Dec 31, 2005

Happy Birthday, Krissy!

I wish you were here.













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posted by Mary Forrest at 9:16 AM | Back to Monoblog


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A lady actually yelled, "Aaaaaaah!"

Kevin Tavolaro and I went to see Munich tonight. An 11:05 show at a holiday-bedecked and festive The Grove. So holiday-filled was it that every parking level said "FULL" when I approached the garage. I parked with the valet, and then, while I was waiting for Kevin, I bought enough stuff to entitle me to free parking. So that worked out.

We had a drink at The Whisper Lounge before going to the movie. When we were leaving, two fellows who had sat down near us seemed disappointed we were leaving. I told them we had a movie to catch. They asked which one. I guess people always do that. And I have never been caught having to confess to going to some embarrassing or scandalous movie. I've never had to say, "It's a porno. You wouldn't know it." Thankfully. I told them we were going to see Munich, and they perked right up. One of them -- the one who gave us candies from Maggiano's that we did not eat -- assured us we would enjoy it. "It's about my country, you know. Israel." I thanked him and told him we were looking forward to it.

Then out in the walk, we ran into my friend Michael Blieden. I told him we were on our way to see Munich. He was just coming from having seen Syriana, talking on the phone with his wife (and also my friend) Erin, and he said he felt so politically fired up he wanted to go right in and see Munich. What a little journey we had. Everyone with their little Munich puzzle piece. It felt almost scripted. If a camera crew had been following us, we would have had a perfect little commercial. Ending in us buying too much popcorn.

The film had its share of quintessentially Spielbergian moments. Predictable foreshadowing. Reaction-provoking deception. The crucial moment when Spielberg proves to us that all of us in the world -- no matter our differences -- can agree on one thing: Al Green. A lady even said, "Aaaaaah!" at one point when nothing of any import happened. I guess she's never been to a Spielberg movie before. Seasoned veterans like Kevin and me know better. There were some bits of typical unnecessary narrative. I suppose that's why Spielberg is so appealing to the masses. He makes it easy for them. And maybe that's what good filmmaking is. I don't know. I spent too much time watching and studying German impressionist cinema. I prefer being made to work for it. And I don't mind leaving a theater with a question mark floating above my head. I especially loved such things when I could retire to some cozy place with a smart compatriot and take the whole thing apart with words and questions and cajoling. I do love a good parlor discussion.

The theater was filled with people who apparently have to bring an interpreter along in order to be able to follow what's happening. "You're going to meet my father." "He's what? What's happening?" "He's taking him to meet his father. Louis is. It's Louis's father. They're going to see Louis's father." "Oh." Or they just need to talk things through. Leaning over to their seatmate to say things like, "Oh. See?" or "That's that one guy." I was dismayed to see a Muslim lady with a baby carriage in the row in front of us. We both, I'm ashamed to admit, suspected it had a bomb in it. But I was even more dismayed to learn that it had a fussy infant in it. Who takes an infant to a movie that starts at 11:05 P.M. and has lots of gunfire and explosions in it? Who? Furthermore, who shows up to a new release at The Grove and walks into the theater ten minutes after the show is scheduled to begin and expects to be able to find six seats together and a decent distance from the screen. There were a couple of guys who ended up sitting on the steps next to us. That's something I can't really imagine doing. Not for $12.50 a ticket.

There was a healthy amount of upsetting and stomach-turning portrayal of the grotesque gruesomeness of violent death. And the haphazard way it's dealt out in politically-charged scenarios. Transforming a father, a husband, a brother, into a lump of meat, bullet-riddled and messy. Beginning to smell. And yet you can just ignore it. You've got a job to do. I think the movie pretty heavy-handedly made that point -- that both sides of the terrorist equation think they are crusading in a just war, fighting for the thing that matters most to them, whatever the cost, even if victory won't be seen for generations to come. I got that. And of course that's true. And of course rational and reasonable people know this. Don't they? How can killing people ever be the answer? I tell my mom I don't believe in or support the death penalty, and she never hears what I'm saying. I could stack up all of the factual arguments, but what is this -- Michael Moore's blog? I'm writing about a movie, aren't I?

In the very early scenes, when death first makes its appearance, the Hatikvah was playing. The Zionist anthem. The song that the resistance fighters would sing in movies about the Warsaw uprising when they were being lined up for the firing squad. The last track on side B of this record my dad has. I believe the record is called Spirit of a People. I used to listen to it in his study when I was reading the dictionary in preparation for the National Spelling Bee, and I would think about all that I had read about the Holocaust. I used to listen to that song and to Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (the second-to-last track on side B), and I would look out the window in Guam, and sometimes I would cry. And I think I loved it. I think I loved being able to mourn for these strangers. I studied the Holocaust passionately when I was a young girl. I saw the mini-series of Gerald Green's novel Holocaust when we lived in the Philippines, and it toggled a switch in me. I was fascinated and horrified by it. Especially when I realized that my grandmother had emigrated from Russia at the turn of the century and that it was very likely that some of my relatives had died in the camps or in the countryside. And I was filled with the same empathy that made me wish I had been a slave on the Underground Railroad. Seriously. I always empathized with the persecuted. And a part of me wished I could have suffered with them. Died with them. I don't really know why. This was long before I became an angst-ridden adolescent. This was not about wanting attention or feeling alone in the world. I never told anyone I felt that way. I just read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies and documentaries and simultaneously found a chord that resonated between me and my father. My father, a Jew who had spent a few years of his Depression-era boyhood in a Hebrew orphanage in Germantown, Pennsylvania, when his mother was unable to care for him and his brother. He did not do a lot of Jewish things in my lifetime. He became a Christian the year before I was born. I have never been to a seder. We have never lit a menorah. I don't know what people really do for Purim. But my dad still treasured that heritage, as did I, and he would talk to me about his memories of his early life, and I would never want him to stop, even when I noticed the hour getting late. I never wanted to get caught looking at the clock lest he worry for my sleep and shuttle me off to bed. Maybe we only demonstrably celebrated it by going to delicatessens and eating chopped liver and cabbage rolls and hot pastrami and kugel. But it was something we could have together, and in many ways it was just for him and me. At least the lengthy talking part. My mom learned to make gefilte fish and matzo balls and latkes, and my sisters also know to occasionally buy him halvah or pickled herring. And we all buy him whatever documentary or film is out, which may seem morose, but I suppose it's a way we measure and cherish being alive. And it's part of the remembering that is necessary and good. And today, it makes it all the more poignant when my mom says a guy looks like "a typical Jewish."

Driving home, I passed the quiet, lonely display of Christmas decorations around the signage of The Farmer's Market. I wished I had my Lomo, but I knew I wouldn't stop to photograph it. Not at this hour. Not with my throat beginning to show the telltale signs of the cold I just know will set in as soon as my New Year's Eve merrymaking has run its course. It's cold out, and I wasn't wearing enough tonight. The same held true when I caught a glimpse of a lonely Ronald McDonald, sitting in the dim half-light of a closed McDonald's restaurant by my house. He's the kind that sits on a bench seat with his arm around the space that someone will fill for a photo opportunity or perhaps to fend off the loneliness of the season or a disappointing birthday party. But he was sitting there all alone. His arm around an emptiness. Waiting. I thought I would like to set up a camera on a tripod and take a time-lapse series of photographs of that Ronald throughout the course of a day. But I can assure you I won't do it. It's one of many things that I will never do.

