Monday, December 2, 2013

The Oh no, minnow! Incident

I really, really hate fishing.

Of course, it's Dr. Dad's favorite pastime. And one of Lil Watz's tops too. For about five years, if you searched Lil Watz's real name on Google, there'd be a picture of him and Dr. Dad, holding a giant shad or something that they caught in a competition. I don't understand. I've been exposed to the slimy creatures (the fish, not the male half of my family heh heh) since roughly birth. Fishing is boring and fish are gross.

Making us learn how to properly hold a rod, cast, etc. It's a miracle Lil Watz never got a hook in the eye.
One day in my idyllic angst-ridden teenage years, we went down to the river. Lady Mother claimed her spot on the towel, brandishing her SPF 1000 sunscreen tube like a scepter of uncool-paleness. [Lady Mother would insert that her and Lil Watz are terribly sensitive to sun, and she's gotten sun poisoning on more than one occasion. I say: LAME.] She would read her specifically-for-the-beach trashy mysteries or "bodice-rippers," which I think is a much more to-the-point name for the "Harlequin Romance" genre.

Dr. Dad manned the multiple rods, some for trawling, some with special bait, some fly-fishing (what we are probably practicing in the above picture). Dr. Dad totally RUINED the hip new style of feather hair extensions for me, because I'd been playing with those bright neon strips of feather (and let's be real, probably accidentally super gluing them to my head) since I was a wee babe. I bet Ke$ha's dad made her learning how to whip a rod for fly-fishing when she was a wee stripper babe and she got the fly stuck in her hair.

I sulked around the perimeter of the beach. NO, I didn't want to talk to Lady Mother about my friends and life. NO, I didn't want to cast a line. NO, I don't want to gut a fish. Can Lil Watz and I walk down to the tackle store for another ice cream sandwich? WHY ARE THERE NO CUTE BOYS HERE WHAT IS THE POINT?! Laying out was dangerous because Lady Mother would try to spray me with sunscreen and ask about my personal life; swimming was dangerous because I could get a hook in the eye. Ughhhh family times sucks I hate everything geeeeez.

I'm so glad to be done with my teenage years.

After sufficiently bitching through the entire trip, we finally packed up to drive home. Dr. Dad, that cruel fiend, would not stop at the Burger King to get me a milkshake. What a JERK. Can you believe this family? Cruel and unusual punishment.

We finally got home and I had somewhat of a change of heart. I guess it wasn't that bad... I got a bit of a tan, and I think the college-age cashier winked at me. Also, if I helped unload the car, that meant I would garner enough good-daughter points to get out of the next trip. Or at least get $10 to go to the mall later that night. Clearly, I had great motivations for helping my parents unpack.

I skipped around to the back of the car, suddenly soOoOo cheerful and helpful and productive. Aren't I the best daughter ever? Don't you just want to forget my entire day of complaining and avoiding you and shower me with rewards? Teenage logic is the best!

I carried in probably one beach chair and a towel before I realized carrying things sucked and Lady Mother probably wasn't going to drive me to the mall afterward because she was TIRED and wanted to READ MORE. So selfish. Ugh. Whining: resumed.

"Why do I have to carry stuff / I didn't even use any of this / YOU were fishing so YOU carry in YOUR fishing stuff / I hate you / I didn't want to go to the river anyway / Why can't we have a cool beach house on Topsail / who even goes to the river / you are so lame / I hate everything / wah wah wahhh"

Finally, in his never-ending patience (ha, just kidding, more like to shut me up because I can be REALLY ANNOYING), Dr. Dad consented if I'd carry in one more thing to the garage, I would be done. It was a trip of probably ten feet, since we were parked right in front of the garage. Ugh. Usually I don't negotiate with terrorists, but I GUESS I can do this huge act of service and go so totally OUT OF MY WAY to do this HORRENDOUS TASK.

