Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fran Lebowitz: Reflections on Austen

When I read that one of my favorite authors, Isaac Asimov, was "much to his surprise born in Russia,' I knew I was not alone. Even my earliest childhood memories were of an "oops, wrong planet" feel. Imagine my excitement when I first discovered the brilliant Fran Lebowitz. And here's a little holiday gift for us all.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Life As A Freak Magnet

Don’t ask me why. I have no idea. No idea at all. But it’s always been this way. Without any encouragement from me, absolutely no sign of interest whatsoever, people will just come up to me and tell me their (often bizarre) life stories. I don’t dress provocatively and I avoid eye contact. But still these people are drawn to me. I don’t ask questions and I don’t press them to elaborate. In fact, I’m usually trying to get away.

But if there’s one in range, they will find me. Every freak, geek, pervert, panhandler, miscreant, social reprobate, clochard or general ne’er-do-well targets me like I’m the saviour of the underworld, trying to touch my raiment, get my money, a relationship, redemption, whatever they seek is what they believe will come from me.

Bicycle Guy On The Beach

We were vacationing on St. Simon’s Island. One morning, after a walk on the beach, Julie (beloved corgi) was exhausted so we decided Husband would drive her back to the condo so Parker and I could continue jogging on the beach. Husband offered to drive back for us and wanted to leave his cell phone with me. Oh no, we were just fine. Less than a mile from the condo, what could go wrong?

Earlier we had seen an old guy, probably not as old as he looked, on a mountain bike talking to some folks. My freak alert antennae went up and told me to avoid this one, not to make any eye contact and to try to be as inconspicuous as possible.

So, Parker and I walk from the water up to the bridge and pass by this guy who fortunately makes no attempt to talk. We walk up to the area with a water hose where we can rinse sand off our feet and legs. I spend a lot of time getting the sand out of his fur before we head off up the road. We’ve been walking less than ten minutes when I hear a voice behind yell out “Are you a real redhead?”

Oh, hell. Not the redhead question. Why me?

I look straight ahead and try to continue minding my own business. This nut rides up beside me and asks again. Then adds, “My ex-wife dyed her hair red and then when she tried to dye it back brunette she ruined it. Her hair was ruined,”

And all the way up the street he rides along beside us, asking a lot of personal questions that I don’t intend to answer. Of course, I’ve got no cell phone or weapon on me so I want to play it easy just in case he’s the violent type. He sees a white Land Rover coming toward us and yells and waves. He tells me it is his sister and then the life story begins. Apparently his family accumulated their wealth as the founders and owners of a well-known frozen dessert company.

They have nine Land Rovers, granddaddy has just bought his fiftieth Rolls Royce, a private plane, a house in an expensive part of Atlanta and one in the millionaire end of St. Simon’s Island, he is getting his new dental implants soon because he hated his false teeth. He is wearing none at the moment. He claims to have broken them in front of “mommy and daddy” to show how much he hated them. He looks a bit weathered, and seems to have been outfitted in an expensive bike, biking gear and even the fancy water bottle to match.

“I’m bipolar from birth,” he announces. “Mommy is bipolar, too. We’ve always been bipolar.”

Well, that may be but I’m betting good money there’s a lot more to explaining his behavior and looks. As we get to the end of the street he tries to get me to go to the airport to see the plane. He’s headed there to fly to Atlanta and pick up two nieces to bring down for vacation. I manage to convince him that I have to go the other way.

The next day on the beach Husband sees two local policemen to ask about the guy. Turns out they have to speak to him on a regular basis about scaring women, but they insist he’s harmless.

Well, no one suspects the ones who commit the really weird crimes, do they? Pick up a book or two by Ann Rule, Diane Fanning, or Kathryn Casey.

Here are a few more of my freak magnet encounters.

The Office Supply Store Clerk

I’m just there to buy some paper, ink, and file storage containers. A slovenly fellow, white, about 35 asks if I need help. Suddenly I’m hearing about his sister who was raised by an aunt because she was born with a backward stomach believed to be caused by his mother’s alcoholism and drug abuse. He, however, enlisted in the marines and served four years in the intelligence department. He was the only one who didn’t have to exercise or wear a uniform like the rest because he was a special agent. The last part sounds partially right. It went on but it is successfully blocked from memory.

Oh, Not Him

And I always get the ones that everyone else thinks are harmless. As I share my experiences and fears with others – after all, if I suddenly disappear I want someone to know the back story for the cops – I generally get these same standard responses.

I caught a co-worker - a married man - spying on me when I went to lunch and claiming to be protecting me. I was so upset I told a couple of other employees. They saw no problem.  “He just wants a friend, someone to talk to and he likes you.” Or “You must have misunderstood. Not him, he’s married, has kids, and goes to church.” Yeah, I believe the BTK killer, Dennis Rader, was also married and was the respected, friendly greeter at his church.

