Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Spectacular Now: A Spectacular Read

Little known fact - I'm a huge YA fan. I love well written adolescent literature, like really love it, but the problem is, there's not a lot of YA lit that lives up to my high standards. That's why when I find something that is, I want to shout it to the heavens. I tend to prefer the YA classics to the stuff that's written now, like oh dear God, Twilight and the like. Yuck. I like the literary equivalent of a John Hughes movie; books that really show what real teen life and teen angst is like. Realistic depictions with kids who aren't Mormon chastity fantasies.

Most recently I loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which took me back to my own high school years because it was set in the year I would have graduated had I actually graduated (Class of '91 woo).

But now I've topped that with The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp and wow, this was an incredible book for teens and quite possibly the most accurate portrayal of Millennial high schoolers I've read. Honestly, I was thankful my husband played with my daughter this weekend just so I could finish this book, which I did in a short weekend. I couldn't put it down and now I can't stop thinking about it.

The plot is simple, but this isn't a plot driven novel. It's a character book with an unforgettable narrator.

Sutter Keely is an uncanny cross between Holden Caulfield and Ferris Bueller. The resemblance is so close that I'm 98% certain this was exactly what Tharp had in mind when he created Sutter, an alcoholic party boy, whose exploits are fueled by whiskey and 7UP. Sutter is the uninhibited life of every party. Dramatic scenes ensue wherever he goes and it seems as if he is well loved by his peers. To a point. 

Sutter has no sense of boundaries and seemingly very little self-awareness and since the book is told in the first person it's important to remember that we have an unreliable narrator here. Because of that, when reading this book, you have to be a reliable reader. Luckily, this book, which was a National Book Award finalist by the way, is so well written that it's easy for the reader to read between the lines of Sutter's bravado and to understand through the words and actions of those surrounding him what is truly going on. This quality is what I think makes this an extraordinary read. I like doing a little extra work as a reader. I like uncovering a complicated character's mysteries.

Sutter is a child of a divorce he doesn't fully understand or know the details of. His older sister is married to a rich guy and has fake boobs. He can't stand his step-dad, he's failing algebra and may not graduate, his "fat girlfriend" Cassidy dumps him and he appears to just want to have a good time to forget everything around him. All the time. But Sutter has no understanding of the consequences of his actions.

A novel told from the point of view of an asshole party boy holds little appeal, but Sutter Keely is impossible not to love. Think Ferris Bueller. Remember the scene where Ferris persuades Cameron to get out of bed and steal his dad's car and Cameron can't say no because even though Ferris is a total pain in the ass he's also irresistibly lovable too? That is Sutter Keely and more, because behind the drunken stunts, behind the foolhardiness is a character filled with compassion. He possesses such a genius-level of understanding for others (though none for himself) that the reader can't help but to fall in love with him, because above all, Sutter Keely is kind and means well and wants to be loved, though he believes himself ultimately unlovable.

After one particularly reckless evening, Aimee Finecky, the nerdy girl from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks, finds him passed out on the road. Sutter is intrigued by this unusual girl and takes her on as a pet project, intending to boost her confidence. What ensues is a love story, a prom, a mess, a road trip, several accidents and misunderstandings and then, finally, an ending.

Reading the reviews of The Spectacular Now, it's apparent that a lot of readers didn't get or didn't like the ending, but I didn't take issue with it. I won't spoil it, but the ending can seem abrupt and the ending is for sure not very Hollywood. What I will tell you is that this is a book written by an author who knows alcoholism well and that the ending, to me, was simply a realistic reflection of that. This is a book about an alcoholic and the ending is very much in line with the behavioral patterns of alcoholics, ambiguous as it might seem to some readers. People who are familiar with the effects of alcoholism on personality will instantly know what I'm talking about and if I seem vague, well, just read the book.

Just read the book anyway, even if you're an adult. If you know a teenager, make them read it too. If you teach high school or undergrad college, consider putting this book on your class's reading list. I promise your students won't complain about not being about to "relate."