Another thing I will apparently never do is get to sleep at a decent hour. Tell my mom I took my vitamins.

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posted by Mary Forrest at 4:07 AM | Back to Monoblog


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     Dec 29, 2005

Misogyny. The wherefore.

From 06.23.05.

I don't hate women. I am a woman. But I do hate the accomodations that entertainment makes on behalf of women, taking the fun and the funny and the worth it out of everything. Batman Begins further supports my belief that girls ruin superhero movies. The love interest not getting it, judging the hero for the alterego he must hide behind, judging judging judging. Why must women always be the instrument by which fun is ruined? And if this really is their job, can't we just keep it out of the movies? It happens in the Spidey movies, too. And in the Indiana Jones movies. I can provide more examples, if anyone wishes to challenge me.

With the exception of Katie Holmes, I liked Batman Begins a lot. Gene Shalit panned the movie, only further proving that he could better serve mankind by committing the rest of his professional efforts to licking someone's balls.

I went to see it with Dustin. When we left the theater, it was late. There were a bunch of Christians with these big crosses outside of Grauman's Chinese. There were things written on the crosses. Things like, "He died for you whether you love him or not." This marginally derelict guy bummed a cigarette off me. But when I offered him a light, he declined. Said he didn't want to be disrespectful. He didn't want to smoke it there because it would be disrespectful to the Christians. I felt taken aback. Homeless guy gets free cigarette from me while also subtexting me with an admonition about my own rude behavior.

Two of the evangelists came up to me and Dustin (while we were still mid-smoke) and asked what we had seen and then both enthusiastically said they were excited to see the Batman movie, too. They did not seem to think we were jerks. And they were so wide-eyed and nice, I worried that they were all going to go commit a spaceship suicide. Niceness isn't invariably suspect. But some forms of niceness...well, you know it when you see it.

Well, I strayed a bit from my misogyny topic. But my point was just that I am a female creative type and performer with every right to have an axe to grind about how unfair a shake women get in the entertainment industry. But I guess I don't. Sure, I wish it was easier. Sure, I wish people didn't think that girls aren't funny as a rule. Or that they shouldn't be trying to be funny when there's pudding to make. Or that they shouldn't be in charge of most things. Or that they should make sure their nipples are always hard when they're showing. But I also don't subscribe to the necessity for the token love interest in an action film. Women will go to see a movie if the right men are in it. And men will go to see it if the right men are in it. Women will vote for a man president. And men will vote for a man president. I think women hate women more than anyone. But I want to clarify: I don't hate women. I just hate Katie Holmes.

posted by Mary Forrest at 3:08 AM | Back to Monoblog


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You can't be too careful about radiation.

I have a few notebooks I carry around with me most of the time. Depending on the handbag, I sometimes have as many as three. There's one notebook I carried for a while. It's bound in red leather. I think I got it for Christmas from my mother a few years ago. There is a tacky place on the back where a price tag used to go. And there is a long leather ribbon that ties, but it gets in the way, so I usually don't bother with it.

I found the notebook in the bottom of a suitcase I've been bringing with me when I travel. I haven't written in it for months. When I go away from my notetaking for that long, I sometimes forget what I was trying to remind myself of. It's frustrating. This notebook is full of bits from my workshop with Ian Roberts and things I had intended to write out into sketches. It's also the notebook I took on the plane with me for my two recent trips to New York City. And I often pass the time on a plane by writing really small on blank journal pages. I think I write especially small to keep my seat partner from being able to read what I'm writing. But I write small anyway. I've had teachers complain.

Here are some of my notes, with certain proper nouns blanked out for the sakes of privacy and decent human behavior. These are not the funny ideas. These are the plodding journalings of someone with time to pass. Flying to and from New York. In August.

Had a nice chat with ____ last night. It's funny. I don't infuse things with angst with him. The last time I was giddy over him and came home to feeling disappointed and embarrassed. But I didn't feel that last night. I have forgiven that. I wonder why that peace is still out of reach with ____.

After the ____ show, ____ wanted to go to the ____. ____ was there. But nothing came of it. He walked out as we were leaving and as I was turning away.

Work has been so disappointing and demoralizing. If it weren't for ____, I don't know how I would get through the day.

I love the Scissor Sisters. But the disco influence in pop music right now is sort of disappointing. Doesn't anyone have any new ideas?

Pamela Anderson is being roasted? Isn't this a waste of flame?

____ confessed to cribbing from my blog in his act. I was flattered.

____. Whatever. He's got a thing for ____. Well, that was shortlived. I suppose it could have been me killing it. But it still smarts when you realize it's dead. Ask other murderers.

These asses on their Bluetooth headsets. Seriously.

American Airlines offers power outlets in every third row. So the lady with the baby gets one. But I -- with my notebook and iPod and everything else -- I get a copy of SkyMall and a sanitary bag.

Don't ever book on Travelocity. And not just because they use that Amelie-rip off of a gnome as a spokesperson. Try and change your flight and it'll cost you a thousand dollars. I'd just as soon put that money toward developing teleportation technology. Or starting a worm circus.

What'll I Do came up on my iPod. Sad song. Reminds me of the Z Channel documentary. They played it at the end. And it made me sad. Then for ____. Now also for ____. We haven't spoken in so long. I wonder how I ever get it into my head that anyone I know actually cares about me.

Let's Talk Turkey reminds me of those post-car accident days, driving around town in that big black Jeep Grand Cherokee. I keep finding that what I'm looking back on is better than what I'm in the middle of. How much must life not be awesome when you look back wistfully on your most recent car accident?

Watching
Kicking and Screaming on the plane. Robert Duvall surprised me and was funny. In the preamble. Now, I'm wondering if he had a stroke. Not a well-written movie. At all. But Will Ferrell's delivery reminds me a lot of ___.

I even stay for the credits on the plane.

Hello Kitty backpack with a doll sticking out of it. A real doll. The kind with blinking eyelids and real eyelashes. I remember being a kid and having that specific inventory of crucial items I had to have with me. Especially on a plane trip.

Under Attack sounds a little (in the verses) like it's from Chess. And I still can't be taken back to that show without feeling terribly melancholy. Everything about that time was me out of control. Job that got the best of me. Rent I couldn't always afford. Change happening right under my nose. And me mistaking it for growth. That following summer -- I never once felt the fear of it ending. And then nothing was ever the same again. And it's just been a string of these pockets of time. Some, I'm on top. Some, I'm not. Just a series of half-years where some new version is being written. And I catch myself just wondering a little bit if ____ ever thinks any of these things. Or if it is all just gone and forgotten. Never really as important as I might have mistaken it to be. I'm sure if he could read my mind, he'd be lost entirely. None of it would make sense or seem familiar. You fool yourself into thinking that other people know how you feel. But they only know how they feel. And they know a little of what you tell them. But even that is filtered. Poked and prodded by their own experience and ego until it is a pill more appropriate for swallowing. That makes me feel a bit of despair. I wish I could know that the things I've said would have been heard and understood in the way I meant them. But you can never know that. Some people don't even speak English.

We haven't ever really been on the same page.

Willing to Wait by Sebadoh pushes buttons I don't really want to have pushed. I have to keep reminding myself that these songs aren't being sung to me by anyone real. They are not for me. They are just coincidentally relevant. They make sense to me, but they shouldn't. Like opening a letter that wasn't written to you. It makes sense and has meaning until you see the name on the envelope. Everyone feels the same things. That's why it's so easy to co-opt someone else's emotions. That's why books and movies and poems ever get read and re-read and seen.

