Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Seven Things You Wish You Didn't Know About Me

Wednesday 8:57am. Hey peeps! Love all your lists of Things You Don't Know About Me! This is fun! How's this work? I'm supposed to *like* them and then someone tags me and gives me a number right? So here's the thing. I've liked all of them and no one's given me a number yet! Or maybe it's just that you all think you already know everything about me! LOLZ!

Wednesday 10:32am. I hate hate hate when Facebook keeps changing things. So now it looks like I can see my likes but you all can't? I looked in account settings but I can't figure it out. Why can't they leave things the way they were! I wouldn't pay five bucks for Facebook even if they asked me!!! Just leave everything alone, Facebook! Am I right???? I don't know why things always have to change.

Wednesday 8:15pm. Woo Hoo! Heather gave me a Seven! Tks Heather! Seven is great. Seven is easy to get along with, fun-loving and smells like cheese. Okay here goes. Seven things you don't know about me! Don't say I didn't warn you! Okay here goes.

1. My mom and dad never praised my artwork even though everyone says I'm a highly creative person.They said it gives kids a false sense of competency that won't serve them well when they get out on their own. I never knew people put artwork on the fridge until I went on my first sleepover at Harold's.

2. I was the best at hide-and-go-seek of anybody I know. No one could ever find me.

3. One time I hid in the wardrobe in the hall and got way way back into the winter coats. I was so far back it started snowing. I never told anyone what I saw. I still haven't! You'll have to wait for that! He he!

4. I was twelve when I started doing experiments in reanimation on squirrels and toads and stuff. I got pretty close. I never quite achieved my goal but I think I know where I went wrong.

5. Like a lot of other highly creative people, I have synesthesia, where letters and numbers have colors and even personalities.

6. I'm a really easy going person but one thing that really bugs me is when people write OMG but don't put it in all caps. The G always has to be in caps. There's nothing anyone needs to do that's so important they can't take the time to put the G in caps. Am I right? No srlsy. Make an effort people.

7. My favorite number is seventeen. Seventeen is sort of barrel-chested and has a wheezy voice. Sort of like a cigarette voice. He seems kind of gruff but that's just the way he is, he's really a marshmallow inside. He he!

Thursday 8:34am. Okay everyone I put in my seven things--did you see them?

Thursday 11:53pm. Okay peeps, Facebook is making it so I can read my friends' updates but no one can see mine. I know because I put stuff in right before I go to bed and that's when they're getting in there, at night, and moving things around because they know I'm asleep and I can't defend it. Heather? Can you see this? Heather put in a comment if you can see this.

Thursday 11:55pm. How do you make someone's name light up? Like for example if I wanted to make Heather's name light up on this thing how would I do it?

Friday 8:22am. Thanks Heather you're the best! Oh hey! Now that I wrote down those Seven Things You Don't Know About Me, you all know them! I can start over! Okay here goes.

1. My mom and dad say I need to go get a job if I'm going to stay here. Even though I stay in the basement all the time so I don't have to hear the drones and I'm not in anyone's way. I'm neat and clean so it's not that.

2. I'm probably the cleanest person you know. I wash myself all the time. There's this, like, dark spot. It never quite goes away completely but I don't even want to think about what it would be like if I didn't keep scrubbing at it. That's how they get in.

3. Mom and dad moved the wardrobe in the basement and I still spend a lot of time in there. I talk with
Seventeen in the back where the winter coats are and now Nine and Twenty-Three are showing up too. Mom HATES when I talk to them but she doesn't understand they're just my friends. They're on my side.

4. My best friend when I was in eighth grade was Harold. We called ourselves the Pinky Brothers. Then one day he said his folks didn't want him coming over any more, and then he went away. They looked for him for a long time but they never found him. You probably read about it. That was my friend Harold.

5. There's something that's going to go down that's really big and a whole lot of people are going to be really sorry but I can't talk about it.

6. I'm a really easy going person but what really bothers me is when someone calls something an abstract painting when it's perfectly obvious it's a picture of a squirrel. Or a toad, or whatever.

