Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Philanthropy Trilogy- Part 1


Liar. Also, Karate is no match for Ninjas. Idiot. 

Will the spare change you give a homeless person only go to drugs and alcohol? Is the charity you just wrote a check to in front of a CVS a legitimate charity? Is it still “giving” to an organization if said organization gives you a gift for giving to its organization and said gift increases in value as your gift to the organization increases in value? Great, great questions. This is the constant battle we as young people face as we enter the world of philanthropy. I think I, and hopefully most of us have determined that is does not matter. Your karma points increase in direct proportion to your selfless giving. So, to celebrate “December: The Rise of the Giver,” I present my take on Philanthropy.

Please do not let my definition of philanthropy in this trilogy be confused with just being a decent human being. Being a decent human being is the necessary foundation for Philanthropy. Helping an old lady off the ground after a nasty spill does not make you charitable. Giving the deaf, one-armed, elderly man at McDonald’s the last 16 cents from the bottom of your pocket that he needs to cover his Big Mac, again does not make you charitable. Congratulations. It makes you not a monster.  (Also, philanthropists do not post about their charitable work in their facebook status. Just to be clear.)

Part 1: You Gotta Get Over Yourself

It was a Saturday morning in December. I had made, yet another obligatory trip to Trader Joes and after parking, I opened my car door and on the ground, right there in the parking lot was a tightly folded $1 bill. I let out the “Aaaaawww YEEEEAAAAAH” that happens when I find money. (Only silver(s) and paper excite me anymore. I don’t care if its heads up.)  I thought about all the things I might do with this Universe Dollar. It was a smaller list than I felt should be in proportion to my finder’s celebration, but I put it in my purse, in a special compartment so I could do something special with my good fortune. As I walked around Trader Joes looking for $1 items that I could say the universe bought me, I thought, ‘This is stupid. It’s the Holidays. I’m gonna wait for that perfect moment and I’m gonna give this dollar to someone who needs it more than I.’ (I know. OMG. You’re so great, Andrea. You’re giving away a DOLLAR! Pssshh. Come down off your high pony.) But, I liked the idea of holding that $1 on the universe’s behalf until the right person came along to take it.

Sure enough, the following evening, I was fresh out of work, still in my uniform and had run to Target to stock up on toiletries and stocking stuffers. As I exited, I saw these two young girls in Santa hats and red jackets that read “LA Children.” They were finding no luck as they were lifting their money buckets toward passing shoppers, “Would you like to help the Children of Los Angeles have a Christmas?!?” As I approached I thought of my dollar. ‘This is it! I want to help the children!’ I thought. I walked closer and reached in to my purse, into the special compartment and felt around for my Universe Dollar. Just as I felt it between my fingers and lifted my head from my search one of the girls called toward me saying, “Ma’am!” (‘Ma’am?’ Thanks, ya little bitch.) “OH, Ma’am! Heh, heh, heh.” She laughed to herself, “Why…  Are ya searchin’ in that bag for your SMILE?!?” (For background on why this is was so upsetting to me, please refer the blog post entitled, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” Short version: Smile jokes never produce smiles and make perfectly innocent people look stupid. Shorter version: I HATE THEM.)

Smile. Only if you feel like it. 
I straightened up. My jaw stiffened and I held my breath. My eyes glazed over and with the dollar clenched in my hands, I kept walking, ignoring the futureless brat. As I turned a corner, I collapsed over and with my hands on my knees, took a few deep breaths. ‘WTF?!? Why do people think the tricky smile jokes work!?!!’ I thought. ‘And why is a joke best fit for Mr. Rogers’s mom being made by a teenager in 2012?!?!’ After the initial shock wore off, I realized the universe must be challenging me, to react differently this time to the “Smile conundrum.” I just couldn’t overcome it the last time. I never gave to the Red Cross that day in August and guess what? Hurricane Sandy. That’s what. This time I was NOT going to let the children suffer. I was going to get over myself and be the bigger person. I turned back around the corner. I walked toward that girl and her partner and,with a face I call my “John Wayne,” I silently placed my Universe dollar in her money bucket. Oh, I placed it firmly. She said, “Thank you!” I stood there, staring at her for a moment. Then, I reached in my wallet and I pulled out a regular Andrea dollar and again, silently placed it firmly in her bucket. “Oh, uh thanks again… ma’am.” I nodded and I walked proudly away. No point was to be proven by me denying LA’s Children $2 because I think rampant smile jokes are the reason the world might actually end tomorrow (12/21/12.)  But, there I was. Over myself. Ready to grow as a philanthropist. Also, I had probably creeped that girl out with my silence. Bonus. 

If you’ve got it, give it. Selflessly. Without question or expectation. If you learn a little something about yourself along the way, you’re lucky. Very lucky. (Secret: If I ever see that girl out of her Red LA Children's jacket, she'll never smile again.)

This is fake. Probably. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Top 10 most BADASS Christmas Songs

I know that enjoying Christmas traditions aren’t for everyone, the music especially. I think we can all admit it can be pretty corny. It isn’t exactly the manliest of men or the burliest of bitches that want to light a candle and turn up Josh Grobin’s exquisite version of ‘Oh, Holy Night.’ I don’t know a single Badass Mofo that would throw on a furry mitten muff to go wassailing ‘Jingle Bells’ for the neighbors. But, hey! Don’t fret fellow Badasses! Though Christmas may seem to be a tradition frozen in time, the fact of the matter is, it has been slowly evolving.  It seems that humans at all levels of “HARDCORE” can be in on the Christmas celebrations, er, I mean, Christmas Ragers. So, I have compiled a list of the TOP 10 MOST BADASS CHRISTMAS SONGS. Aw yeah.

