Midweek Rant #11: “You’re Welcome”

April 30, 2009

I’d like to preface this rant by admitting to my overuse of the phrase “thank you” and all its derivations.  I’m the sort of guy that will rescue a child out of a burning building and then thank the mother.  This being said…

I don’t like the phrase “you’re welcome”.  I don’t like when people say it to me.  It makes me wish I hadn’t said “thank you”.

I know very little of the phrase.  I do know that the French and Spanish versions are “de rien” and “de nada”, which amounts to “of nothing”.  In other words you are saying that it is no big deal.  In English, however, the phrase we learn is “you’re welcome”.  Most people in America opt to adapt to the aforementioned French/Spanish sensibility of brushing off the gratitude.  “No prob Bob” is perhaps my favorite adaptation.

Sometimes when I hear the phrase “you’re welcome” I can forgive the person saying it to me as I realize from their accent that English is a second language.  Fresh off the boat from Italy, Raphael is unaware he is being a douche bag because that’s what the English textbook told him to say in such a situation.

But then there are people that are just douche bags. 

I know what you’re thinking.  What’s the big deal, Jesse?  After all, we enjoy feeling welcome, so much to the point that the word is printed on doormats.  Are doormats now douche bags?

I applaud your perception, dedicated reader, but I must retort.  You see, the part of the phrase “you’re welcome” that makes my skin crawl is not “welcome”, but rather it is “you’re”.  There is nothing in the French or Spanish version that points out the other person.  The English version, however, makes it clear that the other person has gained something, or at least benefited in some way.  It acknowledges the transaction.

That’s right, I said transaction.  “De nada” is charity.  “You’re welcome” is barter.

I was first made aware of this when my brother was getting his MBA.  He was taking a course in Negotiation, and told me about the importance of the phrase “you’re welcome” in the work force.  The basic idea was that the phrase “you’re welcome” made it clear that you weren’t just doing this stuff for your health.  Saying “no problem” makes it seem like you’re just happy to be there and expect nothing in return.  “You’re welcome” acknowledges the favor and thus the debt, whatever that may be.

I hear this phrase in all sorts of places, but as of late there is a specific occurrence that is making my skin crawl.  Where I work, we give out bathroom keys.  A patron will take it, use the bathroom, and then (hopefully) return with the key.  Many times I will say “thank you” to them, simply for returning the key.  As I said before, I have a habit of saying “thank you” too much, a flaw that has only been exacerbated by the past six years of working in the customer service industry.

 

 

I’m welcome to…receive the bathroom key back?

Thanks, buddy, I can’t tell you how much I owe you for that one.  I turn to my coworker:

 

 

So there it is.  To clarify, I don’t think the phrase “you’re welcome” should never be used, I only think it should be used when appropriate.  To illustrate, here’s a great example of a “thank you” in which I think a “you’re welcome” is in store:

To my dedicated readers, thank you for tuning in every week and taking the time to read my ridiculously long and reliably ridiculous blog entries.

Having acknowledged the transaction that just occurred, I’m searching online for some well-deserved gift baskets…


Chapter 21: Questions

April 27, 2009

When we last left off, I had had an enjoyable trip to New York City, in which the Big Apple failed to woo me back to the East Coast.  After a pleasant stay at my Dad’s in Upstate New York,  I went down to Florida for Christmas-in-February.

One evening my oldest brother and I were given the task of getting the drinks for dinner.  It seemed as though Margaritas were going to be a must-have, and some sort of beer to go along with that. 

“Can it make a frozen margarita?”

“Will it be cheaper next door?”

“Will the mix have the Tequila in it?”

“Do we have to buy limes for this beer?”

“Will we need this much?”

“Won’t we need more?”

This is just a sampling of the questions posited by my brother, whose thorough line of questioning struck me as rather odd.  It’s not like he has never asked a question before in his life, but we’re talking about the guy that used to get annoyed by the four year old Christian Malanga for asking the question “Why” so much.  Granted, Christian was only four years old, but it drove my brother nuts that the kid needed need a reason for everything.

