Saturday, March 31, 2012

Why I'll take celebrity look-alikes for $200, please, Alex

At the Jeopardy audition on Wednesday, I had made it through the 50-question paper test and was feeling pretty good. Most of the questions were surprisingly (dare I say?) easy, especially compared to the online test I had taken to qualify two months earlier. There were only a few that I left blank entirely, and of those, at least a couple of the answers rose immediately to mind on the train ride home (bah!) 

Next came the mock game, complete with authentic Jeopardy buzzers, in which groups of three people at a time went through a very shortened version of a real game. It was here that I hoped to impress the producers with my enthusiasm, trivia prowess, and most importantly my LOUD SPEAKING VOICE, which from the number of times they asked people to speak up seemed to be at least 80% of what they were looking for in a contestant. Unfortunately, after my confidence with the written test, I had a sudden deer-in-the-headlights moment when the first few questions were read and I realized I knew none of the answers! How could I impress anyone standing there wide-eyed with my mouth agape? Thankfully, I picked up steam towards the end of the round, answering questions (correctly!) and selecting the next question to be read. It was also reassuring to me that almost every time I buzzed in I was called on, which I attributed to my lightning-fast thumb reflexes, honed over a decade of near-constant texting. 

Next came the interview, where you presented yourself briefly and then responded to questions the producers asked you. It started out predictably enough: My name is Rachel, I'm a bookkeeper in DC, etc. Then, "Who do people say you look like, Rachel?" one of the producers asked me. My mind immediately went blank. I knew I was supposed to know the answer to this question, but just like in the mock game, the correct response suddenly eluded me. I scrambled, looking for an acceptable answer. Let's see, in high school someone once told me Celine Dion.... In Mythaca there was that guy who told me I looked like Lady Gaga, although I don't know how reliable the source was. Then there was the always classic Kathy Griffin comment, though I definitely wasn't going to share that one. 

"Um, I don't know, different people..." I finally offered lamely. (Gooooooo personality!) 

"Because I would say Kristen Wiig," the producer said. 

And people, I freaking lost it. Gone was all pretense at professionalism and composure. Out came the valley girl speak and frantically flapping hands. "Ohmygod!" I said, my hands flying up to either side of my face à la Macaulay Caulkin in Home Alone. "I just got that!" Titters came from the audience behind me. Taking a deep breath, I steamrolled onward. "I mean, someone just told me that! Except I thought she meant Kristen Schaal, who is actually a completely different person, so...that was weird." I was relieved to see nods rather than blank stares coming from the judges' table. Thankfully these were L.A. types in the entertainment industry, which meant they knew of Kristen Schaal and at least got the gist of my semi-coherent babbling.

After a couple more questions, "Well, it was very nice to meet you, Rachel," the same producer told me with a smile. I smiled and thanked him back and spent the rest of the audition analyzing his closing words to the other contestants, and wondering if he actually meant it when he said it was very nice to meet me, and if so, to what degree. 

Unfortunately, the way the audition process works is you leave knowing nothing of the results of your performance or your likelihood of making it on the show. So, I may or may not receive a call sometime in the next eighteen months inviting me to appear on the show. If eighteen months have passed and I've heard nothing, I am free to try out again. Whee! The absolute earliest I might hear something will be June, so fingers, toes, and anything else you can cross crossed, guys.

Now all I need to do is fill in the few, paltry gaps in my knowledge, which fall under the (very obscure and rarely-referenced, I'm sure) categories of all things a) historical, b) geographical, c) political, and d) sports-related. Basically, my only hope is if the categories happen to be something like: France, Literature, French Literature, Food, Poetry by Poets Rachel Likes, and Rhyme Time. Until then, I have somewhere between two and infinity months to prepare, so if you need me, I'll be studying.                             

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Why I question your answer

-Answer: I will be attending an audition for this popular t.v. game show this Wednesday at 11 a.m. 

-Question: What is...that one...with the guy with no mustache?

-Can you be more specific?

-What is...Jeopardy?

-That is correct!

Yes, the gods of fortune have smiled upon me and this Tuesday evening I will be boarding a train Philadelphia-bound, armed with a ream of print-outs containing every country and its capital and an iPod loaded up with educational childrens' songs listing the order of the U.S. presidents.