I dragged myself around to the back of the car, to see a pile of fishing gear and assorted styrofoam containers. Everything smelled and everything was slimy, especially my family. Lil Watz hoisted the heavy styrofoam containers of tackle/wire/line/parts/who knows what else, like a jovial little imp, because he is the best child and I am the mean awful horrible teenager. I set my sights on one decent-sized styrofoam container and prepared for a heavy load of tackle and... knives? I don't know. I yanked it up and suddenly realized it was far too light to be gear...

so light that my yanking far overshot the balance of the contents, flipping the container upside down and right onto my head.

What did I dump on myself? Not hooks, not knives, not wire - though all of those things would have been preferable...


Hundreds and hundreds of minnows, in just enough water to keep them swimming, dumped squarely on my head. I'd grabbed the live bait box.

Minnows down my shirt. Minnows in my hair. Minnows in.. my mouth? I screamed with full bodied-teen rage and flung the empty container across the driveway, jumping and shaking and trying to scrape the minnows off of my suntan-lotion-sticky body... while my jumping crushed them underfoot.

"R.Grace NOOOOO.... SAVE THE MINNOWS..." I could vaguely hear Dr.Dad yelling at me from the confines of my personal hell. I didn't care that this was probably $40 of fresh bait and that he was going fishing again tomorrow - I was covered in slimy fish water, surrounded by dying fish wiggling and hopping around the pavement - every time I stepped or moved, I squashed another one. I was trapped. Trapped and oozing and surrounded by little flailing bodies gasping for air.

Dr. Dad and wunderkid Lil Watz ran up with another styrofoam container filled with water and started scraping the fish off the ground and off my body. My shrieking and wailing brought the neighbors outside (probably less concerned about abuse and more general entertainment). I ran into the house and up the stairs to my shower - minnow bodies flopping off and leaving a trail of fish guts stuck to my feet.

I could not get the water hot enough to burn off the fish slim (though I definitely burned off a few layers of skin, making the angry eczema monster awaken in full rage). I actually did the "Rinse, Repeat" that the shampoo bottle recommends. I punctuated the entire shower with "I HAAAATEEE YOUUU"s I wailed out, to no one in particular, as the rest of my family was still unloading the car / holding hundreds of tiny funerals for the fallen fish.

After scrubbing my flesh raw, my heart softened ever so slightly. Maybe this harrowing ordeal wasn't my family's fault. Maybe togetherness and family time wasn't that bad. Maybe if I showed some repentance, I could still get a ride to the mall after all.

The Watz family is weird and awful and embarrassing, but maybe they aren't really that bad...

I crept downstairs, clean and clothed, with the right mix of remorse but-really-I'm-right on my face. It appeared my family was just finishing unloading the car (whew, at least I dodged carrying all that crap). Lil Watz turned around with a smile - maybe if I could make peace with the "better" sibling, my parents would be more likely to bend to my wishes and take me to the mall...

Lil Watz held out something to me... a peace offering? Wait... why were his hands all red...

"Look, R. Grace! A minnow heart! It popped right out of one of the fish you stepped on! It's still beating!"

I was holding a minnow heart in my hand.

A beating, bloody heart, on my just-washed hands.

I screamed and flung the heart on the pavement. It squashed and subsequently stopped beating, but splurted fish blood on my feet. Lil Watz loudly wailed at I always ruined everything. Brat.

I sprinted away, through the backyard and up the stairs, back into the shower. My parents' laughter drowned out my infuriated yelling and the pounding of the water. I didn't even want to go to the mall anymore, because how could I ever wash off the filth? How could I ever go out in public again? How could my family be so incredibly gross?

The Watz fam really was THE WORST.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

The very worst date ever incident

Sometimes first dates are awkward.

Sometimes first dates are bad.

Sometimes they are the VERY WORST.

A shining pillar of awfulness, that you can forever compare future sushi/italian/ethiopian dinners with unappealing starving artists/office drones/actuaries so no matter how bad, no matter how hopeless you feel the dating scene is in your mid-twenties, at least it wasn't THAT BAD. This one particular date I'm about to describe... it was that bad.

