February 23, 2004

Sir Snack-a-lot

Let’s not kid ourselves. Snacking is an art. You can’t just grab few salty treats and have a satisfying snacking experience. There is a delicate balance of flavors and textures that must be negotiated. How do I know this? I have a gift...the gift of snack.

The gift of snack wasn’t something I learned. Like most true talents, it was simply thrust upon me by the benevolent snacking Gods. I realized I had this gift when my friends would wait to see what I’d buy at the movie theater concession stand, saying that I always seemed to pick just the right treat. Trust me, you don’t want to buy a king size box of Sweetarts. You’ll be ready for a non-tart taste before the previews are over not to mention the inevitable shredding of the roof of your mouth. Tonguing the raw skin in your mouth is no way to spend your valuable snack time at the movies.

I’ve tried to use this power for good and bring my message to the people (although my Learning Annex courses are surprisingly sparsely attended).

I believe it is important to eat foods, in particular snacks, at their peak time. Often this means delaying gratification until just the right moment. This helps the food reach their ultimate destiny. Just as there is the Super Bowl for football, there is also the Super Bowl for snacks. And, actually, they’re the same Super Bowl.

A chip enjoyed while watching the biggest football game of the year is as good as it gets for chips. If you were a potato chip, would you want to be eaten by someone driving in their ’83 Toyota Corolla, rushing to get home in time to catch “Wheel of Fortune” or by someone lounging in front of their TV on the biggest snack day of the year? The kind of appreciation given to a chip on Super Bowl Sunday is snack nirvana.

To better illustrate these peak situations, here are a few more example:

-Eating goldfish crackers mid-day while reading the Sunday comics.
-Having a Snickers bar after a post-lunch hike on the second day of a camping trip.
-Watching a Simpson’s rerun with a tub of fresh, red licorice.

My fiancé Jen was off to an all day yoga retreat where she was told to bring some snacks. Knowing my expertise she had me look over her snack collection. I saw an apple, tangerine, lemon protein bar, chocolate/nut trail mix, dried apricots and chocolate covered raisins. It was an impressive collection of snack foods and she clearly meant well. However, she was missing a major and generally obvious ingredient to ideal snacking: Salt.

Without salt, monitoring the ‘fruit sweet’ vs. ‘chocolate sweet’ ratio is pointless.

I bagged some peanut butter filled pretzels for her and she was good to go. Things could have gotten ugly without a salt to balance out the sweet in the salty/sweet yin-yang of snack enlightenment. She’s lucky to have me.

And I’m lucky to have this gift...and a partner that tolerates the occasional tirade about snacks.

Posted by Kaya at 05:17 PM | Comments (6)

February 15, 2004

The Law of the Street

Street performers make me uncomfortable. The guilt is simply overpowering. If I take any pleasure in their performance, or so much as look curiously in their direction (possibly due to loud music, bursts of fire or twirling chainsaws), do I owe them money? Have I “stolen” from them by being entertained in some fashion and yet not paying to walk by their “show?”

It’s not like I’ve snuck into a circus without buying a ticket, I’m simply trying to get from point A to point B and you’ve decided to dance/do magic/juggle/play guitar with your feet/perform bike tricks/read minds along this path. It’s a geographic issue really – my intention is not to sneak a free peek at the latest in the local mime scene, but you’ve chosen to mime in my way. Don’t give me that white painted-face sad puppy dog look, I’m just trying to find the Chipwich cart and you’re apparently stuck in an invisible box right in front of me. How did you even get stuck in that box? If anything, and I think I speak for everyone but 4 year-olds and people wearing Cirque de Soleil t-shirts, your miming is really more of a nuisance than a treat. And frankly, something I shouldn’t have to pay to walk by.

Of course this is the heart of the income of street performers, I suppose. Guilt. When they look you in the eyes, locking onto you like Maverick and Goose in a dog fight pushing their upside down hat in your direction it’s all over. It’s tough to avoid the hypnotic jiggling of small denomination dollar bills and random change. This solicitation is not coupled with a vibe that says, “Hello there neighbor, would you like to contribute to the juggling arts?”, but rather a, “Look jackass, I saw you look at me when I took a bite of the apple while juggling the two other balls. You owe me for that. Apples don’t juggle themselves, numbnuts.”