I got on the Bill Murray train late. I didn't like
Stripes. I don't know why. I didn't like Ghostbusters all that much until I'd seen it a few times. I never really watched Caddyshack until recently. The one episode of Saturday Night Live I got away with seeing as a kid featured Bill Murray saying something about his penis burning when he urinates. And then my mother turned the TV off, never to allow that show on again until the year when Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Downey, Jr., were cast members. I don't know why I didn't love everything he was in immediately and unconditionally, but I'm such a fan these days. I'll even watch Ghostbusters II when it's on. And I'll watch Groundhog Day a million more times and never grow weary of it. I wonder if that was the turning point for me. Groundhog Day. It seems like it might be. And Lost in Translation fixed it. But in that case, I was more in love with Japan than I was with Bill Murray. But Bill Murray helped.

The circular motion your finger performs on the iPod click wheel is a little erotic, don't you think?

I like tight harmonies. I also like loose harmonies. I even like it when people talk instead of singing. Are there people in the world who don't enjoy music and songs? How can that be?

AOL meetings done. I was tempted to just put my iPod headphones on. All I keep thinking is that I'm not going to be around to have to worry about any of this.

Saw ____ last night. ____the night before. ____ today. Good show.

Nice catching up with ____ at the Hudson. Exactly the setting I would picture us in. Soft leather chairs in front of a vanity fireplace in a faux library. Even back in high school when we were reading Hemingway and impersonating Michael Palin and discussing philosophy and haircuts and ordering Pimm's at expensive bars in Tokyo. We have always been awesome.

I'm drained and exhausted. Anxious to be home. Dreading going to work. I used to travel for work. And this feels a little like that. But seeing ____ made me feel both young and old. This job is taking the youth from my face. I can see it. I wish I could be someone else entirely. And I wish I could have wanted that ten years ago.


There. Now, wasn't that clearly all worth writing down and saving?

posted by Mary Forrest at 2:23 AM | Back to Monoblog


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     Dec 26, 2005

Depth Perception

I wish Beulah and Justin had been able to be with us. But in all other respects, this was a super duper Christmas. I think my dad got more gifts than I've ever seen him get in one sitting. He seemed genuinely dazzled. And my mom cried out in shock and delight upon opening several of her gifts. The kind of thrill and gratitude that transcend concern over cost and necessity. I got way more than I expected or deserved. And I gave a great deal, but it still didn't feel like enough. My mom prepared a delicious prime rib. A couple of nights ago, I had asked what her plans for dessert were, and it seemed she didn't think we needed any. For Christmas? I protested. She said, Fine. And then decided to make her famous Melt in Your Mouth, a chocolatey dessert that is Beulah's favorite. Christmas morning, after scolding me for taking the dog out without putting on a jacket ("You don't have any common sense!"), she burst into my bedroom, where I was still trying to sleep, and yelled, "I made the Melt in Your Mouth. But I don't know why we couldn't just have watermelon!" and then promptly left the room. In response to each of these announcements, I muttered deadpan, "Merry Christmas." In the end, I think everyone was happy she had made her special dessert, and I have a feeling she was happy, too. Although I am also certain she would have been just as content with watermelon.

We sat around the fireplace and amongst the shrapnel of the gift explosion, watching the DVDs my sisters and I arranged to have made of my father's old super 8 film footage. That was our flagship gift to my parents. We watched the film of their wedding and of our family in Italy and in Virginia and Northern California. I don't know if we made it to Guam, but that footage is in there, too. We also watched more of 'Allo 'Allo!, the British sitcom Beulah recently got my dad interested in via DVD gifting. I dozed off a bit, on pillows on the floor with Audrey curled up against me. But only for a split second.

I wrote and sent my Christmas email. I also made a mental note of how many holiday text messages I received this year. A surprising trend. Especially when I took note of the number of message-senders I heard from who had only just finally bought into cellular technology or only just learned how to read and send SMS messages during this calendar year. Big ups to those guys.

Martín and Katie and Francisca came by in the evening, driving all the way out from Valley Center, to exchange gifts and deliver the ham I'd forgotten. It is nice having friends who live really close to you and to have had the foresight to give them copies of your housekey. We sat around and talked for a good bit, and I made them look at Audrey in her adorably ridiculous sweater and bonnet from the day before. Audrey was a good sport about it. She didn't try and bite anyone today. My mom's can method has really worked miracles on her savage behavior. My mom retold the story of the glorious can discovery to our guests. It continues to be priceless as stories go.

Eventually, Audrey and I saw everyone off, and it's been very quiet since. I said good night to my parents, did some work, did some chatting, took a bath, got through a few chapters of the novel I'm reading, wrinkled my nose at how the James Bond marathon turned into a Three Stooges block, and all of a sudden it was four a.m. again.

I still think I despise the holiday season. The span of time and the hubbub that surround the actual holidays. But the holidays themselves are still really rather good. It's still possible that I will have a ghastly New Year's Eve. But I'll cross that rickety bridge when I'm forced to by a pack of sword-wielding Thuggee guards.

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posted by Mary Forrest at 4:15 AM | Back to Monoblog


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     Dec 25, 2005

Conspiracy Theory

"Christmahanukwanzikah" actually has all of the word "Hanukkah" in it, and -- depending on how you spell it -- all of the word "Kwanza" in it, too. "Christmas" is the clear loser, further trumped by "Diwali," "Ramadan," and "Saturnalia."

posted by Mary Forrest at 9:11 AM | Back to Monoblog


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Fragile

I sang O Holy Night at my parents' church tonight, as I do nearly every year. My mother was very proud. When I sat back down next to her, she gave me a very Bill Clinton-esque thumbs up and said, "You made it!"

Paul and I stopped off for egg nog on the way back to the house, and I added a little brandy to it and grated fresh nutmeg on it, and Paul and my dad and I drank it up. My mother was furious that we bought any to begin with. She cried out in dismay and said there was absolutely no room for it in the refrigerator. And I said, "What about the refrigerator under the bar?" And she said -- equally furiously -- "I forgot about that." I told her to relax and reminded her how much I love egg nog, and she said, "So much for that weight loss." Merry Christmas to all.

Paul and Sarah and my parents and I were watching Must Love Dogs, but we decided it was terrible. So we put in March of the Penguins, and my mom followed along with her typical commentary. She says the things that happen in your brain sometimes. You understand the logic, but you've never said these things aloud. She laughs because that penguin is so much taller than the rest. She reminds you about that email with the animation of the one penguin slapping the other. "He gets so fed up, and then he can't take it anymore, so he slaps him!" The wonder of childhood is not lost in her. It's pretty magical.

I left to go meet friends at Nunu's, and my mother wished out loud that my friends would all find that it was too late and not want to meet up after all. Ridiculous. I do feel a bit guilty, though. I didn't come home until about four, and she had apparently begun to worry herself that the worst possible things had happened to me. I didn't mean to worry her. It just didn't occur to me that she wouldn't remember how I stay out until the wee hours all the time.

It's been a hectic visit. I did a lot shopping and a lot of driving and a lot of celebrating and a lot of not getting a lot done. And in the end, it's well after four in the morning on Christmas day, and I have presents to wrap and winks to catch and I'll never get it all done. And by the time we're ready to play at Santa, I will be exhausted and cranky and wish I had made better use of tonight. It's my fault. I know it. But what am I to do. There's fog everywhere and not a car in sight and good friends and hyperbole. Who could resist such a cocktail.