7. I'm not going to tell you the last one yet. Watch the news tonight! He he!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

He Comes With Fries

Certain kinds of criminals we seem to single out for our scorn. Not the wealthy ones who make off with our retirement accounts--we admire them. No, we like to make fun of people like that woman who was arrested for stabbing her husband with a ceramic squirrel because he failed to come home with beer. Which is not fair. What should she have stabbed him with? The angel figurine? That's just wrong.

Likewise, there has been no sympathy for the local serial flasher who has been visiting the drive-through windows of fast food joints. Nobody's giving him a thumbs-up. Everybody looks down on him, unfortunately including the young female attendants at the pickup window. A lot of men who go to fast food joints find themselves getting a little chubby, but this customer was extreme. He has been observed at various establishments, although not at Buster's Barbecue, where everyone knows you can't beat the meat. According to witnesses, his vehicle is missing its gas cap cover and its license plate, and he is missing his pants.

They say he's missing his pants, but no one really knows what he is aiming for.

Apparently there is no protocol in place for dealing with this sort of situation. It's never come up before. So reactions of the young women at the drive-up windows have had mixed results. The ones telling him to "beat it" have not had much success getting him to go away, but the one who asked if he "wanted that super-sized" fared better. So far he has driven away before producing any special sauce. The surveillance video shared on the TV news has not been helpful. The pictures are fuzzy and gray,
and show a fellow with a small, digitally scrambled crotch zone.

Nonetheless, a man has been apprehended, and authorities say they have the situation well in hand. By all accounts the police line-up was really something. It was populated by men on the force whose shifts were up. Everyone was seated and the measurement-chart behind them modified in a specific way.

Robert Ray Martin was fingered and sent to jail, but it was hard on him, and he bailed himself out. While his is not considered a hanging crime, he still faces stiff penalties, although legal experts caution that it is equally likely he will get off. Officials express confidence he will not re-offend soon, and everyone is grateful that he was apprehended before he got to Jack In The Box.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

They Stamp Them When They're Small

Several of you have sent me this photograph. Seems in 1913 you could mail a child, assuming you had correct postage. The child would ride the mail train accompanied by a letter carrier. Could this possibly be true? you asked.

Well sure. It wasn't even that difficult. There's no good way for a child to get lost on a moving train, even the ones that aren't properly wrapped in brown paper and string. That's not to say there weren't challenges. They would not have had benefit of the new peel-and-stick stamps back then. You'd have to carefully tear off the stamps along the perforations and either lick them or apply them to a reliably damp portion of the child. And if the child were to gain weight on the journey, it could come postage-due, running the risk that Grandma might evaluate the item and conclude it wasn't worth the price.

We weren't mailing children when I was a letter carrier, but we certainly carried chickens and crickets and boxes of mealworms and the like. I would think it would be possible to mail a child today as long as it could be crammed into the flat-rate box, but I've never personally delivered one. There was that time I was starting out on a nice walking loop and one of the Menefee kids asked if he could tag along. I said sure. We were just going around the block. He went up all the stairs with me and chirped away about this and that. I didn't realize there was trouble until we rounded the last corner and his mom was yelling his name at the top of her lungs. It probably should have occurred to me that he needed to ask her permission first, but it didn't. Hell, he was ten years old. Or maybe three, I'm not good at that.

But what could she expect? I'm a youngest-child baby-boomer with no kids of my own. I have no experience with this at all. Our mommies used to broom us out the back door first thing in the morning and tell us to stay away until it was time for our maintenance kibble. Nobody knew or much cared where we were. We had a few instructions--don't run with scissors, don't stick your butter knife in the toaster--and those were expected to hold us until we reached adulthood. There was also "don't take candy from strangers," but we didn't know any strangers.

Mrs. Menefee was too relieved to be upset with me, although she probably had a right to be. But shoot. The kid had to make do with a tiny back yard and a driveway and that was it. There were a bunch of brothers and sisters so the odds (I thought) of anyone noticing he was missing seemed low. Really, she's lucky I didn't let him slide around in the back of my Jeep, or bring him back stuffed with Wonder Bread and marshmallow salad. And make him do straight-leg sit-ups.

