Escalate

I’ve long had an irrational fear of escalators. I think I heard some horror story as a child about a kid getting sucked into one by his shoelaces, disappearing into the tacky underbelly of the mall, never to be seen again. Each time I approached one I checked my shoes, to make sure I wasn’t about to meet my maker. 

Once, my aunt took me to the top level of Dillard’s. There were normal escalators throughout the department store, until you got to the top level, which had a death-defying skinny escalator. I have no idea how we reached the bedding and customer service/gift-wrapping sections of the top level, but my best guess is by elevator. In any case, when it was time to leave, my aunt led me to the death escalator. It was so skinny, I couldn’t imagine any human stepping on and surviving. I should say that I was about 5 years old at the time, and all of 40 lbs. I could have fit three of me side by side on this thing. But when my aunt stepped on, I did not. She didn’t notice at first, but when I started shouting, “no, no!” she turned around. “Help!” I shouted to confirm that I was, indeed, in distress. She gave me her “dammit, Lauren” look before doing a stealth running man up the escalator. One foot in front of the other, she marched, never making it any further. “Get on, Lauren!” she shouted. “No!” I said. I really thought we’d established that I wouldn’t be boarding. 

People began to look, and my aunt was clearly feeling the heat. She went into Olympic mode, and somehow made it up the three escalator steps needed to reach me. She grabbed me and pulled me on. I screamed, thinking, “this is it, this is how it ends.” Spoiler alert: I survived! 

Since then, my fear of escalators has waned, but I’m still wary. If I hear one making a weird sound, I’ll take the stairs, or just abandon my destination altogether. Recently, I was in DC, and was stunned by the height and angle of he elevators. I don’t understand how everyone in DC doesn’t tumble down every single day. 

About a week, something terrible actually did happened on an escalator in Hong Kong. The up escalator started going in reverse. That’s right, the up turned into down, with no notice. Not only that, but it started going three times faster than normal. Pretty much my worst nightmare. Somehow, only 18 people were injured, according the this Business Insider article (I know what you’re thinking, and no, I definitely don’t read Business Insider). The video is pretty scary to watch, and I’m quite certain I would have been saying my goodbyes, as I held on for dear life. These people are all the biggest of champs.

While most of the accounts within the article were relieving (like the fact that most of the riders were young, so agile, and maybe not unfamiliar with being in a pile of bodies), one was a bit disturbing:

“Some people ran upwards. Some even jumped over to another escalator on the side,” Chu said.

Come again, Chu? If I were on a speedy backwards escalator, I definitely wouldn’t think, “maybe I can outrun this bad boy.” Nor would I venture to jump across to another escalator like I’m Spider Man (I don’t have a solid understanding of who Spider Man is or what he does). I’d probably just die of fear of being in a body pile.

Oh, and it’s also worth noting that apparently this was done intentionally. Two awful people messed with the things (technical term, look it up), and made it go in reverse. It’s most upsetting. I salute those escalator victims, and hope the garbage people who caused this nonsense can’t figure out how the treadmill at the gym works, and are forced to run really fast, backwards, and fall and skin their knees. 

Listen, I’m not saying we should all stop riding escalators. But stay woke. Hold on. Keep those laces tied. 

Labels 

Listen, I know. It’s been a while. 9 months. I could have had a baby by now, but I didn’t even. I wish I could say, “oh, the reason I haven’t written my blog in so long is because I have been busy launching an organization that does something important for young girls of color,” or something equally admirable, but I haven’t. My excuses are as follows:

1. I got lazy: There were so many nice things to do aside from writing this blog. Atlanta came out. There were many good books to read. Sleeping in sometimes felt right. It was a cozy time for me. 

2. Wedding planning: I’ve been in an emotional, spiritual, and financial whirlwind since August 28th, and I’m just now coming back to earth. For a moment I considered writing about wedding planning here, but I didn’t want to risk turning this space into The Knot 2.0 (though, let’s be honest, that never would have happened…I don’t even have my dress yet, and am this close to just swinging by the dry cleaners and picking up the one that’s been hanging in the window for 6 years). 

3. The world is a disaster: It seemed foolish to write about silly things when so many horrible things were happening in real time. 