And now I'm home watching the A Christmas Story marathon on TBS. They were playing it at Nunu's on one television. The James Bond marathon was playing on another. It was like my dream command central. Forget trans-continental surveillance. I just want to know how much red cabbage Ralphie eats and how surprised James is to meet his bride with the face like a pig. And I don't want to have to switch back and forth.

I wish you a lovely Christmas, and I wouldn't have minded being wished the same by you.





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posted by Mary Forrest at 4:30 AM | Back to Monoblog


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     Dec 24, 2005

For Boris and Mindy

a chill pill

For Raveonettes and Depeche Mode enthusiasts

a telephoto lens

For the Forrests

excellent lighting

For Beulah

unlimited blackjack

For the Pilgrims

mud in your musket

For Audrey

lap time

For Martín

bottomless mint juleps

For Tim

ha ha ha

For Jeff

art time

For Erin and Jessie

documentation

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posted by Mary Forrest at 10:33 AM | Back to Monoblog


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     Dec 23, 2005

All I Want for Christmas

To be able to remember and free to forget
The space between
Pineapple
World peace
Revenge on the mirror
VIP status
Unlimited refills
Time management skills
More tape

I hate to say goodbye with a wave.

posted by Mary Forrest at 3:30 AM | Back to Monoblog


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No Longer September

I had some dreams this morning before I came fully awake. Strange dreams. Easy to remember. Easy to mistake for real until you try to describe them. As soon as you start putting sentences together, you realize none of it makes sense. But the sensations were so real. So familiar. People I know but no longer know. Things I expect to happen but don't expect to happen. Things I wish to say but know I won't. Things I once thought I would hear but never did. I was laughing when people were shooting at us. That's how you know it was a dream. But the other stuff. Finding my face in a sketchbook. Finding things I'd written that hadn't been read. Those things could have happened. But they didn't. And the casual ease with which the conversations started only exists in the dream state. We don't even say hello.

It's cold. But not cold enough.

Deep in December it's nice to remember
although you know the snow will follow.
Deep in December it's nice to remember
without the hurt the heart is hollow.
Deep in December it's nice to remember
the fire of September that made us mellow.
Deep in December our hearts should remember and follow.

posted by Mary Forrest at 2:50 AM | Back to Monoblog


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The Big 2005 Holiday Mail-Order Letdown

If I were writing a syndicated column for some news empire, I'd feel compelled to write a piece about how abysmally poor mail-order has been this year. Especially since, for the past few years -- ever since the dotcom boom really -- there was always this talk in the business world about whether the Internet would change the face of retail and put brick-and-mortar stores under. But in order for that to have happened, a trust would have had to be forged. A trust between buyer and seller that an item that the buyer paid for would get to its intended destination at the right time and that it would arrive in the way that it would arrive if they had lovingly packed and shipped it themselves. And it seems that you can rarely trust that will happen in the holiday season. Even with usually infallible Amazon.com.

With the wealth of aggressive marketing promising that it was not too late to order for Christmas delivery coming from nearly every retailer who knows my email address, I decided to take advantage of this convenience and do a good bit of my shopping online. My money came late and time was short, and I was pressed for time and working nearly all of my waking hours. I ordered from Urban Outfitters, The Discovery Store, Williams-Sonoma, and Amazon.com, and my results were lackluster at best. I ordered several items to ship directly to the recipients with giftwrap and a message enclosed. With Amazon.com, if you order multiple items to ship to the same recipient, you can't group those into a single gift shipment with a single gift card attached. You have to attach a gift message to each item. In the case of my friend Adam, that means that the one item he received today has the same gift message as the two other things he will apparently be receiving later will have. But as far as he knew, he'd gotten as much gift as he was getting. So he called and thanked me, and I asked him how he liked the things I sent, and only then realized he hadn't received all of the items yet. Boo. He said the gift card was also strangely overanxious about wanting you to open the package first and read the message after the fact. Which makes no sense to me. I sent gifts to several other people, and I hope they will arrive as planned, but who knows. The fifteen or so items I ordered to be delivered to my address so I could then wrap and bring the gifts to San Diego with me were a total bust. None of them arrived on time, and I dind't find out until I received an email from Amazon.com today that they weren't going to ship out as promised. So when I went and spent my super stressful day at the malls yesterday, I didn't know that I still had to cover the people I thought I had already checked off my list. One of whom is my sister, who is extremely hard to shop for. I don't know why the items didn't ship. All I know is that I even joined that Amazon Prime and paid $79 so I could get unlimited two-day shipping, and nothing I needed got here when it was supposed to. The only two items I ordered that arrived on time were things I bought for me. As if to teach me a lesson about greed. Urban Outfitters didn't get my order to me on time either. And The Discovery Store may still get my shipment to me by tomorrow, but I decided not to stay in Los Angeles and risk being further disappointed and also have to sit in godawful traffic. I have to go to the mall now anyway. I might as well shop for everyone. Only Williams-Sonoma got it right on the money. I used them to ship gifts to all of my clients, and as far as I can tell, the parcels arrived on time and in good shape. Unfortunately, a few of my clients have already left for the holidays and probably won't get their gifts until after the new year. If their co-workers haven't already pilfered them all.

If web retailers want to corner the market on sending gifts for people, I say they have to make it so that they send the gifts the way YOU would send them. Wrapped in holiday paper with a note attached and packed in a box that isn't full of in-carton marketing. And preferably shipped in such a way that you don't get one part of your gift one day and the rest of it another. As Adam pointed out, it would have really sucked if I'd bought him an RC car and batteries and only the batteries had arrived today. I did not buy him an RC car. But I certainly know what to get him next year. That's right. Batteries.

I guess it's more personal to handwrap the gifts and put your own peanuts in the box and take them to the post office and stand in line and everything. Further, I guess it's a lot easier to only exchange gifts with friends who live near you and are willing to pick their gifts up from you on Christmas day. Or to not exchange gifts with people at all. But in the absence of that, mail order would be such a godsend if it actually worked. I can't be trusted to do it right or on time. I only just sent out my holiday cards, and I forgot to affix my return address labels to them, so it's likely the recipients won't even know they're from me. My signature is unintelligible. It's why Beulah started calling me "Muzzy."

So, I don't know what the retail numbers will be like this year. Whatever they are, you can bet the current administration will use them to prove that consumer confidence is fine and the economy is not in the shitter. If I'm any case study, though, the numbers are more a reflection of consumer idiocy than confidence. I should absolutely not be spending as much as I have this Christmas. Especially considering how lean much of this year has been for me. But I get suckered in and I go apeshit. My spending isn't based on my confidence that I will have plenty of work next year. It's based on the mania that this season creates in me. And it's no good.

I am beginning to hate Christmas. I just hate the whole pretense of having to buy things for everyone. I love my family and I love my friends, and frankly I'm pretty darn nice to them all year long. And I buy gifts for people all year long. And then at Christmas it's like I have to top all of that. Because my friends and family are accustomed to having me give them that book they wanted or that handbag they touched at the store. You know, just because. So Christmas comes around and I end up having to spend thousands of dollars. Just to come up to par.