It all seems very exciting, and it is, but the truth is...I have actually auditioned for Jeopardy once before. Way back in 2005 (or was it 2004, or 2006? How am I to know when I didn't have a blog back then?) I auditioned in Boston. This was before the advent of the online test, when one sent in an actual postcard with an actual stamp (and I know of one person at least who would have appreciated this), hoping against hope to be randomly selected. And I was! And then, bubbling over with enthusiasm, I quickly spread the word to everyone I knew,, I didn't do that at all. I didn't tell a single soul. I was actually a bit mortified by the whole thing, that I was being rewarded for something I had undertaken on a whim, when there were so many other deserving participants out there, and when I was clearly a dimwit, a dummy, a dolt. (And clearly brimming with self-confidence. What, you expected otherwise?) I mostly notably did not tell my boyfriend at the time, which was hard to avoid since we saw each other nearly every day and tended to inform each other of most of the mundane details of our lives. But I knew his roommate, Zack, had also turned in his postcard to the show, and hadn't been selected. I also knew that Zack was smarter than me, and if anyone deserved to audition, it was him. And here I was taking his spot when it should have been him, or at least that's what I assumed he and my boyfriend would think, if I told them. (And they might have, too. They were kind of assholes that way.) 

And so, when the day came, I quietly left my office, pleading a doctor's appointment, and made my way to the Copley Place Westin. Long story short, I left there with a Jeopardy souvenir pen and my dignity, since having told no one I was going, there was no one to know that I failed. But now, seven(?) years later, I have been given another chance. Only this time, instead of a short trip on the green line, it will be two hours on Amtrak, a missed day of work, and an overnight stay (chez Erin). In other words, it's a bit harder to keep secret, this time. What's more, I have discovered I don't even want to keep it a secret this time. This wasn't random selection; I passed the online test! (So what if I read on a previous Jeopardy contestant's website that the online test is only to weed out the real idiots?) The point is, no one is going to make me feel like I'm not good enough this time, least of all myself. Seven years older (and hopefully wiser), I may not be even close to prepared, but I am ready. Or I will be once I listen to this song a few dozen more times...

...Van Buren, Harrison, who stupidly stood coatless in the cold. When he died Tyler took over though he didn't fit the mold...      

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why even rejection tastes better with truffles

Yesterday morning when my boss asked if I wanted to go with her to check out our company's new restaurant after work, I shrugged and said sure. By the time 6:00 rolled around, however, I had forgotten all about it. I was looking forward to stopping by the library on my way home, picking up my three books on hold, and calling it a night, but my quiet night in was not to be. "Ready to go?" my boss asked, keys in hand, and I played it off like I hadn't forgotten. I was hoping for just a quick walk-through and then home, but when she mentioned stopping for a drink in another of our restaurants after, and then popping across the street to a third, I knew I was in it for the long haul. We got into her car and crawled through DC's rush hour-congested streets.  

I had never seen a brand-new, never-been-used restaurant before. Finally, after months of construction the finishing touches were being put into place in preparation for its soft opening this weekend. The design was clean, modern, gorgeous. The subterranean kitchen sparkled with shiny aluminum counters and floors that would never be that pristine again. The cooks were practicing on the new equipment, mixing up batches of this and that. They fed us sweet naan and spicy, Indian tea, and then we were on our way. 

At our next restaurant the manager greeted us warmly. In comparison to the cavernous and empty restaurant we had come from, this one buzzed with activity, subdued conversation, and piano music. A glass of red wine and a cocktail between us, more naan, and again we were on our way.

We crossed the street to our final destination of the evening and once again made the round of hellos to the managers and waitstaff. Through the glass wall of a private dining room I spotted the cute waiter I'd had my eye on, who later came by to say hello and chat a bit. They only had cocktails at the bar, we were told, and so I ordered a gin and tonic. My boss (not that boss, but my other boss) told the manager to ask the kitchen for "a snack." And she meant it, too, wanting only something to nosh, something leftover from the party, perhaps. We had no idea what would follow. Two courses in with no end in sight and I started regretting filling up on the naan. There was shrimp in a delicious garlicky, buttery sauce to be sopped up with bread. Then truffle pasta with hazelnuts, a flavor combination I had never before considered, but at the first bite realized just how right it was. (My boss took one bite and spit it out, clawing at her tongue. "Blech, mushrooms!" she said, and after I had finished mine insisted on doling out some of her uneaten pasta on my plate, so the chef wouldn't know she hadn't eaten hers.) Then it was beef, cooked perfectly medium-rare (my boss took hers well), the softest most melt-in-your-mouth meat I had ever tasted. Crispy round nuggets of something on the side--"Falafel!" I cried out happily upon splitting one open. I tricked my boss into trying one by telling her it was "mostly just bread," and again, into the napkin it went. By this point we were stuffed; I had nothing left to give, but how could I turn down a deconstructed hazelnut Twix bar for dessert? I couldn't. I ate it; I ate it all. A bad-idea gin martini later and conversation turned to my love life. Because if there's one thing my sixty-something boss enjoys, it's hearing about who I'm dating. 

