The Legend of Creepy Santa

Last year, property management for our building decided to decorate the lobby for Christmas.  Typical of their design style, it was a mix of incompatible styles and concepts that ultimately looked like Tim Burton overdosed on a deadly cocktail of kitsch, IKEA and Beetlejuice.  A demented-looking, 9-foot plastic Santa was the “highlight” of the lobby. As the days went on, it became clear that the Santa creeped the shit out of everyone in the building, and people began to taunt it.  It ended in a spectacular fashion, which I have chronicled in this touching Christmastime poem. 

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the lobby
Not an employee was working, or exploring a hobby
They moved through the floor with stealth never seen
In fear of St Nicholas, stabbing their spleen

The decorations were hung: mismatched kind of cheaply
And a 9 foot Santa, both mesmerizing and creepy
“He’s Plastic!” “He’s Ugly!” They would say and they’d think
But I would say nothing, for I saw him blink

In the dark of one morning, I heard quite a scrape
I looked over in terror – he tried to escape!
Approaching the door, one dragged foot at a time
Glass walls kept him in, like a trapped pantomime

His movement was noticed by those who walked by
They’d feel his glare, giving him the side-eye
They’d clutch their purses or a bottle of mace
But mace can do nothing to a warped plastic face

Employees caught on, voices spoke in high pitch
“Stop staring at me, creepy son of a bitch!”
He continued on with his cold plastic stare
And got his revenge in their sleep and nightmares

They would move him away, but he would move back
They’d put a bag on his head, like some ugly sad sack
He’d triumph each morn with a gleam in his eye
Showing each employee that he’d never die

In fear and in madness the depths they had sunk
‘Til they lopped off his head, tossing him in the trunk
Though the head remained, the car drove out of sight
‘twas no Merry Christmas for Creepy Santa that night

How Patriotic Is Your Candidate? A Score Card

This time of year brings an abundance of political mailers to our doorstep.  Thanks to a major election year and Arizona’s redistricting, we could wallpaper our family room with the brochures and pamphlets we receive.

With all of these options, how does one decide who to vote for? I mean, it’s not like you want to read the newspaper or look up their existing voting records, right? Who has time for any of that hullaballoo?  No, you want to judge your candidate off of those glossy little mailers.  Don’t you know you can tell with absolute certainty how patriotic someone is just from their mailer?  In fact, by assigning point values to items on the mailer, you can easily compare the patriotism of two candidates:

For each son or daughter shown = +3
Real patriots have kids – lots of ‘em!

For each grandchild shown = +5
Even better when the kids grow up and have more kids to make for big, smiley reunion photos! Plus, older = wiser.  If you are old enough to raise this big, wonderful family, you are basically a big Oz Head filled with knowledge and solutions to all of our problems.

For each great-grandchild shown= -2
Just don’t be too old, Wizard.

For each child shown who is not the candidate’s child = -5
Passing off other people’s kids as your own is easily fact-checkable, and is quite frankly a little creepy and weird.

If the only family picture shown is of the candidate holding one grandchild = -15
Even creepier (and weirder). Maybe it’s just weird to see such an angry person smile?

Candidate has a famous political dad = +3

Candidate’s dad is Dan Quayle = -5

But candidate and his dad Dan Quayle live in Arizona = +10

But candidate was just redistricted against someone who actually has experience in politics = -10

Candidate has a golden retriever = +10
Golden Retrievers are All-American Dogs – they drool apple pie and shed stars and stripes.  They bark in a cadence remarkably similar to Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech.  And besides – their GOLDEN! Do you know how valuable gold is right now? Owning a golden dog is an investment for your future and is the equivalent of having Glenn Beck’s endorsement.  This is a fact.

Candidate has a breed of dog that weighs less than 20 pounds = -15
Little dogs aren’t American.  You know who has little dogs? Hollywood elitists.

Candidate is wearing a button-down denim shirt = +1
Because you can’t get any more blue collar than a literal blue collar!

…With the sleeves rolled up = +5
See? The candidate is ready to work! Add a hard-hat to that look and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Candidate is endorsed by the fire department or police department = +20
Because firemen and policemen are American times infinity!

Candidate is endorsed by fire or police unions = -20
Because unions are Un-American times infinity! Ignore the cognitive dissonance rattling around in your skull; moving on…

Candidate has “a million-dollar smile” = +25
We’ve all heard Joe Biden speak off-the-cuff, right? So…how?!?

Oh, yeah.  A winning smile is “a big f-ing deal.”

Candidate has “Manson Lamps” for eyes = -15
Fortunately, there is a segment of the population that finds Crazy Eyes endearing, so this could be a good thing, depending on where the candidate lives.  Dead eyes are also bad, unless they can be Photoshopped to become bedroom eyes.  It’s a fine line, really.  Then you’ve got yourself an up-and-comer with People magazine “Eligible Bachelor” potential!

The candidate is married = +10
The candidate is a single man = -5
In politics, people are far more forgiving of an adulterer than a bachelor.  So if you are single and want a career in politics? Shack up with the nearest trophy, and fall into a loveless but equitable marriage.