“Hey Christian, we’re going to go to the playground.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s fun!”

“Why?”

“Because we get to play on the monkey bars”

“Why?”

“Because we, as humans, have an innate desire to swing from our arms, just like our closest evolutionary relative, the Chimpanzee.”

“Why?”

“Because I said so!”

“Why?”

“Because…damn you, kid!  Quit it with the questions!”

“Why?”

Christian has since graduated from Law School.

It’s been about eleven years since I’ve experienced day-to-day life with my brother, so every time we get together there are new habits or quirks about ourselves that strikes the other as very strange.  I remember my brother asking me why I was stretching so much during the first holiday after I had started to get into yoga.  It was with the same befuddlement that I pointed out to my brother that he was asking a lot of questions.

“Oh.  Yeah.  Thing is, I have twelve people that work for me, so if I don’t ask a ton of questions, most of which sound really stupid, then I’ll be the one that ends up looking dumb.”

All his questioning seems to have paid off.  Amidst this financial crisis, my brother was actually promoted to a brand new position his company invented to adapt to the times.  Shortly after our Christmas he was made Vice President, head of Budgeting, Forecasting and Planning.  I was super stoked when I found out he got this position, as it has always seemed to be a passion of his.  He has been working in accounting for years, which is keeping track of what someone else has already spent.  He would now be focused more on the future, determining what his company should be spending money on (the job is much more complicated than that, this is the “Jesse” version).

To illustrate my brother’s love of budgeting, forecasting and planning, I have a few examples from this very trip.  My brother, sister-in-law, and their two kids drove down to Southern Florida from Atlanta, Georgia.  Including a night in a hotel each way, the trip would be cheaper driving than flying.  During the trip, my sister-in-law was taking lots of pictures with what looked like a pretty high-end camera.  I was a bit thrown off, as my brother had always been the type to go for the least expensive model.

“We were paying for professional photos for Christmas cards and family portraits” my sister-in-law explained.  “They never did a good job, and the kids were never happy about them, so we figured ‘why waste all this money when we can get a professional camera and do it ourselves?’  It turns out we actually save money doing it this way, and we get way better pictures.”

Christian Malanga would be proud.

The final and most indicative example of my brother’s qualification for this job occurred right before the trip was over.  Sitting at his computer, entering data from receipts into Quicken, my other brother asked what he was doing, in a sense asking him why he couldn’t wait to enter this data in until after he got home. 

“The hotel we’ll get on the way home will be dependent on how much we’ve spent so far.  If we were careless, I guess it’ll be Motel Six.  If we stayed on budget, we should be able to get a place with a pool and a decent Continental Breakfast.”

And there you have the new Vice President in charge of Budgeting, Forecasting and Planning.

If there’s one thing I took away from this holiday with my brother, it’s the importance of asking questions.  If you ask a ton of stupid questions, you dramatically decrease the chance that you might look dumb later on.

The question now was what questions should I ask myself?

Well let’s start off with an obvious one, what if my car dies?

My car wouldn’t turn on for the two days before I left for the trip.  Having grown accustomed to the Los Angeles weather, or rather having become a big pansy in regard to the weather, I assumed it must have been that rain storm we had.

“There was like a lot of rain, so it makes sense that my car wouldn’t start for two days.”

I may as well have added “hellah” to this statement.  What kind of nonsense is that…it’s a car for crying out loud.  Having regained my East Coast sensibilities, I figured it would be wise to ask myself what I would do in the case that my car was dead and beyond repair.  I’m at the point where buying a new car is not an option, so that would mean I’d be taking the Metro.

Ah, the Metro.  A system with so much potential and so little success.  You may remember me unknowingly ranting about my issues with the Metro to an actual member of the Governing Council.  My qualms came out of very little actual Riding, so I was sure that if it became my primary mode of transportation that I would have way more.  Given all the wacky things that tend to happen to and around me, I’d even have some crazy stories.  Hell, it’d make a good blog.

Christian Malanga, you saved the day again.

