It’s quite possible that my household is the last one on the planet without a DVR. I keep lobbying for one, but my pleas are met, every time, with counter arguments superior to my much weaker begging points.
I made my most recent pitch the day after fumbling for the remote during a commercial break on Monday Night Football. I had been less than graceful in my attempt to protect the delicate eyes of our 5-year-old from seeing the gun-and-bomb violence advertised during what Palin-fawning Americans insist is a family pastime. Never mind that she’s watching football, the contemporary version of gladiators. As far as I’m concerned, a knee bent in reverse might as well be a pastie-clad nipple compared with those military-recruitment ads or spots for certain video games.
“We’re not getting a DVR,” Sam said to me when I mentioned I was going to call about getting one. “We don’t need it. We don’t even watch any shows besides Mad Men, and there are only two episodes is only one episode left in the season.”
“But—the insufferable Meg Whitman ads! You know you hate her hair!” I countered, mouth agape. He wasn’t moved.
“Election season is almost over. And a DVR just means I’d have another piece of electronic equipment to figure out and manage and program. And I’d have to listen to you bitch about how it’s ‘broken’ when I accidentally erase a show you weren’t ready for me to erase.” I shut my mouth as he continued. “And then I’ll have to call Cox when it goes wonky—because it will go wonky. You know our track record with electronics.”
He had me on this point. And then he added: “It’s not a big deal. I’ll just skip Monday Night Football from now on.”
If you felt a violent jolt last Tuesday evening shortly after dinnertime, that’s because the entire universe came to an abrupt halt as that last sentence was uttered. Apparently, my man is so staunchly in the anti- DVR camp that he’s willing to give up Monday. Night. Football.
I stood before him, arms crossed, one hip thrust forward and one eyebrow raised in my hard-earned Hope Brady impersonation (she’s still on Days of Our Lives).
And then I threw in my best oh-no-you-di’unt neck-wobble when I challenged him: “Even when The Pack are playing?” I had to resist the urge to tap my foot.
He stared at me. I stared at him. There was a little twitch near his left temple. A tumbleweed blew by and it was nothing but crickets up in our house until Ruby broke the tension with the cutest little fart ever. “Excuuuuse meeee,” she said, giggling. With this diversion, I felt the debate shift in my favor. I was getting closer to that DVR by the second.
After a little pre-battle mantra chant on Thursday morning, I dialed Cox Communications—from memory. Like 363-TILT, the phone number of the first boy I ever kissed while sitting on a blue swing at Reservoir Park, 262- 1181 is with me forever. Only, unlike Mike Allen, Cox isn’t cute in that pre-pubescent, disproportionate-facial-features kind of way. And while Mike Allen’s braces didn’t lock with mine as I had worried they might, I am inextricably bound to my cable company.
You see, Sam isn’t the only one who has Cox on speed-dial. I call regularly to find out why our OnDemand isn’t loading or why our modem isn’t working or why our cable bill is escalating. Each time I’m forced to call, I have visions of being on the evening news as the woman who went postal on the cable tech. It’s a good thing they’re usually based out of places like Iowa and Delaware. A flight to their offices would really diffuse the impetus to kill.
The automated lady picked up the phone and chirped directions at me. “I see you’re calling from 619….” Yeah, yeah. I entered all the digits necessary to get to the main menu, and then I pressed zero to speak to a representative. Because that’s what I wanted to do: speak to a human being. But did it get me a human being? No. Communication breakdown: “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand you. Please enter 1 for…” I felt my blood pressure rising.
I pressed zero again—and was looped around again. After the third time at this little game, I held the receiver in front of my face and yelled at the automated lady, “What part of ‘press zero to speak to a representative’ do you not understand?!?” In customer-service training manuals, this particular customer reaction is commonly known as the Belfer Method. It is completely ineffective.
I hung up and called back, starting the whole process again, only to have the automated lady say, “Due to the high volume of calls, your wait time is 11 minutes. Would you like to have someone call you back?” Why, yes, automated lady, yes I would. I selected this option by pressing the key I was told to press. I held it down extra long just so they would understand my request, and then I hung up. More than 11 minutes later, my phone rang. And, wouldn’t you know? It was the automated lady: “Please wait for the next available operator.”
