Thursday, February 27, 2014

What Would You Like To Do, Susie?

When it comes to stuff that matters, I am a decision-making queen. At work, if you need someone be clear-minded and decisive, I’m your girl. In sales, I can quote rates confidently and immediately. In management, I could pull the trigger on any operational decision that needed making. If coming to a conclusion is important in any way, it is honestly no problem for me.

But somehow when it comes to my personal life, and small, inconsequential life choices, my deciding skills turn to mush.

I hate this about myself, because it reminds me of Spongebob and Patrick walking down the street saying "What do you wanna do?" "I dunno, what do YOU wanna do?" "III dunno, what do YOUUU wanna do?!" Which means I have roughly the same cognitive capacity of an animated sponge in a children's show... But I can't help it. Sometimes it's the littlest decisions, BECAUSE of their trivialness, that are the hardest to make.

Like, dinner for instance. For most of the earth’s population, “Where would you like to go for dinner?” is a relatively easy question to answer. Even those people who would identify themselves as “indecisive” could probably come up with something in response here. “Let’s go somewhere where we can eat outside” or “Somewhere I can get a big salad” or “Somewhere we haven’t been in awhile” – even if they can’t settle on an EXACT restaurant, they are able to narrow down some general idea of what they’re in the mood for.

These people are my heroes.

Because that’s not what happens when you ask Susie these kinds of questions. It seems so simple in theory:

Hey, Susie’s Brain! You have 24 years of life experience under your belt. During that time, it seems logical that you would have developed some idea of which foods make your tummy happy and which ones don’t. PICK SOMETHING. 

Instead, when you ask me where I want to go for dinner, my brain does this funny thing where I go to access the mental file folder entitled “preferences” and for some reason the entire thing is empty. I turn to other folders, like “cravings” and “recent recommendations” – tossing files behind me as I go, and they are all empty. I then resort to just pulling the “ANY RESTAURANT WITHIN A FIVE-MILE RADIUS” folder… but there is nothing. No ideas, anywhere, absolutely no earthly idea where we should go. I scour every corner of my brain for something, anything to respond with – but I inevitably, shamefully, come up short.

…I do not know. I do not know what I would like for dinner.

I AM SURE that on some level of consciousness I do have some contribution to make to this conversation. At the very least, I could probably come up with a list of things I do not want for dinner. I probably do not want to go anywhere that exclusively serves endangered species, for example. I do not want to go anywhere that would require me to board an airplane, because I have work tomorrow… that type of thing. But starting from there and trying to narrow my way in seems like a time-consuming and largely counterproductive process.

So Taylor and I have come up with a system to combat my crippling indecisiveness. Instead of giving me the option of EVERY RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD and overwhelming my poor feeble brain, he narrows it down for me by randomly selecting just a few restaurants, from which I have a much easier time of making a selection.

60% of the time, it works every time.

…The other times we just order pizza.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Letter to the Girl in My Driver's License Photo

Dear Girl In My Driver's License Photo,

Dear, dear girl. What a life you lead! The winds of change have blown you through four cities in the last year, and spat you out here, spinning, with your hand on your hat. In each new place you have shaken your head, dusted yourself off and walked forward into another new situation – scarcely even taking the time to absorb your surroundings.

And as a gentlemanly gesture, your surroundings, in turn, did not absorb you either. You and your respective cities of residence have lead lives as kindly neighbors – acquainted, sure, but otherwise hardly cognizant of one another’s presence. Arizona’s sprawling desert and beautiful, panoramic views made friendly eye contact in passing but did not call to you, did not whisper sweet nothings into your ear. Similarly, the noisy, pulsating streets of San Francisco were quaint and appealing in photographs, but in the end warmed someone else’s bed. No, the dapper charm of these cities was lost on you, dear one.

It seems needless, then, to say you have not felt "at home” at all this year – flighty and transient as your existence has been, that four-letter word has not even snaked its way into your vocabulary. What is home, but a place to hang your hat? A place where you never got around to stocking the pantry, where you’re not quite compelled to unpack all the boxes… just in case. No, a mere stepping-stone to the next adventure, surely not a home.

Were you afraid? Of course you were. Before this tumultuous year you were secure in your place in the world. Your entire life – friends, family, every school you ever attended – were all a stone’s throw away. You had hunkered down in your hometown like a bird protecting her eggs: You spread your wings out wide and strong, but stayed firmly perched on your nest. Because to do anything else would mean certain danger – even an inch’s movement in any direction would be much too risky.

Little did you know, little bird, that you would move from that nest of comfort and familiarity – not just an inch but 400 miles, and then another 800, and then 600 more. As if your ties to it were not made of rope but of rubber, and you wanted to see just how far they could stretch.

And did they stretch? Do you still feel like that little bird, pulling and tugging against the bonds that held you there for so long? Or is the resistance all just imagined, and the cord was severed completely when you first left home a year ago?

And if no binding ties exist to that old nest, to what now, dear girl, do you consider yourself bound? Not the sunny plains of Arizona or the bustling streets of San Francisco, surely.

Are the evergreens and snowcapped mountains of your current surroundings enough to provide anchor? Your new home carries not a single unpacked box, and your cabinets are full of canned goods. Could this mean that you are, after all, itching for some measure of permanence? A place to call your own?

