But then again, there's a lot to be optimistic about, too. The incompetence of the Bush administration has now been exposed. There are signs of progress, even if they're haltingly slow, in New Orleans. And with four years of age comes four more years of wisdom.
In that encouraging spirit, we present to you, for the fifth and possibly final time, The Rant Issue.
Naked, I in no way resemble a skeletal runway model. I am an omnivore who's rarely met a meal I didn't like and didn't devour pretty much in its entirety. And I most certainly do not puke it up afterwards.
However, from the litany of comments made to me over the years--usually by strangers in the throes of dieting--one would think I'm a heroin, meth and crack addict whose idea of eating was just that: merely an idea, and not a greatly enjoyed reality.
Don't misunderstand me: I feel badly and take seriously anyone who struggles with their weight, whether there's too much of it or not enough. And as a woman, I'm pissed that some of the great joys of life--food, sex, the comfort of air travel--are regulated more by the size of our asses than the shapeliness thereof. But regardless of anyone's personal food-related struggles, I do not appreciate being targeted as "sick" when being looked at through someone's frustrated eyes as they lust after a forbidden, calorie-laden snack.
In the crapshoot that is genetics and weight distribution, I got lucky; however, I am just as likely to die from cancer, diabetes or Alzheimer's. The rude comments--"Are you sure you're getting enough to eat?" "You're so little, I'll bet you can hide behind a microphone stand!"--do no good for either of us.
Both beauty and unattractiveness may be in the eye of the beholder, but opinions are in the mind, and it's there that they should stay--unexpressed.
You stand there, lamely attempting to re-create the down-home ambience of a mom-and-pop shop. But Best Buy is not a mom-and-pop shop; it's a heartless, soulless corporation that just happens to sell the video games and DVD sets I wish I could buy. If anything, that makes Best Buy my dealer, and we all know how hard it is to engage in small talk with one of those.
So, Best Buy: Just tell the person standing at the front to shut the hell up. If it's a guy, tell him not to refer to me as "bro." While we're at it, let's dial down the eagerness of your alleged "sales associates" a step or six. If I need help, I'll seek someone out--I don't need to be asked every time I round a frakin' corner. It's enough to make a person shop on the Internet.
One night, not too long ago, a friend of mine and I got a case of the late-night munchies following a night out on the town. Jack in the Crack, as I lovingly call it, was basically the only thing open. We pulled up to the drive-through loudspeaker, and a female voice boomed, "WHAT DO YOU WANT?"
We laughed and told her our order. When we drove up to the window, she unloaded upon us in short, declarative sentences. She hated her job. She hated her boss. She hated her life.
Then she asked if we wanted ketchup with our fries.
I can't exactly describe her service as good, but at least she was real (and maybe even a little endearing). That's more than can be said for those phony-assed Best Buy door greeters.
But then, during the next few minutes, I realize that he is--apparently without realizing it--incrementally inching back into my space. Before long, he's so close to me, I can smell his hair, which is really pretty gross. I swivel my head, only to discover that there is nowhere for me to go, because everybody is packed in behind me. So I fold my arms in an effort to defend my space, but my elbows are literally digging into his back as he randomly sways even further into my space.
It's the sway that gives it away--a telltale sign of yet another case of Body Oblivion. This is a condition that afflicts concertgoers of all stripes (anyone from soused sorority bimbos to old, crusty guys with smelly hair), but it seems to be most common in men with large heads. Body Oblivion usually occurs in correlation with alcohol intoxication, and is generally indicated by a total lack of awareness of one's immediate surroundings. People nearby are subjected to random rubbing and bumping, an incredibly annoying and somewhat disturbing reminder that the bodily oblivious reveler is indeed out of control.
People suffering from Body Oblivion are best avoided, of course, but in tight situations, that can be impossible. You fought hard for your space, and you're not about to give it away to a rude drunk. The problem here is that reasoning with such people is usually a lost cause. If you say something, they turn and look at you like you're the one causing the problem.
I mean, really, if I wanted some wasted, creepy guy rubbing against me, I'd join a fundamentalist church.
Where does it end?
Yeah, I know I'm not supposed to let my dog run around the schoolyard at night. What am I supposed to do, walk down to the park? It's like, 10 minutes away. Get real.
And another thing: Everywhere I go, people are like: "Hey, slow down!" As if I'm supposed to pay attention to those speed limits. Not frakin' likely. Don't the cops have anything better to do than chase down some poor schmuck who slipped through a yellow light? Yes, I'm sure it was yellow, officer. And yes, I will tell it to the judge. Not that the corrupt bastard will believe me. They never do.
