2008: Well, At Least You Were Memorable
We saw some serious juxtaposition in '08 -- great hope and hopelessness at once. The nation patted itself on the back for electing Barack Obama and found great joy in the superhuman Michael Phelps. But the hopelessness over the financial meltdown and its consequences makes America seem like a dystopia, sometimes. My daily obsession with the march to November 4 -- "bitter", "real America" and "sniper fire" included -- made the year seem like it was over faster than you can say "You Betcha".

But Britney's back, bitches, at least for now. Which means we can all hope 2009 is our Michael Phelps year.

The 67 Degrees tradition, my year in rewind:

A Big Scoop: Thanks to my relentless sourcework (aka daily begging), the Obama folks made me the only TV reporter in Texas to get a face-to-face one-on-one interview with the man who would become president. Due to security concerns (and perhaps a subtle message about what they thought of me), the interview happened in a bathroom.

Personal Fad: This is an easy one, 67 Degrees readers. Being OUTRAGED, of course!

Random Celebrity Meet and Greets: Brad the Bachelor, Lance Armstrong (without pants), Kate Walsh, Kevin Nealon and let's not forget The Rev. Jesse J@ckson, who then proceeded to ask me back to his hotel.

Great '08 Distractions: Watching Mad Men and then promptly reading Alan Sepinwall's review of the episode as soon as it popped up online... Checking Nate Silver's genius polling site, fivethirtyeight.com... GTalk... the woman who peed all over herself at the Willie concert.

Recurring Theme: Marriage, babies. A lot of people in my orbit seem to be getting married or popping out babies or both. Meanwhile, I still feel like a kid who doesn't know what to be when I grow up. (And as a wedding-related bonus, my man Stiles' longtime live-in ex-girlfriend Lynda got married on reality TV.)

Noteworthy Discoveries: Friday night carbo-loading, Mob Wars, Mad Men on demand, long lost diaries from my youth, Stuff White People Like

Disappointments: The shrinking capitol press corps, my shrinking retirement fund. The Governor's Mansion getting torched by an arsonist. Not getting a photo with Newsweek's Richard Wolffe when I had the chance.

Happy Places: In the fall, going back to both my alma mater and my mom's home island fed my soul. In a twist of great fate, mom's scary tumor was benign, and the whole family had a great time finding humor in the hospital and the situation.

Most OUTRAGE-inducing people of 2008: Mark Penn. "Mainstream Media" bashers. Heidi Montag.

Biggest Victory: Nine dudes, one of them a sports reporter, let me into their Fantasy Football league as the "token chick". As it turns out, my early (and perhaps fated) decision to pick up DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers launched me into the Fantasy Superbowl.

Previously in this series...
2007: Rewind
2006: The Best of Times, The Weirdest of Times
2005: A Jack Look Back
2004: More Year in Review
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When The Lights Went Out
Seriously, Aust!n Light Guy. You hurt me.

We drove to your house and parked a big black Suburban. Instead of leaving on all your yard decor that's set to music you're broadcasting at a low frequency that can be picked up on our car radio... Instead of, as tradition dictates, coming out to dance for us draped head to toe in Christmas lights, you SHUT OFF ALL YOUR CHRISTMAS LIGHTS the moment we pulled up. That hurt, man. Still not over it.

I'm going to have to say it. OUTRAGE!
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An Andre Bauer Christmas
Longtime readers of 67 Degrees know I am fascinated by South Carolina Lt. Gov Andre Bauer, who seems to flirt with all kinds of trouble... but never seems to pay any political price for it. He's like the Powder of politics. (Remember THAT horrible movie?)

Now, Andre Bauer is selling all kinds of "Carolina-themed" Christmas gifts on this site. Your purchase of a gift is also a donation to Bauer's political kitty! At first I wasn't sure if it was a joke. But no, it turns out it's legit. Check it out.
Posted by E
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Liveblogging the Lunch Date Going on in the Booth Behind Me
3:06pm This is clearly a first date. The woman gave her rundown, she has a little kid, her first job was at Super Cuts. "So I got to see the haircutting industry. The low end of the haircutting industry."

3:07pm: The Christmas music is too loud for me to properly eavesdrop on the man who's talking - he's a mumbler. I think he's in some sort of advertising or techy job. Awkward laughing about how the woman doesn't really know how to use a computer.