That’s right. The world’s most badass fake 70s heavy metal band put out a pretty killer Christmas song. It’d be higher up on the list, but…. Spinal Tap isn’t a real band…. But… If they aren’t a real band, then how is our 10th most badass Christmas song ‘Christmas with the Devil’ by Spinal Tap? Quite the mind fuck.

The original punk rock band took a break from being so punk long enough to make a Christmas song. The song is ok, the video is cheesy, but the Ramones’ status as Punk Rock Legends lands them on the list.

 Slade is a British Glam Rock band from the 70s that influenced the likes of The Clash, Cheap Trick, and Motley Crue.  Fun fact though, their number one selling hit was, you guessed it, a badass Christmas song.

This song would be higher on the list if Chip Davis wasn’t so obsessed with synthesizers and tambourines. But for its sheer epicness, it is badass in my heart.

This song was originally made famous by its performance on SNL by writers Horatio Sanz and Jimmy Fallon. The SNL performance, that also included Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan, was hilarious, but the song wasn’t quite badass until Julian Casablancas covered it with a rock twist. Though in pictures he appears to be a sad lesbian, his voice is quite commanding. It gives one of my favorite “Get excited, it’s Christmas” songs that extra edge.

Snoop spits the truth in our number 6. Hip-hop bitches be wearing Santa outfits n’ sheee. “Snoop Dogg made a song? Oh, you know it’s on the list!”

Alice Cooper is the quintessential badass. He also resides in my hometown, Scottsdale, AZ. He also, after seeing a dance performance of mine (his wife is a dancer and choreographed for a show in which I danced for years,) shook my hand a told me I reminded him of his daughter. This information is not pertinent to the description of this song, but I’m just saying, I personally know he is the only one who can make ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’ a badass song. Thanks, Alice.

Leave to Eazy E to turn the spirit of Christmas into a blow job. Hey! It’s Christmas. To each his own. “Ring dem bells, Ring dem bells, she’s taking it all the way!” Uh huh.

With a voice that is the epitome of Metal and guitar riffs/solos reminiscent of Metal’s birth, Ronnie James Dio, brings ‘God Rest Ye’ to life. Fun fact: He was only 5’4.” Not very metal.

Reminiscent of great melodic death metal, this is, without a doubt, the most badass of the Christmas songs. From the massive orchestra, the melodic beginning, the epic guitar solos, to the big, fantastical finish, this song keeps it classical while producing head bang inducing riffs all the way through to the end where you feel the need to exclaim at the top of your lungs, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!” as if you’ve just blown your Holiday load. It. Feels. Incredible.

Good ol’ Rod gets a shout out for taking this Holiday classic and making its Rape themes clearer to all. Let this be a lesson to you ladies, Date Rape doesn’t take a break during the Holiday season.

I hate to say this, Wham, but this is the silliest of Christmas songs.

Sorry Bob Dylan, old rockers never die, but they should definitely retire before this point. “He laughs this way, Ho, Ho, Ho.” (Is he unconscious being puppeteered by the P.A.’s? Like a ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ thing? It’s probable.)

This guy spent hours making this video. RE…. SPECT…. (I know that’s Pantera, but it was fitting.)

Merry Christmas, fellow Badasses! You can walk a little taller this Holiday season and celebrate with family and friends knowing your Man/Woman cards are still valid. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Holiday Pickle

This time of year, my roommates (boyfriend/cat) and I constantly argue about the importance our household will place on the holidays. I would like to place an extreme amount of importance by adding extra decorations, food, family, friends, and fun. They would like to place little (cat) to none (boyfriend.)

Nothing says "Christmas" like a Keanu Reeves meme. 

What my roommates don’t understand is that I am a girl who trick-or-treated until I was 19. Mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie run through my veins. I (honestly) thought Santa Clause was real well into my double digits. (I made it work somehow in my mind… i.e. He had helpers impersonate him. His sleigh was more like a rocket that had technology NASA didn’t yet.) Boyfriend says the holidays are used exploit us as consumers and “its disgusting” and all that. He also, as an agnostic, LOVES to call into question my religious beliefs whenever I’m like, “BUT IT’S CHRISTMAS!” I grew up religious, but it’s not those values that call to me around October. It’s the traditions. I’ll admit, I spend more money around this time of year, but it’s because I want to surround myself with the sights and sounds of the season and I want to give gifts that show people that I’m thinking about them. SOMETIMES, it gets a little stressful financially. And yes, people like Nicole Westbrook (See video below) happen and try to ruin Thanksgiving forever and it makes you sick. And yes, the ENDLESS car commercials where wife/husband receives car for Christmas but are disappointed because they REALLY wanted the car the commercial is advertising, are just the absolute worst and are a complete disconnect from most of the world.  AND Yes, Black Friday is a ploy to get us to spend more money than most of us planned and they’ve actually begun to mark prices back up (Best Buy) on Black Friday just to make even more money off of those who are “eager” enough to shop that day. BUT, some people actually enjoy the challenge and have made it a family activity and some people actually save a lot of money on an item they might not otherwise be able to afford. So…  hey, to each his own. I personally, will never participate because I don’t want to die being trampled by Wal-Mart Monkeys and because I like sleep and alcohol too much to wake up early/stay awake that long. And, quite frankly, I’ve never been asked to go.