I think the answer might lie in the one, solitary declarative act of relocation you have made. The only time, in three moves over 13 months, that you have taken the time to stand in line and notify this new location of your intent. Like crying from a rooftop that you are here. You do exist, and you want this city to open itself up to you, and vice versa.

Dear girl, waiting patiently for your turn in metal folding chairs, standing behind the yellow line and looking up at the camera, wide-eyed and grinning…

Welcome home.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

How To Be Weird (And Other Workplace Dilemmas)

As I may have mentioned, I recently moved to the Portland area and have been searching for a new job. But what I have not yet mentioned is that after a month and a half of sending out my resume and starting to seriously consider becoming a professional dog walker, I FINALLY FOUND ONE.

That’s right, folks, on Tuesday I will be officially re-inducted into the American workforce, and the job will not involve leashes or inside-out plastic bags. Hold your applause, please.

This two-month stretch of being jobless has been simultaneously relaxing and stressful, luxurious and terrifying… it is bittersweet to have it come to an end, but I am ultimately hugely relieved to have a reason to set the alarm in the morning again. Inertia isn’t a good look on me.

However, there is one aspect of my re-employment that has me a little squeamish… and that’s the fact that new job = new people.

Having to introduce yourself to new people is scary. Which might be why in the days leading up to my first day of work, I am having high school-type nightmares. What if I trip? What if I call someone by the wrong name? WHAT IF I FORGET TO WEAR PANTS?!

And the thing about meeting new people is just that that: they are new people. I’ve maintained the exact same group of friends since I was 12 – partially because they are the best group of people on planet earth and certainly better than any stinking NEW group of friends – but also because I am a weird human being, and my weirdness matches with their weirdness. And that’s a rare find.

With new people I can’t guarantee that my weirdness will match anybody else’s. In fact, I can’t even be sure that these people will be weird at all. We can go ahead and add that to my growing list of concerns: WHAT IF NOBODY’S WEIRD?!

So I guess to be safe I have to hide my weirdness, initially. Which is a feat all in itself. I imagine I will develop a lump in my throat after spending all day swallowing the stupid jokes that try to bubble up in my esophagus. If, in the middle of a conversation, someone pauses and says, “But um…” I will have to resist the urge to make a “TSSSSSSS!” noise and pretend to clang an invisible cymbal on my imaginary drum set. (Because if I do, I will inevitably have to follow it with, “Get it? ‘Baddum, TSSS!’ Like a punchline!” And the moment you have to explain it, you’re already past the point of no return. You’ve become THAT COWORKER, now. Congratulations.)

I won’t be able to keep it up forever, though. All that weirdness will be building up inside me, spring-loaded and ready to pop. And if I don’t let it out then one day I’ll just explode and shower everyone in a ten-foot radius with bad knock-knock jokes and obscure movie references.

So in the coming weeks, I will have to let it out gradually. Little by little, I will try my weirdness out on people somewhat haphazardly – like throwing spaghetti noodles on the wall to see what sticks. And it won’t take much! All I need is maybe ONE person who can quote Anchorman on a conversational basis. Or just ONE person who can discuss the Oxford comma and its unquestionable necessity in the English grammar landscape. Or, hell, just let there be one diehard Harry Potter fan in the office and I’ll be happy. (Cuz then I can incorporate Harry Potter-related advice into regular workplace dilemmas: If they’re complaining about the boss I can say “Well, you know what Dumbledore always says... ‘Perhaps those who are best suited for power are those who have never sought it.’” Or, “You know what Sirius would say, ‘If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.’” …Come to think of it, I’m kinda rooting for the Harry Potter thing. Let’s make that happen, universe.)

Anyway, I hope to god that my coworkers are even a little bit weird. Cuz if they’re not I’m not sure I’ll be able to survive… and I might have to resort to dog-walking after all. (Because then I could tell them to bark twice if they’re in Milwaukee. And that’s sure to get a lot of laughs.)

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Motivation is a sly, elusive little scoundrel.

Sometimes I get it in big spurts, and suddenly I find myself completing 100 different tasks I didn’t even realize needed doing… and the world seems like this really manageable place where anything can be achieved with enough elbow grease and a positive attitude.

But other times, motivation is like an endangered species that I have to go searching through forests and jungles to locate. And I hack my way through this proverbial wilderness with increasing frustration – I just know it must be here somewhere. The other day I cleaned out the fridge and color-coded my entire closet in the same hour; why is it that today the only achievement I can manage is replacing the empty toilet paper roll?

On days like this, when there is something that really needs to get done but I lack the motivation to do it, I try to reason with myself with simple, ironclad logic:

I should really do the thing.