Candidate is a single woman = -10
When people see single women in politics, do you know what they think? The woman is either an “uppity bitch” or a lesbian.  Whereas if you’re a married woman, you’re seen as…a shrieking harpy.  Really, you’re kind of working against the current no matter how you slice it.  Them’s the breaks, ladies. Sorry and good luck, there.


The Menacing Kitten Services You: Little House Edition

One of the joys of adding Google Analytics to your site is seeing all the strange ways people find your site through search engines.  As I reviewed the list of search terms used to find the site over the past year, I realized I had an opportunity to be service-y and answer a few of the questions and queries posed by those who search for my site.

One of the most commonly searched for items that lead people to my site are Little House on the Prairie inquiries, many of which I am more than happy to answer:

“Did Adam get his sight back before or after Mary had the baby on Little House?”
After.  See? Service-y!

“Mrs Garvey broke the window with Mary’s baby”
Yes, yes she did.  Fucked up isn’t it?

There is also a contingent of people obsessed with Michael Landon.  Would you believe one of the most searched for queries on my site is:

“Did Michael Landon get a perm?”
To answer this question, I turned to pre-Little House pics of him on Bonanza.  After careful photographic analysis, I think it’s fair to say that no, Michael Landon did not have a perm.  He had naturally curly hair, and just kind of let it go wild for the Little House series.  He was also quite the looker in his Bonanza days.

People really want to know about the deep, dark world of Michael Landon, if that even exists:

“Michael Landon hated”
Are you looking for things he hated, or that he was hated? I don’t know much about him, but Melissa Gilbert was quite fond of him, and Johnny Carson adored him.  And clearly, he hated Mary Ingalls.

“Michael Landon’s secret life”

Tell me, what did you hear?

“Michael Landon pedofil”
Yeah, no.  And really, spelling?

“Michael Landon and kittens”
Wait, what?

Of course, not all queries are sad and negative.  Maybe part of that “secret life” was a signature move I was unaware of:

“Landon fuck move”
I have heard rumors that Landon was quite the Cassanova back in the day.  I suspect the Landon Fuck Move does not involve Little House On the Prairie, but upon reading it, I get a very disturbing image in my mind’s eye of Pa’s apple-cheeked quiverface getting down and I do not appreciate that.  Especially since he’s still wearing suspenders.  Damn you, Asshole Brain. 

It could be that there is an entire world of Little House slashfiction that I’m unaware of [Oh.My.God. It exists. And I’m not linking to it because it’s just wrong…*shivers*  WHYGODWHY and Albert and Sylvia fanfic? Really?].  I think that’s what someone was getting at when they wanted to find:

“Mary and Adam Kendall Wedding Night”
Okay, Mary was super pretty and Adam Kendall was dreamy, if not a little dorky.  The episodes where they fell in love were hands-down my favorite episodes of the series.  I feel you, Little House On the Pervy, I do, but there are certain things you need to leave be.  This is one of them.  Might I interest you in Albert and Sylvia Mime Porn?

Note: The videos below do not contain Mime Porn.  But season four does introduce dreamy Adam Kendall.


The Ways I’d Show My Parents

As kids, there is nothing we want more than to taste sweet, sweet revenge when we don’t get our way.  As for me, I was a 7 year-old Count of Monte Cristo – when someone wronged me, I had an overly elaborate plan to get back at them.  I knew it would take time to really blossom, but oh, the payoff would be mine.  MINE I TELL YOU!

There were certain things I would do whenever my mother said “no” or yelled at me for something:

1. Stomp and Slam  
I learned this one from my teenage sisters.  Our rooms were on the third floor of the house, which made for exceptionally dramatic exits.  If the argument took place on the main floor, it would end with someone yelling “FINE!”, then STOMP-STOMP-STOMP-STOMP-STOMP-STOMP SLAM!  And our doors were perfect for slamming – they were made of cheap paneling and had zero weight or drag to them.  They echoed when you slammed them, and were perfectly aerodynamic for the angry daughter.  A basement rage was the best, because it was basically Stomp and Slam in two acts.  And you had to slam the door harder, so mom and dad could hear it.

2. Hiding and/or Never.Talking.Ever.Again.
Stomp and Slam, though therapeutic, was not incredibly effective for me.  I suspect because my parents went through it many times before with my sisters.

When you are 7 or so, you think that hiding or never talking is the cruelest thing you can do to your parents, because you believe you are the center of their universe.  In reality, they are just thankful you are off quietly doing something without them for a period of time.  This makes stewing in the laundry hamper for two hours way less satisfying, let me tell you.

