Friday, June 26, 2009

Thoughts on the Passing

Like everybody else, I was shocked to hear Michael Jackson died. I wasn't surprised — between the well-known addiction to painkillers; the surgeries; the gaunt frame; the overwhelming stress of lawsuits, debt and living inside his own head, it wasn't hard to imagine that something, eventually, was going to give and his body would be unable to withstand it — but I was shocked. I never thought about him dying. So surreal.

Also like everybody else of my generation, I taught myself the "Thriller" dance and awesomed-out in front of my TV back when MTV used to play videos. I engaged in Global Thermonuclear War against my sister Stephanie when we shared a bedroom in order to claim prime wall space for my favorite Michael Jackson poster (see previous post). I had a jacket that turned into a bag, but when it wasn't folded up, I called it my Michael Jackson jacket because it had zippers and piping and pointy shoulders. I tried to moonwalk and failed miserably. I voted for "Beat It" to win "Friday Night Video Fights." I watched the video for "Say, Say, Say" and wondered what ever happened to all the dancing hobos in the world.

Michael Jackson defined the pop culture of my youth just as much as John Hughes movies, Simon Le Bon Teen Beat posters, lace Madonna gloves, The Karate Kid, "Jessie's Girl," Henry Thomas's uttering of "penis-breath" and K-tel's Hit Explosion did. And the music in his heyday was great. The videos were legendary. For a long time, he was arguably the most famous person on the planet. But I'm uncomfortable with all the adulation of Michael Jackson in the wake of his death. It's important to acknowledge and pay respect to what he contributed to music and pop culture, but the adult he became doesn't change just because he died, contrary to those who are extolling his virtue despite four days ago believing he was a pedophile. And I'm not understanding the disconnect. Outside of the actual sadness of the loss of a person, deaths of icons are always fascinating when millions who long ceased celebrating them before their death line the streets in tears after. Michael Jackson was astoundingly talented, but he was also a mess, and talent does not make somebody an unassailable person.

Nobody is arguing the veracity of Michael Jackson's harrowing, truncated childhood. Joe and Katherine Jackson were shitty parents. They just were. It's true that their shitty parenting brought forth "The Love You Save," which, please, best song ever, but yeah, some people are just bad parents. So it was understandable that he'd have a yearning to re-create his childhood, live out the play he missed, and suffer while he admittedly lacked the ability to relate to people offstage. But Michael Jackson's re-created childhood as an adult lasted far longer than any person's childhood does when they are a child, and despite having kids of his own, he relinquished the responsibilities of an adult — which were lifted from his lap by people surrounding him who were happy to take on that burden. How sad that a man who had all the access in the world to all the best, most effective forms of therapy seemed to get worse and worse, more and more detached, and might not have even known how to engage because his life was spent embedded with these "yes" people whose livelihoods depended on him not changing much at all.

Change is terrifying when you only know one way to live, even if that way of living makes you miserable.

As far as I saw it, as a person who will never know what went on behind those doors, what that environment created was, on a good day, a grown man whose relationship with and affection for children was inappropriate, and on a bad day a grown man who may have been a child molester. I believe he was, others don't; perhaps that's the dividing line between who feels unbridled emotion right now and who doesn't. Maybe we'll never know if he was, depending on what the confidentiality agreements say — and even then, most families who sent their children to Neverland were such opportunists, who knows if they're telling the truth. But what I do believe is that Michael Jackson was so sick, so wanting to be someone else that he changed his entire physical self, so used to being used, such a complicated human being who might have never had the support system he needed or who rejected the strong, good-hearted efforts made toward him, that he should have been hospitalized so he could work with professionals who had his best mental and physical interests at heart, away from everyone else's desires of him. His demons — including substance abuse, which is its own evil animal — went far beyond any saving well-intentioned loved ones could accomplish.

I absolutely believe that no matter what happens to a person as a child, there comes a time in adulthood when they have to stop blaming everyone else and take responsibility for where they are and how they've responded to what happened to them, even if there's no justice or closure or apology. That's not to say everything is surmountable — this is absolutely a simplified version of an idealized adulthood, and Michael Jackson's adulthood was anything but simple — but you owe it to yourself, your family and, if you commit to the responsibility of having them, your children to do your damndest to try. Especially if you have children. Easier said than done for an armchair shrink, right? I wonder how far Michael Jackson traveled along that road — perhaps that's why he wanted to be a father — or was he was just too lost, stuck, afraid and invested in living the dangerous, stunted, damaged life he did because, to him, it was safe even when it wasn't safe? And if he did do the things he was accused of, well, that makes sympathy that much more complicated.