By asking myself what it would be like if my car decided to die on me, I discovered that what could seem like a terrible occurrence in such a car-centric city could in fact be a wondrous opportunity.  There was a part of me that kind of hoped my car wouldn’t start when I got home.

I started asking myself questions in all sorts of ways.  What if all my stuff got stolen?  What if my computer was destroyed?  What if I met Sam Rockwell?  (I know that last one seems random, but he’s the only celebrity I would be worried that I would make an ass of myself if I were to meet).

Questions necessitate answers, and answers tend to decrease the unknown.  I got on a plane after a delightful and refreshing trip with my family, and headed back to see if I’d be embarking on an adventure of public transportation.  “Jesse Rides the Metro (so you don’t have to)”

It starts.

Damn you, 96 Volkswagen Jetta!  I was so pissed at my car for starting that I almost forgot that that was what I was hoping for all along.  It’s been several months now since Christmas-in-February, and my car continues to work, although every now and then it reminds me that it won’t last forever by spontaneously turning off while I’m in traffic. I find these little reminders to be endearing; my little car, reminding me of its mortality.

It thinks it’s being threatening, but little does it know…

 


Midweek Rant #10: Trader Joe’s Detergent Box

April 23, 2009

I have a particular problem with the poor execution of products with good intentions.  You may remember in the rant about my frustrations with on-the-go coffee containers that I was bothered by a “green” choice resulting in a significant decline in quality of life.  Oh sure, constantly spilling coffee isn’t the end of the world, but it certainly made it hard for me to give a shit about the planet when paper cups are reasonably shaped and ergonomically designed.

I don’t know that there’s much I can say about Trader Joe’s powdered-form Laundry Detergent that doesn’t made me livid.  First let’s take a look at a promotional picture:

 

Behold the Box

Behold the Box

 

The marketing team must’ve known I like plants (even if I refuse to appreciate them).  Labeled “Trader Joe’s Laundry Detergent / Plant Based Formula,” the product was placed on a healthy, luscious bed of grass, with some other plants and flowers and some mulch in the background (forgive the poor description, I don’t know how to describe plants, remember?). 

So looking at the box I’m all like, “I like plants…”

The dot-dot-dot is where I decide to buy the product.  What drew me to the product even more than the plants was the price.  I had already bought TJ”s liquid detergent, but noticed that the powdered form was quite a bit cheaper.  The only trade off was that you had to buy one of the big boxes, with 64 loads.  I was sure I was going to like this product, so buying a larger quantity seemed like a good idea.  If anything, it’d save me another trip to Trader Joe’s (granted, this is not much of an issue for me).

Also, buying such a large container would keep me from making an impulse purchase of Tide.  It’s not like I get excited about Tide and can’t help but buy some, but sometimes you find yourself in a bind and you have some laundry that has to be done by 9am and it’s midnight and TJ’s doesn’t open ‘til 9am so you rush to Ralph’s and think to yourself, “damn, the corporations got me again with their convenience”.  And then you’re washing your clothes with a lot of chemicals.  Is this bad?  I guess so.  That’s what they tell me in the green literature.

Feeling good about my plant-based detergent, I triumphantly marched down to the Laundromat to do my first load, holding the box by it’s trusty plastic handle like I’m in second grade on my way to the cafeteria (my mom would from time to time hand me the detergent box instead of my lunch box).  It’s been a while since I’ve used the powdered-form, so I particularly enjoyed the scooping part.  “That’s about enough for one load” I said out loud, quickly realizing that I was in public, but then just as quickly remembering that I was in LA where you can be a bit of a nut and everyone will be cool with it just in case you’re famous or powerful.

I popped five quarters into the machine, pressed the start button, and began what I intended to be a glorious swagger out the front of the building.

I could imagine what the other patrons would be saying:

“Did you see that guy?  He was washing his clothes with Plants!”

“Plants?  Did you say plants?

“Mommy!  I want to wash MY clothes with plants!”

Having grabbed the detergent box by the handle, I only made it one step before I went from the “Green God” you wish you could be to the “Hopeless Hippie” you hope doesn’t recognize you from high school.  Yep.  I’m the Hippie that just can’t get anything right.