Look, don’t blame me because you have a bad venue...and wipe those apple bits from your chin. I don’t stand between you and your destination or make-believe, invisible box as the case may be, type out a brief, whiney, semi-humorous, autobiographical essay and nudge you to pay me for my effort. You don’t see strippers flashing passing cars then chase them down expecting money for the glance at their tanned flesh...although I imagine that would work just fine. Regardless, if you choose to share your art on the street, you have to expect that some folks won’t pay you. It’s just the law of the street.

Perhaps I could return the artistic gift with a performance of my own? “Mr. Street Performer (possibly not his real name), thank you for separating those intertwined metal rings! I don’t know what I would have done had they remained locked together. Won’t you allow me to re-pay you with an interpretive dance? This one I’ve titled “Blood on Autumn’s Doorstep.” Get comfortable, it’s the first part in a series. The ‘Doorstep’ series.”

A performance for performance barter system would definitely make the park a more interesting place.

I realize the guilt I feel from street performers is my own issue. Many people love street performers and I’m generally glad these creative entertainers have an opportunity to share with the public. That being said, I still don’t get the folks that paint themselves all one color (generally silver, gold or white) and stand still, like a statue. To me, you look like a person in a line that’s not moving. It’s not really a skill – well, I guess it’s a skill, but isn’t it really a skill of doing nothing? You see that other guy? He riding a unicycle while singing the score to Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ and juggling Rottweiler puppies. Kinda makes your standing still seem pretty unimpressive.

The important lesson here is that not all stories have to have a good ending. Some endings involve the writer staring blankly at the screen for what seems like days. This is fine. When this happens, it’s okay to simply stop writing/reading. The fact that there are no more words is enough to signal to the reader that the story has ended.

See?

Posted by Kaya at 10:20 PM | Comments (9)

February 09, 2004

Lord of the Wedding Rings

As Valentine’s Day rapidly approaches, my thoughts turn to romance, overpriced heart-shaped goods and the inability to get a reservation at a decent restaurant. The cause of all this commotion? Love.

Webster’s Dictionary describes “Love” as...I don’t know, probably something about caring deeply for something or what a man and a woman are in before they decide to make babies. Look, I just got comfortable in this chair and I’m not going to get up now to get a dictionary. (I’m not too lazy to see what the thesaurus on Word says about the subject -- “feel affection for, find irresistible, be keen of, fond of.”)

I do know that most movies, songs, cards and postage stamps revolve around this idea of love. And the logical next step to being in love, according to the movies, songs and cards (the postage stamps are fairly quiet on the issue) is getting married.

As someone engaged to be married, I'm still amazed that I ever reached the point where I was ready to make that kind of commitment. The kind of commitment that defies biology and mathematical odds and says, “I want to be with this one person for the rest of my life.” But when your as “keen of” someone as I am, it actually makes sense.

Jen is truly amazing woman. She is adventurous, intelligent, beautiful, caring and laughs all the live long day. She inspires me to be a better person, helps me explore the depths of love and partnership and makes me want to plan my life with her. And despite our differences (she likes the band “Erasure”, I can’t stand them; she prefers dark chocolate while I enjoy milk chocolate and, finally, I think the introduction of the designated hitter rule to the American league during 1972 was an unfortunate mistake that led to pitchers being overspecialized and causing a strategic change to how the game of baseball is played...and Jen doesn’t seem to feel strongly one way or the other.) we still find common ground to communicate.

Once I knew that this was the woman I wanted to marry, the person I wanted to begin a lifelong partnership, the person I wanted to form a more perfect union with -- I had to begin the marriage journey alone. The proposal, traditionally, falls squarely on the shoulders of the man. This means that despite how intertwined our lives are, I had to sneak away and try to shop for rings, much less devise a plan to propose (heaven forbid it’s not a memorable proposal!).

I’d spend the day looking at rings and thinking longingly of how strong our honest communication was only to come home and lie my smitten ass off about where I’d been all day.

“Today? Oh, I was out at the movies. That’s right, I saw “Lord of the Wedding Rings”, I mean, “The Lion Ring”, I mean I was with a hooker...reading to the blind. She was a blind hooker. Why are you hassling me? I gotta go, I think I heard the doorbell wedding ring. Aurghhgh!”