What is heartbreaking about all of this is that many of us have watched a large part of the living of a very sad, bizarre life. In whichever stages of his career or our evolving tastes, he made an awful lot of people happy, yet he was clearly so very unhappy and uneasy with the world. We're all on a quest for happiness — that's the motivating factor for every decision we make, happiness and love — and it requires a lot of work and luck to find it. Whatever happiness Michael Jackson did find in his life, it's too sad that there was so much else that was missing and askew, and for his three children, I hope that in time they find the happiness and stability their father never did.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ongoing Facebook Comment Stream, 6.25.09

Marla Garfield remembers the day in 1983 when she asked her mom if she could marry Michael Jackson if he converted to Judaism.

Lysa Goodman Poore at 7:50pm June 25
Well he comverted his face, though not into Judaism. Cubism maybe.

Scott Friedman at 7:54pm June 25
LOL Lysa. That's funny right there

Lisa Ferber at 7:55pm June 25
did she say yes?

Marla Garfield at 7:55pm June 25
Picasso never dreamt such a face, oy.

Marla Garfield at 7:57pm June 25
Lisa: I'm not kidding, this is what happened: I asked, and she hesitated for a minute, and I shouted, "You're racist!" and ran out of the room. I was 9.

Lysa Goodman Poore at 7:59pm June 25
LMFAO...Marla, you rock. Me and my Barbie camper van were not worthy!!

Stephanie Garfield Dobbins at 8:19pm June 25
Did this conversation happen before or after you and Stacy ripped down my poster of him (the one in the yellow vest and the white background with the grandma broach) and told me he was not cool anymore?

Marla Garfield at 8:42pm June 25
I don't remember, but in any case, we only told you that because my poster was cooler than yours (brown leather jacket, purple background, no grandma jewelry) and I was bitter you hung yours in the best spot in our bedroom (on the back of our door). The only way I could hang my poster in its rightful position was if I told you Michael Jackson wasn't cool anymore and ripped yours down. And no, I'm not sorry, dammit!

Wait, did you rip mine down too as retaliation? We were mean.

Jenifer Golec Bement at 9:00pm June 25

Lauren Garfield-Herrin at 9:02pm June 25
That may be the funniest thing I have ever heard. How come this story has not been shared yet?

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

I am a terrible, terrible cook.

Just terrible.

The good news is, I've officially given up, so I don't have to worry about cooking anymore. Mazel tov, Josh, you have won the battle over our kitchen — and you are a wonderful cook — but please add some new dishes to your repertoire because, since I'm no longer attempting to cook and it's all up to you now, I can't eat tomato sauce every night for the rest of my life or I'll get The Scurvy.

The road to my acceptance went thusly:

I had some time off work this week. It's gone by incredibly fast for two main reasons: I made a list a mile long of things I wanted to do that were more chore-like than fun-like, but if I completed them I'd feel I made some real progress in my life and finally — finally! — be a whole person; and I managed to do barely none of them while I sat on my couch and read magazines and thought about all the things I should be doing and watched season three of Gilmore Girls on DVD. I did buy four pairs of shoes, so that's personal growth. I am shod.

One thing on my list was cooking. My goal was to cook one meal every day. I really want to be a good cook. I really want to find it cathartic and I want it to be a creative, sensory outlet. I want to build an instinct for spices and timing and color. I want to know that, if I have a family one day and they might be, I don't know, hungry, I can whip up a tasty something for them that won't repel them from the kitchen forevermore.

That is not likely to happen.

Cooking Disaster #1: Eggs

I'm usually pretty good with eggs. I'm decent at baking, and baking involves eggs. There was nothing in my refrigerator except for a half carton of eggs, a package of Kraft fat-free shredded mozzarella, and half of a jar of Newman's Own tomato and basil pasta sauce. A normal person might feel nauseous and go to the grocery store for some actual ingredients. I am not a normal person, because to me it spelled breakfast. (Oh, come on: People put ketchup on eggs all the time. How far is spaghetti sauce? You know what? I've heard enough out of you today already.)

Basically, what followed was a horror movie of: too much melted butter that caused the egg whites (which had some yolk in them, as I was clearly not enjoying any kind of rhythm) to sort of slither and float around the pan, not really touching the bottom; an ill-executed egg-flipping that resulted in half the whites smacking onto the floor; and a pathetic rescue mission of adding one more egg — without separating yolk from whites — and just plunking the whole thing in the pan, scrambling the yolk with the rest of the mostly cooked whites. And then I added the cheese. And then I added the Newman's sauce when I plated the eggs. It was so barfily vile I wanted to apologize to both Paul Newman himself and the chickens whose eggs were wasted for this catastrophe.

Cooking Disasters #2 and #3: Chicken Tagine with Apricots; Sicilian Barbecued Chicken

These went pretty much the same way as each other. Thursday night's tagine was tasteless, the chicken was overcooked, and I didn't make enough rice. Friday night's barbecued chicken was an exercise in overcompensation: The chicken was overcooked again, but to make up for the previous night's tastelessness, I overdid every single spice and juice — including freshly squeezed lemon and orange — and it was so overwhelmingly citrusy that it was totally inedible. Also, I made enough rice to feed a medium-size country. The entire dinner (except for the rice) went into the trash. I don't think I can eat fruit for a week.