This is a beautiful novel. John Hughes would've been proud. There is also a movie out now, which I haven't seen due to a New Year's resolution to stop watching movies made from books and getting pissed off, but it was widely acclaimed at Sundance so you might want to check it out anyway.
 


The book is a great deal on Amazon now. It's only around five bucks on Kindle and six dollars or so in paperback, which is a steal. Usually I don't really look at the price of books, but this one caught my eye so I thought I'd mention it.

Up next - I finished Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman and then waited for the sequel Exodus to come out, which I just started today because I wanted to review them together. Give me a week or so on that one.
Thursday, April 10, 2014

Me Too, Let's Hug: It's Embarrassing Stories Day at Wide Lawns!


You know how some magazines have a feature where readers send in their embarrassing stories and they print them all on one page in little blurbs? I love those. 

I love the sense of camaraderie I feel from reading about other people's humiliation. Kind of like we're all in this together. It's like, hey you crapped your pants at the mall? Me too. Let's hug. 

I woke up feeling kind of low this morning, saw a random picture of some french fries (don't ask) and was reminded of one of my embarrassing stories, which is fairly tame and thankfully does not involve pooping myself, so I thought maybe we could have an embarrassing story day here at Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds. I have a treasure trove of mortification from which to draw, let me tell you.

I'll start simple though...

Some time ago, when I lived in Atlanta, I went out to meet some friends at a very popular and crowded restaurant. While waiting for our table, I found a seat at the bar next to a woman who was enjoying a plate of crisp, heavenly, truffle fries. All I could smell was the delicious salty, fatty, truffled, parmesan goodness of these fries.They looked like the most delicious, golden, beautiful french fries that have ever existed. They intoxicated me. They called to me and I was starving and must have had low blood sugar, because without even thinking, I absent-mindedly grabbed one of those delicious fries off of her plate and popped it in my mouth. Then another and another and I swear, I didn't even really realize it was happening and at first, neither did the person that the fries actually belonged to. Finally, she turned around and saw me about to pinch another one so defending her dinner, the horrified woman actually smacked my hand! I was mortified and tried to apologize, even offering to pay, but the woman caused a scene and demanded a whole new dish, which I think was a bit of an overreaction, my God. I was so embarrassed that I sneaked out and went to a nearby Steak-N-Shake drive-thru to satisfy my fry craving. Not even joking. My friends teased me about it for years afterwards.

Ok, your turn. Cheer me up with your crazy, embarrassing stories. I don't even care how dirty or messed up they are and yes, if it's that bad go ahead and comment anonymously. You're always safe on my blog.
Monday, April 07, 2014

70s Mom Dines Out - Salad Bar Edition.


Bill and I went to dinner for our anniversary over the weekend. I had wanted to go to fondue but Bill said it was too french and next thing he'd be eating quiche or some nonsense such as that, so we went to the new steakhouse instead, which was fine. I wanted to show off my new hair-do. I had it winged.


Before we went out, I washed my hair in Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific. Kimberly persuaded me to try it and naturally I did because I wanted my hair to smell terrific, but honestly, I think I still prefer my Wella Balsam. 

Bill got me a bottle of L'Air du Temps as an anniversary gift. I was so excited but it's funny because I got him a bottle of Paco Rabanne even though he won't wear anything but Brut.

"Dream on, Toots," he said when he opened the package, "I love my Brut."


Well, at least he doesn't wear Hai Karate, you know? My husband is a little bananas when it comes to some things.

I was going to go all out and let the kids have Swanson's TV dinners, but naturally they were all fighting over the fried chicken one, because they think it has the best dessert and no one wanted the turkey dinner one because they said the gravy was slimy and before long it was absolute chaos and Bill ran downtown to get them all hamburgers from Gino's. 

