Thursday, March 30, 2006

I hate you and I don't even know you

"I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. I don't even know you, but I hate you. I hope all the bad things in life happen to you and nobody else. " --Dave Chappelle as Silky Johnson in the Player Haters' Ball sketch

On Tuesday I attempted to withdraw money from one of my bank's ATMs and the fucker shut down on me. Spit out my card, but no cash. Still, the money was shown as being withdrawn from my account. I know in the grand scheme of things, $60 is not a big deal. But right now, that's a lot of money to me. Money is tight for me and I had calculated very carefully how much money I could withdraw.

Obviously, I called the bank, they assured me everything would be fine. Liars! All was not fine, and after another phone call, I was again told everything would be fine. Another lie! Today, I got to deal with two rude bank employees, one of whom told me I would have to go to the bank with the offending ATM to work this out.

Suffice it to say, I was upset. I thought a lot about my mom, what she would say to me in this situation, and I was fully focusing all my concentration on a) not losing it with the bank employees and b) not falling into an endless hole of self-pity and why-me-ness.

Most women, at some point in their lives, will be patronizingly told to "smile!" by a male whom she does not know. It happens to me at least once a year and every time it does, I stare dumbfounded before awkwardly laughing. I have always wanted to have some sort of snappy, witty comeback to said douchebags.

Today, as I grumped my way towards the bank, the sun shining, birds singing, spring clearly arrived at last, focusing all my power on not screaming or bursting into tears, a man walked past me and said, "Smile!" Did he really just say that to me? To me??? I turned and yelled over my shoulder, "Fuck you!" and kept walking. Witty, no. But I think it got my point across. (Matlock later suggested, and I like this, "Why, are you going to take a fucking picture?")

At the bank, the nice lady told me that she couldn't understand why the customer service people on the phone had sent me here - after all, she just winds up calling them. I filed a claim for my $60 with her help. I am entirely lacking in any confidence that I will get my money back and fully expect to have to call the bank another four or five times before they refuse to correct the problem.

I wish I could keep my money under my mattress. And I sure hope that the next time some dude tells me to smile, I will tell him where to go.

The Writ is the Writ

This week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether or not the Bush administration may allow trials before military commissions, and whether or not the Court had any jurisdiction over the matter following legislation which stripped the courts of any power over the issue.

To narrow it for you, let me explain that Osama bin Laden's former driver will be tried before a military commission. If he is convicted of conspiracy, of which he is accused (and which is not considered a charge under the Geneva Convention), he will have a right of appeal to.... the President of the United States. Not a court. In other words, this is about the suspension of habeas corpus. People, this is some serious shit. Don't delude yourself into thinking that it doesn't effect you just because this is about "enemy combatants." Don't think for a second that the military doesn't accidentally pick up poor shmucks in the wrong place at the wrong time in Afghanistan, who have been sitting in Gitmo for years without being brought before a court.

Luckily, Justice Souter is on the case. The Times quoted him when he got pissy with Solicitor General Clement: "The writ is the writ. There are not two writs of habeas corpus, for some cases and for other cases. The rights that may be asserted, the rights that may be vindicated, will vary with the circumstances, but jurisdiction over habeas corpus is jurisdiction over habeas corpus." You tell him, Souter!

Here's what really gets me. In a piece that Morning Edition did the day of the arguments, one attorney for the government said that hey, in the 1800s, enemy combatants didn't have some of the rights they have now. So shouldn't they just be happy with what they have? Well, gosh, we used to have black people as slaves in the 1800s and they got their freedom. Then they had to get all uppity and demand civil rights. It's shameful that a government attorney would make the "they've got it better now than they did one hundred years ago" argument.

Morning Edition's Nina Totenberg covered the oral arguments, and there are a lot of good sound clips. Check it out. Proving that he has a losing argument, Clement tries to invoke 9/11. Infuriating.

Tyra Banks continues to kill my brain cells

This evening I went over to Anhabelle's house to visit his highness, Benjamino, eat corn dogs and tater tots, and of course, watch one of the white trashier shows on television (to accompany the whiskey tango buffet Anh prepared) - America's Next Top Model. Class. ee.

I should also add that we drank Hawaiian Punch (delicious) and ate jello with waaaay too much cool whip for dessert.

In any event, Mr. Ben is definitely outgrowing his Baby Pterodactyl ways - he chatters a lot and enjoys giggling, especially when he gets some of Aunt Megs' hair in his tight little grasp. We had fun.

Back to ANTM. To the right is Danielle, otherwise known as Anh's and my current favorite. This picture is from last week, but Danielle continues to win me over with her Arkansas accent, funny comments, and let's face it, the girl is hella photogenic. Go Danielle! Mostly, though, I think that Anh and I were delighted that Gina, with her nasally, on-the-verge-of-tears voice finally got the boot this week. Good riddance. Now we can all go back to hating on Jade.

