I am not Cagney or Lacey

I grew up on Starsky and Hutch, Cagney & Lacey, James Bond.. folks tracking down bad Old woman with pistolguys, hurling themselves in the path of danger,  armed only with a 9mm and some witty one liners. I loved them all. Of course I never thought I’d have the opportunity to grab a gun and run toward danger… until the other morning.

Picture this, 5.02am, a 45 yr old British spinster, wearing pink flowery pyjamas, bare feet, armed only with a cellphone and an unloaded 9mm Beretta, running out her front door towards some robbers.

(I think my pjs really owned the moment)

Rolling the camera backwards, it started with some noise. I woke to the sounds of scraping, metal on metal. I heard a window smash and immediately thought ‘someone’s breaking in my house’. Without turning on my light, I grabbed my gun (unloaded of course), checked no boobs were loose and crept out of the bedroom. Grabbing my cellphone off the counter, I realized the noise was right outside my bedroom window and immediately panicked,

‘the fuckers are stealing my bikes from the basement’

(priorities)

I ran down my basement stairs shouting ‘FUUUUUUUUUCK’, brandishing the gun and hoping they’d just take off running.

Nothing. Just a few depressed spiders.

‘Shit.. they must be breaking into my car.’

I ran back up the stairs, and pre dialed 911.. no way were those fuckers stealing my car. Its one of the few things the bank doesn’t own, plus its got my yoga mat in it. Those things take ages to wear in.

Running outside, I verrrryyy quickly realized that no-one was stealing my aging 4Runner, instead 2 idiots had decided my house, in a old residential neighborhood, at 5am, was THE time and place to try and open a stolen cash register by hitting it with a crow bar and throwing it against the curb.

Oh shit. Time to style this out.

I crept down my stairs (please don’t see me, please don’t see me) and got the plate numbers (see… tv IS totally helpful). The taller guy saw me, shouted something, then jumped in the truck, while the guy trying to crow-bar open the thing.. threw both in the truck bed and then himself. They screeched off, leaving coins, bills and gift cards all over the floor.

The rather good looking policeman who showed up found a distinctly less courageous women in her pjs, gun in pocket, sitting on her doorstep in mild shock. Yep, you don’t see that on tv.

I later found out the guys had smashed into a local store and grabbed everything including the un-openable register. I guess by now they opened the thing, but with a license plate, the cop seemed to think they’d be caught.  I was just relieved no-one shot me. He was too.

See, you might have a gun and something to defend, but only tv and movie ‘good guys/gals’ get to do it without breaking a sweat or getting killed. When shit got real.. I’m still a 5’2″ middle aged chick who’s scared of shooting herself in the foot and really, really doesn’t want to try out a citizens arrest while not wearing a bra.

Next time..I’ll be under the covers with the dog.

Small Talk

small talk 2I spent my first 26 years in the UK, so I always thought I was pretty good at meeting new people. Easy entry points included the weather (past, present and future), the journey to the event (roads, Tube, parking) and of course, if desperate, hope that the Rugby or Big Brother is underway.  Sure, I was a bit clunky, but by time we reached the bottom of the glass or cup, I could breathe out and cruise along nicely.

Then I moved to the US.

Here small talk is an art. Something Americans seem to acquire at birth along with self confidence, perfect teeth and a love of crap beer. And therefore a complete and utter mystery to me. 24 hours in the US and I moved from ‘slightly awkward but warms up quick’, to a nervous, twitchy weirdo who needed to find the restroom every 30 seconds.

I tried. Oh boy I tried. I asked my friends for topics, questions, entry points and guidelines for small talk. I watched and listened. I even YouTubed it. I’ve feigned interest in all manner of idiocy (the price of diapers at Target vs. Costco, how the local sports team’s manager sucks) and asked every banal question I can think of (how do you know so and so, home location, career, family trees, whether it will be a good ski season, parking restrictions, the price of milk), but still… crickets.

I don’t think  its all on me though. I also think that the people I meet bear some of the blame. Once they’ve gotten through their small talk standards, ‘are you married?’ ‘ how old are your kids?’ ‘where go to school?’ ‘what do you do?’ seem to result in a vacuum in almost every conversation. Once people have asked me ‘do you like America?’ and established that without a husband, family or a familiar background they have nothing in common with me,  I can guarantee my ‘new friend’ will need to find a drink/his or her partner/ the Tardis within 37 seconds.

But since I am an adult and small talk is a requirement for survival (and on a date ESSENTIAL), I’ve developed a few strategies to avoid being left staring at my shoes while trying climb inside my own intestines:

Men

  •  Ask about ‘the team’. I’ve never watched an American football game but asking ’bout the local team seems to have a 99% hit rate with men. I’ve found a lot of smiling, head shaking and ‘for sure’ comments can get us through the first few minutes of awkwardness. If asked about a specific game or player, I always bounce the question back immediately. Men love sharing their knowledge of the intricacies of a sport. And they assume that their opinion is valued.. so I value it. A lot. Just don’t be too enthusiastic or you might wind up roped into a viewing party. Which is basically small talk x 1000 with a specialist vocabulary.
  • Find his hobby or ‘used to be his hobby before the kids/house’. Ask about it. Express awe. You might luck out and find an overlap (men seem to manage to maintain hobbies after kids)… and who knows.. you could wind up with a activity buddy. Don’t be too enthusiastic though or you might wind up with angry and suspicious woman stalking you.
  • Weekend plans. Grown ups don’t just wake up on Saturday and wonder ‘what should I do with my day’, they have plans. Things already on the calendar. Ask about them. Just don’t admit that your weekend plans typically consist of ‘walk dog’ and then winging it.  That doesn’t seem to go down well.

