Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What does Lisa Nowak, Bill Nye and Kahlil Gibran have in common? Chemistry!

I thought I had a breakthrough a couple months back when I decided that I was going to summate my entire failed relationship to one key component: chemistry. Ah yes, that's it. We had no chemistry, no wonder things didn't work out! Satisfied with this conclusion, I decided that from now on I would pursue only those whom I felt this dizzying, potent chemistry with. Seems like a plausible course of action, right? As I began this Bill Nye the Science Guy approach to dating I realized I don't have a freakin' clue what this chemistry is suppose to look, feel, sound or smell like. Is it that nervous, sweaty palm, stuttering, fidgetiness that takes over your normally cool demeanor when you're talking to an attractive guy? Or maybe that exigent burnin' in your loins that activates your clever use of sexual innuendo and pelvic gyration? As a general rule of thumb, I do not prefer feeling out of control, flustered or as if something is out of sorts in my pantaloons. In fact, I usually avoid scenarios that induce such inner turmoil. I like being surrounded by those that make me comfortable and that I find to be amusing. So what does this mean for me? Well, if I'm accurate in my assessment of what chemistry is, I'm pretty certain that I intentionally avoid those I may have chemistry with. Seems problematic.

Unsatisfied with the conclusion that I purposefully avoid these dastardly chemical responses, I thought I might delve a little deeper and figure out what the hell my body is suppose to be feeling and why. Warning: The following assessment is neither helpful nor relevant to dating (in my opinion whatsoever) but I Googled the shit painstakingly researched the info and felt I would share it anyhow.

Phenylethylamine (or PEA), the "love molecule," is described as the infatuation inducing stimulant. Already, this sounds like something I would seek medical treatment to have removed. Well, this PEA needs a dash of dopamine and a smattering of norepinephrine, simmer for an hour and you've got yourself a hearty dose of euphoria and uncertainty. Now, lets not forget the endorphines that serve as the catalyst of this insatiable desire. These little instigators trigger cells in the midbrain to produce dopamine and PEA. Thus, igniting a coup among these powerful natural amphetamines, forcing the brain to select a plan of action. At this stage of the game, you better hope your dopamine and PEA levels are adequately supplied because they are important in balancing the excitatory hormones (the previously mentioned norepinephrine) and providing enhanced emotional stability. If your body is slightly out of whack and your love molecules are misfiring you may end up in a diaper on a cross country road trip. When you're "high" on the physical responses to these chemical reactions, your common sense and good judgement may be compromised. Hence, confusing lust for love with the wrong person. Um okay, so what are you suppose to do if your body incites a mutiny against your brain? (Here's the part where my warning really shines.) I have no idea. Prior to this investigation I did not even know what PEA was. Now that I know what it is, I have no clue what to do with this knowledge. No wonder I fell asleep during chemistry almost every day.

Perhaps my PEA was DOA in my previous relationship, but the fact that it's alive and well in my current dating life is proving to be equally problematic. Sure I've got the euphoric, frenzied, happy pants feeling that had been missing, but I'm still unsatisfied. I guess I need the Kahlil Gibran "spiritual affinity" part of the chemical response. In Broken Wings, Gibran discusses a doomed love with the beautiful Selma. Initially he describes her spirit and beauty as an insatiable desire, to which he is inexplicably linked. Through Gibran's poetic verses, one can feel the lust, the passion, the chemistry:

In her white silk dress, Selma was slender as a ray of moonlight coming through the window. She walked gracefully and rhythmically. Her voice was low and sweet; words fell from her lips like drops of dew falling from the petals of flowers when they are disturbed by the wind. But Selma's face! No words can describe its expression, reflecting first great internal suffering, then heavenly exaltation.

Gibran ultimately concludes that true love only occurs on a deeper level. When two beings are spiritually connected through the heart and soul. In some ways, this is described as another form of chemistry. The initial understanding that you're in the presence of something more meaningful than simply physical attraction.

It is wrong to think that love comes from long companionship and persevering courtship. Love is the offspring of spiritual affinity and unless that affinity is created in a moment, it will not be created in years or even generations.

I guess what it all comes down to is that physical chemistry, though intoxicating, is not enough for a sustainable relationship. At some point, there must be a deeper more spiritual connection. A foundation of trust, mutual respect, friendship, warmth, contentment. Is it possible to find both, to find one's Selma? The embodiment of both physical and emotional chemistry?

Selma's beauty was not in her golden hair, but in the virtue and purity which surrounded it; not in her large eyes, but in the light which emanated from them; not in her red lips, but in the sweetness of her words; not in her ivory neck, but in its slight bow to the front. Nor was it in her perfect figure, but in the nobility of her spirit, burning like a white torch between earth and sky. Her beauty was like a gift of poetry.