Heck. He got a whole round trip, with no postage.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

I Had Nothing To Do With MERS

Nelson, the adorable neighbor child in question

Childhood diseases are not supposed to be funny, even if they result in explosive diarrhea. So it's not polite to snort when your neighbor tells you her kid has Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. Even if she explains that it's caused by a Coxsackie virus. I managed to contain most of my fluids while remarking that I had never heard of Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. Sure enough, it's younger than I am. It was originally described in 1957 in New Zealand, and although there is no good reason for anyone to leave New Zealand, eventually someone did and it got out.

We never really have a virulence shortage. If viruses seem to be flagging, they hold a convention and run a few numbers through a trial population of monkeys, pigs, or chickens. Or possibly kiwis. Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease is so named because it presents with blisters on the hands, feet, mouth, and fanny, and some people still know how to show restraint. The name is, at least, descriptive, which is more than can be said for Fifth disease.

I'd never heard of that one, either, although it's been around for a while. Fifth disease used to be called "Slapped Cheek" syndrome because it looked as though the child's face had been slapped. Nowadays it is popularly referred to as "Repeatedly Fell Face First Onto The Coffee Table, Officer" syndrome, or (formally) "Plead The Fifth" disease. Anyway, it's viral too. Supposedly over half of children have had it by age 19, although, since many of them exhibit no symptoms at all, I suspect the statisticians are just using the disease to make it look like they've been busy.
This is flu.

A virus is often defined as a small infectious agent, but that's like defining cows as standing leather. It may be true, but it's disrespectful and anthropocentric. A virus is a perfectly interesting little bundle of protein with hopes and dreams of its own. Some people consider them to be less than living things, but for all that they have a lot of zip, even making trips around the world. The thing that lowers the status for viruses in the minds of some is that they do not actually have their own metabolism and require a host cell to get anything done at all. I, too, am small and use a similar life strategy, at least as regards being fed, so I am more sympathetic to their condition.

If one were to step back from the human-centered perspective, it could be said that the function of people is to give viruses a moist, warm spot to land. This certainly gives them more credit for their general success, and reflects well on us, too. There are a number of ways viruses transport themselves, many of them involving a spewing aspect. The host's body reacts to the invasion (or "visit"), spewing happens, and bingo, your virus is a going concern. We are merely their transportation infrastructure. One of the more successful means of transmission is called the "fecal-oral route."

That sucker really ought to be one-way.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Round Up The Kids

Typhoid Murr on the left, at Camp Mawavi

The hosts of the holiday open house emailed everyone to advise us not to bring small children. Their own toddler had come down with Hand, Foot And Mouth disease, and they didn't want to infect the whole herd.

I've said it before. There are just too many things to choose from now. Used to be we made do with a simple selection of childhood diseases, all of which we were expected to sample at least once. There was always a possibility of dying, but ours was a generation that could accommodate some culling. Some mothers even brought their children to infected kids' houses for a Pox Party. Even the children they liked. The thought was it was better to get it all over with before the kids got old enough to really be missed.

But then they came up with all these vaccinations and now nobody gets measles anymore. Or mumps, or whooping cough, or chicken pox. I had the standard set, minus the whooping cough, which I didn't get until just before I did a public reading of Trousering Your Weasel. I don't remember the mumps. Apparently I got the mumps when I was just a month old. It's hard to diagnose. A whole baby looks a little like a mump. Is that mumps, there, or just more baby?
Survived to see my eighth birthday

Measles I remember. There were all sorts of measles you could get: red, German, German brown--no wait, that's a trout--Common, and Flammulated. I got one of those over Valentine's Day in 1961 and got dreadful sick and had stark, Valley-Of-The-Shadow-Of-Death fever dreams and Mom set me up with a radio ("Where Have All The Flowers Gone") and Dr. Martin came by with his black bag and called mom "Mother" and mentioned something about scarlet fever and someone came by from the school with a bag of Valentines from the whole class (perforated: Oh You Kid, Peas Be My Podner, Bee Mine; or glued up from pink and red construction paper and white paper doilies) and I recovered.

