Reflections of the Burger Babe
The dawn of 2001 will mark the presumably tipsy beginning of my official reign as Kidd Valley Burger Babe.
Back in August, drug-addled and guilt-ridden, I somehow won the pageant and its requisite tiara and oversized check (for $25,000! redeemable only in the form of Kidd Valley product, unfortunately). I had resorted to prescription pills to quell my terror at the prospect of sitting atop a giant model cheeseburger and addressing the crowd on the topic of "How the Burger Babe Can Influence Future Leaders" in short-shorts and platform heels. The pills were nothing fun, just a blood-pressure regulator, though it was difficult to tell if they contributed to the surreality of the event. I went undercover to blow the lid off the local burger joint pageant scene for the Weekly, and, inconceivably, I won. Were they going to be mad when I used foul language to describe their corporate icon in print? Was it my fault that the pretty blonde girl loser was weeping?
The novelty of the tiara wore off more quickly than one would think. A phone call from an inmate at Monroe State Correctional Facility was a little alarming, and it became difficult to remain as gracious as a Babe should when confronted with strangers at Linda's shouting, "YOU'RE THE WENDY'S GIRL, RIGHT!?!" But gracious I did remain, even during on-air ridicule at the hands of morning classic-rock DJs. Yet I fear my biggest hurdle as Babe is yet to come: the Poster.
Who knows the loneliness of the perch atop the giant burger as the flashbulbs pop and the shorts ride up impossibly further? Sad to say, I do. My reign will be commemorated with a poster that is being finalized for the New Year. On it I have a strange expression (think of it as akin to Manet's enigmatic, confrontational Olympia) and my naked haunch figures prominently (reclaiming the female form from the dominant paradigm, yes) and I am made up like a whore (Manet's Olympia was a whore, see?) and the shoes are less '70s and more you-are-paying-me-to-beat-you (it's not too late for a little Photoshop, people). Ah, layer upon layer of irony. The Kidd Valley people are as nice as you could wish your exploiters to be, but they wouldn't let me say "vote pro-choice" on the poster (now it's too late anyway). They will, however, be donating money to the very worthy Childhaven on the Babe's behalf. But I will never enter another pageant, no matter how many press releases about them my coworkers bring around, haw-hawing away. And those who do not make fun of me in the wake of the poster will have a much better chance of getting a free burger.
BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT
'Regrets, I've had a few . . .'
My lover of the past four years has decided she's had enough of my non-committed behavior and is moving on to more mature relationships.
Now I sit at home, wondering if I'll ever get laid again, wondering if my inability to shack up is a problem requiring a shrink's guidance or a bold, independent stand in a sea of cohabitation, monogamy, and coupled behavior I want no part of.
Relationships no more! I will spend quality time with my friends, my family, and my left hand. I will shower often and alone. I will rise and shine when and if I want, go only to events and dinners of my own choosing (unless my mother makes me attend a family gathering or it's the one time a year I go to temple). I will watch sporting events day and night, eat Doritos, and smoke joints the size of the Kursk submarine. I will do as I please, when I please, pleasing no one, and clearly not being pleased in the less-than-pleasing near future.
Couples, schmupples! Self-inflicted, self-centered quality time—that's my new ticket. I'll see Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, watch porn, wear the same pair of boxer shorts for weeks on end, and floss only when a large chunk of steak is wedged between my molars. When Valentine's Day comes, I'll buy myself chocolates, kiss the mirror, and save money on lousy romantic pre-set dinners at overcrowded restaurants filled with happy people.
Yes, I'm through with unions, alliances, and interdependence.
Still, I regret not sharing my fears, apprehensions, and idiosyncrasies from the start. I regret not setting up rules in the relationship about phone call frequency, double dating, and familial obligations. I regret not laying it all on the line and seeing if we might have had m鮡ges with friends and strangers, experimental sex, and mud-wrestling tournaments. Now those fears have turned inward: Will I die lonely? Will my hair fall out, my waist increase to John Goodman proportions, and my face fall further than Amazon stock? Who will take care of me when I'm old and gray? Can I find a long-term, nonmonogamous, three-night-a-week sex partner willing to put up with a vague plan for the future? Was my gal pal the best thing that ever happened to me? Will I ever "be ready"? Did I let a wonderful mate go due to my own inability to cope with closeness, communication, and letting another see my weaknesses?
I regret these regrets. I regret living in the past. I regret not taking lessons learned and applying them to my new solo existence.
She's a wonderful woman, putting up with me for as long as she did. I regret not telling her this.
