Monday, June 29, 2009

On Friendship and Getting Older

There was the time Gayle ended up at a titty bar and had no idea. She had called me one evening from her cell phone to chat when it came to my attention.

Gayle: Yeah, I was out all day and decided to eat before going back home.

Me: Oh, you're calling from a restaurant. I can barely hear you, where are you?

Gayle: I'm at that restaurant with the "o's" that are owl's eyes. The restaurant with owls.

Me: What? Owls?

Gayle: Their sign has two "o's" in it.

Me: Hooters!?!

Gayle: Yeah, they have good burgers.

Me: Gayle, that's a bar for dudes!

Gayle: Really? You know, I couldn't understand why there were so many sailors here.

Honestly, she had never heard of Hooters.

Then there was the time Gayle moved into her new apartment and coined the term "I now know." Let me explain: In the kitchen of her new apartment there is a fake drawer. The kind that serves no other purpose except for aesthetics. I had tried to open it myself once, only to lose footing and have her cat look on disapprovingly. But while I gave up on the thing shortly thereafter, Gayle continued to be its victim. One day, I arrived at Gayle's to find the drawer looking slightly off-kilter. "What happened here?" I asked. "I tried to open that drawer again. But I now know, it's fake."

About a month ago I called Gayle for an afternoon chat. During the time she had to spare before going to a surprise birthday party, I asked her a question I have never cared to ask anyone before.

Me: What are you wearing tonight?

Gayle: (slightly thrown off) A pair of jeans and a top because I now know, when an invitation says Dress Casual, it does not mean rags. I learned this at Joie's engagement party.

Gayle went on to inform me that she showed up to the engagement party in a pair of jodhpurs, a t-shirt and a pair of sandals; something akin to a scene in David Copperfield I'm sure. Everyone else? In dresses.

Gayle: I really don't know where I get my information from Amanda. Once, I was getting ready for something and put on earrings. Right before I left, I removed the earrings because I remembered the invitation had warned to Dress Casual. I thought the earrings were too fancy.

I lived with Gayle for three years. First, in a one bedroom where the door to our sleeping area could not open all the way; rendering us acrobats just to get in. Then later, in a two bedroom Co-op where she had to endure possible food poisoning from a boxed turkey dinner I took from downstairs when no one claimed it. (I now know that Co-op does not equate to safe handling of poultry.)

With her I have gone on location to shoot a feature film; moved a queen size mattress several blocks by hand to the Salvation Army; taken in a rodeo; experienced some of my most productive years artistically; arrived to clubs as early as 9:30 p.m.; learned how to swim; explored other religions; stayed at a luxury hotel in Atlantic City for fifteen dollars by agreeing to listen to a timeshare spiel; met and dated two guys who were also roommates; failed at online dating; quit eating so much sausage and sugared cereal; discovered the importance of wine after a two show day; cried uncontrollably when she was diagnosed with cancer; and laughed harder than I could have ever expected to.

Today marks my best friend Gayle's fortieth birthday. Certainly no minor feat when thirty is considered forty and forty is the new, or should I say, old fifty. (Damn you Hollywood!) So today, this post is dedicated to my friend of twelve years. A woman I adore for being sweet, honest, genuine, kindhearted and loving; and, for giving me so many reasons to laugh.

So, with that, Happy Birthday Gayle. You are truly one of a kind...and so very, very loved in return.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Eat With These

As a resident of New York City for over ten years, and having consumed Asian cuisine nonstop for just as long, I figured I needed to do something about my disposable chopsticks problem. If I had eaten Japanese, Vietnamese, or Thai, at least twice a week for a year (which mostly likely I have but we'll minus two weeks for insanity's sake), that would equate to 100 pairs of chopsticks a year. Add that up for eight years (give two years leeway), that' get the picture. A ton of freaking chopsticks with dried up shumai and gyoza sitting in a landfill because of one girl.

So, enter my solution:

Not only did I decide that I needed to invest in reusable utensils, I also decided that my boyfriend needed to as well. Thus, two sets of chopsticks and two carrying cases with the ability to travel to the restaurants that use disposable ones, or, stay at home for take-out. 

How long did it take us to pick out said sticks and cases at Pearl River last weekend? Too long. Who knew we would be so picky; or find ourselves in an unrelenting quandary over modern design versus traditional Japanese motif.

