Monday, April 20, 2009


As I'm sure you've noticed, the remedial politics lessons have not yet begun, I owe you a hard news roundup before it becomes old news, and the last post was not related to any of that (except the Star Trek content alone made it worthwhile; I dare you to disagree). I've decided to get back on track by seeking your answers to a hypothetical question. This is not a test; there will be no grades in this class. But first, please feast your eyes on ATG's latest acquisition:

This is the interior of the 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster convertible. It's not available yet, but we have it here. The Porsche is lovely, of course, but sometimes one needs a little variety, and the weather's becoming convertible-worthy. Besides, we might need to take a few field trips.

Now for your hypothetical. Suppose you wake up tomorrow morning and find that you are no longer you. Instead, you are the president of the United States, Barack Obama. Please tell me: what is the very first thing you would put on your agenda for the day, and why. For purposes of this exercise, assume that you don't have to stick with any position or direction that the real Obama has taken thus far.

Leave your answer in the comments below. If for some reason you are unable to comment (and remember that you can choose Anonymous and either remain anonymous or reveal your name in the comment itself), send me your comment on Facebook or to 12tequilas-usual symbol-something comcastic in a net, and I will post it here for you.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Camp N

I'm about to send a wave of bummer across this blog. There may be some humor here, but mostly this post is going to tell an unfortunate tale. I'm doing this because I want to thank someone who cannot be identified.

In the summer of 1984 I went to sleepaway camp. I had been to sleepaway camp three summers before this, but I think one or two years had gone by in between. I enjoyed those first three summers, especially the two that I spend at Camp Ramah in New England (Palmer, Massachusetts). I learned to paddle a canoe there, how to hit a ball with a tennis racket, and how to batik, and I got to experience Kabbalat Shabbat (that's the Friday night service for "welcoming" or "receiving" the Sabbath) outside in the mountain air. Most importantly, I made many great friends and even kissed a boy or two.

The camp I attended in '84 was different. It was also a Jewish camp, and it had a Hebrew name, but I'm going to call it Camp Naked, because it was situated on the grounds of Ramblewood in Darlington, Maryland. If you click around that site, you come to figure out that Ramblewood caters to "alternative groups" that might wish to hold events in which guests are in their "natural state." Yes, really. It's in the middle of nowhere, away from main roads. Observe the towel etiquette when sitting, please.

Slipping Down

This camp experience was different for me, not because we ran around naked, but because I didn't have a good time there, to say the least. It turned out that half the girls I bunked with were in my class at school. My school was very small and, as in many high schools, students were categorized as "popular" or not. I was not, but for the most part everyone liked me. Even still, having those girls there was a problem. They were in that popular caste, and thus in another social world. Camp has a different dynamic than school, and it wouldn't be wrong to say that at Ramah, I was fairly popular. But at Camp N in 1984, with our hyperawareness of our places in the hierarchy, the girls from my school didn't suddenly become my friends. So from the very first, as people were getting to know each other, those girls from my school started getting chummy with the other girls, and then there was I. I quickly realized I was not making friends as I always had easily. What could I do? I folded up. This was whacked. This was bad.

This was rock bottom.

My counselors didn't help much: our "senior" counselor had an additional job at the camp, so we didn't see much of her and had two junior counselors instead. They were 16, not much older than we were. They hardly spoke to me the entire summer. (I heard that one of them suffered from a rare disorder that causes your boobs to move around your body, so that sometimes they're on her stomach, sometimes on her back, sometimes even on her head, which makes it hard to get a bra to stay. The other one became addicted to World of Warcraft and Second Life and never leaves her house.)

There were a few other things I had going against me. We were 14, no longer kids, and some things had changed while I was off doing theater day camp:

  • My mother had followed the recommended clothing list to the letter and this meant I did not have enough clothes. I didn't have the right clothes either; my bunkmates came from wealthy families and their mothers bought them designer clothing.

  • I was not fat by any means, but I didn't have the eating-disordered starved bodies characteristic of most of my peers either. (A couple of the girls were actually chubby, but they made up for this with their fashion sense and exuberant personalities.)

  • I had hair that was a bit difficult to control, especially in the humidity, whereas the other girls had the kind of hair you could run a brush through in the morning and it would shine and look beautiful.

  • The hair on my legs was very light, nearly invisible, and I really had not felt the need to start shaving it yet. But leg shaving was a Big Deal at camp that summer. It was odd that I didn't do it.

  • I wore glasses, and they weren't like the glasses I have now that I get compliments on those days when I don't wear my contact lenses.

  • Most notably, I'm very fair and sunburn easily, while most of my bunkmates brought Coppertone SPF 2 tanning oil with them. When you are wearing shorts the color difference really stands out.
I didn't have any friends at camp that summer, unless you count the little ones. Not the skunks and the little birdies. I mean the poor homesick kids who were too young to be away at camp. If I remember correctly, Camp N took kids as young as seven. I was often swimming "buddies" with one of the little girls, and they loved that I was bigger and could throw them around in the water. On a camp trip to Hershey Park, I ended up chaperoning groups of little kids on the log flume. I think I rode it seven times in a row with a different group. I could forget about things during times like these.