After another few very long minutes, a human lady came to the phone. But by that time, I’d exchanged my silly mantra for vengeance. I was so pissed that I’d have been more likely to vote for Meg What’s-With-Her- Yoda-Hair Whitman than give Cox a penny toward one of their stupid DVRs.
“We don’t even watch television anyway,” I told the human lady. “It’s just another piece of equipment that won’t work properly,” I said. “So, you can just keep your crummy DVR.”
And we’ll see just how many Mondays go by before the discussion begins again.
(As published—mostly—on Oct. 13th in San Diego CityBeat.)
I’ve been busy this week and unable to watch any of the U.S. Open tennis tournament. (Or write. But that is pretty much secondary to everything else in my life at the moment.) Yesterday, I went to the Huffington Post to check the results of the Nadal-Verdasco match. New York Times described Nadal’s performance as “perhaps the finest and most suffocating performance of all his U.S. Open matches.”
But when I clicked the sports tab on HuffPo, I was assaulted with everything but tennis, let alone breathtaking reviews of the quality of play. Granted, some sports barely got a nod. But all—as in every single story—of the other headlines were in male-dominated sports, each smeared in more scandal and train-wreck clickability than a Kardashian sex tape. A quick tally of what was on the page revealed what HuffPo editors believe to be compelling sports stories:
Boxing: 3- one involving gang rape, one domestic violence and one about Mike Tyson and a regret he harbors about Tupak.
Basketball: 4- one arrest, one swastika defacing, one US/Cold War rematch (really? still?), and one player who loves NY women. Big news, people. BIG.
Baseball: 1- something about Hank Aaron who, I’m pretty sure, is dead. But dead is more captivating than baseball, anyway.
Football: 11- motherload! There was some sports news here, as in, the season kick-off and Super Bowl odds. But there was also some Ashton Kutcher, a big contract, a big car accident, a prostitution ring and lots of bad behavior. Quel suprise!
Soccer: 3- sex scandal, gay scandal and a shirtless Christiano Ronaldo, as usual.
Golf: 3- sex scandal, sex scandal and more sex scandal.
Car Racing: 1- one death.
Wrestling: 3- a coma, a hospitalization and one murder/suicide.
Tennis: 3- one “super skimpy” outfit (on Venus, read: ho), one “revealing dress” (on Wozniaki, read: sexy) and the worship of Kournikova because she’s so “pretty”.
Just glancing at the page makes me feel like I’ve just read US Magazine: The Athletic Edition. But there is an extra rub when it comes to tennis.
Not only is there zero coverage of EITHER the men’s the women’s play. Zero, zero, zero, nothing, zero. Get it? No link to the coverage of Nadal’s quarter-final. Not even a link to the great and short (perfect for the average internet-reader attention span) analysis of why the number one ranked Caroline Wozniaki has such a high percentage of shot-making. Just inane discussion about how short her skirt is with a series of accompanying photos. And continued inane discussion about Venus Williams’ firework-bedazzled dress and accompanying photos, including way back to the French Open when Venus said a big F. U. to the world with her brilliantly flesh toned shorts. You go girls, I say. If your costumes are such an issue, maybe you should be required to wear shorts and tees like the men (and recieve the same winnings, too). All the hub-ub makes me wish these women would show up to play in their underwear only. But then they might be considered gymnasts.
Seriously. I want to know: Are Beavis and Butthead in charge of the content on this site?
It’s a slippery slope being a fan of The Beautiful Game. One day, you’re minding your own business, blowing the blood vessels in your eyeballs by blowing your much-maligned vuvuzela. There you are, rooting for France, throwing back mojitos at Vagabond during lunch in South Park on a Thursday, alongside the business set, who’ve sneaked away from their jobs because 90 minutes of footie and a cocktail will bring them a sliver of joy in the drudgery of an otherwise craperrific day in a whole endless string of them. Soon, you find yourself so charmed by the exuberant fans of the other team that you bid adieu to Handball Henri to jump up and down and shout “Viva Mexico!” with everyone else in the place.
You’re caught up in the thrill, and your little world is cracked open wide by the immediate connection between you and human beings of every culture on the planet. You’re excited for Mexico, sure, but now you really can’t wait to root, root, root for the home team the following morning. And the next thing you know, you find out you’re a traitor to America. Huh?