The one exception to this is when I freaked the shit out of my family by hiding.  Let this be known as the Last Time I Did This:

My family was a big fan of hand-me-downs.  If the item lasted, the clothing would be passed from my cousin Cathy, to my sister Chrissy, to my other sister Melissa, to my cousin Susie and finally to me.  That was generally okay, despite looking like a fashion pariah.  The Cardinal Sin was when boy clothing was thrown into the mix – one time I received a shirt in the hand-me-down bag that was clearly a boy’s shirt, and clearly belonged to one of my male cousins.  I absolutely did not want to dress like a boy any day, especially not the day celebrating our independence.  I cried and squirmed as my mom forced me to wear it.  I could not be seen wearing this ugly pale yellow boy’s shirt, so I decided to show them – I hid behind my dad’s Mustang in the garage.

About 15 minutes or so after guests arrived, I suddenly hear someone say, “Where’s Anne-Marie?” (they actually used my childhood nickname which I will NEVER EVER REVEAL TO YOU because of its 70s-sounding disco-style embarrassment).  Someone said, “I don’t know.  Anne-Marie!?” And people began calling my name.  I sat there thinking, yes, motherfuckers! This is what you get for putting me in a boy’s shirt!  Someone walked into the garage and I held my breath like I was Linda Hamilton and they were the Terminator.  They walked out and I felt like I was home free.

Then people started freaking out.

They split up and tried searching the neighborhood and asking neighbors if they saw me.   Through a window in the garage, I saw someone walking up our driveway, desperately calling my name.  It was the first time in my life I thought, shit just got real.  I thought about calling back and ending the search, but realized I’d get in trouble.  I didn’t exactly have a plan B, or even a next step, which is typical of all of my revenge plots as a child. I just sat there, wondering how the hell I was going to get out of this one.  I couldn’t sneak out – they had someone stationed right at our patio.

Finally, my dad wandered into the garage.  Dads somehow know these things…as I heard his footsteps approach, I played possum and pretended to be asleep.  He “woke” me up, and I feigned grogginess telling him I was sleeping.  He picked me up and called off the search.  I started crying because I in part felt shitty for scaring everyone, and I still had to face the world in my ugly yellow boy shirt.  Everyone “awwwed.”  I was such a shit.  I never had to wear that damned shirt again, though.

3. Running Away
Since Hiding was removed from my wheelhouse, I had to turn to actually running away.  I pretty much cover this here.

4. Flushing the toilet over and over
When all else fails, get them on their cheapest utility bill.  At least I think that was my reasoning – I remember being really angry and thinking, I’ll show them! and flushing the damn toilet repeatedly.  But this was no big-city toilet – we lived in the ‘burbs of Connecticut – you had to wait forever for the tank to fill.  To reenact:

I am so mad at them! How dare they tell me I can’t play outside! I’ll show them!

shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh(3 minutes later)shhhhht.



shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh(3 minutes later)shhhhht.


This is getting boring.

Voice from other side of door: “Anne-Marie, are you okay in there?”

“Yeah, mom.”



Oh, forget it.


5 Foods I Want to Send Away to the Cornfield

(Except for corn because…mmm…corn…)

Honeydew Melon
Sometimes, I don’t want a side of chips.  Most of the time, I could also pass on the creamy potato or pasta salads.  Almost always I could really go for a fruit side; but whenever I see a fruit as an option? I pass.  Do you care to guess why?  Because in deli lingo, “Fruit Side” is shorthand for “THERE IS A ZOMBIE MELON APOCALYPSE GOING ON IN MY FRUIT BOWL, AND ALL THE FRUITS AND BERRIES I LOVE ARE RUINED FOREVER.”  One honeydew.  That’s all it takes.  It spreads that god-awful, wretch-worthy flavor to everything, contaminating even the most robust of fruit flavors. Oh, they still look like strawberries and pineapple slices – that’s how it gets you.  You think, maybe this time.  The strawberry was on the top of the bowl and the honeydew was on the bottom.  There was a layer of cantaloupe and watermelon between.  Surely…Then you take a bite, and all you can taste is that stinky, tangy, I-stomped-on-an-unripe-cantaloupe-with-a-sweaty-foot flavor that robbed your poor strawberry of its essence.  It’s the most undignified way for a piece of fruit to meet its end.

There is no fruit in the world I hate more than you, honeydew.  If you were a person, I’d tie your shoelaces together and kick you down the stairs.  Except you’d make the entire building stink.  Screw you, honeydew.

I was first introduced to quinoa when someone told me that it was super-healthy, being loaded with fiber and protein and was basically a vegan’s dream.  Being one to look for healthy alternatives to meat for protein, I decided to give this trendy little dish a try.  Looking like it was farmed on Mars during the Total Recall era, I was a little fearful upon taking the first bite.  Keeping an open mind, I pushed negative thoughts out of my mind as I ate.  I tried.  I tried really hard to like this new thing, but all I could think was, “I am eating a bowl of those silicon packets they stick in electronics.”  You know, the ones they tell you aren’t food?  Which by the way, may be a sign we are really freaking stupid as a society – who the hell opens the box to their receiver, sees a silicon packet and thinks – “Hey, free food – BONUS! I was just thinking I wanted to nom on some silicon pellets…”

For those of you who do want to nom on silicon, know you can safely satisfy that craving with Quinoa. No matter what you try to do to it, it blands up the place.  It’s they anti-honeydew in that respect.  Where honeydew forces its flavor on everything it comes in contact with, quinoa takes the flavor away.  I tried a southwest salad with quinoa, black beans, corn, and some other stuff, and despite my love for all of the other ingredients, the quinoa robbed the dish of its flavor.