  • This is a good thing to do. There are a lot of tangible benefits to doing the thing. If I do it, I will see real, immediate results. My life, and possibly the lives of those around me will be improved. Doing the thing will provide instant gratification.
  • There are no potential negative results to doing the thing. I am not taking any particular risk. No one is in danger as a result of doing the thing.
  • The thing is not hard – in fact it is very easy. It does not require copious amounts of time, energy, or effort. I will not exert myself by doing the thing, and it will not inhibit my ability to do any of the other things I really want to do.
  • There are no obstacles in the way of me doing the thing. I have all of the necessary supplies. The required resources are all available to me.
  • I have nothing better to do than the thing. This time has not been otherwise accounted for.
  • I don’t want to be the kind of person who doesn’t do the thing. Those people are pathetic. People who can’t muster up enough energy to complete the thing lack drive. Those people are going to end up flipping burgers and living out of their parents’ basement or something. I don’t want to be known as that girl who doesn’t do the thing.
  • Perhaps most importantly, once I do the thing, the thing will be done. Then I won’t have to think about it anymore. Then it won’t be weighing down on me. It will be one less item on my To Do list, and I will feel accomplished and capable. Then maybe it will be easier to tackle the rest of the things.

…So anyway yeah, I should definitely, totally, no-doubt-about-it do the thing. I have absolutely zero excuse not to be doing it right now.

And yet, I still don’t do the thing. Because trying to drum up motivation with logic is like trying to hammer a nail with a banana.

Right now the thing is laundry. And I am extremely unmotivated to go do it. So instead I wrote a blog post about having a lack of motivation. Which is… still… productive… kinda… so that makes it okay. Right?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I hate running.

I hate running.

To quote Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, "I'm using the word hate here." I hate running so much that if I hear anybody talking about how much they enjoy running, I find myself thinking, I could never be friends with this person.

There is nothing enjoyable about running. Running is what happens in Hell.

There are so many things I would rather do than run. I would rather do squats and planks for an hour than run for 15 minutes. I would rather suffer two dozen papercuts. I would rather listen to nothing but “Baby” by Justin Bieber on repeat for a full day. That old meme of “I only run when I'm being chased” doesn't even apply to me, because if someone was chasing me my first thought would probably be to jump into a dumpster or something. Anything but running.

I know what you’re about to say, so let me stop you right there: I KNOW. Running is sooooo good for me and if I run every day then all my health problems will be solved like THAT… and running is the best and only people who run can understand the true beauty and nature of the universe, and there is a special secret club reserved for runners where there is a string quartet and they feed you chocolate-covered strawberries all day… and blah blah cardiovascular blah blah blah metabolism blah blahhhhh.

I know.

And because I know all that, I do run. I don’t have to like it.

But because of this mismatch of worldviews, when I run it ends up turning into a somewhat schizophrenic experience. Like my brain is actually two people: my internal personal trainer who knows, logically, that this is good for me… and the petulant child who still really really doesn’t ever want to run EVER. And running is like this ongoing internal battle between the two, and I spend the entire time arguing with myself.

Internal Personal Trainer Me: Just a little farther! You can do it!
Petulant Child Me: NNNOOOOO, this is too haaaaard. People invented cars and airplanes specifically to avoid having to travel on foot. Running on purpose is like turning my back on the hard work of our forefathers… I think I’m gonna take a break and walk for awhile.
Petulant Child Me: …Why do you suck so much? Why are you allowed in my head?

…etc. etc.

But literally the solitary reason for this post is to announce that today I ran THREE MILES without stopping once. Which I understand is probably peanuts to all you marathoners and genetic mutations out there… but for me it’s roughly the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest, or opening a jar of pickles by myself.

…But afterward I was ready to collapse, and the petulant child in me was throwing an absolute fit. So I still would certainly not call the experience enjoyable. Not by a long shot. Not by a shot three miles long, which by the way is how far I ran today.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

7 General Beauty Questions I Have for Other Females

I came across a Pinterest post the other day, entitled “The Right Way to Wash Your Face… In 7 Easy Steps.”

In the split-second that it took me to read that title, my brain was already short-circuiting. I hadn’t even CLICKED on it yet, and there was already so much to be alarmed about. Here, in chronological order, was my exact play-by-play reaction:

ONE: The right way to wash your face? As in, there’s a wrong way? Is face-washing really that complex? Such a labyrinthine process that people need help navigating it? Are there people out there scrubbing their faces with motor oil, cursing the sky in frustration and hoping that someone will come along, take them by the hand, and illustrate the right way to do it?

TWO: D’uhhh… 7 steps? SEVEN?! Apparently I am one of the aforementioned wayward souls in need of direction, because I cannot even wrap my head around the idea of there being seven steps to washing your face. Unless the steps went something like:
1.)  Obtain a face.
2.)  Gain access to running water.
3.)  Find some soap.
4.)  Read this article.
5.)  Wash face.
6.)  Be happy with self for having washed face.
7.)  Do Christopher Walken impression in mirror.

THREE: Oh phew, at least they’re seven EASY steps. As opposed to all the other face washing tips out there, which call for seven DIFFICULT steps. Or five really easy steps, and two especially challenging ones.

Even if it’s the “right” way to do it, I will never be the kind of girl to devote that kind of time / energy to my face. It’s stuff like this that highlights my absolute inability to be a female. There are just SO. MANY. THINGS. involved in womanhood that I will never understand, and have no immediate hopes to begin understanding.

This has always been the case, since I was a wee babe, 11 years old and reading Cosmo… I figured someday I would just wake up, swing my feet off the bed and step into the world as a mature, high-heel-wearing, mascara-using lady. But the years passed, and as I blossomed into an adult I did not develop any of the ladylike characteristics I imagined I would. Instead, I feel like I spend more time impersonating a girl than actually being one.