You're out of luck in the soup department

Last night Wendy and I watched a repeat of Scrubs from right before Turk and Carla's wedding. JD goes to visit Tara Reid and finds out that she is dating the dude who played the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld. But the guy won't say the line, so JD tries to trick him into it.

JD: What was that line that he always said? You're out of luck in the soup department?
Soup Nazi: No soup for you!
JD: Ha! I knew it!

My friends, I am so out of luck in the soup department.

My co-worker K and I made reservations two months ago for Per Se. Our turn had finally come - this Saturday was to be the day. The only small problem? Our reservation was for 4 and we were down to 2. No biggie, right? Wrong! Per Se will not allow any change to the reservation. Downsizing to 2 people is the same as cancellation. Mad dashes to find two additional people have proved fruitless.

So I am sorry to say - no soup for us, or any other Thomas Keller goodies for that matter. Perhaps another time. I'm sorry I won't have an insanely long blog post for you on by ridiculously expensive meal.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Build Me Up Bartlecup

Saturday turned into a busy day, filled with at least one first.

I headed into New York to see my friend Marc for the first time in two and a half years. Marc moved to Poland several years ago to teach English, and he hasn't been back in quite awhile. On one of his last day's in the US, we were able to get together, but the Wild Lily Tea Room, where we were supposed to meet was closed for a private event. Boo. So instead we wound up at the a french cafe called Le Gamin on 9th Ave. We each had a very nice vat of cafe au lait and I had the nutella crepe as a snack. We talked for quite awhile, as you can imagine. Marc headed back to Poland today, but come September he will be in London for a year, getting a masters degree in linguistics.

Anyway, in the evening, I met up with Kate and Bart who joined me in New York to celebrate Pablo's birthday. We were supposed to hit Hasaki on East 9th Street, one of my favorite sushi places of all time, but by the time we got there - an hour wait. Curse you New York, and your late diners!

So we wound up at Cucina di Pesce, which is an Italian place on 4th Street and 2nd Ave. I used to frequent this neighborhood when I was in college and had a subscription to the New York Theater Workshop, but I haven't been to Cucina in about five years. Cucina was as solid and reasonably priced as ever, and we only had about a ten minute wait for a table. Plus, we got to sit in the back garden room under the giant skylight - lots of atmoshphere. The downside - the service was abyssmal.

We walked a couple of blocks south and made our way into Second on Second, which is a karaoke bar. Paul was already several sheets to the wind, but Kate and Bart did attempt to catch up to him. I have never sang at a karaoke place before - not even in a private room. So color me surprised that Bart was able to convince me to do a duet with him (I voted for "Gin & Juice," but Bartles chose "Build me up Buttercup.").

When it comes to our dearest friends' significant others, I feel it is only fair to hope for something simple - that our friend will choose someone who makes them happy, treats them well, and around whom they are themselves. I've had plenty of friends who dated jerks, plenty of friends who turned into someone else around a boyfriend or girlfriend. Kate, with her sense of humor and general quirkiness, would suddenly become demure and "normal" around the boy she dated before Bart. So I was always happy that Kate acted as crazy around Bart as she does around me, that he always has her back, and that they make each other happy. That is the base. If you happen to really like your friend's boyfriend on top of that? Gravy. So I consider myself emminently lucky that Bart is such a good friend of mine now. And that must be why I felt no shame bouncing around in front of a bar filled with strangers, howling "Why do you build me up, buttercup, baby just to let me down?!?!" alongside Bartles.

It was no Snoop D-O-Double G, but it was a pretty good preliminary outing int he karaoke world.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

So here's the premise. There are snakes. On a plane!

On Thursday's edition of All Things Considered, Robert Siegel and Melissa Block devoted a good five minutes to mocking the forthcoming film Snakes on a Plane. Snakes features Samuel L. Jackson as an FBI agent escorting a witness onto a plane, and there winds up being... snakes on the plane. I highly recommend listening to the piece - it's here.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Nothing with the word "bomb" in it

As you may recall, last weekend I spent the day in New York and did some quality research for Kate's par-tay. The evening before I did all this research I received a drunken phone call from Kate. One can detect said drunkeness immediately, as Kate loses all volume control. "Megan!!!" she screamed into the phone. "Mmm, are you out at happy hour or something?" "No! Why?" "You sound like you're having a good night." "Well.... I've had some whiskey. Bart and I have to go to a party!!!! I don't want to!!!"

Kate's had a rough month - having to deal with me every single day, which can range from fine to completely thankless, lots of wedding stress, a stolen car, sick friends, and the usual family and work stuff. And also, Kate has known my mom since she was a little girl. Sometimes I forget that people other than me, my dad and my sister lost my mom, until Wendy starts crying about something I say or Kate gets choked up. I know it makes Kate sad that my mother won't be at her wedding, as originally planned. I know it would make her sad too, Kate.

