Sunday, July 8, 2012

What I Did On My Summer Probation

My "friend" Marinka has recently put me on Friendship Probation because I recommended a book to her, which she HATED. Well, actually, she only read the first few pages, but then deleted it from her Kindle and shook her fist at me from across the country and vowed revenge and exiled me to the Land of Silence.

The book was 700 Sundays by Billy Crystal. I think Publishers Weekly put it best when they wrote:

Reading the book version of comedian Crystal's Broadway solo show can be initially off-putting. The jokes he uses to warm up his audience (on why Jews eat Chinese food on Sunday nights, his complaints about his circumcision, the nasal pronunciation of Jewish names, etc.) are distinctly unfunny on the page. But once Crystal is finished with shtick and on to the story of his marvelous Long Island family, readers will be glad they can savor it at their own pace.

To be fair (as opposed to unfair, as certain unnamed persons have been recently), I did not warn Marinka about the book's rocky start, so I can somewhat see how/why she might have an initial negative reaction to the piece.


I then mentioned to her that I was not a fan of a book that she had recommended, Sister: A Novel by Rosamund Lupton, a very well-reviewed book. Yet I was trying to stick with it.
Shockingly, and sounding very much like Senator Joe McCarthy, she (Marinka, not Rosamund) accused me of book-hating retaliation and declared us book nemeses.

Undaunted, I soldiered ahead in Lupton's time-jumping-female-family-fatale-drama-mystery, struggling through a minefield of inconsistencies.

For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of reading this tangled yarn of sisterhoody intrigue, here is the plot, thus far, as far as I can decipher:

An Englishwoman named Bea, who's living in NYC, gets a call from her Mum in England, telling her that Bea's sister, Tess, is missing.

Bea jumps on a plane to London. Mum meets her at the airport, and they go straight to the police station, where the police ask Bea to star in a re-enactment of her sister's disappearance, even though Bea is 5 years older than her sister, looks nothing like her, and oh, might be a little upset about her beloved sister's disappearance. But Bea does it for the sake of Theme and Plot, uh, I mean, Her Beloved Sister.

We also watch Bea, being the rational and responsible older sister, ask the police if they have checked the hospitals because Tess had been pregnant, and plus, she's missing and maybe she died or got sick, but the police assure her that they have already checked all the hospitals. But good thinking, Bea!

Mum, meanwhile, goes off to her own home alone, because, you know, why would she expect her surviving daughter, after flying across the Atlantic Ocean, to want to spend the night with her? So instead, the grieving and distraught Mum goes on her way, while the compassionate and caring Bea goes off to spend the night alone in Tess's apartment.

At some point, a pregnant girlfriend of Tess shows up at the apartment. Bea exchanges a couple of pleasantries, but the girlfriend's boyfriend is honking his horn, so there's no real time to ask this girl any questions about, you know, THE MISSING SISTER AND WHAT THAT GIRL MIGHT KNOW ABOUT IT.

Oh, and by the way, it's not like this is a secret disappearance. It supposedly is everywhere in the media, and yet it's only when the tv re-enactment hits the airwaves that it turns out that Tess DID go to a hospital and delivered her baby – a stillborn – and the hospital also recommended her for follow-up psychiatric care. So there are all types of records on sister Tess.

Yet somehow this info never got to the police.

And now I'm suspicious about this novel, because we're always hearing about how great the British Health Care System is, but this book is making them (and the much-loved British police force) look like incompetent idiots – so I'm wondering if this is part of some sort of vast right-wing conspiracy to make the new U.S. healthcare law look ridiculous and if Marinka is part of that plot. Or maybe it's just bad plotting.

I'm reassured it's just bad plotting by other inconsistencies including (but not limited to): the media's sporadic appearance and disappearance outside Tess's apartment; a disconnected phone that somehow receives harassing messages; a suspicious ex-boyfriend that the police don't seem very interested in; and a shady landlord who releases plot points in strategic drips.

The last straw for me is still fairly early on when Bea returns to Tess's apartment after identifying Tess's body at the morgue. Bea had left the apartment key under a flowerpot, just in case Tess decided to return to her own apartment. I'm wondering why Tess wouldn't have her own key or how she would know one would be under this flower plot since the landlord explained to Bea that Tess no longer left a key out.

Whatever. So Bea decided to leave the key where anyone could get at it, even though she'd been warned this is a Bad Neighborhood where ruffians recently destroyed cars on the street and put a brick through Tess's window. And then, when Bea returns to the apartment and finds the key missing and the door open and hears someone inside the flat - what does she do?

Yes, she does what every semi-naked co-ed in every horror story does: She goes inside. 

DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE! I can almost hear the imagined movie audience scream.

So that's it for me. I'm out.

I mean, yes, I see the fine quality of sentence structure and word choice and the Important themes of sisterly love in this novel, and maybe it'll all come together in the end, but there is only so much disbelief I can suspend. I have very weak arms.

On the up side, however, I now understand Marinka's decision to just delete the Billy Crystal book and get on to her next one. Life is short; not every book is for everyone; and sometimes it's better to just cut one's losses when there are so many other books one could actually be enjoying. 

Besides, I hear Rosamund Lupton has a new book out, so maybe I'll give that one a try. Marinka recommended it after all, so how bad can it be? (and somewhere a little voice inside me screams, DON'T GO INTO THE BOOK!)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mr. Clean and The Gym Bunny

The other day at the gym, when I went to use a weight bench, I saw that someone had left an iPhone on the floor next to it. So being a forgetful (read: old) person myself, I thought, "Oh, someone will be right back for that."

But then, the guy who cleans the gym - you know the one: he has that vacuum pack on his back, and although the gym is a perpetual filth-hole, he always seems to be loudly vacuuming right by your piece of equipment - he catches my eye. And then he gives me a dirty look. Like somehow I'm this iPhone thief, and he's going to stop me. Or maybe he's pissed that I will now snatch up the iPhone that he'd had his eye on.

So Mr. Clean says to me, "Is that your phone?" Although he'd clearly just seen me walk up to the bench.

So now, because his dirty look has made me feel defensive,  I reply, "No. I was going to return it to the front desk."

"I can do that," he says.

And so I smile curtly and watch him as he scoops up the phone and walks towards the front desk.

I do not trust him. And then he sneaks a peek back as me on his way so AH-HA! I was right! And so I feel justified and morally superior to this sneak.

Then a couple of moments later, a Gym Bunny comes scampering over to the bench. He's sorta a Palms Springs prototype, i.e., not as well-built or handsome as he thinks he is; the type that equates eye contact with sexual hook-up. But let me state right here for the record that there's not enough room on the internet for me to express how sexually uninterested I was/am/every-will-be in him.

But I can see that he's in a tizzy. And as he rushes off, I say, "Oh, did you lose your phone?"

And he pauses. It's as if he's doing me this great favor by pausing. He looks me over as he impatiently says, "Yes."

"The cleaning guy just brought it up to the front desk."

Then The Gym Bunny makes an annoyed sound and scampers off to the front desk.

In my fantasy version of this story, Mr. Clean and The Gym Bunny end up going on a date and become really bad boyfriends and bring years of misery to each other.

In the real version, however, I saw Mr. Clean a little while later, making fun of The Gym Bunny to his co-worker. It was kinda homophobic but also kinda deserved, so it left me with mixed feelings.

And I know there are some Important Lessons to be learned here - maybe something about having the common courtesy to say Thank You and not taking things that don't belong to you. But I'm still not sure. I have a bad feeling it's about this underlying meanness I see more and more in our culture. And it's kinda making me sad.

Or maybe the Lesson is: Don't go to the gym. Stay at home, relax, and eat bonbons instead. There, now that's a happy ending.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

10 Things I Wish People Would Not Do In Front Of Our House (Part II)

Welcome back to Part Two of my cranky rant! If my previous post was The Godfather, then this would be like The Godfather, Part II. Or maybe more like Grease II. Or Basic Instinct II or Piranha II. Whatever.

Last time I whined about the first 5 out of 10 annoying/rude things that people do in front of our house. Now it's time for the second 5.

I'll try to be less "get off my lawn" this time, but I'm not promising anything.

So here are the things I'm respectfully asking people not to do when they park their cars in front of our house. Here goes:

6.  Dump their garbage at our front curb.

Do I really have to explain this? And yet...

One time, a dad was dumping out the Cheerios from his toddler's stroller, right onto the sidewalk in front of our garage. The kid was already strapped into the car, and the dad just wanted to clean up a bit before folding up the stroller and putting it in the back seat. I mean, who wants a car full of discarded Cheerios? I wouldn't. But I also don't want them in my front yard.

So when I asked dad nicely not to dump his trash on our property, he countered with, "But they're only Cheerios." [oh, and btw, it was about a half box of the stuff - not just one or two.]

So I naturally said, "Yes, but when you leave food out like that, then the coyotes come by and snatch little toddlers out of their strollers and eat them for lunch."

Which, btw, is sorta true, since the woman down the street had her little dog snatched right out from under her nose. Which is sad. But there is a coyote sanctuary on the premises of the reservoir's property, and the coyotes were here first. So there.