And now, when I come across articles like this, it only amplifies my curiosity. I wish I were some kind of official researcher, so that I could conduct studies on this strange female race of which I am apparently a member. Instead, I have compiled a list of all the things I just don’t understand, which I will now send off into the universe (boys, you can probably sit this one out. Go have yourself an ice cream cone, you’ve been a real trooper.):

Dear fellow females,

WTF is up with…

1.) TIME. Don’t worry ladies, this one I actually have figured out already. Obviously, in order to leave the house every morning looking that polished and put-together, I am sure you must have some kind of time-altering technology. Right?! This is the absolute only explanation I can conjure for how you would still be able to get a full 8 hours of sleep while devoting enough time to looking that fantastic. Is there some kind of application process required to obtain such a device? Do I need references? Please advise, thx.
2.) DESIGNER NAILS. I don’t have anything negative to say about a cute set of nails. They are, truthfully, adorable. AW, is that a flower?! And a bumble bee? DID YOU PAINT YOUR NAILS TO LOOK LIKE A PEACOCK’S FEATHER?! You are wonderful and talented and your nails are nothing short of amazing. But it makes me sad to look at them, because I’m not sure whether you realize that they are 100% temporary. It would be like Picasso creating all his masterpieces with sidewalk chalk. They’re gorgeous, but that probably took a lot of work, and I know for an absolute fact that in T-Minus 22 hours they will chip. Period. A day after that, at least one nail will have an entire corner missing. And before long they will be so ugly that you won’t even be able to see the feather design anymore – you’ll just be faced with the painful decision of either waiting for their inevitable demise, or swabbing them yourself. Was it worth it? The tedious hours involved in their perfection? Wouldn’t you rather have put that kind of effort onto, say, a canvas? Then we could all enjoy it forever!
3.) SHOES. What’s the big deal? They go on your feet. Socks go on your feet, too, but we don’t seem as obsessed with those. So I am utterly confused. From what I understand, many moons ago all the women of the world came together and held a meeting… during which they discussed the secret, magical power of shoes and why they are so vitally important to the female race. I think there was a Breaking Bad marathon on that day, so I must have missed the memo. Someone please brief me on their significance.
4.) CONTOURING. I don’t even have anything else to say about this one, I just want answers. WTF is this.
5.) SHOPPING. I legitimately must be missing something here, because here is my take on shopping: You sift through racks upon racks of clothing, literally 80% of which is not your size / style. On the off chance that you actually find something you like, you take it to the dressing room only to find out half the time that it doesn’t look like you thought it would, or fits you weird, or doesn’t match anything in your existing wardrobe. Even if it somehow passes that test, you then have to stare at it for another 15 minutes – because sure it’s cute, but is it [INSERT DOLLAR AMOUNT] worth of cute? And the answer is always no. Because clothes are always completely unnecessarily expensive. And the whole process takes, like, hours and I feel like there are just so many better ways to spend my life. (See # 1) And then EVEN ONCE IT’S ALL OVER you have to go again in another few months because now everything you just bought is out of style. No thanks y’all, I’ll stick to my existing pair of ripped jeans that I’ve been wearing since 10th grade and call it a day.
6.) GENERAL PRODUCT PREFERENCES. I have never, in my 24 years of life, said, “this beauty product is better than the others” about anything. Which makes shopping for products an uneventful affair, because I pretty much just reach for whatever’s on sale / on the shelf closest to my outstretched hand. Consequentially, I’ve probably used just about every product at some time or another – and so far, nothing has wowed me enough to have me searching for it the next time around. So I find it fascinating that some women are so loyal to a single brand. What factor could possibly influence your shampoo-buying decision that heavily? And can there really be that much variation in mascara?
7.) SHAVING CREAM. I think the other issue is my complete lack of beauty product usage to begin with. For instance, does anyone actually use shaving cream to shave their legs? And if the answer is yes, why? I mean, is there some advantage to just using the soap in the shower? And be honest on this one, can you look me straight in the eye and tell me that conditioner is ABSOLUTELY essential to your hair? Is there science behind this?

These countless unanswered questions boggle my mind, and more and more arise every day. I sincerely hope that nobody will revoke my girl card for being so completely clueless, as I go upstairs and try to elongate my face-washing process into seven easy steps.

(I wrote this to be primarily rhetorical, but if you truly do have any answers for me I am legitimately curious, and all ears.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A 5th Grade Tale of Love & Loss

Valentine’s Day is on Friday.

Recently the Daily Post issued this DPchallenge, which got me thinking a little more about my history with this Hallmark holiday.

When I was in elementary school, Valentine’s Day meant dragging my mom to Party City to buy a pack of 30 themed valentines to distribute to the rest of the class. I would stay up late the night before addressing each one individually – spending hours trying to decide which generic greeting best illustrated the intricate subtleties of my relationship to each classmate. After all, who was most deserving of Strawberry Shortcake’s “You’re a BERRY special friend!”? Not just any friend, surely.

