Monday, September 29, 2008

Costa Rica Lesson #1: Putting The “Car” In “Cardiovascular Distress”

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Two days before we left for Costa Rica, Brooke came home from running some errands with a frown on her face.

Brooke: “I have some bad news.”

Dan: “You made that face and now it’s stuck that way?”

Brooke: “Someone broke into our car.”

Dan: “What! When?”

Brooke: “Last night.”

Dan: “But you were gone half an hour just now!”

Brooke: “I ran my errands anyway, just swept the glass off the seat.”

Dan: “I respect that.”

It turns out I was wrong: Not everyone in the world has an iPod. Because that is the only thing the thief was after when he smashed the passenger side window: my iPod nano.

W. T. F.

It’s not even a video iPod! In fact, I’m pretty sure that the resale market is so saturated with non-video iPod nanos that you couldn’t even sell it if you tried, meaning that the sole reason this person stole it was because they didn’t have one, or maybe they did have one but their girlfriend kept taking it with her to the gym and getting it all sweaty and finally one day he was like, “Fuck that, I’m stealing my own.” I can’t decide which invasion of privacy bothers me more: breaking into my car, or listening to my iPod. I had playlists on there. Personal ones. Ones with titles like “Brooke” or “Puppy” (stuff Puppy might like, what?).

Worse still, this wasn’t just a hassle that added an additional caked-on layer of stress to our pre-vacation preparations; it was a premonition, a harbinger of things to come once we landed in San Jose, Costa Rica two days later . . .

(Fade out. Now fade back in.)

Despite the fact that we had reserved a car weeks prior, when we got to the rental agency (Dollar Rent-a-Car, spread the word, they have herpes) they had “run out” of the model we reserved. I immediately think of Seinfeld: “You know how to take the reservation, you just don't know how to hold the reservation, and that's really the most important part.” And that was over a decade ago. How has this system not been changed by now? We can send dogs into orbit, but renting a car involves Middle-Eastern peace-talk style negotiations? I wouldn’t even mind if they continued doing it this way so long as they called it a “request” or a “maybe” instead. (e.g. “Did you book the car?” “Yeah, I made a maybe.”) But they insist on calling it a reservation, which, despite what your Native American friends tell you, has a very specific definition, one that, under normal, non-corporate douchebaggery practices, indicates a level of security and permanence.

Of course they offer to remedy the situation by giving us a better car for more money. Incredulous, Brooke steps in demanding a car for the same price. They have one, but it is smaller, and a manual transmission. (It’s here that I realize for the first time that I rented a car from a place called “Dollar.” I was asking for it, really.) Brooke pulls me aside and tells me not to cave to their hostage negotiation tactics. Just because we’re already in Costa Rica, and a tram took us outside the airport to their off-site rental location, and we hardly speak the same language as everyone around us, and right now these two rental car guys are kind of in charge of OUR LIVES doesn’t mean we should play their game.

Thankfully, in what we would later refer to as “The Decision That Saved The World” we opt to pay the extra $10 a day for the bigger, automatic SUV. Our first lesson in why Priuses will never catch on in Costa Rica came swiftly and forcefully. Fifteen minutes into our 3-hour drive south we hit traffic. Dead stop traffic. Here, we have two options:

1. Be smart. Stay on the only road we are familiar with in a country we have never been to before and have only been in for half an hour; or

2. Be stupid adventurers. Follow the many cars ahead of us that are veering off onto a dirt road.

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We think “They can’t all live down that twisted, dusty ravine. It must be a shortcut.” Five minutes later, we had lost sight of everyone we were following as they either peeled off down various, even narrower and more dirt-laden roads or turned into driveways at shanty homes. (What are the odds?) We start doing that thing where we get to intersections and, for some inexplicable reason, instead of turning around and going back the way we came, we decide which way “feels right” and turn that way. I tell Brooke to look at the map. “This road isn’t on the map,” she replies. “Probably because it’s made of dirt.” Solid point.

We stop to ask for directions, but no one speaks English. We pull out some of our Spanish knowledge, but unless someone is telling us to go “right” or “to the bathroom,” the language barrier remains. (Further proof that a Spanish-English dictionary still has a place in the world, if not in my suitcase.) Brooke tries to mime “lost” by shaking her head and putting her hands up in the air. The farmer we are asking directions from seems scared.

Just about the time where we start resigning ourselves to the possibility that this is it for us, that our last remaining option (not an option at all, really, just a reconciliation) is moving into an abandoned home and living off the land and whatever gifts our neighbors may offer, we see a main road up ahead. It is backed up with bumper-to-bumper traffic. We exhale a sigh of relief. Somehow, we stumbled upon the road we were previously driving, perhaps even avoiding some of the traffic, as was our initial goal. We have, it seems, against the wildest of odds, succeeded.

EEENT. (That’s a buzzer making the “wrong” noise.)

