June 2011 Archives

Whimsical - The Color Of My Life!

PaintSamples.jpgApparently picking a paint color by name these days will require as much luck as picking winning Lotto numbers. Tell your living room to get ready for a big surprise; it's about to receive a fresh coat of Hey There! Details, via The New York Times:

[In a redoubled effort to capture consumers' attention in this sputtering economic recovery, some paint companies are hoping to distinguish their brands with names that tell a story, summon a memory or evoke an emotion -- even a dark one -- as long as they result in a sale. What they do not do is reveal the color.

"For a long time we had to connect the color name with the general color reference," said Sue Kim, the color trend and forecast specialist for the Valspar paint company. "But now," Ms. Kim added, "we're exploring color names that are a representation of your lifestyle."

Thus, Valspar, which once featured Apricot 1 through Apricot 6, now offers Weekend in the Country, a name that might put you in mind of an idyllic getaway or a Stephen Sondheim tune but that will not convey a specific hue. (For the record, it is the color of mud -- perhaps not such a great weekend after all.)

Sherwin-Williams offers Synergy. From Ace Paint comes Hey There! Benjamin Moore has Old World Romance, all names that give new meaning to the term colorblind.]

Honesty, one might as well throw caution to the wind. Given my personal experience at Home Depot, I can tell you it's a complete crapshoot of getting the color you've requested anyway. Their computerized "fail proof" system will somehow turn "Lemongrass" into "Singe Your Eyeballs Yellow." Good thing we ordered 5 gallons of it!

The Proof Is In The Parachute Pants

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Yep, another assignment work-in-progress from my fab writing class! Those one needs some work - I'd give myself a C.

This was the best birthday of my life - not only was I in seventh grade (junior high - woo hoo!) but my cake was in the shape of a ballet slipper. The color was pink, naturally, and it was beautiful.

My girlfriends were gathered 'round. I concentrated hard, made my wish and blew out my candles in one shot. The icing was buttery and delicious - the inside was a simple vanilla. My favorite. Photos of the cake were taken before its decimation and there were even leftovers. You get to eat your leftover birthday cake the next day for breakfast in my family - a tradition I still carry out to this day.

After the picture perfect cake, it was on to the opening of presents. It was a sunny day and we were all gathered in the backyard. My parents were extra generous that year. Maybe it was because we all knew I was dangling on that precipice before becoming a teenager - there was still sunshine left in my disposition, but the grumpy hormones were looming.

One thing that still makes me laugh to this day was opening up a gift, which happened to be a pair of parachute pants. My friend Erin gasped when she saw them and exclaimed, "Wow, your parents must really love you!" These were all the rage at our school and soon I'd be able to wear a coveted pair to class.

The evening culminated in getting to go with my girlfriends (escorted by two of my patient aunts) to my first concert - Rick Springfield! I was a member of the Rick Springfield fan club and even went as far as adopting his beliefs of vegetarianism - minus pepperoni pizza. I'd go far from my crush, but I wasn't willing to to go that far!

It's been many, many years since that celebration - but I still recall it with much fondness. I hit high school and developed the request sullen attitude - but I still recall the moment my friend recognized that my parents loved me. I held it like a secret and acknowledged its truth.

[Photo Credit

Vegan Steagan - Is This Journalism?

a vegan toast.jpgI'm newly vegan - albeit one who still dearly loves Anthony Bourdain and is not going to freak out if my husband decides to order a burger. I understand there's some debate as to the necessity of becoming vegan, as well as some resentment towards people who loft their "status" as a "better than" over meat and dairy consumers. Between you and me, that's not my bag, baby. Really, as with most things, it should be a judgement-free personal choice that doesn't affect anyone else (perhaps other than the folks that share your fridge). Believe me, "sober" and "vegan" were two of the dirtiest words in my vocabulary prior to making this decision. The turning point for me were concerns over family health history, cholesterol levels and a desire to consume vegetables instead of Lipitor

There are undeniably some assholes out there whose sanctimonious attitudes would be a turnoff for even the most forgiving health nut. These two humorless authors, in particular, come to mind. If all I knew of the plant-based diet was via Vegan Freak, I'd run to Bourdain's arms begging for forgiveness. Luckily there are people abstaining from eating animals who don't have (carrot) sticks up their asses. (Such as this lovely lady.)