Halfway through college, I found myself suddenly single, after my super-serious-totally-going-to-be-together-4ever relationship dissolved. Although I ended things, I didn't take it well.

Like the protagonist no one likes in a Thomas Hardy novel (I'm looking at you, Tess of the D'Urbervilles), I took to my bed. And moped. And moped some more. And then slept twelve hours. And moped again. I think I cried some, too.

Then I got really bored of being sad, but I couldn't quite snap myself out of it. Since I don't do "moderation," I swung wildly in the opposite direction and bought a one-way ticket to New York City for the next day. I was sooo bohemian and cool, sleeping on a friend's couch in Greenwich Village and wandering the streets by day. I visited the kickass theatre company I'd interned with the summer prior, where I received the best life advice I've ever come across:

"I know you are sad but you look GREAT. You should breakup with people more often. Especially if it brings you here."

I was strong! I was cool! I was empowered! I was bold and fabulous and like sooo New York! I was never, ever going back to North Carolina to face reality!

Just kidding, I had a project due on Tuesday and my partner was furious with me.

So back I went, but with a full heart and empty bank account! Yes to trying new things! Yes to saying yes!

In theory, at least. In reality, I was still crying A LOT and sad A LOT and eating A LOT of frozen yogurt.

A few days later, a guy friend (We will call him... Jean-Claude, because I'm obsessed with the JCVD volvo commercial right now. Those LEGS.) suggested we grab dinner before my play rehearsal so we could catch up.  Nothing signaled "ALERT DATE ALERT." Jean-Claude was twice my age and getting a PhD in some sort of science I can't even pronounce. We'll say it's ADVANCED MATH. He was cool and smart and European (swoon) and "just wanted to cheer me up."

Okay, maybe I should have gotten a hint.

The dinner location was a surprise (red alert! red alert! chances of this being a date = HIGH) but I had four hours of play rehearsal afterward so we only had about an hour. He arrived at my apartment in a button down and nice shoes. I was wearing sweatpants. It dawned on me that this might be a date, but I immediately shook off that ridiculous notion.

We arrived at a little vegan restaurant tucked away in the back of a shopping center. I think it was named Blooming Lotus or Tofu Rivers of Desire, something earthy and creepily too-sexual-for-a-restaurant. Because we were eating around my rehearsal schedule, it was about 4pm and the place was completely DESERTED. The one other person in the restaurant, our waiter, Herman, also happened to be in my acting class, and seemed shocked that people were actually in the building. He explained the specials in excruciating detail, down to the last bean sprout. I bit my lip and examined the fancy plates and multiple forks, suddenly hearing the Akbar-ian shriek in my mind: IT'S A TRAAAP.

I was on a date.

Growing up in the south, I always admired the possum's approach to confrontation: play dead. I decided to keep acting as if I had NO CLUE that this was DEFINITELY A DATE and thankyouheavensabove that I had a strict gotta-be-at-rehearsal deadline.

"Sooo... why'd you choose a vegan restaurant? It's really cool; I never would have thought of something like this." I was praying Herman would come back so I could have him re-explain the appetizers or talk about vegan cheese.

"Well I noticed your eating habits are disgusting so I wanted to teach you a lesson."



To Jean-Claude's credit, my eating habits ARE disgusting. I mostly survive on macaroni and pizza. Jean-Claude had made a similar comment a few months earlier, at my beach birthday party, as I was touting the merits of beanie-weenies (which are freaking amazing, thankyouverymuch). And he is a health nut. But still. We were alone in a restaurant, and he was wearing nice shoes, and he called me DISGUSTING. Also, "teaching someone a lesson" should be reserved for grandpas. Or kinky bdsm things. Neither of which were going on at this dinner.

Herman the waiter magically appeared, saving me from trying to come up with a response. I had him compare and contrast the soups. I asked HIS favorite dish. I asked about our homework and how his final project was coming along. I asked about his family.  Maybe I could stall for another forty minutes. But alas! One other couple had entered and needed to be seated. They were young and in love and looked like they probably loooved zucchini noodles.