Women

  • Ask about the family. 99.99% of women have families and love to share so it’s a surefire winner. Sure, hearing about how stressed she is about whether Jimmy is going to get into a specific daycare/kindergarten/school isn’t as scintillating to you as to her, but hey.. stress is stress. Joy is joy. Her husband/ partner is probably sick to death of the conversation, but women need to process… so be there for her. No woman has ever complained about someone expressing interest in her worries. EVER.
  • Complement her hair/makeup/shoes. I’m a sucker for this one so I KNOW it works. And if I luck out and its shoes.. the branches are endless. Foot pain. What to wear on a night out after 40. How you’re considering opting out of heels. Remember that women don’t like to make each other uncomfortable, so likely she’s trying as much as you are to find a connection point. And everyone wears shoes… the rest.. well you can wing it.

If all else fails…

  • Play the foreigner card. Turn up the accent. Laugh at your homeland. Applaud their version of your accent. Tell stories of your incompetence in the US. Your bad dates. Mention a blog…. hang on… is this just a very extended bout of small talk???????

…..Um. Do you happen to know where the bathroom is?  I really do need to get a refill. Actually I think I need to go feed the meter. I’ll be right back.

Men in shiny pants running with balls

broncos_fan-300x233That’s basically the extent of my football knowledge.

I’m the first who will bemoan those immigrants who claim the superiority of ‘football’  (aka soccer)-I’d prefer an enema to watching either game – but with the recent Denver win this weekend apparently its mandatory to shout ‘yay’ and get excited about football. I can but try.

Despite 17 years in the US, I’ve managed to avoid watching a football game since I arrived. I’ve embraced baseball (drinking and chatting in the daytime while watching people spit), hockey (dudes beating each other up on ice) and even basketball (evening drinking while watching is essentially netball). I’ve caught a lacrosse game (dudes waving sticks and hitting each other) and even played volleyball. I’m not prejudiced about sport.. its just ones with the word ‘foot’ in them.

You see I’ve loathed British football (aka “soccer”) since birth and I don’t see any reason to change just because I live in another country.  Football – the worlds game – takes too long, involves very little scoring, a lot of running back and forward, obscure rules and is about as exciting as watching my dog retrieve his ball. Some players – back in the day – were exciting to watch (Cantona *sigh*), but overall, growing up in a culture saturated in the game (Saturday TV was dominated by football – on all 3 channels), I couldn’t help but hate it. And not even Beckham’s hair could solve my loathing. The boring announcers, the recitation of stats on the evening news, and my father’s butt glued to the TV weekend after weekend as men ran up and down, men in the stands went ballistic (and often tried to kill each other), and maybe, if you were really lucky, someone scored a goal. If two goals were scored – evening headline on the news. The few games I tried to watch (in the name of fatherly bonding), the scores after an hour and a half were 0-0. Paint. Drying. Leaving the country back in 1998, one of my initial joys was the complete and utter absence of football (soccer) from my US life. (the other was feeling dry for the first time in my life)

That thing they called ‘football’ here.. I just ignored it. There were 598 other channels and nobody I knew watched it Maybe it wasn’t such a big deal. Plus it was rugby season and Colorado does play rugby.

Now rugby has my undivided attention. Growing up in Wales, rugby is king. A game where men are men, and goddam, they’re violent on the field and mates off it. Most of the guys I knew growing up played rugby. Many still do – you can tell, their ears are deformed and they’re often limping or nursing bruises the size of Rhode island.  Much of my adolescence was spent watching dudes I fancied running full pelt into each other, cracking skulls and tackling each other into the mud. And that was just teens playing.

Professional rugby is a joy to watch. Burly men trying to kill each other with little else but a cotton shirt, a pair of short shorts and some knee length socks as protection.. now that’s what I call a sport. The pants aren’t shiny, there’s no padding and the game has the virtue of never having a boring moment since standing still = death (or 12 guys landing on your head). If someone’s not running like their hair’s on fire, then a pile of men are jumping into the ‘scrum’ (basically a pile on with everyone still standing), or lifting a 280lb guy during the lineout. Its ridiculously athletic, and unlike American football, there are no stoppages. No standing around for adverts or coach chats, cheerleaders or half time shows. Its a non stop frenzied maul of dudes, balls and mud. You can’t get more exciting. Plus Denver has an awesome stadium where $10 buys you hours of games surrounded by Aussies, Kiwis and Brits, plus a few informed Yanks. Plus no-one wears game shirts, there’s no face painting and you’re more likely to meet new friends in the stands, than get punched in the face.