In the end, we decided to avoid the plastic ones altogether, due to the information warning of the BPA in plastics leaching into food and potentially causing cancer. Because neither of us were in any mood for the latter, we chose bamboo. 

(Now if we could only remember to bring them to a restaurant.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What's That You Say?

I love YouTube. And not just because I can watch old footage of Irene Dunne on What's My Line?, Three's Company bloopers, or a cat spinning on a chair, but because I also get to read comments like "Die shitface!" and "I know they will [;] I was pimped once too!" 

If there is any kind of proverbial window into the general public's soul, it is the pages of comments left for videos on YouTube. A place where grammar, spelling, and composition take a mezzanine seat to giddy spelling injustices and often times, hateful emoting with cruel punctuation usage. For instance: I could not even rewrite the above comment pulled from YouTube without inserting a semicolon where one should be. 

And it really is a guess as to which video will leave which individual in a state of joy, or rage.

Not too long ago, I co-wrote and co-produced a parody of Iconoclasts in which I portrayed Amy Winehouse. My collaborator and I posted it on YouTube (after submitting it to a contest), and witnessed first hand these souls purging their every thought. Perhaps the comments would have stung a bit less if someone had informed us of Amy Winehouse's early canonization, or Pete Doherty being a rock deity (her counterpart in the film). Since this was not the case however, comments ranged from flattering, to threat level orange (high, and plausible cause for worry).

But yesterday, while searching for an old video of a critic's views on Bobby Kennedy, I came across this retaliation comment in response to another person's critique of the current administration (the GP love to have a go at it with each other by the way): 

"Why don't you calm down sir?" Just reading it again here, makes me excitable. Why don't you calm down sir!?! Well, I never...

Read any comment that made me smile more. I don't know who "lilkumarjones" is, but I like the way he thinks.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Here's a story I rarely tell:

In fourth grade, my teacher, (I'll call her Miss Frigh), came to school one day feeling particularly lazy. I don't know why exactly, since she was unmarried and childless, but on this day she felt overwhelmed by the prospect of teaching us kids and handling our unsettling quiddities. So, she put an assortment of assignments on the blackboard to last us the day, while she sat at her desk and filed her nails; read; and most likely drafted a personal ad for the local paper.

Our first assignment was to compose a large paragraph on something or other. I cannot recall what I wrote about and when I finish telling this story, it might seem strange that the topic evades me even now. But let's just say I had to write my plans for the upcoming weekend.

A few minutes after eight, I pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil and set to writing about the most magnificent weekend I was going to have roller skating in my driveway to my 45 of The Human League's Don't You Want Me Baby. About two hours later, I was still writing. And editing. And rewriting the whole thing all over again; this time on another piece of paper because the old paper had accumulated too many eraser smudges. Then, more editing. By eleven o'clock everyone else was bent over their spelling workbooks. Me? I was debating punctuation. Forty-five minutes later, they were grabbing their Smurf lunchboxes and heading to lunch. Me? Erasing a preposition.

Miss Frigh: What is taking you so long? And you're supposed to be writing the answers in your workbook, not on loose leaf.

Workbook?! As if!

Me: I'm finishing the paragraph.

Miss Frigh: The writing assignment!! Get over here right now. You have to turn that in. Do you know how behind you are?

I walked over to her desk with my piece of paper, still staring at a sentence. Miss Frigh started pulling it out of my hand so I tugged it back. Her red lacquered nail leaving a faint red line and giving me heart palpitations. I can't turn it in now, I thought. Not with that red stripe.

Miss Frigh: Amanda! Hand it over!

Me: No. I need to just fix something on it.

Miss Frigh: Too late, you have go to lunch.

Me: Can I come back during recess?

Miss Frigh: No!

It was my first deadline. And, coincidentally, my first encounter with an obsession for perfection. Though it was a struggle, I have since gotten much better.

While reading Gore Vidal's memoir, Palimpsest, I came across a story about Tennessee Williams. And oh could I relate....

"Tennessee worked every morning on whatever was at hand. If there was no play to be finished or new dialogue to be sent round to the theater, he would open a drawer and take out the draft of a story already written and begin to rewrite it. I once found him revising a short story that had just been published. 'Why,' I asked, 'rewrite what's already in print?' He looked at me, vaguely; then he said, 'Well, obviously it's not finished.' And went back to his typing."