3:08pm: I got up to throw something away so I could get a look at the guy. He is pretty skinny/nerdy looking, I still haven't seen the woman's face.

3:09pm: The instrumental version of Feliz Navidad playing overhead is totally distracting me. The woman is apparently in some sort of design program at a local college or university.

She only has one final left.

3:10pm: The dude isn't doing a lot of talking. But he did ask a question to keep her going.

3:11pm: "Let's not forget the Americans with Disabilities Act," she says. "That gets incorporated into every space." (I believe she is in some sort of architecture program.)

3:13pm: Awkward. "If I were in a wheelchair, I'd appreciate it," says the woman. Awkward giggling.

To get out of a short lull in conversation, the man asks more about her designs. She has started in on an art project focused on a woman standing in front of a fireplace. "It was an upholstered fireplace," she says. "I was in awe of the stupidity." He laughs uncomfortably. Mainly he just sits there not saying anything.

3:15pm: He asks where she goes to school. She says it's Texas State in San Marcos. It's an interior design program. "I like it a lot," she says. "I feel like school's never going to end, but that's how I think everybody feels."

3:18pm: She went to Europe last summer. He is the only one asking questions, meaning she's the only one doing any talking. Which is fine for my purposes since it's easier to hear her.

3:20pm: Okay finally we find out where the dude is from. Tyler, Texas. The farthest he's traveled is Canada. He doesn't have an accent. She uses his answer to start talking about how she was born in Arkansas and lived there until she was ten.

3:23pm: His dad is from Michigan. "There's nothing really up there, and my family is unemployed right now." What a date downer. More awkward giggling. He talks about how he wants to be financially secure, she says that's an excellent goal. I think I hate this date.

3:25pm: He went to college at Baylor, which is incidentally in Waco, home of my first post-college job and the quite possibly the insertion point if God were to give the earth an enema.

3:28pm: Oh, something in common. Both have two siblings.

3:32pm: I've been waiting for this conversation to actually scratch the surface, with deeper talk of family or an actual story or two. But nothing. Now they are talking about how they would find it impossible to have roommates.

3:35pm: Now I'm getting distracted by an acoustic guitar version of "Sleigh Ride". Would love to sing along... "Outside the snow is falling and friends are calling yoo hoo..."

3:36pm: This date has been going on for thirty minutes but it feels more like an hour. I think I will abandon this date because it's not half as interesting as the elevator Christmas music playing in this Panera Bread. She's still doing the giggling all the time. He dressed up as a pirate for Halloween. I can't tell if they will be happy together, or if they will ever see each other again. Didn't anyone send them this NY Times story about how no one dates anymore? The model is hook up first, decide if you want to date later.
Posted by E
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Empty Wall
I still have this huge empty wall in my living room that I've been thinking about for the past year. Should I get two or three large pieces of art to fill it? Wall shelves with random stuff on them? Yuppie it up with some Pottery Barn looking pieces?

Ultimately I decided to keep with my theme of displaying as much original art as possible by the people that I know and love. I am getting on it this holiday season, with the help of some great photographer friends.

Channing, who shot some stills for my quixotic attempt at documentary-making in college, is now a successful freelance photog in Boston. So he kindly contributed these pieces, which I love. (Note the hot dog. How awesome is that? I love me some hot dogs!!!)

That hot dog is going to tie the whole room together, if you ask me.
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OK Channing, I'll Do Your Exercise
My homie Channing in Boston tagged me for one of those blogger exercises where you reflect and share a little more about yourself and then tag other bloggers to pay it forward. (Here's the last one I did, in 2005, when I admitted to "dreaming about" Barack Obama. Yikes.)

This time, this is what I have to do:

- List six things that I do for joy
- Pass the award on to 6 more creative bloggers
- Link back to the person who gave me the award
- Link to the people I am passing it on to

1. Experiential escapades, or thinking about an experiential escapade
Hijinks, or being a harmless misfit. This usually includes making fun of situations or strangers without them knowing it. Like the time we put fresh shit in a bag, wrapped it in a gift bag (with tissue) and left it on my downstairs neighbor's door after he let his alarm go off all weekend.

