Wednesday, December 29, 2010

And Then Apple Destroyed My New Years Resolution


It was the year I went on a road trip with a potential serial killer. It was the year I ate dog soup. It was the year I became the editor of a magazine. It was the year I fought a woman with terminal cancer. It was the year I lived with a paranoid schizophrenic. It was the year I illegally disposed of human remains. It was the year I learned I was Rambo.

Basically, I rocked this year so hard it died of an intracranial injury.

Now, 2010 in review:

I survived Americorps. Barely. One of the various inane requirements at my alma mater was a career aptitude test. Our high school guidance counselors supposedly used this test as a means of pointing wayward students in the direction of a viable career. Unfortunately for my counselor, I very quickly realized that this test was a sham – surely, no one could fall for questions like, “Do you want to rescue infants from burning buildings?” No, I didn’t want to rescue infants from burning buildings. It would be nice if someone rescued infants from burning buildings, but it would not be me. Were they trying to be sneaky? Clearly, this question really meant, “Do you want to be a firefighter?” Why wasn’t the test a piece of paper with a box that said, “Write your desired career here”?

I deemed that the test had no intrinsic value and answered the questions accordingly. When it came time for my parents to meet with my counselor regarding the results, the appointment was a somber one.

“Well,” said my counselor, “Brittany seems to be equally disinterested in everything.” This was not what my parents had been expecting of the daughter who was on the high honor roll and a member of the California Scholarship Federation.

“Although,” – we waited with baited breath for the good news – “She really, really doesn’t want to help people.”

As it turns out, I should have heeded the results. After college, I had one of those typical what-the-hell-am-I-doing-with-my-life panic attacks and signed up for the Americorps VISTA program – as suggested by my mother, who, as it turns out, is in complete denial about the type of person I am.

While everyone’s Americorps experience varies, the general consensus seems to be that the VISTA program in particular is a soul-sucking hell hole. In the end I learned a very important lesson: organizations only value what they pay for. Also? I am terrible at working with wealthy housewives. In conclusion: my year in Americorps helped me come to terms with the fact that there are many jobs I would immediately be fired from. Most of them include ill-behaved homeless children and fundraising events.


[Sometimes, you can only afford Mexican goat milk caramel spread.]

I lived in a two bedroom apartment with three other people. My measly Americorps stipend was meant to force me to live in poverty, and that I did. My roommates and I quickly learned that some things were worth splurging on – bleached toilet paper and quality cuts of beef, for instance – while other things could be purchased at the local Mexican market. Most of our income was reserved for alcohol.

My roommates were so awesome that they made up for the fact that we were collectively starving to death. That is, with the exception of one roommate who taped a piece of paper over her laptop’s webcam “to keep the Feds from spying on her.”

Cancer Dad was cancer free. In a surprising twist, my father didn’t get cancer in 2010. He had spent the past few years being diagnosed with cancer on three different occasions and then subsequently declaring that his death was imminent (usually in public places). In 2009, he very nearly became the Bionic Man when a surgeon decided that the best course of action would be to replace Cancer Dad’s entire sternum with a titanium plate. That didn’t happen, and the doctors never did figure out what kind of cancer he had. Yet, he’s still here.

Grandma only made it to 99 years of age. While Cancer Dad surprised us all by not getting cancer, Grandma surprised us by passing away. We thought she would live for eternity, so it was all really quite shocking. She didn’t go silently though – rumor has it that some hospital employees might be filing lawsuits. You see, she didn’t kick the bucket. She kicked an orderly. In the face.

I illegally disposed of my grandparents' bodies. Because Grandma passed on, we finally carried out Grandpa’s wishes to have their ashes mingled together and spread over a horse corral. As it turned out, this was the worst plan of all time. However, I am determined to make this a tradition. Yes, that’s right. I intend to dump human remains behind the same house in the future. Although Cancer Dad disappointed us by not keeping his word and dying, I intend to forge his Will so that he, too, can be mixed with horse manure when he finally does pass on. And then I will make my children do the same to me.


[I really think that is supposed to read, "God Forsook Texas."]

