Wednesday, July 30, 2003

WE'RE getting into the monsoon season (ofiicially -- it's supposed to start sometime in June, but the rains haven't come until recently), hauling the temperatures back down into the 90s, although the humidity isn't making that as much of a blessing as it should be. The change has had a strange effect on my moods as well -- two days ago, I was feeling like I wanted to take a hot bath with a razor blade and a toaster, but yesterday and today I've been feeling like a million bucks. So the job hunt continues, and I'm just wrapping up the immense application for the position in Louisiana, and preparing cover letters for other positions around the country. Meanwhile, I'm still in the hunt for a few local positions to keep me occupied and in the archaeological ballpark while I'm looking for jobs out of state. Wish me luck. Back to work.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Below, I offer tomorrow's Toastmasters speech in its entirety. Revel, please.

"Snobbery on a Budget" To be delivered with a wine glass full of Welch's, and with tongue lodged in cheek.

Let’s talk about snobbery. A bad word? No. A good word with a bad rap. Somehow, it’s gotten all wrapped up with those negative connotations of treating people badly, of condescension, of believing oneself to be fundamentally better than others based on education or upbringing or social standing or just maybe divine appointment – you are rabble, I am cultured. Me one, you zero. I win.

And, of course, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. This isn’t that kind of snobbery. The kind of snobbery I’m referring to is a refusal to compromise one’s tastes – an insistence on the fine things in life, no matter how pervasive the low-brow in our society. The inane sit-com, the hard rock concert, the intelligence-insulting commercial, the monster truck rally. A denial of those mediums as acceptable forms of entertainment and social discourse, a steadfast demand for intellectual gratification, for heartfelt, engaging art, for cuisine prepared by talented hands – this is the real snobbery. And it is open and available for all to revel in.

Yes, I speak of a snobbery of the cheap, the destitute student, and the hopelessly underpaid. As with God Himself, Tucson as a city believes in the sanctity of free will and provides the opportunity and resources to make one’s own decisions regarding the cultivation of character and the establishment of an identity. Money is closely identified, but finally incidental to, the pursuit of high culture and a lifestyle awash in the niceties that the Old Pueblo has to offer. Those wealthy citizens that hemorrhage money in exclusive resorts and overpriced restaurants only prove their true shortcomings as wastrels and chumps.

First, the adage that “the clothes make the man” is nonsense. The man chooses the clothes as an accessory, an accentuating veneer. The frugal snob finds fashion at TJ Maxx in the form of $10 Perry Ellis khakis and Ralph Lauren oxfords. Finish with a 99 cent tie from the Salvation Army – cycles in fashion almost ensure a width and pattern commensurate with contemporary styles.

Next, the classic libation of the true snob: wine. I’ve heard that sophisticated palates, when in a rare mood of candor, are unable to distinguish a $20 bottle of wine from a $200 bottle. I’d advise the discerning, economical connoisseur to find a quality $20 merlot (and thus a virtual $200 bottle) in the form of a $2.99 French table wine from Trader Joe’s. Granted, this takes some extensive investigation and much patience when sampling the prodigious variety there – indeed, some Trader Joe selections taste like concoctions using only grape skins and alum. But at $3 a bottle, you can afford to experiment!

Or pay the $5 to participate in the Beverage House’s bi-weekly wine tastings, complete with informally catered offerings from fine restaurants like Johnathan’s Cork. On such occasions, one can sample (and perhaps even make a light meal of) the well-seasoned chicken and prime rib, appreciate and become euphoric on the generous libations, and promptly depart without committing any further funds to the occasion.

Classic cinema lies no farther away than the shelves of the public library, and costs nothing more than the toleration of the librarian’s supercilious air. Also on Thursdays, La Placita Village presents celebrated films on a medium-sized screen, with acceptable sound, and offers popcorn free of charge. Suggested donation is $3, but that is merely a suggestion, and the viewer is free to use his or her own discretion.

Other inexpensive luxuries abound in Tucson. Shop at Anthony’s or Head East Smoke Shop for cheap seconds – tasty cigars that contained insignificant defects which prevented them from bearing the names of their well-known manufacturers, and are marked down to salvage the fine tobacco. Well-acted theater can be enjoyed at Randolph Park for the aforementioned price of “donation.” Ladies, cruise the Macy’s cosmetics counter to schedule a free make-over, but leave your sense of obligation at home. Or ask at Gadabout to act as a guinea pig for their masseurs-in-training, who practice their craft at a fraction of the price that they will soon command once their training is complete. Or if your mind feels starved, bask in the bottomless wisdom of the university professors at one of their free lectures, and converse at your next luncheon about the basket-weaving techniques of the Sedentary-period Hohokam.