While self-publishing a book about your beliefs is one thing, I was very surprised to run into a biased article of the other variety: the slanted, snarky anti-vegan piece in Businessweek. Assumptions about the personalities of vegans? Check. Complete with misinformation? You betcha. Read it:

[It used to be easy for moguls to flaunt their power. All they had to do was renovate the chalet in St. Moritz, buy the latest Gulfstream jet, lay off 5,000 employees, or marry a much younger Asian woman. By now, though, they've used up all the easy ways to distinguish themselves from the rest of us--which may be why a growing number of America's most powerful bosses have become vegan.

It shouldn't be surprising that so many CEOs are shunning meat, dairy, and eggs: It's an exclusive club. Only 1 percent of the U.S. population is vegan, partly because veganism isn't cheap: The cost comes from the value of specialty products made by speciality companies with cloying names (tofurkey, anyone?). Vegans also have to be powerful enough to even know what veganism is.]

A vegan diet can be quite cheap - just compare the price of fresh vegetables to meat and packaged products. You don't have to be the president of a major corporation to embrace veganism. Heck, you don't even have to be that smart or powerful to do it - just go to your local grocery store, stock up on veggies and soy and be willing to do a little research on the Internet. Boom. You don't even have to be married to an Asian woman, though I'm sure that's a lovely experience. All you need to do is get off your high horse (on either side of the argument) and live. 

Vegan Steagan is a new column on PLP Hyperbole. I don't want to stand on a soapbox, I just want to chat beside one. 

[Photo Credit: Cheers, bitches.]

Paging Spellcheck, Aisle Three!

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Notice anything? The exclusive, rare "Fremch"Roast has been found!

Some Things Aren't Meant To Be Shared

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This is from the free box that's suddenly materialized on the corner in our neighborhood - including a pregnancy test (opened, naturally) and a small spool of dental floss. Yes, both these things rank high on my list of items I'd hope to snag for free. Lucky day!

I'm Not A Doctor, But... A Word About Soy

soy-bean-tofu.jpgKeeping an eye on one's health can get pretty complicated. Are you getting too much Vitamin D or not enough? To vegan or not to vegan? Should you follow an anti-inflammatory lifestyle? Hop on the gluten-free train? One thing is clear - the less saturated fats (meat and cheese) you eat, the better. An excellent protein substitute is soy - a great filler for meals in the form of tofu and tempeh. Trust me - it's no longer the bastion of backwoods hippies and, when prepared properly, it can taste damn good. 

The plus sides of soy are many. It's known as a heart protector (by lowering bad cholesterol), it may provide some relief from menopause and may protect you from certain cancers. The downside? It's also been linked to breast cancer, due to the fact that soy mimics estrogen - which some believe adds more estrogen to a woman's system than it can handle. 

Not all is lost! Despite the initial soy fear and backlash, it seems the possibility of soy consumption being detrimental to your health is negligible. Check this out, from Dr. Weil's blog:

[Breast cancer: Here, the idea is that high levels of isoflavones, active ingredients in soy that behave like estrogen in the body, may increase the risk of breast cancer. While high levels of isolated isoflavones may do so, it appears that the total mix of weak plant estrogens in soy protects the body's estrogen receptors. This protection may reduce the effects of excess estrogen exposure from such external sources as meats and dairy products from hormone-treated cows as well as artificial chemicals and industrial pollutants that act as foreign estrogens. Japanese women whose diets contain a lot of soy foods have only one-fifth the rate of breast cancer that occurs among Western women.]

And this, from Psychology Today:

[No need to panic. The research linking animal fat to heart disease and cancer are far stronger than those connecting soy to any health problems. So, if you are considering substituting soy for meat or milk, the soybean still shines in comparison.]

As with most things in life, moderation is key - especially if you're concerned about the inconclusiveness of some studies. But there's no doubt you'll be doing yourself a favor if you reach for the soy instead of the beef next time you're making a delicious home-cooked meal.

