Makin’ it Rain Plastic

[Originally posted on Aug 5, 2012]

“Do you want to save 15% today and sign up for our JC Penney card?”

Little did I know at the time, my answer to this question would adversely change the year that lay ahead of me.

“Sure.”

I filled out the little application and low and behold, I was now on the credit grid.  Leading up to college, my mother would often warn me about the perils of credit cards and charge cards.  I heeded her advice, until I realized everyone around campus was having a lot of fun thanks to their credit line.  Cute clothing, good food – they were living the good life! I wanted a piece of that pie.  Minimum payments were reasonably low – I could figure out a way to make a monthly payment, right?

I loved that shiny little JC Penney card; following classes, I would head up to Our Lady Queen of Shopping, buy adorable outfits, and show them off to fellow Believer Emily.  It was a ritual we relished.

Alas, my JC Penney card felt lonely in my wallet – I mean, it’s not like there was any cash in there to keep it company.  So, I did what any logical person would do – I signed up for another credit card.  Besides, it’s not like you can buy food at JC Penney.  A girl’s gotta eat!  The good times kept coming, so I kept the credit flowin’.

It occurred to me as I watched my savings disappear that this was not a wise path to be on.  After a particularly intense bender where I bought a 24-piece knife set – for my dorm room – I realized I needed help.  I took the bus to Emily’s apartment, clutching the knife set in my arms as I knocked on her door.  She opened her door, took a look at the shopping bags at my feet and shook her head.  She understood these things.  I walked inside. She may have wrapped a blanket around me.

“I need to do it, Emily.  I need to cut the card.”

We walked over to her kitchen and I took out the shears that were included in my knife set.  It was like a Greek Tragedy – I was killing my card with the very thing it gave me.  Emily stared at me as I held the scissors over the card.  “Hold on,” Emily made us pause.  “I feel like this is a moment for you…Okay.”

I cut a diagonal line through the plastic, and we both gasped.  A relic to our place of worship and I just destroyed it.  It needed to be done.

Unfortunately, credit cards have a way of haunting you long past their destruction.  My minimum payments depleted my savings and I began to miss payments on the JC Penney card.  I continued to pay my regular credit card bill, knowing that I couldn’t afford to lose that line of credit.  All semester long, I tried to find a job, but thanks to a spread out class schedule and a lack of reliable transportation, no one wanted to hire me.  I turned to the lowest job a college student could have and arguably the worst one for someone with social anxiety: telemarketing.  Oh, and not just any telemarketing – alumni fundraising for the college.

I sat on the phone reading a script to Fine Arts graduates, espousing the importance of donating $1000 to the College of Broke People Fine Arts.  Everyone I called was poor and bitter, yet I had to go down the script and ask them for $500, then $250, then $250 with a mention of a matching gift by their employer, then $125, then $125 and what about our payment plan? Then $100.  $100, to improve the value of your degree? You don’t need to laugh in my ear, sir. And I don’t appreciate being called a – hello?  When we initially called, we had to lie and say the university wanted to receive feedback from alumni on how it could improve, then we’d go in for the kill and ask for the donations.  It sucked so hard.  I became so nervous making calls, my voice cracked and my hands shook.  At one point, I spent 20 minutes talking to a nice man in Seattle and never asked for a dime because he sounded so happy just to talk to someone without being asked to give something.

While working at the telemarketing gig, my finances got worse.  JC Penney sent me to a collection agency, and my credit card company got wind of it.  I called in just to find out my PIN, and they cancelled my card on the spot.  I literally started sobbing and my sort-of boyfriend at the time tried talking to them on my behalf to get them to reconsider.  Obviously, they did not, and just like that I had no money.  All but $20 a month of my money from the telemarketing place went to paying down my cards and getting the collection agency off my back.  Since UofA didn’t do meal plans, that $20 was used for my food budget for the month.  Tired of Top Ramen, I stocked up on bulk spaghetti and a jar of Ragu.  I literally ate about 200 calories a day to ensure I had something every day until the next paycheck came in.  I actually felt like this system worked for me.

The telemarketing place had a snafu in their check-cutting one week, and told us on payday we had to wait an extra two days for our checks.  I literally ran out of food the night before and I panicked.  I was somewhat on the outs with that sort-of boyfriend and didn’t feel comfortable asking him to buy me a sandwich.  The idea of semi-prostituting myself for food felt kind of wrong.  Everyone else I knew had money problems, and I couldn’t dream of asking for their help.