On top of that, celebrating every Christmas in San Diego is wearing on me, too. This is the fifth year I've had to do this, and it's such a stressful misery trying to get my shit together. Packing my clothes and my laundry and my gifts and the wrapping paper and all the little things I want to make sure not to forget. I always forget something. ALWAYS. I bought my parents a Honeybaked Ham this year, and I left it in my refrigerator. In Los Angeles. I guess I should be grateful that I didn't leave it on the living room floor. But still. When I give it to them next week, it'll just feel like dinner. What a let down. I really just don't feel very much of the holiday spirit this year. I like egg nog, but in every other respect -- HUMBUG.

I would so love a handmade Christmas. Just once. For real. I would love making things for everyone I love and having them make things for me. And I would even love it if all the gifts were awful. In fact, I would prefer it if they were awful. Really good handmade gifts would just show up how poor my gifts would be. Actually, I think I should start insisting that all my gifts be water-soluble. I'm working so hard to get rid of things in my apartment right now, the last thing I need is to cart home a carload of knickknacks in an elephant theme. Unless of course they can be taken into the bath tub with me and melted into colorful nothing that I can watch swirl down the drain as I clap.

But lest I sound ungrateful, I want my friends and family to know that I appreciate every kindness I'm shown and every gift I'm handed. Unequivocally. I do. And I save almost everything. And I look at my gifts fondly over the years and remember how wonderful it was to be important to whoever gave them to me. But I will also remember the pictures we took together and the drinks we raised and the things that made us laugh. And I will treasure those gifts most of all.

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posted by Mary Forrest at 2:30 AM | Back to Monoblog


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     Dec 21, 2005

I'm sorry.

I realize my blog is turning into a Food Network play-by-play, but that's what happens in my house near the holidays if there's no James Bond or A Christmas Story marathon to be found.

And just now I saw a commercial for Kraft Crumbles, and they've repurposed that EMF song Unbelievable so that it goes, "You're CRUM-believable." It's the end of the world. And I never got to do it in an airplane.

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posted by Mary Forrest at 8:27 PM | Back to Monoblog


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Taste

Bobby Flay is wearing the faggiest shirt I have ever seen right now. I don't care what he's cooking.

posted by Mary Forrest at 8:24 PM | Back to Monoblog


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Crush

Kate Winslet
Clean people
Michael Palin
George Clooney
My orthopedic surgeon
Two Johns
Several Alexes
Too many starship captains
Anderson Cooper (occasionally)
Jon Stewart (always)
Winnie the Pooh
Noelle
Marcello Mastroianni
Ursula Andress
Honor Blackman
Danny Kaye
Fox Mulder
Walter Matthau
Ernie and Bert
Johnny Depp
Peter Cook and Dudley Moore
Mendelssohn
Rowan Atkinson
Han Solo
John Lennon
The Pixies
Frozen Custard
David Letterman
Horatio Hornblower
John Taylor
Alan Alda
Charlize Theron

Former Crush (the price of growing up)

Kate Moss
Bruce Willis (I own his record)
Kenneth Branagh
Sting
Marilyn Monroe
Harry Connick, Jr.
Ewan McGregor
The Batman
Steve Martin
David Bowie
Omar Sharif
Jeannie
Shag
Harvey Comics
Julie Andrews
Ralph Fiennes
Hugh Jackman
Eddie Izzard

Anti-Crush

Mouth Noises
Charlie Sheen
Movies About Punching
Newscasters
Small Press
Onions
Jamie Lee Curtis
Joaquin Phoenix
Julia Roberts
Sex and the City
Donald Trump
Robin Williams
Dry Eyeballs
Michael Douglas
Magic Mountain
Human Digestion

Former Anti-Crush

James Coburn
Cabbage
Shirley MacLaine (it was my mom's fault)
Country Music
Dog Breath

posted by Mary Forrest at 12:03 AM | Back to Monoblog


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     Dec 20, 2005

I find it intolerable

when someone is in the profession of teaching people to cook on television, usually with some preamble about how much passion they have had for cooking their whole lives, and they can't pronounce words like "mascarpone" and "espresso."

Sandra Lee. Count your consonants and put them in the right order, won't you. You skinny bitch.

posted by Mary Forrest at 5:31 PM | Back to Monoblog


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At Last

I'm so glad that the exquisite art of Thomas Kinkade is finally available wrapped around the little bowl containing a Glade air-freshening candle. It's a way of keeping the balance of the stink continuum.

posted by Mary Forrest at 5:18 PM | Back to Monoblog


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     Dec 19, 2005

The Crusades

I play in the orchestra for this Christmas show each year. It's put on by Christian Community Theater, and you'll not be surprised to learn there are plenty of Christian folks working in the organization. Last weekend, I overheard one of the woodwind players telling a string player how he had gone to Wal-Mart, and when the Wal-Mart employee said, "Happy Holidays!" to him, he said, "Yes, thank you, and Merry Christmas to you!" And boy did he feel like a champ. This is curious to me. First, because the word "holiday" implies a sacred celebration already and is in no way oppressively anti-Christian, so why do Christians think that being wished a happy holiday is like filling in the holes in Jesus' hands and feet with festive red and green cookie dough? And second, because this just seems like a desperate new way of playing victim. There apparently isn't enough religious persecution around to make these people feel good about their choice. So now these chubby believers, whose lives are largely unfettered by the suffering endured by Christians in other parts of the world where freedom of religion is not legislated, get to feel as if they are doing something soldierlike in God's army. I was raised in a devout Christian home, and I just don't remember Christians being so keen to pick a fight as they are this season. Spreading the message of salvation and love and embracing unbelievers in the hopes that they will be won over through ministry is apparently a lost art. Now it's time for the faithful to show their heathen neighbors what's what. With a holiday pantsing if necessary. I'm just surprised they're not more suspect of this cause, being that it's led by dudes like Bill O'Reilly. It's the real-life equivalent of taking your religious marching orders from Biff Tannen. I didn't know him contemporarily, but Jesus did not have a reputation for being a bully. And I didn't hear him actually say it, but there's this whole "blessed are the meek" thing. My favorite thing about this holiday season so far has been the Food Network's copious versions of prime rib and bread pudding. And I haven't been to Wal-Mart in years, but when the lady at the Post Office wished me a happy holiday, I smiled and wished her the same. And I didn't see her eyes flash red with hellfire. I think she was just trying to be nice.

posted by Mary Forrest at 7:03 PM | Back to Monoblog


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What You Leave Behind

I've been doing a lot of reorganizing. I got my apartment halfway tidy, and then I decided to just redo it all. At the moment, that means, most of my books are in stacks on the floor. It's coming along, but I couldn't have anyone over right now without having to waste their time with a lot of apologies and explanations.

In the process, I've been finding things I'd forgotten. And sifting through things I'd put away with the express intention of sparing myself having to look at them again. Time. Wound-healer. Some of those things I was actually able to take out of the box and re-introduce into circulation. Some of the sting is gone. An ache gone dull ages ago but never tested. I went looking for a few books. One because I sold it on Amazon and now need to pack it up and ship it to someone. The other just because it occurred to me that I know I own this book, but I can't seem to find it. I wasn't able to find either. The one I've sold is a tragedy, because that's twenty dollars I will have to refund. The other one is less of a big deal. I just ordered another copy. But it still nags at me. I know I own that book. I know it. I just can't figure out where I might have tucked it away, whether for self-preservation or for space-saving.