What I really nailed was chicken pox. People used to get terrible sick with chicken pox. I didn't. I was going to camp and felt just fine except for the nice itchy rash, but since I had already demonstrated a real aptitude for poison ivy, I was sent right along. I was Chicken Pox's Ambassador to Camp Mawavi. Chicken pox is another one of those antique diseases no one gets anymore, but it's usually a doozy. Furthermore, it crouches inside you, quietly, for decades, waiting for a sign you have
not been sufficiently humbled by the indignities of old age, and then it pounces into shingles. Shingles is very painful and affects one side of your body, but given my history with the virus, I anticipate a pain-free case with a rakish but attractive rash.

It could happen. I'm pretty sure my mumps came back.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Flying Shame

Ever heard of a Ducky Derby? You can buy a chance on a rubber ducky that will be released into a body of water with everyone else's ducky, and whosever bird meanders across the finish line first wins. It's a raffle, and usually a fundraiser. The Wisconsin Department of Justice has been of the opinion that this constitutes illegal gambling, and at least one Wisconsin lawmaker has decided to take a few seconds off from obliterating unions to rectify the situation by proposing it be legalized.

Shouldn't be too controversial. The rubber duckies are captive-bred and are not abused in any way--maybe they get one good weeka weeka squeeze for luck and then it's a nice float down the river. It's a shame they can't keep squeaking all the way. It would be uplifting.

But not as uplifting as sandhill cranes. First time I heard those, I was standing in a wetland with my sister and the most amazing cascade of clattering fell out of the sky, like some crazy carillon from Venus. The angels had nothing on them. They were singing in exultation. The sandhill crane, like other cranes, has a windpipe so long it has to be looped up to fit inside the bird. And when it gets a notion, it rattles that trachea from hallelujah to kingdom come. We were rooted to the spot, gazing up with mouths agape--not recommended--while blessing after blessing tumbled out of the sky, voice first, followed by dangling feet and wings atilt. There's nothing in the bible to beat this.

They hootled out of heaven and toppled to the ground, folding up sedate some distance away. And
Margaret and I, cameras in hand, began a slow, stealthy stalk. Whatever distance away they were, it never changed. Without appearing to move at all, they melted away from us like a good idea we'd once had and couldn't quite remember.

Not a hundred percent sure why anyone would want to take a shotgun and blast them out of the sky, but people do. Sandhills are our most common crane but they're only abundant in comparison with recent history. By the turn of the century--not this one, the last one--they had been hunted nearly to extinction, but began to make a comeback after the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Now there are enough that some states think it's cool to harvest them again. Supposedly they're tasty. If you go to the Wisconsin Sandhill Crane Hunting page on facebook, you can find a recipe for Sandhill Crane Nuggets wrapped in bacon. Not to be argumentative, but you could cube a canvas grocery bag and wrap it in bacon and it would be good. While you're on the site, you can dip into any number of grammatically inventive comments, plus this from one Lela Best: "crane poop is worse than goose poop. Take them all." Obviously, sensibilities on this issue differ. What is angel poop like?

There are a few problems with "taking" sandhill cranes. Cranes do not pump out a clutch of eggs every year like most birds. They generally produce two colts and on average only one of them survives to adulthood. If you shoot Mom, you're likely dooming the colt too. It's a slow replacement rate. That's how they got in trouble in the first place. How many is too many? Who gets to decide? Me or Lela?

The other problem is the chance that a hunter will bag a whooping crane. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, in its proposal for a crane season, insists that hunters are "exceptionally skilled" in bird identification and "not likely" to make a mistake. Which is a relief, because whooping crane numbers have tanked from over ten thousand before the Europeans invaded to fifteen--fifteen individuals--in 1938, although now their ranks have ballooned to a proud few hundred. They're so rare you'd think sheer math would work in favor of them not being carved out of the sky, but no. Several have already been murdered, including the first captive-raised and -released whooper to raise a colt to adulthood. Eighteen-year-old kid in Indiana posed with that one, and got fined a buck for it.

