Category Archives: Weird Things I Do Just So I Can Blog About Them Later

A formal essay about famous frogs me

My mother is exasperated that my husband and I still haven’t made a dime from our famous photograph. “Couldn’t you at least print up some t-shirts?” she says. “You can sell them on www.turtlefrogspiderphoto.com.” I explain to her that it seems exploitative to profit off something that—for whatever reason—inspires people. It’s like selling $5 bottles of Barack Obama water on the Washington Mall. I also explain to my mother that I don’t want to abuse or overextend my 15 minutes of fame. But in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “If I play my cards right, I can ride this photo all the way to the top.”

My husband and I never aspired to make a full-fledged career out of the spider on top of a frog on top of a turtle that we rescued from my parents’ pool filter last August. How could anyone sustain that kind of celebrity? We never dreamed that the photo phenomenon would go as far as it did. In fact we thought it would go precisely as far as our personal blogs. But the turtle/frog/spider mutant took on a life of its own. First local website cVillain picked up the story and photo. Then it went viral on the internet. Then it went international in OK Magazine and the Daily Telegraph. Then it went epidermal with a giant back tattoo on a California woman. Then it went full circle with Brian McKenzie’s Daily Progress column. Then it went statewide with Sandy Hausman’s WVTF radio story. Here on One Star Watt I will try to prolong the story for at least another week.

All my previous fantasies about being famous involved the New York Times or the Oscars or the White House or (on bad days) the Darwin Awards, not accidental drownings. Granted, the three critters survived their ordeal, but that didn’t stop an irate Albemarle County woman from writing into the Daily Progress. According to Marlene Condon’s editorial, the photo “epitomizes the cruel impact that humans often unwittingly inflict upon the Earth’s creatures.” Since when is it cruel to go hunting for animal carcasses in your bikini? Pool filters are the middle class’s version of raccoon traps baited with Friskies cat food. And I doubt that the chipmunk living in the neon-green Funoodle on my parents’ pool patio would exchange its happy home for personal safety. But Ms. Condon alleges that “[b]y maintaining an uncovered swimming pool, people bring about the deaths of numerous kinds of wildlife that are attracted to the water but then can’t escape the consequences.” Tell that to the three creatures that are in the woods right now writing the Disney/Pixar screenplay of their lives. At least I think they are. I’m a little afraid to return to the place where my dad finally released them after the photo shoot. What if I discover three small skeletons stacked one on top of the other, delayed victims of chlorine inhalation? I would bury them in formation. But that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is that I’m famous.

On the internet especially, I’m surprised the goodwill has endured so long. Usually it takes a much shorter time for a cyber backlash to begin. It’s a credit to the New Age websites that have featured the picture that few people make negative comments. Even the “This is clearly shopped” comments are rare. But please—if I were to Photoshop an image, it would probably be of me and Mick Jagger partying together on the island of Mustique. I have a hip, unfeeling reputation to uphold; I would never choose to be known as the woman who took a heartwarming picture which Chicken Soup for the Nature Lover’s Soul will one day option. (Call me anytime, Chicken Soup.)

But I’m not embarrassed by being the author of the picture. Fame is always cool, no matter how lame its origins. At least my mom has been really impressed with me since the photo started generating buzz. And I’ve discovered that it’s not really how you get famous that matters, but how you deal with the fame once you have it. Once it’s in your lap, do you reject it (no), freak out (no), gloat (yes), start judging your friends “pre-turtle/frog/spider” and “post-turtle/frog/spider”? Certainly. Do you become full of yourself, thinking “I can stack any three things on top of each other—magazine, turkey sandwich, remote control—and they will be transformed into high art when I take their picture?” Of course you do. In the morning I’m going to lay my bowl of yogurt on top of a cat on top of a dictionary and then sell the photo rights for a million dollars.

