Raise a Glass

There have been many funny episodes in my life that involve alcohol, and a fair number of embarrassing episodes, and I’m not admitting to any pure straight up dumbass ones.  Plus, you have no proof of those — let’s hear it for coming of age before social media! Alcohol has also played a part in two of my prouder achievements.

But before we get to that, we have to go back to a job I had many years ago at the nonprofit Boston Center for Adult Education. You know, adult education, where people in their 20s pretend they’re “expanding their horizons,” with tai chi, or how to make a business plan, or making sushi, but they are really just looking to find other singles. And the joke is always on straight women, because most of the classes are filled with other straight women. Or was that just me? Anywho, this was way after the “Mad Men”/5 martini lunch era and way before start-up beer in the fridge and Foosball tables in the conference room era. Do you see how we Gen-Xers were completely left behind as far as alcohol in the workplace? Well, the BCAE, as we affectionately called it, created my noble desire to leave no alcoholic beverage behind. It used to be housed in an old mansion, so wedding reception rentals provided an income stream. Fortunately for us, our archaic old-ass Puritan Massachusetts laws prohibited the couple from taking any leftover alcohol with them. As a result, we always had a stash of wine and other spirits that were kept in the “wine closet.” That was an actual thing in my workplace. Of course my office supplies were kept in a built-in sock drawer and I worked in what had been the master’s bedroom (the house mrs. slept in the room nearby), but that’s a whole other blog.

All I’m saying is, when you are a Gen-Xer and 30 years old making essentially less than the minimum wage of today, but it’s OK because you are helping people, having wine at work was pretty damn exciting. And so every once in a while the education director would check the wine closet situation on a Friday afternoon and in no time we would have a beautiful spread of wine, cheese, and nibbles, fit for a wedding reception.

I vowed to leave no alcohol behind, so I knew what I had to do at my next job at a health newsletter publisher (remember those? So cute, those print newsletters, aren’t they?) When I got there, there was already a cruise director of sorts who organized movies at lunch and company outings. I didn’t want to step on his toes, so I waited patiently, and when he left, there was a wide open space. Apparently most people don’t like to organize fun at work. Who knew? I started off slowly with “tea time” — with tea in a real teapot and little teacups and cookies and little yummies. Once I had them enjoying that, it was a short leap to “wine time.” That was very cool until we got bought out by another company that seemed to prohibit alcohol in the workplace. Wha?

I say “seemed” because, ever the resourceful employee dedicated to the vision of drinking at work, I carefully scoured the fine print of the employee manual and discovered this fateful phrase: that alcohol was allowed at “company sponsored” events. Score! Just to be on the safe side though we referred to the “company sponsored” events as “tea time.” What can I say, our headquarters HR lady would visit once a quarter and we called her Catbert.

I eventually left the company, and that satellite office closed less than a year later, but a group of us continue the ritual in the more traditional venue of a bar after work. Now we get to call it a drinkfest, a nice name for my favorite work achievement.

My second alcohol-related achievement is that I got my mother to drink with me. Truth be told, this would be the second time her children have persuaded her. I believe my sister had the first honor when she came back from college a beer fan and got my mom on board. Having gone to an all girl high school and trying to be a nun after that before she got too sick to continue, my mom had missed out on a lot of teenage shenanigans. So it was up to us to make sure she made up for it in mid-life.

Fast forward to her recent move to assisted living. The two items in my mom’s fridge right now are beer and prune juice. And I think at age 88, that pretty much covers the bases. When she moved we tried to help her keep her rituals from home, one of which was every Saturday night she had beer and pizza. Her assisted living doesn’t have pizza that consistently, so she stopped drinking, can you imagine? When I told her to drink a beer after dinner on Saturday anyway, she said she doesn’t like to drink alone. Which is funny, because she drank by herself at home, and there weren’t even 100 assisted living neighbors within 20 feet of her, just my dad hanging out in another part of the house.

After couple of weeks of that suggestion being ignored, and she still wasn’t drinking in her apartment, I knew I had to act swiftly and hatched a plan. We FaceTime with each other every Friday night, and I always have wine on Fridays (and Mondays and Tuesdays and…but I digress), so I invited her to drink with me. Sure enough the next week she was hoisting her beer with me. This week she even finished hers before I finished mine. It was a proud moment.

 

“Get Out”: A Spoonful of Sugar

Apologies for the title. I’m sure there is a special place in hell for white writers who use white people references when talking about Black culture, but I’m pretty sure I’m going there anyway, so what the heck. I’m still very much a newbie in my quest to be an agent of social justice and learn about Black culture , so I’ll use what I know until I can use Black culture references appropriately.

Are ya still with me? Mary Poppins! Mary Poppins! OK, that’s better.

I had seen the ads for the movie “Get Out,” but I am a big weenie when it comes to horror movies. Between the violent bloody parts and the unbearable tension created by slasher music and white teenagers always going into the creepy house to have sex or drink, I find the whole thing disturbing and annoying. That is until the crazy person/spirit/monster comes out of nowhere with an ax, and then I’m cowering in my seat,  yelling, “Is it over?”