"So whatever happened to your Not-So-Secret-Admirer?" she asked. 

"I told you, he stopped talking to me." 

"But what happened?"

"I don't know. He blamed it on the boss, said he didn't want to make things awkward for me."

"That's bullshit."

"I know, it was just an excuse."

"I don't understand. He was practically in heat over you every time he came in the office." I let the dubiousness of her metaphor slide and simply shrugged. "Ok, well what about that other guy?"

"We went out a few times, and then he stopped talking to me."

"Hmm. Ok...what about the cute waiter?"

"He said he'd like to see me outside of work sometime, I said definitely, and to let me know when he had a night off, and then I never heard from him about it again."

"Well...damn, girl," she said, squinting at me in genuine befuddlement. "What are you doing wrong?" I shrugged. "You must be either coming on too strong or not strong enough," she said. "So which one is it?" 

"I honestly don't know."

Dear armchair analysts: Please do not take this as an invitation to tell me every single thing I am doing or have ever done wrong. Unless you are a guy I have gone out with, in which case, enlighten me. I dare you.          

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why he isn't Jesus, but he has the same initials

I bought tickets to two concerts recently, which along with my recent new laptop purchase (a Dell, if anyone was wondering) was enough to cause my credit card company to question my abnormally spendy behavior. Yes, a tax refund can be a dangerous thing, especially when you realize you have already spent way more than the amount of said refund, on these and numerous other impulse purchases which I am too embarrassed even to list. 

Nonetheless, I have tickets to see the Avett Brothers in May, and words cannot express my excitement for this. But I think maybe this can:

Did you see what happens starting at around 5:15? That pretty much sums up how I feel about going to see this show. 

Also, the first comment on the video says, "I am a straight guy and I can safely say I'm in love with both of the Avett Brothers." So let us all, man, woman, and child, watch this video and bask in the warm, glowing, warming glow that is the Avett Brothers. Amen

Oh, and if anyone ever wanted to know if I have a "type", I think it is safe to say that it's Avett Brothers. But which one? you ask. Well, I think the only fair and true answer to that is, "YES."

But my excitement over this show cannot overshadow my absolute glee over the concert I'm going to in April. Because, did you know Pulp is back together? Did you know Pulp were ever not together? Do you maybe have no idea what I'm talking about? Well then I feel sorry for you, my friend, because for the last twenty years, give or take, you have been missing out on quite possibly the best Brit pop ever to cross the ocean or the air waves. 

Is Jarvis Cocker not the lankiest, most luscious Brit ever to shimmy his tightly-pantsed tush across a stage?

I had this poster in my dorm room my senior year of college. But I've actually loved Pulp even longer than that. Pulp and I hearken back to 1998, and that is how long I've loved Pulp. 

I have actually seen Jarvis in concert before; it was five years ago in New York City. Not Pulp, but J.C. the solo artist. Five years ago in April, and a week before my birthday, I said goodbye to a three year relationship. Two days after that I went to New York City to see my idol, my dream, Jarvis Cocker, but I went alone. Not alone. I was with friends. But he was supposed to have gone with me. It was such a surreal experience--exhilarating and wonderful and heartbreaking and sad. And now, five years later almost to the day, I will go back to New York City and do it all over again. Only it won't be at all the same, this time. And I won't be the same. And that, I think, is a good thing. In the words of the man himself:

Do you remember the first time?
I can't remember a worse time.
But you know that we've changed so much since then, 
oh yeah we've grown.

Anyway. I think it's shaping up to be a pretty good spring.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why shouldn't I want what I want?

So, here's the thing. Single people really do get the short end of the stick. In no other facet of life do we tell people that they shouldn't want what they want; that that instead they should try being happy without it. Of course not! We are a society of consumers, of constant improvers, of wishers, of wanters. Have you looked at Pinterest lately? (I have not, so I actually am asking. What goes on there, anyway?) But when it comes to partnering, suddenly everyone is a Buddhist monk. Desire leads to suffering. Eliminate desire to find your peace. Ommmmmm... "Don't want it and it will come." "Stop looking and you will find it." "You have to be happy with yourself, first." But guess what: I can be happy with myself and also want to find someone to share life with. They are not mutually exclusive! It doesn't mean that without it my life is abject misery. It does mean that I may write a blog post about it once in a while. But so would anyone who's been wanting something that for years has remained tantalizingly out of reach.