Because all roads in Costa Rica look the same (bumpy pavement, no signs, drivers swerving with the recklessness of terminal cancer patients) it was a solid two hours before it was determined we were going the wrong way. Wrong as in north. We wanted south. What finally tipped me off was a sign for Nicaragua. Thankfully, while planning for the vacation I had done some research, looking up Costa Rica on Wikipedia. I remembered few details about the country itself other than the fact that it was bordered by Nicaragua (to the north) and Panama (to the south) – two countries that I have always thought of as “scary,” the kinds of places where people are kidnapped for sport and killed for mistaking libro for a feminine noun.

While the chaos that ensued was tragic in many ways, we would come to fondly look back on it as “our impromptu driving tour of Costa Rica.” The seven-hour driving tour. Down erroneous unmarked roads. Stopping every 20 minutes for Brooke to harass another person who didn’t speak English with her inexplicably disturbing “We’re lost!” mime routine.

Finally, hours later, we find our way onto the right road. No the originally right road, but a different right road, one that has been described to us as both “scenic” and “bumpy.” The sun has already set at a confusing 6:15 (it has to do with the equator – I looked it up) and I tell Brooke that I need a break from driving. We switch; I immediately fall asleep. Mere moments later (or so it seemed to me) I am awakened by what feels like a mortar shell exploding under our car. I jump up.

Me: “What happened!”

Brooke: “We’re off-roading.”

Me: “Shouldn’t we get back on the road then?”

Brooke: (frazzled) “THIS IS THE ROAD.”

We presume a road this rocky, a truly primordial road, cleared by the hands of men who removed everything save the cratered bedrock beneath us, could last but a short amount of time. This is, after all, no road at all. It is a clearing, a piece of earth there to remind man of his small place in a world where he can do so, so much, but he cannot smooth out this tract of land, not in any way. It was a brief piece of perspective, and nothing more.

EEENT.

68 kilometers. Converted to American measurements, that’s way-too-many-fucking miles, miles that the human body wasn’t meant to endure – SUV or not. Asses catching air off seats, heads whiplashing from side to side. Mechanical violence.

We speak to each other as little as possible, like workers trapped in a mine shaft conserving energy and air. “You OK?” “Yup.” More staring straight ahead, eyeing the trembling horizon, fighting back vertigo. It starts downpouring. “Good thing we upgraded the car.” “Yup.” Every long while another vehicle passes us. I think, “I know why I’m here, but why are you? I’m here because my American middle-class background makes me rebellious against structure, while craving adventure and glimpses into worlds in which I don’t belong. But you?”

We approach a clearing and a group of cars is collected up ahead, tail lights glowing in the night. We stop behind the cluster, staring ahead at a bridge. Turns out, the bridge is one-lane. And it’s not our turn to go, it’s the other side’s turn to go, so we have to wait there patiently while huge trucks carrying God-knows-what rumble over the bridge past us into the night.

Suddenly, the cars on our side start filing over the bridge, and we follow, completely oblivious to the process and its inner workings. There are no signals, so signs, no attendant watching the bridge. Somehow, locals know whose turn it is to go when. You can’t get this shit in Pasadena, that’s for sure.

Finally, like a gift from the pitch-black night, the rumbling stops and everything goes smooth. Perhaps we’ve died and in an improbably ironic twist heaven is just a paved road? But wait! In the compilations of malinterpreted directions we’ve collected throughout our journey, there seems to be one coincidental fact: Once you hit the paved road, you’re almost there. And lo and behold, not 18 kilometers away we roll into a town, make a left, and start down the road to the resort. Except you’ll never believe what the road was made out of. Dirt. More rocky terrain, and I’m not sure Brooke can handle it. Physically? She needs a chiropractor. Mentally? A whole lot more. It’s come to the point where we stop in the middle of the road, roll down the window, and ask the first person who happens by if they know how we can get to the hotel.

First Person Who Happened By: “Are you Brooke and Dan? We’ve been waiting all night for you.”

Shit. We really are dead, and St. Peter is an older gentleman who speaks good English with a thick Spanish accent.

His name was Javier, which doesn’t exactly rhyme with “savoir” but damnit it was close enough for me. Javier jumps in our back seat and says, “Our driver will lead you up to the resort, but first your back tire is flat. We should fix that. Have you eaten? Let’s get you some dinner and some cerveza while they fix your tire.”

Brooke leans over and whispers in my ear, “I would totally make out with Javier right now.”

After taking us to the only restaurant in town for food, the only grocery store for beer, and the only gas station to fix the tire, Javier leaves us with the resort’s driver and says, “You follow him. Remember, just be confident. Drive with confidence.” At face value, I take this as a bit of folksy advice, maybe even a metaphor for life. “Drive with confidence.”

The driver leads us down the dirt road leading to the resort. There are no street lights, which I suppose isn’t really a problem because there’s nothing around to light up, proper road included. But then the driver veers off to the left, up a narrow, steep hill. “What a dangerous driveway,” I think. And it was. An incredibly steep, curvy, dangerous, two-mile long driveway up a dark mountain of death. Adventure went out the window 500 feet back: My vacation is officially terrifying.