“Psst – Look at the guy with scraggly hair and five o’clock shadow.”

“Which one?  The one with the plants?”

“Yeah, that one, the guy just spilled his powdered-form detergent all over the place!”

“Serves him right for washing his clothes with plants.  Sounds like he’s been smoking the plants too.”

“Sure does, Alex.  It sure does.”

“Mommy, mommy, what kind of plants did the hippie smoke?!”

“Quiet Sarah, you’re being rude.”

“Pshh, like the hippie can hear us let alone process thoughts.”

“Oh Alex, always so witty…”

To demonstrate where things went wrong:

 

 

The handle is attached to the part of the box that flaps open once you break the seal, gaining access to the powdered-form detergent.  This leads me to either believe that the handle was designed specifically to open the flap and gain access to the detergent, or that the handle was only meant to be used for transporting the box from the grocery store to your home, and then from your home to the Laundromat solely for its initial load.  All other  subsequent transports, you know…for the 63 other loads you’ll be doing, obviously don’t necessitate a handle.  Once you’ve got the hang of this whole “laundry thing,” you’ll in all likelihood be able to manage this box with either two free hands, or the old under-the-armpit trick (Trader Joe’s can not legally be held responsible for any undesirable odors added to the detergent from using this technique).

I’d rather buy the Tide.  They either do the handle right, or they don’t do it at all.

Renowned Playwright Tony Kushner once said that Political Theater must be twice as good as non-Political Theater.  I think the green movement ought to be aware of this concept and stop coming out with idiotic products.

I hope you all had a wonderful Earth Day.


Chapter 20: Home

April 20, 2009

When we last left off, I had just headed to the airport for my nine-day trip that would include New York City, Upstate New York, and Florida.

I arrived at JFK airport in New York City, and before I could even exit the building my prayers were answered by a cab driver looking for a customer.  I would be taking the subway, but he provided me with a greeting I’d been pining for since the move out West:

“Hey Boss – you want a cab?”

Oh sweet mother of God do I miss being called, and calling other people, “boss”.  It took me a few weeks of strange looks here in Los Angeles before I realized that New York City had it’s own specific usages of the the following words: “Boss” and “Bro”. 

In Los Angeles, the word ‘Bro’ is more or less used by people that go with the flow (ie mooch off of others).  I heard it for the first time when I went to Venice Beach.  “Hey bro, what’s happening”.  My heart started racing as I got ready for what might be a fist-fight with the hippie that started walking along side of me.  Maybe I had accidentally walked on his self-designated property and I should pay him some sort of peace-toll.  Whatever it was, it was clear he had a problem with me, since he called me ‘Bro’. 

But it turns out that ‘Bro’ isn’t fighting words at all in these parts like it is in New York.  It’s not that the hippie didn’t want some money, it’s just that he wasn’t angry with me is all.

In NYC the word ‘Bro’ is used to get the attention of someone that should be expecting to fight.  I’m not sure why, it just seems to be the case.  Tim Clancy always manages to come to the rescue for me in these instances in which I can’t quite explain the “how come”.  If you skip ahead to the 1:56 minute mark you can see what I mean:

 

I’m not one to use the word ‘Bro’ much, but I have always relished the use of the word “Boss”.  I never actually thought about it’s meaning or appropriate usage until I started getting weird faces from it.  So what was it that made me want to call someone boss?  Would I call just anyone boss?

I think it’s safe to say that anyone making six figures will not be called ‘boss’ by anyone in New York City other than his employees.  The word, as far as I can tell, is a term of endearment for your fellow man.  Perhaps it’s similar to the Russian use of the word “Comrade”.  It shows respect to your fellow, equal man.

I would use it when I would go to a bodega, when I would stop at a newspaper stand, or when I’d thank a bus boy for filling my water.  I’d be called it by a cab driver asking me where I was headed, someone letting me know I dropped something in the subway station, or the guy working the make-your-own-salad station.  It has a strange “we’re all in this together” quality about it, in stark contrast to the “I’m planning on punching you in the face” quality that the word ‘bro’ has. 

