Friday, June 23, 2006

Random Style Tip of the Day #1

Dear guy on the subway platform at Penn Station last night,

Yes, I know it's hot. It doesn't matter. No, it's not okay even if you do live in Bushwick.

If you are a guy and

a. Your name is not John Belushi


b. You are not an actual samurai

You cannot get away with wearing a bun on the top of your head. Don't try. Sure, looking at it doesn't make me happy, but you're really only hurting yourself. And the possibility of you ever seeing a real-live naked girl. Without a window separating the two of you.

Seriously. This hurts you more than it hurts me,

Friday, June 16, 2006

Suck it, Soccer. F you, Futbol.

I'm on the 2 train to Penn Station yesterday, on my way to the airport. We get to 14th street and the train stops--but the doors don't open. I sit for a minute, reading and trying to avoid the, "aw man, can you belive this?" eye contact of my fellow commuters. All the sudden we hear the conductor, not directing this to us, but saying, "Yeah, somebody shot at the train. The police are coming down to investigate."

First the stabbings, now this? Is this because of the World Cup? Is this our answer to Soccer hooligans?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Phase two in my celebration of Lauren's unplanned pregnancy.

After Lauren found out she was pregnant, she demanded a refund from Planned Parenthood for the morning after pill. The doctor laughed. I decided to help her out.

(Click to enlarge and bask in the glow of how lucky you are to know me)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Morning After, and It's a Whole New World

We were all cool in our own way, but she was the coolest. We all listened to the same kind of music, but she, more than anyone, influenced us. We all had friends in different social circles, but she was the one who glided from group to group with the most ease.

I don't remember specifically when we met; whether it was seventh or eighth grade, whether it was in gym or pre-algebra, or when we really started being friends. I just know that there was this group of girls who had been friends for a while and who I always thought was very cool. One day, for some unknown reason, they decided to let me be a part of it. Clichés become clichés for a reason: they are often true. So when I say that becoming friends with these girls changed my life, it is both clichéd and unequivocally true.

Most of my childhood was spent moving from school to school. On top of perpetually being the new kid, I was left by myself a lot from a very young age, leaving me with almost a crippling shyness, something that was exacerbated by the fact that not spending a lot of time with kids my own age made it difficult for me to relate to them. I was insecure and making new friends was challenging for me. I was a follower and all of my actions were influenced by whoever I was hanging around. As it happened, when these girls made me their friend, I had a best friend who I idolized. I followed her everywhere, and usually where we ended up was in trouble. I did a lot of things then, that had I been seventeen at the time, would have been completely normal--if not expected. But I wasn't seventeen, I was thirteen, and the path I was on was not a good one.

But these girls were different. They got good grades and they didn't skip school. When they wanted to rebel, they dyed their hair with Kool-Aid and pierced their ears with safety pins. It was controlled danger--and it was comforting. After a while, I stopped hanging out with the friends I had before, and became a full member of this new group.

She was the ringleader. She was the most outspoken, and even though she was kind of a new kid, we looked to her to guide us. She lived in the center of town and her house was a magical place to me. Going there was like stepping into a TV show. Her family welcomed us, and in high school, her home became our meeting place; her family became our second family. We could go there when things got complicated at our own homes or when we just wanted some pasta--'cause her dad could make some pasta. Growing up with a single mother made me appreciate the normalcy of it all. The bickering, the yelling, the family dinners. It was so different from my own house, and I loved it.

Watching MTV and talking on the phone were two of those "teenage" activities that I very rarely did. When we became friends though, she would call me after school (she had her own phone line, which was the coolest thing ever) and we'd sit in our respective houses watching MTV and talking for hours about what we were watching. She knew how to fold notes in a complicated fashion. We all made up aliases and the Can You Be Miss America quiz. She and the other girls made me feel normal. I could relate to people more.

We traded clothes; we were obsessed with the color silver and girl bands. We listened to L7 and Hole and tried to be different from everyone else in their Guess jeans and Champion t-shirts. We wanted to be misfits. We were called skaters and bangers, neither of which was exactly accurate. When a guy in our grade said to us, "You guys are freaks...and you're not even the cool kind!" We felt like we had won.

