Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The final post of 2008!

I'm the first to admit that New Years' Eve is a totally overrated holiday. Every year that I try to plan something awesome and fun, I end up asleep or on the subway at midnight, or in one case, bedridden with tonsillitis in London. This year, i.e. tonight, I'm working at the
Hong Kong, serving up scorpion bowls in the wee and first hours of 2009.

But one thing I do take take seriously is New Years' resolutions. And I've decided that the problem with them is accountability. We all make resolutions, or at least most of us do, but we keep them to ourselves. This is so that when we eat a half-bag of microwave popcorn and watch Cheers reruns at 3 a.m., like I did last night, no one can say "Gee, Katie, remember how you resolved to eat more nutritiously, be more active, and go to bed at a reasonable hour?" Instead, you can quietly fail and no one is the wiser.

So I'm putting my resolutions on this blog for all (i.e. my 9 readers) to see. And I'm giving you permission to nag me if I break them in the first six months of '09.

1. Do more yoga

All-One Yoga in Allston is a 5-min. walk from my house and they have a student discount, so really, there is no excuse. Plus, my ineptness probably gives others hope and confidence, so it could be argued that my presence in a yoga class serves a greater good.

2. Create a daily writing schedule and stick to it

I'm one semester into grad school and while I'm writing more, I'm still not writing every day. And I should. I should get my ass out of bed at a reasonable hour and write.

3. Submit to literary magazines and journals

I'm sure I'll get rejected my first few times at bat, but I need to at least start attempting to get published somewhere other than on this blog.

4. Eat better

I offer yesterday's food log as evidence: 1 cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese, 1 coffee, 7 beers (I went to a free tasting at the Harpoon brewery!), onion rings, fries and mac 'n cheese at Roadhouse (shared among 4 people...don't judge), 1/2 bag of microwave popcorn, 4 graham crackers with peanut butter spread on them

5. Pay off my Capital One Visa

Seriously, the interest rate is like 26% or something. I resolve to get rid of this card every year and but can't seem to get the motherfucker out of my wallet. I don't even use it, but with the accrued interest, I can't seem to pay it off.

I think 5 is good number of resolutions. I could go on with a minor list of easily achievable things (like mail back the Ulysses S. Grant biography manuscript that I decided not to copyedit back in October before the author presses legal action), but this feels like a solid "to-do in 2009" list.

Happy New Years'!

(maybe resolution #6 should be to stop using lame stock photography on my blog....)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Caroling, caroling

I am a big fan of Christmas music. On my iPod, I have a playlist with 70+ holiday songs on it, from artists as diverse as Judy Garland and Bing Crosby to Mariah Carey and the Muppets. And it occurs to me that pretty much all Christmas songs fit into one of three cateogories: dirty, depressing, and stupid/juvenile.

Dirty Christmas carols, you ask? Whatever do you mean? My stepdad is responsible for pointing this first example out to me. Take a gander at the lyrics to "Santa Claus Got Stuck in my Chimney," which was originally recorded by Ella Fitzgerald in 1960:

Santa Claus got stuck in my chimney
Stuck in my chimney, stuck in my chimney
Santa Claus got stuck in my chimney
When he came last year.

There he was in the middle of my chimney
Roly-poly, fat and round
There he was in the middle of my chimney
Not quite up and not quite down

Santa please come back to my chimney
Back to my chimney, back to my chimney
Santa please come back to my chimney
You can come back here.

Wow, right? The song takes the vagina-as-chimney metaphor really far.

I also think the allegedly innocent "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is open to myriad interpretations. I know that we're supposed to assume that what the kid sees (and misunderstands) is his dad dressed up as Santa and his mom kissing his dad. But I always think about the other possibility-- that dad is upstairs asleep while mom is playing tonsil hockey with the 19-year-old mall Santa. Or I imagine another verse -- where after Mommy kisses and tickles Santa, things progress to less PG-13-rated events. "Then I saw Mommy fellating Santa Claus..."

"Santa Baby," about a greedy woman who wants the deed to a diamond mine and a new car among other things, also has a naughty feel to it...though I think the song would be awesome
if sampled in a remix of Kanye West's "Gold-Digger." You know, to give it more contemporary

The second category, the Depressing Songs, is where all my favorites are. I like my pop culture super sad, as is evidenced by my love of Richard Yates and Patsy Cline. Songs like "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "White Christmas" play up the more emotionally confusing part of Christmas-- the moments where, after too much spiked eggnog, you start thinking about Christmases past and get nostalgic about ex-lovers and dead relatives.