Before I know it, probably because I blacked out from the stress, we are sitting in our room at the resort. We eat our food, wash up, and go to bed.

The next morning we wake up with the sun and look out the window. Turns out we are perched on the side of a mountain (who knew!), looking down over the ocean and the coastal road that we drove to get here. And you know what? They were right: The scenery was fucking beautiful.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fuck Me In The Ass Once, Shame On You. Fuck Me In The Ass Twice, Shame On Me*

The conclusion of our Costa Rica vacation (I guess we’re starting the recap from the end now) involved a return flight on American Airlines that was delayed for four hours due to mechanical problems before finally being cancelled leaving us stranded in San Jose, the city that progress forgot. (Not before we checked our bags, unchecked our bags to run through the airport for a different plane that was made up of working mechanical parts, nearly lost our bags, and ended up in a nearby hotel for the night eating a comped buffet dinner that tasted like something you might find left in the oven at the home of an eight-day old murder victim – who couldn’t cook.)

Point being, that right this very second I am sitting on another American Airlines flight. This time I’m headed to New York for a friend’s bachelor party. The flight was supposed to leave at 4:25, and finally, once everyone was boarded at 6:30, we rolled around the tarmac for a bit before the captain came on the loudspeaker to tell us that due to weather conditions – in New York, not here – we couldn’t take off for another hour. But that we had to board because “they needed the gate.”

Um, unless they are currently using that gate to feed homeless children or stage a scene for the filming of “The Princess Bride 2,” I’m going to go out on a limb and say there was no good reason to make me sit here next to a woman who yells things like, “Look at all the people on their phones! It’s like a commerrrrcial!”**

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* Yes, I wrote that title with a woman glancing over my shoulder at my computer. And yes, she is now letting me have the entire arm rest all to myself.

** UPDATE: She just randomly shouted out, “So this is how the other half lives!” What other half? The plane people? Who live on commercial jets? Shoot me now.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Well That Didn’t Go Well

Normally I would follow up my Emmy preview with a post listing the results and how I fared at guessing the winners. Thankfully I made that easy on myself by guessing almost none of the winners. It’s a great strategy, really. Lessens my workload tremendously.

I’d like to think that that’s what I had in mind when I guessed that Sally Field would repeat as best lead actress. STUPID. You never, ever, (emphasizing this by hitting head with mouse) ever bet against Glenn Close. I’m not going to say that she would sleep with the entire Academy to win, I’m just saying that she’s probably already slept with most of the Academy.

The good news? The show was a turd. So we don’t have to spend any more time talking about it than absolutely necessary. (P.S. That doubles as an acting note to the hosts. ZING!) But I will say this: TV is awesome, despite Howie Mandel. And although I spent an inordinate amount of time writing that last post (and you wasted an inordinate amount of time reading the first third of it), I still believe that there is no better unifying force in the world than television. And love. Television or love.

Fortunately something that did go well was my vacation in Costa Rica. Here are a few things I didn’t know about Costa Rica before I went:

Where it was. Apparently, Costa Rica is sandwiched right between Nicaragua and Panama – two places that people never go to on vacation, unless their idea of fun is trafficking drugs and shouting things like, “Why are you trying to sell me?” So this was a little disconcerting, especially when Brooke and I got a little lost while driving from the airport to our resort and started seeing signs for Nicaragua. Because that’s how easy it happens, especially in the movies: Two lovestruck vacationers accidentally drive into a war-torn country, get a flat tire, and must pose as traveling textile salespeople to survive. And seeing as the only Spanish word I remember is zapatos, and the only pair of shoes I had to sell were my own, and that just the idea of trying to carry around a wide enough variety of sizes to suit even a fraction of your potential clientele. . . well, let’s just say it’s best that that plan never got test-driven.

And that’s just the first thing I learned about Central America! Stay tuned all week for more lessons, observations, and hopefully not racist ruminations on the awesome time we had in Costa Rica, which (and here’s a bonus nugget of info) translates to Rich Coast. Rich with what? Beauty. Or drugs. Beauty or drugs. (Seriously, you can buy them right in the pharmacia. I did. By accident.)

Also, don’t stop voting for Puppy. There seems to be a grass roots movement for Shadow. Which is great, because I’m sure that Shadow is a really nice dog. But fuck Shadow. Vote Puppy.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The 2nd Annual Round-Up of The 60th Annual Emmy Awards

It’s a grand tradition, perhaps one of my favorites. For a guy who [hearts] TV as much as I do, there’s nothing better than the Emmy Awards – an entire ceremony devoted to handing out trophies for consistent excellence in making my life less and less productive. It’s a beautiful thing.

This year we’re doing it a bit early because tomorrow morning Brooke and I are getting on a plane and heading to Costa Rica for a week, where we will be staying in an exotic hotel right in the middle of the jungle – at least that’s how I imagine it. Either way, there won’t be any wi-fi, and even if there was I wouldn’t have a computer to write a post. Because a monkey will likely have stolen it – at least that’s how I imagine it. So being that the Emmy Awards ceremony airs on Sunday, September 21, I’m putting this up before I leave.