"I didn't get the vintage day scarf I wanted."
Here’s what I’m saying: Religious or not and no matter what Holiday you celebrate, the weather’s cozy, the lights are pretty, the festivities are abundant, family time is at an all time high, eating is mandatory, and you get to give and RECEIVE presents! SO, all you critics better let the F up on all your “anti-establishment” research and learn to enjoy yourselves because if I am subject to one more story of an obscure example of extreme consumerism or anti-capitalist/anti-religious rants, I will personally rip the lensless, black-rimmed glasses right off your face and take that AND your ironic Elmo shirt, put it in my toilet, and I will take my morning shit on them.  And all you crazy consumers better not max out your credit cards for your ungrateful children or give a single gift card this year to take the easy route, because, guess what? That says, I had to get you a gift card because I didn’t care enough to think too hard about you. (That’s right. And no, not even if the gift card is for a massage. Do that shit yourself! It will mean more! Oh, a gift card for the movies? NOPE! Make a movie for someone and tell me they won’t talk about that for many, many Christmases to come!) Enjoy yourselves. Donate your time to someone. Do something nice for someone. Make something for someone. Make a special dinner. Watch a special movie. Do it all with the people you love and Fucking ENJOY YOURSELVES!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from all of us here at Andrea Chesley: Blogger. 

PS. Try not to be too upset this happened..... 

Just be happy these things did happen....

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Planes, Trains, and Birth Control Pills

When you’re a baby and you throw a hissy fit, it’s usually because you’re hungry or tired and everybody gets it. When you’re a kid and you throw a hissy fit, it’s usually because you’re in trouble and are learning that you won’t get every toy you want and everybody gets it. When you’re a teenager and you throw a hissy fit, it’s usually chalked up to those pesky pubescent hormones and the need to defy authority and everybody gets it, they’re annoyed by it, but they get it. When you’re an adult and you throw a hissy fit, you’re a woman…. And it fucking sucks.

Ok, you’re not ALWAYS a woman, I know there are plenty of emotional males. Jason Mraz and Christain Bale are proof of that, but can’t we all agree it sucks to have lady hormones? I mean, lets face it, we all have our “crazy” story. Like that time we maxed out our credit card at Forever 21 because it was the only thing that felt right, or that time we ate pizza and drank Mountain Dew until we threw up and then ordered Chinese food because we were hungry, or that time you were mad at your boyfriend  for talking to his ex-girlfriend and so you searched through his phone, found her number, got drunk and called her to tell her about how great your lives are together, only she doesn’t answer so the only option is to show up where she works to SHOW her how great you’re doing and you accidentally slash ONE of her tires and the cops ruin everything!?  All our lives, men have called us crazy and irrational and the reality is, that’s not who we are. As humans, our brains all work the same. Women are even more logical and rational and intelligent than men….  UNLESS our hormones are involved, which unfortunately, seems to be at least ¼ of our lives.

This last week, (JUST before my period, of course) after 3 days of depression, outbursts, and the decision to move to Montana (that I later reneged on,) I sat my boyfriend down and explained to him, that I hated to admit it because I didn’t want this to be his victory for every future fight, but MAYBE we had been fighting the last few days and MAYBE I threatened to move his things out and MAYBE I threw the contents of my purse all over our living room in an outburst BECAUSE  I was……. PMS-ing. This was so hard for me to admit. I mean, I’ve known for a long time that other girls had PMS, but as you mature and try to gracefully enter your thirties, you start to really notice in yourself the difference between normal and bat-shit crazy and even YOU, as a strong and intelligent, talented woman,  start to run out of ways to defend your behavior. He smiled and smugly said, “I know.” ………… I went nuts. After a rant I don’t remember, I ran into my room and cried. 

My cat didn’t know what to do and neither did I.   There’s no talking yourself out of bat-shit. Your hormones have you convinced that life really isn’t what you thought it was yesterday…. Or 3 minutes ago. After I came to my senses (because, to my dis-credit, it happens quickly,) I came out and he laughed as he said, “I can’t believe that after all this time that we’ve been together that you think I don’t know what THIS is.”

“OK, but I don’t want you to think that every time I’m upset, it means I’m hormonal and you automatically have the upper-hand.” I said and then admitted, “I don’t know how to deal with how I feel sometimes. Today, I hate our bed sheets and I don’t know why. Today, I almost introduced myself to the neighbors just to ask if I could move all your things into their house while you were gone just to give you a good scare when you got home. You know? So you’d know I was serious about breaking up with you. I know that’s nuts, but it felt so right! I hate myself.”

“I don’t pretend to know what you go through. I bet it sucks because, right now, you really suck. But, I love you.” He said.

We left the conversation unresolved. And I’ve got news for you, there’ll never be resolution. We take "medicine" to "treat" the natural horror that is our period. We take pills and shots and insert strange springy devices directly into our vaginas to prevent our ovaries from doing what nature intended them. There are male politicians that are trying to make laws based on the things we do and don’t do to our bodies because we have been given the “oh so amazing” gift of child birth. And as women, we will spend the rest of our lives apologizing for our hormones because, let’s be honest, we do some really messed up shit. Well…. It fucking sucks. It really does. I’ve been a feminist since I could walk but I will not support a HILLARY 2016 ballot unless she can provide evidence that all her hormone producing lady parts have been removed or have stopped working!! (She’d have control over the drones for crying out loud! Imagine if she had been President back in 1992 instead of Bill.... Monica Lewinsky's "disappearance" would still be unresolved, meanwhile there's a very unhappy intern in a hole in Guantanamo Bay.)

Ok, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. Go Hillary! But, as I sit here, taking the first pill of yet, another month of birth control, I am sickened at even the name “birth control.” And, Quite frankly, I’m fet up. I know that ovaries are what make the world go ‘round. I know that our lady genetic make-up allows us to be the empathetic, emotionally aware, beautiful beings we are. It is, however, like being on a roller coaster ride that you weren’t quite tall enough for. You move around too much in the seat and are relieved, a little dizzy, and thankful for your life when the ride is over. But, you’re proud of yourself for doing it because at least half of the population will never know what it feels like. Being girl is never boring, but it makes our job as human beings a lot harder. If you've ever looked at yourself in the mirror and called yourself "a fat loser," you don't mean it. Its likely the opposite of the truth, so don't trust it.