Also? For the record, it’s barely better than brown rice in terms of fiber and protein, which tastes far better as an accompaniment.  Also? There are really yummy alternatives for protein in the vegan world – like gazpacho beans.  Don’t torture yourself with this horrible stuff if you don’t have to.

Sunflower Seeds
I am nothing if not a lazy eater of food.  I have been known to turn down an orange because “it’s too much work for too little reward.”  As you can imagine, I generally don’t like foods where you spend inordinate amounts of time removing a pit or a shell.  On top of this, I also am grossed out by any food that involves spitting. Finally, I hate foods that make a mess that no one seems to care about.  I can trace this particular issue to a traumatic episode from my childhood where I slipped on peanut shells at the Ground Round during a birthday party, falling on my ass and exposing my Strawberry Shortcake underwear for all to see.

Sunflower seeds contain all the things I generally hate about food – you crack open that tiny little shell, only to find a tinier little seed of food with little flavor.  Many people stick the entire thing in their mouth to crack the shell, and spit it out. Over and over, like a cartoon character, spitting out watermelon seeds like a machine gun.  Blech (And for the record, I also hate watermelon).  What then gets me, is how many people don’t toss the shells in the garbage.  When I had my god-awful job at a tux rental place, I would find random sunflower seeds everywhere as I cleaned every night.  Who does this?? Why is this acceptable?

Bok Choy
Cantonese for “let’s rip people off by shoving tasteless filler in their General Tso,” bok choy is known to ruin any good Chinese meal when it is used excessively.  Here in Phoenix Metro, we are lacking in good Chinese restaurants (the biggest exception being the excellent Golden Buddha at the Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix), and I say this because 90% of the Chinese restaurants in a 15 mile radius of my house either use a 1:1 ratio of meat to bok choy, or have given me food poisoning.  That’s not a good statistic.

Bok choy also has toxic effects – did you know that?  It can make you nauseous and dizzy if you have too much of it. But why would you? Hurrff.

Raisins are basically the Adam Levine of food: they would be fine if they only appeared in a few select baked goods, but they pop up just about everywhere and make their unique texture and flavor seem tired and overdone.  Too much.  Cookies.  Yeast breads.  Quick breads.  Cinnamon rolls.  Stereo Hearts. Oatmeal. Cereals.  And on the subject of cereals, the only cereal as a kid that could hold a candle to the disappointment of Frosted Mini-Wheats was Raisin Bran.  Because there is nothing like soppy bran flakes with a bad milk-life mixed with stale, mummified grapes.

Another bad thing about raisins? They cause renal failure in dogs.  What’s worse about this fact? They have no idea what in grapes/raisins causes this. A little too mysterious, if you ask me.


N.F.W.: Our New Gossip Commentary!

Even Stock Photo Girl Says, "No. F-ing. Way!"

Here at Menacing Kitten Headquarters, when we’re not drinking Chocotinis, heating inedible frozenstuff, or drooling over James Marsden, we are talking gossip.  We love our blind gossip from Crazy Days and Nights, our “Ding-Dang Y’all, Brittany’s Eating Wings!” exposés of TMZ, and our snarkilicious Dirt Bag from Jezebel.  Because gossip and schadenfreude are dishes best served with said Chocotinis, we decided to start our own little gossip commentary: N.F.W. as in No.F-ing.Way.  Why? Because, OMG, everyone loves an acronym.

So what is going on in the Celeb World on this fine day? Well, there are three stories circling the water cooler at the moment:

An entertainment show recently spent an entire half an hour to tell me that Tom and Katie broke up. I know: N.F.W.  Who saw this coming? (Put your hand down Mimi Rodgers, and you too, World).  The entertainment show showed me footage of Oprah visiting Tom and Katie, and they totally looked happy and gave her moccasins. And then Oprah hugged them.  How could they fail? I know, Entertainment Show, I know.  They touched the hem of her garment, yet they were not made whole.  This is really challenging my faith.

Now, both TMZ and Rupert Murdoch are stating that the Church of Scientology is stalking Katie.  According to their credible sources who are photographing her apartment and wiretapping her phones 24-7, this is REALLY CREEPY. Apparently these sources bumped into someone else skulking in the bushes and they were like, who the hell are you? And the person was like, I’m the totally heterosexual, engram-free gardener! And then they were like SCIENTOLOGIST! **snaps photo**

Once upon a time, there was a morning news show that dominated all morning news shows.  Ruled by the jingle-riffic Katie, Matt, Al and Ann quatrofecto (is that a word? If not, it is now), it was a pleasant show that delivered news in that non-threatening, pre-Regis and Kelly (or was it Kathie Lee?) way, but still managed to get the point across.  In this fair land, reporters gave families a little space after their grief.  They’d wait a few days, possibly a few weeks to allow a family to properly mourn, and they’d have a sit-down interview all in good time.