Then the babysitter was late, so by the time she got there Bill and I really had to book if we were going to make our reservation. I thought this was the perfect chance to tell Bill I thought we ought to get a new car. His Fiat wasn't cutting it. I want an Oldsmobile - maybe a Cutlass or a Delta. I love the vinyl roof. So elegant. Bill didn't like the idea of getting a new car though because he said we just got new paneling in the family room and I just redid the kitchen (Harvest Gold!) plus I'm taking ceramics classes and doing macrame galore.

"Didn't you just get a new terrarium too?" Bill asked.

Well, yes, and it's gorgeous, but a terrarium full of moss and ferns and little orange ceramic mushrooms and owls is a far cry from an automobile. Men!

I also got a new shag toilet seat cover for the guest bath, but I'm hiding that under the bed. My chenille bedspread covers it up well and when Bill forgets that I spent too much this month, I'll get it out and pretend like we've had it all along. That usually works on him.

We made it to the restaurant in time but our table wasn't ready so we had some refreshments at the bar in the lounge area. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed my pina colada. It came in a big coconut with an orchid, some oranges and maraschino cherries on a tiny sword, PLUS a miniature umbrella AND a drink monkey. That monkey was just precious so I asked the bartender if he could give me three more to take home to the kids. They're going to flip when they see these things.

The hostess was built like a brick house and Bill wouldn't stop looking over at her, which really got on my nerves at first.

I said, "Look, Bill. I'm no chump, keep your eyes on the prize, Mister Man."

Luckily, Bill relaxed a bit after his first Old Fashioned. He straughtened up and began to compliment me instead of the hostess. I was so glad he noticed my new slim figure. All that Tab is paying off. I'll let you in on my secret though. I've been keeping trim with Dexadrine. My doctor gave it to me so of course it's safe and my house has never been cleaner! I crocheted an entire afghan in an afternoon plus ran the electrolux three times in one day. I love the energy boost! Between that and my Ayds diet candy, I'm simply unstoppable and slimmer than I've been in ages, so I look fantastic in my jumpsuit. It's true that for the past three days I've only slept 45 minutes a night, but I lost ten pounds in a week, so I'm loving it.

They really did the new steakhouse right. Very classy establishment. I love the decor: lots of dark wood, red leather booths, dim Tiffany lamps over the tables and several brass accents. As soon as we sat down they brought us a little crock of cheese spread and some packages of melba toast in a basket. What a nice touch, and they said we could head on up to the salad bar at our leisure. I was nearly beside myself. The iceberg lettuce was so crisp. My friend Judy says they put potato whitener on it and some people have deadly allergic reactions, but I think she's alarmist. They even had chick peas and pickled beet slices, plus Thousand Island and French dressings, even though I went with Green Goddess. So exotic! I could have lingered at that salad bar all night.

We both ordered sirloins and they were cooked to perfection and came with those delicious spiced apple rings and sprigs of curly parsely. Baked potatoes came on the side and the meal was delicious.

When we were finished I wondered if I should go to the payphone in the lobby and call the babysitter to see how the kids were doing and Bill said not to, because if there was a problem she'd call the restaurant and they'd come get us to use their phone so why waste the fifteen cents? I had to agree.

"Let's splurge tonight, darling," Bill said, "Bananas Foster or Cherries Jubilee?"

Ahh, I am simply nuts over anything flambeed! We had a hard time deciding but finally chose the cherries which were exquisite. They brought out a little cart and made our dessert right at the table!

After dessert, we paid the check and Bill took me for a spin on the new parquet dance floor. That man can really boogie, I tell you. We had so much fun and we were practically like Saturday Night Fever out there.

"Honey, we need to do this more often," Bill said.

I agreed. 

"I hope we're still dancing like this in the year 2000," I said.

"They'll probably have flying cars by then! We can fly to the restaurant," Bill laughed.

What a fabulous evening! 
Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Curious Incident of the Cat in the Night: SOLVED!


Remember last week when I had a visitation by a ghost cat while my husband was out of town?

I think we have solved the mystery of what was actually in bed with me if it wasn't my cat, who was actually across the house meowing her ass off in the middle of the night for no good reason. 