Oh Gibran, you certainly know how to make a girl swoon. I'm fairly certain no man has ever looked at my figure and admired the nobility of my spirit within. Meh. The older I get, the more my priorities seem to change. For a long time I was content with the emotional chemistry part of the equation. Then I woke up and realized this was mind-numbingly boring when you're in your early 20's. Shifted gears in pursuit of the physical chemistry we're all familiar with and realize that this too is inadequate. So my current options are boring stability or emotionless passion. Awesome. I'll go with option C, Mr. Merlot and a steamy romance novel. Let's see how my PEA reacts when it's swimming in a sea of alcohol. Off to the bar lab!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

There's a new Pollyanna in town

When I graduated high school my mom made a book for me filled with her encouraging stories, inspiring quotes, and cautionary advice for the future. I was looking through this little compendium of expectations the other day, and realized "holy cow, this woman is delusional to think I may actually have this must potential, and what the hell did I do to provoke this deception?" I thought I had made it pretty clear that I had little ambition and no intention of making the world a better place. Where did I go wrong? With that said, I find myself in a real pickle. My mother's stubbornness is rivaled only by my laziness. If she insists that I (at the very least) attempt to be a productive, contributing member of society I find this course of action will be easier to achieve than dodging her despondent gaze. The woman is relentless.

Excerpt from the book:
There will always be reason to find fault with someone. Keep it to yourself. You will even find someone who will share your opinions, but to what end? Becoming bitter and renown for your acerbic wit will gain you an audience for sure. People will gravitate to the outrageous, wishing they had the gall to "tell it like it is," but be careful. You will never know when your haranguing will become tiresome, your words, once spoken, will define you. You may become an embarrassment to the people you love most.

What are you trying to say mom?! *chuckles, because she used "acerbic wit" instead of "bitchy and obnoxious banter."

Crestfallen and dejected I'm going to try something a little out of the box - being positive. Bear with me as I stumble awkwardly into the world of cheerful optimism. A little shaky on how to go about doing this, I thought I'd start with a familiar format, a list. Maybe I'll even work up to a conversational level of good cheer at some point. But let's not rush things.

Things that make me grin, giggle or shake violently-tears streaming down my face-little pee running down my leg-fit of joy:

  • When my Grandpa insists on pronouncing Saskatchewan as "Sass-a-ka-toon."
  • My 12lb dog humping Rottweilers, Great Danes, Labrapuggledoodles, or whatever hybrid mutant breed he encounters.

  • My brother's spelling - chocolate may come out as "chalklet."

  • When my Grandmother refers to someone as a "Maverick" or a "scamp."

  • Insisting that every trip taken with my best friend is our honeymoon in hopes that we get upgrades even if we happen to be staying at a hostel...with my brother.

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000

  • The Platinum Dancers of the Milwaukee Iron Arena Football team. Favorite memory - when the chubby one tripped while running off the field. I know that's mean, but you would have laughed too. Don't judge me.
  • Fanny packs, mullets, and zooba pants...especially flaunted all together.
  • My cousin taking time out of her conversations with me to either dance because "her song" came on, or give me a creepy inappropriate wink.

      • My dog who enjoys dragging himself along the floor by his front paws in what I suspect is an attempt to wipe away that little lingering drop of pee.
      • When my mom refers to someone as a "twat." Typically she cringes at words like "piss" or "vulva," but for some reason "twat" just (warning: gross pun ahead) rolls off her tongue.

      • Reminiscing on the tales of my dad who tried to convince us he was from a planet called Diamondo where he ate diamonds brought by sexy alien women. [How I managed to avoid therapy throughout my adolescence I'm still unsure of.]

      • Watching the mayhem that ensues after I call the cops on drunken idiots outside of Victor's bar. Most recently, dude passed out in the middle of the street in front of the bar. Cops show up to wake him and he starts throwing haymakers.
      • Fail Blog
      • Uncle Haru telling me, "You're brilliant, but really inefficient." He also calls me Rat-chel, a bimbo and a floozy.
      • My cousin the Frontier Legend.

      • Clever blogs - A Crown of Thistles, Yellow Trash Diaries, Wait in the Van

      • When Seany is "doing it." And no, this does not refer to sex.
      • When my brother reveals his creation of a Halloween costume.
      • Old men skin flapping in the wind while riding mopeds.
      • Playing the board game Moods with my brother. [Mood: flirty] *Tucks his chin into his shoulder, bats his lashes, and says, "That's a funny little cigarette."
      • You Tube videos of drunk people.
      • When you put one arm in your shirt and tug the empty sleeve up and down, while simultaneously making the tucked in arm punch frantically. (Can you picture this? Maybe I'm not describing it very accurately but it makes me laugh whenever someone does it.)
      • Giving your loved one (or your dogs) a Dutch Oven
      • Locking your friends outdoors after you've convinced them to jump in the snow naked.
      • When someone farts in an elevator and pretends not to notice even if there's no one else around.