MICHAEL A. STUSSER
To: Democratic National Committee
From: George Howland Jr., an independent voter
Subject: Al Gore for President 2004
Your scare tactics worked on me. I wanted to vote for Ralph Nader, but I was worried about the Supreme Court, abortion, blah, blah, blah, so I shored up Gore. (It also helped that a Massachusetts relative and I could safely swap votes in a "Nader trade.") But Gore lost anyway. Now I hear talk that you are thinking about bringing the Gorebot back for another run in 2004. This is not a good idea. I just want to let you know why I will never vote for Gore again:
1. Gore is a sore loser. At my school, nobody wanted to play kickball with Johnny Belmont cuz whenever he'd make an out, he'd get all red and splotchy in the face and start yelling, and then he'd go get the teacher and start a huge argument about the Rules. Get the picture?
2. Gore is a bully. Picking on the little people is not cool. If you need examples, read up on welfare reform and the death penalty.
3. Gore is a stiff. Have you watched the guy try to show some emotion or work a crowd? Yikes! I mean, my mom could beat him in a fair election. Give the old lady that much money and an even shot at delegates, and he's toast.
I could go on, but I don't want to end the year on a negative note. Listen, here's a good idea for something to help you get back on track for the New Year. All the corporate greenbacks sloshing into the party coffers are really bad for your image. I know it's hard to swear it off; lots of money is really sweet. But there is an out: Why doesn't the Democratic Party get behind the Clean Election laws? That's where candidates who don't do any private fund-raising get full taxpayer financing for their campaigns. Clean Election laws have already passed in five states—Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Arizona. Just put the power of the party behind them state by state. People would feel a lot better about you all then . . . almost.
Shut up and deal
Sometime last year—possibly hung over after too much Gay Pride partying—I realized that for me at least, the time has come to spend more time being queer and less time writing about it.
It's not that "gay liberation" is an accomplished fact; far from it. But, as the late Kenneth Tynan presciently remarked close to 50 years ago, "The love that dare not speak its name is in grave danger of becoming the love which will not shut its mouth."
The longer I live, the clearer it gets that all but a vanishingly small proportion of what we say and write is a substitute for, not a means to, action. If I lived in Cody, Wyo., printed words bearing a queer message might be action. In Seattle, they're just lip exercise. In the established media, gay is not only good, it's practically grounds for beatification.
No, the battles of the streets aren't over. The problem is that a lot of gay people, insulated by self-erected affinity-group ghettos, think they are. It's salutary to hear some radio shock jock's anti-queer venom pouring out of the car radio; better to feel your skin crawl than think it's secure outside the imperiled privacy of one's own home.
Blacks and other minorities proved long ago that you don't win recognition through shows of strength or legal action alone; you win it one encounter, one face-off at a time. Pride's an essential first step toward empowerment. The big step comes after; what are you going to do with the power now that you have it?
I will never go to the Stadium Exhibition Center again. My first lousy experience at the Center occurred in late March, during the Northwest Women's Show, which was billed as an empowering weekend for those of us with XX genes. What I found was a giant infomercial: rows and rows of booths advertising hair removal, cellulite toning, and "amazing" new kitchen tools like a Greater Grater, promoted by a man standing behind a tall pile of shredded cheese. Someone also tried to convince me to quit my job so I could make $50,000 a year selling moisturizers to my friends and neighbors. Six months later, I foolishly returned to the Center for the mega-rave Eclipse, lured by headliners DJ Dan, Funky Tekno Tribe, Donald Glaude, Decoder, and Tech-Itch. It was September 30, barely a week after a freak drive-by shooting outside the site that killed a 22-year-old man and injured three others who were on their way to a "dance," as The Seattle Times reported. The rave, which cost $45, felt more like a baseball game, with about 10,000 attendees and swarms of middle-aged women at concession stands selling microwaved hot dogs, pizzas, and $3 bottles of water. I lost my boyfriend during a water run, totally killing my evening, which by this time even the best drugs couldn't help. What I do look forward to in 2001 are smaller events, with the above DJs spinning at local clubs well past 2am. Plus a leash for my boyfriend.
I will never play the Paramount again. Though it was my friend the bride's name on the marquee and I merely served as her viola-playing bridesmaid, I now know what it's like to walk the hallowed passageways where famous faces are powdered, where dancers and singers and musicians prowl before the curtains lift.
Our quartet didn't even have a name, like the Emerson or the Juilliard; but there we were, playing the hell out of Haydn beside the chuppah. We were simply the String Quartet, a pleasant distraction while everyone found their seats for the real evening's entertainment (the procession, the vows, the smooch). I even had a solo during one section—and, as all the viola jokes prophesied, I bricked. (Why is a viola solo like a bomb? Because by the time you hear it, it's too late to do anything about it.)
Funny, at the wedding we'd played the day before, I made like the pro I was getting paid to be. But this was different; this was the Paramount Theater. Where I saw Adam Ant writhe half-naked in a tank of water when I was 14 and the Bolshoi Ballet last spring. Violists don't get gigs like this; anyone fortunate enough to pursue the viola as a career isn't going to Ninth and Pine. Outside, maybe, with their cases open and sawing away for bus fare, but not under those warm lights or that majestic carved ceiling. (The pit doesn't count.)