I ordered a "loaded baked potato," which was an insult to baked potatoes everywhere, as it contained neither cheese, nor sour cream, nor bacon bits, nor hearty meaty chili.  I think it was a potato FILLED WITH MORE VEGETABLES. What a travesty. It's not like I was living in LA yet, where everything is kale and quinoa (even our vodka!) - there were at least two burger joints within walking distance.

Our waiter left us to pluck our meal from the tender grasp of God's green earth. Trying to keep the conversation off of myself, lest he find anything else wrong with me, I tried to ask a lot of questions about his life. That's a great date thing, right? Be interested, try not to roll your eyes too much? I am NAILING this single thing.

"So... ADVANCED MATH... PhD... that sounds... very intensive. What is your dissertation on? Or is it a comprehensive project sort of thing?" I know nothing about ADVANCED MATH, and if I were to get a terminal degree it would be an MFA in theater, so I have very few touchstones for either academia or science. But I thought my questions belayed the right amount of polite interest, and I might learn something.

"You wouldn't understand. It's very theoretical and requires a complex understanding of quantum mechanics and calculus and -" My eyes began to glaze over as a wave of pretentiousness crashed over me, threatening to drown me with how much smarter/better/healthier he is. I zoned out to the charming lilt of his European accent, pretending it was compliments or something - love may cover all wrongs, but a fancy accent definitely covers a couple on its own.

You may be wondering why I've stayed and put up with this foolishness for so long. The R. Grace of previous stories would have zinged back with a couple witty retorts, accidentally spilled tofu all over herself, and left in a blaze of glory and tahini sauce. I was snarled between two pathetico strands of thought: 1) Maybe this was how normal people dated, and I was overreacting, and 2) Causing a scene and leaving would require a whole lot of effort that I'd rather reserve for moping later. Both of these were incorrect, and I should have just stormed out in full gusto. However, I stayed, paralyzed in my uncomfortableness. Well, paralyzed except for picking at the saddest baked potato sitting in front of me. What the hell was on it? Squash curls? Bean sprouts? It tasted like grass.

Oh no oh no oh no. I had paused too long silently bemoaning my sorry estate. Jean-Claude took it upon himself to move the conversation forward.

"You're double-majoring, right?" Aha! That makes me sound intellectual and well-rounded. Maybe this date is salvageable! 
"I'm getting a degree in journalism and a degree in dramatic art, and I'm in a documentary theater production right now that really gets to combine those two!" Drawing connections between my two fields, showing that I'm actually pursuing them, A++ maybe this date could turn around!

"I don't understand why you're in the arts... it's not like you're benefitting society in any way."




I thought nothing could reawaken the old R. Grace from her heartbreak stupor. I was destined to drift, a shell of a girl, whining and weeping through every froyo place in collegetown. I assumed coming across my true love my rouse me from my haze (jk I'm going to die alone, sadness), but I was wrong. Insulting everything I loved / basically saying I was useless shocked me back into the world of the waking.

I put my fork down. I was done with this baked potato with a side of bullshit.

For the remainder of the dinner, we loudly argued about the merits of culture, human experience, academia (as my first response was, how are YOU benefitting society if you're in school for a decade? Not my best line. I was rusty.), work, money, etc. Our worldviews directly clashed in almost every way. Everything I held dear, he thought was frivolous and wasteful. Everything he valued, I thought was arrogant and self-serving.

I glanced at my phone and realized rehearsal began in five minutes. For those not in the theatery world, being late to rehearsal is unacceptable. Like, 20 lashes and walk the plank unacceptable. I'd just been brutally arguing for twenty minutes; I didn't want to be yelled at for the next twenty. I strongly urged that we get the check and leave now / like right now / like we should already be in the car / let's go / right now / no I don't want dessert / especially vegan dessert / can we go / right now / NOW

To his credit, Jean-Claude did pay for dinner. Considering I had three bites of the award-winning lamest potato, I thought the restaurant should have paid me for a thoroughly underwhelming dinner.