There’s no real rhyme or reason here. I chose categories that interested me, and left off ones that I don’t understand like cinematography. Isn’t that just filming the show? You win an award for filming it? Like “Ugly Betty” filmed the shit out Episode 201? And make no mistake: This is a long post. So chug a Vitamin Water and deal with it.

Upon my return we’ll see how well my predictions went. Last year I went 12-9 with my guesses, but in fairness to me I was drunk a lot that summer. This year we’re striving for perfection . . . and settling for just OK.

Outstanding Casting For A Comedy Series

Californication • Showtime
Curb Your Enthusiasm • HBO
Pushing Daisies • ABC
30 Rock • NBC
Ugly Betty • ABC

Should Win: If you’re not a newcomer to this category, it all comes down to guest stars. And while “Californication” hits every nail on the head (David Duchovney entering sex rehab IRL – touché!), “30 Rock” is like a cumshot of new talent every week.

Will Win: “30 Rock,” if for no other reason than Rip Torn as Don Geiss. Rip Torn – it’s like sentence!

Outstanding Casting For A Drama Series

Brothers & Sisters • ABC
Damages • FX Networks
Friday Night Lights • NBC
Mad Men • AMC
The Tudors • Showtime

Should Win: I couldn’t be more torn between “Friday Night Lights” and “Mad Men.” It’s like they’re two halves of a retarded fetus and I’m a Republican. But if I had to testify before a Congressional hearing, I would go with “Mad Men” for its vast diversity of character. (Lyla, forgive me.)

Will Win: I have a sneaky suspicion “Brothers & Sisters” will take this. It’s got a big cast, and if you don’t think Sally Field has all of Hollywood under her thumb, well you might be right. I have no clue.

Outstanding Choreography

Dancing With The Stars • Routine: Mambo / “Para Los Rumberos” • ABC
High School Musical 2 • Routines: “What Time Is It?”, “Fabulous”, “Work This Out”, “I Don’t Dance”, “You Are the Music In Me”, “For One” • Disney Channel
So You Think You Can Dance • Routine: Hummingbird and Flower / “The Chairman’s Waltz” • FOX
So You Think You Can Dance • Routine: Transformers / “Fuego” • FOX
So You Think You Can Dance • Routine: Table / “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” • FOX

Should Win:

Will Win: Ditto. Because sweet dreams are made of Cat Deeley.

Outstanding Costumes For A Series

Desperate Housewives • In Buddy’s Eyes • ABC
Mad Men • Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Pilot) • AMC

Pushing Daisies • Pie-Lette • ABC
The Tudors • Episode # 202 • Showtime
Ugly Betty • Bananas For Betty • ABC

Should Win: “Desperate Housewives”? Really? Did their clothes look especially beaten down by the traditional female mores of suburban subculture this year? “Mad Men” is my choice, although something tells me “Ugly Betty” might deserve a shout-out here. “Hey, ugly!” There.

Will Win: “The Tudors.” Much like small children, voters are distracted by shiny things. “Lace! Frills! A plunging neckline in the mid-16th century – how risqué! Wait, what were we voting for again?”

Outstanding Hairstyling For A Single-Camera Series

Desperate Housewives • In Buddy’s Eyes • ABC
Dirty Sexy Money • The Bridge • ABC
Mad Men • Shoot • AMC
Pushing Daisies • Smell Of Success • ABC

Tracey Ullman’s State Of The Union • Episode #104 • Showtime
Ugly Betty • A Nice Day For A Posh Wedding • ABC

Should Win: You know who has awesome hair? Puppy. Which is why you should vote for him in the Puppy of the Month competition I entered him in. (See sidebar for link.) As for this category, it’s like Puppy always says: “(urinates on a tree).”

Will Win: Puppy. Let’s just say, it isn’t exactly ruff competition.

Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup For A Series, Miniseries, Movie Or A Special

Grey’s Anatomy • Forever Young • ABC
John Adams • HBO
Mad Men • Nixon Vs. Kennedy • AMC
Pushing Daisies • Smell Of Success • ABC

Tracey Ullman’s State Of The Union • Episode #104 • Showtime

Should Win: Admit it – at first you couldn’t tell if Peggy was gaining weight in real life or on the show. Then it was like, “OK, it has to be for the show. The producers would have her puking before takes if she was blowing up that fast.”

Will Win: “John Adams.” Didn’t he lose a leg or something? Even if he didn’t, I’m sure someone on the show did, and missing legs are the Frank Sinatra of prosthetic make-up. (?)

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series

Monk • USATony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk
The Office • NBC • Steve Carell as Michael Scott
Pushing Daisies • ABC • Lee Pace as Ned
30 Rock • NBC • Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy
Two And A Half Men • CBS • Charlie Sheen as Charlie Harper

Should Win: First big category, and it ain’t even close. I don’t care how many little kids Alec Baldwin punches (or whatever), Jack Donaghy “once drove a rental car into the Hudson just to practice escaping.”