Okay, that's enough for now. You know, however, Part Two is en route.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Joe Queenan - So You Wanna Be a Gangster Ep 1 of 5

No, I have never desired to be a gangster, and certainly not a gangsta, or be affiliated with any such criminal organization or behavior.

I do, however, enjoy Joe Queenan's point of view. After reading his memoir I understand why.

Still, any writer or otherwise self-employed person can empathize with his phone call toward the end of this video wherein he is trying to get paid for a magazine article. Enjoy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

LOL by Richard Blandford

Richard Blandford
 Please welcome my first guest blogger, a charming gentleman from the UK, Mr. Richard Blandford. He is the author of two books - Hound Dog and Flying Saucer Rock & Roll - both published by Jonathan Cape. It was through the magic of social media, Twitter, to be exact - that I met Blandford. I've read Hound Dog and strongly recommend it if you want a read that is viciously whip-smart and fast paced with sharply defined original characters. And now, my Twitter pal, Richard Blandford.


OK, here’s a question. When people type LOL, are they literally Laughing Out Loud as they do so? That is, not just a little snigger, but a full-blown guffaw? This surely cannot be happening with the frequency and intensity that the casual use of LOL suggests. Has anybody ever encountered someone in an Internet cafe, sat there, having hysterics at something they themselves have just thought of? And if this happens to them when writing a blog or an email, does it also occur when they are walking down the street, at work or on public transport? Can these people be found on the train, staring into space, seemingly LOL-ing at nothing?

Either this is the case or the claim that one is LOL-ing is often a gross exaggeration. I propose a new system of abbreviations that will describe people’s level of mirth more accurately.

LI = Laughing Internally

SSAOOJ = Smiling Slightly At One’s Own Joke

SIP = Smirking In Public

CD = Chuckling Discretely

LITOIADAFM = Laughing Insanely To Oneself In A Disturbing And Frightening Manner (formerly LOL)

*    *    *    *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Visit Richard Blandford's website, Richard Blandford's Hound Blog, or follow him on Twitter. Definitely order his books.
"Hound Dog" Synopsis and Reviews
A novel of redemption and rock’n’roll, masturbation and morality.

He’s an Elvis impersonator who hates Elvis. An ex-con who learnt his craft in prison yards to avoid a beating. Now on the outside he gigs at social clubs in the Cambridge area, fuelled by cocaine, shagging anything that moves (though he’d like his conquests a little less … mature) and bullying and belittling his assistant performers who he cruelly calls Gay and Fat Elvis.

After his performances he dreams about Bridget; the sister who hung herself many years ago. And Eddie. Eddie, the Elvis-loving deviant who changed his life forever … and is willing to help him out again.

“Blandford does for fat, middle-aged, coke-addicted, sex deviant Elvis impersonators what Peter Guralnick has done for the man himself.” Niall Griffiths, author of Sheepshagger

“’Phoenix Nights’ meets America Psycho. In Cambridge.’ Kevin Sampson, author of Powder

“Slick, efficient and faintly nasty, this novel croons indie Brit-flick.” The Observer

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Job Hunting - Part Two

Company That Makes Binding Product For Businesses Or Hobbyists (aka UniBind)

Public Relations Specialist Needed, $40 - $45K Okay, I found this one on-line and applied three times. Finally got a phone call about an interview. Granted, I was in the car on the cell phone, but she had one of those high, nasally, valley girl voices that only her closest friends and mother could understand. I’ll make this one short because my blood boils anew every time I think of it.

This cute little Asian girl, about eleven years old, wearing flip-flops, a long tie-dyed skirt and a graphic tee shirt comes to get me for the interview. She introduces herself as Bee, the HR Manager and Corporate Recruiter. And I thought it was “Take Your Daughter To Work Day.”

First, I’m taken to meet Matt Coors, a department manager who is actually a frustrated wannabe horror writer and gives off a generally unhappy vibe altogether. The interview seems more of an argument with him telling me rudely what he sure my limitations are, and trying to get me to give up my media contacts. However, they may consider me if I’ll take half of what they offered in salary.

Then I got pulled back to Bee’s office where I was grilled about my years of freelance work, and the inevitable question of whether or not I’d want to come to a job every day when I’ve freelanced so long. I got real. “Well, Bee, as you know most companies in Atlanta will not want to hire a PR person who is over 25 years old. That’s why I freelance and ghostwrite.”

She nodded knowingly and said, “That’s true, but you look like you still get around pretty good for your age.” I was speechless. Yes. How do you answer that? Gee, I hope no one trips over the walker and portable oxygen tank I left in the hall. Then she added, “And as long as you can still get around and get out and do things, I think you should.”

I should have spanked her and sent her back to school so a grown-up could take over the office.

Temp World

Like a lot of folks, I enjoyed temporary work back in the day. You learn a lot, develop new skills, and you can pay a few bills. The difference between temping and ‘going permanent’ is the same as courting and getting hitched. You get the idea. So I like temping. Well, I did.