Why all this nonsense with the Bro and the Boss and the Boss and the Bro?  Because after three months in Los Angeles, being called Boss made me feel like I was home again.

Ah, crap.

You may remember that I went back to NYC when I was just eight days into my Los Angeles experience, under much different circumstances.  I more or less hated LA that time around, and damn near walked to LAX Airport from the center lane of the 110 where my car was firmly stationed, billowing smoke out from under the hood.  The trip back that time was nice, but I got that ‘home’ feeling upon arriving back on the West Coast.

This time around I was a much bigger fan of Los Angeles.  My car had gone from being a menace to being merely a nuisance.  It’s most notable foible in the preceding weeks had been that the trunk stopped opening.  Literally just wouldn’t open.  That ain’t so bad, right?  I just can’t get stuff out of my trunk anymore, ya know?

I was enjoying the clear skies Los Angeles was offering me on a nearly constant basis.  I liked how people would look all frantic, fear in their eyes at word of an approaching two days of rain.  It was like they were talking about the Recession.

I liked my job, which was not waiting tables.  I had met so many cool and interesting people, and these people had become my friends already.  I would go to parties and not wish I was at home.  I was living in the most magical house to ever exist, leading me to believe that I ought to seriously consider spending my life living in communes.  It worked for the hippies, right? (save for a few stragglers that escaped and have been calling me “bro”).

So all this seemed to be immediately erased with the word “boss”.  This one single word got me thinking that perhaps this trip would be a reminder of how much I belong in New York City.  And the trip had barely begun!  I’d be acting the next day, which is my favorite thing to do; I’d be staying in my favorite places, seeing my favorite people and doing my favorite things.  If being called “boss” had this much of an effect on me, chances are the rest of the trip was going to make it very hard to leave.

Turns out I just really, really, really like the word “boss”.

My trip was splendid.  I got to hang with the people I truly miss, eat at the Dosa stand in Washington Square Park, see a movie at the IFC, and get absolutely obliterated at Rudy’s.  I had the best, most meaningful conversations I’d had since moving, with people that have known me for a long time.  But New York, for the first time ever, lost it’s magic for me:

 

Hopping on a train to Upstate New York, it was clear to me that this Los Angeles thing was not just a mistake I’d be learning from.  It wasn’t a place I’d be scoffing at as I drank PBR’s in the East Village.  It wasn’t even a place I was moving strictly for the opportunities it offered.  It was home.

 

PREVIOUS CHAPTER: Crumbling (again)


Midweek Rant #9: “Really”

April 16, 2009

There was a time when people relished in the use of their vocabulary.  This golden era existed between the invention of the printing press and the advent of television.  Now, with text messages becoming a preferred mode of communication, gone forever are the days when a clever phrasing could light up a room.  Vocabulary words are only useful for the GRE’s, and anyone that actually enjoys using them is either a  rapper or a douche bag.  Rappers tend to love words, and savor the opportunity to get crafty with them.  Douche bags like to impress people with their vocabulary, always a bit worried that someone will ask them to define a word they just used (at best, they’ll usually be able to explain it in context).

I’ve started to enjoy words more lately. Since I’m not a rapper, I have to assume that it makes me kind of a douche.  And I’m OK with this.  But one thing I’m not OK is the use of the word “really”. 

 

Really (adv)

  1. In actual truth or fact
  2. Truly; genuinely
  3. Indeed

Really (interj)

  1. An exclamation of dismay, doubt or surprise

 

You’ll notice that the last definition is the most common these days among my generation:

 

 

It’s not the first one that bothers me as much as the second one.  The first one certainly falls under the umbrella of “an exclamation of dismay, doubt or surprise,” but the second is kind of different.  It’s hard for me to put my finger on it, but it’s kind of “shame on you” mixed with “I’ve had enough”.  Perhaps it’s just the third definition, “indeed”.  All I know is that a lot of people are taking the easy road with this word, and then calling it a day.  Once the word “really” is broken out, there’s no need to expand or articulate any further. 