Certain right-wing fundies have been studying their talking points again and collectively smearing the World Cup, the U.S. men’s soccer team and, presumably, the ubiquitous soccer mom. In recent weeks, these vocal, elitist xenophobes have called soccer “a poor man’s or poor woman’s sport,” one that liberals “jam… down our throat” as part of the “browning of America.” Because baseball is stacked with freckle-faced redheads.
“It doesn’t matter how you try to sell it to us,” said Glenn Beck in one of his tirades. “It doesn’t matter how many celebrities you get. It doesn’t matter how many bars open early. It doesn’t matter how many beer commercials they run: We don’t want the World Cup. We don’t like the World Cup. We don’t like soccer. We want nothing to do with it.” Beck the Troglodyte went on to mention the hooliganism perpetrated by hooligans before offering proof of our more civilized society: “I haven’t seen the baseball riots.” Apparently, the ever-present bench brawl doesn’t factor into Beck’s we’re-superior equation of sports-etiquette.
Oh, Glenn, you cotton-headed ninny muggins! You make me want to get all Zizou on your ass.
Have you never heard of the Cleveland Indians’ Ten-Cent Beer Night riot of 1974? What about Disco Demolition Night of 1979? Or does your selective comprehension of history exclude the events of history?
I would think you, of all people, would be incensed that fans rioted against an honest-to-God homegrown genre of music at Comiskey Park. What’s more American than disco? Thanks to disco, “YMCA” is played at stadiums (and weddings and bat-mitzvahs) all across your favorite country. And Gary Glitter may have been disco in costume only (and British, to boot), but he gave the American fans you hold up as examples of refined behavior the never-ending opportunity to drunkenly chant duhn-duhn-duuuunh-duh-HAY!-duhn-duhn-duhn-duhn-duhn-duuuuhn-duhn-HAY!
Frankly, that and the apathetic wave are more annoying than one honking vuvuzela blown into your ear at close range.
Also, news flash: America’s favorite pastime wasn’t even invented by Americans. The English invented it. Football? English blokes. Basketball? Wave to Canada, Glenn. You can probably see the socialists from your porch. OK, how about golf? you might ask. Well, other than not being invented in America, there’s little agreement as to its origins. I’d put my money on China since the Chinese make all our shit.
With a need for stop-start-stop action as desperate as the tea baggers’ need for spell check on protest signs, the Glenn Beckians don’t have the attention span for a sport with no commercial breaks. A Wall Street Journal study of four NFL games from last season found the average amount of play time was 11 minutes. In essence, an American football game is a three-hour block of beer-gulping, ball-scratching, slow-it-down-so-I-can-grasp-it time for Neanderthals who only understand domination and a playbook.
And fútbol? With one 15-minute half separating 90 minutes of non-stop running, this difficult sport has more intensity, agility, athleticism, power, control, finesse, creativity, innovation, nuance, grace and true teamwork than any other sport I can think of. Ours is definitely not the best team on Earth, but the U.S. men’s soccer team is the best of us, and any bloviating ethnocentrist in a Brooks Brothers suit should be able to get behind that team, which last Friday played a match complete with America’s favorite dramatic elements:
After an excruciating first half, the U.S. came back (overcoming hardship) from a debilitating 0-2 deficit to Slovenia, the smallest country competing (David and Goliath). Landon Donovan (the boy next door) patiently crafted the first goal just minutes into the second half, and the way the ball left his toe, soared across the field and into the corner of the net was nearly lyrical (the hero comes through).
Michael Bradley, the coach’s son (hello, Lifetime Television for women) tied things up with a second goal. Our goalkeeper, Tim Howard (one of the best in the world), dove and leapt to stop several dangerous attacks. And what should have been the third and winning goal (defying the odds) was taken away as quickly as it had happened (heartbreak) by a call so egregious (disbelief) that the announcers apologized and the rookie ref may be expelled from all future matches (vindication). Now the question remains: Can the U.S. overcome such a psychological test and advance to the next round? If we didn’t adore this kind of drama, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition wouldn’t exist.