I sometimes wish I was single and alone, with no family so I’d never have to apologize for my behavior, but that’s not a possibility (because, at least from what it sounds like, I’m so loveable) so for now, I apologetically and reluctantly deal with the repercussions of my “lady-like” behavior. You’re welcome for children, World.

And what does this post have to do with its namesake, the movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles?” Nothing, but I FUCKING LIKE HOLIDAY MOVIES, ALRIGHT?! J

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Junior High Mascot: A Tween Comedy

I coulda been somebody.... I coulda been this lady. 
My parents were great but could never afford to truly foster any of my talents. (This is not necessarily a complaint because it inspired me to work even harder and follow my dreams and blah, blah…) BUT… I started a lot of classes that I was successful in but inevitably had to quit because of financial reasons. It is my parents’ financial irresponsibility that is the reason I am not a Black belt in the art of Karate today. I taught myself the piano after only a month of lessons. I’ve KILLED it in some very popular LA Karaoke bars after only a few voice lessons when I was 12. I went on to dance in a professional dance company after only a couple tap classes when I was 5. I’m not bragging. This was after years of failure and lots practice later on in life. My pre-teen years were spent an awkward, talentless mess. So, it was really no surprise to anyone, including myself, when I didn’t make the Junior High Cheer team.

All of my friends made the team. It was awful. After a tearful inquiry, the cheer coach assured me I was very close to making the team. (Yeah, right. I’ve been a cheer coach. You can’t just say, “you really fucking suck, honey. Give it up.”) But I believed it. I was still devastated. The cheer team was my ticket to the “cool” table in the cafeteria. The cheer team would’ve prevented the REALLY vivid memories of being called things like, “Dyke” and “Orange Heels.” (“Orange Heels” came about after a combination of sweaty feet and a pair of cheap, imitation Birkenstocks. Long story, but my heels are fine now.) I would have to sit on the sidelines alone while all of my friends basked in the glory that is a “cheer uniform.”  What was I going to do? I was already grade A, 7th grade nerd and not making the cheer team made it official.

I mean, everyone thought this guy was cool. 
I went home that day really upset. My mom, being the great mom she was, dried my tears and told me that I had “more talent in my little finger than most kids had in their whole body,” etc. and that I should focus on something else. But I was too smart for that speech.  I wanted to be popular. That night, I conjured up a plan that would change my life forever. I figured out a way to be with my friends on the court and hang with the guys without actually being on the cheer team. I could be…… the MASCOT!...... Why not? We didn’t have one. We were the wildcats. We had school spirit. The other schools had mascots. I was convinced this was my ticket to cool. I was so….. so smart.

I brought my proposal to the cheer coach the next day. She looked at me with a furrowed eye-brow that, at the time, I thought it meant she was thoughtfully considering what the amazing benefits of having a mascot would be, but now I know she was showing great concern for my 12 year-old self-esteem. “Are you sure?” She asked. “We don’t even have a wildcat costume.”

The original pattern for the Tigerbear. I'm pretty sure. 
“My mom can make it!” I exclaimed. (MY MOM CAN MAKE IT? What the hell was I thinking? What kid pleads to be the mascot? Whatever. You live, you learn.) My coach reluctantly agreed.  I ran home to tell my mom the great news. She was incredibly supportive and so off we went to by the “wildcat” pattern and the fabric. We worked all weekend. We were so proud of the costume. It had a large furry belly and striped fabric. It had a cap with furry, short ears that exposed my face.  The mittens were made of fur entirely and the shoe covers had the stripes. In retrospect, it looked less like a Wildcat and more like a Tigerbear. (I invented that animal. Don’t take it.)  But I didn’t care. This was my ticket to the Cheer team. Everyone was going to think I was sooooo cool.

I was nervous at the first game. I realized that I really didn’t know how to be a mascot. Mascots did flips and lead cheers. I just sort of ran around and clapped a lot. I wasn’t asked to go to any of the practices, so I didn’t know any cheers.  It wasn’t until 4 games in I even began to clap over my head. You know, to get the crowd pumped. I didn’t care. I got to go to every game AND every away game. But then, I started to get made fun of…... A LOT. I started to realize that running around in front of your adolescent peers in a home-made Wildcat costume was kind of embarrassing. I thought about quitting, but at this point, I was committed and I was NOT a quitter. So, I embraced it. I made a couple younger kids laugh at the games and that felt pretty good. So, I started to get really silly in my classes. Wearing a costume AND being funny seemed to make more sense to everyone. My grades started to slip because I was more concerned about my next silly escapade than my next test. (As cliché as it sounds…)  I wasn’t even THAT funny. I just did silly stuff. People laughed. I wore a costume. This was now my thing. After two years of mascoting, I hadn’t really improved, but I got voted “Class Clown” my 8th grade year. (Of course I did, right? Tweens seem to really go for the obvious.) I would really have loved some title like, “Best Legs” or “Most Fashionable,” but, how could they see it underneath the costume?

The costume, I’ve realized, was just a mask for my insecurities. You know, “If you’re gonna make fun of me, I’ll give you something to make fun of me about!” I learned a lot though. It motivated me to work harder than everyone else to get what I wanted. I learned to be funny, to be myself, and that I never needed to settle for just being the “mascot.”

To this day, the sound of mittens clapping together makes me cringe a little and brings me right back to the court.

 Go TigerBears!