But then I started to realize that my last excuse was nonsense (the other two were totally valid). First of all, terrible things had been happening throughout the course of this blog, and it never stopped me before. The difference was that the past year has felt like a BirchBox subscription of terrible news, with a box full of atrocities (some of which I didn’t even know existed) arriving on the regular, whereas the years prior were more like occasional visits to Sephora. Secondly, I tend to get depressed when all I’m thinking and reading about are horrible events. Sometimes, we need stupid, nothing things to get through. And so, here I am, with something truly stupid and nothing.

Over the past few months, I’ve received an onslaught of personalized mailing labels from charitable organizations. Some of you may be thinking, “Lauren, that’s awesome! You’ll never have to write your name in the upper lefthand corner of an envelope again!” To you I say, “Shut up. You think I’m trying to send snail mail?”

I have received six separate envelopes filled with about 3 dozen of these labels each. When I got the first one, I was like, “Oh, cool. I’ll use these for rent checks.” By the time the sixth arrived, I truly thought I was on a hidden camera show. The Audobon Society clearly knows nothing about my lifestyle. 

There is technically nothing wrong with these labels, aside from the fact that if I live another 100 years in my current apartment, I’ll never go through them all. Some of them are very patriotic (bald eagle in front of American flag, Statue of Liberty in front of American flag, golden retriever puppy in front of American flag, French bulldog puppy AND kitten together in front of American flag), some are seasonal (autumnal leaves, snowflakes, candy canes), and some give a nod to the great animals of our nations (birds and wolves, obviously). But I do take issue with the strange stickers that came with a set of labels from the Defenders of Wildlife. They are a series of messages like, “Missing You,” “Get Well Soon,” and “Happy Birthday” over an image of a scary wolf. Maybe it’s just me, but if I got a an envelope in the mail, and opened it, and there was just a sticker of a wolf saying “Thinking of You” on a piece of paper, I’d probably get off social media for a while. Obviously, the letter would be traceable if accompanied by the matching wolf label, but still, there’d be reason to be concerned. 

But for some strange reason, I can’t seem to part with the stickers or the labels. I do have low key hoarder tendencies, and part of me feels like these might come in handy. Maybe I’ll live in this apartment for the rest of my life, and mail won’t become obsolete, and I’ll give my daughter (or son!) my name and force them to stay here forever, just so that these labels will go to good use. Feels like a solid plan. 

In any case, these labels have given me something completely nonsensial to worry about, which I needed. Thanks, American Legion, Animal Haven, Audobon Society, and especially you, Defenders of Wildlife. You’ve really gotten in my head, and I appreciate it. 

Who Dat?

Guess Who? is a Hasbro board game made for simpletons and young children. One night, while watching a group of people play a much more complicated game involving math and patterns, I remembered how fond I was of Guess Who. Does your person have a mustache? Is your person wearing a hat? What fun!

Apparently, I wouldn’t stop talking about how desperately I wanted to play the game, because a week later David came home with a shrink-wrapped box he’d ordered on Amazon. That Friday, we played. Boy, was I excited! After about an hour of setting the game up (I don’t remember this part as a child…thanks everybody’s mom!), we were ready to play. 

I studied the cartoon faces before me for about 30 seconds, before I was ready to ask my first question, which was not, “Is your person black?”

BECAUSE EVERYONE IN GUESS WHO IS WHITE! There are two people who might be hispanic, but I’m pretty sure they’re not. One guy may have traveled to the middle east for business, but he’s definitely white. 

I did not discover that everyone in Guess Who is white because I was trying to start a political revolution (which is obviously what I’m doing right now). I discovered this because I was trying to determine the most efficient way to win the game. My first thought was to start from a gendered place, but even that wasn’t effective. There are only five women! I couldn’t handle it. 

So, Guess Who includes no people of color and only five women ou of 24 characters. I was almost too upset to play, but not really. We played twice, because that’s all you can play Guess Who as an adult without feeling like something is wrong. 

 

Black Anne

 The following Sunday, Heather came over for brunch. Obviously, we played Guess Who. I mentioned the moral bind I was in, the fact that I love playing Guess Who exactly twice, but hate the lack of diversity. Heather told me that there used to be black people in the game. We did our Googles, and there was once a black woman named Anne. Anne was very light-skinned, with a nice afro and hoop earrings. Facially, she’s ethnically ambiguous, so I’m guessing that’s what the afro and hoop earrings were there for. All of the characters are wearing turtlenecks, so they couldn’t dress her in a dashiki or anything. 