In 5th grade, this quandary was kicked into high gear, by a boy named Zach Whitaker*. Zach was cute and charming in a way that suggested his ancestry might have been linked with the likes of Casanova or Hugh Grant. He was easily the coolest boy in our class, and his bleached, spiky hair and freckles made me (and the rest of the 5th grade girls) utterly weak at the knees. We could often be seen drooling at the crosswalk as he cruised by on his black Razor scooter. With all this competition, it was imperative that my valentine to Zach accurately portrayed my undying love for him.

That year my valentines were themed after the movie “A Bug’s Life.” The most romantically-worded option available said “BEE Mine, Valentine!” …A play on words, which, under different circumstances, might have been the perfect choice to adequately sum up my infatuation for Zach. HOW-EV-ER, the premise of the card annoyed me, since the movie “A Bug’s Life” DID NOT HAVE A BEE IN IT. Anyone who has ever seen the movie would know this, and would automatically think this valentine is stupid.

So now I was faced with a pressing dilemma: Do I give Zach the more appropriately romantic card – even if it makes no logical sense? Then I would risk him thinking the card was stupid, just like I did! Or do I give him a different one – albeit less affectionate, but at least cinematically accurate?

In the end, I decided to err on the side of caution. I gave Zach a different card, one that would not raise an eyebrow if he was a fan of “A Bug’s Life,” but which also did nothing to sufficiently communicate my passion for him.

Inevitably, it got lost in the sea of other neutral, platonic-sounding valentines on his desk.

Holly Winters, on the other hand, DID give Zach a romantic valentine. She sauntered up to him with her French-braided pigtails (making me curse my simple, unbraided pony) and placed it tenderly in his open palm. It was “Lion King”-themed, and said something along the lines of “I could say I don’t like you, but then I’d be LION.”

…And Zach asked her to be his girlfriend, right there in front of everybody.

They were our celebrity couple for the rest of the year, together for FOUR WHOLE MONTHS – the elementary school equivalent of forever – and at our 5th grade graduation party at Soak City, they rode the same inner tube down the big waterslide and kissed.

I have spent years replaying this story in my head. That should have been my story, Zach should have been my valentine, and sliding down a giant waterslide with the boy of my dreams should have been my first kiss experience. I could blame the greeting card company, for producing a line of movie-themed valentines without bothering to actually WATCH the movie in question… or I could blame my mother, for never teaching me how to French-braid my hair, which was OBVIOUSLY a factor here…

But in the end, I blame myself. I was afraid that Zach would think I didn’t know my stuff when it came to Pixar movies – and that fear prevented me from taking the leap and asking him to “Bee mine.” So instead of throwing caution to the wind for love, I made the logical, sensible choice. And as a result, Holly got the good first-kiss story – and I’m forever stuck with the story that came four years later, ‘the back of a movie theater watching Shanghai Knights.’

I am a walking parable, children. Learn from me.

*Actual names have been altered… partially to protect the identity of those involved, but also because I think we're still Facebook friends and if they knew this post was about them that would be way-hay-hay embarrassing.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Beatles vs. Bruce Springsteen

So hey, here’s an outright fact for you: The Beatles are the greatest band who ever lived. Period. Write that down.

But despite 99% of the Earth’s population accepting this as the OBVIOUS, ABSOLUTE truth, for some strange reason there are still people in the world who dispute it.

One argument I hear often is Bruce Springsteen. Who is no doubt exceptionally talented on a variety of levels, which I am not disputing. But there are people who maintain that he is the greatest musician who ever lived – even better than the Beatles.

I know what you’re thinking, and the answer to your question is YES. I do believe there is a chance these people were dropped on their head as a child. I do not exaggerate when I say that this point of disparity has very nearly ended friendships for me on multiple occasions.

And so, in light of the recent CBS 50th Anniversary Beatles Tribute, I decided to once and for all put this debate to rest.

Okay, so for starters, let’s talk about the fact that Bruce’s sheer volume of work is staggering. He and the E Street Band have been touring since 1972 – that’s a solid 42 years. ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION? Forty-two years! That’s almost twice as long as I’ve been alive. In that time frame, eight different presidents have sat in office. 61 new sovereign states have been added to the United Nations. When he started his music career, he was promoting 8-tracks and vinyl (and I mean, not just to hipsters because they prefer its textural quality – because that was the available technology). He then watched – and was an active participant – as the music industry graduated to cassette tapes, CDs, MP3s, and then whatever the hell we’re calling iTunes now. Is that true of anyone else still touring today?

Over that time he has released 18 albums, sold more than 120 million copies, and become the 15th highest selling artist of all time. And it’s not like he was just this flash in the pan and then rode on the coattails of his former success for the rest of his career – during his 42 (and counting) years active he’s continued to be at the top of the charts, and his Grammy awards span over almost three decades.

How many Grammys, you ask? I dunno, how about 20? That do anything for you? Let’s also throw in two Golden Globes and an Academy Award, what the hell.

All stats aside, though, he truly is a sensational musician. Listen to ANY of his songs (I’m serious, just pick one out of a hat for all I care) and tell me he isn’t one of the greatest lyricists you’ve ever heard. Which makes sense I guess, since he’s not only a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but also the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His stage performances are electrifying and legendary, with concerts lasting upwards of four hours. He crowdsurfs, takes song requests, chugs a fan’s beer when he’s parched… and is so energetic and passionate (and well, sweaty) that in some outdoor venues steam can literally be seen rising off the man’s back. He is regarded by many, including Rolling Stone Magazine, as the greatest live performer of all time.