But at what price fame? Sometimes fame can tear a couple apart. I should know because I was engaged to my husband when I found the turtle/frog/spider and now we’re happily married. All because he remembers that I took the picture so technically I own the rights. Every time I open our freezer and see the preserved topping from our wedding cake—the sugar turtle/frog/spider that Frank Cappellino made for us—I understand that love is the turtle that holds up the frog bride and the spider groom. Or maybe the spider bride and the frog groom? Or maybe humankind? I’m determined to find a deeper message in my photo. In any case someone has his fidgety legs in someone else’s eyeball and someone else is feeling seasick and the ground seems to be constantly moving underfoot. But in a good way. In a way that says one day God will pluck us out of the pool filter of life and unleash us in heaven after having a good laugh at our expense. Or that we will simply succumb to the fumes. Or that I should apply for a photojournalism position at National Geographic Magazine.

Face calling

Now that I have a new computer and Gmail offers free video chat, my face can call your face. Our faces can literally communicate back and forth through cyberspace. I’m talking about Cyber Space Face. I’m talking about Future Stuff. Who invented this Cyber Space Face Future Stuff? And what was I doing while they invented it? Changing light bulbs? Handwashing hosiery? Writing “2007” on checks?

I’m so amazed by this new technology that I won’t even complain about the obvious disadvantages: 1) being caught in my loungewear; 2) discovering what my face looks like when it’s talking; 3) taking ten giant steps backwards in document-sharing technology (now I just hold papers up to the webcam).

Whoever revolutionized (and sort of invaded) my life with thrilling Robot Face Science, thank you. You are light years ahead of my couch car fueled by white wine and pajama bottoms.

Why elderly ladies in Georgia aren’t voting for Obama

Why elderly ladies in Georgia aren’t voting for Obama:

1. He’ll take all their money.

2. He’s a Muslim.

3. He’ll turn the nation Communist.

 

Why elderly ladies in Georgia send back their lunches:

1. Not enough sauerkraut on the reuben.

2. They ordered tomato parmesan soup, not French onion.

3. They’re confused by the small pile of lettuce on the sandwich plate. What is this green stuff? Am I supposed to eat this? What is this for? I have to go to the bathroom.

 

Why elderly ladies in Georgia get together for lunch every Saturday, even during Hurricane Fay:

1. A weekly ritual reminds them they’re still in the game. Also, they can show off their white bouffant hairdos after they take off their rain bonnets.

2. While dining they can pile all their purses, canes, walkers, and wet umbrellas in the corner of the restaurant, forming a sort of geriatric still-life that is only disturbed when someone demands a Kleenex or a cardigan sweater.

3. They can quiz me – the granddaughter guest – about Islam, existentialism, my upcoming nuptials, and the quality of my soup. Then they can send me to retrieve their friend who got lost on her way back from the bathroom. Then I can check their bills (split 12 ways) to ensure they left at least 5% for the waiter.

A tent cathedral of surf babies

Yesterday we attended the “Billabong Girls Cascais Festival” – what the widespread local signage seemed to indicate would be a female pro surfing extravaganza. As I mentioned before, we were psyched to see some extreme competition in the rough and tumble waves of Portugal. Guincho Beach is known for its steep cliffs, its harsh winds, its endless and ever-changing sand dunes, and its fearless surfers. So we packed our backpacks with SPF 30 sunblock and cameras and prepared ourselves for an athletic spectacle.

When we arrived at the beach, the only people we saw in the choppy waves were wind surfers. But a tent city had been erected in the middle of the beach so I assumed that was the locus of both the Billabong tournament and the hot after-hours action (we’d heard that rock bands played nightly for the duration of the festival). We walked into the wind toward the back of the biggest tent where I was encouraged by the sound of loud music.

When we stepped inside the tent, I thought immediately that we had stumbled upon some secret adolescent rite of passage. Dozens of pre-teen girls held hands in a circle, singing together and performing what looked like belly dancing moves. No one under the tent was older than fourteen or had fewer than two X chromosomes. Pink backpacks and Billabong towels were piled in the sand under the tarp. The girls who weren’t dancing giggled, flung cups of water at each other, or practiced their moves in bathing suits on a stationary surfboard. I felt like we were intruding on some ancient menstruation ritual. “The red tent,” whispered the bbf. Then he dug out his camera.

A Portuguese beach bum wearing a VIP pass quickly hustled us out. “No,” he said. “Just the young ladies.” The event organizers in the merch tents glared at us as we trudged sheepishly away.