That book, the less of a big deal one, is a Star Trek novel. A Deep Space Nine novel, to be more exact. When I went online to rebuy it, I found that there is a novelization of the final episode of the series called What You Leave Behind. And just seeing the title made me think again of that show and how devoted I was to watching it every Sunday night. And how sad it made me to watch that final episode and to see the disposition of everyone's lives. He ends up with her. He ends up alone. He'll come back someday. She'll wait for him. It's what made graduations sad. The diaspora everyone embarks on. Not always in opposite directions but never on exactly the same path.

I watch Deep Space Nine on television a lot these days, so it has lost some of its rarity. There was a time when a DS9 marathon would thrill me right to my Tivo. Or when I applauded the various networks who carried an episode a week in some late night time slot. Spike TV has spoiled me. But it doesn't make me any less grateful when I get to see those several episodes I really love. I sometimes feel as if I just keep living my life over the same few points, hitting the same notes each time I pass them. Reliving. Sometimes the nostalgia is welcome. Sometimes less so. I've been able to be less sentimental at times. I've been able to steel myself against the habit of remembering. I've been able to adjust the lens a little and see things more accurately. But it doesn't change that event of transportation I experience. Being thrown into a sense memory.

I haven't left enough behind. I carry far too much with me. You should see me trying to get on a plane.

But maybe some of the colors are fading. Some of the candy coating has grown moth-eaten and dull. I'm learning that you don't have to keep a stock of everything on hand. You can get new things when you need them. You might have to leave the house, but it can be done.

It's not just the stuff with me. I can get rid of the stuff. It's the memory of the stuff and the getting of the stuff and the use of the stuff. I was folding up some shopping bags, and I found a store receipt. It was from Counterpoint, that used book and record store on Franklin. And it was from April of 2003, and I remember exactly when I was there who I was with and what I was wearing and what I bought. I remember every tick of it. I had the same thing happen with a Jack in the Box receipt I found on the floor of my car once. Receipts are like the Dead Zone for me. I pick them up and it's like having a psychic interlude. I guess I can't complain. Some people can't remember a thing. Maybe that's its own curse. But then when people get Alzheimer's, it's the people who aren't sick that suffer the most. The person who is sick lives in the bliss of not knowing that anything else has ever happened. And the people who love them grieve and wish that they could just remember that time they danced together or that meal they shared when it was raining. I feel like that's me. Struggling to reawaken some form of awareness in my senile dementia-ravaged surroundings. I'm the keeper of the history. But no one wants to hear the stories anymore. And a friend of mine just invited me to join a knitting circle. Clearly, I'm one hundred years old.

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posted by Mary Forrest at 3:33 AM | Back to Monoblog


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     Dec 15, 2005

The Reason for the Season

I bought an egg nog latte at Starbuck's before I went to the movies tonight. It scalded my tongue and the roof of my mouth. For a short time, I will be unable to taste disappointment.

posted by Mary Forrest at 3:34 AM | Back to Monoblog


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Recordbreaking

A few months ago, Beulah told me a story about going to In n' Out and witnessing a guy ordering a ridiculous sandwich. Of course you know how you can order the Double Double, but perhaps you also know that there are myriad off-menu items that you can request. In addition to "animal style." You can get a "3 x 3" (triple meat, triple cheese) or a "4 x 4" (do I really need to explain this?). But the other day, Beulah watched a guy order a "13 x 13," in an effort, according to him, to break his friend's previous record -- assumedly a "12 x 12." So this guy ordered a sandwich with thirteen patties and thirteen slices of cheese, and it had to be served on its side in the cardboard boat, like a glorious yule log. Or a glorious log-shaped hamburger. Did he order a shake? No. He had just come from eating fish tacos at Rubio's and thought a shake might put him over. Did he go for "animal style?" No. He thought about it but decided that would just be absurd. Did he finish the sandwich? Yes. Is that any less absurd than if the sandwich had had grilled onions and "spread" on it? No. Categorically.

I have never attempted to break an eating record. I have never entered an eating contest. I have occasionally wished I could. In the absence of the shame I would feel when I read the lips of onlookers whispering to each other, "She really doesn't need any more of those hot dogs," I'm sure I could kick some serious ass. But then I remember my mother's now famous pronouncements about the disproportionate largeness of my eyes as compared to my woefully inadequate stomach. And I remember that I rarely ever want more than a bite of anything I want at the time. I was recently watching an episode of Malcolm in the Middle where Lois and Hal entered a kielbasa-eating contest, and I really felt envious of them. When am I ever going to get a chance to eat twenty-some kielbasas? And why is the answer to that question, "Never." Of course, I wouldn't win that contest. I don't even have seconds at Thanksgiving. I do know this, however: I would never enter an eating contest after having just eaten at Rubio's. Hopefully this means my eyes and my intellect are in better proportion.

But it's true that I often think I will want more of something than I end up wanting in the end. I used to greedily hoard my Halloween candy each year, hiding the bag I kept it in to protect it from the imaginary scavengers in my family who would betray me for a few of those generic Smarties. For the record, my older sister always perferred salty snacks to sweet ones, and my dad used to keep a stash of full-size candy bars and red licorice in his desk drawer. He clearly didn't need my half-assed fun-size portions. But that didn't stop me. I was determined to save my candy for later, and no I was never in a concentration camp. But saving often turns to wasting for me. I would forget about the bag. Then I would find it six months later. And if it wasn't overrun with ants, it was still not likely to hold much interest for me, what with it's Now and Laters whose syrup had sweated through the wrappers or the chocolates that had already bloomed*. One year, I rediscovered my Halloween takings months after the fact with a piece of schiacciatta my Uncle Bruno had made, hidden away in a little baggy along with the petrifying candy. I had apparently wanted to save it for later and didn't understand that bread turns blue after a time, and the blue part is not nearly as tasty as you might think.

Just this past weekend, I got motivated to get rid of a good many things that needed getting rid of. There are bowls of chocolates in my house. Nice ones. The bowls and the chocolates. But I don't eat them. And they just sit there. It's nice when someone comes over, but not when telltale seasonal wrapping lets guests know I have been peddling these sweets since Easter. I replenish the supplies pretty often, but I decided it was time for a fresh go. Plus, who would be more mortified than me if a guest unwrapped a chocolate and found a worm in it or something. I would have to kill us both if that ever happened.

So I threw out old Halloween candy and many, many Dove dark and milk chocolate pastilles and wrapped Japanese hard candies still in their covered glass bowl since when I moved from San Diego. They're not really on display, so they weren't likely to be eaten, but the reason they were there is I had eaten the varieties that tasted delicious and left all the ones that tasted medicinal. An easy decision. In the trash they went. I boxed up the silverware I no longer want to use and put the pretty new sets in the drawer. I put away all my dishes and washed and put away my dish rack. I cleared everything from the counter, so if you want to get a glass from the cupboard, you can actually open the cupboard and do so in one easy step, foregoing the previously necessary rearrangement of sundry kitchen goods that have since been chucked. Why was I saving the unused packages of butter-flavored topping from my microwave popcorn? Why was I saving packets of soy sauce from the Chinese place? Was I planning to one day give a second shot to that herb concoction my mother made me get at the Chinese doctor's office last year? The one that made my hands break out in hives? It's not that I think things can't be thrown away. I just don't usually feel motivated to do it. Maybe I'm too soft-hearted. I like to give things a chance to fulfill their destinies. But I give too many chances all around. As a rule.