      Tuesday, August 18, 2009

      Proud Parent of a Blogger

      Let me set the record straight - I DO NOT prefer assholes. I've been accused of this in the past, typically by nice guys that I'm not interested in that need validation for my rejection. When said nice guy accuses me of this I can't help but think - you're destined for a life of disappointment, resentment and possible restraining orders. Sure I'm enamored with a sweet fella who sings my accolades, cherishes the very essence of all this crazy, and reassures me that telling my dogs about my day is totally normal. The problem with this situation? That's what I've got my mom for. She's been feeding my ego since birth. When I was rocking multi-colored leggings, eight scrunchies, a hearty dose of electric blue eyeshadow and some pre-pubescent "baby fat," she unhesitatingly told me I was pretty. As I refined my musical prowess, furiously puffing into my flute while balancing 6th grade music sheets in my lap, my mother assured me the lightheadedness was normal for musicians of my caliber (Mom: Honey, you're doing so great and I love your commitment, but why don't you try practicing in the closet. I think you'll find the acoustics quite something in there.) My confession of wanting to be retired because I had really envied my Grandparent's lifestyle when I was 9 years old was just another one of her daughter's cute witticisms (and in no way indicative that I would become a habitual afternoon napper and stuff Kleenex up my sleeves). So you see, with a fan base like this, additional commentary on my aptitude is hardly necessary. Thanks mom, for all the grandiose delusions of my beauty, talent and charm! Moving along...
      I'm going to go out on a limb and say most little girls' fantasy of Prince Charming does not include such attributes necessary for a man to be considered an asshole. Such characteristics include:

      • CONDESCENDING - Which really just proves you're not only an asshole but also insecure; perhaps harboring gay tendencies or a baby dill.

      • THOUGHTLESS - I don't expect you to remember the time, location or weather pattern when we had our first kiss, but I don't think I'm demanding too much when I ask that you momentarily pause to reflect on whether or not I want to fall into the toilet. I'd almost prefer sitting down on a few renegade droplets of your pee than frantically swim in the entire bowl of your kidney's secretions you forgot to flush.

      • SELFISH - This would encompass bedroom behavior, willingness to share financial expenditures, and your time.

      • MAN-WHORE/FRAT BOY INCLINATIONS - I expect you not to grope, fondle or say perverse things to me in public. Ogling and disrespectful commentary of other women will also not be tolerated. You sound/look ignorant and childish. If you feel compelled to stare at the tits of every woman that passes by I suggest you subscribe to Big Jugs or similar publication to get it out of your system and allow you more freedom to act like a grown up in public.

      I did not add "physically abusive" because this does not make you an asshole, this makes you an abhorrent felon. The aforementioned asshole characteristics are obnoxious yet tolerable in small doses. The only place I will make an exception for tolerating physical abuse is from Bubba in cell block D when he practices his brand of love on your little butt star.

      So there you have it. Of course sometimes we find ourselves in the presence of such assholes, maybe seduced by their arrogance confident charm, but most self-respecting women eventually see through the bullshit and move on. If a woman continues to indulge the asshole she's chosen then she's an asshole too and that's 2 less assholes to worry about getting stuck with. That's just basic Advanced Algebra/Trig...which I happened to pass in the 10th grade...which confessing, now makes me an asshole too. Dammit.

      Now that I've undoubtedly convinced you that I DO NOT prefer assholes, let's explore the opposite end of the spectrum - the nice guy.

      The nice guy is the one your mom immediately envisions you marrying and producing a soccer team of little nice tots with. The nice guy probably has been in 2 or 3 serious relationships that ended up breaking his nice little heart. He feels justified in being overly sensitive because after all, he's the nice guy and some girl who justifiably thought he was a pussy tart damaged him. The nice guy is apt to bouts of weeping, commentary on sunsets, and is proficient at spewing nauseating doggerel from his personal poetry collection. Indeed, the nice guy is what most little girls desire. The man whose sensitivity and kindness reminds them of their favorite childhood kitten. I applaud you if the nice guy is the man of your sugarplum and rainbow dreams. For he is not mine.

      I get bored with nice. My 3rd grade teacher was nice. My mailman is nice. Hell, even my freaky neighbor can be nice in an awkward, I'm going to start taking the stairs, sort of way. I like someone who's a little rough around the edges. I want to feel that I'm as lucky to be with you as I know you are to be with me. (Ha, there's that inner asshole again.) Of course you still need superb manners, flawless delivery in your tasteful compliments, the ability to turn your clandestine sycophant on when appropriate, and the expert application of making me feel needed without making me feel utterly responsible for your well-being. nice, but not tooo nice.

      I'm the type of girl that if you give me an inch, I'll take a mile. I can walk all over you if you let me and I probably will because I like having things done for me. (ie. I've been known to hold against their will snuggle my dogs in my lap simply so you'll have to get me a soda, the remote or my Sudoku because I couldn't possibly disturb the little angels.) This is not one of my more endearing qualities but we're friends right? And I can tell you these things in full confidence that you won't judge or expect me to change, 'cause that's what friends do! [Silently hopes I didn't rush into this whole "friend" business too quickly. Must remember to play it cool in the future.] I like a man who takes charge and doesn't require constant monitoring. It wasn't an accident that I didn't pursue teaching, nursing or any other trade that requires patience or TLC. If you haven't been in a coma since birth I expect you've had a life before me. In fact, I expect to see some indication of this. Like some shelter to live in, maybe a means for providing food for yourself, an interest or hobby of sorts, perhaps something you've done - I think they call these "life experiences." You know, anything that shows me you might be interesting if I happen to be around you sober.