There is an Anne now, but she’s definitely white, and she’s definitely commiting adultery, based upon her smirk. Most of the characters actually seem to be up to no good or off their meds. While “is your person a minority?” may not be a useful question, “has your person ever killed another person?” might help narrow the field just slightly. Other questions that might help you win the game are: 

-Has your person been to more than three Reba McEntire concerts?

-Is your person serving as a dug mule right now?

-Has your ever framed someone else for a crime that he or she committed in cold blood?

-Is your person pretending he’s not actually Jerry Sandusky? (“Peter” is very clearly Jerry Sandusky)

-Has your person ever gone into a hair salon with a photo of Reba McEntire for reference?

-Is your person Abraham Lincoln? (I see you, “Philip”)

-Does your person have “grandkids” that are exotic birds?

  

I think these questions would make for a much quicker game. 

I hope that by the time I have kids who are Guess Who-playing age, the question, “is your person black?” is relevant (what a small, simple request for the distant future!). If not, I will have to create my own game called Who Dat? Who Dat will will feature a diverse array of faces that are not creepy at all. And no turtle necks. Just good, clean minority fun in crew necks! And it’ll come fully assembled, so you won’t spend more time putting it together than playing. 

But we all know I don’t really feel like creating a board game (I’d rather Yelp restaurants I’ll never go to), so get it together, Has-bruh. Start small. Make Anne black again.

Perot

As we go through a most absurd election cycle, I’m reminded of the first presidential election I participated in. I was 5 years old, and my kindergarten class was encouraged to vote for our favorite candidate. I remember receiving a black and white paper ballot, complete with the presidential candidates faces, names and parties. Admittedly, I wasn’t following politics as closely as I should have been. I honestly can’t remember who I voted for, but I do know that I was torn between two very strong ideologies.  
Should the next president be…? 
1. George H.W. Bush, because I had heard of him his picture on the print out made him look so nice and handsome (!) OR

2. Bill Clinton, because George Bush had already had his turn, and if there was anything I’d learned for the past 5 years, it was that nothing was more important than sharing.

But there was one person who never entered the running for me, and that was Ross Perot. From what I recall, Ross Perot was a tiny person with giant ears only there to throw everyone off from the two tall, handsome (I don’t know) candidates.

Truly, my most vivid memories of him are when a young girl-child played him on All That (the girl, as my friend Heather noted, was Katrina, not Amanda Bynes, whom I assume is doing fine, as I haven’t seen her face in the tabloids in at least a year #knockonwood), but that was closer to his second presidential run in ’96. What could be funnier than a 10 year old girl playing an old man presidential candidate? Nothing, it turns out, but an incompetent black valley dude with a braids bob confusing people’s orders at a fast food restaurant.
In any case, I wanted to check in on old Rossy to see what he’s up to these days (and what he was up to those days, because I honestly wasn’t paying attention). I know you’re all eager to find out what his whole deal is! 

 

1. Did you know that Ross Perot is still alive? He’s 85, so I guess that’s reasonable.

2. His net worth is $4.1 billion. GROOOOSSSSSS!

3. In 1984, he bought a very early copy of the Magna Carta, not to be confused with Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, which I assume he also owns.

4. He harassed the architect of the Vietnam Vet Memorial, Maya Lin, after learning that she was Asian, calling her an “egg roll.” First of all, did he think white people just have the last name Lin? Also, way to be the worst. (Shout out to Maya – she did that when she was 21…the only thing I was constructing at that age was my Bran Flakes box Halloween costume).

5. Though he was a member of the Reform Party, he did not support Jesse Ventura during his Reform Party run for governor of Minnesota, and apparently made fun of Ventura publicly after JV had a falling out with the press. Just a reminder, Jesse “The Body” Ventura is a massive former WWE (nee WWF) wrestler, so way to pick a fight, Ross!

6. He apparently launched a blog in 2008? Cool.

7. Really, his ears don’t seem that big to me.

There are a lot of other facts about old Perot, but a) you didn’t come here for political info, so sorry for doing this to you in the first place, and b) it’s 2016. Stop living in the past. I’m sure some people will write him this November, because that’s a fun option that we all have, but they definitely won’t be Jesse Ventura or Mary Lin.