Will Win: Part of me wishes Charlie Sheen would win, just to see Alec Baldwin throw a champagne flute at his head. But I think the voters go safe with Steve Carell – a worthy runner-up.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series

Boston Legal • ABC • James Spader as Alan Shore
Breaking Bad • AMC • Bryan Cranston as Walt White
Dexter • Showtime • Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan
House • FOX • Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House
In Treatment • HBO • Gabriel Byrne as Paul
Mad Men • AMC • Jon Hamm as Don Draper

Should Win: Let’s narrow it down to Hall, Laurie, and Hamm. (Bryan Cranston, officially just happy to be nominated.) Face it: With the material he gets, if Hall was a deserving winner the show would be the hottest thing since global warming. Laurie was as good as ever, but Hamm has the indie/new-comer cred, if not a stupid last name.

Will Win: Jon Hamm (and cheese). And if he doesn’t accept the award with a cigarette and a glass of rye, I’ll hit someone. Probably a woman.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series

The New Adventures Of Old Christine • CBS • Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Christine Campbell
Samantha Who? • ABC • Christina Applegate as Samantha Newly
30 Rock • NBC • Tina Fey as Liz Lemon
Ugly Betty • ABC • America Ferrera as Betty Suarez
Weeds • Showtime • Mary-Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin

Should Win: I’m not hanging Tina Fey out to dry; she would be the first to admit that she’s a writer, not an actor. And frankly, Mary-Louise Parker’s blasé, frappacino-sipping, alt-sexy routine has gotten old. That leaves us with Samantha who? No really – I’m asking. What the hell is Samantha Who? Oh, let’s just give it to her.

Will Win: America Ferrera benefits from the election year and repeats.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series

Brothers & Sisters • ABC • Sally Field as Nora Holden-Walker
The Closer • TNT • Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson
Damages • FX Networks • Glenn Close as Patty Hewes
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit • NBC • Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson
Saving Grace • TNT • Holly Hunter as Grace Hanadarko

Should Win: Another year, another weak crop. I heard Glenn Close was pretty awesome old in “Damages,” but if I have to choose I’ll go with Mariska. She could make me her special victim any day.

Will Win: Gidget has this locked up. As an aside, funny how no women from “Mad Men” are nominated, isn’t it? Talk about life imitating art! (If only I hung out on artsy college campuses, I could get laid for making incisive socio-artistic commentary like that.)

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

Entourage • HBO • Jeremy Piven as Ari Gold
Entourage • HBO • Kevin Dillon as Johnny Drama
How I Met Your Mother • Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson
The Office • NBC • Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute
Two And A Half Men • CBS • Jon Cryer as Alan Harper

Should Win: I couldn’t be more empathic in saying that Neil Patrick Harris deserves this award. I watch all of these shows (except “Two and a Half Men” because I’m over the age of retarded), and he routinely outshines them all – and not just because he is gay.

Will Win: He lost out to Jeremy Piven last year (vomers, which is my new girly word for vomit), but I’m calling Harris to be the dark stallion to win it all this year.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

Boston Legal • ABC • William Shatner as Denny Crane
Damages • FX Networks • Ted Danson as Arthur Frobisher
Damages • FX Networks • Zeljko Ivanek as Ray Fiske
Lost • ABC • Michael Emerson as Ben
Mad Men • AMC • John Slattery as Roger Sterling

Should Win: As much as I teabag “Mad Men,” Slattery doesn’t take home the chauvinist pie here. Call me populist, but Michael Emerson has officially reached “I can’t name my kid Ben because of ‘Lost’” territory. And that’s special.

Will Win: Voters love a comeback story, and Ted Danson is it. Also, it doesn’t hurt that he’s finally aged properly. For a while there he looked like the in-between sequence of the guy rapidly aging at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – meltyish.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series

Pushing Daisies • ABC • Kristin Chenoweth as Olive Snook
Samantha Who? • ABC • Jean Smart as Regina Newly
Saturday Night Live • NBC • Amy Poehler, Performer
Two And A Half Men • CBS • Holland Taylor as Evelyn Harper
Ugly Betty • ABC • Vanessa Williams as Wilhelmina Slater
Two And A Half Men • ABC • Chair as Itself

Should Win: Seriously, Samantha who? And how does Amy Poehler sneak in there. They couldn’t come up with a fifth? I seem to remember this chair on “Two and a Half Men” that Charlie Sheen kept tripping over. It was hilarious! It looked kind of feminine. In fact, I’ll write it in.

Will Win: I could either say Kristin Chenoweth, or I could just throw darts at the screen. But the last time I did that Dell said something about “that not being covered under the warranty.” As though you’re supposed to pick out which porn to watch by reading the descriptions. Yeah, right!

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

Boston Legal • ABC • Candice Bergen as Shirley Schmidt
Brothers & Sisters • ABC • Rachel Griffiths as Sarah Walker-Whedon
Grey’s Anatomy • ABC • Chandra Wilson as Dr. Miranda Bailey
Grey’s Anatomy • ABC • Sandra Oh as Cristina Yang
In Treatment • HBO • Dianne Wiest as Dr. Gina Toll

Should Win: Everyone on “Friday Night Lights” with a vagina deserves this award more. I mean, I’ve actually contacted scientists in Sweden about developing a robotic wife based on the specifications of Tami Taylor, and they’re still talking about Sandra Ew? They do know Sideways stopped being funny four years ago, don’t they?