      I'm not your mother, your banker or your life coach. (To add to the list of things I'm egregiously unqualified for.) I told you, I'm not very compassionate, I pay someone to take care of my finances and blogging seems like a worthwhile activity to me. I will however, be your companion, sounding board, play date, and comedian. You can even guilt me into get a few personal chef experiences and throw out your stash of nudie magazines. Basically, on a survival level I need you to take care of you and I will continue to take care of me. In between, we can take long strolls along the lake at sunset while you recite sonnets about my beauty. Er, I mean we can drink beer and play video games. Either works for me.

      Monday, August 17, 2009

      Choose Your Own Adventure

      Over the past couple years my illiterate drinking buddies friends have graciously informed me that owning books, reading them and subsequently looking for someone to discuss them with has not been deemed cool. Booo literacy. Being the maverick that I am, with my latest find proudly tucked beneath my arm, I shout hooray for bestowing this disquisition on your ass during a bar league softball game. Who doesn't want to discuss Tocqueville's Democracy in America while dodging erratic fly balls, imbibing warm beer from a plastic cup?

      With that said, I believe your personal collection reveals a lot about personality, interests and intellect. If you do not in fact have enough books to be considered a collection by your 20s, then I'm going to have to assume you are intimately familiar with your local library or you detest knowledge, personal growth and stimulating that part of your brain which enjoys thinking. Maybe that's not an entirely accurate assessment of personal intelligence, but as I've stated before, I don't require much proof or logic to support my theories. Truthfully I hope my theory is dissuaded, otherwise I've insulted a disproportionate number of my acquaintances and highlighted the fact that I'm drawn to a benighted lot. Oh, and I'm an exasperatingly pompous, book toting, parvenu. So back to me....

      While searching for the Starburst I dropped dusting my bookshelf and perusing the bindings, I'd have to say my collection affirms the following characteristics:

      • I am a 20-something year old woman. [British Chick Lit - Anna Maxted and Sophie Kinsella are some of my faves.]
      • I travel often but don't know anything about my destination because all of my travel book bindings are uncreased - further reveals, I'm quite absentminded. [3 books on Peru that I forgot to take with me, then forgot to care about reading when I returned home.]

      • I seek inspiration from war heroes, politicians and titans of industry whose lifestyles and pursuits are nearly impossible for me to replicate, thus ensuring I cannot feel too guilty for falling considerably short. [General Tommy Franks, Clarence Thomas, Jack Welch]

      • James Rollins captures my sense of adventure as I try to strategize my own escapes from page to page. However, he's far more realistic as my solution usually involves some sort of flying device, poison or grenades.

      • I'm still trying to figure out what it is exactly that I was suppose to have learned in college. [Numerous books on economics.]

      • I thought I was going to law school. [Why am I still holding onto 6 LSAT prep books?]

      • Can read more than 200 pages. [2 of my favorite books are Anna Karenina and Atlas Shrugged]

      • I probably should have taken more theology classes in college. I'm still interested in discovering how religion shapes society, what I was suppose to learn in Sunday school, and techniques for really subjugating my Christian values upon others. [The Contested Public Square, by Greg Forster ; The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Concordia]

      • I believe analyzing any and all stages of relationships is a worthwhile endeavor, albeit ineffectual. I have such titles as Before You Get Engaged, 10 Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married, The Proper Care & Feeding of Marriage, and the ever popular Toxic In-Laws. I have read all of these bestsellers cover to cover only to find myself more perplexed than ever. In purchasing these books, I think my goal was to find some answers or reassurance. What I ended up discovering was that I'm a lousy, selfish girlfriend and have been harboring a lot of resentment. Looking back through my notes in the margins, I also have proof that I'm a compulsive liar not entirely honest about the state of my relationships. I'd like to believe that I communicate effectively, am selfless when it comes to my partner's needs, an advocate for monogamy, realistic in my expectations. All these stupid books just highlight the fact that I'm quick to throw a hissy fit if I don't get my way, my sharing skills rival a kindergartners, I like painting myself into the picture of someone in possession of a more glamorous/exciting/passionate life, and I may in fact envy polygamists.

      I suppose depending on your genre of choice, books can offer a means of escape, intellectual stimulation, a few laughs or bragging rights. Why then, do so many stop reading after grades no longer matter? I truly believe that those who hate reading (why someone would freely admit this is beyond me) simply haven't found the genre that suits them. Hell, try a choose-your-own-adventure book! They're quick, written at a 3rd grade level and usually entail some sort of space odyssey, lost treasure, harrowing escape or time travel. Edward Packard and R.A. Montgomery really nailed this brilliant literary category. Once you get your feet wet and a taste for all the trappings of bookish delight, I challenge you to make a genuine effort at expanding your personal collection. If not for the sake of knowledge and a proficient use of the English language, then for simply the shallow pleasure of impressing someone you're trying to sleep with your colleagues.