If they don’t get it then…I mean…really?

Really.

 


Chapter 19: Crumbling (again)

April 13, 2009

Having played my first gig in LA, I had a new perspective on how to approach my music career, and knew what the next steps would be.

Time for a 9-day vacation!

That’s right, I earned it.  Well, I didn’t really earn it, but I’d be taking it anyway.  The thing about my family is that we are spread out over the country, which makes it hard to coordinate holidays.  For the first time ever last year, the Christmas celebration with my mom took place during Martin Luther King Day Weekend.

The genius!

Not MLK.  I mean, yeah, he was a genius, but I’m speaking of the genius of celebrating Christmas during a weekend in January: cheaper flights, less crowded airports, and a three-day weekend for those in the standard work arena.  This year, however, our Christmas got pushed back to President’s Day weekend, in Southern Florida.  Lincoln, Washington?  Yeah, I guess they were geniuses too.  Or is it genii?  I’m not sure what the plural is.  It’s been a while since I took Latin, back off…

Just as I was about to book a flight, I got word that the “never-ending film” would in fact be ending.  You may recall I went back to NYC after only a week in Los Angeles for a film that had started production more than a year earlier.  The persistent producers had hustled and hustled and finally managed to raise the money to shoot what was the most expensive part left to finish, which would require renting the same exact bar we had originally shot at (before it was officially open).

So I’d be shooting in New York the Monday before President’s Day weekend.  Since Tuesday was being held as a backup day, it made no sense for me to go all the way back to the West Coast only to leave within 24 hours for Florida.  As I’d be a mere three-hour train ride from my dad, I figured I’d go up and visit him for a few days and fly to Florida from Albany instead.

Sheesh, that was exhausting.

What resulted was a request to my new employer for nine consecutive days off from work.  In general I try to be an above-average employee so that when my acting nonsense starts to get in the way of my job (auditions and such), my employer will be less likely to fire me and hire someone that isn’t such a pain in the ass.  So it was with great apprehension that I requested such a large chunk of time off.  I had already given fair warning for the President’s Day trip, but there’s a big difference between four days and nine.

To add to my anxiety, the crazy house that had come back to life was starting to crumble again.  Pourqoi? 

Zee French!

Mais oui!  A new roommate had moved in during January: the incredibly talented, remarkably French, Celeste. 

For Celeste, breakfast consisted of two cups of coffee and three cigarettes.  “I am so khold!” she would softly exclaim to the general surrounding, ensuring everyone knew she meant ‘cold’ and not ‘coal’ with her stridently crisp articulation of the word’s last letter that would have pleased the most demanding of Broadway directors casting for a 3500 seat house.

This, however, was the morning version of Celeste, which quickly gave way to the afternoon version: A baggy, unzipped hoody over a tight t-shirt, a giant pair of jeans rolled up so as to not drape over her high-top sneakers, and a clownishly large pair of sunglasses.  The bag over her shoulder had her dance gear in it, and meant she was off to class.  She scoured the internet for dance auditions, and ate nothing but salmon and spinach.  The afternoon version of Celeste was all business; she had three months to prove to both her country and the US that she was worthy of an artist visa.  Twenty-seven years old, she’d been dancing, choreographing and teaching professionally in Marseilles for ten years.  She was famous in the South of France, mainly for hip-hop, but for jazz and ballet as well.  This was her time to move to Los Angeles.

Consequently, the evening version of Celeste was exhausted.  Whether sitting in the living room or on the front porch, everyone seemed to want to hang out with her.  Should the conversation ever veer from her favorite topic, she always managed to steer it back.

“Boom-Boom!” she would joyously exclaim with her thick French accent, reinforcing any immature fantasy one might have about French women.  She couldn’t get enough of the topic, and always wanted to know how people were doing in that particular arena.  “Eet is good for the health, you know?…Stretching!”  A giant smile came over her face as she enjoyed the wordplay she employed in her newfound innuendos.

Unfortunately for her, she was usually discussing the topic with people that were not quite as successful as she was in such endeavors.  To top this off, her touchy-feely ways tended to confuse many of the male residents of the household, most notably JJ.

