Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Boot Camp for Lost Boys

I live in a city of over 300,000 people, but in a way, none of us really live in the same city. We see our different parts of it, live our different lives in it. We all have personal landmarks, and they're rarely shared, communal ones. Other people don't drive past the Chatterbox on France and think, "That's where I had what I thought was my best date of '08. Man, was I wrong about that." Other people don't see the Figlio billboard and remember their awkward dinner with a burly guy who not only finished a plate of pasta so enormous it could feed a small village but who roughly stopped the waitress from taking his CLEARLY EMPTY plate by spouting through a mouthful of bread, "No! I'm DIPPING!" And I'm guessing (though I could be wrong, of course) that not a lot of other people think, every time they drive past that big house on Emerson, "Heh. I was deflowered there."

I was out with Carrie last night and we found ourselves stopped at the traffic light beside another of my personal landmarks. It was the corner where I had my first (and thus far only) truly angry, yelly, incredulous breakup. Previously, my only reference point for the restaurant on that corner was that it was the venue for my urban family's second annual Easter Orphans and Heathens Brunch. Now it will always be the place where I stood chastising a soulless, unrepentant manchild in the cold while his new girlfriend watched from a bar stool inside.

I'm talking about Jimmy, of course. The pothead. The damn Buddhist. Remember him? Remember what a sweet story it was originally but how spectacularly it went awry?

I still sort of can't believe that happened. It's absurd, really, and as such, I have to laugh at it. Or maybe not laugh, but at least shake my head and roll my eyes. I'm not angry anymore. I knew I wouldn't be. There's no reason to stay upset over losing a person I'm better off without. But I do still think about him. I do wonder what he's doing. And though I'm not hurt anymore, I'm also not perfect, so when I wonder about him, I'll admit that I hope he's not doing well.

It's not [entirely] that I'm bitter. It's that I honestly think the man needs to hit rock bottom. He has been down, yes. He has been broke and destitute. He's even spent the night in a jail cell at least once. But I don't think he's ever really gotten it. I'm not sure he's realized that any of it is his own damn fault. And I don't think it helps that through all of it, he's always had someone saying, "You are awesome, Jimmy. You're a great person." And I think he needs to stop hearing that. Because he is NOT awesome. He is a flake. He is a fuckup. He is a great big irresponsible child. And you know what? Children get reprimanded when their behavior is inappropriate. Children get punished when they misbehave. Jimmy got fired, skipped out on his rent, lied to his friends, and vanished on me, and what was his punishment? Free room and board with a new girlfriend and a free vacation on said new girlfriend's dime.

I really didn't mean to go into so long a rant about someone who's worth so little energy. I didn't mean to launch into a similar rant when Carrie and I pulled up to that stop light last night. But Carrie, no stranger to fuckwits and manchildren herself, didn't stop me. No, instead, she joined right in.

"It's too bad there's not a boot camp for lost boys," she said. It was a flash of brilliance. Yes! A boot camp for lost boys! We can probably all think of a few candidates for new recruits.

"Do you think it would really work as a boot camp, though?" I asked.

Carrie: "What do you mean?"

Me: "Boot camp is a short-term program for immediate results. Lost boys are driven by instant gratification, but they've also got short memory spans. We need to shoot for long-term change. It might need to be a reform school."

Carrie: "Yeah. They need to go AWAY. Maybe for a long while."

Me: "Or at the very least, an ongoing outpatient program."

Carrie: "Like social work. They'd be assigned a case number."

Me: "And a case manager. They'd have to report in on their progress. And the case manager would talk to their friends, too."

Carrie: "And their parents!"

Me: "None of that manipulating and revising history and skewing the story to make themselves the victim. The case manager would need context. She'd talk to the people who actually KNOW the guy so she'd know what's really up."

Carrie: "But the lost boys would have to meet with each other regularly, too, right? Like an AA meeting?"

Me: "Definitely. And they'd go around the circle.... I'm Adam. I'm a lost boy. It's been six weeks since my last irresponsible, capricious act. And a chorus of lost boys would reply, Hi, Adam. Oh! And they'd get chips after each milestone!"

Carrie: "Chips? People in AA get chips?"

Me: "It's like a little medallion to mark an accomplishment. 'One month sober,' 'One year sober.' That sort of thing."

Carrie: "Oh, so they wouldn't cash them in for anything... not like poker chips, or skee ball tickets..."

Me: "Ha! No, but that would be awesome. I applied for six jobs this week. Here is my chip. I would like to trade it in for that bottle of Jaegermeister."

Carrie: "Nooo! We'd have to take their alcohol AWAY, not reward them with it! Their cigarettes, too. Maybe even movies."

Me: "They definitely wouldn't be allowed to watch Swingers or Fight Club or Reservoir Dogs. And nothing that glorifies life as a manchild."

Carrie: "Would there be twelve steps? And the Serenity prayer?"

Me: "They should at least have some sort of creed. I will not be careless with hearts. Or finances."

Carrie: "I will do no irreparable harm to women."