Nowadays it’s not so easy to get into temp land. The agencies act suspicious of you, a lot of tests must be taken, then they want to run a credit check and either direct you to a lab for a drug test or send you to their own restroom with a little plastic cup.

It’s been a while since my last software skill assessment, and the last three years I’ve worked at a place where at least an hour a day was wasted teaching a cursing, pot-head, wino idiot boss how to add an attachment to an e-mail and to double-click to open an e-mail.

The first staffing recruiter I meet reads my test results, and looking back at my resume shakes her head and says, “Sorry, I don’t think we can work with you. Your scores are too high and you are too educated.” This is repeated at the next three offices. Well, fat lot of good going to college did me. What if I promise to underperform? Speak poorly? Slack off and take extra breaks?

Most people at the agencies answer the phone like it’s midnight and you’re their bastard brother calling from jail for the 40th time for money. “Big sigh - huuuuh yeah? I dunno. We’ll call, whatever.” Once I saw that I had just missed a call from the temp folks. They left no message. I call immediately.

“Oh, yeah, huuuh, we were calling about a job. We didn’t know if you’d want it.”

“Great, I’m available. Where?”

“We called someone else.”

“Oh, I wish you had left a message.”

“Well, hhuuuuh, we didn’t know if you’d want it.”

Here’s another good one. Call to say I’m available. Guy answers, sounds like he’s snuck in and not sure what’s up.

“Oh, uh, you, uh, like, what?”

Again, I give my name and say I’m available for an assignment.

“Oh, well, um, could you like, uh, like call back tomorrow when someone’s here to like take like a message?”

So that’s what I do. And the nice lady says, “Oh you talked with Josh, our new branch manager.”

Huh? He’s a manager? He has a whole branch to manage? The little twit can neither take a message nor speak in a complete sentence. And he’s got a branch to manage! And I’m too educated and overqualified to work. The dumbing down of America – can this mudslide, or dumbslide, be stopped, reversed, dammed – or are we damned?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ossum Possum, And Other Irritations

People often ask me if I plan to have another television show. I finally thought about it, maybe I will. But it will be very different. Before I was focused on entertainment and liked making my guests look good. Some looked so good they used my show to get themselves some very high-profile gigs. Not that I get a nod, thanks, or please be on my guest list once they got too big for the little people.

So if I produced another show, I’d want it to be really entertaining – to me.

I want a segment where someone to sits on a stool and talks for one minute about whatever is on their mind. Everytime they say ‘like,’ ‘um,’ or ‘omigod, or ‘youknowwhahmsayin” I get to smack them in the back of their vapid little head – just under the parietal bone. Yeah!

Next, I will address rising intonation. Yes, that annoying speech disorder that has reached epidemic status. You’ve heard it - the rising intonation at the end of every phrase or sentence. Makes people sound like they’re not really too darn sure about what they are saying. How about a little electric shock for that?

And the piece de resistance - if they say ‘awesome,’ ‘absolutely’ or that something ‘totally rocks’- I will be there with a pair of metal garbage lids - one on each side of their moronic head - to bang like huge crash cymbols!

Then there’s Legal Brief Boy. A handsome and buff young Attorney at Law whose sole purpose is to appear fetchingly in a pair of men’s briefs and answer legal questions.

Lately I was looking for work through temp agencies. There are 3 main requirements to be the girl at the temp agency.

1- Have that high nasally voice that is completely undecipherable on the phone and painful to a dog’s ears.

2- Sprinkle inane comments such as “too funny,” “too weird,” or “too cute” throughout your blatantly saccharine whinings.

3- Be able to look job hunters in the eye and lie, lie without shame and lie without ceasing about money.

After comparing notes with fellow job hunters I’ve learned that it is common practice to call you with a job and tell you what it pays, after you express interest, drop the pay by 50 cents per hour, then when the paycheck comes you see it’s been dropped even further and blamed on the client.

It shows what they really think of us. Remember the old joke that ends with a woman asking indignitantly “What do you think I am?” And the man who propositioned her but then dropped the offering price replies “We’ve already established that, we’re just haggling over the price.”

Oh, it looks like I’ve rambled off the subject again. Or not. Tomorrow's post will be about the temp jobs right out of The Twilight Zone.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Joe Queenan's Kitchen Tour (SD)

So, who does the Lady Misanthrope revere? Not many, but Joe Queenan is certainly very high on her list!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Job Hunting In America, Part One

Oh the Hell, the aggravation, the damnation and yea, verily, the humiliation of the dreaded job search. For so many years, I was denied the positions and promotions I wanted in favor of those who had what I did not – a personal relationship with upper management, dirt on management, or a college degree. Finally, at an age when most people are sending their children to the halls of higher learning, I went. And I worked, and studied and went off the social radar entirely until I proudly walked that walk in my robe and mortarboard. Walked prouder, I am sure, than anyone else who walked on that lovely May afternoon.