7.  Put their dog's poop in our trash receptacles.

Here's the thing. We keep these trash receptacles in our garage. So if you put smelly poop into our now-empty receptacles on the day that the trash men come, then we get to smell your dog's poop for a full week.

If we were hiney-sniffing dogs, this would be awesome. But we're not. So please don't .

8.  Sit on our front steps.

I know you're tired. I know it's very peaceful, sitting on our front steps, overlooking the reservoir. That's partly why we saved our pennies and bought the house. And I'm sure you're nice people, but we didn't invite you over. Especially if you...

9.  Smoke on our front steps.

I hate to break this to you, but I'm one of those people who are horribly allergic to cigarette smoke. Sorry. And I don't mean to infringe on your Constitutional rights or anything, so please, feel free to smoke on your own front steps. But not on mine.

Oh, and I'm sure that nicotine rush is awesome after a good run, but I think I read somewhere that smoking is not good for your health.

10. Steal our newspapers.

Finally, I'll just end with this obvious one. We're old school. We like to read the print versions of newspapers. But they're hard to read if someone takes them.

I mean, I guess it's better than stealing our mail. And I don't even mind when people cut the rosemary off our front bush - who can blame 'em? It smells so good! And there's plenty of it! But our newspapers?

C'mon. I'm a coupon-clipper. You can't do that with the online version. And no one else really reads newspapers anymore, do they?

Maybe you're taking them so you have something to pick up your dog poop and wrap it in. Many people think the L.A. Times is especially excellent for that purpose. And I applaud you for wanting to clean up after your dog (see complaints #2, #6, & #7), but please don't take our newspapers to do so? Thanks!

So there you have them - the 10 Things I Wish People Would Not Do In Front Of Our House!

How well did you score?

0 = Mr. Rogers level neighbor (Won't you be my neighbor?!)
1 - 3 = Desperate Housewives level neighbor (You might be a frienemy, but definitely annoying.)
4 - 6 = Rosemary's Baby level neighbor (You're probably a satanist.)
7 - 8 = The Simpsons level neighbor (You do horrible things to the houses around you.)
9 - 10 = Shaun of the Dead level neighbor (You're a zombie from hell.)

Monday, July 2, 2012

10 Things I Wish People Would Not Do In Front Of Our House (Part I)

We live across the street from the Silver Lake Reservoir. People like to walk, hike, jog, run, walk their dogs, etc. around that reservoir, which is nice.

However. They often do things in front of our house that are not so nice.

The following is the first half of 10 of the most annoying of those things. Do you do any of them? Take our quiz! Give yourself a point for each one you do! We'll do a follow-up at the end!

1.  Leave used condoms on our front steps.

Lovers like to park at the reservoir at night because it's quiet and dark and romantic. And while I applaud the practice of safe sex, do you really have to leave the gooey after-effects of your amorous encounters at our doorstep?

2.  Leave poop on our front steps.

Sometimes people just have to go potty, but there are no public toilets on our side of the reservoir. So what do people do sometimes? Well, they duck behind the retaining wall by our front steps and release the contents of their bowels. And then they leave it there.

Maybe they think we might want to use it for fertilizer. But we do not. So please take away any poop you might leave. Or better yet, don't use our front steps as your toilet.

And the same goes for your little dog too. Oh, and speaking of your little dog...

3.  Let their dog pee in the bushes, on our garage door, or on our steps.

Our garage door is right next to the sidewalk. So when you or your dog pees there, it's very unpleasant for us. Yes, it's only pee, but we don't pee on the doors that go into your home or the surfaces right outside them, so please don't pee on ours. However, I am a little afraid that one day soon I'll lose my wits and will follow someone home just to see how it feels to return the favor. And if I do, please remember that I'm really not a bad person.

4.  Park in front of our garage.

It makes it very difficult for us to drive in or out of our garage when there is a large vehicle in front of it. I know this may seem obvious, and yet...
Oh, and even when we do call a tow truck to move your car, it still stakes a big chunk of time out of our day and makes us very cranky.

5.  Blast audio when parked in front of our house.

I know you think you have excellent taste in music. But you don't. And I know you think that podcast you subscribe to is really interesting. But it's not. Not to me.

And I don't want to hear it while you're using our front steps to stretch before and/or after you run. Yes, I know stretching is important. Yay for you for warming up / cooling down, yay! But I might be trying to read or sleep or do something in my house, and listening to your noise does not enhance whatever it is I am trying to do.

Or maybe you're waiting for your partner while s/he runs around the lake and you're bored, so you turn on the tunes and love them so much that you want to share it with everyone within a one mile radius. Please keep your love to yourself. That's why God created headphones.

There are 5 more violations to come, so be sure to come back soon!