionated about most everything else. Yet somehow I never know which toilet paper I like.

I think it's because when one is actually using the toilet paper, there is no clear indication of which brand it is.

Maybe if they would plaster Mr. Whipple's face across each little square, it'd make more of an impression.
Finally, I made a bold selection.

You know how in certain cultures, they wipe only with the left hand? Well, now we'll be wiping with the leftist hand.
Yeah, it's PC in the WC.

Or as PC as a product you coat in bodily waste and then flush into the water stream can be.

Nice how the Cherohonkees up in Vermont named the product for, as the packaging puts it, the Great Law of the Iroquois.

Sort of puts the teepee in TP.

You might think the great law of the Iroquois was Employees Must Wash Before Returning to Work.

But no. According to the toilet paper package, it was
: "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations"

Actually, I'm not even sure what country my great-great-great-great-grandparents were living in. I'm pretty certain I'll never know what they were using to wipe their tushes. But still, it's eight roles of 7th Generation for us.

As long as we're on the issue of bathroom tissue . . .

When I taught at UCLA, one of my more memorable students was a young woman named Sharmin.

Sharmin was memorable because she cheated in my class.

So I put the squeeze on Sharmin. I turned her in to the Dean. And when I told my friend Bill about it, he got that special gleam in his eye.

Yes, you can put this in your TV show, I said. But you can't use her real name.

But that's the best part
, he said. Her name means toilet paper.

It did seem apt, given how crap her ethics were. But still I insisted he'd have to change the name.

Call her White Cloud another friend suggested. She can be the Native American student.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Through the Courtesy of His Two Feet

Years ago, we used to joke about placing a personal ad for our friend Matt.

SMOKING DOCTOR, we imagined the headline running.
Enjoys short walks to the parking lot, logging on to scenic websites.

Actually, I'm not even sure scenic is what he was looking for in a website, but you get the picture.

And in that same spirit, you can now sit on your duff and log onto a website to find out how walkable your neighborhood is.

Which seems so much more convenient than having to stand up, walk to the door, open it, and peer outside.

Except that when I logged onto the site, it didn't actually work. Which I guess is okay, because I already know my neighborhood is walkable.

We walk across the street to the Walgreen's, conveniently opened 24 hours a day. Because at 3 am you might need toilet paper, a tshirt with the American flag, one-bowl just-add-water-then-microwave brownie mix , or a kit to fill your own dental cavity.

In fact, you can almost imagine the chain of events that would lead you to need all those things at 3 am. Although not necessarily in that order.

We can also walk to restaurants, cafes, and bars. The library is just at the corner, or if your literary attachments last longer than a three-week loan period, you can walk a few more blocks and hit the Powell's bookstore.

And let's not forget the Fred Meyer, which is the Oregon equivalent of Target, although with the unfortunate slogan I Got It At Fred Meyer. That always makes me feel like I should stop back at the Walgreen's and see if there's a prescription for some -cillin or other that can treat whatever it is that I got at Fred Meyer.

But one of the most convenient features of our neighborhood is that you can walk to the auto mechanic. Which we did this week. Pushing our car.

Canceling the AAA membership seemed like a really good idea four months ago. When we hadn't needed a jump start, TripTik, or tow in who knows how many $85 per annum membership cycles.

If by any chance you've taken 11th grade English, you know the Greek gods are up on Mount Olympus, just waiting for you to cancel your AAA membership before they screw with the starter motor on your 99 Saturn.

We tried to push start the car, just like in that movie Eternal Little Miss Sunshine of the Spotless Engine Block.

But when the engine didn't start after half a block, we just figured we might as well push it the other five blocks to the shop.

Cheez, being gallant, let me steer while he pushed. It was kind of like being in a parade, the car moving S-L-O-W-L-Y through the city streets, people stopping to stare, me waving.

Why hadn't I worn my tiara?