You know what else I'm tired of? Listening to guys like Tom Danehy complain about people who talk on cell phones when driving. Just because he never learned how to do more than one thing at a time doesn't mean the rest of us can't multitask. The other day, in that stupid traffic-school course they made me take, the instructor asked if anyone was an exceptional driver. My hand went straight up. Hey, I calls 'em like I sees 'em.
He's all: What makes you a such a great driver? I tell him: Anyone who can text-message, watch a DVD on the laptop, keep track of the scores on the radio and navigate traffic has to be a great driver.
So get off my frakin' back, OK?
Nowadays, if I don't listen to certain underground bands, I'm snubbed by the scene elitists. If you've never come across one before, consider yourself lucky: These people are snobby and judgmental as all hell. They travel in packs, and you can typically pick them out in a crowd, because they are all dressed the same. What's amusing is that they think they are all unique and have groundbreaking fashion tastes.
You might want to memorize a list of underground artists to spout off should you come in contact with them, although it's useless, because you will never be as cool as they think they are.
Sigur Rós. Cat Power. Stars. Minus the Bear. Cursive. Mogwai. The Decemberists. Don't blow it by forgetting a name on this list. And whatever you do, don't name Bloc Party. EVERYONE knows who Bloc Party is now. Come on, they get played on the radio. They're "sellouts."
What's really annoying is that these snobby scene elitists always seem to get the best of me. I know for a fact that I listen to better music than they do, but I still find myself falling victim to the power of their Monroe piercings and texturized hair.
Sigur Rós. Cat Power. Stars. Minus the Bear. Cursive. Mogwai. The Decemberists. Trying to beat these elite artists into my head is downright ludicrous! Speaking of Ludacris, avoid mentioning hip hop or rap by all means necessary. Unless you mention someone like Talib Kweli. He's less mainstream than Ludacris. But, oh, wait a minute: He's played on the radio. Naming him can't possibly make you look cool.
Seriously, who cares if a band gets played on the radio? Heaven forbid a band gets recognized for its great music and gets played on the radio for everyone to hear! If you discover an amazing band that no one has heard of before, by all means, share the wealth! What good is music if other people can't share in its greatness?
And while you're at it, get that word "sellout" out of your mouth. A band does not "sell out" if they get played on the radio or sign with a bigger label. As long as the quality of their music doesn't change, they are simply becoming successful.
Attention, all scene elitists: Get off your snobby horse, and stop chastising me for listening to "mainstream music." You're just making yourself look stupid.
The next time a stupid snobby scene elitist asks me what bands I listen to, my response will be simple: "I dig music."
What the hell is wrong with these leisurely meanderers? Why are they so slow? Do they care that other people on this planet may have places to go, people to see? APPARENTLY NOT.
And these sauntering cretins aren't just at the mall, where the pathways are wide, albeit occasionally dotted with cell-phone kiosks staffed by overly pushy teen salespeople in need of tetracycline. These buckets of obliviousness are also at the supermarket, pushing a shopping cart, right down the middle of the friggin' narrow aisle, leaving such little space on either side of them that not even
Tish Haymer Calista Flockhart, walking sideways, could get past them!
(Confidential to slow people who are getting ready to send me and the entire Arizona congressional delegation angry letters accusing me of being an insensitive prejudiced lout: Most slower-than-average people realize that there are other people around who may want to get by. I am talking here about people whose heads are stuffed so far up their rotund asses that they are unaware of other life forms, and/or people who just don't care that there are other life forms. So lay off, OK?)
Aaarrrrgh! One of these days, I am just going to haul off and KICK someone, which will probably lead to a MAJOR SCENE, followed by the presence of LAW ENFORCEMENT, which could lead to CHARGES and a CRIMINAL PROCEEDING and perhaps even PRISON SENTENCE during which I have no doubt that I will be assigned a cellmate named BRUNO who has poor hygiene habits and a hankering for LATE-NIGHT VIGOROUS CUDDLING SESSIONS.
See how serious a problem this is?
So, for the love of God (and NOT the love of Bruno), if you're slower than most people, please be aware, and courteous, and just move off to one side. OK?
"Hello," begins one, in a grating, depressingly hollow prerecorded voice. "This ... is ... an attempt to collect a debt. Please call us back at our toll-free number ..."
"Hello," says another, slightly scarier message. "This is regarding a significant financial obligation. We are required by law to inform you of this. Please return this call now, or you will face further consequences."
Then there's my favorite message--the friendly one: "Hi! This is Sue! There's an important business message for you at our office! Please call us as soon as you can!"
But here's the thing: I don't have any fucking debts. Well, OK, I do have some student loans--but I assure you, those are being taken care of. In general, I'm neurotic about money, and throughout my life, I've actually been afflicted with severe debt phobia. I go to extremes to avoid owing money: living in a tiny apartment, shunning credit cards like the plague, refusing to borrow a dime from anyone and driving a car that can only be entered through the passenger side.