*A quick word about soy milk: It pays to read the labels on everything when you're shopping, especially when it comes to soy milk. Some brands add a ton of extraneous crap into their products. You don't want to think you're doing something healthy by drinking soy milk, only to find you've also been also been ingesting canola oil! The Silk brand has loads of superfluous ingredients, while my fave, West Soy, keeps it clean and simple. 

DisclaimerI'm not a doctor, but certain events in my life have urged me to do extensive research on health-related issues. And by "extensive research" I mean culling the Internet for information while trying not to panic - a situation that has often coincided with meeting actual medical professionals.

However I have gained a fair amount of useful knowledge, which I'd like to share here with you. Obviously consulting your own doctor is the responsible thing to do and I can't be liable for your decisions. But you probably already know that - you are reading a wellness post on an entertainment blog after all!

[Photo Credit: link includes loads more details about the pros and cons of soy.]

I Don't Have A Lot Of Lines, But I'm Going To Draw One Here

horses.jpgSometimes you have to be careful of what's in the water - and occasionally it's your liquor you need to keep an eye on. "Fresh" from New Zealand, via Gawker:

[Under the headline "Women flock to take horse-semen shots," we learn from The Dominion Post that "apple-infused" horse jizz, or Hoihoi tatea, is "like custard" and is a hot item at a New Zealand restaurant called Green Man Pub. The horse semen, for which the restaurant pays $300 (NZ) for 20 vials, is part of a meal of Asian duck and spring rolls that the restaurant is entering into Monteith's Beer & Wild Food Challenge.]

Good thing they don't have this in Alaska - think of the teen pregnancies

[Image Credit: Now with a fun game! How many horses can you count in the picture above?]

A Star Is Born!


My Drunk Kitchen has a new song. I heart her so much - enjoy!

Could-a, Would-a, Should-a

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Another assignment from my writing class. Yep, I'm totally going there! This one is based off the prompt, "A phone call you wish you'd had." Dig it:

I'd just gotten home from work and was happily ensconced on my couch with my cat, remote in hand. Fox was playing back-to-back Simpson episodes everyday, starting at 6 pm. It had become my ritual to decompress with a little laughter and kitty lovin' after my crap job.

I don't remember what episode it was - all I remember is that I was enjoying it immensely. All the sudden my intuition spoke to me, "Get up and call Nana." It was that literal. It wasn't a nudge or a notion - it was my voice, clear as a bell, albeit in my head. I looked around, confused. I reasoned with myself, "But I'm digging The Simpsons. I can call her afterwards."

"Nope. Now." I sighed, heaving myself up from my comfy nest. It wasn't that I didn't want to speak to my Nana - quite the opposite. I loved her dearly, more than words could express. I was just feeling extremely lazy in that particular moment. But the voice - the voice was loud and wouldn't let me off the hook.

I dialed her number; it was busy. I dialed again and a strange voice answered. It was an old woman on the other end, but not my Nana. My Nana had had the same line since I was old enough to remember numbers; but I'd somehow misdialed. I had a brief, but sweet chat with this faux grandma figure before hanging up and dialing a third time. Still busy.

Weird. I couldn't figure out why my intuition had insisted on propelling me off the couch for a busy signal, a fake-out and a dial tone. Then, my phone rang. It was my mom. "Jenna, honey - Nana just died." I choked on my tears, my breath. "I'll call you back."

[Image Credit]

Busted In Bozeman

[This post is a work in progress, via my writing class with the fabulous Ariel Gore. You'll probably see this story pop up again as I expand it. Exciting, I know!]


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The ringing of the slot machines was driving me crazy. It's one thing to hear those bells and whistles when you're in Las Vegas; it's another thing entirely when you're in Bozeman, Montana. Trust me on this.

 

How did I end up here? A lifetime of being sun deprived in the Pacific Northwest left me craving blue sky. I'd saved up every nickel I'd earned within the last year in order to quit my job and move to Arizona. My treat to myself between a draining job and a new life was a long road trip before settling in Tucson. I adored American kitsch and had, in fact, based my entire jaunt around it. I'd just toured South Dakota (Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, the Wood Carving Museum!) and was in Montana to visit some friends before continuing my drive down south.