And the search began. Yes, I learned that they want young. Not necessarily intelligent, creative or dependable – but young. I also learned that an entry level position in any aspect of journalism is nearly impossible because they are filled with interns. Interns work for free (class credit) or a stipend, (slave labor.) Once they’ve proven some measure of skill (dressing with a minimum of material and say ‘awesome’several times a minute without missing a gum-smacking beat) they are often hired.

Feeling confidant in my PR skills, I began offering to do pro bono work for folks to develop my portfolio, and be able to offer a curriculum vitae to prospective employers rather than a resume with my shining degree as the header trailed by jobs I hated that had nothing whatsoever to do with journalism.

I have already established the high annoyance factor of the temp agencies in the previous chapter. Those nasally air-brained twits – difficult to understand on a phone message, deceitful about pay, deceitful about the job with their weasel wording, I spend hours a day scouring the newspapers, job search websites, every day and applying for all manner of jobs.

First and foremost, I look for jobs in any area of public relations, editing, etc. Can’t get in without interning (working for free) or having about five years of experience and a massive portfolio.

Then I go for, well, everything else. From administrative assistant to kennel attendant. Looks like I’m finally overeducated for something. Can’t even get a job scooping dog doo!

And when I finally get an interview they ask me stupid questions like “How do we know you’ll stay here? With a degree you might leave for a PR job.” Think about it, if I could do that do you honestly think I would be here abasing myself now?”

Or the ridiculous, yet still popular with small brained interviewers, “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” Five years from now? Toots, in five minutes from now I’d like to see myself about as far away from your ugly mug as I can get!” Or better yet, “Honey I see myself in my lovely villa in Andalucia getting my daily massage, while Armand Assante walks my dogs and Juan Soler makes cocktails for me and George Clooney.

The Weight-Loss Clinic

As I went into the post office to mail a fresh stack of resumes, I noticed the ‘Now Hiring’ sign in the window of the weight loss place next door. I paused but then figured they wouldn’t hire me. The sign was still there a week later so I went in and offered my resume to the receptionist. She took it with a near polite “Thanks,” and then went back to her magazine. I left.

Three weeks later I have a voice mail message from “Sammie,’ an area manager, asking me to call about my resume. I do and we set an interview for Thursday. It’s raining so I leave early to get there on time. Sammie is not there but another area honcho, Lucille, will interview me.

The very neat, very skinny, and very white Lucille is clad in a beige polyester pantsuit and short blond polyester wig. The wig and make-up alone must constitute 40% of her total weight. Speaking in a syrupy southern drawl she speaks about the rain with terms like “puddle-ducking” and others I’ve never heard.

As we walk toward the office where she will interview me we pass a few desks on the left where three women, about 35 years old, are seated. I am introduced to these women and told they are weight loss counselors. They give the distinct vibe of being abused prisoners. Indeed, with no makeup, and unkempt, nappy hair that had long ago lost its ambition, they looked more like homeless people who were yanked off the street and put behind the desks to make it appear to a passerby, or job applicant, that this was a thriving and culturally diverse business.

This place has been here for a few years, but as I’m walking through it looks more like an unfinished basement or junk closet. Lucille motions for me to take a seat in a closet sized office with one desk, three chairs, bare walls, a small flip chart on the desk, and a cluster of half a dozen weight-loss vitamins and bars.

As Lucille tells me about the company, and her personal struggle with weight loss, (weight loss my foot, Skeletor Lucille is a rag, a bone and a hank o’wig) I sit quietly and poised in my pants suit and crisp white blouse. I want to seem well mannered and easy to work with for their clientele. I need money! I smile and politely agree with everything she says and then she hits me with the big one.

Now I am a native southerner and one thing that shoots up a warning flare for me is to hear an old southern woman, drawling slow as molasses, making references to the Lord and leaning in toward me with that conspiratorial tilt of the head and squint of one eye saying “I’m going to be honest with you, Jennifer.”

Warning! Warning! Danger Will Robinson!

“I see you as a real go-getter. Am I right? You know I am. You’re the kind of person who really likes to go for the prize, a real people person, with a lot of energy to get what you want. I’m right, aren’t I?”

Actually, no. I’m a low energy misanthrope whose retirement goal is to live alone with my husband and our thundering herd of dogs in a charming cottage in Cornwall, write my books and send them off to a publisher who deposits large amounts of money in my very deserving bank account, so I don’t have to see no damn body I don’t want to see.

“Well? Am I right?”

"Huh, oh, yes. Wow you nailed me! How did you know?"

“Oh, I can tell,” she said with an evil twinkle in her eyes. “I see you in one of our management positions. And we have several opening up.”

Suffice it to say that the next 25 minutes are spent trying to convince me of what a lucrative business this is without telling me how much it pays. I don’t care how many radio celebrities come here, I do care what goes in my bank account.