Anyway, I digress. I called Kate on Saturday to see how she was doing and give her the update on my research. Poor Katie-poo was very hung over. I won't tell you how many she had, but apparently her night went down hill once someone at the party busted out Irish car bombs. Irish car bombs are Kate kryptonite. She is powerless. Actually, she's powerless with any drink that has the word "bomb" in the title. "You can't pass out at your bachelorette party!" I said, unhelpfully. "I don't want tooooooo," she wailed. "No car bombs!" I said. "Ohhhh." This went back and forth until it was agreed that Kate must drink a gallon of water throughout the day of the party and that there would be no sake bombs and no Irish car bombs. Nothing with the word "bomb" in it.

I have heard disappointed rumblings since then from other revelers. "Tough!" I say. This is why I am the fascistic Maid of Honor. Hyper drunk Kate with no volume control? She is welcome, neigh, necessary, at the party. But too many car bombs Kate will have to sit this one out. The Bachelorette Party Dictator has spoken.

Time to Woman Up

Or, "I read the Times so you don't have to" part XIV.

Great Sunday Times today. First things first, I always enjoy the Modern Love column (oddly placed in the Sunday Style section, but whatever). Today's was no exception - a touching piece about motherhood and having to go it alone. Despite the fact that Asha Bandele is coming from a situation that I can't really relate to (married to man serving time for murder, struggling to make it as a writer, and becoming a single mom) she speaks about universal themes of fear, loneliness, failure and love. Well done.

Also in the female department, an insightful piece on why there are so few women partners at big law firms (hint: it's not just because of children).

Moving on, my man Barack Obama killed at the Gridiron Dinner this past week. The Times has an analysis of the treacherous slope an up-and-comer must travel.

And be still my heart, a great piece on NPR and the $230 million endowment they received from the McDonald's founder's widow. You know, I don't usually like to see pictures of my NPR people because I'm usually disappointed (Bob Edwards looks like, as Anhabelle once said, "a child molester"). That being said, Steve Inskeep is dreamy (even though he's not featured in this article) and Nine Totenberg (who is featured) looks just like she sounds.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Poor Care Bear

My friend Carol is one of my few friends who is entirely independent of any friend group, and since I didn't let her know about my mom, and no one else knew to call her, she didn't know and took my comment about stopping the blog last week seriously. I thought a lot of stuff the first week after I lost my mom, including, but not limited to, quitting my job, getting a tattoo, running off to Africa, and moving to New York. Sorry, C$, for the scare. I'm not quitting the blog.

Carol and I hit Taro tonight for dinner - it was her first time and she had the shrimp in walnut sauce at my goading. It was great, as usual, though the coconut creme brulee was disappointing and I think next time I'll return to the deep friend banana cheesecake (awesome).

Anyway, I'm still thinking about getting a tattoo. Suggestions are welcome, though I've already had the Steve-O thumbs up on your back idea tossed at me and that's a negatory.

Last comment - Eric Asimov from The Times has started a blog called "The Pour" and it's all about drinking wine, beer and spirits. As Ernestine Anderson would say, "my kind of man." Check it out.

Rage Against the Dying of the Light

I contemplated not cheapening my pain by talking about this in a blog. So I decided not to say anything unless I could really do her justice.

Dylan Thomas wrote "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night" as a tribute to his father, who was dying. I didn't get to ponder losing my mother. She was just gone. And I have nothing dramatic to say - our last conversation was the night before she died and it was pleasant, nondescript and ended with the typical "Love you, Mommy," "Love you, Meggie."

My mother memorized poetry. On a cold, cloudy and windy night like this, she would have quoted "The Highwayman" and said, "The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas." She was the kind of woman who read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy to her kids when they were eight-years old because she thought it was a lot more interesting than any children's book. She knew all the words to the operas Tosca and Aida (in Italian, naturally). And anytime you went up in a bet with her about some esoteric historical fact, you had to be ready to lose. Because you would.

Of course, she was also the woman who called me from her vacation last September to discuss the latest Harry Potter book. "I don't think Snape is really evil," she said in her cute little voice. She cried at Extreme Home Makeover. She was the greatest judge of human character that I will ever know. And everyone who met her loved her. She once got a card from a co-worker that read, "Merry Christmas to the woman who embodies the Christmas spirit year round." That was my mother.

I cannot halt the dying of the light, I can only stop my own loss of memory. I missed my chance to write a beautiful poem encouraging my mother to fight mortality, so I must settle for remembering and chronicling what I can. There are days when I hold my head in my hands and am crushed with how much I miss her. But I am how she made me. So I breathe in and out, get up, and go on.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

It's bigger than hip hop

Saturday I spent the day in Brookaleen and Manhattan - brunching with Philly et al. and investigating for Kate's party. In the evening, Jeeves and I went to see Dave Chappelle's Block Party. Incidentally, Rajeev, the lucky bastard, is currently in Austin at the South by Southwest Music Festival. Ah, the life of a student. Anyway, back to the movie.