I remembered the exact moment when this changed.

Following Columbine, Katie Couric sat down with two family members who lost a loved one to the tragedy only a day prior.  At the time, I felt uncomfortable that the Today show procured an interview with someone in mourning so fresh on the heels of tragedy.  Was this appropriate? Was this sensational? I wasn’t entirely sure.  The family’s story brought me to tears, but I couldn’t help but wonder if we should be seeing this.  Even now, I’m not sure what my answer is.

This interview was a defining moment for Couric, and it seemingly changed the landscape of reporting and interviews – everyone clamored after the mourning, looking to get that unforgettable, tears-inducing, ratings bonanza moment.

Fast forward 13 years, and morning news has gone meta – the Today Show, still a part of NBC news but looking more like the Entertainment Show mocked above, decides nothing would be more delicious than to feed the ratings beast the bland diet of everyone’s favorite Human Quinoa, Ann Curry.  Yes, Ann Curry, who has been a loyal employee to the ‘Cock for years, had the pleasure of seeing her name plastered all over the gossip rags thanks to some carefully placed leaks saying she sucked and her bosses wanted her out.  She got to read stories about how her colleague of just as long wouldn’t sign a long term contract unless they booted her.  And then she got to step on television at the height of this feeding frenzy her bosses salivated over, to say through tears that she was canned and her dreams have been shattered.  Then every employee of NBC News made a bully circle around her and pushed her back and forth amongst each other while calling her names and breaking her glasses.  Pig’s blood was dropped from the rafters, a good time was had by all.

I’ll be the first to admit, I haven’t really watched the Today Show in years, and I felt Curry was an odd fit for that role.  She always came across as a low-key, down-to-earth kind of chick. That sort of personality just doesn’t fly when on one side of you there’s Matt Lauer interviewing the Kardashians promoting their new Klassy Krap Kamp for Klepto Kids, and Al Roker’s over there on the other side, puppeteering a live lobster as Guy Fieri or whoever the fuck is making Pop Star Poppers for that American Idol finale party you had no intention of throwing.  Look, I used to really enjoy Today – I don’t even mind some of the fluff. But after seeing all of this BS, how can you place it all on Ann Curry? The way they handled her exit is all you need to know about the state of the Today Show and where it’s headed. And NBC – the hell? Is it even remotely possible for you to handle a high-profile firing with even a modicum of decency or common sense?

Again - N.F.W.! A charming silver fox who I’ve had a crush on yet always knew in my heart of hearts it would never be reciprocated told everyone he is gay.  The world minus Gawker was like, we all kind of knew this and didn’t care either way, no? Because the world loves the Silver Fox, no matter who he loves.  For those who don’t love him, I don’t count you, because you probably don’t like pina coladas, white Christmases or Singin’ in the Rain either.  DEAD TO ME.  Anyway, he came out, and I long to see the day when no one cares about the gender of the person you love, and this sort of statement isn’t considered newsworthy.  On the other hand, I suppose it will remain newsworthy as long as two men or two women can’t walk around in public simply holding hands without worrying if someone is going to harass them.  Because you know what? That’s still happening.  As a nation, we are still kind of judgey Neanderthals.  Except Neanderthals probably didn’t give a shit if someone was gay.  They probably saw two gay cavemen and were like, huh, that’s a different way of going about things, shrugged their shoulders and resumed punching a bison in the face.


Picture Pages, Picture Pages

Back in the 80s and early 90s, Nickelodeon used to run a little short between shows called Picture Pages, with a very 70s-looking, groovy, (possibly stoned or more likely severely fatigued) Bill Cosby.  I used to get excited when these little shorts came on, but I felt a little left out.  I wanted to get my Picture Pages, and I’d want to get my crayons and my pencil.  The problem? No one had this damn book.  Did you? I’ll bet you didn’t.  In reality, Picture Pages was bad filler, wedged in there to pass some sort of educational programming standard.

I can almost hear the rage flowing across the internet to me:  How can you say anything bad about a Bill Cosby short? Bill F-ing Cosby.  Look, I get that he’s a national treasure and the face-popping and wow-faces are endearing; but are you telling me you enjoyed watching a grown man do a connect-the-dots for five minutes, and basically instruct you on how to do this task for a book no one owned?  If anyone can pull it off it’s Bill, but this is dry material, people.  At his best, he would throw himself into it:

“And so we’re drawing the bird house, see, go from one… to two [cue TRS-80 doople-doople-doople sound effect for the magic marker] to…anyone? That’s right…three! Now… we have… a bird house! And there’s the cat, Mr. Catimus Maximus, he’s down here saying, ‘Shnazzle-dazzle! I can’t get to the Bird!’ and the bird, Mr. Borderline B. BlueBird, says, ‘Shmackum-whackum! I’m in my house!’ [face pop]”

He tried so hard to make this exciting, despite probably filming 800 of these damn shorts in a single 24-hour period.  At least that’s how they came across:

[and tell me at 2:52 Bill was not high]

He and little Mortimer Marker didn’t only do connect the dots; apparently that was too complicated for kids.  So, they had kids draw lines to a happy earth and a sad, garbage-filled earth.