 

Bozeman was where my beloved two-door Toyota Tercel decided to act up. Not knowing a thing about cars, I assumed whatever was wrong was going to be expensive. I didn't want to hit a budget deficit before arriving in Arizona, so I decided to be proactive about keeping my funds in the black. I went out and grabbed the first job I could find.

 

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I was behind the counter at Lucky Lil's Casino, watching the clock. This was not the typical countdown to the end of a shift. Rather, due to Montana's stringent liquor laws, I was waiting for a timer to countdown its twenty minutes. The law proposes, (in an effort not to over-serve, which actually encourages the opposite) that casinos only serve drinks in twenty-minute intervals. And don't worry if you miss the timer - the players that seem married to the one-arm bandits they're mauling will be more than happy to let you know when the next round is supposed to hit the floor. One eye is on the dollars slipping away and the other is on the melting ice of their previous beverages. Between the two, the players always seem at a loss.

 

The seconds slipped away until the buzzer sounded. Suddenly men were clamoring for my attention as they desperately waved their arms. I first took drink requests from the men that had dollar bills clutched in their sweaty palms. It's a universal truth! I reasoned that a dollar put in my pocket would go a lot further than one stuffed in a machine.

 

The orders came fast and furious:

 

"Gin and tonic, honey!"

 

"Make mine a Bud."

 

"Jack and Coke... heavy on the Jack."

 

"Whiskey, rocks, beer back."

 

I rapidly scribbled down their desires, raced behind the bar to fulfill them and circled the room again. You could almost hear the sighs of delight. Once again backs were turned and attention shifted elsewhere; each man lost to his individual rollercoaster. Only nineteen more minutes to go before we engaged in the dance again...

 

The job didn't entirely consist of staring at the clock, timer or otherwise. There were also snacks to be made. A well-stocked kitchen was just a few feet away from the bar area. Little hoagie rolls were soon slathered in mustard or mayonnaise and alternated with a variety of packaged lunchmeats. Small bags of Lay's potato chips were placed on little plastic plates alongside the simple sandwiches. These treats were on the house, courtesy of the casino. There wasn't a time constraint placed on sandwiches - they were created and delivered in our down time between liquid rounds.

 

My coworker, a woman in her early fifties named Dot, told me the men need sustenance. "Some of 'em will sit there for hours and hours. Don't want their tummies gettin' hurt." She'd make each roll with pride and care, as if she was doing the boozy patrons a favor. Of course, in a way, she was - but I was more of the mindset that they'd be better off following their stomach's cues and moving away from the barstools to forage on their own. Still, I tried to follow Dot's example and put as much thought as I could into the task. Her most important piece of advice was, "Make the mayo ones last and don't make 'em too goopy. We don't want our boys to have soggy sandwiches."

 

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When I wasn't slinging drinks or creating snacks, I was usually lost in thought as I contemplated our uniforms. It was the classic white shirt, black pant and vest combo. I was polyester clad and could have easily been mistaken for parking attendant. The thing that set Lil's employees apart were the dime store brooches affixed to our clip-on ties. Pam, the floor manager, proudly told me these were "the family jewels" and I'd be charged against my paycheck if I were to lose mine. Family jewels have a different connotation in my world and all I could think about everyday at work was "balls against my neck." It was a unsettling image that made the quirky job even more odd...

I'm Throwing My Hat In The Ring

pequod's-pizza-bday-dinner.jpgHaving recently returned from my first visit to Chicago - and having only visited two of the famed restaurants to serve the city's coveted deep dish pizza - I'm feeling bold enough to declare my allegiance to "the best." It's Pequod's. Boom. Yep, I went there - bold as brass. 

What Pequod's lacked in atmosphere (it feels like your average sports bar) is more than made up for in their fantastic food. (And you can't really knock 'em for the vibe - a fire lead to the trendy remodel.) Known for their caramelized crust and extra cheese, each bite is more heavenly than the last. You won't find any existing combinations - your base is cheese and you add your preferred toppings from there. And don't even second guess yourself - it's pan (deep dish) all the way. 

