26 February 2008

My Cat May Or May Not Be Suffering From a Zen Koan

I've removed this blog because I feel terrible that I didn't take Elfke's illness seriously.

18 February 2008

My Ernest Attempt at Housewifery

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There was an incident at our house the other night. I was getting ready for a show, and Wim was around the corner having a drink with his friend who we were later going to drop somewhere in Antwerp on the way to my gig. There were two reasons why he went around the corner to hang out with his friend: the first being that I am rather hard to be around before a show (“temperamental artist” is a kind way to describe it, heavy on the ”mental”); and the second (and perhaps most important) reason being that our house was an embarrassing mess.

So when it was time to leave for my show, Wim returned with his friend and said she was waiting outside our house and that she had to pee because she is pregnant. And that she needed to pee in our toilet because she didn’t go at the bar because she didn’t need to then. There was a split second when I felt that my legs would give way. Shoving things into closets wasn’t even an option because there simply wasn’t time. She would have frozen to death (and pee’d) in front of our house before we had anything in a semi-decent order. There was no escaping it: She had to come in. To say that I freaked out would be a spectacular understatement. There was no choice. She had to walk through our cluttered entryway, climb our cat hair-laden stairs, walk through our laundry-strewn den, and use our underpants-everywhere bathroom. I was absolutely mortified. So the whole ride to Antwerp, I was seething with anger. I didn’t know whom I was more angry with; Wim for allowing someone into our House of Shame, or the Pregnant Friend for not availing herself of the facilities at the bar. It became a HUGE issue in my head and I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.

Later, I had it pointed out to me that “normal” people don’t have a problem with letting their friends in the house to use the bathroom, and it shook me into awareness. I suddenly felt enormous guilt for thinking that the pregnant friend had been taking evil liberties at my expense. It wasn’t a plot or anything. She just had to pee. And I’m just very odd.

Our house is always a mess, and it’s always a huge ordeal if we have anyone over. It must be planned and arranged in advance so we can wake up early and clean everything, and still it always seems as if up to the very last minute we are moving big piles of paper on various shelves and shoving things into cupboards.

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We have this fantasy image of ourselves and the people that we will one day be if only we can get the house to that ever elusive Ground Zero of cleanliness – a state wherein it will require only the most rudimentary touch-up maintenance now and then to retain a pristine and perpetually sophisticated look.

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It has so far never happened because Wim and I are both decidedly not Neat People. And because I’m the one who is home all the time, the onus is on me to find a way to sort the situation out. And I try. I do. But what happens is that I have these spurts of inspired floor mopping and then I sort of sit around admiring it and wonder (honestly) how it all winds up dirty again in a few days.

“How can the floor be so dirty when I cleaned it last week??!!” I marvel, completely airbrushing over the 10 cats running around my feet.

Yes, we have 10 cats, and I began to suspect that they might be a contributing factor in why things don’t stay clean.

Cats have this completely undeserved reputation for being ultra-clean animals because they bury their poop, are constantly cleaning themselves, and generally keep a low profile. But on closer inspection you find that after burying their poop, they jump out of the catbox trailing grains of kitty litter between their toes; their “cleaning” consists of covering themselves with their own spit; and even when they are sleeping, they are shedding hair at an alarming rate. And while they do mostly sleep, when they are awake they are running, running, running everywhere; knocking things off shelves and vomiting up hairballs. The end result is what it would be like if we let everyone I dated in my 20s hang out in our house for an hour each day. Only with slightly fewer hairballs.

When I’m out and about I see these housewifey women with their front doors open, dumping floor-mopping water outside. And the thing is I see them doing the same thing, every day. Sometimes I try to peer into their houses thinking, “damn, they must have a lot of cats!”, but I’ve never been able to see any. And yet these people clean every single day. Then it dawned on me: That’s how people keep their houses clean. They do it every day.

Weird, huh?

My brain synapses started firing like crazy as I made all the connections. Normal people don’t leave their clothes on the bathroom floor, or wait until they’ve used every last dish (or dish-like container) before they think about cleaning the kitchen; Normal people clean everything as they go. That’s why it all seems so effortless. And that’s why their friends can just walk in and use their bathrooms and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

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I couldn’t wait to tell Wim what I’d figured out. We both stood there like two scientists discovering something horribly obvious in a microscope, like that we’d left the lens cap on, or we’d left the price tag on the Petri dish - and we determined that this must, indeed, be what normal people do. So I decided that starting Monday (today) I would become one of those people who vacuumed and mopped and did the dishes and picked up dirty clothes and did the laundry every day. This morning I did it, and it was remarkably painless and I’m sitting here writing this right now in a clean room. It feels strange and yet somehow right. And I’m going to do it every morning. That’s what normal people do, and I desperately want to be normal. It seems like a rather odd discovery to be making at my age; even at the age that I like to say that I am, but, well, better late than never.