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Soda Jerk

I’ve never been a heavy drinker. I think I’ve had a pretty average drinking career. I started when I was in high school and drank the shitty keg beer and the jungle juice at house parties. When I was 21 and working in a restaurant, nights out bar hopping were a regular occurrence. I went through my mid-twenties, “Sex and the City” phase and drank only Cosmopolitans. Shortly after, I graduated to a cocktail followed by a couple glasses of wine, all of which were chosen carefully and discussed at the dinner table. But, I enjoyed all of these as luxuries, a reward for a hard day at school or at work. Lately, I’ve been going through a phase (or maybe I’m just getting old, but for now, let’s call it a phase) where I just don’t feel like drinking. Ever. It is partially because the hangovers are getting worse and it’s expensive to drink all time but, I also struggle with the feeling that I don’t “deserve” a drink because I haven’t really succeeded in the acting industry… yet. (I will get really wasted the night I win an Oscar. Like, puke in Elton John’s bathroom, proposition Ryan Reynolds for his sperm any way I can get it, kind of wasted.) But, for now, I’ve let up on the drinking. There’s no need. Coincidentally, since I’ve cut down, I have more energy, the dark circles under my eyes are disappearing, and I started a blog. This finds me missing the days spent mulling over which beer to try and which wine will pair well with the night’s dinner. So, I’ve been trying different Root beers, Cream Sodas, Sarsaparillas, and Ginger beers to curb the need to be a connoisseur of some sort. As it turns out, there are a lot of people out there who put a lot of time and effort into the science and art of making these tasty drinks. Finally, a non-alcoholic vice I can be a snot about.

I decided to stop by the BevMo in Pasadena on my way home from work one Friday afternoon to choose some root beers to sample (exciting evening planned.)  I like this location. Everyone is always really helpful without being overly friendly. They keep the conversation strictly to Bev’s. Usually. Today, I headed straight to the soda section and was pleasantly surprised with how many obscure and vintage sodas they had to offer. I grabbed a six-pack carrier and began to search. I had chosen a few already when I heard a voice behind me, “I hope you have the Butterscotch in there already.” I turned to find my friendly BevMo assistant smiling, excitedly. He was probably in his twenties, with perfectly parted hair, a too tucked-in shirt, and the posture of someone who plays video games every second he’s not working.

“No.” I said. “It sounds good though! Where is it?” I was excited. He ran his finger delicately along the wall of sodas until he found ‘Dang! That’s good!’Butterscotch root beer. He pulled it out proudly and presented it to me like a fine wine.

“Oooooo.” I said, my eyes lighting up.

“They use real cane sugar. It is buttery but still has the strong bite a root beer should have. Have a you tried a Sarsaparilla?!” He and I were both excited now! I was going to have BevMo’s resident expert choose the best for me. This was great! Before I knew it, I had two 6 packs of soda. 6 root beers, 2 cream sodas, a sarsaparilla, a bottle of Cheerwine (a southern friend had JUST been talking about it so I had to try it,) and bottle of Moxie, a vintage soda that, according to my expert, “couldn’t be defined by any of the characteristics of today’s sodas.” He insisted I would need to try it myself.

I was so eager to get home and sample, I turned to him and said, “Thank you so much!” And I turned to walked away.

“W…w..wait. My name’s Jason.” I turned around to find Jason with his hand extended toward me for a handshake.

 I suppose this wasn’t uncalled for. We HAD just spent a solid 15 minutes discussing soda. My hands were full, so I awkwardly shifted both six packs into one hand and tossed my purse up onto my shoulder to extend my right hand. He was waiting so patiently. I shook his hand and said, “Andrea. Nice to meet you. Thanks again!” I turned quicker to walk away.

“You’re very pretty….” Oh my god. This just took a serious turn for the worse. Can two people of the opposite sex really not have a conversation without one of them taking it the wrong way? I was in full server garb with my hair back in a bun and still had the smell of meat on my skin.  Did he really think I was “presenting” myself for “mounting?” How was I getting out of this? I let out a sigh and was getting ready to interrupt with the “I have a boyfriend” speech…

He continued “and I don’t often meet pretty girls who take such interest in Soda.” Where was he going with this?

“Oh… Uh… thanks. Heh.” I said.

In the voice of Sam Elliot from The Big Lebowski: “’Do you have a good Sarsaparilla? ‘Souix City Sarsaparilla?’ ‘Yeah, that’s a good one.’” He quoted. “Ha ha. You know where that’s from?” He said this with a cockiness that was awfully strange coming from his nerdy, little body.

“Noooo.” I replied, wide eyed. What was happening? Was I getting hit on or not?

“The Big Lebowski! Come on! A soda girl like you?” He playfully hit my shoulder.  A ‘soda girl’ like me? What was this guy’s game? His confidence in his “game” was kind of awesome, but I needed to remove myself from this situation immediately.

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, I guess.” I turned and started walking this time.

“Well, maybe you should see it again!” He started to follow me. “Maybe we could watch it sometime?” He asked this as I approached the checkout line.

“Actually… I have a boyfriend, so… but thanks anyway.” I said, probably a little too condescendingly with squinted eyes and a sympathetic smile.

“Oh, I get it. I just thought with all the soda… on a Friday night…. That….” He trailed off.

“That what?!” I said, a little surprised. “all the soda?!?!” Was he serious?! I knew I was going to regret the inquiry, but I knew what he was implying! What a dick!

“Well, that you were… alone… SORRY….” He said with his hands up like, ‘calm down, crazy woman’ hands, turned and walked away. Why is it sooo weird that I would be buying soda…. BEVMO!? Why would it imply that I was single and “alone?” And why would he take this as the opportune time to hit on a customer? “Aw. She’s buying soda. Pathetic. I’m goin’ in. I’ll impress her with my soda skills, compliment her, and then finish with the Lebowski line.”  