The mother of all depressing Christmas songs is of course the oft-covered "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." The history of the song, which was written for the film Meet Me in St. Louis, is quite fascinating and even has its own Wikipedia page. Now the lyrics seem tame, but the original lyrics? Wrist-slitting material. Check it out:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Pop that champagne cork
Next year we may all be living in New York

No good times like the olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us no more

But at least we all will be together
If the Lord allows
From now on, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

See what I mean? Now we sing about hanging stars on shiny boughs and all that bullshit. When really, the song is about "muddling through" life. Pass the schnapps!

Finally, the stupid/juvenile carols. I HATE THESE. Examples include "Grandma Got Run Over by
a Reindeer" and "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth." These songs really should
just disappear from holiday anthologies.

Now, all of the above examples are fairly old songs -- but contemporary recording artists are

attempting to add to the Christmas canon. A few years ago, Newsong came out with what might be the worst Christmas song of all time: The Christmas Shoes.

I mean, it's so awesomely bad that it's almost good. Almost.

This holiday season, I saw that Aretha Franklin had put out her first album of Christmas songs, so I decided
to buy it for my mom. We listened to it in the car after she picked me up from the airport. And were immediately flabbergasted. The album panders to the most stereotypical images of a down-home Southern Christmas. In between songs, Aretha talks about chittlins. Seriously. I'm not even black and I'm offended.

The final track is Aretha reading a special adaptation of "Twas the Night Before Christmas." Her version makes references to her "bro" and her "diddy" (which prompted my mother to ask, "What's a 'diddy'?") and instead of waiting up for Ol' St. Nick, Aretha is waiting for her new man to arrive. When he does show up, she runs him out of the house for not bringing adequate gifts. As he exits, instead of shouting "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night," he yells, "You'se one hell of a woman, 'Retha!"

Download it if you don't believe me.

Happy holidays, everyone -- I encourage you to sing till you're blue (red? green?) in the face
and try to follow to paradoxical advice offered in "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," namely to dance merrily in "the new old-fashioned way." Good luck with that.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What kind of person steals the Baby Jesus?

On a recent trip to NYC, I was walking down Houston Street and came upon this nativity scene. With a very key element missing.

And what had the vandals replaced our Lord and Savior with? Let's go in for the close-up:

Yep, that's a keychain. A KEYCHAIN. With no keys on it. What is the world coming to?

Happy holidays, everyone! May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white. If you're in the New England area, this Christmas is certainly going to be white. It's been snowing for over 24 hours now! And it doesn't show signs of stopping (no, I didn't bring any corn for popping).

I'm off to Colorado today (planes can fly in blizzards, right?), so posting may be sporadic for the next week or so. But I'll do my best. I know all you want for Christmas is for this blog to be regularly updated. In which case, I would recommend to aim a little higher next year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Communication FAIL, again

Because I write (freelance) for a small Smithsonian publication, I am technically a government contractor and thus, had to join the Central Contractor Registry, or CCR. But the e-mail that I just received from CCR pretty much sums up my problem with the federal government. I mean, can you make heads or tails out of this?

Dear CCR Registrant:

Beginning on December 21, 2008 through July 01, 2009, all Central Contractor Registration (CCR) Primary and Alternate Points of Contact (POC) updating their CCR registrations will be instructed to convert their Trading Partner Identification Number (TPIN) login to a self-assigned User ID and Password.

This enhancement (i.e., Release includes the option to invite or assign multiple Maintenance POCs. Maintenance POCs will also have the ability to access and update the registration. The CCR Primary and Alternate POCs may remove Maintenance POCs at anytime. NOTE: All email notifications generated by CCR will continue to be sent to the CCR Primary and Alternate POCs. No emails will be sent to the Maintenance POCs.

CCR Primary and Alternate POCs who manage multiple DUNS registrations will be able to associate those registrations to one User ID and Password.

Thank you,
The CCR Group


I *think* all this e-mail is saying is that I have to come up with a username and password for the CCR site. So why couldn't they have just said that? Seriously, Barack Obama better get on this shit pronto.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Communication FAIL

I received this note from my management company on Tuesday. It was slipped under my door.

This is to inform you that on December 11, 2008, we will be performing a spot check inspection for the presence of crawling insects in your unit. Our maintenance personnel will be accompanying an employee from Waltham Services. You don't need to be home while this work is being performed. Thank you.