Quiet? Or Undead?

It gets even a little worse. People talked about me behind my back. I tried to ignore it but I kept thinking I heard them calling me a certain insulting name. It didn't come out into the open until the day we had auditions for the camp play. I'd done theater before--usually cast in funny roles--and I sing, and I figured I might be able to come out of my shell a bit this way. After the audition, I went to ask the counselors that were running things--both guys--when we might hear their decision. They said it would be soon, and one said "we have to work on the casting now, so why don't you make like a tree and get out of here." (It's "make like a tree and leave," dumbass.)

That sounded mean in itself, but then the other guy said, "yeah, take off, Poltergeist."

I froze. My eyes bugged out of my head. "W-what did you call me?" I asked him.

"Poltergeist," he answered. "Isn't that what they call you?"

When I ran away crying, I think he got his answer. It was the name I had pretended not to hear. He apologized later, of course, but I heard that over the next few years, he lost his swagger as he slowly grew into a giant, gelatinous mass, and took up residence in a swamp. He now eats swamp vegetation and the occasional toad.

But I never knew why they called me that. Best guest: my "ghostly" pallor. Oooo, scary. Run away! Run away! She's heeeeerrrre.

"I am Hugh"

I wasn't the only one who had troubles. There was a guy there, and I'm a little fuzzy on his purpose at camp, but I think he did various jobs there. He had a mental disability of some kind, and he was openly teased by the wonderful Camp N population. I don't remember his name, but I'm going to call him Hugh, because it is a movie star name, and because it was the name the Enterprise crew gave to the Borg drone who became disconnected from the collective. Borg Hugh (a/k/a "third of five") turned out to be NOT evil at all, as Captain Picard was able to determine in this clip, but unfortunately he ended up getting reassimilated. You can see that underneath his scary cybernetic exterior, Hugh is a cutie-pie.

Toward the end of my stay at Camp N, I got well and truly sick. I had a nasty sinus infection and was laying in a bed up on the second floor of the infirmary when the entire camp lost electricity and water. At that point they decided to send all the sickies back to their bunks to rest. I was feverish and dizzy, and I found myself at the top of a flight of stairs, looking down in fear, wondering how I would get down those stairs without falling (ever had a sinus infection like this?). All of a sudden (at least it was sudden in my memory), Hugh appeared. He took my arm and led me slowly and carefully down those treacherous stairs.

I can't explain it, but there was so much kindness in that gesture. Hugh certainly didn't care that I was Poltergeist, just that I needed help. I could have kissed him. I wanted to put him in pocket and take him home, except I wasn't going home just yet. (When we did go home, there weren't enough seats on the bus, so I sat in the aisle perched on a duffel bag. It seemed fitting. All I could see out the window from that angle was the sky.)

The Fame soundtracks (film and TV) were played constantly at camp. This song is for you, Hugh. You're a star. I don't know where you are, but I know you've become one with the sun.

Epilogue: some months after camp I went to a youth group dance. I'd washed off the scum of Camp N, and had a wonderful time socializing and dancing with guys I met. Some camp people were at this dance and I steered way clear of them. At one point, the D.J. announced that a song was being dedicated to me and Hugh. This was meant to be cruel, and I (and Hugh too I assume) ignored it, pretending we didn't hear.

Hugh, I owe you a slow dance. And as for my fellow campers and camp counselors, my mutant friends with advanced cerebral capabilities have seen that some of you, sometimes, cry in your coffee, and you're not sure why.

Friday, April 3, 2009

"Which Do You Choose, A Hard or Soft Option?"

We're in the midst of decorating here at ATG, and soon it will have the atmosphere of everyone's dreams (or, at least, mine). I linked to the light fixtures deep in the comments of this post, but in case you missed that, here is what one of them looks like against our soothing black walls.

The furniture is being custom-built; just wait until you find out how comfortable....

And now a complaint. I'm 12tequilas, right? The one, the only? My chosen identifier has the disadvantage of cluing the world in to my alcoholic tendencies, but aside from that, after all this time it has acquired life of its own, so to speak. It is I.

Some time ago I realized that if I used 12tequilas, rather than some variant of my given name, as a "user ID" for any and all online accounts, I would stop being told that the ID I had chosen was already in use. Because NO ONE ELSE in the world is 12tequilas. Except that today, when I had to set up a new account for a credit card that was taken over by another bank, I was shown the ol' exclamation point in a triangle and told that 12tequilas was in use. Grumble, grunt, growl. I had to use my emergency backup name, trevi.moon, which is cool, because I've never actually had occasion to use trevi.moon. There's the bright side.

Moving on to the real nitty gritty:

Richard Cohen is a Washington Post columnist, but he is syndicated all over. According to WikiGenius, he's won honorable mention over at Pulitzer four times. I've enjoyed his writing for years. (Now, Mr. Cohen writes opinion, so he makes people angry all the time. If you are one of those people, you might want to say something bad about him here in the comments. I'm not going to tell you not to; I don't want to censor anyone that visits me here. Just be aware that if you're too mean I might decide I don't like you anymore.)