I say this with much love. We frequented Gino's East, but didn't find it to be our speed. We weren't fans of the chunky tomato sauce and the quality of ingredients didn't match Pequod's, in our opinion. Though the insane graffiti theme throughout is fun to look it, it felt much more frantic than our relaxing meal at Pequod's. I was a bit bummed - Chicago was my last hurrah before embracing veganism. I won't be able to say Pequod's was my last piece of traditional pizza - but it will be the one I daydream about. 

Impatient Garden

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My brother and I were acting up - we were rambunctious, scrambling around the living room with no real plan. It was driving our mother crazy. It was a nice day and we were technically able to play outside. May in Plano, Texas meant it was cloudy enough that the sun wouldn't burn our milky skin.

Six years old, a wee three and a newborn - that's what my mom signed up for in her twenties. Now, at my current age, I can have compassion - but at that time I had no clue what she was going through. All I knew was that my middle brother and I were BORED.

"Mom, can we have some Jell-O?"

"Mommy, can we watch T.V.?"

"Mom, can we play a game?"

The pestering she received was endless. Finally she had a brilliant idea that, even to this day, I find absolutely inspired.

She put a pile of grapes on a paper plate and handed them to me. "Take your brother to the backyard and put these grapes on the ground in the sun. Grapes turn into raisins. Watch them carefully and don't come in until they've turned."

We were ecstatic! Grapes to raisins? Was it possible? It must be, our mom said so.

"Come on, Max!" I grabbed his wrist and lead him out back. We stayed there for the rest of the day, intently watching the grapes do nothing.

[Image Credit]

I'm Not A Doctor, But... A Word About Vitamin D

sun1.jpgI'm not a doctor, but certain events in my life have urged me to do extensive research on health-related issues. And by "extensive research" I mean culling the Internet for information while trying not to panic - a situation that has often coincided with meeting actual medical professionals!

However I have gained a fair amount of useful knowledge, which I'd like to share here with you. Obviously consulting your own doctor is the responsible thing to do and I can't be liable for your decisions. But you probably already know that - you are reading a wellness post on an entertainment blog after all!

Tip: Are you getting enough Vitamin D? This is very important, as a lack of this nutrient has been linked to the onset of everything from breast cancer to multiple sclerosis. Vitamin D is a tricky one: the best way to get it is via sunshine, but prolonged sun exposure can also lead to skin cancer. How to balance the two? Fifteen minutes a day in the sun (sans sunscreen) is the key. Inclement weather combined with demanding work schedules usually interfere with most folks getting the proper sun intake. So what's a gal (or guy) to do? Take daily supplements, of course. 

The key to Vitamin D is in the follow up. If you're able to spend time in the sun, make sure exposure doesn't exceed fifteen minutes before adding sunscreen or heading indoors. If your main source is pill form, be sure to get a yearly blood test from your doctor to ensure you haven't actually taken in too much D. While our bodies pass most vitamins we don't use through urine, too much Vitamin D actually gets stored in our fat cells. And, as with most things, too much of a good thing can turn bad. 

I can't stress this one enough. Get a blood test, establish your D level and start getting your optimum amount of this vitamin today. A lack of Vitamin D doesn't present many obvious side effects until it's too late. Why wait until you're faced with something unpleasant? Speaking of unpleasant - drinking Sunny Delight is just plain gross. Don't confuse the two!

State The Obvious

Gwyneth-Paltrow-film-fest-wiki.jpgI'm in Chicago and it's hot - brutally, sweatily, insanely hot. I mean, what was I expecting? It's June; the sun is out and the humidity refuses to become friends with my hair. And, on top of it all, I have a confession to make - in this brief moment, I am jealous of Gwyneth Paltrow. Yes, I actually wish to be in the shoes of my long-time nemesis right now. You GOOP subscribers know Gwynnie recently traveled to the Windy City and posted her usual rash of exclusive "in the know" hip spots. Now that I'm here, I want to go to all of them... in her style. I want to be squired around in an air-conditioned town car, stay at the fanciest hotel and have the hip & cool on speed dial. Instead I'm walking for miles when I'm not on public transport, staying in the filthy attic apartment of a place we found on Craig's List (which features one window cooler for use during this heat wave) and we're frequenting dive bars because I'm too sweaty and disheveled to go anywhere else. You might never hear me say this again, but maybe Gwyneth is onto something! Damn.