…But he’s not the Beatles.

By contrast, the Beatles’ body of work seems puny. They were active for only 10 years, and released only 12 studio albums. (Literally even just writing that sentence makes me cringe, because using the word “only” in relation to the Beatles seems like a sin against nature) But luckily my cringing can be short-lived, because it seems this is the only advantage Springsteen has over them – and, arguably, that makes their success even more extraordinary. Because even in the band’s comparatively short lifespan, the Beatles were still able to squeeze out seven Grammy awards and one Academy Award. And to this day they still hold dozens of rock and roll world records, including the record for the most number one hits on the Hot 100 chart.

Do you get what I’m saying here? The band hasn’t even existed in half a century. Two generations of music have come and gone since they first made their debut. Almost half of their fan demographics were not even alive when they were touring and they are still credited with being the best band of all time. And I’m not just using that as a figure of speech, they were ranked the best artist of all time by both Billboard Magazine and Rolling Stone Magazine, both of which were both issued in the last decade.

Also, remember how Bruce was the 15th highest selling artist of all time? That’s quite an impressive feat, truly. But it means that 14 artists are still above him… among them Garth Brooks, Mariah Carey, and Rihanna. And # 1? … Let’s be honest here, I don’t even have to say it.

But okay okay, popularity does not automatically equal quality, I know that. (I’m looking at you, Beibs.) So aside from their 6 Diamond albums, 24 Multi-Platinum albums, and 39 Platinum albums, let’s just look at their raw musicianship.

OH MY GOD THEIR MUSICIANSHIP. I cannot even wrap my head around Paul McCartney’s musical talent. He’s best known for playing the bass guitar, but he also dabbled in acoustic and electric. He also played piano in hits like “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” and “Lady Madonna” – and stood in Ringo’s place as drummer in “Dear Prudence” and “Back in the U.S.S.R.”
…And oh, by the way also provided lead vocals and WROTE HALF OF THE SONGS.

Meanwhile, I get excited when I can successfully pound out chopsticks at the family Christmas party.

And here’s the rump, kids: He was self-taught and can’t even read sheet music. WHICH MEANS that he became one of the most iconic musicians of all time based on pure instinct and perfect pitch.

I could go on to outline the musical attributes of the rest of the Fab Four, or talk about the other awards and accolades they’ve received and records they hold… but the excitement of this post has me shaking like a Chihuahua, so it’s probably time for me to take a break. And anyway, I would like to believe there aren't actually many people on the other side of this debate.

But if there are, SHOW YOURSELF! You and me. After school. By the flagpole. BE THERE.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Childhood Susie and Her Slippery Grasp on Reality

Here’s a fun fact about me: I was a Girl Scout. From something like the ages of 3-17.

I’m taking this opportunity to pause for a moment. Utilize this time however you see fit. Stretch your legs, go get a fudgesicle, meditate, whatever. What I’m trying to say is, if you’re gonna laugh at my 14-year tenure as a Girl Scout, now is the time to do it.

Anyway while I was in Girl Scouts, I was apparently a participant in an ongoing childhood development project. Exactly once a year, we would take a sheet of paper and fill in the blanks for the same series of statements about ourselves. “Some of the things I like best about life are: __________”, “During my free time, I like to: __________”, etc. The idea was that we would later be able to review all our answers from year to year and see how we matured.

Our troop leader, being the fabulous person that she always was, somehow kept all of these and recently mailed them to us individually, with a sticky note saying, “Remember this?”

My eyes were filled with wonder as I opened that envelope. I had a vague memory of this project but no idea what the questions or answers would have been, and I was eager for this nostalgic glimpse into my youth. Would my responses be endearingly naive and innocent, or did I show wisdom beyond my years? Was I totally different than I am now, or did I foreshadow some later prominent personality trait?

As I flipped through my answers from 2001 – 2004, my hope and wonder was replaced by tremendous disappointment. Here is an example of one answer that I gave for THREE CONSECUTIVE YEARS…

I am happiest when: “I’m w/my friends.”

And that’s all she wrote, folks. That was apparently the best summary I had to offer for the key to my happiness from the tender ages of 11-14.

So, just to recap… Childhood Susie was given the rare opportunity to snapshot her personality, immortalize herself in a few words on a piece of paper, and speak to her future self… and for THREE YEARS IN A ROW I decided that the best use of this opportunity was to debut the ground-breaking concept of having friends. And, possibly more earth-shattering, the idea that being among those friends was something that brought me joy. And let’s not overlook the fact that during this time frame of 2001 – 2004, I was apparently too lazy to spell out the word ‘W-I-T-H.’

Ten-plus years later, and knowing my childhood self as I do, I feel I have a unique perspective to offer here. At this crucial preteen-age, Baby Susie was awkward, bookish, and pigeon-toed. Having been an only child for most of my life at this point, I spent a lot of time alone. And my over-hyper personality was such that if I was growing up today, I would likely have been medicated. In other words, one thing I certainly did not have at this stage was an overabundance of friends. This glaringly obvious fact would lead me to believe that answering that I was happiest when I was “w/my friends” was my pathetic attempt to rewrite history… hoping that maybe 24-year-old me would read it and say, “Wow, what a cool girl Past Susie was. I bet she was really popular and awesome.” Which is concerning for a number of reasons… the first of which being that I actually thought I could trick my future self, assuming I would have no memory of the reality of my childhood.