But, as long as we're talking inspiration for the lowly violist, we can all look forward to the appearance of Hilary Hahn with the Seattle Symphony this March. Hahn, who's quickly ascended the violin-soloist ranks at the tender age of 20, plays with a purity and drive that's unstoppable. And, no, she won't be playing the Paramount.
EMILY BAILLARGEON RUSSIN
It all started last summer, when my sweetie and I moved into new digs in dire need of furnishing. I had heard tales of Ikea's stylish Scandinavian bargains, and encouraged by my mother—a novelty-minded Californian who "hadn't been, but heard it was great"—we decided to give it a shot. If we had been looking for bad omens, the parking lot stuffed with Saabs and Range Rovers might have tipped us off. Alas, we were too busy covertly parking across the street at Home Base to notice. I might have also been suspicious of the shoppers themselves—they had showered and even blow-dried, and the majority of men were wearing huaraches. But like any good horror movie heroine, I ignored these harbingers of doom.
Once we got inside, the epic battle began. I was stabbed by a pencil-wielding blond near the "Ivar" cabinets. And I lost my boyfriend for hours when he drifted through a magic portal to Home Office, leaving me stranded in a labyrinth of "mock" Living Rooms that would have made the Minotaur cry for mercy. I was dehydrated, delusional, and convinced that the employee walkie-talkies were tools of Satan by the time he found me. In this state, we arrived at the airplane hangar-;sized pickup room. I swear the sun broke through the concrete ceiling and angels sang when I spotted my "Billy" bookcase. On the way to check out, I sustained yet another injury to both body and pride: Is there any sorrier spectacle than an able-bodied young woman being taken out by her own shopping cart?
I called my mother to complain. As luck would have it, she was out at the new Ikea store in Berkeley, and when she reported back, her tale of woe surpassed my own. So bedazzled had she been by the crying babies, Swedish sausages, and sheer acreage of blond wood that she left her purse on the toilet paper dispenser in the stall and lost it forever. We mourned the junior high school photo of my brother with feathered hair, the only copy he'd never been able to destroy willfully. And we vowed never to shop at Ikea again. What am I looking forward to this year? A good old-fashioned trip to the junk shop.
Never again will I order anything from Albertsons.com. Never again will I tell anyone what I really think of their former spouse. Never again will I order cheesecake in a vegan restaurant.
Never again will I leave the haircut up to the stylist. Never again will I go on a "free" trip to Maui through a deal from the phone company. Never again will I walk into my own surprise party and say, "What are you doing here?" Never again will I laugh when my daughter sings the Barney song using only the F-word.
Never again will I cook the entire Thanksgiving dinner. Never again will I plan a barbecue for June. Never again will I bite my tongue when someone tells me they're voting for Nader. Never again will I bring peanut butter into a preschool. Never again will I loudly declare at a dinner party that something big is definitely going to happen at midnight January 1, 2000.
Never again will I talk to a restaurant's PR person instead of its owner. Never!
Never again will I be honest when a friend asks me to be honest. Never again will I answer "yes" when a friend asks, "Can I be honest?" Never again will I attempt to go to Wild Ginger without reservations. Never again will I sit through a vacation time-share presentation for a portable CD player. Never again will I reveal my identity to an off-duty waiter. Never again will I turn 39.
I take that back. Turning 39 again is what I'm most looking forward to next year. And the year after that.
Boom and bust
The Hangover: No one with a heart can mock the loss of dot-com jobs (real ones, not the CEO funny money one heard so much about) without sounding like a fashionably Luddite lunkhead or a whiny boat-missing bitch. We're hardly standing on breadlines, but failure isn't fun.
On the other hand, no one with a brain can believe some of the business plans that got play during the gold rush. Wireless-gizmo fever, hipster attitude, dumb content, dumber business models, and we'll-fund-anything VCs plagued the industry—and all those evils came together in the modo, the Scout Electromedia gizmo that went toes-up within six weeks of launch, fast (even for "Internet time," and there's a phrase I hope never to hear again), but not fast enough.
The idea was this: You, the hapless trendoid, have neither the cool to know where the good parties are nor the sense to know that instead of paying $99 for a Tamagotchi-like device to tell you, you could get all that info free through your (much more functional) PDA. No messaging? No address book? No coverage outside a few cities? No problem—it's so cuuuuuuuuuute!
And the media covered this doohickey like it mattered—PC Magazine, Time, Wired, and on. The tech-loving press, the folks who should have been the voice of common sense throughout the boom and were instead its most brainless cheerleaders, are the real day-after headache here.