I'm disappointed. I thought that having some time off work would wake me up a bit and I could discover my inner Ina Garten and my house would suddenly become a delightful Hamptons hideaway and Jeffrey would be sitting on my couch, ready to rub my feet. But I wasn't relaxed. I was putting too much pressure on myself to get through that freakin' list. (On that note: Should you ever have time off from work when you're sticking close to home, DO NOT MAKE A TO-DO LIST. YOU WILL PSYCH YOURSELF OUT. You will waste your week thinking about onerous chores instead of seeing The Hangover. Learn from this. I would have had so much more fun if I'd woken up every day and just hung out. Bleh, Type-A.) Food-wise, maybe I should have started with something more basic. So at the moment, I'm totally discouraged and don't have any desire to find out if I'm Ina Garten. That's so sad! She has the nicest friends!

Here's what I'm good at in the way of the domestic arts:

1. I'm awesome at cleaning. I'm so OCD that you can lick off my floor right now. I vacuumed the couches.
2. Organizing papers. Another thing on my to-do list this week that I haven't done is tackle this giant cardboard box of papers on my bedroom floor. Some people fantasize about their unrequited crushes or those Twilight kids; I fantasize about getting a filing cabinet.
3. I can fold a fitted sheet.
4. I can bake an apple pie like nobody's business.
5. I'm unbelievably anal about separating recyclables. Never say I haven't done my part for our planet.

But I want to be able to cook. Gah.

Something that I did do was call Sears to come fix a bald spot on my treadmill before I slip and break my ass. I also need a lock for the thing: When we bought the treadmill six years ago, they never brought one of those thingy-things that holds the folded-up part of the treadmill so it doesn't collapse and crush your pets. Despite my efforts to encourage Sears to fix this oversight, I've had a shoelace tied from arm to arm in place of the lock since 2003. So I asked them to bring that when they bring the new runner. So I blocked out a good four hours of a morning, the guy showed up with just a toolbox, he looked at the treadmill, turned it on, and got ready to leave. I said, "Aren't you going to fix it?" He said that they have to order the parts, have them shipped to me, and then I have to make another appointment for them to come and install them.


OK, so even though you know what model I have and I told you what I need, you still had me block out a whole morning so you could send a guy to confirm what I've already told you, as if I'm lying and just want Sears to eat up my day for fun because what else would I do with my day you big loser who can't cook, and then I have to schlep the equipment home from work where it'll be shipped (I don't have a doorman to get big packages — dirty), and then I have to block out a whole morning again? Fuck you, Sears. I remember when we got our dishwasher, it took three appointments: one in which someone came to disconnect the old dishwasher and leave it in the middle of our kitchen, one in which someone came to deliver the new one and play with the electrical bits, and one in which someone came to take away the old dishwasher. So our old dishwasher was sitting in the middle of our kitchen for two weeks because that's how Sears operates. It's a miracle Sears can tie its shoes in the morning.

Also, while I've been home I've learned that NoraBanks spends a great deal of her day standing in the bathroom sink and meowing at the ceiling.

So: Please help me. Please share either — or both:

1. Your no-fail recipes that even someone as cheffily deficient as me can do;
2. Your favorite, most embarrassing kitchen disasters. I feel so alone.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

On that note, I hate the word knapsack.

I've been cleaning out my work e-mail, which is taking forever because there are literally thousands of them, both personal and work-related. The good thing is, they are in large part hysterical, and they also serve as a journal of my life so I don't have to keep one on its own. The bad thing is, there are thousands of them.

I found this one, which I enjoyed and thought I'd share with you. I sent it to myself on October 23, 2007, just after I'd gotten off the train and came into the office. The subject line is "Oogy couple." For very obvious reasons, I wanted to remember these people.

She has a long skirt on and is carrying an oversize orange leather shoulder bag, one that doesn't look like there's much in it. He's wearing a leather jacket slung over his shoulders, but his arms aren't in it. He's wearing black and blue checked cotton wrestler pants, but he's slight and older, and he's carrying a backpack. She asks him, "Do you want to hold this?" He asks her to repeat. She holds out her jacket. "This is heavy. Do you want to hold this? Do you want to put it in your knapsack?"

Um, duh.

He says, "Well, no, I don't want to, but you're asking me to, so I will." He keeps saying he doesn't want to but he will. She passes it over. I look up. It's a jean jacket. She's carrying a giant heavy shoulder bag but won't carry her jean jacket. He seems to despise her.

We get on the train. There are only single seats scattered here and there. She sits in an end seat, and he sits next to me across the way. There's plenty of room, but he sits practically on top of me, and his leather jacket is poking me. He crosses his legs and starts grading English essays. He smells like glue.

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