it’s not you, mtv…it’s me

MTV is 30 now. 

Awww, MTV, Happy Birthday! To celebrate, I think I might try watching the ol’ network; it’s  been a while, and it might be fun to catch up.

I realize just how long it’s been when I can’t find MTV in my channel guide. We have about 900 channels, and I can tell you where to find Hoarders, Mickey Mouse Club House, Barefoot Contessa and Barefoot Contessa in HD.

I scroll through the channel guide at least twice, getting distracted by the fact that the Giants game is still on, and that movie Zodiac is about to start on IFC.

After I finally find it buried between between channels where the letters don’t mean anything to me (what is CSN+H and PLDHD?), I see that tonight’s MTV offering is Jersey Shore. What I know about this show I’ve learned from more sophisticated programming like Saturday Night Live, and The Soup. The format is instantly familiar though, and not entirely different from the first five seasons of Real World that I watched unapologetically back in the day: voice over narratives by the young cast, quick cuts and edits, and a roomful of 20-somethings arguing over whatever someone said that was like… the worst. I squirm; “What are they talking about? Why are they so mad? What’s that girl’s name? Why is she wearing that? Why am I so bored with this?”

Mercifully, a commercial comes on, and I flip to Zodiac. I shouldn’t watch this: it’s going to be scary, but I think it’s kind of a newspaper drama around the San Francisco Chronicle, and hunting for a killer they never capture (spoiler!). Intrigue, and mystery like All the President’s Men — same era, same typewriters. No Robert Redford, but there’s Robert Downey, Jr.! And Jake Gyllenhal! Mark Ruffalo! Chloe Sevigny! And an obviously nuanced and thoughtful performance by Anthony Edwards from Revenge of the NerdsTop Gun and ER.

I should really change the channel back to MTV, and finish what I set out to do tonight: watch MTV.

But I can’t. This movie has my favorite movie thing – exciting research scenes. The characters are pouring through file boxes, and the background music is pulsing, and watching these guys read is downright thrilling. (Helllloooooo, All the President’s Men!)

At the commercial break, instead of using the time to flip back to MTV, I listen to the ads for IFC’s Whisker Wars and look up facts about Zodiac’s director, David Fincher. He lived in the same little Bay Area town we did for a while, and he’s directed some of my favorites; Social Network, The Game, Se7en (could only watch that once), Fight Club, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Apparently I’m a David Fincher fan, and so I guess I’ll have to see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, even though I was physically incapable of finishing that book.

So now, I am officially failing miserably at watching MTV. By the time I get back to it, Teen Mom is on, but that makes me a little more uncomfortable than the movie about the Zodiac Killer.

Ok, so I’ll watch this movie, and not MTV; I don’t want to miss any more critical plot points, and MTV won’t miss me. Even though my musical taste wasn’t frozen in time with A-Ha and Tears for Fears, they don’t need me anymore. I’m not their demo, though I was once.

When MTV started on basic cable, I was old enough to be very aware of its significance and also old enough to beg my parents for basic cable. I was, however, young enough for it to be a significantly formative part of my formative years. I knew that Nirvana and Pearl Jam were going to change the world.  I loved everything MTV had to offer: House of Style, Club MTV, Remote Control, Daria, 120 Minutes. John and I watched Beavis & Butthead on study breaks. My friend Liane and I went to sit in the stands at MTV Rock & Jock basketball in LA. At half-time, Tag Team performed their smash hit of which I owned the casingle,  “Whoomp! There it Is.”  Liane went so far as to go on to work for MTV, becoming the envy of us all.

So even though I’ve entered the next stage of life, the VH1 years, It’s not like I think Snookie is the 4th Horseman of the Apocalypse, I’ll  just leave her chronicles in the very capable hands of a generation who needs a study break.

Bring back Yo! MTV Raps though, and we’ll talk.

**That photo up there? That’s John and I on a study break, watching Beavis & Butthead.

sexy abraham lincoln

The other night we went out, as adults, with other adults. It was very sophisticated. Of course we ran into even more adults including some who were dressed up for a night on the town. Costumed up, I should say for some apparent pre-Halloween festivities. We’ve all seen the selection of women’s Halloween costumes right now….sexy nurse, sexy prisoner, sexy race car driver, you get the idea. So imagine my surprise when there, in the middle of the crowd, was sexy Abraham Lincoln. Black blazer, black mini skirt, white blouse, fish nets, pumps, top hat and yes, Abraham Lincoln beard. Not just any Abraham Lincoln beard, a sassy supermodel-type Abraham Lincoln beard.

I’m not a natural Halloween person, though through the years, I’ve tried really hard. As a kid, I was the one who always got a fever the day of, or alas, threw up at school ten minutes before the costume parade (it was 2nd grade. Of course, my mother had spent a month working on a Revolutionary War period costume for the occasion that would not see the light of day.) I did rock the Mickey Mouse in ’77 and Princess Leia in ‘78 complete with homemade buns (thanks again mom). There were the unfortunate off years where “jogger” or “girl in wig” had to suffice.

My sad attempt at replicating my brother’s infamous “blind date” costume– the sight impaired glorified raisin that had skyrocketed my brother’s status to that of Halloween legend — fell appropriately flat when I kept having to explain it.

College, right? College Halloweens had to be epic. I had pretty high hopes going in. I won’t bore you with the sad details. They are not even funny sad, just sad sad. So I suppose epic is still appropriate if you are talking about the level to which they were ho-hum. As was my first crack at homemade Halloween treats. I tried to guess the recipe for sugar cookies. That, my friends, is why I cook, and do not bake. I can guess the recipe for a lot of things, but with baking I now know, there is stinkin’ science involved.