Block Party chronicles Dave's attempt to throw one great concert in Bed Stuy back in the fall of 2004. He got The Roots, Erykah Badu, Mos Def (Kate and I continue to fight over whose boyfriend Mos is - I'm afraid I must insist he's mine), Talib Kweli, Kanye West, Common, Dead Prez, Jill Scott and the Fugees(!) together and threw one kick ass party in front of the Broken Angel. The film, directed by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind's Michael Gondry follows Dave as he recruits people from his hometown in Ohio to attend the concert and sets about throwing a great party.

I, of course love love love Dave Chappelle and have mourned the loss of Chappelle's Show like all fans. And not surprisingly, I loved Block Party. Kate actually saw it the same night and lamented that she would have liked more funny and less music. I understand that complaint, but I don't think Dave was trying to make a funny movie. That being said, there are plenty of funny moments. But I think the heart of the film is about music, which any fan of Chappelle's Show knows is very important to Dave. And it also addresses the democratic importance and political nature of rap - just look at the lineup. Even Kanye West with "Jesus Walks" tends to rap about subjects that aren't a part of the 50 Cent and The Game milieu of rap that's popular today. At one point in the film Dave laments that you'll never hear Dead Prez on the radio, and he proceeds to quote their lyrics. The film then cuts to DP's performance (which was incendiary and one of my favorites of the movie), and indeed, their lyrics are dead on with the theme, and more advanced than anything you'll hear on the radio:

"I'm sick of that fake thug, r & b, rap scenario all day on the radio/ Same scenes in the video, monotonous material, y’all don’t hear me though/These record labels sling our tapes like dope/ You can be next in line, and signed, and still be writing rhymes and broke/ You would rather have a Lexus, or justice, a dream or some substance? A Beamer, a necklace or freedom?"

Most of the critics agree with me on the quality - 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Highlights for me, other than every moment that Dave was being Dave, were the DP aforementioned performance, Erykah Badu, and The Roots. Of course, there's also a lot of Mos Def, and that doesn't hurt either. Entertainment Weekly, which gave it an "A," stated: "The buzz comes from the music, which has a loose, burning joy that's rare to behold in a live rap performance, and also from Chappelle's wicked prankster's glee, which spreads through the movie like a happy virus."

Ah, if only Wu Tang could have been there.

Friday, March 10, 2006

"It looks like a baboon's ass exploded on her rear end!"

Anhabelle kindly invited me over to to watch the season finale of Project Runway last night with little Benjamino, or Baby Pterodactyl as I call him (who actually slept in his swing for most of time). As always, Anh was a wonderful host and this was no exception - cheese dip, tostitos, spinach/artichoke dip, corn dogs and chicken wings. And tivo'ed America's Next Top Model. She rules.

Let me just say what Anhabelle, Dave and I all thought: Santino was robbed! Yeah, I said it. Santino, the great big Rasputin-look-alike jerk, won me over. His designs were sophisticated and beautiful. Daniel Vosovic, who has impressed me in the last few episodes as a giant douche OR a big turd sandwich (take your pick), created a completely ho-hum line which was allegely inspired by Japan and the military (saw the military influence, but where was the Japan???). Also, his model tripped over her ugly brown dress because Daniel doesn't know what the hell he is doing when it comes to hems.

Chloe, my previous favorite, was a mixed bag. Some of her dresses were straight outta 1986 Dynasty, but several of her outfits were beautiful, and perfectly sewn and fitted as ever. I especially liked the dress her model Grace wore.

Anyway, Santino is mos def headed for bigger and better things in the fashion world. Santino, your designs remind me of Max Azria, with a little Miguelina and Narcisco Rodriguez thrown in, and I can pay no higher compliment. In the mean time, Heidi Klum is still the hottest mom ever, and I still wish that Anh had befriended Tim Gunn when he bumped into her at Sephora, because I bet he'd be a lot of fun at a dinner party. Can't wait till next season. In the meantime, this Sunday I'll have The Sopranos to keep me warm.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

An Irishman and a Hawaiian walk into a grocery store.....

I thought about quitting the blog last week. But then the Times had two great articles in one day from the Dining Section and I felt it would be wrong not to share.

Trader Joe's, aka best "grocery" store ever, is opening its first Manhattan store on St. Patrick's Day. It's located in Union Square. So the Times wrote a very nice piece about the "Polynesian-themed" chain which got started in Cali back in the '70s.

And to follow that up, there's a taste test review of Irish whiskeys, just in time for March 17th. I can attest that the Knappogue Castle is quite good.