Bottom line – 9 – 6 weekdays (but you usually won’t get out until 7 or 8,) 9 – 1 on Saturdays, (but you won’t get out until 2 or 3,) $150 a week base plus a commission that was not defined, and no days off for one year.

“Now do you have anything planned, Jennifer?” in her most saccharine voice, “because if we give you this marvelous opportunity and in a month you need to be off on a Saturday for a wedding or something, we’re going to have a r-e-e-a-l problem.”

No wonder that sign has been in the window for two years.

So long, Lucille. You can keep your crappy $150 base plus whatever and working late and no days off for a year or we’ll have a problem with it. And honey, with all that money you say you make there – why don’t you get yourself a good wig?

The Small Town Newspaper

Another faux jewel of promise from the job websites! A general assignment reporter position for a small-town newspaper. I sent the requisite letter, resume, samples of my writing in a nice folder and envelope. Two weeks later I get a nice call from the editor and made an appointment to be interviewed.

The weather was severely bad due to hurricanes nearby and my clutch was about to go out in my car. So determined was I to be prompt despite the flooded roads and such that I got up very early, drove my husband to his job so I could drive his car to the newspaper office. They admitted being surprised that I was on time on such a day. I thought this must be my first good point.

After a nice chat I was put in a room where some other reporters worked to take the usual writing tests. At first there were the people peeping in and whispering, wondering if this was a “new girl.”

The first reporter I saw was a cute, petite blonde dressed very casually. Barely post-pubescent she came in and sat at her desk and set about her work. A few minutes later short older woman with dark, curly hair came in and went to baby’s desk. They were to the right and behind me. While looking at the test I was taking I heard the old one talking in a syrupy drawl to blondie.

“Here, hun, I got a little something for yew.” Hmm. Definitely a native to the area.

“Oh, thank you,” the young reporter replied, although she really sounded, oh, as though she were trying to be polite and hide her contempt.

“And here’s that little Christian book I told you I’d bring you,” added with a lower, more purposeful tone. A tone full of subtext that did not go unnoticed by either me or the blonde.

A Georgian from birth, I know a little about the nature of my state. There are many beautiful places in Georgia – from the coast to the mountains. There are also some very dangerous and deadly creatures. Among the most poisonous are: the flesh eating brown recluse spider, the venomous rattlesnake, and the righteous holier-than-thou-wilst-ever-be church lady. My antennae are out and my shields are up, I’ll be aware of this one should I get the job.

A third reporter came in, also cute and blonde, dressed to go on a picnic. This was a very casual office. Crone says something to Blonde #2 who gives her a well disguised brush-off before being called into the editor’s office.

Still, no one has spoken to me. Probably because I’m taking a test.

Both blondes leave the building and crone starts talking to the editor. They’re not in the same office but close enough to hear each other.

“David! Did those people call back Friday about the fire?”

“Ah, no”

“Did Jessica call them?”

Jessica being Blonde #1 – recipient of gift and Christian book.

“Ah no, I don’t think so.”

"Then why did she get the by-line on my story?”


“I said...”

“Uh, oh wait, I think they called late on Saturday and she talked to them.”

“Before the deadline, huh?”

Old lady – she no happy.

“Uh, yep, that’s right.”

Well, that dynamic played out in just minutes. I wish my test were longer now.

I give my test to David, the editor, who examines them and said I did an excellent job. Then he brings in the publisher, William, on the remainder of the interview.

There was, I noticed, a tendency on both their parts to exhibit male pattern astigmatism. That is, their gaze settled below my eyes, way below – all the way to my cleavage. Well, I’m no kid and it’s not my first time at the rodeo so I just get through it as though I don’t notice it. I need a job. They give me another assignment to do on my own and bring in at my second interview.

Two days later, I’m back in there with the boys, feeling like the interview is not going too badly. When one would ask me a question, as I answered him I would try to also glance toward the other to make it more conversational, you know, to not appear to exclude anyone.

Lo and behold, wouldn’t you know the ‘astigmatism’ or ‘focus problem’ or whatever had gotten worse, much worse. When answering one and then turning to the other it was always the same. Always. The non-questioner was staring into my chest as though hypnotized. And when I spoke to them they never looked back up. It was as though they had a system, or made a pact. Okay, I’ll ask a question while you look, then you ask a question and I’ll look.

That must be one of the strange things about being a man – every time they see a pair of breasts it’s like it’s the first time. Like they’ve never seen such an amazing and wondrous sight before. You know how a dog eats like every time could be the last?

The thought occurred to me to subtly undo another button, put my shoulders a little further back, lick my lips and ask – “Do you think I have what it takes for this job, boys?” Or forget subtlety and just grab a hand from each of them and, placing each hand on a breast, say, “Say fellas, can we pick out my desk now and talk about salary?”