JJ was the guy that lived in the garage.  He cleaned the house twice a week so he wouldn’t have to pay as much rent.  Before the first time I ever conversed with JJ, I had seen him several times in the back yard, shirtless, his long hair in a pony tail, brushing his teeth.  As he was in the middle of a hygienic task, I thought it inappropriate to talk to him.  I finally had the opportunity to chat with him one day when I got home.  He was sitting at the table outside, a half eaten slice of pizza in hand.

“Hey JJ, how’s it going?” I greeted him as I sat down at the table.  There was a solid three seconds of delay before he turned and noticed that he was not alone.

“Oh hey man” he finally came to.

“How’s it going, JJ?”

“I’ve been eating this piece of pizza for like a half-hour, man” he said in wonderment, staring at the half eaten slice not so much for my sake as for his.  “I’ve never eaten a piece of pizza for so long, man.”

His gaze slowly melted away from the pizza and upwards towards the leaves on a nearby tree.  He found a leaf that seemed to be a worthy of four-minute stare, and began his tunnel-vision examination.  It occurred to me that this guy was on something and that in all likelihood he had forgotten I was even there.  This suspicion was confirmed by my exiting having no effect on his leaf-stare, but was contradicted twenty minutes later when I saw him in the kitchen beginning a two-hour cleaning session. 

JJ wasn’t on anything, he was just an odd fellow.

I think it was difficult for JJ to figure out what it was that Celeste was doing.  The French girl that always talked about “boom-boom” and “stretching” would also put her arm around him and talk about how much she loved him.  So it was with JJ that Celeste first had to explain her rule:

No boom-boom with the housemates.

As “stretching” was something that she thought was very important to the quality of her life, she set boundaries for herself so that it would not mess with anything else.  The rule extended to fellow dancers and choreographers.  No mixing boom-boom with her professional or residential worlds.

But that didn’t mean she couldn’t talk about it.  And man, did she love to talk about it…

It’s hard to say exactly when the tension started between Celeste and Jimmy.  Jimmy was more or less the strong personality of the household for the preceding months, and it’s unlikely that both he and Celeste could remain in the house in harmony forever.

The afternoon version of Celeste didn’t like Jimmy’s lifestyle.  “Why don’t you have job?”

“This isn’t France, OK?” Jimmy replied, a rather curious retort.

The evening version of Celeste didn’t like Jimmy’s stories.  “Jimmy, I don’t care about Buffalo!  All you talk about is playing hockey and Buffalo – I don’t care”.

Jimmy wasn’t too keen on Celeste’s disrespect for his hometown.  “Then why don’t you go back to France?!”

To make matters worse, another “French girl” moved in.  I use quotation marks because Nicole was in fact from Quebec City, Canada.  The French language, however, was her native tongue, which was reason enough for Jimmy to deem her as being from France.

While Celeste initially got along with Jimmy, Nicole instantly embarked on an antagonistic relationship with him.

“Jimmy started drinking at 10am yesterday morning” she told me in one of our first conversations, her French-Canadian accent equally as thick as Celeste’s French-French accent.

“Oh yeah,” I replied, “he bought one of my bottles of two-buck-chuck off of me, said he wanted to have a drunk day.”  I’m sure a smile had come to my face as I pictured Jimmy enjoying his lazy-hazy day of inebriation.

“Eet was a Sunday.  Do people here start drinking wine at 10am on Sunday?”

Hmm.   While the French-Canadian had a point, this was the house of anything goes (remember Christmas?).  What began as a French menace was now a French-led mutiny against Jimmy.  Feeling threatened, Jimmy took opportunities to point out all he was doing for everybody to counter the growing sentiment that he just hung out all day and did nothing but self medicate.

 

An uncharacteristically clean and empty sink, with a note attached to the windowsill.

An uncharacteristically clean and empty sink, with a note attached to the windowsill.

"All the dishes done by Jimmy.  Your welcome."

"All Dishes Done By Jimmy. Your Welcome."