Now American football – the times when I’ve seen in on the tv in a bar – seems to involve an awful lot of standing around. Some of the players seem very very fat. Some of them don’t seem to run much at all. They all seem very angry, but I’m not sure why. I’ve seen some players kick the ball very far, and in Jerry McGuire (my sole source of actual football plays), there seemed to be a fair amount of tackling, but with all the padding and the helmets, its hard to tell who’s really doing what. Dudes do a dance when they get to the end of the field like they’ve suddenly channeled Michael Jackson, and anytime the game seems to get moving, a whistle blows and we have to watch a replay of the 3 seconds that just happened. As a result, it takes a very long time for the ball to move anywhere and when the game gets going, the ball is in play for such a short time, you can look away and miss all of the relevant plays in the time it takes to say ‘another beer’. The endless stops and starts seem specifically geared to the attention span of your average Ritalin patient – its agonizingly slow…on a par with soccer for actual action vs. time spent waiting for action.  I think the most exciting thing I’ve heard about football was Janet Jackson’s nipple making an appearance one time. I think that tells you everything you need to know about American football. I know, I just don’t get it. I have tried (for each of Denver’s Superbowls I tried and just wound up playing with the host’s dog/children/plants).

Since Denver is now working itself into a frothing frenzy of excitement about the big game, I did consider whether I should make more of an effort to ‘get into’ the team spirit and actually try to watch the game. Give it another try. Rally and try to get excited.

But then I realized that during the game, every single resident will be inside watching the game. Leaving the slopes, the streets, the mall.. basically everywhere desolate and free for people like me to speed, ride, run and explore.  The opportunity to be where others aren’t is just too enticing. And no amount of nachos can compete with a clear blue Colorado sky, and miles of open and empty roads.

Plus the Cycling One Day Classics are just around the corner and I need to get my head back into cycling. Now cycling… that’s a sport I can get behind.

Charity or Moral Judgement. You choose

CharityCharity, and socially pressured charitable giving is something I’ve found unique to the US. Back in the UK, charity is limited to fun runs, random treks across weird places and the bi annual ‘bring and bake sale’ for the local church roof.

See in the UK, there is a welfare state so most citizens don’t need a food bank. In fact, I’m not sure if they even exist over there. I never heard of them and we weren’t exactly shopping at Whole Foods/ Waitrose back in the day. While people are definitely in need in the UK, charity is more invisible, maybe less urgent(?) because the state takes care of so many basic needs. You know, the things Uncle Hairdo (aka Mitt Romney) thought weren’t ‘rights’ for the basic American; food, housing, water, healthcare. In the UK (and most if not all of the EU), the state takes care of the poor, the sick and those who can’t provide for themselves. So charity.. when it happens, tends to be oriented towards those causes which – lets be honest – while important, don’t mean the difference between kids going hungry and not.

Having grown up in a country where charity and charitable donations were optional, often linked to a medical cure, support or local community needs, charity wasn’t something I thought a lot about. I gave when someone rattled a tin at me, I contributed my $25 to anyone who ran a marathon (god bless their insanity) and willingly brought and bought cakes to fund local village needs. But I’d never, ever, been pressured into giving until I moved to the US.

Now charity is defined as ‘ benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity’ and ‘generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering‘.

Charity is not defined as ‘being made to give to a worthy cause or be judged as a terrible human being’. But apparently some people have forgotten this.

My first interaction with charity was via my (then) companies annual ‘United Way’ campaign. I noticed the posters around the office and thought ‘oh, how lovely, they raise awareness for those in need as a company’. How benevolent.

3 days later I received an email from my office lead noting that ‘you haven’t yet contributed to the United Way campaign’ and noting that ‘While charity is a choice, as a company we aim for 100% of our employees to participate in this event’.

Wow. It didn’t seem like much of a choice, and the tone of the note certainly wasn’t benevolent. More ‘The Krays’ than ‘Kris Kringle’. But, being me, tell me I have to do something and suddenly my heels develop crampons and I’ll obstinately dig roots in my refusal to participate.

The next note raised the level of threat to ‘orange’ by reminding me that ‘Here at <Jackass.org>, we pay our employees extremely generously’ and that the requested contribution of $25 a month was ‘a trivial amount’ that would make a ‘huge difference’ to the campaign (and, I’m assuming their participation %) while having a ‘negligible impact’ on my net pay.

Now this was back in the 90’s and $300 was a huge number to someone who’s monthly rent was $750, but I’m guessing the partners at the ‘generous’ company didn’t factor in that not everyone was taking home 6 or 7 figures every year.  I dug in my heels even further and decided to proactively boycott United Way (and the corporate ninnies who were driving it), by donating my money directly to people I could see were in need.

Aka. Bums.

Denver is filled with homeless people. Drug addicts, drunks, mentally unwell folks and kids who’ve escaped who knows what. Sleeping under bridges, in doorways and sadly, under bushes in my local park. All of them could use something and I decided that my $25 a month was going directly into the dirty, shaking hands of someone who wasn’t strong arming me into giving. Screw United Way. Screw corporate ‘giving’ campaigns. And if I chose to hand out ‘after tax’ profits without a thought for the tax implications (gosh.. I could have saved a whole…ooo. $30 on that $300) then I consider it giving just a little bit more.