I woke up the next morning starving.  I did the unthinkable – I went down to the community refrigerator, and decided I was going to steal someone else’s food.  Just as I began to reach for a freezer-burned Van de Kamp, someone walked into the kitchen, and I tried to play off my crime by doing the worst acting job ever.  “Oh, someone…um…stole my food.  Damn it!”

Suspicious glare.

“See ya!”  I ran off, never to return to the dorm kitchen ever again.

I walked down Fraternity Row to head to the Music building, wondering how I was going find food.  Before me, a familiar sight took on new meaning to me – the Holsum Bread Truck was delivering bread to one of the frat houses.  I saw it every day, with its plentiful loaves of bread, unguarded and a few mere steps away from my thieving paws.  My eyes rested on one particular loaf of bread.  I’d have to hop on the truck to reach it, but it wasn’t too far in… oh bread, I could make several meals of you…

I looked around.  There were a few people walking further down the street.  Would they notice? Would they do anything?  How long is the bread guy away from this vehicle? Why did I never make note of that before, damn it? What would my classmates think if I carried around a loaf of bread all day?  Because I am apt to spend more time ruminating than actually doing, I pictured getting caught by the bread guy.  I imagined the campus police cuffing me as I protested, “I was only trying to steal a loaf of bread! I’m trying to pay off my JC Penney card! My company didn’t pay me when they were supposed to…Noooooo!” Then I’d get reported in the campus Police Blotter, and I’d be forever known as Jean Valjean Girl or some bullshit.  As if my social anxiety didn’t make me weird enough to people, Bread Thief just seemed that much weirder.

I looked again at that bread.  My stomach growled.  The loaves looked so fluffy and soft; I wanted to dive into the lot of them and roll around, loaves squishing underneath me as I double fisted hot dog buns. Ahh, the life. But? Jean Valjean Girl.  I just couldn’t do it.  I continued on to class, watching people snack on candy bars and eegee’s, taking every bite for granted.  This must be how my labrador retriever felt when we made him “stay” until he drooled.  Sorry, Dunder; that was a shitty thing to do.

I returned to my dorm room, knowing I had one final option to hold me over. I opened my little fridge and looked at the only item holding residence: a half-empty bottle of blue cheese dressing.  Well, there are chunks in it; that’s kind of like food…

I held the bottle up to my lips, toasting to no one: I am never fucking owning a credit card ever again…

It would have gone great with bread.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Les Miserables – Hollywood, Please Don’t F this Up

Les Miz fans have been waiting for years – years! – to see the musical come to the big screen.  I am no exception – I first saw Les Miserables at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway when I was in high school.  We went on a field trip to see it, and it was so moving and engaging, even the metalheads and punk guys in my class dug it.  They all bought the soundtrack and would start reciting parts of it at random times (the Javert/Valjean confrontation was a particular favorite – and is apparently also a favorite of Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segal and OK Go).  As for me, I am not a huge musical theater person, but I fell in love with Les Miz because it wasn’t your typical goofy musical.  Like Phantom of the Opera, it’s more like a modern day opera and tells a beautiful tale of redemption.  I owned both the Broadway soundtrack and the Complete Symphonic Recording, and there was a point in my life I could recite all three hours of the musical by heart.  I have no doubt I am but one of many, many fans who can do that.

Now that we are finally getting our beloved musical on the big screen, I’m naturally getting a little nervous about the execution.  Let’s face it; Hollywood is consistently good at two things – blowing shit up and destroying adaptations. Just seeing the word “adaptation” makes me break out in hives.  The worst-case scenario for me is if they killed a big chunk of the musical aspect of Les Miz.  Due to staging, I understand they have to make a few changes.  Because people love the Epic CGI Battle where a shitload of people/animals/manimals run down two hills to collide and get shot with arrows and knocked off of horses and shit in a grand orgy of violence, I am truly cringing at what the French Revolution battle scene could look like.  I’ll deal with it.  Hollywood, I know you need your Tolkein Fight Scene in every movie with a battle (Get it? Ha! …erm…sorry….).  Fine.  But if the libretto and key songs are significantly changed or removed? Your Les Miz Frankenzombie is dead to me.  Unless you actually make it a zombie adaptation, because I’m not sure I can resist that.