The Cure: Sobriety is its own reward. Maybe with a couple more flamboyant, splattery human sacrifices like the modo and Scout Electromedia, the Net can prove that there's more to the revolution than employment for aging club kids with a good command of buzzwords and press schmoozery. The return of the geek? Hey, it could happen.
Expect minor delays
Damn you, Mercer Street! Damn you to hell! Never again will I enter your corridor of futility and despair. For the last time have I steered into your avenue of eternal gridlock, your channel of delay, your purgatory of taillights and endlessly idling engines. From this day forward I vow not to risk your cruel straits (lured by the false prospect of an easy eastbound connection to I-5). Hear in my words the anger of all Queen Anne residents, of all unwary commuters, of all Sonics, ballet, and hockey ticket-holders; together we curse your name!
Not another hour, not another day, not another lifetime of waiting, waiting, waiting will I spend on your hateful pavement! Your four sclerotic lanes have stolen their last sands from my hourglass, their last arc of the sun's rays, their last isotopes from the atomic clock. No more will my progress be measured so agonizingly, so incrementally, from Pagliacci to Larry's, from the Opera House to Tower Records, from Dexter to Westlake, and finally from Fairview to the freeway's deliverance—so far, far away! One less car will be counted among the teeming horde, one fewer motorist amid the frustrated mass of fuming, honking, dashboard-pounding, finger-flipping fellow travelers.
Someone has to take a stand. Someone has to say "No" to Mercer. Someone has to stop its bullying ways, its pitiless torments, its heartless ruination of our hopes and dreams. I will be that driver, the one to turn against the glacial flow of traffic. Others may follow, possibly leaving their halted cars where they stand. From this, a movement may be born. Call it a rebellion if you must, an act of will and defiance. Let Mercer's canyon of sadness echo no more with the sobs and moans of the unsuspecting and perpetually late. Let that infernal boulevard of lost souls be sealed off, fenced in, landmarked like some battlefield monument to past carnage and suffering—it's of no use to us now anyway.
Instead, as we abandon that useless roadway, let us look to the skies, to the untrammeled blue above and its promise of unhindered freedom and mobility. That's where we'll be traveling soon. That's why I voted for the monorail.
My body, my self
Like any active man in his mid-30s, I've developed my share of aches and pains. In fact, it would be fair to say I've developed something more than my share. While some people have come to view my chronic ailments as "psychosomatic dysfunction," I prefer to call them "sports injuries." Since I thought that my problem was excessive tightness in my muscles and in the myofascial tissue that surrounds the muscle, I decided this past year to seek help through rolfing. Rolfing is supposed to help "structurally integrate" the body by rearranging said myofascial tissue. My only knowledge of it came from a scene in the 1970s movie Semi-Tough, in which Burt Reynolds was shown enduring a kind of violent torture.
But in the hands of the big bruiser of a rolfer I went to see, rolfing was not violent, but simply a kind of prolonged, very unpleasant pinching—and not between two fingers, more like between a finger and a ballpoint pen. It made me so tense that I'm quite sure my muscles redoubled their tightness. Nor was I set at ease by the very hostile opinions my rolfer expressed about "the media." At the end of each session he would claim to see marked changes in my posture, but it never seemed to change anything to me, and halfway through the "series" of treatments I fled.
Next year I'm looking forward to the state of Washington finally enforcing the law that requires health insurers to cover "alternative" care: osteopaths, chiropractors, massage practitioners, aroma therapists, I want it all! But no more rolfing.
MARK D. FEFER
A house of my own
I'll never live in an apartment again. Sunday mornings were never fun. The walls were paper-thin, and our neighbors rose a bit too early. The shower ran maniacally hot and cold, like it was out to get us. But, hey, you couldn't beat the neighborhood; Capitol Hill has everything a body could need, and most of it within walking distance. It took us four minutes to drive home from the Cha Cha. But one afternoon and a couple of online mortgage calculators later, we realized that with a bit of penny-pinching and a little luck, we could own our own home. And now, when I step out onto my upstairs deck and watch the sun come up over the Cascades, I know that I am bound to this city forever, or at least for the duration of our 30-year mortgage. I walk outside and ponder the lives of the huge old-growth trees that are now mine. I wonder what they've seen and if they'll enjoy the loud music that will waft into the backyard.
On the flip side, when the refrigerator makes weird noises, we worry. When the dryer spews lint and wet heat, it's me and the mister who crawl behind it to find out why. Farewell to youth; the time has come to list weed-whackers and garden hoses instead of new shoes and DVDs among our Christmas wishes. And our new neighborhood is decidedly not rock and roll. In fact, if you look up the antonym of rock and roll, you might find Maple Leaf. But the quiet is exquisite. The mortgage payment is high, and my husband's once-hefty 401k savings has been depleted to a depressing sum, but we've invested in ourselves. We've found a place to dig up the earth and bury our roots. We're here for good.