Will Win: Is Chandra Wilson the angry, black nurse with a heart of gold? Then yeah, her.

Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Reality-Competition Program

American Idol • FOX • Ryan Seacrest, Host
Dancing With The Stars • ABC • Tom Bergeron, Host
Deal Or No Deal • NBC • Howie Mandel, Host
Project Runway • Bravo • Heidi Klum, Host
Survivor • CBS • Jeff Probst, Host

cat deeley

Outstanding Comedy Series

Curb Your Enthusiasm • HBO
Entourage • HBO

The Office • NBC
30 Rock • NBC
Two And A Half Men • CBS

Should Win: Don’t get me wrong – these are four good shows. But I think “Curb” isn’t winning any votes with awkward-situation based humor (“Why would he hand me a towel in the bathroom? I can get my own towel! It’s right there, I’ll just pick it up!”) and I think “Entourage” may suffer from the fact that I’m pretty sure they just replayed season two over again. And “The Office” missed its window of opportunity when its cast members started making movies. “30 Rock” it is. (That’s called logical deduction, btw, and they use it at Harvard.)

Will Win: “The Office.” It’s just a gut feeling, much like constipation.

Outstanding Drama Series

Boston Legal • ABC
Damages • FX Networks
Dexter • Showtime
House • FOX
Lost • ABC
Mad Men • AMC

Should Win: I’m happy “Mad Men” is here, but this is official write-in territory. “Friday Night Lights” is just hickory-smoked goodness through and through. Even Puppy likes it, and he hates football. Oh, I’m sorry Puppy – American football. Fucking Brit.

Will Win: I know what you’re thinking. “Why don’t you just drop a qualude in Mad Men’s drink and take it ‘across the street’ for ‘dessert’ if you love it so much?” But the important thing here is, do you know where I can get some qualudes?

Outstanding Nonfiction Series

American Masters • PBS
Biography • Biography Channel
Deadliest Catch • Discovery Channel
Inside The Actors Studio • Bravo
This American Life • Showtime

Should Win: They may as well call this category “Things You Ought To Be Watching But Aren’t Because There’s No Chance Of Partial Nudity.” But “Deadliest Catch” sounds interesting. Coincidentally, that’s what I called my early-20’s sex life. Zing!

Will Win: “This American Life.” It’s an election year.

Outstanding Reality Program

Antiques Roadshow • PBS
Dirty Jobs • Discovery Channel
Extreme Makeover Home Edition • ABC
Intervention • A&E
Kathy Griffin: My Life On The D-List • Bravo

Should Win: Have you ever watched “Intervention”? It’s like setting up a couch outside your neighbor’s window – if you live in a meth-fueled trailer park. In other words, it’s awesome.

Will Win: It finally looks like the year for “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.” But they’ve totally been pandering for it. I heard this past season they built a house for a pack of orphans who were raised in the wild by wolves, and made the entire home wolf-friendly so they could live together in harmony. The only problem was when they moved the bus, the wolves chased it down the street. Ungrateful bastards.

Outstanding Stunt Coordination

ChuckChuck Versus The Undercover Lover • NBC
Criminal Minds • Tabula Rasa • CBS
CSI: NY • Playing With Matches • CBS
NCIS • Requiem • CBS
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles • Gnothi Seauton • FOX

Should Win: Why isn’t “Two and a Half Men” nominated for this one? I would think the cast would need expertly coordinated stunts to avoid getting hit by all the zinging punch lines!

Will Win: “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” actually has movie-quality stunts. There was one scene where they made it look as though the female terminator was beating up a man. Can you believe it? A man! (I think “Mad Men” is getting to me.)

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series

Flight Of The Conchords • Yoko • HBO
The Office • Dinner Party • NBC
Pushing Daisies • Pie-Lette • ABC
30 Rock • Rosemary’s Baby • NBC
30 Rock • Cooter • NBC

Should Win: I know the Dinner Party episodes got a ton of buzz, but is it just me or was it more uncomfortable than funny? (It’s no Deposition, that’s for sure.) So Cooter is the big winner. (Side note: Yeah it is.)

Will Win: The Dinner Party wins, because most of the voters are older and love dinner parties. Especially when someone makes cornbread. What is it about cornbread? It’s just so delicious.

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series

Battlestar Galactica • Six Of One • Sci Fi Channel
Damages • Pilot • FX Networks
Mad Men • Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Pilot) • AMC
Mad Men • The Wheel • AMC
The Wire • 30 • HBO

Should Win: Me and “Mad Men” are having a special moment over here. It’s like one of those heartwarming rom-coms about a pair of friends who discover that, wait . . . I think . . . I do! I do love that bigoted, sexist son of a bitch!