And just last year, in Texas, one juvenile whooper (out of 34 in existence) was killed. Notice to that
effect was posted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for a few nanoseconds, by mistake. It was supposed to be a secret. Not really the public's business. That's at least the sixth oopsie-whooper committed by exceptionally skilled Texan hunters so far.

All but one of the states in the Central Flyway promote a sandhill crane hunt now. Let's all keep our fingers crossed that if there must be a crane harvest, only properly licensed hunters will shoot cranes, will know the difference between whoopers and sandhills, will be sober at all times, and will give a shit; and that every whooping crane makes it to the finish line.

But if you ask me, that's gambling.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

Steve Lasko

I barely noticed when The Beatles vaulted onto the world stage, fifty years ago. Our family was a self-contained unit and didn't get real intimate with the popular culture. We did get the Huntley-Brinkley report every night, accompanied by a grumbly voice-over from my father. I knew what our political preferences were, but not why. I knew that when Steve Lasko, a boy in my fifth-grade class, hung a bumper sticker for a local Democrat on his desk ("BREAK THE BYRD-BROYHILL GRIP"), that meant he was on the side of Good, as well as being cute. I was aware of Marilyn Monroe and Playboy Magazine and Mickey Mantle and the importance of all of them to certain of my classmates. But The Beatles was just something I heard people talk about.

The only conceivable entry point for The Beatles into our house was the little radio on top of the refrigerator, but Arthur Godfrey lived in there and prevented unauthorized incursions. Sometimes he let out The Syncopated Clock and the Typewriter Song but that was about the extent of it for music.

In 1964, according to the grapevine in Miss Pope's classroom, The Beatles were going to be on the Ed Sullivan Show. That was on the wee list of programs that were allowed in our living room, but for some reason I watched that episode next door, at Susie's house. Susie was younger but she had a much better grip on popular culture than I did, and I was already beginning to pay attention to her pronouncements to avoid embarrassing myself in front of my peers. We sat on her parents' bed and tuned in. I still couldn't hear any of the music. The audience was going crackers. And there, right next to me, to my utter astonishment, my neighbor was beginning to bounce up and down and emit noises. Little proto-shrieks. It wasn't easy to acquire mass hysteria through the TV, because the reception wasn't that good at the time, so it just came out in high-pitched squeaks.

I was dumbfounded. None of this made any sense. I recognized this as a watershed moment. On the one hand, everything about the behavior rang false. On the other hand, I recognized for the first time that very soon, false behavior was going to be expected of me.

I went back home, but something had shifted. Home was the sort of sheltered environment that is sure
to drive a child to the streets to seek her own culture. And sure enough, the next year, at Karlissa's slumber party, which I was miraculously invited to, I finally heard The Beatles. They were fabulous. I'd been making fun of my classmates for two years, but I was wrong. They really got a hold on me. All I gotta do is get one of those records and play it till the groove ran smooth. It won't be long now. Don't bother me, Mom and Dad.

But how to introduce an unapproved influence into the sparse but weird family collection of classical music and Odetta and Burl Ives and Victor Borge albums? With no money? It couldn't be done. A couple years later, once I'd started babysitting, I bought my first album, Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme, and slid it surreptitiously into the rotation.

That seemed to go over fine. Eventually I was emboldened enough to haul in the Best Of The Mamas And The Papas. Using the same kind of logic that Portlanders employ to encourage their dogs to jump all over people, I reasoned that because "California Dreamin'" was clearly the best song ever written, nobody would mind if I cranked it up as high as the big standing mono player could push it out.

And nobody much did. The first three hundred times.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Position This

Listen. We're so excited to have you on our team. We're all so excited about this novel! It's for a niche market for sure, but we're very confident we can position this. We're just now running your manuscript through Editmaster to get all your adverbs stripped out. So it's time to talk marketing.