I’m one smooooth criminal.

Once the ring was bought, I need to come up with a proposal plan. While it’s not mandatory to have a wildly clever and romantic proposal, it’s much more preferred than saying “lets get married” while hammered on Charles Shaw Merlot and watching a touching re-run of ‘Friends.’

I went to my very creative and eccentric brother to brainstorm on ideas of how to propose. I only knew I didn’t want to do a big public proposal (too many movies of embarrassing proposals ruined that idea, I mean, didn’t the guy in “Crocodile Dundee” realize that she was falling for Mick?). The only part of the plan I knew was that I was going to ask her in Ohio, after I spoke to her parents about asking their daughter to marry me. While this has great sentimental points, I could only plan so much without being there.

After a few motivational drinks, here’s what we came up with:
--Go on a hike. Hid the ring somewhere on my body (taped to my leg, crammed in my backside, etc.) and ask her to check me for ticks when we returned. When she found it, clean it off and propose.

--Shave “Will You Marry Me?” into my back hair. (Ruled out due the fact that I have no back hair.)

--Using PowerPoint, create a compelling argument involving tax advantages and jar opening/bug extermination benefits of having a husband.

We finally settled on an idea. I would write the 10 words (1.Jen 2.Lastname 3.I 4.Love 5.You 6.Will 7.You 8.Marry 9.Me 10.?) on 10 playing cards, hearts of course. Since we occasionally play the card game “Gin” it wouldn’t be too out of the ordinary to strike up a game involving 10 cards.

I not so subtly dropped hints about wanting to play Gin during our trip to Ohio.

“Did you know that Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston play a lot of Gin? That’s right. In fact, they used to be poor and ugly before they began playing. All the hot couples play Gin. Yesiree-bob.” She had to be onto me – I only use the term ‘yesiree-bob’ when I’m lying or doing an impersonation of someone in the 1950s enjoying smoking a corn cob pipe.

Once we were in Ohio, my time was limited. My request of Jen’s parents for a few moments to talk alone as well as phone numbers to local flower shops were easily interpreted by the family. They were on to my clever ruse and were extremely excited about it as well.

I wanted to speak to both her Father and Mother about asking her to marry me. I wasn’t really “asking” per se, but more letting them know and hoping they approved. I subsequently fumbled through the speech I had prepared in my head. Like I was on a bad episode of “Three’s Company”, I stumbled, stammered and stuttered through what seemed in my mind like a brilliant and moving testimony of commitment and love. I said something to the effect of, “I mean, your daughter. Whew! What a lady. Yep, a great lady. Yesiree-bob. Quite a catch. One foxy lady.”

I eventually steadied myself and got the words to make a shred of sense. They hugged me and said they couldn’t be happier for us. I silently thanked her lame ex-boyfriend for the low expectations and began to prepare to speak to Jen. Before I left they told me I better ask Jen to marry me before tomorrow afternoon because a relative that “likes to talk a lot” caught wind of the news – and we’d be seeing them all the next day. Oh goodie, lets add a tad more pressure to keep things interesting.

The day ended and I was unable to find some time with Jen alone. I woke up the next day in hurry and suggested we go on a nice, morning walk. Although we weren’t yet engaged, we were allowed to stay in the same bedroom. This bedroom was almost perfectly designed to prevent a couple from being intimate. The bed squeaked with piercing definition and frequency at any movement and the door didn’t quite fit the door jam and thus did not close. Job well done soon-to-be Father-in-law, job well done.

I rushed Jen out for a brisk walk before we met up with the rest of the family (who, at this point, are all aware that I’m proposing). I convinced Jen that her Mom wouldn’t mind if we didn’t ask her to join us, grabbed the ring, my trick deck of cards and we were out the door.

It was a beautiful morning to walk by the nearby creek. Birds were singing, the sun was filtering through trees and I was sweating like a 8th grader at the school dance when a slow song came on. I tried to act calm, frantically scanning the area for a place to sit and play cards. Everything was damp from the morning dew...what would I do? It was too late to abort the cards...I had taken so much time to cover the cards with sticker paper and carefully draw on the words. I’d hate to not use them.