Why, then, am I--of all people--getting these goddamn calls?!
Well, of course, I'm not the first person to have my current phone number. As a nice young debt collector told me one Saturday--yes, they call on Saturday, too--its previous owner was a woman named Stacy. Her name is engraved in my consciousness. Apparently, Stacy's in way over her head financially and will be involved in some major legal action if she doesn't get things straightened out soon. Except, conveniently for her, she seems to have completely disappeared off the face of the Earth.
This debt-collector thing really affects me. I dread coming home each evening and erasing those messages. Every time the phone rings, I wonder if it's for me or for Stacy. And sometimes, in my spare time, I think about her and actually worry about her situation. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I had a dream that I was Stacy. There were all these creepy trolls chasing me, screaming "Fie! Fie!" I woke up in a cold sweat.
Nobody else I know has ever had such problems. What can I do? I've called the numbers left on my voicemail, and all I get is recordings--and then I get put on hold! I could call the phone company, but that would bring me to a whole different rant.
Stacy: If you're out there, you need to get your ass in gear. I'll fill you in--I promise I won't yell--if you give me a call. I think you know the number.
Somewhere down the line, though, designers' guidelines went haywire.
Nowadays, you try on pants in the same size, and they fit completely differently, if they fit at all. It's like you have to try on a buttload just to get one to fit. You pick your ideal size, and then go up and down one, just to be safe.
Sometimes when you are trying to determine what size and styles are right for you, the music blaring in the store is so loud and obnoxious, it disrupts your thinking process. Lower the volume, please!
Then once you have your pile of clothes, you head off to try them on. Sometimes, I feel like a lone swimmer headed into shark-infested waters as I enter the dressing room. First, you are bombarded with a ton of clothes from the last woman in there. C'mon, ladies, move your lazy butts, and take out the clothes you just tried on before you leave. Don't be slobs!
So once the hooks are cleared of debris, you hang up your clothes and heave a heavy sigh. The lights are shining at you, making your reflection in the mirror fuzzy and oddly shadowed. You have to angle yourself a million ways to get a look in the mirror without the glare. You need special glasses to see your real reflection.
Then, as you struggle to try on your pile of pants, Suzie and Tammy are in the dressing room next to you. Or maybe it's just Suzie on her cell phone. Either way, shut up already! I don't want to hear you discussing how you look, your date the other night or what you are going to eat for lunch. I need peace and quiet as I try on my 30 pairs of pants.
And I have to wonder: Are there any short designers out there? I am not a tree, for goodness' sake. I am a woman not quite 5 feet 4 inches tall. Make me some pants that I don't have to hack by 3 inches. And get rid of those huge flares. What short woman wants to have balloon pants?
I also wish designers would label their clothes differently. Tell me where the pants are going to fit on my waist--high, below the belly button or way below the belly button. I once had a sales girl hand me a pair of low-rise jeans. I tried them on and realized I needed to be 20 years younger to wear them. They should have been labeled: "Don't try these on if you have love handles. It won't be pretty."
At the end of your shopping ordeal, you are lucky if you have narrowly escaped the tears of frustration and found a pair of pants that fit. Hurrah. It's a miracle.
Just pray that brand doesn't get discontinued!
At the same time, Mother Earth is gradually dying from global warming; the United States and its allies financially support some of our worst enemies by buying boatloads of oil from despots; and we here in Tucson will be drinking crap water before you know it.
But, by golly, we've got to keep as many new folks coming to town as possible.
While scientists scream that man-made pollutants are warming the Earth, those of us in Pima County shrug our shoulders and motor off into a magnificent sunset in our SUVs. We may be roasting our environment and future generations, but at least we'll keep on driving and growing until it's too late.
Spread out across the desert like a giant cancer, Tucson's metropolitan area will soon stretch from Cochise County to Casa Grande. And we're proud of that! How stupid can we be?
Getting around this charmless stretch of suburbia requires a lot of driving, and for every gallon of gas purchased, the fortunes of Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other tyrants are enhanced. (If you don't know who these guys are, that's part of the problem.)
But let's not worry about our grandchildren living here in a literal hell on Earth because of global warming. And let's not concern ourselves about our meth-like addiction to gasoline, which no one dares question or confront. Instead, let's think about the quality of water that will soon be coming out of our taps.
In the name of accommodating more growth, Tucson Water is planning to lower the quality of our water--and nobody gives a damn. Instead, the utility conducts taste tests of its two new "blend" options, never bothering to talk about how much it would cost to keep the water quality we now have.
Right behind that change will be a push for drinking processed sewage water. This will have to be done, we'll be told, in order to support all the people planning to move here.