[Photo Credit: Yes, I'd give my right arm to travel in GOOP style right about now!]

And, to that end, as hot as it is... I'm gonna live it up! I'm here for my birthday, so there'll be fewer posts this week. After which, it's on to continuing the revamp of PLP. xo

Centipede - Not The Game

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In addition to the joys of building a tent made out of garbage bags in our bathroom, we were also recently graced with a bout of house centipedes. Though these multi-legged critters don't bite humans and actually have a full-time job eating spiders, they are something most apartment dwellers don't wish to see. Because they are gross and creepy - in case you were wondering. You do your job, I'll do mine. Part of your job includes me not seeing you. Perhaps we need to file an insect TPS report

Night after night, I would cringe as I flicked on my bedroom light. Sure enough, I'd be greeted with the sight of multiple centipedes lining the walls. How's a girl to sleep with that many legs looming? We've already got eight in our bed between myself, my husband and our (ridiculously spoiled) cat! Eight is enough, as they say. 

Then, as suddenly as it began, the home invasion ceased. We've decided centipedes actually have a complex communication system amongst them, for the story of what happens at our home has clearly gotten out:

"There's a lazy cat that will capture you, but not eat you. Most of your legs will get pulled off as you limp away, covered in salvia. A women will scream over you as a large man swoops in with a paper towel. Then, darkness. It's Dante's Fifth Circle of Hell."

That's right centipedes - we are the Zine family and we do not fuck around. Spread the word!

You Get What You Pay For

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Have you ever had to take a piss while holding an umbrella over your head - and you were in your own apartment and not at Coachella? That's been the treat over at my place - an expanding leak from the ceiling that now hovers over our toilet. This is the fantastic makeshift tent my husband built out of plastic garbage bags and duct tape - the backbone products of America! So, at least we're keeping it Made in the USA over here. 

Yep - we've two old adages that are ringing clear and true in our second story city apartment: 1) As the realtors love to say: location, location, location. And 2.) You get what you pay for!

We've got the location for a dirt cheap monthly nut and, as you might imagine, that lack of price comes with... well, a price. It's hard to pass up easy access to a hip neighborhood - but I wouldn't mind leaving my raincoat in the closet instead of having to don it to use the loo. Sometimes it is the little things! Next up: stay tuned for our visit from the house centipedes. Good thing we live down the street from one of our favorite bars - I need a refreshing libation after battling those multi-legged beasts!

Skinny Pussy Cat

Thumbnail image for astrid-plantive-kitty.jpgWhy can't I be more like my cat? She's a glowing inspiration in healthy habits - minus having to lick her own ass. She eats only when she's hungry. She stops the second she's full. She allows herself one treat a day. She can barely tolerate the smell of alcohol, much less consume copious amounts by the pint. She doesn't have a caffeine habit. She stretches everyday. 

I'm glad I don't have to cleanse a hairy body with my tongue and I'm grateful that my asshole upkeep is done by hand instead of mouth - this isn't The Human Centipede, after all. But it seems I could stand to learn a few things from my furry companion. Yes, I see myself penning a diet book on the horizon: Eat Like Your Cat and Lose Weight! Ah, finally my Pet Rock idea has arrived! A grand day, indeed...

Everything Is Coming Up Roses!

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"It smells amazing! You are really missing out." I was on my hands and knees. I turned to sniff the air near my brother. He looked dubious, but curious. He tentatively leaned forward to smell. "It's gross! I hate you," he cried. I had just farted and, for whatever reason, I was determined to get my brother to smell it. I was six years old to his four and he did pretty much whatever I asked, which I exploited as often as I could.  We played for a minute before I had to pass gas again. Apparently whatever T.V. dinners lacked in nutrition, they more than made up for in a quick reload in which to continue my nefarious plan.