      Friday, August 14, 2009

      What is the point? I have none.

      While I was in Berlin, my Uncle's niece who happens to live there, joined us for a few days to show us the city. This woman has led a pretty incredible life. She's backpacked throughout the world, can speak at least 2 other languages (one being Mandarin Chinese), has a degree in Chinese medicine, moved to Germany not knowing a soul, and has landed a job with a high end touring company. She's thoughtful and inquisitive, open-minded and patient. She carries herself with the quiet confidence of a woman who has experienced a truly dynamic life. I enjoyed meeting her because I am none of these things. I relish the opportunity to witness firsthand what it's like to live without judgement or fear holding you back. Will I ever backpack through India or Morocco? Live amongst anarchists and ex-pats in a building tagged with headless mermaids and puking aliens? Date street performers and acrobats? Probably not, but the fact that I know someone who has gives me the unmerited notion that I too am an open-minded, adventurous soul.
      Yes,this justification is baseless but I've discovered that I need very little foundation to support my theories. What was the point of introducing this lively character to my blog? Ah, yes...the discussion we had about dating.

      As the Niece and I were watching a band of street performers after dinner one night I decided to regale her with my relationship history and future outlook on the matter. No, she did not initiate this dialogue as we were still essentially strangers, but after a few large Pilsners at dinner social decorum flies out the window. I'm pretty blunt about my beliefs and unapologetic of my severely abrupt opinions. At some point I've got to activate the filter that most adults seem to not only possess but actually utilize, that prevents your brain from allowing your mouth to rant about sex, bodily functions, and other inappropriate topics. Sometimes I feel as if the words just tumble out of my mouth before I've even had a chance to form a proper sentence, thus ensuring the angry baby blather I often find myself reciting. So after the uncomfortable "called off my wedding" speech (I've really got this diatribe down to under 5 minutes) I begin my lament on dating. To summarize: What's the point?

      Niece is almost 40, has never been married and is currently in a 2 year relationship. I bring her up to speed on my dating discoveries, disasters and disappointments (my impressive aptitude for applying alliteration when deemed completely unnecessary is another one of my many unmarketable skills). I ask Niece if she plans on ever getting hitched? *shrugs shoulders, she's "Not sure." [cue interrogation]

      I've always held the belief that at a certain age the point of dating is to get married right? I mean that's the goal if you've decided that marriage is in fact something you want. As I reveal this maxim to Niece she unhesitatingly replies, "Is it?" Again, we are essentially strangers but it seemed to me that she hadn't completely ruled out matrimonial bliss so I was completely shocked that this goal I've adhered to may not be on everyone's radar. Always eager to find some new theory to dissect I began questioning what really is the point of dating?

      Let me preface my conclusions by stating that I have not validated, surveyed or run logistics on any of these findings. Here goes...

      I think women fall into 2 dating categories: those who want to get married and those who don't or are unsure. For those women who want to get married I believe they approach relationships like job interviews. What qualities does this man possess that may reveal his aptitude for fathering children, providing stability, epitomizing the perfect husband fantasy? Is this method fair or reasonable? Probably not. I think relationships (healthy ones at least) continue to evolve and change based on circumstance. Someone who may appear to be confident and stable may crumble at the first sign of distress. After the passionate honeymoon period of any relationship begins to wane, do you find one another interesting enough to continue? What are the true tell-tale signs of a potentially good husband or father? I suppose this is where you take a leap of faith and trust your instincts. I don't believe anyone who is honest with themselves can definitively say they are 100% certain they've chosen their "soul mate." Bleh, that term is so cheesy. For the record, I DO NOT believe in soul mates. I think it's a concept born of delusional women and hopeless romantics. If this offends you, hit that little X in the upper right hand corner of your screen and get ready for your poetry slam. I digress... Without a doubt I have fallen into this category for the past few months. If I couldn't see myself marrying you within oh, a 3 date time frame I was moving along. The truly deluded part of this scenario is that I'm not really even interested in finding a husband at the moment. I think my brain has been wired for so long to pursue that Biblical dream of marriage, procreation and good, clean living that it forgot to have a little fun. I want to date! I want to experience what it's like to be every other 20-something year old making mistakes and falling down occasionally. Although I did a brief stint in a Human Resources department, I have zero qualifications for finding a good "husband-type." So what's the point? One can choose to live their life in pursuit of their Biblical duties, maybe even attaining a modicum of their initial fantasy, but doesn't this course lend itself to a lot of disappointment and frustration? From personal experience I'm going to go ahead and answer that for you - Yes it does.