Me: "I will take responsibility for my actions."

Carrie: "We should totally transcribe this conversation and put it on the Internet."

Me: "I'm way ahead of you on that."

Of course, gauging success in the lost boys program might be difficult. An alcoholic measures progress in concrete milestones that are easily quantifiable. "I haven't had a drink in thirty days." That's clear cut. Black and white. But "It's been six months since I frustrated a woman to tears in the privacy of her own bedroom"? "It's been two months since my mother silently wondered to herself where she went wrong with me"? These things are harder to verify. Still, it's an idea whose time has come, I say. Any social workers out there looking for a new project?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Brevity is rarely my strong suit

So. Wow. I got nothin'. A full week yet again, and no stories for you? Nope. No stories. Only bullets. Here we go.
  • Saturday I participated in a pub crawl in my neighborhood. Except instead of being called a pub crawl, it was called a pub mosey. I'm still not sure what the difference is between a crawl and a mosey. A mosey would be faster than a crawl, right? I don't think it was any faster, but it did seem more meandery, go-at-your-own-pace than a typical pub crawl. Maybe that's the difference between a crawl and a mosey. Then again, I've never actually participated in an "official" pub crawl, so I may have no idea what I'm talking about and may have based that theory only on the fact that the last crawl I observed whilst out and about involved a "round-up and move on" whistle to keep everybody strictly on task. So maybe I'm just saying the pub mosey was not led by Captain Von Trapp. Is that the difference? Who knows.

  • I really thought that for once my bullet points of randomness would be short ones. I'll work on that.

  • Towards the end of said mosey, I may have made out with a stranger. In public. Because I am klassy like that. And also, apparently, 25. Well done, self. If I tell you he was Australian, that makes it all OK, right? Everything sounds charming and intelligent with an Australian accent. That's a written rule, right? Surely the Australian accent forgives all sins.

  • I realize few things are less interesting than blogging about the weather, but if autumn were a human, I would be filing a Missing Person's Report. We went directly from 80-degree days to furnace-on, sub-40s. It has also snowed two out of the past three days. Snow. In the first half of October. Even for Minnesota, that is absurd, and I am not handling it well. Frankly, I am cranky and depressed and would very much like to hide inside in my yoga pants until the sun comes out again. I am being a petulant four-year-old about it, crying, "No fair" every time I go outside. Fall is my favorite, and early winter is ruining it. Boo.

  • Goodreads informed me via email today that I have been reading David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas for 83 days now. I should probably notify Goodreads (and my sidebar) that I have actually all but completely abandoned Cloud Atlas because it has all but completely bored me nonstop. Has anyone else actually read that one? Can someone tell me why it's gotten such favorable reviews? Because I have given it more than a fair chance, and it has not delivered. Time to listen to Nancy Pearl and move on.

  • Yet another long nearly forgotten member the class of '92 has decided to Facebook-friend me. This time it was my first serious crush of high school, the boy I am a little mortified to remember crying over while I listened to Phil Collins's Groovy Kind of Love on constant repeat. What I neglected to mention when I wrote about him in that "Five songs..." post was that I actually ran into him at a bar in our hometown about ten years ago, at which point I laughed about my ridiculous unrequited crush and he countered by asking me out. For real. As in, "You're not getting out of this bar without agreeing to a date with me." His confidence was almost admirable, given that he was, at the time, working at a factory and still living in his parents' house, but shockingly, his brown eyes didn't have the same hold on me anymore. If his Facebook profile is any indication, his brain wouldn't either. You know how sometimes people say things both happen and don't happen for a reason? How maybe sometimes the greatest gift is an unanswered prayer? Without going into too much detail (i.e., without ripping apart his Facebook page), let's just say I'm really glad that one didn't work out. I'm glad that one never became my first love, or my high school sweetheart, or my first husband. I'm glad of that. Really.

  • Remember how I said I was going to type short bullets? I was lying, obviously.

  • I noticed in the gym locker room today that my kickboxing instructor has the same weird toe thing that I have. Shockingly, my mental goalie blocked something for once, and I did not actually say, "Hey! We're mutant toe sisters!" I am seemingly the only "regular" in that class whose name she does not know. I've thought perhaps I should remedy that with a casual, "I'm Stefanie, by the way" someday. Having her know me as "Stefanie" would be fine with me. Having her know me as "That crazy girl who was looking at my toes" is not.

  • Speaking of classes and bearing toes in public, I am taking a trampoline class! I have been to only one at this point, but so far, it is exactly as fun as it sounds. That is, if jumping on a trampoline for an hour a week sounds fun to you (and WHY WOULDN'T IT???). This is actually probably the most interesting thing in this list so far (to me, anyway), and yet, I have no idea what you might want to know about it. Trampoline class questions, anyone? Let's have a Q&A.