Sometimes I wish I had Miss Frigh's address, if only to send her out a revised and more perfected paragraph.

I think she would really appreciate it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

In God We Trust

Deliver Us From Evil is the story of pedophile Father Oliver O'Grady's stints in various parishes throughout Northern California. It was the early 70s when O'Grady began his career as a ruthless practitioner of priestly molestation, leaving behind a trail of victims; one as young as nine months old. He was also an equal opportunity sex offender, choosing both girls and boys. Amy Berg, the director of this moving documentary, has somehow managed to get O'Grady himself to participate in the film, and thankfully so, as we are able to watch in horror as this crazed loon discusses his exploits in the same manner one would employ to rattle off a to-do list. There are heartwrenching testimonies from victims and their families that culminate in a visit to the Vatican, as well as the deposition of Cardinal Roger Mahoney. In brief, O'Grady's sickness and subsequent pursuit of small children for rape and sodomy spanned two decades, with the Church knowing full well of his illness and the likelihood that he would continue.

By now we have all been briefed of the Catholic Church's role in these cover-ups, and of the sheer volume of victims pedophilia has claimed. However, I watched this 2006 film for two reasons: 1. My love of documentary films in general. 2. My own history with Catholicism. For twelve years of my primary education, I attended three Catholic schools. During which, I was sometimes instructed by nuns, frequently and infrequently attended church services, rarely kept my Lent promise of refraining from curse words, and met a few priests. But while the religion itself played an important role early on, I was mostly swayed by the accessories...the beads, the cross pins, the optional white handbag for my Holy Communion ceremony, the scapular (you get the idea).

My grandmother (on my mother's side), was idolatrous in her worship of Catholicism. She started every morning with at least an hour of praying and concluded her evenings with another hour. She attended mass every Sunday, said Novenas, kissed her statues, and sometimes had the benefit of having me say the rosary with her (again, the accessories). She loved God and Jesus and in her common moments of inebriation, felt free to use either or both of them to pursuade a party to feel guilty. Yup, grandma had all the makings of a true Catholic. But here is something she was not: blind to the possibilty of sexual "monkey business." Nope, clergy or not, grandma felt that young girls should not be around strange older men. And maybe there was something to that.

In Deliver Us From Evil, I was surprised to learn the willingness of some of these families to let this "strange older man" into their homes; not just for dinners, but sometimes, for sleepovers. Sleepovers! It is hard to picture my mother, her former taxed single parent self, ever agreeing to an overnight stay. Dinner? Maybe. A sleepover? Oh hells no! I also question the parents' obedience to authority, or in this case, a man of the cloth. Granted some of the families had no idea (as with many of the cases worldwide), but of those that found out about O'Grady, I would think the local precinct would have been the first place to go. Or, to confront O'Grady himself. It is hard not to imagine my mother barging into a police station or a confessional booth and waging holy verbal terror.

But perhaps I am being too presumptuous.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the human disposition towards authority known as the Power Distance Index. Basically, how we see ourselves in relation to those we assume have more power or authority. The families in this film are trusting, kindhearted, easily taken by O'Grady's charm, and mostly credulous because he is a man of God. So, they are apt to follow Diocese protocol in making a complaint. I also have to remember that it is the 70s, and much like that decade's predecessors-the 50s and 60s-people were still operating from some popular beliefs of that time: 1. Don't interfere with parents who believe in corporal punishment. 2. Obey your elders and those in a higher standing. 3. Adhere to the FDA's food pyramid. 4. Children should be seen and not heard.

Which makes it that much harder to feel anything but compassion and sympathy for these families. And, nothing but outrage towards O'Grady as he ends up serving just seven years in prison before being deported to Ireland to walk the streets a free man.

I won't get into the various theories behind pedophilia, especially involving that of priests, because it is too depressing and still being debated. But one pressing question of mine did get answered in this film: why, really, priests are not allowed to marry. A denial my grandmother and I always thought wrong. Apparently, many years ago, marriage was acceptable, but as priests died and the money went to surviving family members and not the Church, this option was soon snuffed. Thus confirming today's rampant notion that the Catholic Church = Corporation. (I wish that had been on the GREs)

Critic's Note: Hmmm. In one scene in which O'Grady is being interviewed, he is shot in front of a playground where there are several small children playing on a jungle gym. Hmmm.