You're not going to like this. Trust me, I didn't.

The other night my husband I and were awakened at 2am by a terrible, truly awful noise that involved a gross amount of licking combined with a grisly crunching. After much going back and forth about what it was and hoping it might stop, I finally got up and put the light on to see what was going on.

I found my kitty cat, the same one featured in my book by the way, on the floor at the foot of the bed enjoying a late-night snack of fresh lizard.

This was no ordinary lizard. This was a giant, fat, squishy lizard of the species that we Floridians call "curly tails." They are horrid things and they like coming in my house and apparently my cat thinks they taste good, except for their heads, because she left that part behind for me.

The lizard was big enough that if it had jumped on my bed, in my sleepy haze I could have easily mistaken it for a cat landing on the bed. If the lizard walked on the bed, I could have easily believed it to be cat paws because my cat treads very lightly. Plus I was asleep.

So yeah, I was in bed with a lizard. The lizard was probably hanging out in my room for a few days, unable to get back outside and met his demise when my cat caught him and ate him during his midnight explorations.

Thanks, kitty. I mean that sincerely, in spite of your poor table manners.
Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Drama Mamas

"Ladies, I need your advice! This is my newborn son. Does he look normal?"

I belong to a large and very active motherhood group on Facebook. Mostly this is simply for my own personal, sick entertainment.

The Mommy Wars are in full effect, naturally. If anyone posts something about breastfeeding or vaccinations, the mommies of the group go collectively ballistic all over each other. It's the modern day equivalent of the Roman Coliseum, but it's online and with women, because Oh My God, women cannot stand for a stranger to have a differing opinion on the Internet. Lord no. All hell breaks loose. 

I'm somewhat less interested in the hackneyed breast milk and MMR debates. Heard it all. No, I live for the weirder shit people post on there and I promise you there is plenty of it.

Pictures posted of dirty diapers, which yes, I totally wanted to see someone else's child's shit while scrolling through my newsfeed. Sorry, I prefer cat pictures. 

And I love when the caption reads "IS THIS NORMAL OMG!" No, it is not normal to post pictures of your babies shit for strangers to analyze.

Other appetizing descriptions include: "OMG is that blood or did my baby swallow a red marker??"  and "Do you think this looks like worms?" 

Seriously, if you are so concerned, please go to the doctor and stop crowdsourcing the opinions of people who are just as stupid as you are.

 One of my favorite posts that blew up into serious drama involved a woman who posted that she had accidentally taken Xanax instead of Advil for a headache (really?? because they look NOTHING alike, you dingbat) and she was freaking out because she was all messed up on the Xanax (like, how much did she take??) and couldn't take care of her baby. This woman was clearly off the rails on the crazy train and people were flipping their lids all over the place over this one. Some called her out on being insane, which she clearly was, and others supported her.

Then there are the people in the group who are obvious con artists. Also a personal favorite of mine. They come on with elaborate sob stories wanting free stuff. Which they apparently get and then when they get found out as fakes the women they conned lose their freaking minds. Catfishing is very common in online mothering groups. You have been warned. If someone is asking for free shit, do a considerable amount of background checking before handing it over. Maybe actually get to know someone first? In real life?

A few weeks ago a girl posted a bathroom mirror selfie of her pregnant belly that looked like she was giving birth to triplet, full grown T-rexes. I've never seen something like this. She wanted to know if this was normal. This prompted a spate of additional bathroom mirror selfies of baby bumps that were equally as horrifying. Again, I do not understand this. If you are concerned that something is not normal with your pregnancy or your child, WHY AREN'T YOU AT THE DOCTOR'S OFFICE??

At least daily someone posts something along the lines of "My three month old EBF DS is projectile vomiting, has a fever of 105 and his head is spinning. He just levitated off the crib mattress while cursing me out in Latin. Do you think it's ok if I give him a little Advil? What's the right dose for a 35 pound, three month old infant? TIA Mommy's!"