In high school we developed more independent interests. A few of us got into sports, I got into theater, and she wanted to start a band. Our group of friends expanded. We became friends with a lot of guys and sometimes these guys became our boyfriends. But she was still the common thread between us all. She had the plan. I would call her on the weekends to see what was going on and she would tell me immediately because she had already talked to everyone else and mapped out our evening.

We didn't talk about the future very often. She and I only had vague ideas of how we wanted our lives to turn out. I'm not sure if either of us had any specific goals other than just kicking ass in general. When we would have discussions about marriage and babies, as teenage girls invariably do, I would talk about what I wanted to name my kids (two girls, three to four years apart) and she would talk about how she never wanted to have kids. Over the years, my baby names changed, but her insistence that she wanted to remain childless didn't.

I was dismayed by her adamancy for a couple of reasons. From my father, I have inherited the belief that everybody should be married and have babies all the time. This man has had four wives and five kids. He's clearly a fan of both. Although I do have kind of a "babies, yay!" point of view, I'm not one of those people who thinks that a woman cannot be truly happy unless she has children. When she said she didn't want them, I didn't think it was something about which she would eventually change her mind. And while I respected her decision, I considered it to be a major loss because I always knew that she would make an amazing mother. there are so many shitty parents out there that we need someone like her out there raising a kid or two, just to balance things out a little bit.

One of the biggest mistakes a parent can make is forgetting what it's like to be a kid. It's a delicate balance between friend and authoritarian, but I've always had faith that it would be a balance that she could successfully strike. She'd be the cool mom and a whole new generation of kids would escape to her house. The fact that this wouldn't happen, that my kids wouldn't know her kids saddened me.

But then, a few days ago, all of that changed. She found out she was having a baby. It was accidental, and she was understandably terrified, but the word on the street was that she was also excited. And so was I.

Once again, she was leading the way for all of us in another stage in our lives. Whenever I take that step, her mistakes and successes will be there to guide me; a fact that I find amazingly comforting. None of us expected this to happen at all, and if it did, she certainly wouldn't be the first. But now that she is, it feels like this is how it was always supposed to be.

The next eight months are going to be terrifying. Preparations will be made, plans will be changed, and she will somehow ready herself for her entire life to be turned upside down. In about eight months, there will be a baby. This baby will have no idea how important his mom has been to so many people, how much she has influenced us and changed our lives. He will have no idea how lucky he is to have my friend, Lauren Patricia, as a mother, but he'll be lucky enough to find out.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Think airport security is a pain in the ass? Guess what: It's your fault.

There are a lot of things in life that straight-up suck but are unavoidable and actually good for you, like taking out the trash. Or going to the dentist. Or getting out of bed in the morning. You know that cavity won’t fill itself, that your apartment will start to smell like an open sore, and that you need to get up and go to work so you can afford that filling and the apartment that won’t have the same stench as the scene in Gone With the Wind with the dead and wounded soldiers lying out in the Atlanta sun, because you’re enough of an adult to take out the trash in a reasonable time frame.

You know these things are necessary, so you do them—but you don’t look forward to doing them. Airport security is in this same category. Bad men got into planes and did bad things, so we need to go through a bit more red tape to get to Florida. Most people understand this and are grateful that security has been tightened and that it is more difficult to get on a plane. What’s a little inconvenience when it makes us safer?

At least, that was the feeling in the year or so following September 11th. National Guardsmen were hanging out with guns, security lines were longer, and old ladies were being searched in ways they probably hadn’t experienced since they snuck away from the dance with their beaus after a long evening of sarsaparillas and the Lindy Hop.

We took the delays in stride and just got to the airport a little earlier. A year passed. Then two. Then three, and there were no more plane-related catastrophes. So we started to slip back into our old habits. And we became impatient. Airport security once again went from our protectors to our enemies. Instead of people who were just doing their job, TSA employees became incompetent yokels hell-bent on making us late for our flight. They were unhappy with their station in life, so they decided to take it out on us. One of my jobs is doing market research in Newark Airport. In this capacity, I go through security sometimes eight times a week. And here’s what I’ve learned: It’s not them, it’s you.