The U.S. finishes the first round the day this issue hits the street. Whatever happens, the tournament continues until July 11. C’mon. Blow that vuvuzela. Even if it’s just to annoy your dogmatic neighbors.
(As published on June 23, 2010 in San Diego CityBeat.)
I was working this morning on a Very Important Post about the economy and whether it’s getting better, when I stopped to take a phone call. Thanks to the convergence of the oil crisis, my midlife crisis and my crisis of confidence, the conversation with my friend ran right over the start time of the Mexico/France World Cup match, which I was supposed to be watching with a bunch of hooligans down at Vagabond. When I finally hung up, I dashed to the bedroom where I stripped out of my pajamas and put on a bra, a grey tank top and a pair of jeans sans undies. Who had time for such frivolity? I had a soccer match to watch and I couldn’t be bothered to find a pair of undergarments that weren’t aerodynamically purposeful.
In the bathroom, I threw on a military cap to cover the disaster zone known as hair-slept-on-when-wet, and frantically scrubbed my teeth with my finger and a little water. It was as I swept some blusher over my face that I noticed a dark red, asymmetrical blotch on my left cheek. I froze. Oh, my God, I thought. Is that another skin cancer?
I’m still adjusting to the battle wound left by the removal of the one on my chest three weeks ago.
I rubbed my face and realized with great relief that it wasn’t a basal cell carcinoma, but a dab of St. Dalfour’s Pomegranate-Raspberry preserves. Good thing I’m not a catastrophizer, because I might have already envisioned myself on my deathbed, telling my husband to marry a nicer, less complicated, more petite woman and whispering to my daughter to be happy, all through barely moveable lips, what with the giant chunk of my face sliced away and all. Imagine what a waste of energy that would have been.
With the near-death experience avoided, I swung my bag across my body, grabbed my camera and headed out the door. I left my beloved vuvuzelas at home. Vivre la France!, I planned to scream, instead.
But before I could settle in and cheer for the team that was not the favorite of the crowd, I took a few pictures. And then, while scratching an itch on the back of my left thigh, I felt a lump. Not a small lump, mind you. But a very big, angry, lumpy lump. Like, the mother of all varicose veins kind of lump. It was a lump the size of a giant oil spill, and for a split second, my heart was again in my throat. But before I passed out right there in Vagabond, spilling my mojito down the front of my pants giving the appearance of having lost all bladder control, I quietly excused myself from the conversation I was now engaged in, and bee-lined for the bathroom.
I shut the door behind me and pushed the button on the handle to lock myself in. Then faster than you can say Viva Mexico!, I unzipped my jeans and thrust my left hand down my pants leg where I found not a boil or a tumor, but a pair of bunched up underwear.
I watched my (mortified) reflection in the mirror as I held them up in the dim light. For a second or so, I fretted about how I was going to subtly transfer them to my purse, which I’d left on a chair at the bar, when it occurred to me—again, thanks to the mirror mocking me from across the room—that I could wear them. And what could be more subtle than that? Sure they were gently worn. But they were black and matched my bra: A message from God, if I’ve ever had one.
I hurried to wiggle out of my jeans, draped them over a shoulder and balanced, naked, on top of my tan, Rocket Dog flip-flops, smushing the sandal part beneath my feet. I fumbled to unfurl the little ball of silky fabric—which turned out to be navy blue, not black, evidence that there is no God and that this was all just the embarrassing fluke of a lazy woman who doesn’t put her clothes in the hamper when she should—turning them around and over to find the front, hoping like hell nobody would walk in.
Did I lock the door? Oh my God, did I lock the door? I don’t remember if I locked the door. I stopped what I was doing and stared at the handle. The handle stared at me. It was a showdown. The button was pushed in. But you never know. Sometimes the button is pushed in but it doesn’t work and the door isn’t really locked at all and then anyone could come in and see me standing naked in a restaurant during the lunch hour and holy crap am I neurotic or what? I decided to trust it, hustled into my clothes and made a mental note to get a Xanax prescription when I visit my internist next month.
And voila. I rejoined the cheering masses and transferred my allegiance to the winning team.
Tomorrow, I’ll be watching the US play Slovenia from Café Calabria. And I’ll be wearing clean underwear at the outset.