For the past few days, I have been in San Diego, playing my violin in a few performances of the Christmas show I play for nearly every year. My mother represents a long list of specialty food companies, and her house is overfull with confections of ever possible variety (including the variety "gross"). Some are samples from her clients. Some are booty from trade shows. But you can always count on finding some sort of snack if you go looking. Even if all you're looking for is a ziploc bag. Yesterday evening, after a bitterly long day, I was shaky with hunger, so I went into the kitchen and tried to find some small thing to tide me over. And something happened that has never happened before. I ate four different things and ended up spitting each of them out in the trash can. There was some kind of breakfast cereal bar that tasted like dirt with raisins in it. There was a fancy cheese spread that is probably also a tire cleaner. There were were unsalted pistachios which, although not inedible, are just not worth eating if you ask me. And there were madeleines that would have been delicious had they not had mold on them. I didn't spit out the basil cream cheese spread that I tried, but I didn't like it either. I don't think cheese should be made to look green and fuzzy on purpose. And it tasted a lot like pesto, of which I am not the world's largest fan. In the end, my mom served me homemade fried chicken and made unenlightened comments about how a guy on the television looked like "a typical Jewish." My dad exasperatedly pointed out that he could just as easily be Italian. And she said, "Yeah, but his name is Steinberg. So you can tell." Delicious, delicious.

So, I am trying to be more conscientious about not letting my house turn into a food museum. But I think what I've learned about myself is not that I have bad habits but that I have difficulty forming habits at all. I would like to make a habit of keeping my kitchen more orderly. I would like to make a habit of opening my mail when it arrives. I'm good about making my bed and hanging my towels and charging my camera batteries. But I've got a lot of other areas that could use improvement.

I would also like to make a habit of getting it right the first time. But I don't think it works that way.

*Bloom is when the cocoa butter has separated, causing it to rise to the surface of the chocolate, leaving the appearance of a surface that is dull or has grayish-white streaks and dots. This happens when the chocolate is stored in too humid or too warm a temperature. Or for too damn long.

Note: This post was started in August. A sentence saved as a draft in my Blogger account. I doubt it ended up being about what it was originally going to be about. Except for the recounting of the In n' Out story. But maybe that's all right. I let this one age for a while. I hope it's just right and recommend it be served room temperature with meat or less delicate varieties of fish.

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posted by Mary Forrest at 1:53 AM | Back to Monoblog


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     Dec 14, 2005

Questions for Science

Does the inner monologue of a retarded person sound like a retarded person? Or does it just sound that way when it comes out? Does a retarded person think in the voice of William F. Buckley and then it just comes out sounding like a cartoon character? Or are there just as many appearances of the consonant "d" in his head voice? The voice in my head sometimes sounds autistic. And sometimes it sounds like my mother. But it never ever sounds like the voice on my outgoing message.

Does air travel make you older? Or do flight attendants just need to use more moisturizer?

How much popcorn is it safe to eat?

Does Christmas matter?

Should I dye my hair darker?

Can Two and a Half Men give me cancer? It sure feels like it could.

Do bugs know how much I hate them?

Is having a dream as foolish as it sounds?

Will the future be anything at all like Star Trek? Please?

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posted by Mary Forrest at 6:55 AM | Back to Monoblog


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     Dec 7, 2005

Rectum Pad!



When I got back to my car today, parked at a meter in front of the Whole Foods in Westwood Village, there was a flyer on the windhsield. I didn't notice it until I was already driving home. And I had to read it in reverse to figure out what it said. And I read it several times to be certain it said what I thought it said, which was:

Rectum Pad!

Need Help?
Use the Rectum Pad to help you make life
easy and relaxed.
Do you burn, itch, irriate [sic], and sweat...

The Rectum Pad is specially designed for the
Rectum: Anal discharge can be an
embarrassing and uncomfortable condition.

Order your FREE Samples
www.recpad.com
rp@recpad.com


The whole way home, I just kept hoping the wind would keep blowing the flyer over so that pedestrians and other drivers wouldn't think I was making money advertising for this product on my own.

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posted by Mary Forrest at 9:28 PM | Back to Monoblog


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Market Research

Mr. Spielberg, America was so much in need of another Indiana Jones adventure that they allowed National Treasure to be made.

posted by Mary Forrest at 7:00 PM | Back to Monoblog


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     Dec 4, 2005

Overweight America, I know your secret.

We are a nation of excesses. We like restaurants that serve us more food on a single plate than we would need for the whole day. We care more about portions, much of the time, than we do about how anything tastes. It is less about getting what we want and more about getting our money's worth. At Disneyland, everything is pricey, but it's also usually quite tasty, and the portions are enormous. You won't feel bad about spending six dollars on a corn dog, because it's a corn dog the size of your forearm. And if you don't want a corn dog that big, well, that's too bad. Take some of your corn dog home with you. They don't come in other sizes. Whatever new chain restaurant opens up in the strip mall near your suburban tract home, it will probably have chicken strips on the appetizers list and will be popular with your neighbors because, haven't you heard? They have blueberry muffins there as big as a pie! When you order fried chicken, they bring you a whole chicken! With a certificate of authenticity to assure you that none of this chicken was left alive for its family. You got the whole deal. Except for the parts that are only eaten by cats and Chinese people. You can't eat the brownie mud pie cheesecake, friend, so don't even bother ordering it. It has a pound of butter fat in it. And you are required to attack it with a novelty shovel.

I know this is a country whose reputation is one of prosperity and milk and honey and large motor cars in the driveways of ranch-style homes. But I don't really know when everything went nuts the way it has.

And then I was watching the imbecilic Emeril Lagasse as he prepared some unimpressive pot of something or other. I used to watch his show when the Food Network was just getting its legs. I found the notion of having a house band for a cooking show patently dumb, but I was supportive of the people getting excited about cuisine. He can be a bit of a dumbass, but occasionally he is even cutely dumb. Funny from time to time. But once he gets the idea that anyone thinks he's funny, he gets all excited and tries too hard. Which is unbearable. That's when I prefer the Great Chefs style of programming where a lady with a genteel southern drawl narrates as chefs who probably don't speak English make beautiful fare in rooms that actually look like kitchens. Those programs actually show you how it's done, and you never really get to know who the chefs are, greatly reducing the chance that you might one day want a t-shirt with their name on it.

I've long since lost my patience for the celebrity chefs, though. There are now superchefs where there once were supermodels. And celebrity has a way of ruining everything -- cooking being no exception. My mom doesn't like Bobby Flay. She thinks he's stuck up. She's seen him at various Fancy Foods shows, and he apparently acts like he's all that. I guess it's not surprising. Now that everyone knows his face to the last freckle (as if you could ever find the last one -- there are MILLIONS), he probably gets stopped a lot, and people who stop you to tell you how great you are quickly begin to seem like lower-class citizens to you. It's a quantifiable fact. It's not his fault. But then I've watched Iron Chef America a few times, and my big criticism is that Bobby Flay says "so to speak" way too much. He says it in the way that someone uses a phrase they think makes them sound more erudite when it's really just filler. This happens a lot with guys I know who have an inflated estimation of their grasp of the language and the art of conversation. Even if he doesn't mean it to make him sound smarter, if I notice that you've used the same valueless filler phrase three times in the span of ten minutes, the bulk of which you weren't speaking during, it's possible you say that phrase too much. Bobby Flay should look into this. Sylvester Stallone, too. He talks as if everything he says needs to be bookended in quotation marks. And his mother is nuts.