I went to Texas and it was every bit as awful as I suspected. I still cannot comprehend that there is an entire state comprised of strip malls, vacant lots and herds of cattle.


I took The Boyfriend to South Korea and we survived. Barely. The Boyfriend is the worst traveler of all time. But he decided to take our relationship to the next level by inviting himself on my second Korean excursion, possibly as a romantic gesture. He packed for our journey while downing Four Lokos and the next thing I knew, we were in Bucheon and he had only one pair of clean pants.

I got a job as a writer. Though my mother constantly bemoans my "Que Sera, Sera" attitude, it tends to work for me. Despite the economy, I was only unemployed for a week and a half after the end of my Americorps service. I threw a bunch of resumes out in cyberspace, and now I'm a full time assistant editor for two trader magazines (and I have fun benefits like health insurance and a 401k plan). The whole thing is really surreal. You work for some newspapers, maintain a terrible blog, and then people are all, You should be a writer! And I’m like, That’s kind of hard to get into, yo. And then I get this job and people are like, What’s a trade magazine? And I’m like, It means I’m the reigning expert on bus chassis and mass notification systems (well, maybe not)! And they’re all, Wait, you don’t get paid to write about zombie cows?!

I got my own apartment. One of the huge upsides to being paid a living wage is that you can afford to live on your own. I now reside in a kick ass apartment walking distance from the beach. And although I’m too much of a bum to ever actually go to the beach, I do reap the other benefits of single living. Those include watching Netflix in my underwear and drinking wine in my bathtub. Judge away.

I discovered that I have two secret half uncles. Turns out, all the men in my family have been married multiple times to women who mysteriously died. Subsequently, the offspring resulting from these unions were abandoned. Said uncles were discovered by my brother Topher, via Google.


I found a 200-year-old book in the trunk of my car. I’m on the verge of being signed up for the television show Hoarders, but my pack rat ways have led me to several exciting genealogical discoveries. Turns out I’m the descendant of the commander of the IX Corps of the Union Army (Civil War, yo!), Brigham Young, and the founders of Parkesburg, Pennsylvania. I am also a descendant of Peter Gunnarsson Rambo, a Swedish immigrant who came to the New World in 1640. Turns out Sylvester Stallone's Rambo character is Peter's namesake. Basically? I'm awesome.


[Cat? Or space mutant?]

I was deemed responsible enough to adopt a furry creature. Three weeks ago, I adopted an Ewok from a rescue agency. Okay, so maybe it was a Himalayan cat. Either way, she looks like a space alien, performs complicated aerial assaults, and has the uncanny ability to look exactly like Jabba the Hutt when necessary.

In summary: I have no idea how it happened – but I started 2010 as a confused, poverty-stricken recent college grad and left it a self-sufficient professional writer with a pet Ewok and a roof over my head. It’s astounding how quickly things can change.

I conquered 2010, bitches.

And then, with astounding speed, 2011 conquered me.

That's right. I already failed to uphold my one new year's resolution - to eat breakfast. But I'm going to have to blame Apple for this one.

On Monday, January 3rd, all 15 of the alarms I had set for myself failed to go off. Apparently, Apple experienced a massive failure in which iPhone alarms malfunctioned in the new year (how is this shit even possible, yo?). It was like Y2K all over again. Except it really happened this time.

In summary: I was late to my first day of work in 2011, and subsequently I did not eat breakfast.

That's got to be a world record in resolution breaking.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Starving Dog, a Sharp Stick, and a Thought on Family at Christmas

While I was abusing my stomach and ears this morning with a gingerbread latte and some seasonal music, I caught the tail end of a conversation in the next cubicle:

“…Like my dad always says, ‘it beats a sharp stick in the eye’!”

I can’t help but think that our families have way more to do with who we are than we would like. But this season – while I watch my sexist, alcoholic grandfather hit on waitresses, and tune out my Paraguayan aunt’s lecture on the herbal remedies she sells out of her compound in Pahrump, Nevada – I will be thankful.