Monday, October 05, 2009


This just in: Did you know there is some sort of very important football contest on your television right now? I may have almost forgotten, but luckily, 37 of my closest Facebook friends have reminded me. And by "closest," I mean geographically closest, because shockingly, the majority of friends NOT located in either Wisconsin or Minnesota haven't weighed in at all. Truth be told, I don't give half a damn about the outcome of this game. My Wisconsin roots tell me to be loyal to Green Bay, but my nearly twelve years in Minnesota make me wonder if I'm supposed to root for them now instead. (Wait a minute. TWELVE? Really?? How in the hell did THAT happen? Here's another "This just in" newsflash: I am OLD.) Neither my Wisconsin roots nor my Minnesota residency can override the fact that I have only a rudimentary understanding of the game, however, and therefore little interest in rooting for either side. I will say this, though: it looks awfully strange to see Brett Favre in purple. I know that at least, anyway.

And thus ends what is likely the first and just as likely the last time you will see me write about football on this blog. You're welcome.

You know who does care about football, though? My dad. I'm sure he is watching Monday Night Football intently this evening, and... Wait. Scratch that. No he's not. He is sitting on his couch with his feet up under the guise of watching the game, but is in fact dozing off with his head back and his mouth open, giant bowl of snacks to his right and giant insulated mug of soda to his left.

And when I say "giant," I do mean GIANT. When I was a kid, my standard-sized dad used to fill a standard-sized glass with Coke and bring it with him into the living room to watch TV. Somewhere around my high school years, he started using the jumbo plastic tumblers stashed in the back of my parents' cupboards, and when I came home for holidays in college, he had upgraded to a large insulated travel mug with a lid and handle. I thought that was perhaps the biggest soda vessel he could find, short of pouring an entire two-liter bottle into one of my mom's mixing bowls or an empty ice cream bucket, but lo, I was wrong. When I came home for Christmas last year, he had somehow, somewhere acquired an insulated travel mug that, were it alive, could have eaten three of his previous insulated travel mugs. I saw this travel mug on the bottom shelf of my parents' refrigerator, where they keep gallon containers of milk and orange juice, and it consumed the same amount of shelf real estate as those gallon containers. I don't know where one would even purchase a travel mug this large, but I suspect is in the same place where one would purchase giant sunglasses and other comically large accessories for parties and practical jokes. Do you remember the episode of Seinfeld where Kramer offered lodging to a group of tiny Japanese businessmen, and they each slept in one of his bureau drawers? If Kramer ran out of drawers but had a travel mug like my father's, I'm pretty sure one of those tiny business men could have slept quite comfortably nestled inside that mug. I think you get my point. The mug is LARGE.

Please don't ask me why my father routinely needs immediate access to a full gallon of soda at a time. I cannot explain that any more than I can explain why he rolls his window down when he pulls his car into the garage, or why he spreads butter on donuts and cinnamon rolls, or why he has upwards of a thousand or more VHS tapes he will never watch again, or why he buys off-brand, nearly expired beef jerky and bagged snacks at the Dollar Store when already he has three full cupboards of uneaten snacks at home. Or why, as I mentioned last week, he brings his own spoon to restaurants. That's right: his own spoon. A few of you asked about that.

I don't have any solid answers about the spoon. Again, I think size has something to do with it. At some point, my father decided that the teaspoons in my parents' silverware set weren't large enough to use for soup or ice cream, so he started using the tablespoon-sized spoons in the next compartment of the drawer instead. That's reasonable enough; even in restaurants, they give you a larger spoon for soup than they do to stir your coffee. But when he decided the tablespoon wasn't large enough either, he upgraded to the serving spoons instead. And obviously once you are used to raising your soup to your mouth nearly a ladle-full at a time, you can't be expected to resort to the tiny soup spoons designed for mere mortals when you dine out, so my dad started carrying one of my mom's metal serving spoons in his jacket pocket at all times. Then he fell in love with all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets, where he'd eat his hot & sour or wonton soup with one of those flat-bottomed, white ceramic spoons. And I guess he decided that a short-handled ceramic spoon would fit better in his pocket than a serving spoon, because now he carries one of those around instead. I'm pretty sure he found his at Goodwill or another thrift store he visits regularly and didn't just pocket one from the Chinese buffet, but obviously the man has some strange quirks; I can't guarantee petty theft isn't one of them.

So it turns out, I guess I can explain the spoon. But I still can't really explain it. I am an intensely logical person, so I want to understand why my aging parents do the very strange things they do, but I know that some things just aren't meant to be understood. I realize that no matter how baffled I am, I have to make peace with it, knowing that one of the great luxuries of growing old is to be able to indulge in your quirks and idiosyncrasies, to be able to thumb your nose at convention and do whatever you damn well please. Really, if we can't have that, there's almost no point in getting old. With that in mind, I could have a lot of fun trying to decide just what sort of crazy old lady I will one day be.

The game is over now, incidentally, and I guess I did have an opinion a little bit, because I was surprised to feel a teensy bit sad when the Packers didn't rally for a last-minute win in the end. So I guess that answers that question, in case there was any doubt. You can take the girl out of Wisconsin, but can't take the Wisconsin out of the girl. Or maybe the gene that favors the Packers is a dominant one. Let's hope some of those other genes aren't.