I imagine that 5 year olds throughout the country (and 2-4 year old Montessori students) will be given the same opportunity I had as a child to voice their opinions regarding who should lead the free world. I just hope they take it as seriously as I did, and look back at that day with as much fondness and confusion.

A Quick Recap

Hi, Friends. It’s been a while. Things got busy, TV got good, outside was dark, it was a whole thing. But now that the days are growing longer, and I’m only watching shows begrudgingly (Girls, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Kardashian Story), and not with extreme passion (Being Mary Jane, Transparent – I can’t even talk about it), I figured I might as well catch you up with what’s happened in my world since my last post in September. Warning: CSFW (completely safe for work).  

October:
I dressed up as Hotline Bling Drake for Halloween. But there’s more! David didn’t have a costume, so we decided to go as the Hotline Bling meme where Drake is hitting the tennis ball. I carried a tennis racket, and David dressed as a ball: green sweats with white stripes made of tape. Mostly, no one knew what was happening. One guy asked me if I was the Williams sister’s dad. I thought that was maybe kind of racist. But some people loved it. One girl nearly cried telling me how much she loved the costume. It was a bit much.   

No tennis balls were hurt in the taking of this photo.

November:
I went home for Thanksgiving. My mom retired last April, and this was my first time home since that milestone. She’d renovated the entire kitchen area, which looked fantastic. She also loves Drunk History now, and pretty much all she wanted to do was watch old episodes that she’d taped. I was like, “perfect.”  

During that same trip, my younger cousin (who just graduated from the Paul Mitchell Academy and is a dope hair stylist) gave me a blowout. It was so cute (shout out, Bri!). She said, “make sure you get your ends trimmed every six weeks.” I was like, “sure thing!” I marked January 14th as the date for my next trim. You guessed it. I haven’t even considered getting my ends trimmed (sorry, Bri!).  

December:
No joke, outside of work, I don’t remember December. 

January:
In January, David and I went to Cartagena, Colombia. It was great. They have the sun there. IN JANUARY. We beached, and ate a lot of seafood, but the standout part of the trip was our visit to El Totumo. El Totumo is a shantytown about an hour outside of the city, where you can chill in a mud volcano. I don’t really know what that means (I feel like “volcano” is probably an extreme term for what we experienced). Basically, we walked up a giant hill, then down into a pit of mud. The mud was a perfectly neutral temperature, and when you got in, you floated. No option. You just floated. It freaked me out, and I kept flopping around, because I couldn’t understand it. My flopping was disruptive to the others, and I apologized as I kicked the strangers around me. Also, and quite importantly, there are men in the pit who massage the mud over your body, so that you are fully covered. Don’t worry, you’re wearing a swimsuit (I can only imagine the horror otherwise), and it’s absolutely not weird.   

I can’t handle it

 The weird part is when you finally get out and walk to the lake to be washed by the ladies. They are pour buckets of dirty lake water over your entire body with supreme aggression. You can’t see anything, you don’t know if you’re still wearing your swimsuit or not, or if maybe someone is recording this. It’s all very disorienting.

The mud volcano is great, and your skin feels amazing afterwards. I spent the rest of the day petting my own arm.

February:
Two important things happened this month (I use the term “important loosely).  

First, for Valentine’s Day, David and I took a samurai sword-fighting class. He sent me a number of ideas (including a social anxiety class, which I thought was rude, but I saved the information for another time), and that’s actually what I chose. I thought it would be funny. I was wrong. It was so serious. Some of the students had clearly been practicing for years. They had special big pants, and their own wooden swords and sheaths. I, on the other hand, couldn’t figure out to hold the fake sword the right way. It was SO physically demanding. There was lots of squatting and arm activity.

At the end of class, the advanced students (those with special pants) performed fights, and at the end, one person in each pair “died” in a most dramatic fashion. I was happy for every person there. They’d found each other.