My train of thought as I watch this:
Hey! That’s one psychedelic fez Bill is wearing.  He’s like Doctor Who – fezes are cool!  Oh, it’s a dunce cap.  That’s disappointing.  Camille! OMG! The famous Camille.  She’s so pretty! She looks a little like a cross between Lisa Bonet and Maya Rudolph.  That’s kind of weird…wow, that’s some uninspired line-reading there.  I wonder if they film this in their basement.  Aw, he loves her. How cute.  Okay, maybe she doesn’t look like Lisa Bonet so much… oh my God, I’m eagerly anticipating the Mortimer sound…I wanted that marker so bad as a stocking stuffer.  Yeah, they don’t even care at this point – with pages like J-5 and Uu-1, how many picture pages were there anyway?  I bet they did these all back to back, and when they started botching lines they were like “f- it, the kids don’t give a shit, they’re probably eating their crayons right now anyway.”  Of course they wouldn’t really say that, because Bill Cosby doesn’t curse…I bet page Zy-43 broke his soul. I want to see that outtake.  Not that I relish in Bill Cosby’s broken soul – that’s pretty f-ing un-American – I just want to know how much worse these can get, because they are close to rock bottom right now…it’s kind of like when your least-stable relative is trying to keep their shit together at Thanksgiving and they’re like, “I’m happy! Everyone is happy!” and they’re just itching to run out of the dining room to smoke five packs of Camels on the patio…I bet they brought in Camille at last minute to help Bill “get through” this last stretch.  I can’t believe we make fun of Asian TV shows.  There’s a dude in Kyoto right now laughing his ass off at this, wondering why American programming is so weird…There’s a top comment on YouTube saying “the generation today needs programs like this.”  That is such a YouTube comment.

All that said, if someone could auto-tune this, I think it would be the most awesome thing ever.  Just saying. I have a submissions email, you know.

The Queens of the In Crowd

*Names with an asterisk have been changed

Our bus rolled up to the campgrounds, and we all filed out of the bus in the most angsty teenager way possible.  Too cool for school, too cool for nature.  I looked around.  For one week, I’d be stuck in the middle of the woods with a bunch of kids I tried to avoid every day.  Great.

They had let us know ahead of time that there would be two cabins per gender, and we got to pick our bunkmate.  I shared a bunk with my best friend Rachel, who gave me the top bunk.  That’s a good friend, because everyone knows the top bunk is the shit. We crossed our fingers hoping we’d get to bunk with our friends Jenique and Kelly, but we wound up being placed in a cabin with some of the Queens of the In Crowd and girls from some school in Vermont.

When dinnertime came, the teachers and counselors called us up to the common area.  We entered in, selecting our seats at long tables.  The counselor-type people explained the rules of Nature’s Classroom.  For example, we couldn’t add sugar to anything, because they wanted to torture us.  They also made a big deal of ort.  Per Merriam-Webster, ort is a morsel (or morsels) of leftover food.  They told us that all of the ort we left on our plates would be weighed, then placed in a trough and given to the pigs.  Even though it likely made the pigs happy, ort was a bad word; it was waste.  It was evidence of our spoiled culture of over-consumption.
During the ort speech, I looked over to watch one of my teachers, Mr. Leed*, standing alongside the counselor-type people at Nature’s Classroom.  I knew he was totally eating this up, leaving no ort behind.  If he had his way, he’d live at Nature’s Classroom and never leave.  Mr. Leed was an ex-hippie who often would break from his teaching to yell at us for being so spoiled and horrible.  A lot of what he said was true, but the lectures would get tiring and somewhat insulting to some of us who weren’t wealthy.  He’d go off on a rant that usually started off with, “you all go home to your four televisions and three VCRs…” Rachel would literally plug her ears.  He would often ask to see a show of hands for those of us who had cable or more than one television, then berate us for being so over-privileged – as if everyone who raised their hand told the truth.  There were a lot of well-off kids in our school, and your family’s perceived lack of wealth could be used against you.  In Nature’s Classroom, however, we were all equals – until we decided we were better than the kids from Vermont.

After eating and braving through a gaggle of 13 year-old girls trying to shower with a limited hot water supply, Rachel and I arrived back in our cabin.  The Vermont Girls were on one side of the cabin, and the Queens of the In Crowd were on the other.  There was a lot of whispering and sneering.  One of the Queens who usually looked me over as if I wore a dirty potato sack gave us a catty smile and waved us over to the group.  “Hey guys, come over here!”  We walked towards the circle, and they filled us in on the atrocities the Vermont Girls had committed in the short amount of time it took us to take a shower.  “They looked at us and rolled their eyes!” One said.  “I tried to talk to one of them and they were all like, ‘ugh’” Said another, mimicking extreme snootiness.  Even though a little voice in my head was warning me that these girls were up to no good, the larger voice in my head thought, “the popular girls are talking to us; This is our chance to get ‘in’ and be perceived as normal! Maybe they’re not so bad!” So I widened my eyes, and replied with astonishment.  “Oh, my God; Really?? How rude!”  The battle lines were drawn.