Um....where to begin. My first thought was, "CRAWLING INSECTS???? WHERE???? AHHHHHHH" but then I realized that I hadn't seen any. Then I started thinking about the specificity of "crawling" insects, as in not flying, meandering, loitering, or tap-dancing. Just crawling.

When I came home after this inspection took place, I realized that "crawling insects" was actually a euphemism for bed bugs, since the "personnel" stripped the sheets off my bed (and didn't remake the bed, thank you very much). There was nothing to indicate whether the presence of crawling insects was or was not detected in my apartment.

The note slipped under my door reminded me of an e-mail I received when I was working at an upper east side museum. It was sent to all staff, from the maintenance/facilities manager. It said:

As many of you have noticed a fowl smell in the building. This is due to a crack pipe and we are working on it now. The smell is not toxic waste, just ground water from the garden. Smell should dissipate very shortly. Sorry for the inconvenience.

There are so many remarkable things about this e-mail, which is why I saved a copy of it (it was sent on March 30, 2006). The image of a chicken smoking crack, for one. But also, the reassuring statement that the smell is not "toxic waste." Most puzzling to me is the correct usage/spelling of "dissipate" in an e-mail that starts with both a sentence fragment and a homonym error (foul/fowl). Curious.

But lest you think I'm a snob, let me assure you that I make communication blunders all the time. Just this week, I had an embarrassing text message gaffe. In my phone, there are two Josh Gs: one is a new friend and fellow blogger and the other is recording artist Josh Groban.

Why do I have his number? Well, in the summer of 1997, we both attended Interlochen Arts Camp and became friends. We also briefly dated, but then I broke up with him (to date someone else). My mother still laments this decision and is holding out hope that someday Josh and I will reconnect. Clearly, we had a strong bond at age 16:

(sidenote: why am I making that face? And why did no one tell me that baggy flannels were not the best way to showcase my figure?)

We are still sort of in touch, technically-- and he very generously has given me tickets to some of his shows. Let me tell you, it's odd to stand in a sea of squealing tweens and their moms and see someone you know on stage at Madison Square Garden.

Anyway, the communication faux pas happened on Thursday, when I meant to text the other Josh G. about meeting up at a bar, and accidentally texted Josh Groban. He sent me a very confused reply, which I received the following morning at 5:36 a.m. At first, I was like, why is Josh Groban up that early? Then I realized he's probably touring in Asia or something and got my text at an ungodly hour. It's probably karmically fair that I am doomed to make an ass of myself with Josh for the rest of eternity.

Sorry, Mom.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You can take the girl out of the Midwest....

...but you can't take the Midwest out of the girl.

Tonight I attended a reading and dinner where Kevin Young was the guest of honor. I was unfamiliar with Young's work, but after hearing him, I am definitely a fan and plan to buy his latest collection, Dear Darkness, as soon as possible.

Because I'm swamped with end-of-semester assignments, I am going to simply post a poem of his that I particularly enjoy, as a native of St. Louis, Missouri. I am in the process of writing a poem about my hometown -- it's currently titled "Autumn in St. Louis County"and I started writing it when I was home for Thanksgiving. Young's poem resonated with me and hopefully will positively influence my attempt to capture, as Nelly would say, "the Lou."

"Ode to the Midwest" by Kevin Young

The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
—Bob Dylan

I want to be doused
in cheese

& fried. I want
to wander

the aisles, my heart's
supermarket stocked high

as cholesterol. I want to die
wearing a sweatsuit—

I want to live
forever in a Christmas sweater,

a teddy bear nursing
off the front. I want to write

a check in the express lane.
I want to scrape

my driveway clean

myself, early, before
anyone's awake—

that'll put em to shame—
I want to see what the sun

sees before it tells
the snow to go. I want to be

the only black person I know.

I want to throw
out my back & not

complain about it.
I wanta drive

two blocks. Why walk—

I want love, n stuff—

I want to cut
my sutures myself.

I want to jog
down to the river

& make it my bed—

I want to walk
its muddy banks

& make me a withdrawal.

I tried jumping in,
found it frozen—

I'll go home, I guess,
to my rooms where the moon

changes & shines
like television.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Observations from behind the bar

Recently, my job description at Hong Kong Harvard has expanded from just cocktail waitressing to cocktail waitressing and bartending. On either Friday or Saturday, I get to tend the "baby bar" on the third floor, which serves only beer and shots. It's a totally different perspective, to be behind the bar -- there is more respect and less groping. And I have a great view of the dance floor, which if you've been to my place of work, know is highly entertaining.