Me: I don’t get the difference between figure skating and ice dancing.
Sam: Well, figure skating is smooth with a series of elements that have to be shown, with dramatic air-type things and turns and jumps and stuff. The ice dancing is more dancey, if you will, with dance moves and lots of those close choppy steps.
Me: What about the long program? Good God, the long programs go on forever.
Sam: I think the longs are more dramatic and the shorts are more whimsical.
Me: Why do people watch this…?
Sam: OHHHHHHH!!! She! Just! Ate! Shit!!! She just went down on the first toss! These are Olympians?!? Isn’t that the whole point: That they defy gravity and don’t fall down? They had four motherfucking years to practice this shit and she falls on the first spin? That’s why people watch this shit! And–and!–you get bitchin’ crotch shots all day. Check it.
Me: “The Way We Were”? For real? Don’t they want people to stay awake for their long program? Hello 1973. Our century doesn’t have any music to choose from.
Sam: I like their little outfitsOHHHHHH!!! She ate shit!!! She went down on the triple salchow! That’s three for three. I don’t know…maybe one fall per deal is normal? I don’t know…Whoooa!!…She almost packed that in! She was starin’ at some serious ice right there…
Me: Okay. I’m gonna go work now.
I was in the kitchen, setting out the frosting and the jimmies for the cupcakes Ruby and I had just put in the oven, when I heard a couple of heavy thuds come from the front hallway. It was pouring rain, Sam was away for the weekend and my heart had already exploded into a million shimmering pieces of glitter when my One and Only—after after cracking her fourth perfect egg into the batter—looked up at me and said, “I love girls weekend.” I couldn’t have been any happier.
There was another heavy clunk! and then, “Mama, helllllp!” I stepped out of the kitchen and looked toward the front hall closet. There was my kid, hanging onto the doorknob of the front door, her long spindly legs spread wide and sliding out from beneath her because she had found and was wearing my rollerskates.
She didn’t want to take them off and I wasn’t about to deter her from trying, so I showed her the necessary side-to-side motion by gliding across the floor in my slippers. And other than letting me tip-toe behind her while she made her way around the couch two times, she was fairly explicit in her instructions when I tried to help her. “No, Mama! I can do it!”
She carried on like this on and off throughout the weekend, my big girl in my too-big-for-her skates, until I decided our Sunday expedition for Valentine’s Day cards, would include a trip to the Sports Chalet, where I bought my girl the very last pair of purple, pink and white skates they had in stock. The uninhibited joy she expressed as she tested her new wheels in the store is what makes parenting so totally awesome and instantly vaporizes the anguish of those many years of sleepless nights. And if that wasn’t quite enough, the child further transformed the glitter of my heart into a fine sparkling dust when she skated across the carpet like a foal trying to walk for the first time, lifted the bottom of my shirt and kissed me on my belly. It’s impossible not to be schmaltzy about it.
If you look closely, just beyond the wrist guards, you will see me wrapped around her little finger.
Next Sunday, we’re going to the skating rink.
I decided to go into work a little later than usual because I’d stayed late the day before and because, with imminent pay cuts, my attitude is sour and because I needed to blow off a little steam and, frankly, because I could.
I dropped my kid at school and headed to the gym, where I rode the bike straight up hill for 45 minutes. Then I pummeled the speed bag for another 20, imagining my fist connecting again and again with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pinched face. He really didn’t have a chance.
I was sweaty and generally disgusting but totally rejuvenated as I headed to the locker room. My morning of hooky couldn’t have been better. Then I spied—on one of the many giant flat-screen TVs lining the hallway—the fifth and last set of the Andy Roddick / Lleyton Hewitt semi-final Wimbledon match playing out. Allah O Akbar! My fabulous morning had become even fabulouser.
Forget work, I thought. I set down my bag, wiped the sweat off my face and stood akimbo to watch the match play out.
As a die-hard tennis fan, it’s with great shame that I admit that, until that moment in the hall—a mere three days before the final weekend of play—I hadn’t seen one match of the 2009 tournament. Not even a highlight! Things at work had, for the previous two months, consumed every minute of my time that wasn’t already consumed by all the other consuming stuff that consumes my life. In fact, it had been so long since I’d switched on the television that I would’ve needed to refer to the user manual for the remote control. And I don’t even know where to begin to look for that.