But his efforts fell short, and eventually he realized that he could no longer go on living in the house with the French girls.  His demeanor slowly started to approach that of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and it was clear that something was about to give.

I overheard what was the defining argument, in which the distance between faces was inversely related to the level of volumes employed by each party; Jimmy and Celeste got up in each other’s faces, Jerry Springer style, saying essentially the same exact things they’d been saying for weeks but in a heightened state.

“I don’t need to do anything, OK!” shouted Jimmy, defending his right to hang out at the house without being hassled.

“But you must have goals, Jimmy!” yelled Celeste, unwilling to back down from her French-given right to tell people what they should be doing with their lives.

“Goals?  GOALS?!  You know what?  Stay right here, I’m gonna go get my high school hockey trophy!”

Hmm. 

I think it’s safe to say Jimmy didn’t really think that one through.  This is more indicative of the boisterousness of the shouting match than of Jimmy’s familiarity of the various meanings of the word “goal”.  But the hilarity of the transition remained.  Jimmy was infuriated by Celeste’s low opinion of him, and Celeste was uninterested in any past accomplishments.

The two were living in the house with very different purposes.  Jimmy was taking his time to check out the scene in Los Angeles, see if it’s a place he wanted to spend some time in, and enjoying the perks of his medical marijuana card.  Celeste had three months to accomplish Mission Obtain Artist Visa.  Neither could see where the other was coming from, and no hockey trophy was going to help.

Right before I left for my nine-day trip, Jimmy told me he was going to probably be gone by the time I got back.  I was sorry to see him go, but knew it was probably best for him.  Jimmy was my first roommate in Los Angeles, and was definitely the top reason I loved living in the house so much.  A well-read guy with a slew of experiences, he had some wisdom that I will no doubt feed off of in the years to come.

In his last days, Nicole began putting post-it notes on all her food items so that they wouldn’t be eaten by anyone else. 

“Like she thinks I’m gonna eat her cheese or croissants or something” vented Jimmy as he drove me to the airport for my flight to New York, referring to food items that Nicole didn’t necessarily have but ought to, being French and all.

The King of Zingers would be gone by the time I got back…

 

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Midweek Rant #8: Appreciation

April 9, 2009

Several weeks ago I was wandering around the library, engaged in my nonsensical ritual of waiting for a book to call out to me.

“Psst, Jesse!  Over here…”

I excitedly turned to see what book it was, and within four seconds I was in a mad dash for the exit.  Now I know what you’re thinking, perhaps the voice speaking to me was not an imaginative personification, but an agent of a secret society that had been surreptitiously tracking my every move and was finally ready to make me its leader, as the sacred scrolls had both predicted and demanded.

But in fact it was just my imagination, personifying an energetic tug from a very particular book.  A book on plants.

Plants!

In the four terrifying seconds of lag time, my mind opened itself to the possibility of learning about all sorts of plants and then trees and then maybe animals, and acquiring the sort of vocabulary that would make me the most interesting guy you could bring along on a nature hike. 

And then I ran.

I managed to escape sixteen years of education without knowing the difference between an oak tree and a pine tree.  And I’m damn proud of that.  Oh, I know, I know.  If I were to learn about all the different types of plants and trees I would develop an appreciation for nature. 

Appreciation!

I hate Appreciation.  I hope I never learn about different plant names.  It’s not that I don’t like plants, quite the contrary.  I love plants and nature.  I love them so much, I refuse to allow them be ruined by developing an appreciation for them.  I’ve allowed appreciation to ruin too many things in my life: movies, music, microbrews.  Appreciation knows no bounds, and would happily continue on with its ambition to simultaneously muddy and de-mystify all the pleasures of life.  Unless stopped, it will rage on.  If you find yourself being lured by its siren song, I suggest you run.  Run for your life!  (please obey crosswalk signals)

I’ll leave you with a poem by Walt Whitman I first read in a Poetry class ironically aimed at developing an appreciation for the art form:

 

The Learn’d Astronomer by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn’d astronomer;

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;

When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;

When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;

Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars