Friday, June 11, 2010

Suntan Lotion

Suntan lotion, for me, is one of the most distinct smells in the world, although I'm not even sure exactly what it smells like. There's definitely some coconut in there, which is nice, but it's not just that; it's got so much more in there. So much that adds to its uniqueness that I don't think anyone has ever said "Something smells like suntan lotion" and been surprised when the something they were smelling was something other than suntan lotion. It's like the scent of coffee, marijuana, cucumber melon lotion from Bath and Body Works, or patriotism. You don't confuse it with anything else.

I value the smell of suntan lotion. So much so that I'll call it my smell. I'm not saying I smell like suntan lotion (because I've been told I smell like the inside of a Panera Bread, no joke, and this person didn't mean it as an insult, which means they must really dig freshly baked bread equipped with a smaller-than-average penis). I'm saying that when I smell suntan lotion, I immediately have these flashbacks of some of the great times I've had earlier in my life. It's like when I smell it, I can no longer concentrate on whatever it was I was doing before it wafted into my nostrils. These flashbacks are to things I seldom think about anymore and, in some cases, even actively try to forget, but suntan lotion shows no mercy. It's kind of like I'm an amnesiac getting little bits of my memory back in a more vivid way than I was really prepared for. I'd compare it to the final episode of "Lost," when the characters were living in one life (purgatory or some shit, who knows?), but are somehow connected to their other life/dimension/whatever, but they don't remember it. The only way they begin to remember is they have these epiphanies that happen when they touch someone else that was special to them on the island, or if they see something that reminds them of it. When it happens, they completely forget everything else except some extremely happy moment (which were few and far between, during both an adolescence trying to figure out girls as well as being stranded and defenseless on a tropical island), when it seemed to them it couldn't get any better. From what I could tell by watching the show, these people could feel that same happiness just by looking back on these moments, like they were experiencing them again.

That's what my flashbacks are like. I smell this lotion, and I'm totally useless to speak to the people around me for the next, like 10-15 minutes. I get swept back to a certain moment and feel just like I felt during it, and then I spend the subsequent minutes trying to send myself back there. It's like when you have one of those dreams where you're banging Giselle Bundchen and when you wake up you try and fall immediately back to sleep so she can finish you off. (Let's be honest, that's why dreams are sweet. Because you wake up having not finished and can pat yourself on the back for going at it without exploding with Giselle for the entire dream, which lasted much longer than the 8.3 seconds it would take you to shoot one off in real life.) I completely forget that the woman --and yes, it's almost always women, because suntan lotion doesn't remind me of the great times I've had with dudes-- and I didn't work out because of either my own stupidity, or her own stupid whorishness, borishness or, well, irrationality. Sometimes because of all four. I forget all these things and think about how, in that moment, she seemed perfect, and us being there doing whatever it was we were doing (usually making out) resulted in an extreme happiness I haven't really felt in the past few years.

I think about a time right after I finished high school when I was with a girl at the beach. I think about a time when I was with a girl at a swimming pool the next summer. I think about a time when I was only 13 years old at that same pool, kissing a girl by a basketball court there. I think about the time I went on a cruise with my family and hooked up with the #2 ranked high school swimmer in the state of Connecticut. (Or so she said. I don't really care one way or another. She was good looking. Also, I realize this one doesn't really fit into my whole sappy talk about "perfection," but it was still elating.) I think about the time when I was eight years old, and I would spend the day at a different pool watching the first love of my young life leap off the diving board. How do I know I was eight? Because she was always wearing a USA Olympics one piece, and I was eight the summer of 1996, when the Olympics were held in Atlanta and some dude tried to blow some shit up. I remember these things. (This girl is now married, for what it's worth.)

When I remember these things, I get all giddy, like a little schoolgirl, and I've been thinking about it a lot lately. This is most likely because I no longer get that giddy feeling. I get nervous about dates, sure, but the amount of fist pumping I throw out after a first kiss has drastically declined in the past few years. I worry that, as I get older, this excitement will disappear completely, and that I'll never be able to find it. Other things have taken the excitement's place (mainly booze and the viewing of chick flicks), and maybe there's not so much room for it in the world I live in now, which is the world of the adult. I'm nostalgic, to say the least, for a simpler and more fun time. I now have a full time job in a place where I know next to nobody. At this job, I have a desk that is cluttered with all kinds of things. A dictionary, like seven phone books, papers with phone numbers, yellow legal pads and a couple of coffee cups. There are no pictures of a significant other, someone who makes me really excited and makes me feel like I can come even close to an emotional state of perfection. I guess I don't feel that excitement because I have to take other things seriously now. There was a time when the pursuit of this excitement was the thing I took most seriously. Somehow, that has been replaced by a self-centered desire for my own success.