All my sorry ass had time for between bureaucracy and birthday parties, were written reports of the many dramatic moments. Thanks to the fantastically detailed Straight Sets blog in the New York Times, I was able to wring my hands with angst over what I’d been missing: A tearful Ana Ivanovic literally throwing in the towel against Venus in the fourth friggin’ round because of an injury? Absolute heartbreak. Serena, busting through to the final in the longest women’s single semi-final match in the history of the tournament? Heart-stopping.
Of course, there will never be anything as thrilling, as monstrous, as gargantuan as last year’s five-plus-hour men’s final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It was the match to end all matches, the one you live for as a spectator. It was an epic of rain and sweat and determination and rain and anguish and strength and agility and fatigue and rain and hours and hours of glorious, amazing tennis between two of the finest sportsmen ever. Yes, I’d have sex with either and/or both of them.
When Rafa withdrew a few days before the tournament began, the dashed hope of a re-match was devastating. But as I stood in the hallway last week staring up at the screen, watching Roddick fire off aces and Hewitt answering with some of his own, I began to feel a surge of excitement not unlike that which I’d experienced last year. It’s the kind of anticipatory, nearly unbearable excitement that never comes with a blowout. It’s the kind that makes a fan a fanatic.
The tail end of this nearly four-hour match would not be the Roger-Rafa Redux I craved, but it was high-caliber tennis nevertheless, and it would more than feed my jones. Because I’m a hopelessly addicted fan, I continued to blow off my arrival at the office like I was hitting the snooze button on a Monday morning.
So there I stood, joined now by one other guy, watching the last set, getting more and more worked up until I was clapping at the end of each point won by Roddick (Hewitt’s a twerp). And when the score was 40-30, just before Roddick was about to serve for the match, another dude wanders up to see what the hullabaloo was all about. Then he says to me, “Isn’t this from last night?”
I turned to look at him. “I don’t know,” I said. “I haven’t seen it. I’m watching it right now.”
“Yeah, this is from last night,” he said. He had a white towel draped over the top of his head and it bobbed up and down as he nodded. “Roddick won.”
Yes, that was the sound of the needle being violently dragged across vinyl.
“Duuuuuude! Did you seriously just say that?”
I ask you: What kind of tool does this? Has this guy never taped off the ticker on ESPN because he’s watching a game that’s being re-broadcast? Has he not avoided text messages from heckling friends? Where is the respect? I mean, for chrissake, I was clapping. Loudly. In a gym. Any numb-nut could have deduced that I hadn’t seen the match.
Well. Any numb-nut, that is, but my Spoiler.
“Wow,” I said as I turned my attention back to the game. “Wow.”
Roddick tossed the ball high into the air and arched back to hit it. “I guess this is it then,” I muttered. All of my enthusiasm was—pfffffft!—gone when he smashed the ball. The two men volleyed a bit before Hewitt hit his final forehand long and ho-hum, Roddick did the fist pump or fell to his knees or cried. It didn’t really matter anymore since now I had to hustle in to work.
The Spoiler muttered a sheepish apology and made his way back to the sorority slider or Stairmaster or some other wussy apparatus. I went the other way, heading for the door, but made a sharp detour and went back for a few more minutes of hammering on the speed bag. And that night, I set the alarm for 5 a.m. to watch the remaining matches in real time.
Poor Michael Phelps. The guy can’t get a break since he was caught making out with a bong. I find the whole thing to be so utterly ridiculous that I almost want to friend him on Facebook. And I’m not even a fan! Sure, I was enthralled with him back at The Cube. But each time he opens his mouth or walks around with his hip bones jutting into my eye-space, I find myself cringing just a little.
Still. Who cares if the guy smokes weed? What is the big deal? As a friend of a friend so eloquently points out here, he isn’t shooting EPO. Or other people. Sports hero or not, this strikes me as a relatively minor offense. Of course, it’s just weed and I believe it should be legalized (imagine the influx of money into our economy if it were regulated). This misstep will likely cost him lucrative sponsorships but if Britney Spears can come back from the brink, so to can Phelps.