Secondly, I saw Chaka Khan in concert. My friend Rhea had a free ticket, and was kind enough to invite me (she also invited me to see Blackstreet at the same theater a few posts ago, so you know what’s coming). So Rhea, our friend Andrew, and his really nice friend whose name I can’t remember, and I all made our way to Kings Theater in Flatbush. We had passes for the “Kings Club,” which was a room that 

Little Chaka

  served wine, as well as children’s snacks (ie Goldfish, pretzels, Swedish Fish). It was exceptional. The crowd was “grown and sexy,” meaning we were the youngest people there by about 15 years. Vivian Green was the opener. Don’t worry, most people didn’t know who that was. She was good, but her backup singers were great. One of them completely ate it at the end of her set – she was really getting into it, and her weak ankles apparently weren’t equipped for all that – but they were still fabulous. Finally, at 11pm (!) Chaka came out. She was cute, sounded great, and only mysteriously left stage twice.

So that’s where I am right now. Thanks for taking the time to catch up with me. I’ll be back soon.

Golden Champagne

Last weekend I went to what I thought would be a cool Brooklyn party on a boat. What I actually went to was a senior citizen party/political benefit on a barren lawn in Canarise, and I’d love to tell you all about it. 

The party was billed as “Brooklyn BBQ on the Boat.” I was like, three of my favorite Bs! Many other promises were made in the invitation, including “6 areas of entertainment” at this “outdoor/indoor party,” plus a “special guest DJ and performance by Atlantic Records recording artist.” 

I should have known things would not be quite what I expected, as my friend and I stepped onto the 2:30 shuttle bus, which actually turned out to be a 3:15 church van with no AC. We were on the church van for what seemed like three hours, traveling from Fort Greene, through the depths of Crown Heights, in and out of East New York (I think), until we reached a part of Brooklyn I’d only ever heard about: Canarsie. It was fine, and quiet, and looked like Queens. But I had one concern: where are we supposed to get on a boat in Canarsie? 

We pulled into a gravel lot and walked into what seemed to be a deteriorating saloon. We received wristbands and two “drink tickets,” before being directed out back to a vast, balding lawn. There was a DJ spinning under a tent, a section of picnic tables, a table of food, including vats of macaroni salad and cole slaw from Costco, and a tub filled with a mysterious orange drink. Just beyond the lawn there were several small boats docked in a small bay (pretty sure the other side was glamourous Mill Basin). 

I don’t have the time or energy to lay out the entire event, but here are a few of the most important details: 

1. “Bonnie”*: “Bonnie” was a woman of about 82, whom my friend recoginzed immediately upon entering. She’s volunteered for the non-profit my friend works for, with her other old lady friend who was there too (that one was about 105, and I didn’t see her after an hour, because bedtime). Bonnie wore a shiny, gold, short-sleeved pantsuit, and a hat that your aunt my described as “fun.” We’ll come back to Bonnie in a bit. 

2. The DJ. The DJ was great. He played hits, past and present, and everyone appreciated his stylings. The one bone I had to pick was that he played all the line dance songs consecutively. Electric Slide, Cha Cha Slide, Wobble, all of ’em. You have to spread those out. People wear out quickly. Also he bleeped out weird parts of songs. “Groceries,” you can leave that word in. 

3. The boats. So, we weren’t actually having a party on a boat. There were four boats (of many that were docked) that were going out for trips around the bay. We eventually got on a boat and had a really great trip around the bay. There was hip-hop and breeze. Lovely.  But that was about 30 minutes, and then we were back on the dried out lawn, so maybe they shouldn’t have called it a party ON a boat.

4. “Charlie”. Like “Bonnie,” “Charlie” was an older gent who was familiar to my friend through her job. Charlie was slightly younger, maybe 72, with an affinty for “Whip and Nae Nae.” Obviously, when the song came on everyone was pretty excited, even though the dance is best done by 6 year olds. But Charlie was the most excited. He did his whip and followed up with a nice, clean nae nae. And we all watched him. He did all the parts. Stanky leg. All of it. The weirdest thing was that he did the whip and nae nae to each subsequent song. It was obviously his go-to, but those moves are strictly reserved for that song. No one had the heart to tell Charlie this, so we just let him whip and nae nae to “Truffle Butter” and went about out business. 

5. At one point, Bonnie and Charlie were dancing together. Bonnie was almost doing a twerk. That’s all I’ll say about that. 