Needless to say, reading through the rest of my answers was disappointing to say the least. For example:

Complete this statement. When I am 25 years old…

2001 (age 11): “When I am 25 years old, I will be attending college at either SDSU or an acting school.”

Full disclosure, almost all of my responses to this question through the years involve attending college at age 25. Maybe it’s too much to expect an 11-year-old to fully grasp an educational timeline, but being in college at age 25 would require a 7-year college career. Which would logically have to mean that I either a.) was predicting that I would not be capable of graduating in the allotted 4-5 year time span, or b.) planned on becoming a doctor or lawyer or participating in some other profession that requires additional schooling. BUT WAIT! One of my scholastic options was “acting school” so there goes that idea. So, I guess the better explanation is just that I had a fundamentally flawed understanding of the world.

2004 (age 14): “When I am 25 years old, I will be a 9th grade geometry teacher and married / engaged”

Well, at least in the course of a few years I honed in on my life plan a little more. So much so, in fact, that I narrowed down my career choices to ONE profession, ONE grade level, and ONE subject matter. There is no room for negotiation on this one, 9th grade geometry was the only calling for me. I think it’s safe to say that this answer was heavily influenced by the fact that I was in 9th grade at this point, and presumably very much enjoyed my geometry class. Ipso-facto, career choice made! Let’s also not forget that I also had some pretty specific ideas about the state of my love life. I casually threw in “and married / engaged” almost as an afterthought, barely worth noting because OBVIOUSLY this one is a given. And I offhandedly added the “slash-engaged” as a reluctant Plan B in case my spinster 25-year-old self couldn’t manage to get the deed actually done at this point. Well I got news for you, Past Susie, 25 is just a short 8 months away for us. I apparently lack your passion for 9th grade geometry, and I have no immediate plans to get married and/or engaged. So cool your jets.

Complete this statement. I could help make the world a better place by…

2001 (age 11): “I could help make the world a better place by making smoking, drugs, and littering illegal.”

Hey, 11-year-old Susie! Guess what! Drugs and littering are already illegal. So you’re off the hook with that prophetic obligation. And even if they weren’t, by what authority do you plan on enacting new legislation? Do you feel that the only means by which you could “make the world a better place” is by being in a position of power? Strange, because you make no mention of an interest in political science – You went to acting school, after all.

2004 (age 14): “I could help make the world a better place by curing cancer or making homework illegal”

Again with these delusions of grandeur – Apparently this year, in addition to being a 9th grade geometry teacher, I also figured I’d dabble a little in politics and molecular biology. I guess curing cancer is admirable enough, but my first order of business as new world leader was going to be making homework illegal. Oh, Past Susie, you cheeky little comedian, you!

Taking this trip down memory lane has been quite an adventure in self-reflection, particularly on this 2014 version of myself. I would like to believe that in the last decade I’ve become established as a logical-thinking adult, but I have a hunch that ten years from now I’m going to be looking back on this exact paragraph thinking What a silly little dork!

…Whatever though. I’m just gonna go hang w/my friends.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Five Things You'll Notice When You Move to the Pacific Northwest

As some of you may know, I recently moved to the Portland area. (Oh, you didn’t know? Then HI THERE, new reader! Welcome to my blog! Here, pull up a chair! Have a Tootsie Pop!)

Having been born and raised in San Diego (where the beach is a logical activity choice 360 days a year, and the “snow” we sometimes see in movies / on the news seems so far away that it’s borderline-fictional), this move represented quite a culture shock for me. I have been here a little over a month now, and it seems like every day I am wide-eyed at another novelty – a constant reminder that I'm not in Kansas anymore.

So I offer a guide, to anyone following in my footsteps, on what you can expect if you make a similar move.

1.) I have two words for you, America: Fred. Meyer. Remember when Target started carrying some limited groceries, and you were all, “Hey, that would be cool if Target just straight-up ALSO became a grocery store. Then I could pretty much just set up camp and live here forever.” But then you sighed and went back to your mediocre day, because Super Targets do NOT exist in your neighborhood and you are doomed to a life of disappointment. GUESS WHAT! I have seen salvation, and its name is Fred Meyer! Do you need socks? Olive oil? A flatscreen TV? Avocados? An engagement ring? Toothpaste? A dining room table? WORRY NOT, CONSUMER, FRED MEYER’S GOT THAT ISH COVERED! Literally trying to come up with things that Fred Meyer does not carry has become a fun little game for me. It’s like Ralph’s, Target, and JC Penny all came together, and Fred Meyer is their gorgeous, scandalous lovechild.
2.) Yeah, it rains. So what? When people found out I was moving, “rain” seemed to be the word I heard most often. Probably because, admittedly, rain is somewhat of a source of fear for San Diegans. When water falls from the sky in SoCal, the whole world more or less stops. Traffic accidents skyrocket, indoor malls and movie theaters become packed, people watch the rain through closed blinds and avoid going outside altogether. And when I arrived here initially, I confess that I, too, could be seen running from my car into a building with my jacket over my head like the sky was falling. Honestly, I might as well have worn a blinking neon sign that said NOT A LOCAL. Because, truthfully, when there is almost never a time that it’s not wet outside, it just legitimately is not that big of a deal.