The key is to refuse to succumb to the lure of the mediocre in Tucson – no Denny’s, no Riunite, no summer movie blockbuster, no Must-See TV that has you saying, “oh, I won’t be needing this (mimes lifting head off neck and putting it aside).” Enjoy your life as a snob, especially a budget-conscious snob. Keep the green in your wallet, and out of the hands of the overpaid restaurateurs and resort mavens. And remember to keep that nose in the air.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Janine and I are getting restless. We grow weary of being slow-roasted by the desert sun, and besides, I don't live anywhere for more than 5 years. Never have, never will. Nearly 5 years ago, I threw everything I had in the back of a Chevy Celebrity and left my nifty beach house in Florida for Tucson. Now I'm looking for jobs all across the country, and hope to up stakes and mosey along before the September 17th anniversary. Except I have to think of a similarly cool, possibly less Kerouacian way of moving. U-Hauls are lame, and my accumulated stuff won't fit in the back of a Chevy anymore, let alone a Jetta. One of the positions I'm aiming for is in Baton Rouge, and I think the idea of having a cajun accent is freakin' great! Of course, considering I got out of West Virginia without picking up the twang, I should count my blessings that my inflexions are pretty stable.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Spent last night browsing through a freakin' library of possible wedding invitations, and concluded that the people who design these things must be soul-less denizens of a sterile room in the basement of a Lisa Frank building. So Janine and I are going to try our hands at designing our own this weekend, and I'm wide, wide open to suggestions. Actually, if I use anyone's idea in the final invitation, I'll send that person the ear of the first person at our wedding to say anything snide, inappropriate, or confrontational. In which case, the contributor may be receiving a human ear necklace.

Anyway, the birthday was a blast -- Janine drove me out to Temecula, California for some wine tasting and some driving around, and we ate the first night at a turn-of-the-century-bank-turned-restaurant in the historical district, renamed from "Bank" to "Bank of Mexican Food." And I quickly realized after visiting a few wineries that the narrow, windy road linking the vineyards was filled with hundreds of other driving wine tasters, and thus was probably one of the most dangerous roads in the state to be driving on.

Afterwards, we drove through LA to Santa Barbara to see my friend Tracey, who I hadn't seen since I left Taiwan in '96. She looked great, her fiance was a really nice guy, and my long, lost shitzu (Dogmeat) was fat and happy. We caught up, went to a drag show, and I didn't even see the words kareoke the whole time I was there.

And on the way back from LA to Phoenix, we swung through the Joshua Tree National Park and Janine and I took black and white U2 shots of each other looking pensive and way cool with the Joshua trees in the background. Made up for a day of ass-numbing driving marathon and losing a damn hubcap somewhere west of Blythe, California (2003 prize for Most Ridiculous Misnomer, Small Town Category).

Good birthday. Next year: surfing the Ganges.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Good God, I can't seem to get the Halo Benders' "Don't Touch My Bikini" out of my head!

Anyway, had the best birthday in years (thanks for asking!), much better than last year, when I was roundly scolded at a seedy kareoke bar for causing too much feedback while belting out Bowie's "China Girl" for a hostile crowd that almost certainly wanted me to stop. Actually, I believe that to be the nadir of my entire birthday-having career.

This year took a dizzying, Clinton-era-stock-market shot upwards. But that'll have to wait. Got work to do.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Updated my website over the weekend, mostly with particulars about my wedding plans. Also had one of those transcendent moments on my balcony this evening, with a cigar, a glass of wine, and a book of 20th century history. Ahhh, the simple pleasures of the intellectual snob.

Also ate a big honkin' half-pound cheeseburger at a local hayseed bar. On holiday weekends, anything goes! Hope you all had a good one!

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

My resolutions are coming along nicely (see 2 posts ago for details) -- I've lost 2 pounds on an experimentally excessive naturalistic diet based on the Harvard Med revised food pyramid. What's great about the Harvard guys is that they don't appear to be writing pop-jargon-laced 85-step, spoon-fed for the lowest common denominator, health fad best seller bullshit. Lots of whole grains. And beer is made from grain, so I'm set. Janine was looking into the Atkins guy's diet a while back, and that guy's made me fearful of any diet book writer that stands to gain anything from their work besides plaudits from nutritionists. Breakfast: coffee, pork chop, cigarette. Lunch: 72 oz steak, fries, chocolate malt, no vegetables. Dinner: 2 rocks crack, 8 hot dogs, live gerbil.

And I'm still working on seeing Sunseri -- apparently Sofia cancelled her latest show due to a bout of vertigo. Too bad -- sounds like it'd be a fun show. It'd be like Janice Joplin's last show, over and over again. "Some say looove -- thud -- it iiiiis a riiiver -- thud" And as for Dan's show, I've taken steps to ensure my presence. I signed up for Travelocity's e-mail service, where you enter up to five destinations, and they e-mail you when tickets there drop below a certain price. I'll be there with money left over for toast and squirt guns. Wait, what show are you doing again, Dan?

Must sleep. Morpheus beckons. The Greek one, not Larry Fishburne.