6. “Drink tickets.” Those tear-off raffle tickets are still in the pocket of the shorts I wore that day. No one ever instructed us how to use the tickets, and when my friend asked if we could use them for drinks behind the bar, she was told “they aren’t serving from the bar.” What? There was a whole bar, and a case filled with beer. But we were only to drink the orange punch? This made me think that maybe we were all going to be murdered, but I just gave a heavy sigh and poured me some punch. Later, there was a “VIP” section (read: bottles of liquor and juice on a deck), and so my friend and I made our way there. Of course, by the time the real VIPs (that’s us) got there, all of the juice was gone. What a conundrum! Until we remembered the barrel of sodas we’d seen earlier. Which brings me to… 

7. Golden Champagne. Apparently this is a type of soft drink. To be specific, they offered Western Beef Golden Champagne soda. For those who don’t know, Western Beef is a fowl-named low-budg grocery store in NYC (think Aldi’s). Golden Chamagne sounds delicious, like something you’d drink with Drake in a jacuzzi. But Golden Champagne tastes like nothing I’ve ever consumed. Honestly, of all the words on the label, it probably tasted more like western beef than golden champagne. And you don’t want to drink beef.  

 8. Eventually, it was time to go (it had always been time to go). We made certain to be ready for the 8pm bus, band of course it didn’t leave until 8:45. The driver was out of his mind, and stopped at McDonald’s for like 5 minutes. I considered getting an Uber, but it would have been close to $100, so I just sat there and kept my mouth shut. We then began to drop people off one by one, which would have been fine, had anyone been along the way. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the party, but after 45 minutes, we were dropping people off in thoe most suburban parts of Brooklyn. And people had the nerve to try to have along  farewell. I was like, bye, Felicia. When we got close to my apartment, I basically did a ninja roll out of the church van. 

*some names have been changed to protect the twerkers

Hey, Girl

I was walking down the street on Thursday when a man driving a horse-drawn carriage looked down at me from atop his steed and said, “Hello” in a suggestive manner. It was unexpected. I paused to gather my feelings. 

On any other occasion, I might have lost it. I’ve had it up to here (my hand is by my hip) with men hollering on the street. I don’t know you. I don’t want to talk to you. If I see someone with great shoes, I don’t say Daaaaammnnnnnnn, look at those Rachel Comeys! Let me try those on, girl. I think it, but I have a solid grasp on respect, boundaries, etc, so I keep my thoughts to myself. So when men act that way, I’m like pull yourself together. Don’t you see shoes every day?

But this was different. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. Admittedly, hello isn’t the worst thing someone can say. And the moment was undeniably silly. The man was wearing a jaunty top hat and a coat with tails in the middle of August. He was sitting atop a giant, sad, stinky horse. And he thought, I’m going to get that lady’s attention. I laughed. No disrespect to him. People have to pay the bills, and jobs are hard to come by. While I dislike the horse carriage industry for many reasons (not only are the animals mistreated, but they smell terrible, poop everywhere, and almost run me over on a bi-weekly basis), I understand that many have to take such jobs. But I don’t know if it’s not really a “chick magnet” job, like firefighting or being Magic Mike. And there he was, trying his best. It’s not like he’d intended on thinking outside the box, but ultimately he did present me with a rare and original scenario. I appreciated that. 

After that day, I decided that there are a few individuals who could make a pass at me without inciting outrage: 

1. A sad clown leaving a children’s birthday party (the guy isn’t actually sad, he just has a frown painted on his face). 

2. A high school nerd surrounded by a bunch of his meat head classmates about to clobber him (I’d blow Little Nerdy a kiss, and the bullies would be super impressed and offer him high fives). 

3. Ginuwine, but only if he did it via his hit 2003 jam “In Those Jeans.”

4. A dachsund. 

5. A bow-tied professor, as part of a class lesson on what not to do (the course is Theory of Dating?)

6. The guide on a double decker NYC tour bus, through the microphone, like it’s part of the tour. 

I’m sure there are other exceptions. It’s not that I would fall in love with any of these people, but they wouldn’t send me into a rage, and that’s a good place to start. Same old, same old gets a bit trying after 6 years in New York City. If a man is truly interested in a woman, he should try a more delicate approach, or at least something unexpected.  We hear this stuff all the time. If you can, try to get your hands on a work animal, or at least a top hat.