I’m kidding, I’ve never actually sat through a horror movie; I can scare myself in the dark for free in a fraction of the time. But I made an exception when my friend Sonia said I had to see “Get Out.” The movie is the directorial debut of Jordan Peele, who, if you don’t live under a media rock like I do, you may know him from his acting work: 5 seasons as a cast member on Mad TV, starring with Keegan-Michael Key in the Comedy Central ketch series Key & Peele, and a recurring role in the first season of the FX anthology series Fargo. 

Halfway through the making of “Get Out.” Jordan Peele realized the story he wanted to tell: A horror-thriller for Black audiences that delivered a searing satirical critique of systemic racism. It is definitely a cleverly written social commentary on being black in America, and he tucks in some humor along the way while he plays with the genre. If you’re white and love horror movies, and even if you aren’t really looking for any deep meaning in your movies, I’d still encourage you to see it. It’s a quality addition to the genre; you will be entertained and surprised and terrified.

But it’s even better if you take a few minutes to see it from a Black perspective.

I put it on my viewing list, but I rarely stay awake long enough to watch movies, so I didn’t actually get to watch it until I visited Sonia a few months ago. It was 100 times better than me watching it by myself for several reasons:

  1. I would’ve missed most, if not all of the social commentary and symbolism that is embedded in the movie.
  2. I would’ve have had anyone to tell me when it was OK to unplug my ears and untuck my head from the pillow to deal with the bloody horror junk at the end.

If you’re sensitive like I am, invite a horror movie loving buddy to watch it with you, preferably one who doesn’t think it’s funny to say, “It’s safe to watch now!” just when the ax is in mid-swing.

The premise of the movie is that the main character Chris is a Black man meeting his white girlfriend’s family for the first time, of course at their house, which in typical horror movie fashion is in the middle of nowhere. He soon realizes there is something strange and creepy about their obsession with Blackness; their maid and gardener are Black, and at a party later, there is young Black man who is married to an older white woman. He tried to connect with the Black people, but they are all placid and vacant, but showing brief moments of desperation that he doesn’t understand.

This is a condensed version from “We Need to Talk About All of the Symbolism in Get Out” from VH1 News.

  1. On the way to the girlfriend’s parents’ house the couples’ car hits a deer. When the cop arrives, the scene re-enacts what happens commonly across country. The cop demands Chris’s ID, even though he wasn’t the one driving. Indignant, the girlfriend argues with the cop about why that is necessary, while Chris tries to calm her down and comply. The scene emphasizes that white privilege gets to argue with a cop without serious consequences. Chris can’t take that chance.
  2. Once at the parents’ house, Chris’s girlfriend’s mother offers to hypnotize him to help cure him of his nicotine addiction him. Of course nastier things are afoot. She actually taps into a traumatic experience from his past to put him into a psychological “Sunken Place” where he’s falling in a hole and can’t move. From the VH-1 website: “This out-of-body experience represents the greater narrative of Black America. It’s a theme we’ve seen play out again and again in American history – from slavery to the Tuskegee experiments all the way to mass incarceration…the idea that terrifying and denigrating things come from white ownership of Black bodies.”
  3. The mother uses the clinking of a silver spoon against a teacup to control when Chris goes to the sunken place. In addition to the symbolism of the being born with a “silver spoon” equating with wealth, is also calls to mind Black servants serving tea to wealthy white people.
  4. The movie is not without its funny moments. Chris’s friend Rod had misgivings for Chris’s girlfriend from the start. When Chris’s calls from the parents’ house get stranger and more worrisome, and then finally stop, he takes action. He’s a goofy TSA agent and plays his seriousness about his job and his melodramatic take on what’s happened to Chris for laughs — his theory is that some white people are kidnapping Black people and making them slaves. Which all the people in authority that he tells laugh at, so he uses his TSA training to max to launch a rescue.
  5. Chris finds himself tied to a comfy chair in the basement. The sound of the tinkling spoon puts him in and out of the sunken place, and there is seemingly no escape. However, in his anxiety, he starts picking at the arm of the chair, freeing, what else, tufts of cotton. He uses it to plug his ears so he can’t hear the hypnosis signal, and is able to free himself when they bring him food thinking he is incapacitated. As the VH-1 website perfectly said, “This might be the only time where a Black man picking cotton has been a lifesaving task.”

There are more references, so check them out. Think of it like Schoolhouse Rock — you get to be entertained and learn something at the same time. If you can’t deal with the horror, I get it. I’m working on finding other options. Stay tuned and meanwhile hum, “Conjunction, junction, what’s your function?

 

It’s Time for Cuteness

Kid is back to college, house is a wreck, work busy, family stuff going on, so what it’s time for? Total cuteness. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did when the kid showed it to me as part of his ongoing campaign to get another hamster. I prefer mine 2-dimensional.