Its not the giving that I object to. Its the strong arming. The moral judgement being made. All so that Jackass.org can say ‘we donated $X to United Way in 1996’ in their recruiting brochures and sales pitches. But how much of that came from the actual company itself? 1%, 2%… 3% if you’re lucky. So my ‘generosity’ is being used to pimp the company’s image? Grrrrrr.

Which brings me to this weekend when I was asked to donate at the checkout counter not once, but three times. At the same store. My the same Whole Foods checkout clerk.

‘Are you able to make a charitable contribution to the local food bank today Miss?’

Gah!

The phrasing ‘are you able?’ prompts me to announce to my fellow shoppers that I am not only able to pay for my overpriced local, organic vegetables, but hey.. I’m loaded dont’cha know? Saying ‘no’ would be the equivalent of admitting ‘actually I’m not sure if my debit card is even going to pay for these suckers’ and who’s doing that in a line full of well dressed, Lexus driving neighbors.

Never mind that I spent my summer gardening, growing local organic vegetables specifically for a local food bank (we donated 2,500lbs of fresh produce over a 10 week period).. if I say no, my fellow shoppers look disdainfully at me and my cashier doesn’t even try to hide her embarrassment at my lack of warm heartedness.

So instead I say ‘sure’ and donate my $5. Hating her. Hating the line of people all sagely nodding ‘ah.. a good person’ even though I might be going home to whip my children with these local carrots and chastise my dog with a parsnip.

Whole Foods prides itself on ‘giving back’ to the communities that it serves, but when every shopping trip turns into a moral adjudication of my charitable spirit, I’d actually rather that they didn’t involve me in that. They’re not giving back. I AM.

And I’ve chosen my choice. I chose to donate directly through actual food. Which I did. All summer. So while I still hand out my $5s and $10s to people on the street and feed those rattling cans at Christmas, if anyone else asks me if I am able to donate while I’m buying some Dawn and toothpaste, I think the only legitimate response is ‘Bah humbug’.

 

 

 

The wonderful weirdness that is Great Britain

MorrisAfter explaining Guy Fawkes night at length for the eleventy millionth time, I got to thinking about the other things which I took for granted growing up the UK. By the time I had 16 things on paper I figure it was time for a post. I mean, I’m both American and British now, but some of the things I took (take) as ‘normal’ seem downright bizarre these days. Bizarre, but still make me smile indulgently when they cross my mind.

1. We grew up fearing the TV license detector van

The UK is famous for only have three basic channels until about 16 years ago, and even now I think they’re up to about 5. Of course there is cable, but a large majority of the population stick with their 5. Well, they paid for them.

You see in the UK you pay to watch TV, even if you don’t have cable. Every year you pop along to your post office and spend $120 on a ‘TV license’. Yes, you need a license to watch TV… all 5 channels of it.This money goes to the BBC to fund programming instead of ad sales so while it sounds ridiculous, it does mean you get to watch TV without being bombarded with Ford Truck Month ads or the latest anti-depressant medication.

But how do they monitor your compliance if its not cable?

You guessed it – the TV license detector van.

Unmarked white vans were supposedly trafficking your area looking for those who weren’t ‘licensed’ to turn on their TV. (I am NOT kidding). How they detected your non compliance with their magic technology I have no idea (since most people still used aerials/ bunny ears up until 2007)… but man, the fear of being caught out makes most people renew year after year. And yes, they’re still doing it.

2. …and the annual MOT

Along with your annual trip for your TV license, every Brit has to get their vehicle ‘tested’ every year. Just like America right? Actually no. Not for us the emissions test and 2 hour wait for a new sticker.. oh no. In the UK you don’t get your sticker without an actual Motor Vehicle Test of road worthiness. As in… do all the parts work? Yes, if your tires are bald, your fan belt dicky or your exhaust a bit blowy you don’t get to pass, and no sticker for you.

Can you imagine????

And you get to pay for the MOT inspection, which if you fail, you get to retake (after fixing everything), and repay for UNTIL you pass. Rad…and suddenly that 2 hour wait at the DMV looking not such a hassle now is it?

3. Men dance in the streets wearing bells and streamers

Aw this one is a doozy. And I can’t think of an American equivalent to even start from.

Imagine a man all dressed in white, wearing knee high socks with bells strapped around his knees.  He’s also got gaters on his arms with more bells, and he’s also wearing a bowler type hat with flowers on the brim. Oh, and he’s carrying a tambourine resplendent with streamers and more bells, perhaps a handkerchief,

No, he’s not a Moonie. Its not Gay Pride week. He’s a Morris dancer.

An ancient folk dancing tradition from the 15th century, Morris Dancers are always men, typically perform in the town square or at a local fete/ fair, and basically dance around to a fiddle or a pipe. There’s lots of stepping, waving of handkerchiefs, banging of tambourines and shouting of ‘Hey’. Beards predominate. Morris dancing is actually a competitive sport in the UK and there’s different flavors based on the location from where the tradition evolved; some dance around swords, other dance around with sticks.. but they’re all dancin’. Solemnly skipping and hopping, stepping and waving shit. Its bizarre, its traditional and no-one bats an eye. It certainly isn’t consider effete (it takes some serious man balls to walk around with bells on your shoes) and in most rural or semi rural towns, there are displays in the middle of town throughout the summer.  Sure America has NASCAR and Ultimate fighting, but it doesn’t have Morris.