I did put my all into pumpkin carving when they came out with those handy kits. I loved picking the most complicated pattern, and it would take about 4 hours for me to finish one design. Those tiny little haunted house windows are tricky. I’d be sitting at the table, tongue out, brow furrowed and glistening with the perspiration of pure determination, moxie, and chutzpah! I’d eventually look up and I’d be sitting alone nursing my wrist and looking for the beginning signs of carpal tunnel syndrome, while everyone else had retired to the couch with a beer having finished their elementary designs of “funny ghost face” or “bat.”

Then I had a baby, and I could not get through trying to cut the hole in the top without having to stop 11 times to feed and change and bounce and soothe. That’s when I decided that pumpkins were even more attractive and longer lasting when you did not have to cut them open.

Jake did however breathe new life into my Halloween efforts. I cried when I saw him in his baby pea pod suit. He hopped all over my office as a frog, put on my heart and soul when he slipped into the airplane costume I made for him, and wore around half our monthly food budget in his sharp looking and fully legit NASA flight suit.

He also spent one year as “the kid with the fever” with Zach taking his turn with it two years later.  

We do have high hopes for this year. I may have failed on the cookie front again, but the costumes are shaping up nicely.

Zachary is the most detail-oriented dresser-upper you’d ever lay eyes on; last year in his Indiana Jones satchel, where nobody could see, you would have found jewels, a journal, a whip and a snake that helped him get into character. This year, he has taken it upon himself to meticulously grow out his hair to achieve the fluffiest, featheriest Mark Hamill ‘do this side of 1987. It will go perfectly with his x-wing fighter suit. Let me just say that again. It’s a 5-year-old growing out his hair to replicate Luke Skywalker, circa 1977. He is nothing if not dedicated.

After lamenting costume options for weeks with Jacob, including an ill fated Justin Bieber idea, yesterday we walked into a local Halloween store and asked for beards. The girl cocked an eyebrow at me – “Brian Wilson?” I nodded sheepishly, with the confirmation of what I expected. Prepare yourself Bay Area folks – Brian Wilson will be visiting you… a lot. I really would have felt like a Halloween rock star if I could have honestly answered, “No thanks, show me your sexy Abraham Lincolns.”


Over the last few weeks, we’ve been saying goodbye to some of our young friends who are off to the first years of college. Near and far, they are starting their own adventures, next chapters, new beginnings, fresh paths, their next step on this funny little journey called life…you get it.  The grown-ups in the room offer congratulations, good wishes, and “be safes.” But with as much wander as the kids have for the great unknown, the adults kind of nod knowingly at each other. We do generally have an idea of what’s in store for them.

This is where it changes. This is where they, ideally…hopefully….fingers crossed, start figuring it out. The parents of these kids surely want their kids to be happy and healthy. They want them to have fun, and be good, and get good grades, and then maybe they’ll get a great job, and not move home. And they want the kiddos to call. But not too much, because that can be a bad sign. They want them to call just the right amount.

We try not to share all of our college stories with these fresh hopeful faces. We can’t. Not yet. They have to live it first, and then they get to hear the good stuff. Who doesn’t wistfully look back at those days – a haze of fuzzy and romanticized memories of freedom, and possibilities and ordering  pizza whenever you want to, and buying white bread instead of wheat for the first time, and other completely, um purposefully non-descript college stuff. Those precious last years of getting away with things just because you’re young.

Isn’t that why we’re all so flippin’ passionate about our alma mater football teams? We’re defending our life choices! Our history! Our heritage! Our memories. Those little boys out there are going to tell you that my memories and choices are meaningful and significant, by kicking the butt of your team and your memories. So hah!

Who doesn’t pine a little, and sit back like you’d imagine Wilford Brimley to, to spin a yarn about the good ol’ days, whether it was your freshman year of college, or your first time on your own?

Mine would go a little like this (please read this in Wilford Brimley’s voice – it’s better that way): Listen up kids….The second day I was at school I stuck a roommate’s head of raw broccoli in the freezer. I had never seen raw broccoli away from a salad bar and had no idea what to do with it. We found little tiny green bits all over our dorm for a year. She had to teach me how to use an ATM. My friend Liane & I would only use the computer lab at 3 in the morning. We were pretty inept with word processing, and that’s when the computer lab guys would be happy to come out from behind their ridiculously tall desk to help us. We may have also solicited help from a handsome classmate who was finishing his reporting assignment too.

We saw some great movies: Pulp Fiction, Singles, Reality Bites, Seven. Don’t ever see Seven kids, you won’t sleep for a week. That movie changed my mind about pursuing criminal science.

There was a short period of this nation’s history, where absolutely everyone in America, I mean  EVERYONE, was wearing flannel, always the flannel – formal flannel and casual flannel  – and Docs and Converse, and listening to grungy music and drinking coffee, and figuring out how they could get to Seattle. Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins… now that was music.

I had never had a Caesar salad. But Wolfgang Pucks was in our food court, and I had a Caesar salad every day until I ran out of discretionary funds on my meal card. And then there was just the sheer joy of being in a new place and having the chance to start fresh, and kick off your adult life your own way. I threw the curtain open from our fifth floor dorm living room and there it was, the Hollywood sign. I had arrived. Of course, if you looked out the other window, you could see the Bank of America that got robbed four times that year.

We’d lose our way sometimes, and get frustrated and make mistakes, and find our way back, and be smarter for it, most of the time. Times were good.

And that boy in the computer lab? Well, his name was John, and I would go on to marry that boy. (Ok, don’t read that like Wilford Brimley).

Good luck freshmen! I can’t wait to sit on the porch someday and hear your stories!