WTF? Why can't people get it through their heads that apostrophes are not used for plurals?

My favorite Mommy Group posts, by far, by far, are the ones where people ask strangers for name ideas. I don't get this because I really wouldn't feel comfortable with strangers coming up with names for my child, but ok. And the names they pick, Jesus Christ. It sounds like roll call at the strip club.

I always see posts like this:

"Hey guys! I'm having a hard time deciding on names for my DD EDB tomorrow. I like Lunesta, Lyrica, Mirena, Pegasys, Stelara, Latisse and Vaniqua, but I just can't make a decision! Let's have a vote!"

So of course, I'm all like Chantix. Name your daughter Chantix. Or really go all out and name that kid Cialis. 

I swear, people be cray.
Monday, March 31, 2014

A Few More People You're Most Likely to Meet When Your Kid Starts School


Last week I read this hilarious post on Babble by Jon Taylor (alas, not of Duran Duran, but how cool would that be if he were writing about parenting?) about the parents you will meet when your kid starts school and it was so spot on. I was dying, because this year my daughter started preschool and I have met every single one of the parents he refers to.

And, um, I am one of them. 

I confess. Fiesta Mom, right here, folks. I used to be the social butterfly who went sociopathic from isolation once my baby was born and now I'm all like "WOOO!! My kid is in school! Did someone say BAKE SALE? Can we plan something?? You wanna come over for a playdate? Now? How about in an hour? Should we do dinner?" Yeah, that would be me, except since I don't drink and am Queen Teetotaler, I'm Fiesta Mom Sans Margarita, unless it's frozen, strawberry and virginal.

My sister also thinks I am part Whole Foods Mom, but I swear, I only dabble in the Whole Foods lifestyle. When you have met a full fledged Whole Foods Mom, you know that I'm just a wanna-be skirting around on the quinoa fringe. There may be nutritional yeast in my fridge, but I have to draw the line at kombucha.

That said, the delightful Mr. Taylor, not of Duran Duran, because that one has an 'h," left off a few of the wonderful and fascinating parents that I have met, so I decided to add to his list.

Without further ado:

J Crew Mom

You will know her by her topknot. Her polka dots are perfect. Her shoes, which never match her outfit, actually do match because she's wearing them and she is that stylish. On J Crew Mom, animal prints look classy and she's never without her pearls. She's a Seven Sisters grad, Junior League president and her children are decked in Janie & Jack, not purchased on sale. She often expresses disbelief when others don't go away on fabulous vacations during their school breaks. "What? We got a great deal on that lovely beachfront cottage on St. John. It came with its own 42 foot Hans Christian and a captain! It was only $3,000.00"  Per person, lady. PER PERSON.

Hot Mess Mom

Whenever Hot Mess Mom rolls up in her mini-van and slides open the door to get her kids out of their car seats, an avalanche of old toys, empty, used sippy cups, smashed goldfish, crumpled Chick-fil-a bags, Little Golden Books and possibly even the family dog tumbles out onto the pavement. She's a disaster. She wears nothing yoga pants although she has never once been to a yoga class. Her hair is in a scrappy pony tail, she never volunteers, always looks exhausted or possibly hung over and she brings her kids to school with Pop-Tart remnants on their faces and sprinkles in their hair. What? You don't feed your kids sprinkles for breakfast? Hot Mess Mom just doesn't know how you all do it everyday, but she's proud of her Slacker status, just don't expect a play date invite from her. Her house is too messy and she's beat.  Full disclosure - sometimes I am Hot Mess Mom. Sometimes we are all Hot Mess Mom, so don't judge.