That is one confident weather report.
3.) Also, sometimes it snows. And apparently, that’s when the world here stops. From what I understand it doesn’t happen often, and when it does it rarely sticks to the ground long enough to matter, but as I type this right now it is snowing outside my window. And even though it’s only 2pm, everybody in the neighborhood is already home from work. All of the schools let out early, and all of the offices are closed. You know why? Because there’s snow. On the roads. And that is, apparently, a valid reason to go home early / not go to work to begin with. And I think that is just fantastic.

The view outside my window... or lack thereof.
4.)  But seriously though, the weather. It’s cold. No wait I don’t think you’re listening. I mean, it’s really cold. It’s so cold that if I’m outside for too long I start touching my face just to make sure it’s still there. The rain was a piece of cake, and the snow is more exciting than anything, but the cold is gonna take some serious getting used to. I didn’t realize how much more MAINTENANCE is required in these temperatures! Last night I had to sleep with all the faucets dripping so the pipes wouldn’t freeze over. Because that’s a thing, apparently. Thank god I have a proactive landlord to provide these kinds of directions, because otherwise I would have been the water-free village idiot who has never lived in freezing temperatures before.
5.) The Clothes! I do not exaggerate when I say that until recently, my closet contained only one solitary long-sleeved shirt. ONE! Living where there is actual weather has broadened the availability of wardrobe options tenfold. Of course, as a San Diego resident I certainly had my fair share of scarves and beanies – you know, for when the temperature dropped below 70 or so… But now these items serve an actual function. And I feel like I’m rediscovering my closet all over again, and it is absolutely fabulous. (Legwarmers! Not just a ballerina fashion statement after all!)

I think, at some point, I was maybe planning on having more than five things on this list, but to be continued CUZ I’M GONNA GO PLAY IN THE SNOW. KBYE!

This is my "THE-WHOLE-WORLD-IS-WHITE!" face.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

An Open Letter to Grocery Stores

Dear Grocery Stores,

Hi there, my name is Susie. And my favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate chip.

You might say, “Why are you telling us this, Susie?”

Hey, that’s a great question, Grocery Stores! And I’m glad you asked.

I am telling you this because until recently, I would have thought that ‘Chocolate Chip’ was one of the most standard, garden-variety, run-of-the-mill ice cream flavors in the world – right there next to Vanilla, Chocolate, and Strawberry. I have never for a moment doubted the availability or accessibility of this flavor, because I would have thought that its simple recipe would have guaranteed its ongoing presence in my life for all eternity.

I have a story to tell you, Grocery Stores. A cautionary tale, from someone who took their favorite ice cream for granted.

Last night, it was cold and dark, and the ominous winds of change blew through the air. I sauntered cheerfully into my local supermarket, craving some of my favorite chocolate chip ice cream – utterly unsuspecting of the horrors to come. I scanned the shelves of the freezer section with growing anxiety, sure that I must be overlooking it. There were rows and rows of ice cream flavors, surely it must be here somewhere! Distraught, I stumbled to the nearest store employee for help. Rather than offering words of comfort, he confirmed my worst fears. Not only did they not carry it – the man glanced over his shoulder and told me in hushed tones – he couldn’t even remember the last time he saw it on the shelves.

Panic ran through my veins like ice water. I hastened to the next store, holding out hope that it was an isolated incident. But there I met the same fate – horror, disappointment, deflation. A third store, and a third round of distress.

I came home and frantically opened my laptop, determined to quell my fears with reassurance that the flavor DOES exist, this was all just an unfortunate coincidence, a bad dream… I searched all of the flavor lists for major ice cream distributors, and combed through dozens of different flavor combinations. Every so often, my eyes would catch on options like “Mint Chocolate Chip” and “Chocolate Chocolate Chip” and “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough”… And finally, after minutes upon minutes of searching… I found it. Most ice cream companies do, in fact, manufacture Chocolate Chip. My panic temporarily abated, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

But I write to you now, Grocery Stores, to pose the question of WHY you would not carry this obviously available and presumably popular product. The fact of this absolutely baffles me. You carry things like ‘apricot noyaux’ and ‘white chocolate raspberry cheesecake’ and ‘banana cappuccino fudge twirl kitty kitty lick lick sundae supreme’ (Okay there’s a chance I made that one up), but somehow something as simple as chocolate chip is beyond your ability to stock? Is this a part of a larger statement you’re trying to make to consumers? Are there ice cream politics involved that I’m not aware of?

I have to imagine there are others out there like me, quietly sitting at home eating their second favorite ice cream flavor because the mighty hand of oppression has shunned them into silence. But no more! Please accept our plea, Grocery Stores, and allow us to indulge on the simple, creamy, perfect-ratio-of-chocolate-to-vanilla goodness that is Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. Think of all the after-a-hard-day’s-work cravings you could satisfy. Think of all the apple pie that is currently going NON-a la mode! For heaven’s sake, THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

I trust you’ll do the right thing, Grocery Stores.

Sincerely and Hopefully,