I wrote them each a nice thank you letter afterward. Note to self - If they call me back, definitely wear a skirt, high heel shoes and a low-neck sweater. Get back home, Loretta!

The Auto Repair Business

I answered the ad in the paper for a receptionist. Went in to find a roomful of 12 year olds waiting to interview. A woman in cropped jeans with the hair of a poorly groomed standard poodle rushes toward me like I came in to steal office supplies.

What do you need?” she demands irritatingly.

I smiled, gave her my name, extending my hand, “I have an appointment to interview at 2:30.”

She doesn’t shake my hand but exhales deeply and instructs me to sit and wait my turn. As she runs away I take the only available seat – the receptionist chair. She returns, sends one of the barely post-pubescent group in for an interview and turns sharply toward me and speaks sternly.

“You just sit tight,” with a pointed finger like I was an unruly child. I do just that waiting my turn. The office is ugly. It should be razed, burned down, bulldozed, dynamited. The furniture/furnishings appear to be early 70’s and in ill condition. Q’uelle depressing! The other girls go in for their interview, 7 to 8 minutes each and they were out.

A flamboyantly dressed woman with standard issue beauty pageant hair sprayed into place invites me in. Arms waving to get a dramatic effect from her chiffon poncho as it waves over her ‘leathery from too many years of suntanning’ skin. Miss Melanoma 2005 waves me toward the only chair to sit in while she plops into her chair. It is one of those relics of the early 70s, made of some semblance of bent wood into a bucket seat, usually seen in movies or television in the pot party scene, hanging by a chain from the ceiling and containing a bored Jean Shrimpton look-alike. This one, however, is not hanging but sitting on the floor on its round swiveling base. I perch myself in as best as I can but my seat is about 10 inches from the floor, meaning that my knees are about 3 inches from my chin. I may not be tall but my legs are long which means I have nowhere to put them either comfortably or logistically.

Ms. Chiffon tells me first that she’s received a ream of resumes by fax and is very busy because it’s payday and her boys get grumpy if they have to wait on their checks. She flips the glamour hair over her shoulder and says to me, “I have got to eat so tell me about yourself while I eat. How old are you?” Now that is an illegal question and I’m thinking she should know this but she insists she is older, so I give in and tell her. She is older. I pretend with a look of shock that she must be lying.

“No, I’m 57 and dating a man 42 years old. How bout that?”

What do I care? If she’s happy and he’s happy I guess it pays to volunteer to read to the blind.
now how we met?” She is giving off a very high energy vibe, the kind that comes from an actor in the middle of performing a dramatic part on Broadway, or - someone who’s bi-polar.

Do I know? Do I care? Of course I don’t know, I just met you. But she’s so-o-o-o hot on the subject I can only say…

“Well, don’t make me guess. Tell me!”

“On a bike ride, in upstate New York. Oooooh, he’s so cute! He’s an Adonis. Oh, I’ve dated Adonises , but you know they’re usually so busy thinking of themselves,” she takes her left hand and placing it on her right shoulder begins stroking downwards on her right arm. “You know what I’m doing?” she asks while her gleaming eyes bore into me.

Yeah, being an effing looney tune.

“Oh, I think so,” I say as I nod and give a faux knowing smile.

“They can’t tell where their arm ends and you begin. They wanted me for decoration.”

“Hmmmm,” I add, “but honey, can you blame them?”

Doesn’t she get tired of holding her eyelids that wide open?

“Except I dumped one Adonis when he said he couldn’t date me because my breasts were too small. You know what I told him? I had to dump him anyway because I needed someone with a bigger dick! Ha ha ha!”

She answers the phone and gives another applicant directions. I look around the room from my low roost, an elephant figurine painted in stars and stripes, photos of her on motorcycles, a few angel figures, religious pictures and a cross, a plaster grey wolf head, several figures and pictures of lighthouses. Oh yeah, I can feel the mood here. Hanging up the phone she turns back to me and stares hard. “Because you know I’m clear.”


"Completely clear. Because I’ve been celibate for 3 years. That’s how I got rid of the residuals.” Nodding like an old crone secure in the brilliance of her wisdom she appears to be waiting for a reply.

"Ah,” I say, “That’s the secret, huh?” Well I had to say something. Something besides “Say whu?” or “Are you out of your rabid-ass mind?”

“Um-hm, oh yeah. Do you know every time someone comes near you they leave a residual. Whether it’s sex or even if they just get near your face you have a residual for about four months.”

“I’ll be darned.”

“Oh yeah, but God told me if I’d give celibacy a try he’d send me someone beyond my wildest dreams, honey, and that’s exactly what he did.” She answers the phone, then whirls back around.

"So what do you know about our business here? Have you looked at our website?” A man walks in before I can answer. He hands her an envelope and she smiles smugly at him. “My husband and I started this business 25 years ago. When I got my divorce I sold him back my half. But I’ll always work here. Where else could I go and be so cradled in love and security? Tell me.”