“JUST THOUGHT IT WOULD BE FUN TO TRY SOME NEW ROOT BEER!!” I shouted after him, getting my shoulders into it, (were my hands free, I would have sharply waved them, very reminiscent of George Costanza.) I was fuming. I turned to find the people in line staring at me. Now, I was the girl with two six-packs of soda, yelling at the BevMo employees,… who really did have a boyfriend. So, it is not pathetic. (Right?) Sometimes, I just get to that point where, the only way to get my point across is to shout it, annunciated, in a real dramatic fashion. I am an expert in this area.

The BevMo guy was an idiot but he sure did know his carbonated beverages. I’m sure he’ll make some soda loving girl very happy one day. As for me, I’m working on my temper. AND As it turns out, the Soda Jerk was right. The Dang! That's good! Butterscotch Root Beer was the best.  I drank it while I watched ‘The Big Lebowski’ a few nights ago…. WITH MY BOYFRIEND!!!!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Moonlighting and the High Price of Fame

When I graduated from Arizona State in 2006 with my degree in Choreography, there was never a bigger “What the hell do I do now?” moment for me. From the time I was born, there was always a next step, or the next big obstacle I would tackle. From kindergarten to high school to college, I always knew what I was “supposed” to do next. Despite what you might think, no one seems to think a choreography degree qualifies you to do a whole lot in the professional world; at least it’s not laid out in a neat plan like a doctor or something. I dabbled in various professional avenues for a few months. I was very close to a Pilates certification while I was a personal assistant to a prominent Pilates business owner in AZ. She was slightly on the nutty side, the kind of woman who reminded me constantly how lucky I was to be her assistant.  I usually cleaned Pilates equipment and toilets more than I learned anything. (This was the one and ONLY time I regretted not going to Brigham Young University to major in Political Science in 2002. That is how bad this job was.) I considered the possibility of going into management at the Macaroni Grill, the restaurant where I worked throughout college. (Desperate, desperate times.) So, when my old dance teacher was leaving her position at Peoria High School and contacted ME to take over the program, it was like a dream come true! Thank you, God! Something to do!

I loved teaching. Everything about it was great. It was challenging, I was teaching a subject I loved, and I got to mold young people into slightly more tolerable adults. However, there is something, eh, constricting about driving to the same school, walking into the same classroom, and teaching the same subject for the next 30 years. I was 22! This was frightening! I was getting packets at faculty meetings about my retirement fund and 401K’s and yadda yadda. In fact, it began to feel like I was slowly being strangled. They might as well have handed out coffin catalogues and cemetery plot options. That’s what it felt like and I should’ve taken this as a bad sign, but I didn’t know what else to do. Sure, the world was at my finger-tips, but I had NO direction. I loved the job, but it felt so permanent and I wasn’t done being young yet. To compensate for this feeling of doom, I was always looking for performance opportunities in dance, musicals, plays, etc around Phoenix. I had been dancing for Scorpius Dance Theatre, a professional contemporary company in Phoenix, for a few years at this point and that was great, but the restrictiveness and conservativeness of my teaching position had me looking for something more exciting, more edgy, and slightly rebellious. I danced and searched for a couple of years and then, I was cast in a musical called Reefer Madness in 2008. Oh man, it was awesome. I could never tell my co-workers (very, very conservative employees at this school) and I could NEVER tell my students (because I was a high school teacher in a dirty play about weed.) This was so exciting to me. People would ask, “Aren’t you concerned your students or their parents might come see the show?” And though I was slightly worried, Peoria was its own little bubble. Most of its residents didn’t often venture out of the town limits. Though downtown Phoenix and Peoria are only about 11 miles apart, they were like two different worlds. My worlds. My fun world and my work world. You would think that singing about Marijuana in my free-time would satisfy my rebellious tendencies, but I had no idea what, even more rebellious and salacious opportunity lay ahead….

Scandalesque was an up and coming Burlesque troupe in Phoenix. They were the whole tassel twirling, scantily clad, acrobatic, singing and dancing deal! They had won awards and dabbled in reality television talent competitions. The show was so fun and the girls were gorgeous! I had seen a show and knew of couple of the dancers through mutual friends as the dance world is small, and particularly small in Phoenix. I thought they were incredible in that “I could never do that because I’m not pretty enough and my body isn’t that great and they are so beautiful, I would look like a troll in comparison” kind of way. I just always thought performing in a burlesque show would be fun. Besides, I was a high school teacher. I could never get away with it, right? On the closing night of Reefer Madness, I heard three of the Scandalesque performers were in the audience and wanted to meet me after the show. This made me so nervous! What could they possibly want with me?!? It was like the cool, pretty, and popular group of girls in high school had asked me to sit at their lunch table. I would surely screw this up somehow by saying something weird or offensive. They wanted to tell me I was great in the show and that they were having auditions in a couple of weeks and that I should come. THIS was an unprecedented occurrence! These girls thought I was worthy of possibly dancing alongside on stage! I know deep down the opinion of others isn’t supposed to matter but this validation was through the roof. I had decided I was obligated to at least try. I owed it to myself. I owed it to the insecure 15 year old in me who no one wanted to talk to let alone see me twirl sparkly fabric with my B cups! Ha HA! It would be a great experience and I probably wouldn’t make it anyway. So, the audition date came and I performed a strip tease to a sultry rendition of Three Dog Night’s “One.” It was a Saturday in Tempe, AZ and there were lots of eager ladies there. The AZ Republic, Arizona’s largest newspaper was even there doing a story about the auditions. The attention whore in me thought, ‘Neat,’ but the teacher in me thought, ‘Oh no! Evidence!’ I worried about the possible news story some, but not a lot. There were several girls there. The reporter asked everyone’s name and took several pictures. She asked me a couple of questions, but she asked everyone the same questions. There were several girls there prettier than I, more picture worthy. Chances seemed pretty low I would even appear in any pictures, let alone be worth mentioning by name in the article.  After I nailed the dance portion of the audition and performed my solo. I left feeling pretty, pretty good. I later found out that I had made it! I was so proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone, I wasn’t really sure if I was ACTUALLY going to accept the spot in the company, but it felt SO good knowing I had accomplished something I never thought I could. (Andrea’s secret to success: Keep your expectations of yourself low, and you’ll continue to impress yourself every time you surpass them. Write that down.) Now, I’m a firm believer that there is nothing wrong with burlesque dancing. To me, it represents the importance of women owning their sexuality and feeling good about themselves while having a little fun. But to most, and especially to conservatives, I might as well be doing porn. I understood the risk, but I celebrated my victory all weekend and soon forgot all about the AZ Republic….. UNTIL Monday morning.