We all side-eyed each other until the lights went out.  Once it was dark, the nastiness began.  It started with whispering, chatting and giggling even though we were supposed to go to sleep.  The chaperone in the room was a teacher from the Vermont school, so clearly she was the enemy.  When the Vermont Girls would giggle, one of our girls would giggle back loudly, mocking them.  One Queen threw something over to their side of the cabin.  This went on for a couple of hours, despite being yelled at by the chaperone several times.

The next morning, I felt bad.  I’ve had my moments of nastiness before, believe me – but I did not want to be a Mean Girl.  I just wanted to have a lot of friends, and I felt pretty horrible that I stepped on a couple of seemingly nice strangers to try to get there.  Rachel engaged in this activity the least, because she was an awesome person.  She listened to the Queens and smiled, but she never engaged in cattiness.  I, on the other hand, laughed at the jabs, and woke up knowing I was a jerk.  Why did we attack these girls?

As we began to assemble for a very important and educational class on bubble-making, two of the Vermont Girls walked up to me.  “Why is everyone being so mean to us? We didn’t do anything.”

“I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense. I think we thought that you were being mean to us? It’s really stupid, isn’t it?”  Yes. I appointed myself Ambassador of the In Crowd.

A couple of Queens walked up to join us.  Before you know it, everyone was laughing and chirping, and everyone suddenly acted as if we were all the bestest of friends.  A détente had been reached.

Once Nutmegger v. Green Mountaineer was settled, we had other moments of drama to contend with.  As usual, the sub-group I was placed in for a number of activities was punished for being horrible human beings.  The worst punishment occurred during a nature walk while it was raining.  The counselor had it with people acting up, and she made us get in a “human knot” to get us to work better as a team.  We were drenched, annoyed, and weren’t allowed to head back for dinner until we could get out of the human knot.  My aversion to any and all team-building activities can be traced directly back to this moment.

The majority of activities we had to do were your typical summer camp activities; we had nature walks, put on a talent show, and had an archaeology dig where we excavated a mud-caked can of Schlitz and a cigarette butt.  The highlight of the activities was learning how to sign to the song “The Rose,” which we all showed off and performed for our classmates.  This appealed to many of us, because every young girl wants to learn sign language and/or Braille after reading a book on Helen Keller or watching Mary go blind on Little House on the Prairie.

As Nature’s Classroom progressed, the mood deteriorated.  Rachel and I got snippy with each other because quite frankly, I was a bitch.  Jenique and Kelly were getting irritated as bunkmates because Kelly had to crack every last joint in her body before she went to sleep each night.  It rained too much, and the shower situation was on the verge of creating an all-out pimp-slapdown.  Then there was the ort.  Oh, yes, that freaking ort.

After a meal on one of our last days, the counselors stood in the front of the commons area looking devastated.  Mr. Leed was slowly morphing into the Incredible Hippie Hulk.  A Sadface Counselor made the announcement – the ort weighed in at a whopping 10 pounds.  Our waste was the size of a large baby; a large, granola-crusted, raisin-eyed, sugarless baby.  According to them, this was unprecedented in the history of Nature’s Classroom.  Sadface Counselor looked like we just sacrificed a baby polar bear before her eyes.  Mr. Leed, ever the bastion of self-restraint, couldn’t hold back his wrath for another second.  He tore into his most impassioned “6 televisions, 4 VCRs” speech yet, craftily working in global hunger and the destruction of mankind, attributing all impending evil in the world to my selfish, wasteful, ortful generation.  We were evil.  We were horrible, evil children with too many VCRs!  It was one of those rage-induced speeches where the room is so awkwardly quiet at the end, your Asshole Brain wants you to say something incredibly inappropriate and sarcastic just to see if the screamer completely loses their shit and starts flipping tables or throwing chairs.  Even in my preadolescent angst, a.k.a. the Golden Age of Asshole Brain, I valued my life enough to remain quiet and pretended to look shamed and mournful.  It’s not that Mr. Leed was completely wrong in his message; it’s just that it’s inappropriate to blame an entire group for things a few people do.  Or conversely, blame a few people for the ills of their entire generation.  You’d think an ex-hippie would get that.

On the last night of Nature’s Classroom, as usual Vermont hung out on their side, and we hung out on our side.  Despite the giggly détente earlier in the week, the damage was done.  We sat on a Queen’s bed and talked about things.  We sang “Kokomo,” and told secrets.  We talked about the boys we had a crush on.  They prodded Rachel and me for our crushes – Rachel never gave in, but of course, I did.  I’ve always said that I was a naïve kid; if you told me you’d keep a secret, I’d believe you.  I felt like I bonded with the Queens; I didn’t think we’d all exchange phone numbers and become besties, but I figured I talked enough with them to earn “fellow breathing human” status.