“No where I can think of,” I truthfully reply.

“Wanna see my hunk?” She’s opening the envelope that was delivered. “These are from my gorgeous man from our biking trip in Ontario last week.” She looks dreamily at them. “Wanna see the best looking man you’ve ever seen?”

“Now how could I turn that down?” My tongue never out of my cheek, as usual. I take the photos and make all the appropriate ooohs and ahs though I can’t make out much with their cold weather bike gear and sunglasses.

“Ooooooh!” She stomps the floor in multiple staccato poundings. “Oooh, I can’t stand it I miss him so much. Girl, this celibacy thing is something else. But I told God I would save it for marriage this time.”

“Wow! You got some self control there.”

Aw whatcha’ waitin’ for, heifer, celibacy at your age? It’ll take him the first week just to clear the cobwebs out. Give it up honey. Just give it up.

“Oh it’s driving him crazy. Cause he’s so gorgeous he’s never had nobody tell him no before. I said ‘I’ll bet nobody’s ever said no to you before and he said ‘No, nobody’s ever said no to me - never.’ You know who that was that came in here? My ex-husband. Yep. He’s so jealous and I know he still loves me. He says ‘But I only had one affair!’ Too bad. I don’t go for that. Cause when I’m into my man,” she inclines her head and winks, “I am really, really into my man. You know what I’m saying?”

Well, following your rapid-fire psycho rambling is like chasing a manic squirrel, but yeah, I think I do. You’re saying you’re a very horny looney toon.

“Oh, yeah, you play it smart.” Damn! I’m good! The envelope, please! She answers the phone, turns back.

“We have a perfect record with the Better Business Bureau. Perfect. See, we have their logo and a link on our website. No one’s ever complained to the Better Business Bureau about us. How many companies can say that?”

“None that I’ve ever heard of.” My first honest answer.

“No. No one. But you know that night we were in the cabin and he was out on the back porch and he had heavy shoulders and I had heavy shoulders I said whatever problems you had with your ex-girlfriend have nothing to do with me.”

This low-rider chair is killing me, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? If I lean back I look like a stoner. Where can I put my legs without feeling like young Abe Lincoln?

“I left him on the porch and then came back out and told him I was packed and ready to go. He couldn’t believe it. I said ‘I’m all packed and you can take me to the airport. If I don’t hear from you what I need to hear tonight, not what you think I want you to say, not what anybody else said, I’m leaving and you can take me to the airport. I’d rather sleep on the airport floor than have to stay here with you with heavy shoulders.”

She leaned in and glared intently at me. It was my turn?

“Oh, wow, that is really deep. Really what happened then?”

“It made him think. He wasn’t expecting that. And if you can’t make a man think,” she says, punctuating each word that followed with a jab of her finger in my direction, “He’s not worth the salt on his food.”

“You ain’t never lied.” I proudly declare. Though I’d never heard that one before.

She grabs my resume. “What do you want from this job?”

“I’d like $16 hourly.”

And a secret webcam on your crazy ass because no one is going to believe me and I could probably turn a good movie script or edgy sitcom out of this.

The perfectly sprayed hair swings back in my direction.


Oh, man, did I low ball, high ball? I’m sure I’ve screwed myself now. I hate needing a job this badly. “That’s the minimum I get from the temp agencies.” A lie, but…

She launches into a fit about temp agencies. I can’t listen, just nod. My back is killing me. I’m glad I wore pants. My head hurts, my back, my seat. I’ve been in there for 80 minutes! 80 minutes of insanity! Am I on television? Where’s that cute little Kutchner boy? Bucking protocol, I comment on how busy she is and try to end the torture, er, interview. It’s obvious I could be there 80 more minutes and still know nothing more about the job. Ten excruciating minutes later, she tells me she has more interviews coming tomorrow and will make her choice on Wednesday.

“You know how I make my final decision?”


But if you’re getting wound up again I swear I’ll paper-cut my wrists!

“I take all the resumes, narrow it down to the ones I like the best, and spread ‘em out on my bed before I go to sleep. When I wake up the first name I think of is the one I’ll hire.”

“Now that’s a plan!” I carefully unfold myself and try to balance and stand. Sweet Mother of Dog, don’t let me fall and break one of these precious, cheap, redneck treasures. I’m sure I could find a replacement at Wal-Mart were I the type of person who goes there. I shake her hand and get out with a quickness. Back into the sunshine and the parking lot, I welcome the sticky humidity like an escaped prisoner. With a quick glance over my shoulder to make the dog-boys aren’t drawing a bead on me I get in my car, buckle up, throw it in first and fling gravel.

Sadly, to be continued...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Don't F*#! With Me!

“If I have to hear one more thing about that damn trip to England,” my mother-in-law said as she banged her fist on the table, “I believe I will just scream.” I tried to assure her that this latest phase would peter out like all the others.