Will Win: Can they really honor “The Wire” posthumously with a dinky Outstanding Writing award? I think they can try. I also think that I’ve developed varicose veins from sitting here so long writing this post. On the bright side, maybe now I can get a role on “Desperate Housewives."

Outstanding Special Class – Not-Exclusively-Made-For-Television Variety, Music, Comedy Event Programs

Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival Chicago (Great Performances) • PBS

Should Win: Uh.

Will Win: Hmm. (At least I know I got one right.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Move Over, Bonnie and Clyde

yourgirlfriendhasagiantmouth

Last week, Brooke went to the dentist for a routine cleaning, which is a pretty big deal. Because when it comes to doctors Brooke harbors a level of distrust normally reserved for auto mechanics and street magicians. Not only does she find their inclination to dole out prescriptions suspicious (“If the meds really cured you, doctors would go out of business”), but she is convinced that, like every other blue-blooded capitalist venture, doctors are out to make a buck any way they can. Which isn’t to say that they’ll steal your wallet while off making a urine sample, but when it comes to costly tests, procedures, and medicines, their prescription is always the same: Apply liberally.

So when she made the appointment to see the dentist (going against another of her mantras: “Why go to the doctor if nothing’s wrong?” – as though we didn’t just watch the episode of “House” last night where a small boy comes in with a simple cough and nearly dies from something auto-immune), I was happy.

She left right after lunch, turning to me halfway out the door to say goodbye.

Me: “Good luck. Call me if you need anything.”
Brooke: “The dentist is stupid.”

After an hour, I began to get worried. Not that something was wrong, but that Brooke had been sitting there in the waiting room this whole time, her distrust growing more and more (“They sit you out there surrounded by sick people so you’ll be more inclined to sign off on unnecessary tests once they call your name!”) Finally, I got a phone call.

Brooke: “Hey.”
Me: “Hey! How’s it going there?”
Brooke: (on edge) “Can you do me a favor? I need the phone number for our insurance company.”
Me: “Is everything OK?”
Brooke: “Yeah, I . . . uh . . . I just need the number.”

From 1-10 on the weirdness scale, it was a 7. Still, she didn’t say “Edie” – the code word we devised if we ever needed to alert the other person that we were in danger. As in, “Oh, everything’s fine here. I’ll meet you later at EDIE’S like we planned.” So I went back to work and waited.

Over an hour later, Brooke came home. She walked through the door gingerly, as though she had just experienced something traumatic. Without saying a word, she sat at her desk and said, “I have some work to catch up on, but I’ll tell you about it later. I did something bad, something you can’t ever tell anyone about. But it’s OK now.”

In my head, I pictured the grizzly scene at the dentist’s office: blood, slain dental assistants everywhere, Brooke’s dentist tied to his chair by miles of dental floss, overdosing at that very moment from a sweet-air gas leak, a copy of Brooke’s heavily padded invoice stuck to his chest with the sharpened end of a toothbrush. It was disturbing.

That night in bed, Brooke revisited the topic. Scared that this conversation would quickly turn from pillow talk to aiding and abetting, I treaded lightly. “No need to tell me! It’s late, and everyone should have secrets.”

But she insisted.

“Listen, I’m not proud of it, but . . . OK, so I’m sitting there in the room after getting my x-rays done and some chippy dental assistant comes in with my chart. She starts saying that I can’t just get a regular cleaning, I need some special cleaning.” (Oh, no.) “She proceeds to pull out this laundry list of things that I need: tests, anesthesia, special toothpaste." (Dear God, I hope she didn’t have children.) "So immediately, I tell her that I need to talk to the doctor about this.

So the nurse leaves the room and I’ve got a bad feeling about the whole situation. I think, ‘I could just leave. I should – I should just leave.’ But then I remember that they already took x-rays and did a consultation. I signed all these forms, and they have my insurance information. So now I’m scared that they’ll find me if I just leave.

But then I notice that the nurse left my chart when she went to get the doctor . . .” (Cut to scene of me stuffing clothes in a duffel bag, checking the bus schedule.) “It just – it all happened so fast. I needed to act quickly because the door was open and the doctor would be in any second, so I just grabbed the chart, emptied out all the identifying forms, and stuffed them in my purse.”

Besides the fact that I’m pretty sure this sort of thing (i.e. stealing medical records) is frowned upon, if not straight-up illegal, I was concerned. Mostly because my girlfriend’s adorable quirkiness just went into overdrive. Like if her adorable quirkiness was the equivalent of a puppy playing with a kitten, this act was now a puppy pushing a kitten down a slide made of rainbows, while a mini-pony sat on a nearby stump playing an acoustic version of Feist’s “1-2-3-4”. Batshit adorable quirky.

She was quick to continue:

“But it’s OK! The doctor came in a few seconds later and explained everything to me. She was really nice. It turns out a lot of the stuff was optional, and she was just being safe with the special cleaning. So I told him that I needed to call my insurance company to see if they covered the special cleaning – and hey, they do! – so when she left the room again I quickly stuffed the papers back into the file. Except I forgot to replace this” (produces yellow envelope from purse) “which I was worried might have been my x-rays, but it turns out it’s empty! So everything’s fine!”