      Dating category #2 - women who do not want to or are unsure of whether or not marriage is in the cards. I would like to chastise this group for being liars and fools because all women want to get married and they are simply in denial! Am I right?! Truthfully, I am silently envious of their uncomplicated approach to dating - of course I'd never admit this. When unencumbered by a mold with which to size up every person one dates, I've got to believe one is more inclined to enjoy themselves and others. When you write someone off you may miss their best that's yet to come. But what if we're not all destined to be husbands or wives? Any participant in modern day society is aware that there are certain rewards attached to those who choose holy matrimony over a solo existence. Whether it's tax breaks or simply the benefit of not having married acquaintances wonder why you couldn't find/hold onto/convince someone to tolerate you for the rest of your life. But is getting married simply because society dictates that this is in fact the proper course of action for everyone enough justification? From personal observation I'm going to go ahead and answer this one for you as well - No, it's not.

      So, what is the point of dating? I have no clue. didn't think I'd actually arrive to any valid conclusion did you? That's clearly not my style. I think perhaps the desirable end result could manifest itself in 3 ways though. You either find yourself a spouse, a friend or a lover (for those of you with keen judgement, maybe even a combination of the 3!). On the other hand, you could just as easily find yourself an archenemy, stalker or pregnant (perhaps a combination of these as well). My advice, go with what brings you the least amount of stress, tears and my personal favorite, effort. I truly am destined for greatness.

      Thursday, August 13, 2009

      WTF is a Water Closet?

      So happy to be back in the US. After two weeks in the company of Europeans I am unbelievably grateful for my American citizenship. For starters, I cannot fathom why Hollywood's elite insist that Europe is the hub of all creative, cultural and civilized activity. When one has to pay for the "water closet" (this term for bathrooms still eludes me) that smells like an outhouse and provides an unforgiving strip of sandpaper with which to scrub your nether regions is far from civilized. The fact that Europeans still have yet to master the art of American coffee. Not cafe Americano (espresso with hot water), but actual coffee straight from Mr. Coffee's $30 glorious carafe (found at your local Wal-Mart). Then there's that tricky subject of hygiene. How can a nation that produced such brilliant talent from the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Michelangelo, Johannes Gutenberg and Ludwig van Beethoven not yet discover the elusive deodorant stick? I admit, I'm not very mature when dealing with body odor infiltrating my nostrils (yes, I will walk around with my nose pinched, a scarf over my face and/or make mock gagging noises near certain prime offenders). In fact, my Uncle Haru insisted I was an "American snob" when I jammed my fingers up my nose at the top of Petrin Hill Observation Tower which happened to be enclosed on a humid day with numerous odoriferous - fun word right? It's on the garbage bin in my garage further indicating the pompous nature I've often suspected my neighbors of - perpetrators. My reply, "I'm not a snob simply because I've located, purchased and mastered the application of antiperspirant." I will not claim to be an expert on deodorant sales or its global market penetration, but I'm fairly certain that most countries can gain access to Speedstick, Ban Roll-On, Degree and maybe even Secret for women. Perhaps I'll look into this. Basically, I agree that Europe has many artistic and cultural contributions to marvel at. Sculptures and paintings that bring tears to your eyes, churches that take your breath away, museums that bring an amazing past to life. However, as far as the "I'm more dignified, enlightened and refined than you American dolts" attitude goes, I'm not buying it. I'll take my loud, coarse, innovative, eat meals in under 2 hours, hygienic, don't-have-time-to-sit-and-ponder-art-at-a-cafe-all-day-because-I-have-a-job, American brethren any day. To those pretentious Hollywood types, misguided hippies, and arrogant Europeans - I'll take crass over class if it means I'm smellin' sweet, my ass is not raw and my coffee does not come in a Smurf sized cup and taste like tar.
      With that said, I do in fact love many of the aforementioned artistic and cultural aspects of Europe. The architecture is breathtaking, the museums and galleries are astounding, the churches are indescribable, eating becomes an art form, shopping at its best. My recent trip included Prague and various cities in Germany (Dresden, Potsdam, Berlin and Hamburg). Here are some of the highlights from each location.
      PRAGUE: The architecture, cobble stone streets and beautiful people reminded me of Rome. The city is absolutely stunning. Due to the fact that I cannot remotely read, speak or make sense of the Czecher's language I do not recall half of the names of the things we saw. What I do remember is that we went to a beautiful church called St. Vitus I believe located within Prague Castle (I could be way off), the Senate building, Lenin wall where we left inspired messages (I wrote my name, Aunt D wrote beside a large IMAGINE - Imagine if you were an American. I love the USA), Old Town with some old clock that we stared at for 20 minutes waiting to for it to chime and creepy little figurines to move, the Vlatava River, some church by some palace, I almost knocked over a guard while embracing full tourist mode and posing next to him for a photo op, a weird gargoyle wall with hidden creatures I identified as King Kong, the lion from the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, a kitten and a vampire that was next to a random cage filled with owls. Wow, I should write a travel book I am so detail oriented. Watch out Lonely Planet, seems as if you've got a new editor. I noticed that Prague is filled with odd street signs as well. For example, this little fellow may have indicated Caution: tourist jamming ahead. The walk signs were also quite endearing. The little person portrayed to be crossing had a very dapper hat on and if it's possible to depict in a street sign, actually appeared to be sauntering.