The last time I smelled sunscreen, the time that made me think so much about all of this, I was at an assignment for this job of mine (that I happen to really like, by the way...I don't want to give the wrong impression). I smelled it out of nowhere, and was immediately thrown into a flashback to that time at the pool (you can guess as to which one it was), and I felt the excitement. Then, for the next ten minutes, I was completely out of it. I didn't know what was going on around me at all.

And I realized that there was nothign wrong with that.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Life in the fast lane is more frustrating than one might assume

It was a little white Nissan Versa being driven by someone who attends, or knows somebody who attends, the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. They also bought their car at BlueKnob Auto Sales. I know these things because I got close enough to this person's rear end to read the decal stuck to the back hatchback window and the license plate holder that read the name of the dealership. I could also tell that it was either a woman, SideShow Bob or Anderson Varejao because of the curly mop on the person's head. And SideShow Bob is (allegedly) a fictional charater, and Varejao is a 7 foot tall basketball player that could never fit in a Versa, so it was a woman (not saying whether that's a relavent factor or not, you decide).

Now, this wouldn't be a big deal at all if I were at a redlight stuck behind this person, but we were moving. On an interstate. I was braking, coming down from slightly over the posted speed limit of 65 miles per hour, which, let's be honest, nobody even makes an attempt to follow unless there's a police officer in the vicinity, to something like five to 10 mph less than the posted speed limit.

This person was traveling in what they like to call "the fast lane." It's the lane on the left side of the two lanes of a highway that are going in the same direction. And, for those of you who aren't in the know (and I've found that an astounding number of people in the areas of the eastern United States I've driven around in since I acquired my license don't) it is the lane of the highway that's reserved for people who are passing traffic traveling in the right lane of the highway.

So, if you're not passing somebody, get the fuck out of the left lane. Especially if there are other cars directly behind you. I thought this was a rule that everyone was taught when they were learning to drive, just like how you're supposed to use a turn signal when you're turning or stop at a stop sign. In fact, it's a law to stay right in most states, including Pennsylvania (where I've lived pretty much all my life). In Pennsylvania, you're supposed to stay right unless passing or making room for cars to merge into traffic from on-ramps.

I've dealt with people "hanging out in the fast lane," as my parents call it, more times than I can count in the six years of my driving career, and it's always gotten me frustrated, but I never did anything drastic. I would just get up on the person's tail and pretty much "body" them into the left lane. Nobody likes being tailgated, myself included, and I've found that this is usually an adequate way to get the person to move over when they have some room. It causes a momentary spike in my stress levels, especially when it disrupts my fucking cruise control settings, but I get over it and move on with my life.

This time was different, though. This lady in the left hand lane would not move over, and I, along with about six other cars directly behind me, was becoming livid. I first attributed this to the fact that I'm a very impatient and aggressive driver. I wasn't always this way, but somewhere along the way it changed, and I became a pissy and easily agitated traveler when people wouldn't acquiesce to my haste to get wherever it was I was going. I've found this strange, because I am, by nature, a kind of slow moving person. My family likes to refer to me as Uncle Jack, after my Grandma's brother who was always so late for things that they'd say he was going to be late to his funeral. (Funny story, he actually was. The hearse got a flat tire and the whole procession had to come to a halt in the middle of the road.) I have an inordinate tendency to always fuck up my timing, on everything. It always takes me longer to get ready for something than I thought it should, and because of this I'm always running late. So, I have to compensate for this by driving a little too fast and aggressively at times. Today, I was on my way to meet the woman I was hoping would become my new landlord, so that I could see an apartment in her building. I was, of course, running late, and this fucking lady in the Versa wasn't helping me at all.