4. Healthcare is free but slow

Everyone has heard the good, bad and the ugly about the British healthcare system (NHS). Sure you might have to wait 3 months for an MRI or 6 weeks for an xray.. but its free. Gratis. For everyone. My mother just had a battery of high tech tests that would set your average American back $$$$ in just copays over a period of 8 weeks. Sure at your average American hospital they’d have been done in a week. But in the UK, all free. Her friend was just diagnosed with cancer and underwent extensive, cutting edge chemo, radiation and surgery. Free.

Now there is a down side. Drugs are not free. No siree. They cost $5.95.

All of them.

Need some generic Xanax? $5.95.

How about some brand label Coumdin or Lexapro $5.95

Your drugs for chemo? $5.95

Socialism sucks doesn’t it?

Now when Brits visit the US, they’re very impressed by the speed of the action, the high tech glossiness of our hospitals, and the pretty scrubs that everyone gets to wear. But mention that you have to pay for this joy every month? And co-pays for every doctor visit, ER visit or ambulance ride?  And a deductible? And your prescriptions might run you $50 or $75 per drug? Mouths drop. My mother questions whether this another one of ‘over exaggerations’.

The NHS is weird (how it keeps going is beyond my comprehension) and the service it provides isn’t optimal (they’ll save your life, but they’ll take their own damn time about it). But having just paid off a CAT scan from 2005 ($3,200 thank you)… well I know which I’d prefer.

5. Getting married is slooooow

Lets say you finally muster up the courage to ask, she says yes and you decide that you can’t wait to get married.. you want to do it ‘right now’. In the US, we automatically think ‘Vegas’.. but in the UK, for your marriage to be legal, you face a 12 hour flight or..well… a bit of a wait.

You see, in the UK you need to register your marriage before you do it. Like 2 weeks before. No exceptions. And you can only register once you can provide local residence (aka within your county) for at least 7 days. No problem if you’re British… kind of a bummer if you’re visiting or moved recently. So… sit yourself down buddy.. you’re in for a bit of a wait (better hope she doesn’t change her mind either, cos if you move the date, you have to register again, and wait another 2 weeks). Oh.. and once you’re registered, you have 16 days to get married or its void. Countdown started!!!!!!

Thinking about a romantic dawn ceremony or a evening candle light procession? So dreadfully sorry. You can’t get married outside of the hours of 8am and 6pm if its a religious ceremony. People have shit to do after all and we’re British… the pub is open.

Fancy a church wedding? Well cool your heels…In the UK, you need to have your wedding ‘banns’ read out during a church service to let everyone know you’re getting married.

No biggy? Let me finish… You must have your banns read out in church for three Sundays during the three months before the wedding. That’s at least another 3 weeks of waiting then…That 12 hour flight to Vegas is suddenly looking a lot closer isn’t it?

But don’t worry.. getting divorced is even harder!

***

So next time you’re thinking about how much your cable bill is, how much hassle that emissions test is or how the new  Affordable Healthcare Act is a such a bummer.. consider the weird and wonderful world that is Great Britain.

We’re not #1, we’re not even in the top 10, but we like it that way. Anything else is just showing off.

You can never be too safe

Starbuck-Guns-CoffeeYesterday Howard Schultz, he of the ubiquitous green mermaid and meth v2.0  (aka the Pumpkin Spice Latte) was making news. And it wasn’t good. In fact it got a whole heap of people riled up…

  • They’ve come up with a larger size than the much ridiculed ‘Trenta’ ? (Italian for ‘house sized American’)
  • They’re expanding into to IV drips and adhesive caffeine patches?
  • They’ve decided to stop with the coffee thing altogether and focus on selling Paul McCartney CDs?

No, even worse. They’re asking you not to bring your gun into the store.

*gasp*

Well I know that those soccer Moms can get a little gangsta when the barista is slow with their half caff latte but I had no idea that firearms were involved. Good to know.. Unfortunately this news came a little too late for me to lock and load for my decaf, but hey.. I’ll bring my mace and pray for a peaceful Thursday.

After a little research I found there’s a whole other bunch of places where you’re not allowed to take guns in America. So if you want to stay safe, take a look and employ some alternate means of protection. After all, those second amendment rights aren’t there for show and if we don’t use them… well you’ve only got yourself to blame. Here’s some ideas to get you started.

1. Hospitals

Now I know that its easier and much faster to get medical care if you wave a 9mm around (always works in the movies), but apparently you’re not allowed to carry your semi automatic weapon into hospitals any more. How you’re meant to protect yourself when the shit hits the fan in the gastroenterology ward I don’t know.. but I for one, will be bringing a bleach filled syringe (Terminator 2 stylin’) for when I need, really need some ice chips. Think ahead people. Women in labor? I’m going to suggest hand grenade – its light, its small and it fits in your labor bag. Cancer patient? How about some uranium? You’re radioactive already in fact, you might be your very own WMD. Sitting in ER? I’m thinking Chinese throwing star can help take out those ahead of you quietly and hey, you can probably take out the entire waiting area without making a sound.