Apparently this Billabong event was less of a hardcore surf competition and more of a summer camp meant to instill confidence in pre-teen girls and to make adult American tourists feel like pervs.*

*In fairness to the festival, I think an actual surf tournament took place on the first day, but we had assumed that the major action would occur on the weekend, like church.

This post is not about sports–it’s about men who play sports

Today Russia beat the Netherlands in double overtime, thereby advancing to the next round of the European Cup. Because I hate it when members of my family rattle on about end zones and face-offs and field goals without telling me what sport they’re discussing, let me first clarify that I’m talking about soccer. For all my European readers, that’s the same as hockey. This afternoon both teams played well, and handsomely (in a preppy, Aryan sort of way). The Swiss stadium crowd was alternately painted, shirtless, exulted, devastated, and drunk. When I wasn’t reading the paper at the bar, I hung on the television announcer’s every word.

European sportscasters are a different breed than American sportscasters. They’re content to be informative and not intrusive. They’re staid and earnest and they have great accents. But this afternoon, in the midst of heroic and impassioned play, the European Cup announcer was forced to say the following: “Make sure to tune in tonight to Camp Rock, the feature film debut of the Jonas Brothers on the Disney Channel!” It’s like all of a sudden the Ultimate Fighting Championship was interrupted by an advertisement for Snapple Light or flavored mascara.

I laughed, I cried, then I went back to reading the clinical trial ads in my newspaper. But suddenly I could sense mens’ hairdos growing longer and silkier and more perfumed all around me. I could sense the Zinedine Zidanes of the world turning into David Beckhams. And I wanted to smell the anguished sweat of defeat on the Dutch soccer jerseys before buckets of Axe Bodyspray drowned it out.

I guess I am old-fashioned.

Veronica Mars, I accidentally lived your life instead of mine

I just finished watching Season 3 (the final season) of Veronica Mars. I would have watched that TV show until the lead actress Kristen Bell died of old age. I would have consumed every second of Veronica’s life until her funeral, and then I would have looked down and discovered that my own hands were all wrinkled around the remote control and my heartbeat had slowed to practically nothing and I was eating Jello in a nursing home.

Then I’d want to start Season One of my own life but the DVDs would be all scratched and time-damaged by then and anyway modern systems wouldn’t be able to play the discs due to changes in digital encoding. So apparently I’d spent my entire adult life watching someone else’s entire adult life episode-by-episode, but I wouldn’t totally regret it because Veronica was a cool and interesting person. She was a teenage detective – that’s so awesome. And while I watched her on TV, I was also a teenage detective solving crimes and helping people. But now I am accidentally an old lady and I’m burying Kristen Bell like someone will bury me soon, not long after I finish this cup of Jello.

So I don’t care if Veronica never knew my name. I don’t care if Logan Echolls was never my actual boyfriend. I followed every Mars moment. I dreamed her dreams. When Veronica solved a high school mystery, so did I. It makes sense that we would grow old and die together. If I weren’t so attached to my television set, I would throw myself into her grave.

Goodbye, Veronica. It was worth it.

All you need to know about tonight’s basketball game

I went to a UVA basketball game tonight and was cruelly disappointed. Once again, John Grisham did not propose marriage to me on the Jumbotron. I could see him there in his floor seat, probably pretending he was Jay-Z or Jack Nicholson at a Lakers game. Then something about Clemson. Points. Points. Fire. A circus artist painting a portrait of Ray Charles at half time. Points. Half a bucket of popcorn. Some diet soda. Time out. Flashing lights. Loud noises. Dunk. Dunk. No marriage proposal from a handsome and wealthy older man who wears blazers with his jeans. A hotdog. Old lady hit in head with basketball. Points. Cheerleader formations (stop directing your splits toward Grisham, ladies; he is mine). A blimp. Some guy named Harris Teeter who really wants my business.

Sports Illustrated will probably be calling me soon about a writing position.