Rita, my husband's sister, was an ever flowing fountain of tall tales about herself and her soon to be famous career as a singer and actress. The woman definitely has talent, but instead of going about planning a career path in a rational manner, she creates these fantasies to sell to whoever will listen and then melts down in an alcohol and dope fueled abusive crash when exposed.

For years she told me countless stories about her numerous offers: Estee Lauder wanted her to replace Elizabeth Hurley, Tommy Mottola has offered her a three album contract plus a new wardrobe, car and cosmetic dentistry, Angelina Jolie has begged her to write and perform the musical score to her next film, and on and on and on. And then came her latest – she had sent a demo tape to a someone in New York for inclusion in a local women's music event, when lo and behold, it was accidentally delivered to the head of Warner Brother's Records. They kindly returned it to her, and would you believe it happened again! Only the people at Warner couldn't resist listening and begged her to come in and sign on that dotted line.

One thing I can not abide is being lied to, and it was time to make Rita come clean, come up with an album, movie or contract, or just shut her pie hole once and for all. Enlisting the aid of my brilliant pal, Nicole, we hatched our ingenious plot. Nicole called Rita and . . .

Ring Ring


“Hello, Rita?


“This is Amanda Jones with SPIN magazine.”

“Oh, we can't afford no more magazines.”

Suppressing a laugh, “Oh, I assure you, I am not in telemarketing. I am a staff writer and my contacts at Warner Brothers say you are about to sign with them.”

Now, gentle readers, this is where most of us would say “Okay, you got me.” But not our Rita, she kept on with the story.

“They tell me that your package was delivered to them twice by mistake? How fortuitous for you.”

“Oh, no. It was a good thing.”

“What? Well anyway, they offered us the chance to be first magazine to do a feature on you. We'll be in Atlanta in two weeks and contact you for a meeting.”

We waited for the news, and it was fast. The first call came within 20 minutes asking me if I could help her get ready for a major magazine interview. Of course, I would! The next day it had become a ten page spread with cover, plus television and concert tour. Nicole swore she hadn't added any of that, and we ruled out the possibility of a loose cannon infringing on our operation. It just grew from Rita's imagination, like all the other grandiose fibs. When it came time for the interview Nicole couldn't make it so we had another pal, Mark, call to reschedule. Now we were all together, Mark had his script and made the call with Nicole and I standing by. He simply said that he was Nicole's administrative assistant, and was calling to reschedule the interview.

Of course, when Rita relayed it to us just fifteen minutes later the call had come from the top man at SPIN, advising her that Richard Branson had planted spies at Warner Bros to steal her demo so Virgin could sign her. She would be leaving for London soon. At that point Lana, Rita's sister, called to say that they appreciated my help, but at this point they needed a professional manager. I was kicked to the curb! The collateral damage of stardom.

Even though she was taking each thread and making whole tapestries, she must have had suspicions. Rita called an ex-beau and asked if he was f*#king with her. All of Rita's lovers, and I don't care if I never know how this happens, follow a specific, cookie-cutter pattern. Two years of intense love/hate, talk of marriage, suicide, accusations of cheating, drunken bar fights, car accidents, and then these pathetic males are so emotionally castrated and wrung out they can never live a normal life again. They suffer from alcoholism and drug abuse, are never able to hold jobs, their social lives are ended and they live the remainder of their days in the basements or attics of their childhood homes, cared for by their mothers.

The ex starts screaming “I'm not f*#king with you! You're f*#king with me!” And back and forth it went. He even changed his answering machine message so all callers heard a paranoid drunk screaming “Quit f*#king with me and don't call here anymore!”

Rita continues broadcasting her latest success and folks that know her well just nod, congratulate her and forget it. But a couple of smalltime local club promoters decide to get in on the deal and ride her coattails to the stars. They start fighting over managing her career. Jake, an abrasive weasel-like character, managed a rock club on the skids. Rob, tall, balding with the requisite gray ponytail, claimed to be a tour manager for a major superstar, and wore the tour jacket daily as proof.

Both men campaigned for the right to guide her career. Meanwhile, Nicole and I soon had other projects on our agenda. Eventually Rita decided that this story could have been a hoax, and if so, she knew who the perp was – a jealous ex-lover.

A year later I run into Rob at a concert. He was saying what a shame it was that Rita lost her great once in a lifetime record deal.

“I don't know, Rob,” I said, “Honestly, I don't believe there ever was such a deal.”

“Oh, no. It was real. I saw it.”

“Saw what?”

“The contract.”

Now how was I going to answer without self-incrimination?

“Rob, let me tell you, there never was a contract, or a record deal, nothing.”

“Oh yes there was! I saw it. Richard Branson met with me to look it over. Then Jake butts in and ruined it. But it was real.”

I felt like the writer in that episode of The Outer Limits where his characters come to life, and then take over while he tries to explain to his wife that the sexy woman in his office isn't real.

Just. . . don’t f* with me!