And while I do question Brooke’s liberal definition of the word “fine,” I’d be lying if I didn’t think it was totally hot that my girlfriend tried to lift her medical records from her dentist during an attempted escape from the office. Not that I’m planning a career shift to confidence man anytime soon, but if life is one big bit and you’re the proverbial mark, then having a partner in crime can come in pretty handy.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Funny Thing About Working From Home

“Your hygiene has really become subpar.”

- Brooke

When you first start working from home, you take the advice of people who have done so before you:

a) Wake up early. Just because work doesn’t start until 10:00 a.m. doesn’t mean you should sleep until 9:55 a.m. You have lots of important things to do! Such as…

b) Shower. Start every day with a shower, just like you would if you were going off to work in the real world where it matters how you smell. This will come in handy when you…

c) Get out of the house. Go buy a coffee and some breakfast. Walk the dog. Go to the gym. Whatever you do, just make sure you get out of the house before sitting down at your computer to start the workday. This is paramount. Outside there are magical forces like fresh air and sunshine, which instantly rouse you from your lingering slumber and prepare you for the day ahead. Consider yourself a reporter entrenched in the war-torn region of Work From Home and fresh air and sunshine are your weapons in the ongoing battle against apathy. YOU ARE NOTHING WITHOUT THEM. (Sir, yes sir!)

So for the first few weeks you heed the warnings, partly because it seems like logical advice but partly because you are secretly terrified of working from home. For years, the workplace has been a person’s sole defense against dying in their home and not being found for weeks. Invariably, when someone has slipped in the shower, knocked themselves unconscious, and tragically drowned in an inch of water only to be found five days later after neighbors complained of a funny odor, officials always say the same thing: She worked from home. No one knew she was missing.

Everything goes smoothly until the first time you do some heavy drinking on a work night. It was Thursday, you got wrapped up in the moment, and that third bottle of wine came out of nowhere. The following morning, your alarm goes off at the normal time and as you attempt to rouse yourself from bed it hits you: You’re nauseous, your head hurts, the rooms feels unsteady and there’s pizza crust on the floor. You’re not ready to face this. AND YOU DON’T HAVE TO. Technically, all you are responsible for is being at your desk by 10:00 a.m. And even then no one will know if you’re not there at 10:00 a.m. Who’s to say there wasn’t an electrical emergency and your computer and phone shut off? Or you were mugged while out getting your morning coffee? Anything it possible! Basically, once you let go of the fear of disappointing yourself, all bets are off. And since you don’t even remember eating pizza last night, you figure, “This is for the best.”

And it is. It really is. You wake up at 10:15 a.m., stumble to your desk, and begin work. You are drunk – not on last night’s Malbec, but on power. Suddenly, you’re calling all the shots. Routine? Schedule? Structure? Those words are for people who can’t hack the limitless of possibility, people of less gumption than you. Of course you won’t do this every day. Fresh air and sunshine are important. You love your morning coffee. This is just a little treat which you will use responsibly.

For the next three months, you wake up five minutes before the start of work. You’ve stocked up on coffee beans and bought a top-of-the-line home brewing machine. Puppy gets walked sometime before lunch. Some days, you get out of bed at 10:00 a.m. merely to gather your computer and bring it back into bed with you.

You are officially a sleep junkie.

And showering? That is the last activity to go, but it falls the hardest. For you, a shower is no longer a pleasant way to start the day, awakening and enlivening your senses. It’s a tedious chore. Standing? For fifteen minutes? MOVING YOUR ARMS? You’re too busy for this shit. You’ve got coffee to make, frozen bagels to toast, and you’re already late for work. You make a deal with yourself: Showers will go on your to-do list and you’ll get to it later. It’ll be a midday refresher: Work for an hour or so, and then reward yourself with sage-infused body wash.

6:00 p.m. rolls around and you close the computer. Another work day completed! You deserve a scotch! You pour yourself a double and head for the couch to kick back with an evening SportsCenter. Brooke comes over and joins you.

Brooke: “Wow, that was a tough da- What’s that smell?”
Dan: “What smell?”
Brooke: “Is that you?”
Dan: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” (Covertly sniffs armpit. Knows exactly what smell she is referring to.)
Brooke: “You didn’t shower today, did you. Did you brush your teeth? Did you even shower yesterday?!”

And that’s when it hits you. You can’t remember if you showered yesterday either. You are a professional, a contributing member of middle-class society, and you haven’t showered in two days. You’ve reverted back to your 9-year old self, who would lock the door to the bathroom, run the shower, and sit on the bathmat for ten minutes playing with your legos while pretending to shower.

Shamed, you silently bow your head, get up from the couch, and shuffle to the bathroom. Not a minute later, head still bowed, you come back into the room wrapped in a towel and dripping wet. Without saying a word, you pick up your scotch and return to the shower.

Dan: 1

Apathy: 0