We drove to the theatre in near-silence. I anxiously writhed in my seat, praying that maybe his advanced math skills could time warp us there faster. He slowly pulled up to the curb and I bolted out in ecstasy to finally escape...

"R. Grace?" I turned, thinking maybe I had dropped something in Jean-Claude's car like my dignity, ugh.

"I want to take you on a real date next week."

What was this? A fake date? A clever ruse? A deconstruction of my self worth? And now he wanted to repeat this experience with... more vegetables? Absolutely not. I'd never been so insulted and angry and now I'm definitely late to rehearsal. No! Never! Beyond not every going to happen nope no way no no no....

"uh yeah sure gotta go" and then I sprinted away into the theater.

What? I don't know how to say no.

After rehearsal, I went out with my castmates, reveling in art and whatnot. We stumbled upon on of the best burger places in town / the world. After my blahpotato, I thought I deserved it.

I got a burger. Rare. Extra cheese. With an egg on top.

And it was good.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

NO-maste, or The "Om Mani Padme WHUMP" Incident

Yoga is still a really, really cool thing to do in Los Angeles.

I thought it would have fallen by the wayside, with all the crazy hybrid pilates classes out here. Do you know what Piloxing is? Besides sounding like a weird sex move (totally got piloxed last night), it's a combination of pilates, boxing, and  DANCE. I still don't entirely understand, because I've been too afraid to try it out. The only people I know who pilox (is that a word?) are my super beautiful model friends. Maybe piloxing makes you more beautiful... but I'm more afraid I'll show up and everyone will be all "WHO IS THIS UGLY TROUT WITH NO RHYTHM?"

(Have you ever thrown a fish on a mat and watched it flop around gasping for air? That's me. Maybe that's a visual only my southerner friends will understand. Not sorry, y'all.)

Yoga is wildly more accessible because it's 1) easier to cheat on difficult poses and 2) at least half crunchy granola people, so classes are usually less expensive. However, this being Los Angeles, they gotta make it a hundred time more complicated. Because in LA, exclusivity = more fun.

And thus, Bikram Hot Yoga was born.

Bikram Hot Yoga takes all the things a person tries to avoid when exercising (being hot, being around people, being reminded that you are exercising) and exacerbates them. It's really, really hot. It's really, really crowded. You're soaked in sweat and smelling others' sweat and being cajoled to move in ways that produce more sweat for everyone, thus reminding you constantly that you're really, really working out, in case you're able to forget for a milisecond.


I've so far been able to avoid yoga in LA by being "busy" which is usually code for "napping" or "guiltily eating pizza alone so no one knows my shame."

But I have a secret.

It's not the sweating, or the people, or the Enya that's keeping me away. It's the yoga itself. Yoga tried to kill me once, and it scarred me for life.

I started college with a lot of lofty/ridiculous ideas of "cool college me." For example, I joined like five Christian campus organizations so life would be one big youth group. Then I realized they were either marriage mills (Ring by spring! lol jk BUT SERIOUSLY.) or just boring as toast. But another "cool college me"action was going to Vinyasa Yoga at the student rec center at 8am. Obviously, I was going to be like, so flexible and enlightened and at peace with my strong core and meditation skills.

Also, I liked a boy who talked about yoga sometimes. That might have been a small motivating factor.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I would force myself awake at the cruel hour of 7:30am (which is funny now that I have to be at work by 6am most days. 7:30 is a laughable luxury). I would chomp on some cardboard/protein bar and chug a juice on my solitary trek to the studio, before forcing my body through rapid-succession motions for 45 minutes of dolphins squeaking in the background. Cool college me had a weird idea of "fun."

One morning I woke up at probably 7:55. Oh No(ga)! I contemplated skipping but knew discipline was key to physical and mental health. Also, what if I saw that cute boy at the cafeteria today and had nothing to talk about? THE HORROR. I dashed out the door, still in pajama pants, past the cardboard/protein bar sitting forlornly on my dresser.