2. Taking your driving test

I found that packing heat while learning to drive is essential for getting to grips with traffic and the rules of the road, plus you never know when shit will go down. How else do you get right of way at a stop sign? And don’t get me started on parking spots. Its hard to reverse into a space, but waving your 45 can help others understand that you need more space. I also find that driving instructors really are supportive if you’re packing, but since its now illegal, I would suggest that you get your car outfitted with those awesome spiked rims that James Bond villains used to employ. That way you can alert a fellow road user to your need to change lanes and, if used in conjunction with a rear mounted flame thrower, you can pretty much ensure your driving test proceeds unimpeded by other road users.

3. The Beach

Some liberal nancys argue that the beach is a “safe” zone and that the need for personal protection is rendered null and void due to the so called “fun in the sun” attitude of your typical beach goer. But hey, you can never be too careful. Since your weapon can get a little gritty in the beach environment anyway, I would strongly suggest that you store all firearms in the closest vehicle, and venture out with a cyanide tipped blow gun. It won’t be impeded by sand, its light, fast and silent so no hassle from any napping beach goers. If this doesn’t give you the level of assurance you typically require, I’d supplement your beach armory with a ring sword. It doubles as a frisbee so you can play, and protect your nearest and dearest. Might want to outfit the kids with some chain-mail if you’ve got bad aim in the family though. Safety first and all that crap.

4. Community Gardening

Now I know that many of you might be questioning the need for protection while fertilizing the beets, spraying the tomatoes or harvesting the chard, but let me tell you, danger is everywhere. Since discharging a firearm in a public space is a felony, you’ll need to look elsewhere for your rural protection needs. Now I know many of you might immediately turn to the tools at hand – a good swing with a shovel can be effective if you can generate the torque needed to completely decapitate a head, but sadly for many of us, this won’t keep you feeling safe while you’re deadheading the garlic. My recommendation would be a good old fashioned scythe. Its practically designed for self protection and I say its the discrete weapon for today’s gardener. If you have the space, I’d also recommend adding in a mace, some nun chucks and that reliable old favorite, the machete. Its in keeping with the whole ‘rustic’ theme of the environment, and you can probably do double duty  on those raspberry canes.

And finally..

5. Your neighborhood coffee shop

With the recent ‘request’ from Mr.Schultz I’d suggest you go one of two ways on protection while ordering and drinking coffee. You can go ahead and use your second amendment rights (after all, Schultz only ‘asked’, he didn’t ban), or you can really go with the flow and adapt to the whole ‘drinking shit’ environment. Ricin capsules are highly effective at silencing that bitch on the next table who’s whining about her C section scar, and if necessary, you can sneeze it over that crappy barista who is always making your cappuccino too wet. For a more urgent threat, I’d suggest that you always carry a switchblade, have your surface to air missile on ‘ready’ position in the Beamer and if all else fails, you can make like a non American and run.

Stay safe out there kids.

Whitey’s guide to Other People

burkaToday the innernet was awash with the racist remarks following the crowing of  *gasp* a brown Miss America. And while the mainstream media focused on the visual delights of chicks in bikinis and heels, the non mainstream was steaming about the Twitter rants which indicated much of America still hasn’t figured out that there are differences between India, Arabs, Al Qaeda and Muslims. And boy, they really weren’t ashamed about broadcasting their ignorance.

  • ‘9/11 was 4 days ago, and she gets Miss America?’
  • ‘I’m literarily (sic) sooo mad right now an Arab won’
  • ‘How the fuck does a foreigner win Miss America?’
  • We have a black president and an Asian Miss America. This ain’t Merica no more guys.
  • Don’t you have to be American to win Miss AMERICA this bitch is some type of Indian..

That Nina Davuluri, an Indian-American woman born in Syracuse (NY) instantly became a foreigner, an Arab and somehow linked to terrorism is beyond me. Most worryingly was that many of these posts came from college kids.. the supposed ‘smartest’ of the next generation.

Sorry ‘merica, the melting pot is apparently full. Only native Christian whiteys allowed in our kids future. So, as a foreigner myself, I felt it my moral duty to set some of these confused people straight with my very own ‘Whitey’s Guide to other People’

1. Terrorists

Not all brown people are terrorists. I know, I know it might seem like everyone on Fox News with tanned skin and a shouty disposition is out to destroy ‘Merica but honestly, that doesn’t make them terrorists. In fact, even if they are brown, holding a machine gun, burning an effgy of President Obama and shouting ‘death to infidels’ they still not might actually be a terrorist. Sure they might be angry.. but it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily planning to blow up something. There’s a big difference.  After all, Timothy Mcveigh was never spotted dancing around a town square with a machine gun before he killed 168 people. And Richard Reed (the shoebomber) couldn’t get any whiter.. the dude was from England and wearing Columbia hiking boots. So dancing around and chanting in public really doesn’t correlate now does it? So unless Miss Nina Davuluri was actually wearing a bomb tied to her chest.. I think we can safely assume she wasn’t out to terrorize anyone last night (though her yellow dress was pretty shock inducing at moments).

So how do you spot a terrorist then? Well the NSA, the FBI and the CIA haven’t figured it out, so I doubt you, Mr. Go_Buckeyes has it figured out. Lets just leave it to the smart people for now and you can focus your ‘informed’ labeling elsewhere.