The morning after Ortgate, we were all overly conscious of what was on our plates.  No one wanted to be yelled at for 20 minutes again.  A couple of the Vermont girls sat across from Rachel and me and we chatted over breakfast.  We talked about music, and one of the girls said her two favorite bands were The Cars and Van Halen – my two favorite bands, both decidedly “uncool” in my junior high (it was Van Hagar era, mind you).  As we talked, I realized that I really blew an opportunity to get to know a very nice person who shared my interests.  I was the worst kind of Mean Girl – I was a follower.

At the end of the meal, Mr. Leed had the look of supreme self-satisfaction.  The counselors stood up to make a joyful announcement:  We hardly left ANY ort, and it weighed in at an unprecedented low number.  Do you ever feel this sort of thing is planned? Anyway, I guess the pigs starved.  Yay, nature!

We said goodbye to the Vermont Girls, who were probably (and rightfully) thinking, “whatever, bitches,” and hopped on the bus to go home.  As we pulled away from Nature’s Classroom and made our way back home, our lives slowly morphed into the people we were prior to the trip.  We turned on 7 of our 8 televisions, kicked 3 of our 4 VCRs, took long, hot showers, and still had occasional food fights in the cafeteria.  I apparently put my dirty potato sack back on as we all went our separate ways and fell back into the cliques we were meant to be in.  I’d say I was disappointed, but it didn’t really bother me.  Everything I really wanted in friendship I found in Rachel and my other friends, and I didn’t have to laugh at other people to stay in their good graces.  So, I accepted my potato sack status, shrugged my shoulders, and learned that some people just won’t accept you as you are; and you know what? That’s their problem.  I was lucky to have friends that did, and truthfully I didn’t want it any other way.


The Workday Scorecard

Once in a while, you can point to one event in your workday that makes it or breaks it – you totally kicked ass on a project? Awesome day!  Someone kicked your ass on a project? Hello evening of cheap boxed wine and chocolate!  As with life, the quality of your day is usually not determined by huge events, but by tallying up a bunch of little things.  After many, many years of being in the workforce, I’ve got the workday scorecard down to a science:

Picking up a Starbucks Skinny Cinnamon Dolce on the way in: +5
You spill the coffee on your white pants while driving: -5
…and it’s on the crotch: -5

School’s out, snowbirds are gone, the freeway is wide open: +10
A single broken-down Volkswagen Beetle on the side of the freeway causes a 5 mile long traffic jam: -10
…and then you receive an alert text stating a bunch of shit just broke at work: -20

You have a row of seats to yourself on the bus: +15
Standing room only, and the guy in the wife-beater next to you is covered in multiple open sores: -40
…and has shag carpet-level back hair. -5

Work from home today!: +40
Work from home forever.: -30 (ok, to be fair, it’s really -10 for each month you are deprived of human contact with a maximum cap of -30…)

Seeing the toilet seat up in the bathroom stall, because it means you’re the first to use it since it’s been cleaned: +5
Seeing unflushed carnage in the toilet with 900 soggy sheets of crumpled TP: -10

Free Bagels and honey nut cream cheese shmear!: +10
IT gets to them first. -10

There’s a puppy in the office!: +20
There are kittens in the office!: +15
There’s a baby in the office.: 0

There’s a bat in the office: -20
But the bat is on a different floor: +30

Listening to Dan Patrick on the radio: +10
Then Jim Rome or Colin Cowherd comes on: -10

Going to lunch and the newbie at Subway inadvertently gives you more than their mandated WWII-era ration of meat: +20
Going to lunch and the newbie at Subway inadvertently wipes his nose before grabbing your sandwich to cut it: -20

Having your lunch stolen: -20
Bringing in an irresistible-looking Ex-Lax Brownie as revenge.  And it gets stolen: +30

Having a bathroom completely to yourself so you don’t have to feel self-conscious about pooping: +10
When the prior person leaves in a stink, and everyone thinks you’re the one who ate napalm chili for lunch: -10

Political Junkie Wednesdays on Talk of the Nation: +20
Followed by an All Things Considered segment on native basket weaving on the island of Tobago: -5

Responding to a friendly “how you doin’” from a co-worker you pass in the hall: +5
When said co-worker responds with your own “how you doin’” with “it’s been pretty depressing, but no one died on me today, so I guess that’s a plus…”: -15 (yes, really.)

Clear-cut and reasonable dress code policies: +10
The endless battle between The Capri and Flip-Flop Rebel Alliance of Freedom and Human Resources: -5

When the most power-mongering, condescending person in the company rips a 5.5-Richter, Fire-in-the-Hole Fart in their bathroom stall: +30
(There really is no counter to that.  I was a witness of such an event at an old job, and it carried me to the end of the day. Because I’m 8.  And yes,  I do spend a considerable amount of time in the bathroom at work.)

Getting caught up on email: +20
Opening your email after being gone from your desk for five minutes to discover 10 emails of correspondence with the same subject line: -5
…and Ted Gatlin is one of the senders: -10

Do you have any items to add to the scorecard? Post them below!

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