When we came across a log I asked Jen if she wanted to sit for a minute. Perhaps she was tired or perhaps it was the crazed look in my eye; she agreed. So relaxing – the creek gently rushing by, the cool morning air, the damp brown ground beneath our feet...what a perfect time for some cards!

At my suggestion to play “one quick game of Gin”, Jen accurately looked at me like I had lost my mind. Sure, because that’s what people do when they’re out for a nature walk at 9 in the morning. Sit on a wet, rounded log and play cards.

Yep, everything was going according to plan.

Perhaps it’s indicative of why I want to marry this woman – she shrugged her shoulders and agreed to play a game. On the damp log. Next to the creek. At 9am.

I had my “secret hand” tucked into my sock ready to grab as soon as the situation arose. I awkwardly shuffled the cards and dealt us our hands balanced precariously on the log. After a couple of discards, I knew I needed to make my move. Jen is inexplicably the best Gin player the world has ever known. She beats me in the most remarkable and lightening fast fashion. Before she could triumphantly call “Gin” I distracted her in order to grab my secret hand.

“Is that a deer?” I think is what I said. I may have said, “Is that a Minotaur?” or some other mythical beast. My mind wasn’t at it’s sharpest as I was a tad distracted.

She turned to see if indeed a half-man half-bull creature was in our midst. With her trusting head turned I switched out my hand.

“I guess not. Oh well. So anyways. Wow...you’ve got to see this hand. I just have to stop the game and show you.”

I got down on one knee and began to lay the cards down one at a time.

“Jen”
“Lastname”
“I”
“Love”
”You”
“Will”
“You”
“Marry”
“Me”
“?”

We joke that she said, “Oh, the ten of hearts, I need that card!” but actually, she joined me on the wet ground, yelled “YES” and wrapped her arms around me.

I placed the ring on her finger and we laughed and cried. It was the greatest morning walk I’ve ever taken. We walked back to her parent’s house engaged to be married. I couldn’t have been more proud to be in a partnership with this woman. What a treat it is to be in love with such a remarkable person.

When we walked in to the house, Jen’s Mom, Dad, brother and sister were looking at us with expectant eyes and stifled smiles. With eyebrows raised her Mom calmly asked, “Soooo...how was your walk?”

Yes, her Dad took our photo with the cards...
Jen_Jim_cards_w.jpg

Posted by Kaya at 07:40 PM | Comments (23)

February 02, 2004

Communication Breakdown

Miscommunications are probably the biggest reason for conflicts in this world. If we could all simply communicate with each other so that we’d each understand the other, we’d live in sweet harmony. It seems like such an easy concept, but to make someone truly understand your perspective sometimes seems impossible. Or, it only seems possible to really understand some else’s perspective in hindsight, after the damage has already been done.

“Oh shit. You don’t like to be peed on. My bad.”

With men and women as different as they are, it is no wonder that there are so many miscommunications between us. I envy gay men because they can avoid a lot of the hassle of dating and relationships. They can instantly understand the perspective of the person they’re dating; another gay man. In contrast, men and women sometimes seem to speak a completely different language. I’m sure most of you have received at least one or two forwarded emails about what a man/woman says and what he/she really means (we all have that “friend” who always forwards those little jokes and chain emails. Yeah, those are really funny. Ha ha, motherfucker). Those dumb little lists are true, in a way. Women and men are into different things, generally. They are marketed to separately. They like different movies, books and TV shows. Hell, women have a whole TV network! It makes sense that there will be miscommunications between the sexes.

I started dating a woman a few months ago. She’s a wonderful woman and we get along well. She makes me laugh and I’m very attracted to her. She has accomplished a lot in her life and I’m impressed with her as a person. As with any woman, I expected that there would be some miscommunications, however, the fact that she is from Korea added a whole new dimension to the misunderstandings we could have. Not only did I have to deal with the very real misunderstandings that can occur because of the differences in male and female culture, but I also had to deal with the misunderstandings that arise from cultural differences related to geography.