Not long after Barack Obama was elected president, Cohen wrote about how Obama might combat the isolation bubble by reading the newspaper. It's interesting; I'll wait here if you want to go read the whole thing. This paragraph jumped out at me:

A BlackBerry is of limited utility. You cannot have a hearty family breakfast with everyone gathered around the BlackBerry. But with a good newspaper, the president could read the hard-news section, the first lady could adhere to gender orthodoxy and read the softer sections, and the kids could chuckle at the comics. Just as in the old movies, papa could explain things, like what's the purpose of NATO anymore. (I'm dying to know this myself.) Not all newspapers have comic sections, but even those that don't usually have sports pages and business columns.

I know Cohen wasn't trying to get his readers to imagine the Obamas as black, executive Ward and June Cleaver with daughters, but that's just what I was thinking. I'm sure someone somewhere criticized Cohen for assuming that Michelle Obama wouldn't want to read the hard news, just because she's a woman. Personally, I start out reading that front section of the newspaper. On the other hand, I can't dwell on those long articles about our rotting economy. (And I do read the advice columns and the comics. Shut up.)

Some people avoid the news entirely because they don't want to get depressed, and I understand. But some of what shows up in that front section of the paper is fun, or you can make it fun by adding your own spin. If you dig for it, you'll at least find something you can make fun of because it isn't really news, and then suddenly, like magic, you've given it entertainment value.

The following are examples of "hard news" items I posted on Facebook in the past month. Pretend they all begin with: "12tequilas here with the hard news," 'cause it sounds better that way.

March 23: 12tequilas here with the hard news. The Prez did not show up to the annual Gridiron Club dinner on Saturday. What the heck is that? And who cares? Today's Post Style section says Obama "was supposed to be at the head table, smiling and clapping as the club's journalists flounced around in costume, belting political parodies to the tunes of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Gilbert and Sullivan. **** The president, however, had planned to skip the affair to spend time with his family at Camp David. Typical. String 'em along, get elected, go back to the wife. The nerve."

March 19: Lance Mackey has won his third Iditarod in a row. But it's the dogs I congratulate.

March 18: I hope not to offend my Catholic friends here, but the Pope is an idealist. Or maybe a dumbass. "You can't resolve [the HIV problem in Africa] with the distribution of condoms," said Pope BXVI according to the Washington Post. "On the contrary, it increases the problem." Your Popeness, it would be great if telling Africans to abstain would work. But it won't. (My friend George Clooney commented thus: "So, so many snarky comments I could make. But I'm afraid of those heavily armed Catholics out there, so ... mum's the word!")

March 16: Dick Cheney smiled, grinned really, and his face did not crack in half. Or maybe it did, and CNN covered it up. Photo at link. (Anthrax rhythm guitarist Scott Ian Rosenfeld informed me that: "It wasn't him. I heard it was one of those Audio-Animatronics from Disney. The only way the real thing is capable of smiling is when he's shooting someone in the face.")

March 6: Brad Pitt was here on Cap. Hill yesterday. The "hard" bit is that Nancy P. was gushing over him. Looks flushed in the photo. Dana Milbank of the Post's "Washington Sketch" also said this: "For the two hours Pitt was at the Capitol yesterday, Congress could have declared war on Canada and nobody would have noticed. But while it was disruptive, the actor's visit to Washington could not have been better timed. His latest film 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,' is about a man who ages in reverse. As it happens, this is the same way Washington grows: As time passes, the nation's politics become more and more juvenile."

March 5: Michelle Obama has made sleeveless dresses POPULAR. By wearing them HERSELF. Time for some tricep dips. (This led to a bit of discussion; my friends, actors Rachel Weisz and Seth Green, were trying to convince me that Michelle Obama is "hot" but I wasn't convinced.)

And here is something quite recent, and it is so hard that it's okay if it's a few days late (these are my rules, after all):

March 31: 12tequilas here with the hard news. It's Genital Integrity Awareness Week, and so, the cleverly-named "Intactivists" staged a protest yesterday, marching from the White House to the Capitol. What's their beef? They think MALE circumcision is BAD. Not just unnecessary (even though studies show it reduces the spread of HIV by 60 PERCENT), but BAD. Read this for all the details, but apparently you circumcised guys are missing out on "'entire realms of exquisite feeling'"! And you can blame "circ" for deforestation too. (Author Dan Zak doesn't seem to believe any of it.) Check out how I wrote that entire report without saying "penis"!

Hard News will be featured here, probably as a weekly roundup unless I've just got to get it out there. And YOU can feed Hard News by sending e-mail to 12tequilas, followed by the usual symbol, ending with comcast in a net. We're not at the point of giving out T-shirts if we use your submission, but maybe someday, if you keep on spreading the word.

Here's the final item. March 3: 12tequilas here with the hard news. According to Glamour magazine, there are 11 things guys don't understand about women. The only one of the 11 that applies to me is the one about marriage. But I am a mutant.

If the opposite sex has you frustrated, you're in need of a little crunch, or you wish you'd never been circumcised, play the video. Loud.

News: "Have you got it? Do you get it? If so, how often?"