The texts and messages started in the middle of my first class. “Hey, did you know you’re in the newspaper?” “Hey! Saw you on! Awesome!” ‘Shit, shit, shit, SHIT!’ I rushed the students out after the bell rang so I could check out the article online.

O.... M…. G…. I sat back in my office chair, stunned. There I was, in all my glory, in just a bra, panties, heels, and a smile. The whole first half of the article was about me! Again, the attention whore in me thought ‘Neat’ but the teacher in me thought ‘Fuuuuuuuuuuuu….ddddgggge.’ I sweat through three layers of dance teacher clothes in my next class, just waiting for one of the little teenage rug rats to whip out their phone with a smug smile and blackmail me for a solo in the dance concert. They’re smarter than they look. No student said a word. Strange. Did Peoria not have the internet yet? That was probably it. Peoria residents could definitely read, so I rushed to the nearest gas station to buy a copy of the AZ Republic to see the real damage. It was on the FRONT page! It was on the FRONT page of the entertainment section. It must’ve been a REALLY slow news week in entertainment because there I was, shakin’ it with all my might, for all of Peoria high school and Arizona to see. I was sure I was going to be fired. I was going to come back from lunch and be escorted out by security and not be allowed around children again. I would surely end up on the local news just like those white trash floozies who strip while teaching kindergarten or post vagina pics of themselves on Myspace. I would be shamed, have no job, and I didn’t even know at this point if I was even going to accept the spot with Scandalesque! If I did, it would surely not be worth all of this humiliation!

When I got back to school, there was no one with handcuffs waiting for me, so I taught the rest of the day. I really tried to enjoy those last 2 afternoon classes, for surely they would be my last. After the last bell rang, I walked up to the front office with shame to make copies and get my mail, fully expecting to the get the index finger invitation into the principal’s office. No one said a word. Those who usually smiled at me, smiled and those who usually ignored me, ignored me. Was Peoria really Arizona’s blackhole of news and art and where dreams went to die like I always joked it was? How could no one in the entire school have heard about this story? Not even a student? When I was in high school, I would have killed to find out something like this about one of my teachers. Nothing happened. Days went by with no mention, so I thought it might be safe (and fun) to try it. I was going to moonlight as a Burlesque dancer!

I twirled my tassels for the entire school year. THE WHOLE YEAR and no one found out. Practically topless and a high school teacher. I was a bad ass. Deep down I knew it was just a quarter-life crisis, women’s libber- phase I was going through. I felt sexy and I was telling everyone else they were sexy. I thought sexy could cure cancer. (In fact, a part of me still thinks the confidence that accompanies sexy can heal many, many wounds, both physical and emotional, but I’ll save that for another day.)  Though some may not agree with what I was doing, Burlesque inspired me as a teacher. More often than I taught pirouettes, I was a disciplinarian/life-coach, trying to mold these youngsters into confident, successful adults. I launched my own personal campaign to try to make each of my students feel really great about themselves. Everything seemed to be going well until one day, my principal asked to meet me in her office after school. I didn’t think too much of it. It was probably something about grades or funding. I respected our principal. She held a doctorate, raised several children, some that were not her own, and was a great boss. Best of all, she loved me. However, if you were on her bad side, she could be downright frightening. This is a good quality in a principle. As I walked into her office, she greeted me somberly, asked me to have a seat, and shut the door behind me. ‘Shit.’ She sat down at her desk and pulled out a large, red envelope and set it on her desk right in front of me. “Do you know what this is?” She asked.

“No.” I said. This was weird and I started to panic slightly.

“It is called a red-line envelope. The red-line is a line of communication in our district that bypasses the normal hierarchy of Department Head, Assistant Principle, Principle, etc and goes straight to the school board.” She said.

“Okay.” Hopefully she was just educating me on a subject imperative to my knowledge as a teacher in the Peoria District. Yeah. That was all this was. (Relentless optimism is a side effect of feeling sexy, apparently.)

“A teacher on campus had some great concerns about you and sent….”

“Who?!?” I interrupted.

She looked at me above her glasses and I knew this was not the time to interrupt and which teacher was not the important issue.“Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that.” She said. But, they sent a red-line envelope a few days ago. The school board just informed me. Are you aware there was an article published about you in the Arizona Republic?”

My face collapsed into my hands.

She continued. “Are you also aware that there is an article online where you are pictured in your underwear?” She asked.

 ‘Well, here it is Andrea. This is where your life ends.’ I was definitely in full panic mode at this point. ‘Just get it over with. Please, just fire me. ‘It was like she was whittling away at me with a butter knife. “Yes, I am aware.” That response was the best I could muster. I was red-hot with embarrassment and that drastically reduces my ability to form sentences.

“Well, the school board will be discussing this situation at their meeting tonight. I’d like you to come to my office first thing in the morning to discuss their decision, so, just as a precaution, I’d like you to prepare sub plans for tomorrow.” She said hesitantly. “This causes me great distress, but we have to be prepared in case the meeting doesn’t go…. well.”