Oh good--I was wondering where you were going to send me on the book tour.

We send you! We send you? Omigod, you're precious. Now, we certainly want to encourage you to do as many readings as you can. And keep in mind it doesn't have to be in a book store. It could be in a coffeehouse. It could be in the subway. Use your imagination. How's your platform coming along?


You mentioned you started a blog. How's it tracking?

I haven't thought of anything to put in it yet.

Oh that's easy. Just break it down into thirds. You have a cat?

I do.

That's one-third right there. How easy is that? And then for the second third you can do rants, you know, things that happened to you in the parking lot, or the grocery store line, etc., etc., or you could take pictures of what you had for dinner--or both, you could divide the second third into two, and that would make it, what, fourths?

Not even. Evenly. Sorry for the adverb.

So then that leaves you the last third for building buzz for your book. You don't want to hit this too hard. You want to bring them in for the cat pictures and then make sure they know you have a book coming out. You want to make them yearn for that book. Little excerpts, or mini-stories featuring your main characters. You could even have a little weekly feature, "what would Mrs. Cartwright do?" You know, set up a scene, and then ask your readers what they'd do if they were in Mrs. Cartwright's sensible shoes. They're going to know Mrs. Cartwright. They're invested in Mrs. Cartwright.

I guess...

And then you'll need a twitter account. You're going to want to put in at least five tweets a day. I can see that look right over the phone, missy! Listen, you don't have to like it. You just have to do it. I'm going to ask you to grow up a little and do your part. It's easy peasy. You can set them up to fire off in advance.

I don't even get why anyone looks at twitter. I just don't get it.

Doesn't matter. It's easy peasy. One of your daily tweets could be linking to someone else's cat picture. That's 20% right there. 

I don't know.

Or, I know! You say you don't like twitter, so out-twitter them! The heck with 140 characters. You're a word person, right?

I guess.

You could do your favorite words.

You mean, verbs?

Verbs, sure! You like verbs, you get known for your verbs. Put in five tweets a day, all single verbs. Plummet. Honk. Wangle. Pretty soon, you've got people wondering, what is this girl up to? And then they start to figure it out. They're all verbs! Now you're the Verb Lady.

I am?

You are! And then with Facebook, that's easy. Just set aside a half hour a day to comment on other people's threads. Pretty soon their friends know your name even if they're not your friends. Start to work it into conversations. "Well, call me the verb lady--but that cat of yours sure knows how to sashay."

I don't know.

And ask everyone to like your book page.


Oh, honey. They don't have to like it, they just need to "like" it. Trust me, darling. Now. Can you dance?

Can I what?

Dance. Doesn't matter. Even if you can't dance, it can be cute. In fact, it's even cuter. There you are, dancing kind of wacky, and people start to notice. I mean, lots of people have videos of themselves dancing. But bad dancing? Those are the ones that get shared.

Where am I dancing?

Oh, use your imagination. Manhole cover? City Hall? Mt. Rushmore? There you are, just hopping in circles on one foot, flapping your arms. It's your signature. People will wonder where you'll show up next. Ooo! You said you have a cat. Can you hold your cat up in the air and hop around on one foot?

Maybe once.

No, we need consistency. Think. What else?

I have chickens.

Yes! You're a creative genius, that's why we love you! Hopping around on one foot holding a chicken above your head! Omigod, that's perfect. You'll be the chicken lady. The Chicken Verb Lady.

I don't see what this has to do with my novel.

It has to do with buzz, my darling girl. You're building buzz. Before long, people are wondering, where is the Chicken Verb Lady going to dance next? Can we get a picture of the two of us together and put it on Facebook?

But my novel has nothing to do with chickens.

It has nothing to do with vampires, either, darling, but we're publishing it anyway. We're going out on a total limb for you, sweet cheeks, don't forget that. Try to work with us here.

I'm sorry. I'll try. But my novel is about two sisters who grow apart and then realize that their differences are just two sides of the same coin of contending with their difficult mother, and they come to an uneasy truce over her long-term care.