I don't think about my life as it is currently as having "a hole" or as being somehow "incomplete." (Though I definitely wouldn't call it "exciting" or "fulfilling" either, but I know that the blame for that falls squarely on my shoulders, and not on a missing boyfriend puzzle piece.) See, I also want a dog, but not because I think my life is "incomplete" without one. I think maybe my life would be better in some ways with one, sure. A companion, someone to go on walks with, something to snuggle, and wait, I lost track of what we were talking about here. Dogs, right! (Though the similarities between benefits of dog vs. boyfriend are pretty uncanny.) But the difference is, if I wanted a dog, I could go out and get a dog. I could do it, tomorrow. And he would have to stay with me, goddammit, because he would have no choice. (Aaaannnnnd that's where the whole dog/bf metaphor falls apart.) 

Unlike getting a dog, finding someone to share your life with, whether for a few months, a few years, or, lord help you, longer than that, is one of the few things in life that we have absolutely no control over. Oh, sure, there are things you can do to increase (or in some cases, ahem, decrease) the odds, but when it comes down to it, you have absolutely no control over whether someone stays or goes. The only other comparison I can think of in terms of the emotions and lack of control involved is fertility. There are women out there (and thankfully I am not one of them, or I might be a real mess right about now) who want a baby so badly, but through no fault of their own are unable to become pregnant. I've heard them say things like they feel incomplete without a child, that they feel like there is a hole in their life, and they desperately want a baby to fill it. And here is where I get a bit stabby, because does anyone ever, ever tell these women that they shouldn't want what they want? To buck up and be happy with life on their own? I'm pretty sure the last person to chirpily tell a woman struggling with fertility that "it will happen when you stop trying!" ended up with at least a smack in the face. For some reason, wanting children is regarded as a legitimate desire in our society, but let a single person make a wistful remark about maybe wanting a boyfriend (or worse! a husband!), and watch how squeamish everyone becomes. I'm positing a theory right now that these people are actually terrified of the fact that some of the most important things in life are out of their control, and that rather than admit that, they are more comfortable changing their desires to match their circumstances, even going so far as to suggest that others change their desires, as well. But you know what? Fuck that.

Some things are out of my control. "Finding someone" (gag) is out of my control. That doesn't mean I will stop wanting it. If I don't get it, I will be sad. Such is the nature of wanting. (I guess the Buddhists were right after all.) It doesn't mean I won't be happy sometimes, too. (Will I be happy sometimes, too?

If we can celebrate (and even glorify) someone wanting an antique French farmhouse weathered teak wood sideboard (is that a thing?), why can't we also celebrate someone's sincere desire for something so much more important than that? When and where did we all lose sight of what really matters??? 

(And yes, this whole post was actually just a long rant against Pinterest. Gar smash consumerism and rampant materialism blarf. And yes, I am actually just pissed about being poor.)           

Monday, March 5, 2012

Why life is but a dream

I feel blog-blocked and all stopped up. My words are caught behind a bottleneck of emotions, and they have no outlet, no order, and no logical sequence. But here is the gist: everyone is happy and I am miserable. All around me people are getting together. Their happiness should have no bearing on mine, and yet it does. According to Facebook, the bearded Canadian scientist is moving to Vancouver with his girlfriend, and the man formerly known as my Not-So-Secret Admirer has changed his status from "single" to "in a relationship." My sister has a new boyfriend. Other people traverse the line separating singledom from couplehood with seemingly the greatest of ease. For other people it is a line in the sand, while for me it's an unbreachable wall, shiny-slick and higher than every man I have ever dated stacked end to end. There is no way over it. 

Watching this video yesterday almost undid me. 

I've long been a Mates of State fan, but knew nothing of their biography. Watching this video, though, I was suddenly struck by the fact that the two singers were absolutely, unequivocally, madly in love with each other. Possessed with a burning need to know if my instincts were, in fact, correct, with the aid of the Internet I found out that not only are they indeed a couple, but they have been married for ten years. They have two kids. Did you watch the video? Did you see the way he looks at her? Ten years. It was how he looked at her that almost undid me. No one has ever looked at me that way. And what I'm facing is the ever increasing possibility that maybe no one ever will.