I farted again. "This time you really have to smell. It smells like roses!" He shook his head, "I don't believe you." This only made me more determined. "Max, I am so serious right now. It smells like roses... and cake!" I rolled around with joy near my latest puff of air like it was truly the best thing I'd ever experienced. "I feel bad for you Max. I'd hate to miss out on this. I love cake." He sighed. He knew I was lying... but what if I wasn't? Who would miss out on such a chance! He crawled forward and sniffed again. Needless to say, neither flowers nor cake were present in the promised aroma. He promptly smacked me across the face.

We both screamed for our mother. We'd each experienced an injustice; relief could only be meted by an impartial figure. But our mom wasn't really that unbiased - it was clear she favored my brother. I got sent to my room (I did start it. I can admit that... now) and my brother was allowed to continue playing in the living room. Max was wearing the shirt I hated most - a red jersey pullover with felt letters our mom bought him that proclaimed, "Sisters are Big and Bossy!" I pinched his arm and hissed, "No, I'm not. Take that off!" I then held my head up and swanned out the door towards my punishment. A lady must maintain a certain amount of dignity.

It seems my mom and I weren't meant for each other from the get-go. She gave birth to me - and I only believe that because there were a fair amount of witnesses when it happened. Despite hearing real-time tales from the delivery room via my dad and my beloved Nana, I still demanded to see my birth certificate several times a year. I had great faith in both my Dad and Nana - but surely a mistake had been made. Who in the hell was this woman who made me feel so miserable 24 hours a day? Her resentment was palpable, but, at such a young age, I was unable to unearth what made her feel this way. I took it personally, regardless.

So great was my discomfort that my best friend Mandy and I developed a game - the "I hate my mom" game. We'd spy on her after kindergarten, peering around doorways. "I hate my mom because she wears earrings." "Oh, that's a good one," Mandy would reply. "I hate your mom because she's lying down on the couch." "Really, the nerve," I'd exclaim. And so on. The game soothed me and I was grateful my little friend was able to play along. I think we both knew this activity meant something bigger and that it was far from normal.

I went to my room, flicked on the radio and flopped down on my bed. I think my mom forgot about my time out... or maybe not. Either way, enough hours had passed that my dad had come home from work - he was the one who freed me from staring at the ceiling. He paused when he walked in the door, cocking his head towards my talk radio. "Why do you listen to AM stations?" I didn't really have an answer for that one - I wasn't even in grade school yet. The truth was that I turned the radio on and didn't mess with it from there, mainly because I didn't know how. "There's actual music on the FM frequency, you know."  He set my little clock radio to a new station and invited me to rejoin the family.

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I wasn't as much into music then. I'd recently been introduced to the drive-in - movies were my thing and Grease was all I cared about. My great love for Grease had transmuted into a massive crush on John Travolta. I thought he hung the moon; he was so amazing. I was too young to actually be "in love" with him - but I did write  a lengthy fan letter requesting that he marry my Aunt Nancy. (She's blond! She lives in Seattle! She's 23 and she is not married!) I thought those were pretty hot selling points. The upswing of this arranged marriage would, of course, include John becoming my uncle - which meant he'd be obliged to give me free disco dance lessons! I had it all worked out.

Soon after the fart fallout, it was time to celebrate my birthday. My parents lead me on a mini scavenger hunt towards my ultimate gift - the soundtrack to Grease. My friends oohed and awed. I was bowled over; I'd never felt so excited. "Thank you so much, I'll never forget you!" I exclaimed to my parents. My mom's eyes narrowed and she said, "You can't forget us. We're your parents. We're going to be living together for a very long time." I was instantly deflated. I'd somehow assumed I was a free agent who'd been living with these people by choice. It dawned on me - I wasn't going anywhere. It was the first time I experienced depression.

I wanted to cry, but I caught myself. I was in the midst of a party and I had guests. A lady falls apart in private. "Great! Of course, I knew that. Well, thanks again." I turned away and looked at my brother. I may be capable of lying to his face while simultaneously farting in it - but there was no way in hell, regardless of favoritism, I was going to leave him behind with that woman.

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