At any rate, I’d like to share my thoughts on some of the casting:

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean:  As the cast started to get leaked/unveiled to the world, I found myself thinking, “I love all of these actors, but for this? I don’t know…I hope it works…” I love Hugh Jackman.  Who doesn’t? My friends, I saw that damned Van Helsing movie – in the theater – just for him (to the movie’s credit, it’s still better than X-Men 3, which I also sat in a theater for).  But is he Jean Valjean? Can he sing “2-4-6-0-Ooooonnnne!!!!” at the end of “Who am I?” Or the sweet falsetto of “Bring Him Home?” Then I came across this on YouTube.    He’s totally Jean Valjean!  Now? I can’t wait.

Russell Crowe as Javert:  I have never seen a Russell Crowe movie I didn’t like (although I wasn’t a huge fan of Gladiator – as you can guess by my assessment of the Tolkein Fight Scenes above, it’s not my cup of tea), and I think he’s a fine actor.  For the acting piece of the movie, he’s going to own the shit out of Javert – I have no doubt of this.  I haven’t heard him sing this style of music, so I don’t know what to expect.  That said, Crowe has been tweeting awesomeness under a #lesmis hashtag, and it appears he is really, really digging the role.  This has me kind of excited and reassured.

Anne Hathaway as Fantine: I love Anne Hathaway, to the point where I am intrigued by her playing Catwoman in the upcoming Batman movie.  For this however? Ehhh… I don’t know.  Fantine pre-French Whore was beautiful and had an enchanting smile, so Anne certainly fits that description, but the one screenshot I’ve seen of her from the movie isn’t working for me, and it has nothing to do with her personally.  She looks more like she’d be in an alt-folk act touring in 90s-era Lilith Fair than a destitute prostitute.  Overall, the picture is confusing to me – by the time she sold her hair (for 10 francs – it pays a debt, 10 francs may save my poor Coseeetttte!) and saw Valjean again, she was already sick from TB. Here she’s looking pretty healthy and not quite grotesque. I dunno.  At the same time, it’s a musical; how many people break into song right before they die from TB?? You need to suspend a little disbelief.  She does have a lovely singing voice, so we’ll see, I guess.

Amanda Seyfried as Cosette: I will admit right now – I know who she is, but I have never seen anything she has been in, so I have no idea if she can act or has the voice for Cosette.  I personally would have liked to see Emmy Rossum in this role (who was great in Phantom), but I’m open to it.  Honestly, in the musical, Cosette is the most boring of the leads, so I’m pretty indifferent.

Samantha Barks as Eponine: I am so delighted they chose one of the best Eponines from the musical’s run to play this role.  If you haven’t heard her, Barks will bring you to tears when she sings “On My Own.”  She’s awesome.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thenardiers: Hell, hell yes to this.  I really don’t know what else to say other than this is particularly great casting and I’m eagerly awaiting to see them be simultaneously hilarious and repulsive in their respective roles.

Eddie Redmayne as Marius: I know nothing about this actor other than he has a great voice for the role (based on my YouTube research).  I just want to point out that if this was made even 7-10 years ago, My Celebrity Boo James Marsden would have made the best Marius.  He’s handsome, and his voice reminds me of Michael Ball, who received the Kanye Award for Best Marius Pontmercy of ALL TIME.  Even 10 years ago, Marsden would have been technically too old to play Marius, but he looks much younger than he actually is and I would have loved to see it.  Of course, this would have resulted in me standing up in the middle of the theater during “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” calling out to the screen, “I LOVE YOU JAMES MARSDEN!! YOU CAN SIT AT MY TABLE ANY TIME!!” Which would not only ruin one of the most dramatic moments in the movie, it would unleash the worst innuendo ever into the world.  And I’d get kicked out.

…While we’re on this topic, can we make an X-Men: The Musical happen, so I can get Hugh Jackman and James Marsden singing together onscreen? Sure, the fanboys would hate it, but still? Better than X-Men 3.

Going back to Les Miz, Redmayne’s voice is killer for the part.  If they do Les Miz right and it’s a hit, I have a feeling teenage girls will swoon for him after all of this.  I feel really old saying that…

Les Miz fans? Let me know what you’re thinking about the movie or the cast below in the comments.

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