Or the time my fellow misfit blogger friend JL and I made a video poking fun of my poor working conditions in South Carolina.

Or the numerous discussions Stiles and I have had about whether we should try to make meth, since there are so many news stories about how "easy" it is and you can just get instructions online. (We haven't done it and won't since this could lead to serious trouble and that's not something that brings me joy.)

2.) Family Time
The four members of my nuclear family are now spread out on three different continents. Three of us -- Mom, Roger and me are all kind of restless explorer-types and my Dad's retired so he's moving around the planet with mom. Her next diplomatic post is The Hague, The Netherlands. Home of the International Criminal Court.

When I grew up we all ate dinner together every night, so it's strange that we can't spend some holidays together. But precisely because we're so distanced from each other, the three or four times a year we get to be together brings me both great joy and calm.

3.) Eat Fast Food
This includes my number one favorite, chili dog (see below). People give me so much crap for this, but fast food brings me joy and it is cheap. And if you don't like it, don't eat it. I will.

My regulars: the Mexican Pizza at Taco Bell, the Beef 'n Cheddar at Arby's (don't forget the curly fries), the Snack Pack at Culver's (butterburger w/cheese, crinkle cut fries and a drink for just $3.99), anything from Chik-Fil-A, queso from Taco Cabana, the Original Chicken Sandwich from Burger King, the #10 Filet 'O Fish at McDonald's, Junior Bacon Cheeseburger and Biggie Fries at Wendy's, and the Pizza Hut lunch buffet, which I have loved since childhood.

4.) Nurture My Relationships
This kind of goes with Number 2. Because I can't be with family, in my twenties my friends have become a second family. I like to go to bars where we can hear each other talk, spend long lunches catching up, and enjoy keeping in touch with close friends who are far using modern technology. (A lot of time is spent on gtalk.)

Of course by "relationship" I count Mr. Stiles. We like to go to the "eat food, watch movie" place, aka Alamo Drafthouse. We also do a lot of sushi dinners, brunches and random trips to Target. And experiential escapades, of course.

5.) Travel
It pains me that because of the industry I work in, I can't get away very often and don't make enough cheddar to travel as I'd like. But my mom always told us that she'd spend any amount of money to allow us to travel because being in different places, different parts of the world give you an invaluable education. So I grew up flying around with my fam and love it. These past few years I've gotten to wander through emerging Asia since Mom was working in Taiwan. The one international trip with friends (if we don't count the Bahamas or Mexico) was after high school. Seven of us wandered around Europe together for a month; the older I get the more grateful I am for that trip.

6.) Run Outside
I don't consider myself a runner. I've run a marathon once and am currently training for a half in January, but I'm not one of those people who has to do it regularly or needs it to clear my head. I just enjoy being outside and talking to whoever's running beside me as we hit one trail or another. I've always bonded quickly with other people I run with, which is a joyful consequence of the exercise part. I don't have a favorite race or distance, but one thing I remember while running in college: I once discovered a trail near our duplex in which numerous rabbit couples were humping like... jackrabbits, all afternoon. I'll never forget it.

OK so that's that. Now I tag six of my blogger friends to reflect on what brings them joy:

Big Poppa
Sappy Chick
Posted by E
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Mystery Meat of Love
An email from my friend Jake:

"When we gonna go out for a hotdog lunch? I think you're the only person I've met that shares my deep and abiding love for them..."

Even better with chili and cheese!
Posted by E
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Maybe Next Year
It's getting to be that time to think about the pluses and minuses of the year that was. Stiles realized that we never went to the Alamo Drafthouse (a chain of specialty movie theatres in town) to watch the Air Sex competitions. Air Sex is exactly what you think it is. The rules:
Time: Contestants have a maximum of 2 minutes to perform an air sex routine. This can include all phases of an air sex encounter: meeting, seduction, foreplay and intercourse, or you can simply cut to the chase.

Music: Competitors must perform to music, you can either bring a CD of your performance track with you, or you can choose from our selection of air sex music. You may also include an audio prelude to your performance, maximum of 30 seconds.

Other Rules: Unlike air guitar, there are not many other rules. Props are allowed, teams are allowed, talking is allowed. The only important rule is that all sexual climaxes must be simulated, not real.
Posted by E
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