I was also impatient, because for some reason I'd picked the night before to come to the realization that you can't really do anything useful while you're driving a car. (This can be attributed to the fact that I've been driving 40-45 minutes to and from work everyday, one trip after 10 p.m. at night when all I want to be doing is having some wine, which you can't do while driving if you didn't know.) This happened when I decided to listen to game one of the NBA Finals as I drove, and realized when I got home that I was pretty much just bored by listening to it and that I could've just turned the game on upon my arrival. The score wouldn't have been much different, and anything I heard on the radio that seemed phenomenal could be seen on the postgame Sports Center recap that I pretty much always watch anyway. You can listen to music, sure. That's one of my favorite things to do in the world. You can also listen to the news, which I should be doing. But it just doesn't seem practical to me. You can get where you're going, sit down and listen to music while you read the entire world news briefs on The Daily Beast's Cheat Sheet in about five minutes. Then you can listen to music while you do other shit that doesn't involve looking through a windshield, like cooking, shooting hoops or singing in the shower. To state it plainly: There's nothing useful you can do inside a car--while it's moving--that you can't do outside of a car that's really that interesting, beyond the simple act of driving.

So, since I was at my wits' end, I decided to do something drastic; something I'd never done (seriously) in my entire driving career, unless it was in jest toward one of my family members or friends. I was going to wait until I had an opportunity to get up next to this lady, and while parallel to her, I was going to beep and flip her off. I don't know why I'd never done this before, but it was kind of a point of pride for me to have not done it. I enjoyed telling people I'd never done it, because it doesn't really mesh with the way I normally express myself in a verbal way.

I got my opportunity when, what felt like about three hours later, there was enough daylight in the slow lane for me to swerve over and pull up next to her. I was about to do the beep to get her attention, but I looked to my left first, to see what I was dealing with.

It was a woman, a girl even, depending on your definiton. She couldn't have been older than 25. I immediately decided not to blow my horn and flip this person off, and decided instead to simply drive past her as quickly as possible and continue on with my life as far away from her as possible. This was difficult to do, because I was burning with frustration and yearned to give her the international symbol for "fuck you." I was looking forward to it.

But, when I turned and saw this woman, I realized this bitch was sending a fucking text message. She had both hands on the phone and was more or less steering with her elbows, giving the interstate cursory glances every few seconds, kind of like I do when I'm looking at and attractive girl in a public place, except I'm not endangering the lives of myself and everyone around me. I'm not Cyclops from the X-Men without his red glasses. (That statement there really illustrates why I spend my time glancing at attractive women instead of being in their company.) Since she was going so fucking slow and hadn't noticed the line of cars trailing behind her for the last three miles, I figured she was re-writing "The Great Gatsby" and was in a very deep concentration. So, I decided not to beep at her, because that certainly would've disturbed her and made her an even bigger hazard.

So, that's just one more reason why less time should be spent in the car. It only gets more and more dangerous.

I can't think of a time in my life where I've wanted a DeLorean so badly, so that I can drive back in time, before texts were invented. Maybe back then people were sensible enough to stay out of the fucking fast lane.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The KFC Double Down: A Review

I didn't utilize the drive-thru at KFC, even though I only had a half hour's break from work. Instead, I got out of my car and walked straight into the store, where I waited in line to order the infamous--despite it's only being around for about a month and a half--Double Down pseudo sandwich.

I didn't get out of my car because I thought I'd get an extra few steps of exercise or something (although I should take anything I can get since I sit at a desk all day). I did it because I wanted to look the cashier in the face and laugh at her when she asked me if I wanted the original or grilled version of the Double Down, because that's a stupid question and I'm sad she had to ask me it, because of course I'm going to go with original. If I'm going to indulge in what the majority of the press (and people who are freakishly obsessed with healthy eating, like Jaime Oliver) deem to be one of the worst fast food inventions of all time, then I'm going to go all out.

I got my sandwich to go, and went back to the office to enjoy it, because I initially wanted to take some notes while I ate. I figured I'd be in such a fit of ecstacy that I'd have to keep writing my observations about the sandwich while I masticated, because I was likely to completely forget everything about it except the severe enjoyment that would undoubtedly come when a person gets to eat two breaded chicken breasts with bacon, two types of cheese and a special sauce between them.