And at the end there is some intimation that their own daughters are falling into the same patterns. Are you still there?

Okay, we don't want to stress all that. We're trying to build buzz for your book, not put people to sleep! All right. I think this market plan is shaping up. We've got six months before the book comes out, plenty of time to get this show on the road. Whenever anyone Googles "dancing chicken verb lady" they'll get sent right to your book page. Your blurbs, we'll have a bit of flash animation of you dancing with the chicken across the top. Oh! And we'll send you to the World Series.

I love baseball! You're sending me to the World Series?

There's nothing in the marketing budget for airfare or tickets or anything. So you get to the World Series somehow and you make your way down to the first base line and hop around on one foot with your chicken in front of the dugout. Everyone in America will see you. I think we can get Publicity to cut loose enough money to set you up with a hotel room.

That's it?

We can probably get enough out of Legal for your bail. But not too soon! Buzz, baby, buzz!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I Would Consider An Eyebrow Transplant

Friend of mine just vowed that she would toss one beauty product a week until she had pared things down to a reasonable level. She realized things were out of hand when she found herself lugging a duffle-bag of goo and potions to her boyfriend's house for the weekend. The impression I got was that she figured she could get it down to basic makeup in six or seven months.

I got rid of mine all at once, when the stars were aligned. It was a narrow window between adolescence and the workaday world, and there was an acceptable subset of my hippie tribe that went for the natural look. In this group, one was held only to the beauty standards of a haystack: cultivate an earthy kind of attractiveness and try to hold it together without slumping into the mud. I couldn't really afford the products anyway and sensed an opportunity to divest when I went to college, where nobody had seen me made-up. I wasn't really pulling it off, anyway. Even applying mascara is problematic when you weren't born with enough scaffolding for it. There is a danger, of course, in going the inner-beauty route; everyone can tell you're cheaping out. On the other hand, if you just don't wear any makeup at all, you can wake up with the comfortable knowledge that that's the worst you're going to look all day.

I was at an age where everyone was pretty good-looking anyway, not that many of us realized it, until we saw the photos forty years later and went "huh. Damn." No, we thought we could probably be improved on, and many of us succumbed to commercial pressures. I did too. There was a shampoo called "Protein 21" that promised to heal split ends. I had split ends. It fit with the haystack motif, but I didn't like it. I thought if Protein 21 could heal my split ends, I could achieve my hippie dream of having hair so long I stepped on it. Protein 21 did not heal split ends. I never got my hair past the stage where you have to be careful wiping your butt. Really, looking back, that's probably about four inches too long anyway. But one doesn't think that way when one is young. One has one's ideals, and inconvenience is not a consideraton. There's another shampoo out today that also promises to glue split ends back together. I never tried it, but I know it doesn't work.

None of that shit works. None of the things that are supposed to erase wrinkles, restore a youthful complexion, or mask flaws works. Andie MacDowell is somewhere north of fifty and she advertises some kind of anti-aging goo that (apparently) causes a fairy to make you go out of focus, like a permanent hovering photo-editor.

I know this shit doesn't work because my contemporaries have bought all of it and they all look their
age, only with polished, greasy faces and dry, orangey hair. It should have worked on some of them if there was anything to it.

I'm real comfortable without makeup or hair products. Because I'm a terrible liar. I don't like to present myself as something I won't be able to maintain. Oh, sure, when you first meet someone you'd like to impress, you reveal yourself selectively. You don't necessarily volunteer that when you were in fifth grade you fantasized getting graded on a sheet of collected boogers like an S&H Green Stamp book. Or that you'd have gotten an A. You might even make an effort to angle your chin in such a way that your neck doesn't look like a stack of muffins. But at some point, if all goes well, you'll start to have a genuinely good time and all will be exposed. You'll snort and fart and whoever you're trying to impress will either stick around or they won't. It's better that way.

It's also cheaper. Because I present myself with just what God gave me and subsequently got all stretched out, I can afford really good beer. I believe beer keeps me youthful. If you drink enough beer, you can look immature as hell.