Our politicians will tell us there aren't any options, and insist that "toilet to tap" has to happen. That's pure B.S., and they know it.
Due to Tucson's limited water supply, severe restrictions could be placed on the number of building permits issued for new homes. But that would cause an economic catastrophe for this community which depends on population growth to pay the bills.
So we'll just keep chugging along, merrily ignoring the fact that the planet is slowly being suffocated, that we're financing the very terrorists we're so afraid of, and that drinking piss water is right down the road.
But what should we care? We're Tucson, 1 million strong, sprawling all over the desert, and really happy about being here.
I have seen the word Tuscon misspelled on both local and national television. I may be able to excuse some intern in New York or Los Angeles for misappropriating the order of two consonants, but in Tucson, give me a break. I have seen the word Tuscon on KVOA Channel 4, KGUN Channel 9 and KOLD Channel 13--in both reporting and advertisements. Now that's scary, because whoever is making these errors lives here. (I don't watch Fox, so for the time being, their local affiliate is off the hook.)
Of course, I get mail addressed to Tuscon. I get these misspelled missives from friends and banks, and on junk mail. When my bank doesn't know how to spell Tucson, I have doubts about their math skills, too.
Maybe the confusion lies with the airport code: TUS. Who's the bozo who thought of that? Unfortunately, TUC actually belongs to Tucuman Matienzo in Argentina. Granted, many airport codes make no sense at all, but our sister city's code to the north, PHX, is clear as the blue sky on a gorgeous spring day.
I've seen Tuscon in the local newspaper and in the phone book. There are a number of businesses in the Dex Official Directory that are misspelled, such as Tuscon Building, Tuscon Cleaning, Tuscon Radio and Television Co., and Tuscon Automotive. Maybe these companies think it is smart marketing to appeal to the dumber customers. Tuscon cannot even be blamed on typos: On a keyboard, the C and the S are not right next to each other.
And then there's the Internet, which has done plenty to perpetuate spelling bastardization. A headline on MortgageDaily.com reads: "Cop Kills Tuscon Mortgage Broker, Self" (mortgagedaily.com/index0701.asp).
Here's something really scary: A local mortgage company misspells its street address. It could be that the webmaster is an idiot, but doesn't anyone from the company look at the Web site? Advanced Capital Mortgage Inc. (advancedcapitalinc.com ) lists its address as 1730 N. Tuscon Blvd. If they are not detailed enough to spell the name of their street correctly, why would anyone trust them with the details of home financing?
Tucsonans: Learn to spell. Put the C before the S, and let's forget about this mess. Just be thankful you don't live in Albuquerque.
I'm not talking about art galleries. Nearly all of them, no matter how tiny, have some kind of makeshift bathroom, bless their bohemian little hearts. I've used toilets in warehouses with rotting floors, toilets behind doors teetering off hinges and toilets beneath art plastered over the holes in the wall.
But when it comes to the performing arts, the major theaters in Tucson are a disgrace. Women who've paid big money for their tickets spend intermission waiting in interminable lines to use bathrooms that are much too small. Men anxiously await their companions in the lobby, having zipped quickly through the much better men's facilities. The Music Hall in the Tucson Convention Center and the UA's Centennial Hall are the worst offenders. Even the new UA Stevie Eller Dance Theatre is bad.
Picture a cold night in January. The Chieftains have sold out Centennial, and the crowd skews older and gray-haired--meaning there are plenty of women who've birthed another generation and have to go the bathroom, badly, at intermission. Where are they? Outside, in the bitter cold. The single bathroom at Centennial is so completely inadequate for the size of the house that women are shuttled behind velvet ropes to the plaza out front, where they snake around in one huge line in the great outdoors. At the sold-out Moscow Festival Ballet concert, I saw an elderly lady on oxygen, for Pete's sake, making the long hike to the end of the outdoor line.
The Music Hall may be even more ridiculous. There are multiple bathrooms, but all of them are too small. When I went to see Madama Butterfly, another near sellout, I joined the female throng racing toward the exits at intermission and planted myself in a remote second-floor line. But the queue moved at a snail's pace. Once inside, I could see why. There were two toilets--two!--along with three urinals, back from the days when it was a men's bathroom. Take note: Men had five places to urinate, and the women have three less in the same space. Logical? Equitable?
Stevie Eller is a missed opportunity. Just more than three years old, the theater itself is a jewel, but the women's bathroom is a cramped mess. Water spills out of the fancy glass sinks; the toilets are too few; and the corridor is so narrow, the women leaving can barely make their way out past the women just entering.
All of these theaters are public accommodations, and all of them practice sex discrimination. That's against the law. It's about time someone filed not just a civil-rights complaint, but a sex-discrimination lawsuit, and forced these lawbreakers into line, so to speak.