***AUTHORS NOTE: How did I know I might lose all my wits while eating? Well, I guess now would be a good time to reveal that this was my second go around with the Double Down. I got one a while back, but felt it would be appropriate to eat it again for a few reasons. 1) It's delicious and I just wanted to eat one again, 2) I'm a firm believer that many things need to be tried twice to really get the full impression, because 3) Last time I ate one it was like two days after I'd gotten news from my doctor that my cholesterol--which had measured pretty high due to my formerly terrible diet and poor genetics back in the end of December--was back to normal. I celebrated by going to try the Double Down with a few of my friends, and I remember it being pretty good, but I couldn't remember just HOW GOOD it had been, because when a person has been on a low fat diet and they jump back into the fast food world exuberantly with a moderate-to-heavy dose of KFC, the aftermath of having done so is bound to affect a person's opinion on the way the food treated them while they were actually eating it. It's kind of like how people will say bad things about how they hate tequila when they were ready to make Jose Cuervo a saint the night before. You actually get a sort of chicken hangover if your digestive and circulatory systems aren't adequately prepared. But this time, I was ready. I ate a burger at Five Guys along with a large order of fries on Saturday, and a Big Mac value meal on Sunday. I'd like to say this was because I was getting ready for the Colonel, but that's not true at all. I just at like shit all weekend.)

This idea went quickly out the window, though, because as soon as I opened the box to lay my eyes on it for only the second time in my life, I realized the slight phobia I have of getting my personal belongings greasy was going to prohibit me from even thinking about grabbing a pen and writing things down as I ate.

So, I abandoned that aspiration and, as my trend with my entire meal was, I went all out and discarded the piece of greasy tissue paper you're apparently supposed to hold the sandwich in while you eat it. I held it in both hands and proceeded to down it in a time frame that couldn't have been more than five minutes (which translates to about a dollar per minute, if you're wondering); this was partially because I'm a fast eater by most accounts and was pretty starving when I ate it, and partially because it's not really as large as one would assume.

After that, I immediately went to the bathroom, washed my hands and came back out to do a memory dump of what I'd just experienced.

What did I think? Well, I thought it was really good. Not the best fast food item I've ever eaten, probably, but it was definitely good. It was really just a large chicken sandwich without the bread, to be honest. I would definitely eat it again if I didn't have to worry about my cholesterol (or if I was married and no longer worried about being in good physical condition), but don't think I would've made as big a deal--or been as affected by it--if it hadn't been for all the publicity this sandwich has gotten as of late. I mean, I've never felt it appropriate to Tweet about something I was eating, or to write an entire review of something edible for no good reason either.

I think it's intriguing to eat a Double Down, and they've probably sold a lot of them for the specific reason that the Double Down is currently the villain of fast food--and food in general. If something is heavily advertised and a person is told enough times that it's bad for them and they shouldn't try it, they become curious and then have an urge to try it when they wouldn't have given this product a second thought before. Sometimes, people like to rebel in whatever way they can, even--or maybe especially--if it's a little rebellion that's pretty much insignificant. I never thought that eating a chicken-based sandwich from a fast food restaurant that was founded by some white-bearded dude who wore a fucking bow tie, but I kind of did (which means I should probably look for more excitement in my life).

And you know what? It was completely unjustified. Believe it or not, this sandwich isn't even that bad. It's not great for you, but not bad either.

I found out in an article written by Joel Stein that the Double Down doesn't have as many calories or as much fat as a Burger Kind Tendercrisp sandwich or five chicken strips from McDonalds. It's not even the worst thing you can get at KFC (which would be the beloved Famous Bowl). It only has 540 calories, which is like drinking five light beers, and its 32 grams of fat are, although not healthy, not really at the top of the fattening end of the fast food spectrum. It doesn't make Time's list of the top 10 worst fast food meals: , a list that actually includes a drink from Starbucks.

The most disappointing thing for me? It doesn't even come close in caloric content to the other--in my opinion--most revolutionary cheap fast food item that has been made available to the general public in the last year or so: The Domino's Bread Bowl. I was, until my cholesterol mishap, eating chicken carbonara bread bowls on a pretty regular basis (it was a "devil may care" stage as far as my health went for a while), and I never thought to even tell anyone about it, let alone Tweet it to the three people that may have read it.

So, the Double Down was like most slightly rebellious things I've attempted to do in my life. It made me feel bad ass for a little bit, until I realized I was following a trend that wasn't really that crazy to begin with, established by an entity that only mirroed it's creativity: it tried too hard (and this time the entity was the descendants of a man who will forever be remembered for chicken and a bow tie).

In the end, I didn't get anything out of it besides a few moments of pleasure and a new kind of hangover.