So I was watching Emeril, and I got so annoyed with the studio audience, because they react as if putting more of an ingredient into a dish is somehow luxurious or decadent. As opposed to excessive. And they act as if certain cooking ingredients are contraband. Do we really need to give that knowing laugh when cayenne pepper is being added? Do we need to ooh and aah when garlic is mentioned? Is there something sexual about a bowl with some butter in it? Does heavy cream have the same effect as rave drugs? You'd think so. These audiences -- being absurdly serenaded by guests like ex-Doobie Brother Michael McDonald during the commercial breaks -- act like they're getting off on every ingredient Emeril touches. It's like they're watching a lady being raped by an oily pirate or something. They love it.

The truth is, it is possible to have too much of something. It's easier than you think, Fat America. Have you ever made chocolate chip cookies and you put in too much butter? They come out all flat and too crunchy and greasy. Putting in an extra hunk of butter doesn't make you swashbuckling. It makes you a poor cook. That's why there are recipes. With numbers in them. And devices for measuring. Especially with desserts, it's way easy to ruin what you're making by dumping in a little extra of whatever it is you think is the flavor equivalent of a hand job. If you put fourteen cloves of garlic in your salad dressing instead of two, chances are it will be bitter and gross. Is that how you like your hand jobs?

I think America is fat for many reasons, but wanting too much of everything is probably really high up on the list. I'm as guilty as anyone. My mom measured my eyes and found them to be bigger than my stomach when I was barely able to see over the top of the buffet line. I always think I will want more of something than I actually end up wanting. I serve my dinner guests eye-popping portions and delight in their dismay. I order the biggest steaks and lovingly fondle the biggest potatoes. I can't ever get enough rice. I'm not saying I'm any better than anyone. I'm just saying I've figured a little of it out. And I was very proud of myself when Beulah and I stopped on the way back from Vegas at an In n' Out, and I ordered a plain cheeseburger without fries and without a drink, because that's all I wanted (I also asked for extra lettuce and forgot to request that they not grill the bun, but that's just a detail that would come in handy if you were actually trying to live exactly as I do, which I totally don't recommend), and because I did the math and realized that ordering the meals is exactly the same price as ordering a la carte, and I don't really like the fries there very much, and I'm pretty sure I only ordered Double Doubles because it sounds like a brand name, and that makes it feel more like McDonald's, where my heart will probably always reside, and because I'm in a phase of being over animal style. So I ate dinner there for like a dollar eighty. Which is really a pretty great value, any way you slice it. And even though it's probably still the worst possible meal choice in the grand scheme of things, I was glad that the KFC next door was closed, because Beulah and I saw that it had a sign for an all-you-can-eat buffet, and our eyes nearly popped out. I've never seen such a thing at a KFC. If we'd gone there, I'm sure I would have eaten enough fri chi to quell any future cravings from ever showing themselves, which would be tragic, because I enjoy nursing my periodic fri chi cravings. I've been riding one for a good year now, even though there is a KFC right down the street from me and a Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles only a mile or two away. I think I get more from denying myself things than I ever get from satisfaction.

Plus, it was the night before Thanksgiving. You just can't DO that.

I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings by calling you fat, America. I'm not trying to be mean. It's my love for you that charges me with this burden. I think you can have too much of a good thing. You can absolutely have too much of a bad thing. And it's also possible that you regularly get too much of a thing that you feel benignly towards. Won't your food taste better if you don't try to eat so much of it that it interrupts your normal respiration? Are you always in the middle of a hot dog eating championship in your head? Do you really need to taste everything those surgical glove ladies at Costco heat up in their toaster ovens? I'll bet you don't. I'll bet you a doughnut you don't.

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posted by Mary Forrest at 1:10 AM | Back to Monoblog


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     Dec 3, 2005

Echoes of Incompatibility

One of my former boyfriends had a very distinctive walk. I don't mean distinctive awesome. I mean distinctive yuck. I would see him in the background of a film or television show and know it was him because of that weird gait. Even on a show like Hunter, which I never watched.

I am watching Defending Your Life, and I noticed Albert Brooks has a similar style of stroll. It's possible it's just because of the outfit and the little white slippers, but it looks a lot like my ex-boyfriend's walk, and it makes me wrinkle my nose. It's a shame, too, because I have loved Albert Brooks for many years, and now all of a sudden it seems that I wouldn't be able to stand the sight of him if we ever went out or walked somewhere.

posted by Mary Forrest at 6:23 PM | Back to Monoblog


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Adrenaline Boost

There are two police officers scoping out the area behind my apartment with guns drawn. I hope they accidentally shoot my upstairs neighbor. Or better yet, I hope they're here to take him to jail, where I hope they accidentally shoot him.

posted by Mary Forrest at 2:16 PM | Back to Monoblog


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Reliably Friendly and Incompetent Service

I went to the Vons down the street from me tonight, and I have to say I was treated to an unbelievably friendly reception by every employee I encountered. Everyone was helpful and welcoming and genuine. Seriously. It didn't even feel like a seasonal promotion. I am hard to impress in this respect. But second to the almost frightening level of kind attention I received at the Mandalay Bay last week, I have never felt so at home -- so...popular at a supermarket.

When I got to the checkout, I asked for a box of Duraflame logs, and the bagger went to assist me but couldn't quite figure out what I wanted. Once the cashier finally got him to understand that by "Duraflame" I meant the only Duraflame brand product they had, he was about to bring me a single log. The cashier intervened, and he finally brought me a case of the logs, as I requested. He was trying to read the UPC code to the cashier, and he rested the box on top of my loaf of bread. And then he put all of my canned goods in one bag. All of them. When he offered to help me out to my car, I demurely declined, assuming that he would likely accidentally puncture one of my tires or somehow lock me in my own trunk. I guess it all balances out, but honestly, it's a shame that crack team of grocereteers has such a dufus in their ranks. He was clearly not the token retarded employee either. Just not good for some reason.

After that, I went to Souplantation with Jeff and Martín, and then Jeff and I had art time with plenty of whiskey and sweet iPod serenade. Jeff is a super talented artist. It makes me hate myself and then hate him. Because I mostly glue things to paper and then scribble on top of it. Whereas he effortlessly makes fine art. Jerk.

I came back in to find a gut-wrenching Holocaust documentary on. I feel a mix of victorious, downtrodden, and hungry.

posted by Mary Forrest at 3:56 AM | Back to Monoblog


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     Dec 2, 2005

Favoritism and Checklist

Double down. Organ favorites. "If you want it to be good, it's extra." Cut corn. Hot bathwater. Fresh air. Goosebumps. Excellent service. Plans. Sneakers. Pancake breakfast at Disneyland. Housecleaning. The light at the end of the tunnel. Fulfillment of obligation. World's Softest Socks. Space Battleship Yamato. Steak au poivre. Neckrub. Sweet doggy love. Victory. Soft drinks in glass bottles. Happy family pictures. Concert encores. Violin strings. White nail polish. Milk chocolate frosting. Avoiding disaster. An economical meal. Arcade sounds. Eggs. Someone to lean on. Strawberry ice cream. Calling one hundred dollars "a bill." Star Trek novels. Making fried rice. Distraction. Specific kinds of pornography. Robots. Stargazing. "Welcome, swingers. Pull up a groove and get fabulous." It's December. Can you believe it?

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posted by Mary Forrest at 2:06 AM | Back to Monoblog


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