I will be thankful for my cousin who was arrested in Columbia with thousands of dollars in her shoes; for my (secret) half uncle who posts science fiction about moon colonies on his blog; for my 6’7” great uncle who robbed an ice cream parlor at gunpoint; for my grandmother that was committed to an institution after she hallucinated that there was a flock of ducks in her living room.

All these people make me who I am. (Which – in the case of my mental health – is probably not a good thing.)

I am also thankful for all the relatively useless advice they have provided over the years. (As my late paternal grandfather used to say, “Never hire an architect who wears a cape.”)

Despite their best efforts to the contrary, my family makes me proud. Their endless antics, absurd secret lives, and collective arrest record are not to be dismissed. Thank you guys for everything.

But, as my dad always says, “Brittany, you need that like a starving dog needs two assholes!”*

Well, merry Christmas and a happy new year!

*Clearly, I win the “as my father always says” contest.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Someone Owes Me a Million Dollars (and it Might Be Sylvester Stallone)


First of all, apologies to the blogosphere for my overwhelming lameness as of late. I have become very busy and important, and therefore unable to blog with pathological frequency. I will try my best to get back on the bandwagon.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

I am wildly unhelpful if you have real life problems. This is mostly because my family taught me that if you are experiencing serious issues, you should probably just shut up about it and quietly plot your revenge. Which means, really, that I am never going to give you sympathetic or useful advice during the terrible, dark periods of your life.

Take today for example. The Graphic Designer, a former squeeze of mine, has been experiencing some unemployment-related issues since the economy up and died. I could offer some nice, supportive banter. Or I could offer something semi-logical that is based on my actual life experiences:

Me: Don’t worry. It's impossible that you won't get a job for the rest of forever - unless, of course, you're one of my insane relations. In that case, you’ve blown millions of dollars on a koi pond, an assortment of rare cacti, and a home theater system and now you live in someone's basement in Chicago. But that's totally different.

The Graphic Designer: Oi vey, how is it I know that YOU KNOW somebody exotic like that?!

Me: Dude, you have no idea. Last week I traced my family back to a guy who came to the New World in 1640. He has an apple named after him.

And so forth.

Now, it may surprise you, but everything I said in this excerpt from my ill-fated gchat with The Graphic Designer is quite true. I am related to an eccentric former millionaire who spent all his money hand-building a koi grotto next to his swimming pool and installing a custom recliner in his living room that doubled as a huge remote for his theater screen. (He very kindly offered to let me “party at his place” whenever. Shortly thereafter, he filed for bankruptcy. Oh the devastation.)

I am also the descendant of a Swedish immigrant who ventured to New Sweden (now known as Delaware) in 1640 and consequently witnessed William Penn’s treaty with the Lenape Indians for the acreage that now constitutes the city of Philadelphia.

Peter Gunnarsson Rambo traveled across the seas onboard the Kalmar Nyckel, quite inexplicably, with a sack of apple seeds. He subsequently planted them all over New England, and the resulting variety of apples was dubbed “The Rambo Apple.”

Now here’s the important part.

If you’re thinking The fuck, the dude’s name was Rambo?!, you might be onto something.

Back in the day (circa 1970), a writer named David Morrell was trying to come up with a name for the protagonist of his latest novel. His wife came home with a bag of apples that she claimed were particularly delicious; he asked what they were called.

If you guessed “Rambo apples,” you are now displaying signs of average intelligence. Congratulations!

Morrell’s book was called First Blood and it inspired the infamous Rambo film franchise starring Sylvester Stallone.




Bitch, where are my royalties?!

I mean, hell, Sylvester Stallone’s character was indirectly named after my ancestor. Are there no benefits in that?! You mean my poor great great grandfather Ezekiel Rambo Young (I couldn’t even make this shit up) had to live his whole life with that ludicrous moniker and it means nothing?! (Unfortunately, Peter’s descendants were really into naming their sons Ezekiel. And my poor great great grandfather was named way before they knew our family name was going to become an 80s cinematic sensation.)

(Thousands of angels are playing their tiny violins as we speak.)

So, basically?

The estate of David Morrell can send me a check (or money order!) for a million bucks and we’ll call it even.