2. Muslims

Muslims can be any color. They can be even be white. *gasp*. I know.. right?  Which means you can’t spot a Muslim by the color of his or her skin. And since Muslims can also originate from most any country (Europe, China, African, Asia, you name it).. well the language they’re babbling in isn’t really a give away either. They might even have an American accent. Sheeet. Well how do you spot one then? Since Muslims make up 23% of the world’s population, I’m guessing that if you have 10 friends, you probably already know one. Is Miss Nina Davuluri a Muslim? Who knows.. and really, who really cares what flavor of heavenly being she looks up to? Unless its Voldemort, I think we’ll be ok America.

3. Arabs

What is an Arab? I know.. tricky. Rides a camel? Lives in the desert? Wants to kill ‘Mericans? Actually Arabs are defined by their culture, not by their race.. and in ‘Merica, they’re actually classified as ‘white/caucasian’. *gasp*  They’re not even considered ‘brown‘. Slippery buggers ain’t they? Most of the Arabs live in the Arab League of States which covers all those dusty countries with all the oil, and when I last checked, Miss Nina Davuluri hails from Syracuse. I don’t think they have oil, do they? I know for sure they don’t have camels.

4. Indians

Indians are citizens India or descendants of those citizens. No, they’re not Arabs (that’s a culture not a place) and few are Muslims (in fact 80% are peace loving Hindus). Which makes them generally…generally…not into blowing ‘Merica up.  In fact, some of them have been in ‘Merica longer than whitey – the first documented East Indian landing in Jamestown in 1635, which actually makes ’em more ‘Merican that you. And yes, they are brown and therefore easy spot.  But since 71% of them have bachelors degrees (only 28% of ‘Mericans do) and 40% have Masters, its probably because you work for them. Is Miss Nina an Indian? Well her Dad’s a obgyn and she holds a degree from U of Michigan, so  you do the math.

5. Foreigners

Foreigners are tricky bastards. They’re not easy to spot at all. Foreigners can have any accent (even goddam Canadians sounds ‘Merican) and gosh darn it, some of them can come from other countries and then actually become ‘Mericans themselves. Fuckers. Like Muslims and terrorists they can also be any color. Tricky little assholes aren’t they? You can probably spot them though via their love of America (they love our flag), their hard work ethic (they love our jobs) and desire to never claim anything from the government (they believe in the ‘Merican dream and doing it for themselves). I know, I know.. slippery ain’t they? If someone says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, opens the door for your woman and seems weirdly fine with waiting in line for hours at a time… I think its safe to say they’re foreigners. Is Miss Nina a foreigner? Well she says was born in Syracuse, New York, but we’ve not yet seen a birth certificate .. so the juries out as far as I’m concerned.

So there you have it, Whiteys Guide to Other People. Better lucky next time spotting your Arabian Muslim terrorist.

You’re welcome ‘Merica.

We need a hug alternative

We need a hug alternative

I’m not a natural hugger. The country in which I was raised is crowded and as a result, the concept of personal space is ingrained from birth. Sure we hug relatives at Christmas, and parents hug their children but the hug, as I was raised, is for close or related friends. Oh and grandmothers.

In the US, the hug is an all inclusive activity. Something I was schooled on when, 3 years ago, my new boss greeted me with a smile and a hug. I immediately assumed a) he’s an escaped lunatic or b) he’s trying to get in my pants. The jury is still out on a) but I do now know that his hug isn’t that big of a deal in the US.. its just a form of greeting and is often exchanged by people who don’t really know each other.

Which is just WEIRD.

Lets consider the act. You are wrapping your arms around another human being, bringing your body close together.. and if you’re a women, boobs may be smashed against the other chest (which may have its own boobs). Genitals are mere inches apart and you feel each other’s body.

Its so not right to happen in a work context.

I don’t need you to know what my boobs feel like, or how deep my back fat goes, or feel any kind of rise of temperature in the pants department as a form of greeting. A handshake is perfectly adequate and I can always wash my hands (whereas the feel of man boobs pressed against mine remains forever). So why is it acceptable, nay, expected in the workplace these days?

In the UK, we greet each other with a  handshake.That covers everyone from a stranger to your boss to potential new friend at a party who you’ve just met or even your parents (hey we’re not a family of huggers). You greet or welcome someone with a handshake. You might… might... part with a hug (if you’ve imbibed a lot of alcohol, broken down crying when recounting your last boyfriends departure or shared the news of your impending colonoscopy since you met)… but its not a given. A British hug means something. It means ‘I get you’ or ‘ I like you’ or ‘I think you need cheering up’. It is never a way to introduce yourself. (unless you are that escaped lunatic or frisky man dog I previously mentioned). We tend to reserve it for a friend you haven’t seen a years, a family member who is walking towards you arms outstretched or potentially someone who just won a major award. Like a Nobel peace prize (BAFTAs and Pulitzer winners get a gentle clap). And even then… even then.. there’s an awkward pause before going in for the hug.. the ‘should I?’ ‘do I have to?’ ‘for England’ mental considerations. I tell you, we Brits really don’t do take hugs lightly in a non familial context.