Hong Kong reminds me a lot of
Toad's in New Haven: it's a cheapish college bar where you can do tequila shots and drink Bud Light while (almost) shamelessly dancing to hip hop and Britney. I myself only went to Toad's three times in four years, and once was to see a They Might Be Giants concert. But the other two times, I did what you're supposed to do in such establishments -- binge-drank like it was going out of style and made a fool of myself on the dance floor. And watching people at Hong Kong has confirmed my worst fears of how ridiculous I must have looked.

My new vantage point offers phenomenal people-watching opportunities. FYI, how you interact with your bartender says more about you than you realize.

Some observations:

Girls tip better than guys

Everyone told me that being a cute girl would be my golden ticket and to wear low-cut shirts to get more tips, but I've found that unless the girlfriend/date is watching, some guys don't tip appropriately. What is appropriate? $1 a drink. Period. Pretty easy. Even with beer, guys. I'm getting paid $2.65/hr, people.

Yes, I am making conversation with you because it's my job. Most likely I do not want your phone number

I mean, I won't be offended if you try to give it to me. I'll probably be flattered. But don't wait by the phone, dude.

Don't be a creeper on the dance floor

Last night, there was this shady dude whose signature move was to sneak up and stealthily freak-dance on unsuspecting girls. When they would finally notice, they would get this horrified look on their faces and run away. I saw this guy do this literally 400 times over the course of two hours. Don't be this guy.

You know how you think you look really fierce? This is what you actually look like:

What you order does say a lot about you

When you ask if I can make you a Sex On The Beach, I am judging you. Especially since there's a big sign over my bar that says I only serve beer.

It's Saturday and I'll be back at Hong Kong again drink responsibly! Your bartender is watching you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

5 things I am thankful for

On the actual day designated for giving thanks, I often find myself more concerned with how whatever vegetable side dish I'm preparing for dinner will turn out than reflecting on what I should be thankful for. This year was no exception, and while I'm happy to report that my brussel sprouts and carrots were a big hit, I'm still a little behind in my thanks-giving. So here we go, 4 days late.

First, the obvious:

Although it's been said many times, many ways-- THANK GOD OR WHOM/WHATEVER IS UP THERE THAT HE WON.

2. Puppies!

My family in St. Louis got a new puppy as an early Christmas present for my youngest brother, J.T. The puppy is a mini Dachshund named Luigi (nickname: Louie). Watch this clip of him learning how to climb down stairs and your heart will melt a little:

On a related note, my friend Karl sent me this photo, which he described as "a snapshot of heaven."

So as to not offend Maude, the fat calico with whom I share my bed, I probably should expand this to be thankful for animals or pets in general. I owe that to her, especially since I tied a green-and-red striped holiday bow to her collar today. She is not pleased.

3. Friends, both silver and gold

I've made some new grad school friends in the past few months in Boston, and I'm very thankful for that since my little studio can get quite lonely. But I'm also thankful to still be in touch with friends from high school, college, and the years I spent in NYC after college. I'm actually a hard person to fall out of touch with -- I'm pretty tenacious about maintaining my friendships. Once you befriend me, you're stuck with me.

The Groon

My Dad told me an anecdote this weekend about his salad days at the University of Arizona. Apparently, he once got caught cheating on a pop quiz in an Anthropology course. One of the questions asked about the prosimian primates that represent the bridge between two classifications of mammals. The correct answer is lemur, but my dad hadn't done the reading and decided to copy off another student. Both my dad and this other idiot wrote down the same nonexistent creature: the Groon. I imagine the Groon looks something like this:

The Groon represents my bizarro family. Fractured and odd as we are, we have some good times together.

5. You!

Yes, you. I know it's cheesy of me to say, but seriously, thanks for reading. It's been six months since I started this blog and I'm still getting the hang of it, so I am very appreciative that anyone reads it at all. So...thanks. And keep reading, please.

Monday, December 1, 2008

This song's so hot it's stolen

I discovered this song, "My Dick" by Mickey Avalon, while watching Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay. And as a poet, I have to give Avalon props for some of the rhymes here-- truly sophisticated stuff. To watch the music video (with audio!), click here.

Soon I will write at length about Thanksgiving, reflecting on this year and what I'm thankful for, but since I don't have time to go into that now and it's been over a week since my last post, I'll just give you this small gift.

You're welcome.

Mickey Avalon widget by 6L & Daxii