      The city is also very clean but I think it's mainly attributed to the plethora of bums who enjoy digging through the trash for treasures. Sort of like garbage spelunkers. The beggars were also interesting. I was a little taken aback when I realized that after strolling through the streets of Prague I was more sweaty and dirty than the so-called "bums" in their freshly pressed clothes and brand new sparkling white sneakers. Frankly, I think they were just tourists looking for some extra cash to buy the whimsical marionettes that seemed to inhabit many of the shops. I found their approach to begging quite dangerous though. They just lay down bent over holding out their hands or a hat, looking as if they're kissing the ground or practicing grade school tornado drill techniques. At first I thought they were perhaps Muslims praying. The danger comes from the fact that it's quite easy to miss them and consequently quite easy to step on them. Also, I imagine their legs get cramped so if I were compelled to snatch the coins from them I could get away quite easily while they try to get the blood flowing back to their get-away sticks.

      What else? Oh, my cousin got her purse stolen right in front of us at a cafe. Let me paint you a picture of my alarming disregard for my surroundings. The group is eating lunch with my mother and I seated across from my cousin, the victim, of a heinous robbery attempt. Suddenly, interrupting what was sure to be an insightful yet humorous dialogue initiated by me, a 50+ year old ninja woman hands the victim back her purse. At this point we notice the perp walking casually away as the ninja shouts what I can only imagine were foreign obscenities in his direction. So as I was holding court, my cousin had been so enthralled by my conversation that she had her purse casually snatched, then aggressively snatched back, then heroically handed back to her. All the while I was staring directly at her, completely unaware of the crime. Uncle Haru, the victim's father, then proceeded to yell at her for having allowed her purse to be snatched in the first place. Oh, classic Haru.

      We also ventured to some pilgrimage area (again, sketchy on the names) which included a library, an ugly little chapel that supposedly contained a rotten board from the Virgin Mary's house, the St. Wilgifortis altar which exhibits a crucified, bearded woman (story being, she was a Portuguese maiden who prayed for a masculine appearance in order to preserve her chastity), and a church filled with cherub sculptures that Aunt D said resembled "sexual deviants."
      DRESDEN: Home of the amazing Zwinger palace. Augustus the Strong wanted a stunning abode that rivaled Versailles in the 1700s and wah-la, the "Zvinger" came to life. With its spectacular courtyard and impressive museums (art museum included an extensive collection of Rubens and Raphael's 'Sistine Madonna,' and we went to the most comprehensive Armory I think I've ever seen) this place was amazing.

      We stayed at the Art Otel which showcased an anatomically correct stick figure man that appeared to be flipping you off. Our room included a bathroom with a window strategically placed in view of the toilet. When you flipped a switch the window would blur out but still induced paranoia as shadows and movements were still visible from outside.

      The city was destroyed during WWII and is still in the process of being rebuilt, but the remaining historical buildings were amazing. Behind a large bronze statue of Martin Luther that survived the bombings was the most gorgeous Lutheran church, the Frauenkirche (or Church of Our Lady), I have ever seen. The interior of the church was like a little girls fantasy. Pastels and gold art upon the altar and balconies invoked a light, ethereal quality. If I ever take Aunt D's advice and just "give marriage a try," I would seriously consider a destination wedding to Dresden simply for this church. However, restorations of the city will probably take another oh, 5-10 years so I've got some time.
      We also watched a Blair Witch style black and white slide show video of pictures from Dresden's past. I briefly fell asleep then realized my English headphones were broken. Had them fixed, broke again shortly thereafter, watched the remainder of the video set to the hip hop beats courtesy of 50 cent on my iPod. Spent less than 2 days in Dresden before heading to Berlin. Overall impression, the city is stunningly quaint, I really enjoyed it.

      BERLIN: Absolutely loved this city! We stayed at the Park Inn which I think may be the tallest building in all of Berlin, making it nearly impossible for me to get lost. Again, our hotel room was a little bizarre. The sexy shower in the middle of the room really was a plus considering my mother and I were sharing the place for a week. I noticed at this location that my mother is indeed a horrible roommate. She snored every night, she never closed the sheer privacy curtain all the way on the sexy shower, her shoes stunk up the room so badly I made her put them in the hallway and she stole my room key, thus forcing me to walk down 13 flights of stairs. If she hadn't funded this little excursion, I would have seriously considered writing her a strongly worded letter (in keeping with my lack of courage at confronting people).