Korea is a very conservative place and this woman was from a traditional family. America, in comparison, is a very liberal place. You can walk into porn shops in most areas of the U.S. and walk out with a bag full of porn, a dildo, some lingerie, and condoms. The woman I was dating had never seen porn and didn’t know anything about dildos. I, on the other hand, am very liberal, even by American standards. I find it very difficult to meet women because, at least here in San Diego, they’re a little conservative for my taste.

I have a personals ad online. I posted a picture of myself standing in front of one of my paintings; a huge rooster). The headline of my ad is: “Check Out My Big Cock!” which I think is funny. In the picture, I’m standing in front of a big rooster, or cock. Get it? Hee hee! The headlines from some people are so typically lame and guys’ headlines in particular can be extremely sexual. I thought the pun was funny on its own, but then the fact that it’s a headline for a personals ad adds a whole new level of irony that I think is fucking hilarious.

Needless to say, I don’t get many responses, which is why I was very intrigued when S got in touch with me. In my profile I’m very straightforward about the fact that I like to smoke weed and that I’m a bit on the wild side. As I went through S’s profile, I didn’t understand why she’d want to get to know me. I really wasn’t what she was looking for. Regardless, we struck up an online conversation. She said she wanted to try something new and different and that she was interested in meeting up with me. I was willing to give it a try. She seemed nice and at least I’d be meeting someone new even if there wasn’t a connection.

It was only later in our relationship that she told me that she never really understood the headline of my ad. That small misunderstanding was indicative of what was to come throughout our relationship. Misunderstanding after misunderstanding. We’d have an argument, we’d pinpoint the misunderstanding through discussion and make sure that each understood the perspective of the other. Most of our miscommunication stemmed from our different upbringings. For example, when S found out I lived with my girlfriend for 2 ½ years, she freaked out completely. It was entirely out of her scope to imagine living with someone before marriage. She was very conservative and sheltered despite being an international traveler and businessperson. I couldn't understand her negative reaction and she couldn't express to me immediately why she was so shocked. I got defensive and told her she'd either have to live with it or we'd have to end things since the fact I'd lived with my ex was something I couldn't possibly change. This made her defensive. And the cycle continued until we got to the bottom of our misunderstanding.

S has a lot of pressure to uphold a certain image of herself for her family. S couldn’t tell her own sister who lives with her that we were dating because it might become gossip in Korea that would hurt the family reputation. I have never met someone who is so eager to maintain a façade in order to please others, even if it means she can’t truly be herself around those she loves the most. I said it seemed dishonest. She thought it was merely being “less open.”

The one thing about having the freedom to do what you want to do when you want to do it is that, once you have that, there’s no going back. As long as you’re not a complete idiot and you get caught, you can pretty much do whatever you want in this country. There was no way that I was ever going to become “less open” about my life, and there was no way she was ever going to be more open to changing hers. Our cultural differences created conflicts that, eventually, could not be overcome. We have acknowledged this to each other and we’re trying to be friends. It’s a little less responsibility. As lovers we couldn’t work things out, but as friends I think I can have enough patience to try to understand her better. That’s what it all comes down to: Patience. It’s one of the hardest lessons to learn in life. I would rather walk away from the relationship and practice being patient with her as a friend than continue to get frustrated by our misunderstandings as lovers. Maybe someday we’ll each understand the other well enough to try again.

Posted by Dlove at 09:22 PM | Comments (7)

Peanut Clutter and Petroleum Jelly

We all have too much clutter around us. Papers, unread magazines, old mail, dishes, empty malt liquor cans, CDs, etc. We tend to surround ourselves with crap. And this crap then clutters our minds, or so the ‘Feng Shui for Dummies’ book told me. It’s time to get rid of the trash, stack the magazines and recycle the Schlitz cans. Clear our homes and our minds will follow.

My fiancé began the new year throwing something away each day. The battery charger that only works in Australia and New Zealand? Gone. The plant that died shortly after Alf went off the air? Trashed. The single oven mitt that’s been horribly burned, stained and offers little to no protection for your hand against heat? Sayonara.

The only downside to the “throw something away each day” methodology is that you eventually run out of stuff. We found ourselves combing garage sales and swap meets for unnecessary items simply for the purpose of throwing it away at a later date.

“Ooh, look at that painting of the dragon standing fiercely in front of some snow-capped mountains. That would go perfect in our wastebasket. What about this “Ab-Cruncher 3000” with the pads missing? Don’t you think we could toss this on Tuesday?”

Now that my place is little more than blank walls and a bed (the cluttering pillows were discarded after a few glasses of wine when we decided to throw away something every hour...soon leaving us with nothing to drink wine out of nor pillows to rest our drunk heads on), I headed over to my parent’s home to help pass on the joy of detachment from useless, material things.

She had gone through the bathroom and medicine cabinet and pulled out items that she wanted me to claim or help throw away. I walked into a surprisingly full room of crap. The floor was covered with tubes of expired ointments, nearly empty “Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific” shampoo bottles from 1974, ancient cologne and enough aged Vaseline to get every horny junior high school boy in town through puberty.

I think every house has an old container of Vaseline. I don’t know anyone who’s ever actually bought a jar of petroleum jelly, but it’s always around...and it’s probably older than you are. The bucket that I was planning on throwing away had been sold for $2.87. Granted this could have been during the time of Pangaea as what we now call continents were breaking apart from one large land mass, but even then this was not very much money. A bucket of Vaseline sells for practically nothing and yet the amount of petroleum jelly needed at any given time is miniscule.

Our family bucket (perhaps they were distributed to every family during the Nixon administration?) made it through two babies and diaper rashes, thirty winters of chapped lips and two boys in a house that promoted self-love. Still, we haven’t made a dent in this thing. I can’t even finish the Vaseline lip therapy containers before I eventually lose them or throw them away during clutter clearing frenzy. How can petroleum jelly be so affordable, and petroleum in it’s non-jellied form be so expensive? Maybe the invention of petroleum peanut butter would speed up the purchasing of its jelly.

With the bucket ‘o’ petroleum jelly thrown away I moved onto the collection of colognes that my brother and I had used at some point in our lives. Each scent helped me revisit a different stage in my life.

“Ah, this one smells like insecurity,” I remarked about the Drakkar Noir bottle that I bought to impress Michelle Miller in the 8th grade. She was the first girl I ever French-kissed and I give most of the credit to my manly aroma. “Forty squirts of Drakkar oughta do it!” There’s nothing subtle about a teenager wearing cologne.

The familiar scent reminded me of trying hard to be cool and wishing I was taller. Of being scared to ask the pretty girl to dance to the slow song by Lionel Ritchie. A time when I was still riding my bike to school with my friends, but couldn’t wait to start driving, drinking and getting naked with girls. A conflicted time when I didn’t know who I was, but wanted to be older, bigger and more confident. A gallon of macho cologne may not have been the answer, but it was a start...and less obvious than spritzing Binaca in my mouth every seven minutes.

Perhaps “Insecurity” could be the name of a cologne for junior high boys. “Somewhere between the 8th grade dance and getting a varsity letter is Insecurity.”

Needless to say, these well-aged colognes found a comfortable spot in the bag of garbage.

Not everything was so easy to throw away. There was an electric shaver that I thought might be of interest to The Smithsonian. This thing was a piece of work. It might as well have had a hand crank to get the motor running. I think it was the first electric razor ever made. It was a big plastic block with three razor heads at the top. No fancy smooth curving sides to cradle your hand. No easy on/off switch or razor flip to cut sideburns. Just as the Model-T Ford didn’t have a DVD player in the headrest or spinning rims, this razor had no bells and whistles.

There’s a few reasons why this medieval electric razor was kept in the first place. You see...no wait. There is NO reason why this razor has been kept. My mother is simply so compassionate, that she can’t bear to part with anything. And she’s a pack rat. The razor has been returned from whence it came. Whiskers to whiskers, dust to dust.

I do notice a difference when my living space is less cluttered. I believe having junk everywhere does clutter your mind. Each day eleven more credit card applications arrive and threaten to destroy my solitude. Every changing of clothes is a chance to throw a pair of pants or shirt on the ground ruining the clean floor. And each Schlitz malt-liquor beer I shotgun is another can wrecking the sacred, clear coffee table.

And once I sober up, I promise I’ll clean up. Well...maybe tomorrow.

Posted by Kaya at 05:41 PM | Comments (6)