Maybe I don’t deserve to hang out at John Paul Jones Arena. But I know someone who does. Tonight I am going to launch the Onestarwatt Send My Friend Leslie to the Van Halen Show Contest. If you provide Leslie with a ticket to see David Lee Roth next week, you win the contest. She is a huge fan, maybe the biggest fan. Certainly the baddest fan with the least amount of money. And tonight she told me that if DLR ever ripped his spandex pants, she would patch them up for him. That’s right, she loves him and she knows how to sew. Let’s send her to the Arena.

I will pick a Onestarwatt Send My Friend Leslie to the Van Halen Show Contest winner just as soon as the Van Halen ticket comes in.

Virginia Safari Park

The Virginia Safari Park in Natural Bridge, VA is the saddest, most wonderful adventure you can take from an Interstate 81 exit. First, a photo essay:

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Hi, furry cow creature. Do you want to wipe your boogers on Darren’s hand?

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Look Harper! Baby piglets! We can just throw them some grain from this bucket and…

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Holy shit! Roll up the window!

This was actually our second trip to the park. The first time, on Gene’s birthday, we thought it was a good idea to safari in the back of a pick-up truck. I still cannot believe this is legal–we must have signed some incredible waiver when we bought our tickets. Darren was gored by a tusked beast while he was trying to feed an ostrich from his bucket. He still has a scar. This time, we took Harper in a tusk-proof Saturn station wagon. Without automatic windows, we had a few close calls, but mostly we just got snotted on. The zebras were isolated this year, which was fortunate. They will bite off your face if you give them a chance. No wonder Jared Diamond said they were immune to domestication.

Attempts have been made to train zebras for riding since they have better resistance than horses to African diseases. However most of these attempts failed, due to the zebra’s more unpredictable nature and tendency to panic under stress. For this reason, zebra-mules or zebroids (crosses between any species of zebra and a horse, pony, donkey or ass) are preferred over pure-bred zebras. (link)

Wow, that was distracting. So anyway we fed giraffes from our hand, pet pygmy goats, saw a kangaroo with an upside-down baby in her pouch, and whispered sweet nothings to an albino tiger cub. Whatever–I’m so over it. Step it up next year, Virginia Safari Park. I need a unicorn or a baby dragon or something. I can fondle llamas at home.

(More pictures…)

God cavities

If you go trick or treating in Lovingston, Virginia, you can expect to see:

1) historic houses with haunted front yards bombed with synthetic spiderwebs;

2) goth teenagers in extra-wide, circa 1996 skateboard pants;

3) a piglet in a tiger cub costume (and some other people);

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4) a coven of six-year-old Disney princesses holding hands, clotheslining other children on their way to the candy;

5) preternaturally smiley and generous people handing out neon glow sticks and Ziplock bags stuffed full of Sweet Tarts, Whoppers, and Sprees. They were positioned on both sides of the Lovingston main street, doling out their goods not from a front porch, but from giant garbage bags on the sidewalk. “Those people are awesome,” I said. “They gave me my own glow bracelet. It’s pink.” “Seems suspicious,” said Darren. Then I reached into my candy sack and found a religious pamphlet published by Billy Graham and company. On the cover were cute cartoon kids dressed in Halloween costumes. They were walking up a shining path lit by pumpkins with trick or treat bags in their hands. At the end of the path was a gold mansion where God lived. Apparently God gives out the best candy.

Homecoming weekend in Williamsburg

I am going to my five-year college Homecoming, but ONLY so I can blog about it. Also it is rainy, dreary, and I am hungry for pancakes. This is the existential recipe for Williamsburg, Virginia.

I have two friends who are also going to Homecoming, but they’re not appearing until tonight and tomorrow, respectively, so this afternoon I am going to a religion lecture at the University Center and then I will either wander alone from bar to bar, trying to look pretty in case I am spotted by ex-boyfriends, or I will go back to my hotel room and watch cable TV. I am half-tempted to crash the football game tomorrow with my friend Diana, because she is from Armenia and has never seen a game of football. Especially a game of William & Mary’s caliber. My mother tells me she has “a friend” on the team that I should support, however this is a source of filial concern, not school spirit.

Last night I made business cards so I can do some networking during Homecoming. I think they turned out really well considering they are DIY and I don’t actually have a business.