It’s so effing cute, you have to swear! lemonade hamster

In Praise of Things That Are Bad for You

It had been awhile since we’d been together. I had to give you up because, well, you’re just no good for me. But I got to missing you, and of course, the more I tried not to think about you, the more you popped in my mind, unbidden, at awkward times. Worse was when I realized how close you were to my work place. Part of what had helped me avoid you was that you had disappeared from your usual haunts, and that was good. I knew I couldn’t run into you unexpectedly. But there you were, so close. I managed to resist for a good 6 months, but then one day, I couldn’t take it anymore.

I walked into that deli near work and ordered an American sandwich.

Actually, I first asked if they had bologna, an essential ingredient. The counter person had to go to the back room to check. In case you haven’t been paying attention to this food travesty, bologna has been slowly disappearing off of deli menus in the Boston area. Even the cafeteria at the hospital where I work stopped carrying it. I get it. It probably has the same amount of real ingredients as a Twinkie, but also like a Twinkie, it’s soooooooo yummy, in a terrible-for-you-don’t-ask-what’s-in-it-fat-and-salt-heaven kind of way.

He returned to confirm he did have bologna. So I asked for an American sandwich, which is not on the menu, but it’s a good Italian deli, so I know they’d make whatever I wanted. He looked a little puzzled, so I explained it’s an old-fashioned sandwich, the American version of an Italian. And then I felt weird emphasizing “American” to him — he had an Italian accent — and for a second, I thought, oh crap, I hope he doesn’t think I’m emphasizing the American thing because I’m against immigrants and their sandwiches. Really, sir, I just love crap food, this isn’t political at all. Thanks again Cheeto flea for seeping your nonsense into an innocent food transaction.

Don’t let anyone try to tell you it’s ham, turkey, and cheese. That is so wrong, wrong, wrong. Turkey is nothing but an interloper here. I explained it’s made of bologna, ham, and American cheese. Ugh, more emphasis on American! I flashed my most welcoming I-come-from-immigrants-too smile. He nodded and came out from behind the counter and walked into another part of the store, and I lost sight of him. I waited awkwardly, assuming he was doing something related to my sandwich, but when it seemed he’d been gone for several minutes, I worried I really had insulted him. Several people came and went with their sandwiches while I waited, impatient, nervous.

Finally he appeared with a small, beautiful pile of perfectly sliced bologna. He proceeded to make my sandwich with artistic flourish — clearly this man knew sandwiches: extra mayo, yellow mustard, lettuce, tomato, and extra pickles — the heavenly little cubed ones.

I called him my sandwich hero and thanked him for making my day. I’d rather he think I was a sandwich weirdo than a MAGA weirdo.

Back at my desk, I unwrapped the deli paper carefully, gazed upon my long-lost love, and enjoyed every single phosphorus-infused bite.

Praise bologna!

Reentry

I’m still on vacation, but that ends tomorrow, so you can stop being jealous. After the amazing sunset beach wedding last week, I headed to the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area on the PA/NJ border for a canoe camping trip. It was really peaceful and relaxing and the river current is just enough to keep you moving, but not so much that you have to white knuckle your way through the white water, reviewing for the 50th time in your head what you should do if the canoe flips. We just did one night of camping and so had about 30 hours of the quiet, slow lane.

And then we got to the end and called the canoe rental folks to come get us.

Within minutes a large group of canoes landed after us. A different van was waiting for them. They were laughing and loud and lively music suddenly started playing. Then a dressed up Jewish couple asked us to take their picture by the river — he in a suit and she in a nice skirt and blouse. All I could think of was this is reason #528 why religion isn’t for me. No way am I wearing Sunday best on a Thursday at a river in 90-degree heat and humidity. God can say what he will — he’s not the one sweating in pantyhose.

Then our van came and the driver reminded me of the pizza delivery kid in “Toy Story.” Remember that scene? The radio is blasting and he drives like a maniac back to Pizza Planet while Woody and Buzz get tossed around back. Yeah, that was us. While Foreigner was blasting on the radio, he was probably going twice the speed limit on the twisting and hilly 2-lane road.

Did I mention I can get motion car sick just watching the roller coaster scene in “Polar Express”?

While the young driver belted out the song on the radio — I was impressed he knew the words to a song from the 80s — I just looked at my friend and we both started to laugh. Welcome back to the world — zero to 100 at racing speed.

At least it will make going back to work seem manageable.

Photo credit: The Delaware Nature Society. I didn’t have enough battery power to take my own pics!

 

 

Beach Wedding!

Hey there! I was at a fabulous lesbian sunset wedding at the beach, so all you get this week is a picture of said beach. It was absolutely perfect, and because these woman have some hard-won wisdom, I believe this union can go the distance. So I’m here to report, despite everything, there is still love, joy, peace, and sunset beach weddings in the world.