Trailer Trash Mom

Trailer Trash Mom is a good 15 years younger than all the other parents and she rolls up in a hot pink Dodge Neon with a Hello-Kitty sticker, a memorial to a dead friend and a parking sticker from the community college that expired three years ago on the back window. She may also have rims on her car and it's difficult to tell which kids are hers and which are her boyfriend's. Trailer Trash Mom wears Marvin the Martian pajama pants everywhere, especially to Wal-Mart which is where she goes after drop-off and yes, dammit, she's leaving her two pit bulls in the car while she shops for Otter Pops and cases of Mountain Dew for the kids. Don't worry, she'll roll the windows down. Her children have names that make them sound like villains in fantasy novels and of course she has them all tattooed on her shoulder. Her other tattoos are misspelled, but it's okay, y'all. Trailer Trash Mom just wants us to know that "U Have to Beleev in Luv." Also, she may be pregnant again but it might be the Red Hot Cheetos catching up to her. Hard to tell.

Hipster Mom

Hipster Mom is simply pretending to be white trash, you know, ironically. She has a trust fund and that Bettie Page 'do she sports? Those bangs are clipped at the hottest salon in town. Her kids are named Harvey and Stella Mae because old people names are super cool. Hipster Mom has always been cool and always ahead of the trends. She misses her heydays back in the 90s when she got her art degree at Bennington and went to Burning Man before it sold out. You have never heard of any of the music she listens to and don't even try to act like you have because Hipster Mom is clinging hard to her hipness and she will prove that you can still have children and wear vintage Smiths tee shirts and boots that lace up to her knees and dammit, Hipster Mom WILL go to Coachella even though she's 40! Stella Mae, don't even dream of liking Justin Bieber because Mama will disown you. Please, listen to Sigur Ros in your car seat instead, darling.

Pinterest Mom

This woman can do literally anything with a Mason Jar. Anything. She has glass beads drilled into her wood fence, puts Epsom salts on her tomato plants, has all of her slow cooker recipes filed into a hand-made, calico covered, laminated file folder that she sewed by hand and she can make a Halloween costume out of some tulle and toilet paper rolls in about ten seconds flat. She makes her own scented play-do for the love of God. Pinterest Mom has a full crafting room in her house. Okay, actually it's her dining room, but come on, she's making so much money from her Etsy Shop that soon she'll be able to buy a twee farmhouse with a shabby chic chicken coop in the yard! Some moms think Pinterest Mom makes the rest of us look bad. I say, go on with your crafting self, Pinterest Mom. How about you be in charge of the classroom crafts and save me a trip to Michael's? Oh and, can I please use your Silhouette cutting machine? That thing looks awesome!! And yes, I have followed all of her boards.

Stripper Mom  

Her sugar-daddy must have bought her that Mustang and somehow she's managed to fit the car seat in there for her daughter Havyn-Allure. There's simply no way that this woman could have gotten up at the crack of dawn and gotten dressed in...that. No way. She had to have just gotten off of work at the club, ran home and picked up her kid to take her to school. I mean, right? Who wears a leather mini and a, what is that thing, a headband? As a...shirt? Her nipples are barely covered, people!! And whenever Stripper Mom shows up in the pick-up or drop-off she nearly causes several fender benders because all the other parents are trying to crane their necks to look at her and perhaps snap some stealth photos of her because no one can believe that anyone, much less the mother of a preschooler, would ever, in a million years, show up at their daughter's school pretty much naked. True story, readers. Only in South Florida.

Yoga Mom

Yoga Mom is not to be confused with Whole Foods Mom. Entirely different animal. Yoga Mom has never been spotted in anything other than Lululemon apparel. Ever. Even when she's not on her way to her latest hour and a half with Bikram. Which is often. Yoga Mom is fit and her boobs are silicone. She's tanned and may have lip injections - either that or she just naturally looks like a platypus. And honestly, screw that Whole Foods BS. Yoga Mom doesn't eat (food? RUFKM?). She's fueled by skinny soy lattes and she experiences food vicariously through her children, upon whom she lavishes fast food kid's meals because this woman doesn't cook. Her Viking range has never been used. The light in Yoga Mom honors the light in you. Unless you piss her off and then she gets mean. Don't mess with Yoga Mom. She's hungry.

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