My eyes welled with tears and I said “Okay.” I got up and walked with shame out of her office. I fought back those tears as I walked back to my classroom. Sadness and embarrassment quickly turned to anger as I walked past my fellow teachers on campus. Which one of my “beloved” colleagues had ratted me out?! Not only had they tattled on me, but they went straight to the school board in the strongest attempt to get me fired!  I was a performing arts teacher, which was already alienating, but we were also on the opposite side of campus, so, we kind of stuck together.  I had only a few good teacher friends, and I sort of thought there were a few stick-in-the-muds that just plain didn’t like me because I was young and taught dance but, I always thought that I was just being overly-sensitive. There were a lot of ‘good ol' boys’ and openly Evangelical/Born Agains that were popular teachers on campus and I definitely don’t mesh well with that crowd. I had already felt a separation from my co-workers and this made it much, much worse.  If I ever found out who the sneaky turd was that sent that envelope, why I’d… I’d…. Damn. I’d probably not do anything because I was a mature adult and not a sneaky turd.

I left that day accepting that it was likely my last day. I just didn’t’ see how this would turn out in my favor. Even if the school board just wanted to just suspend me, light of this situation would surely get out to the students and eventually the parents, and when parents complain, you’re really in trouble. Even if none of that happened and I came back from my suspension, I would be working amongst the sneaky turd(s) who wanted me fired. I was officially regretting my “rebellious” streak. Even though, I think Burlesque represents only good, I’m not so liberal that I can’t see how this could make a high school teacher “look” bad. I was depressed.  I couldn’t even enjoy my daily Taco Bell or my after school nap, two of my favorite teaching things. I didn’t sleep a wink that night. I woke up and debated whether or not I should even bring my dance clothes. I probably wasn’t teaching that day.

I got out of my car in the school parking lot that morning, took a deep breath, and walked toward the administration building to get my verdict. I walked up to the principal’s office expecting a memorial only to find she wasn’t there. ‘How could she not be here?! My job is at stake! How is this not the most important thing on her list of to-do’s this morning?!’  I approached her secretary in a panic, “Where is Dr. Richardson!?”

“Oh! She wanted me to give you a message.” She searched amongst her post-its and finally picked up a hot pink note and read me my message without inflection, “School Board declared your dance thing art. Said, congrats on dancing professionally and thanks for your good work.” She smiled at me, proud she had just accomplished something and looked back down at her computer.

I was speechless. This is not how I expected this to go AT ALL. I was impressed with the progressiveness of this school district. They had “declared it art?” Amazing. I mean, it is of course, art but I didn’t think the school board of a mostly Christian district would think so. (This is why I still try not to underestimate rusty, old conservatives.) I was so shocked. They were fine with a teacher at one of their schools wearing pasties in her free time? Great. I walked out of that building with my head held high. Now that I knew I was keeping my job and that the school board had my back, there was only one matter to take care of.  I had some time to kill before class, so I decided to take a walk around campus to make serious eye contact with some teachers to see if any eye’s averted too quickly. You know, so I could catch the sneaky tu… Well, you get it now. There was no suspicious behavior. I would never find out unless I investigated, asking around like a crazy person. Whoever did it is likely a coward anyway and probably wasn’t bragging about it enough that it might get back to me somehow. So, I went back to my classroom with a sense of relief and on the bright side, a renewed inspiration to teach my heart out.

 Later, my principal called me on my office phone and recommended I share this with my students if they ask.  A few did and I shared. But most did not. No parent ever questioned me and I still have no idea who tattled on me. It ended up being one of my favorite years of teaching.

A couple of months later:

“….and now on to the most embarrassing moments!” Our staff’s self-proclaimed jester was hosting our end-of-the-year staff meeting. He was one of those types that was nice to everyone and wore school colors every day. He was mildly entertaining but, I dreaded these things. I didn’t really like anyone and I’m sure the feeling was mutual, so I didn’t give a shit about someone’s pants splitting at an assembly or someone tripping on their way up to the podium. (HA. HA. HA.) I watched as turd suspects walked up the stage to accept their hilariously named awards. “… and for our last award of the morning, I shall read an excerpt from an article in the Arizona Republic. Eh hem. ‘The milky-skinned brunette stands in the middle of the dance floor in a black lace bra and coordinating boy shorts. She bends over the back of a chair….” I was first alerted to the strange silence that fell over the audience of teachers. I looked around, not yet quite realizing what was happening, the words began to make sense. I bolted from my seat in the back of the cafetorium and ran up to the stage laughing a really weird, ‘there’s nothing going on here,’ kind of nervous laugh. I snatched my award and quickly sat back down. I’m sure my face was beet-red. I thought I was going to throw up from embarrassment. “Andrea’s getting our ‘Red-line Award’ for the only Red-line envelope sent to our school board this year. Let’s give her a hand!” He began to lead a round of applause. The claps were sparse and slow at best. Oh! To this day, this tops as one of the most awkward and uncomfortable moments I’ve ever experienced. Most probably didn’t know what the hell he was talking and about and those who did knew it was not a clap-worthy situation. I almost lost my job and it was because of someone in the room! Either our jester had a sick sense of humor or he was really just that dumb. I’m still not sure. Was this his pathetic attempt to include the performing arts department (the nerds) in the awards? Oi.

As I sat, I pondered and supposed this was the universe’s idea of a punishment. I had karmically gotten away with dancing in a Burlesque show while I was a high school teacher, knowing it might be slightly risky. I had slighted repercussions at every turn and here it finally was: embarrassment in front of a room full of peers. The universe is funny and smart for she knew EXACTLY how I’d learn my lesson. I smiled to myself at this thought the rest of the meeting. It had all come full circle. It was my first taste of paying the high price of fame. I had never felt so sexy.