By college, I had a pretty good grip on my hypoglycemia [For the record, that's low blood sugar,  NOT a type of cancer. I clarify this because my eye doctor's assistant saw it on my chart and said I "looked pretty good for someone going through chemo." What the hell sort of backhanded compliment is that?]. I knew the basics, like I probably shouldn't eat just Little Debbie Marshmallow Supremes as a meal. I skipped the breakfast bar partially out of lateness but moreso out of taste (cardboard is EFFING GROSS especially first thing in the morning). However, I reasoned that I'd had a huge, cheesy burrito at 1am (I miss you, Cosmic Cantina) that was still probably in my system, and I still had water.

Do you hear the ominous music booming below the dolphin squeaks?

I arrived to class a little shaky, but chugging water like a pro. Morning workout classes were why brunch was invented, probably. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw that cute setting up his mat in the corner. I of course did the logical thing of not actually speaking to him, or looking at him directly, but setting up front and center immediately facing the instructor. I mean, obviously I would impress him with my great yoga prowess and then he would talk to me and we'd go get brunch, and probably live happily ever after. That's how dating works, right?

We started with some floor stretches lead by our very calm, zen instructor. Ah, yes, sitting down, I can do this. Besides mildly dozing during child's pose, I felt extra fuzzy and warm and bendy. TOTALLY impressing this cute boy with my stretching abilities.

Then, we moved on to a lot of upside-down poses. Downward-facing dog. Warrior 3. Downward-facing-dog-peeing-on-a-fire-hydrant. The usual. Ahh, I was doing great. So calm, so focused, so much blood rushing to my head.

We were serenely encouraged to slowly transition to "mountain pose" (aka just standing up), stacking our vertebrae one at a time. I still don't know what that means. Like our spine is one of those child's ring toys? My vertebrae, at least, are all connected (poorly, crookedly, but still in one piece), so I just jumped straight up. I am mountainous, I am strong, I am... unable to see?


I am collapsed on the floor.

I am sooo uncool right now.

I opened my eyes to my totally calm, zen, yogi FREAKING OUT. Am I alright? Do I have a concussion? Should he get the nurse? An EMT? He was definitely harshing everyone else's mellow.

I tried to laugh it off and said I just needed some water, and to carry on. I think I also started to say I was overcome by enlightenment or something, but trailed off because I forgot where I was. I semi-consciously comforted my yoga instructor, who looked to be near tears, and picked up my stuff to go to the hallway water fountain. In the hallway, I leaned on the wall to steady myself. Then, I slid down the wall to get a little more stability. Then I kind of just laid on the floor next to my water bottle. Close enough.

Somewhere in the fog, I managed to call my lady mom, probably to say my goodbyes and reaffirm that Lil Watz couldn't take over my bedroom even if I passed on.

"R. Grace WHAT ARE YOU DOING. Get up. Go to the cafeteria. Get food. Now." Lady mom wisely realized that my fog-brain could only process short directives. I weakly tried to argue.

"My stomach hurts. I think I just need to sleep. On the floor. Right now."

I should have been on the debate team.

She forced me, entirely through three-word-or-less sentences, to get up and cross the courtyard to the cafeteria. I think I argued with her about wether or not ice cream was an acceptable breakfast food. I settled on an omelet and some fruit. With each bite, I slowly regained brainpower and also the ability to feel humiliation. What had I done? Who had seen me?!

I ran into that cute boy later in the day. He said hi and I immediately launched into some stammer-y explanation about the events earlier in the day. He looked at me, baffled.

"Oh, R. Grace, I don't do yoga in class. I do it outside in the park by myself."

I was briefly relieved that I hadn't embarrassed myself in front of him (and thusly, anyone who mattered) in class that morning. Following that realization, I had embarrassed myself just now, with my long story, retelling everything in graphic detail.

So obviously I never went back to yoga again.

Go on with your yoga, my dear Angelinos. While you're cultivating superpowered yeast infections (yoga pants and intense sweat? HELLO.) and climbing the rungs to self-awareness, I will find my own path to inner peace and bliss.

And it most likely involves pizza and air-conditioning.