      While in Berlin we went to the German History museum that I devoured in 6+ hours. I'm fairly certain I know more about Germany's history than America's right now. Sad. Anyways, we went to the beautiful Berlin Cathedral (church by the Lustgarten) and took a ridiculous, overly informative audio guided tour. Walked past the Brandenburg Gate which is situated opposite from the Hotel Adlon - made famous by Michael Jackson who dangled his 8-month old son Prince from its window. Saw remnants of the Berlin Wall and the Holocaust Memorial which was awe inspiring. The Pergamon Museum (which showcased the Pergamon Altar, the Ishtar Gate from Babylon and a lengthy tribute to the Greek god of wine, Dionysus), Checkpoint Charlie, the Reichstag building, a university where Einstein taught, the Hackeschen Markt and a cafe called Titty Twister were just a few highlights from Berlin.

      I loved the street performers. On two different occasions there were break dancers, one group destined for So You Think You Can Dance? the other, to remain Berlin street performers. A multitude of musicians. One day it might be goth weirdos playing bagpipes, the next a string quartet. At dinner we were entertained by flame eaters, giant bubble blowers and mime-ish clown antics all for the pleasure of a few solicited euro. I could people watch all day. Everyone is so diverse and comfortably casual. The goth population is thriving and well in the streets of Berlin for those of you who may have wondered where they went after 1998. Even the legalized prostitutes don't seem to put on airs as they hustle the pitiful middle aged men and curiously misguided teenage tourists. According to strict dress code, the midnight madams are easy to spot as they are required to squeeze into a corset accentuated by an impossibly sexy, yet practical fanny pack. I say kudos to you Pretty Woman, you may sell your body to the masses but you're a law abiding, tax paying citizen dammit! Anyway, Berlin is eclectic, modern, interesting and a very realistic/easy place to picture yourself living in. Loved it!

      POTSDAM: Took a day trip here to see a couple palaces. Apparently Frederick the Great was a real show off, needing not only his Neues Palais (New Palace - built after the end of the Seven Years' War to prove Prussia was still in good shape economically), but a summer palace -the Schloss Sanssouci (meaning "Free of Care")- located a couple miles away.

      Aside from the palaces, Potsdam was kind of a bore. The little town reminded me of the Dells. Not sure if I'd ever go back, but it's worth a 2 hour trip at least once.

      HAMBURG: Our band of merry travelers parted, leaving Aunt D, Uncle Haru and I to explore Hamburg. We took the Gravitrain (super fast train that I imagined would cause Gravitron type centripetal force that would smoosh our bodies into our seats or walls) to Hamburg and were greeted by throngs of Hamburglars lining the streets. Turns out it was a Christopher Street Parade. What is Christopher Street you may be wondering? Gay pride! (Prior to my trip to Hamburg I did not know this. I quickly figured it out as the rainbow arch of balloons and assortment of drag queens and techno blasting buses filled with gyrating boyfriends took center stage. Upon further investigation when I got home, I now know that Christopher Street is an actual street in the West Village of New York, that served as the center of NY's gay rights movement during the '70s. Hooray for Wikipedia). I should first mention that I'm 87% sure I witnessed a junkie OD right before the parade started. Anyway, the parade began and we were treated to an assortment of fabulous queens, middle aged men in assless chaps, lesbians holding boobs, a bus load of ridiculously fit "sailors," with a brief interlude of some S&M freaks dressed like horses pulling the Dominatrix(s) in carriages. It was all fun and games with the jazzy gays doing dance routines, throwing out condoms and squirting me with a squirt gun that I suspected contained seminal fluids, but those creepy horse people really brought the vibe to a new level of discomfort. Worth mentioning, as the vehicles passed many of them had heart pounding bass thumping music that Aunt D was convinced would illicit a sexual frenzy. Considering there was a lot of groping and PDA around town after the parade I think she may have been right. Welcome to Hamburg!

      We stayed at a beautiful old hotel, the Kempinski, complete with a number of old fancy guests. We didn't get the dress code memo. Apparently you were required to match your party, old people are cute. Saw St. Michaelis church and St. Nikolas memorial. Walked through the Fish Market which was vaguely reminiscent of the WI State Fair. Took a boat and bus tour of the city. Checked out the gorgeous Parliament building. Had fun shopping and walking along the many rivers throughout the "Venice of Germany." Not sure the title fits, but the city was very charming.
      Took the Gravitrain back to Berlin for our last night. Early flight from Berlin to Brussels, then Brussels to Chicago. Long day. Body and brain still not functioning properly due to the 7 hour time change. Looking forward to the next vacation with my crazy wonderful family.

      Final note - As our trip progressed I realized I had in fact executed all 7 deadly sins.

      1. LUST - I want a palace with the works.
      2. WRATH - I decided I will become enraged if I don't get my palace.
      3. PRIDE - thankful to be an American who speaks fluent English.
      4. SLOTH - rested upon every grassy knoll I came across because I've got a lot of quit in me.
      5. ENVY - insatiable desire to own some of the artwork and armory at the Zwinger museums.
      6. GREED - coveting my new Roberto Cavalli and Burberry watches.
      7. GLUTTONY - I think I consumed roughly 5 kegs worth of beer on this trip.