Instead we have lots of alternatives. The arm punch (suitable for team mates, coworkers, men in the pub ..or me); the one arm shoulder hug – avoids bodies getting too close, but conveys some warmth and if you’re feeling extra friendly, men can do the handshake/ backslap combo and women, the hand shake coupled with an arm touch. These alternatives recognize a connection but could never be construed as uncomfortable or weird in the workplace or socially.  They can be greetings or farewells, but they’re low stress and, at least in the UK, all totally acceptable for any occasion. Workplace, funeral, wedding, first date…

But, since I now live in the US, I am thwarted at every attempt to shoulder hug, arm pat or shake hands. I am greeted with looks of confusion, and most often, get pulled forward into a hug whether I want to or not. My proffered hand shakes are taken as rude or cold, and the arm pats/ shoulder hugs seen as awkward and ‘standoffish’. One person just stood at gawped at my outstretched hand as though he didn’t know what to do with it. I actually had to reach for his hand and grasp it, shaking it like a noodle as he looked bemused. Yes, its a handshake. Its what civilized people with personal space issues who don’t know you do to say hello. It won’t kill you. Where as hugging you… well it may kill me.

The Answer?

So now I mostly suck it up and take the hug. My toes curl and I generally hold on with the strength of a lettuce leaf, but at least the other person isn’t questioning my integrity or character. In true British fashion I don’t want anyone to be embarrassed and if my boss, my first date or that woman I’ve just met wants to smush my boobs… well have at it.

In the meantime my search for a socially acceptable greeting activity continues.. the only rule being that genitals remain far away from each other and nobody’s boobs get smushed. How about a salute?

Making up with makeup

Growing up in 1970’s Britain, make up was generally something for hookers and tarts. British women embraced the ‘natural look’ not because we’re in any way beautiful (have you seen Kate Middleton before she was Kate Middleton?), but because bothering about how your face looked was generally seen as extreme vanity or for those who were  a bit ‘full of themselves’. For a culture built on trying not to stand out, trying too hard to improve your looks was seen as tacky, hiding something or, god forbid, trying to be ‘better’ than your neighbor.

America couldn’t be more different. A country built on self improvement and betterment, America (to those who aren’t), is a country of insanely made up women. Beautiful women who can wield a eyeshadow at birth and haven’t been seen naked faced since middle school. Moving here in my 20’s, I marveled at the manicured hands, the dramatic brows, the eyeshadow and lipstick of every woman I saw on the street – in Denver no less. The home of Crocs. I couldn’t believe that every female woke up and performed ‘art’ on their face, before heading out on the door. I could barely get the sleep out of my eyes. It seemed so elaborate, so indulgent, so much effort in order to look slightly prettier than normal. Like professional sports and the missionary position, I didn’t get the allure.

My mother had a lipstick. 1. Which was applied for Christmas work dinners or maybe New Years eve. I seem to remember it being replaced only once it cracked and dried out. She also had a mascara block, a solid square of black goo which was rubbed with a tiny toothbrush and then applied to eyelashes. That was her process. 2 minutes in the bathroom and lipstick on her teeth as she headed out the door. It didn’t set a good precedent for me. Make up didn’t seem to do much except make your lips a weird orange color and your eyelashes blobby.

After a few years in the US, I attended a make up party. Just to see how it worked, you know.. in case I every decided to put some on for a party or something. A good friend of mine, a former actress, walked us through the basics of makeup application. I assumed it was maybe a 5 minute thing which I could use when I was feeling fancy.

Holy shit! Primer, concealer, foundation.. it was like building a house. And that was before you even starting any painting. Eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow, blush, shaders, bronzers, eyebrow gel, lip liner, lip stick, lip gloss. My list of what I would need to replicate her dewy, natural looking beauty covered two sides of my notebook and seemed like it would take me at least an afternoon to get through. Jeez.. I’d need to start the night before if I was going to get it all done. And every day???? Oh hell no.
I clutched my trusty tinted lip balm and called it good.

I resigned myself to a few forays into lipstick (I also wear it on my teeth, just like my mother), and eyeshadow (I looked like Mortica no matter what I tried), but I always looked like what I was – someone who didn’t know what she was doing, and I rarely came out the other side looking better. Usually I looked like a tranny. I didn’t care  – I was used to my high shine forehead in every photo. But then I turned 40.

The tiny lines and crows feet which hadn’t bothered me before, suddenly seemed crevasse-like on Facebook. When I looked in the mirror, all I saw were age spots from my hours outdoors and creases from my ever increasing workload. My lips seemed to have shrunk and when did I develop such huge pores? This wasn’t a question of vanity, it was personal dignity. I decided to man up and make up with the idea of make up.

My trusted friend took me by the hand, scaled down her process by about 90% and taught me the basics that every American woman seems to be born knowing how to do. I learned how to look less tranny in eyeshadow and I no longer paint my teeth with lipstick. I can hid my acne scars and I don’t look like I’m wearing a mask. I can ‘put on my face’ in about 5 minutes and it only involves 4 things, one of which is moisturizer. I look more put together, less blotchy and slightly less wrinkled.

I’ll never be one of those American women who look effortlessly beautiful and put together, and I still look like a deer in the headlights every time I hit a make up counter, but I’ve made up with the idea of make up. Now waxing… that’s a whole other story.