It used to be that anyone could get through security and go right up to the gate. Airports were filled with the intimacy of tearful hellos and family members and loved ones waving goodbye until they saw the plane taxi down the runway. Now, in order to get through security, you have to either have a boarding pass or a TSA badge. With fewer people going through security, it would stand to reason that the lines would move faster, or at least at the same rate at which they moved before, but they don’t. Every day I see security lines that snake around the terminal in such a way that it begins to look and feel more like a figure-eight that is just feeding on itself with no end in sight.

Part of the reason for the wait is simple physics. You have 200 people going through two metal detectors and it’s going to take some time. That’s just a fact. Everyone could be going through naked and the security person still has to wait for that little green light to come on before you can be waved forward. It’s a slow process no matter what, so why do you insist on exacerbating the situation?

Don’t look around, because I am talking to you specifically. Why? Because you’re not John Cusack and you’re not Ross Gellar. You didn’t rush to the airport in a fit of romantic pique. There was no thunderstorm that caused a downed power line, leaving your cab stuck in a horrendous traffic jam this close to the airport. You did not then throw money at the cab driver and take off running through the stopped cars with only your copy of Rolling Stone to shield you from the downpour. You did not arrive at the airport dripping wet, maxing out your credit card to buy a first-class ticket on your true love’s flight because that was all they had left and, as we all know, you have to have a boarding pass to get past security and profess your love for her. None of this happened because you’re going to Phoenix to visit your brother. You’ve been planning this trip for months.

So, you’ve known that you were going to fly on an airplane for a while. You know that part of the deal is going through the security line. So what’s the deal with the studded belt and the dog collar, huh? You really needed to wear that today, Sid Vicious? And hey, Dippity Do-Rag. I understand that your Timberlands are going to be integral to navigating the frozen tundra of Atlanta in July, but they are fucking huge. They are not going to let you through with those on. Seriously. Don’t try. It will not happen. And to the guy in the Hard Rock Orlando sweatshirt? Okay, you’re a smoker. You rock hard, I get it. Oops, you left your lighter in your pocket. No big deal. It’s an understandable oversight. But the Swiss Army Knife on your keychain? Are you fucking kidding me with this? Is it your first day here? And by “here,” I mean, “on this planet,” because come ON, dude. That shit will not fly. And I mean that quite literally. Leave the weapons at home with your children, where they belong.

Because I love/hate all of you, I’m going to give you some tips on getting through the security line in a reasonable fashion.

1. Take off your shoes.
I don’t care what kind of shoes they are. If you are at an airport with the word “International” in the name, do not wear them. I know that the sign says that they “suggest” you remove your shoes, but if you don’t you will automatically be searched. So wear something that you can slip on and off easily. In other words, wear the flip flops, pack the knee-high lace-up Doc Martins.

2. Try not to wear a coat or blazer, and definitely do not wear both.
You will have to remove them and it’s going to be a pain in the ass and take up a lot of time.

3. Don’t pack a laptop in your carryon luggage.
I know that you’re really trying to beat your high score in FreeCell, but it’s not worth it. You’ll have to take the laptop out, put it in a separate bin and put it back in your bag. Unless you practice this a lot, it’s going to be awkward and time-consuming. If you must bring it, when they tell you to take it out of the bag, that does not mean take it out of your rolling briefcase but keep it in the protective cover. Dumbass.

4. Empty out your pockets before you leave the house.
You’re not driving anywhere on the airplane and vending machines take dollar bills, so you don’t need $15.64 in change.

5. Don’t wear a belt.
It’s going to set off the alarm. Try wearing pants that fit instead.

Basically, what it boils down to is realizing that you are, in fact, heading to the airport. Simplify what you have with you, and if your wait isn’t shortened, you will at least have the pleasure of looking down on the unprepared fools with seventeen necklaces and knee-high boots.