At one point I saw a cop car in the rear view mirror. I couldn't really signal to Cheez, and I didn't want to slam on the brakes, so I just waited for the rollers to roll up, wondering what laws apply when you're moving — but not actually operating — a motor vehicle. Cheez stopped pushing long enough to explain what we were doing to the nice officer, while I rolled on ahead, admiring the slight downgrade I'd never noticed on our street and waiting for him to catch up.

All in all, I feel like it was a preview of how most people will be using their cars in the future. Between the rising cost of gas and the increasing numbers of Americans desperate for any kind of employment, I expect we may be seeing a few more sedan chairs on the road.

Short walk to the parking lot. Long push to anyplace else.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Carrot and the Shtick

The Jew and the Carrot.

Doesn't that sound like the punchline to a joke about Dr. Ruth?

What's Up, Doc?

Happily, that's not the case.

Sure, we Jews know food. But not in the Biblical sense.

And if you want to know what Jews know about food, the place to look is the Jew and the Carrot, which is a Jewish blog about food. Or a food blog about Jews.

Either way, I've got a post up there today. Which is why I haven't posted here all week. So I hope you enjoy the cross-post. Or should I say the Magen David-post?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

You Can Always Tell a Harvard Grad. But Not Much.

I haven't been in college for quite a while. But according to this powerful photographic documentation, commencement day was a real laugh riot.

It's gotten even funnier in retrospect.

If you liked that, email the producers of LiveWire and ask them to have me back.

Or, better yet, get Ira Glass on the line, and tell him that given the deep affinity between gay men and Jewish women, in the true spirit of summer camp, next time instead of Sedaris or Rakoff, maybe he ought to give MacaroniManiac a try.

Just remind him not to call at 11:02 pm to invite me on the show. I'll be chilling with a Midori spritzer then.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Declaration of Independancing in the Street

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to celebrate a three-day weekend, you know it is gone be a heckuva party.

My weekend kicked off when I borrowed one of neighbor Justin's fleet of station wagons and drove across the city in crap Thursday-afternoon-before-holiday-weekend traffic to obtain the Holy Grail (or at least the Required by Law) object of patriotism.

American Barricade.

You could go on about jingoism, militarism, unilateralism, imperialism, all damn day.

Heaven knows, the editors of the Nation and the folks at Democracy Now do.

But why bother, when you can just intone the name American Barricade. That pretty much says it all.

Especially if you're googling it madly trying to find directions to drive there on the Thursday before a long weekend. Because it seems there are American Barricades in many American cities. Not to mention all across those quaint nations we've been invading.

I felt like a regular Yankee Doodle, making my
way through traffic as thick as hasty pudding in my big ol' automobile, blasting classic rock on the car radio and turning the A/C up real high. Doing my part to contribute to American pride, and to global warming.

The barricades were for our neighborhood block party. Very Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness.

Especially that last bit.

I am pretty sure party in the street is just what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they threw off the yoke of British oppression.

The British really are oppressive, after all. They serve their beer warm. Here in America we have nice coolers for icing down our beer.

Red, White, and Blue coolers, dude.

As Chuck observed to our newest neighbor Jeff, who in the demi-spirit of Sam Adams is a brewer if not actually a patriot, Ben Franklin said, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

I pointed out that Franklin also said, "Fart Proudly." Probably not long after he had that beer.

Chuck, not wanting to be outdone, observed that Franklin advised men to sleep with older women, because they would be grateful.

Personally, I am not sure I can imagine anyone being grateful for having sex with Ben Franklin.
As far as Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll goes, our block party isn't much on the first.

The second, well, let's just say you won't find anything you wouldn't find in the fields of Mount Vernon.

But the Rock and Roll, that is where we shine. This being America, everybody on the block is in a band. There's the Reverb Brothers. The Blueprints. Plus assorted other folks who get up to take the mike at some point. There is mucho dancing in the street.
Then we atone for our great national sin of stealing this land from its native inhabitants.

We do this by lighting the fireworks someone hauled all the way out to the Indian Reservation to buy.

By 11 pm, the barricades come down, the empties are cleared off the street, and we retreat to the neighbor's back porch, where the folks who started the block party 18 years ago jam out an acoustic set.

Welcome to Geezerpalooza the hostess said. Please, we young uns insisted, Just Call It Back Porchapalooza.

Whatever you call it, it was good clean fun. And I should know, since I scrubbed it out personally.

I'm like Washboardington Crossing the Delaware. With metal thumbpicks.

Take that, King George!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Vir-gin and Tonic

Notes from the morning after . . . it does feel weird to wake up and realize you've proudly proclaimed on National Public Radio that you're not a virgin.

It's a little like that dream where you go to high school in your underwear, and you don't realize it until everyone is laughing and pointing. Except in this version of the dream, it turns out Carl Kassel is your high school principal.

One of my friends did try to convince me that it's not all that weird. I believe precisely what was said was If you had tried to convince the NPR audience that you were a virgin — now that would have been something.

Please. I'm so not a virgin, I can't even wear white before Labor Day.

So not a virgin, I've caught the Trader Joe's checker snickering over my Olive Oil selection.

So not a virgin, I can't even writhe around on the floor in a white corset and wedding veil singing Like a Virgin.

And lord, if Madonna can do it, it can't require a whole helluva lot of virginity in the first place.

Mostly, I'm so not a virgin, not even my drink is a virgin.

This, as it turns out, may be the greater shondah. Shondah being Yiddish for scandal. And Yiddish being the language spoken by Jews. Who are known more for their eating than their drinking.

Whereas some young lasses will attest that their tippling led to the loss of virginity, for me it was more the other way around. Not that shtupping drove me to drink. At least not shtupping in general.

Shtupping my squeeze the Cheez in particular — that's what drove me to drink.

Well, shtupping him drove me to cohabiting with him. And that's where the booze came in. Somewhere during our time together, my kikey craving for cake was drowned in his sheygetzy seeking of a shot. Or two.

While a traditional Jewish coupling is celebrated with the breaking of the glass . . .

This is so not us
. . . ours has been celebrated with a raising of the glass.

Our first date was at Nick's Beef and Beer, known affectionately to the old schoolers in Harvard Square as the Eef and Eer, both B's having burned out sometime around Paul Revere's ride. Since I'm a vegetarian, eef was out. As for eer, all they had on tap was Schaefer.

You may remember Schaefer from the 1970s ads targeted the heavy drinker: Schaefer is the one beer to have . . . when you're having more than one.

We had the pitcher.

Which for $3 was enough of a bargain, maybe it's no surprise even a Jew would order it.

We fell fast and hard for each other, barely avoiding impaling ourselves on that pitcher. But for the next few years, we were broke graduate students. Which meant not much booze, until the Cheez finally got a job, and we could live the California dream.

Cheap red wine!

When we moved to Oregon, we thought our grand act of acclimation would be trading the Cabernet Sauvignon for Pinot Noir.

But then came the low-carb craze. Although you might think the Hebe in the house would be the one instigating a diet named for the section of Miami were generations of old Jews have gone to die, in fact it was the goyishe Cheez who went South Beach.

I was just a fellow traveler to the land of the lasagnaless.

Sure, we gave up pasta. And bread. And Sunday pancakes. But the real big change? Clear alcohol.

Don't get me wrong. We're still in a mixed relationship. Jew-Goy. Girl-Boy. Vodka-Gin. But with two shakers, we can live happily ever after.

And we are.

So happily that our neighbors have stopped commenting when they see the Cheez out watering the garden, martini in hand.

Now they only comment when they see him and he doesn't have a martini in hand.

Because that seems strange to them.

Hey Farmer John, you're outstanding in your field neighbor Doug says every time he passes by.

Doug's had a pretty rough past couple of months, so if mocking our martinis cheers him up, well, Doug, this at least-it's-not-a-carb-heavy-Bud is for you!

Olive you, even though you're not a virgin —
and everyone who ponied up their $35 for Oregon Public Broadcasting membership knows it