So now the perfect denouement will be if The Pregnant Friend randomly knocks on our door and asks to use our bathroom again. I shall politely and enthusiastically welcome her in, proudly ushering her to our glistening bathroom. Karmicly, I need for this to happen. If it doesn’t happen organically, I shall be tempted to ambush her, make her drink 5 cups of coffee then insist she uses our bathroom because, dammit, I need the closure.

14 February 2008

Drunken Nights and My Bad Photo Karma


Me in a photograph of my choosing.


Last summer, I went through a very fat phase. It would have been bad enough if I had just left it there, but I also decided to dye my hair auburny-red (which does not work on me!), wear my glasses, and stop wearing makeup altogether. (Why? Why?) As a result of this ill-advised social experiment, I have discovered a few things: First; that my hairdresser is right and I should never be trusted with my own hair; secondly; that the man I married does, indeed, love me for my personality; and finally that I have some sort of weird Karma that says that when I'm at my worst, everyone will want to take my picture.

OK. Here's the thing: I've been doing comedy for 20 years. Yup, that's right. And in that time I've certainly had my ups and downs, but for the most part I made the effort to look as fabulous as possible. And you know who took my picture during those times? Nobody, that's who. I even used to spend hours putting on false eyelashes and teasing my hair into a bouffant, but apart from a few appreciative comments from Drag Queens in the audience, my efforts were largely unnoticed, and certainly un-photographed.

So last summer when I looked the worst that I have possibly for several lifetimes, what happens? EVERYONE wants to photograph me. Why? Why? Why?

I was blissfully unaware of all the big fat ugly images being posted of me on the internet, because I am not one of those people who googles myself. So this one day I was having coffee with my friend Anya when she says, "I saw a really funny interview of you on YouTube".

"Oh," I replied, "Was it an interview done in Luxembourg?" Because I remember that interview for some Luxembourgian station, and I looked particularly adorable that night, if I say so myself. Blonde hair, lots of makeup, a well coordinated outfit, the works.

"No," Anya said innocently, "It was at the Gentse Feesten last summer."

"What? What? WHAT???!!!" I'm sure I spit coffee everywhere. And it all came back to me, probably like people's lives flash right before they die; every gory detail of this interview I did during the Gentse Feesten came flooding back to me. I had actually let these people interview me with no thought whatsoever even to brushing my hair. I had sat there, fat, drunk, and un-adorned, comforting myself with the knowledge that since I'm not actually famous, no one would want to see this thing anyway. I don't know what I was thinking - maybe I thought they were just, I don't know, trying out their camera (and recording equipment) or that maybe they would show it somewhere without attaching my NAME to it so that people could google it and see my fat no-eyebrow face making jokes in Flemish. More to the point, I most likely didn't think at all. These evil, evil people caught me when I was at my most vulnerable, after a show where I had been given far too much free beer. Aaaaaaarrgh!

I ran out of the coffee shop for better phone reception and I called my manager (who also happens to be my husband), crying hysterically and pleading, "Do something! Do something!".

Poor Anya followed me outside, her eyes filling with tears half whispering "What did I do??" She knew she had sparked an incident of near global proportions and she felt responsible, the poor girl. Then, in a really bad attempt to comfort me, she said, "It's been on YouTube for a few months."

I don't think I even said anything. I think I just screamed and started running through the streets of Gent towards home. When I got home, I googled myself, and the damage was worse than I thought. The evil culprits had already removed the video (Perhaps because they'd been threatened with bodily harm. Not my problem.), but upon googling I found that there had also been evil people photographing me. There was one photograph, taken of me on a night when I looked exquisitely bad, mid-bad facial expression and all hunched over. I looked like Quasimoto in a mu-mu. Seriously. And then there were more photos on the site of my favorite comedy club in Antwerp where I looked like Mama Cass having an allergy attack. I sat down and wrote emails to EVERYONE concerned telling them to take all photos of me OFF the internet. I was typing so quickly my fingers were almost bleeding and I was hyperventilating like crazy. It was awful. Finally everyone took the pictures down, but it was a week of hell for me, believe me. Suffice it to say that I'm VERY glad I'm not a celebrity. Really. I don't think there's enough valium in the world.

So last night I had another gig at that club in Antwerp. I spent hours on my newly re-blondified hair. I put TONS of makeup on. My mascara was so thick it almost make a clicking sound when I blinked.........NO ONE took my picture. See what I mean about my Karma? NO ONE! Fookah (I know I'm spelling his name wrong, but that's how you pronounce it), the guy who runs the place said he wants to put my photo on the wall, but, well, no-one brought a camera, and um, well.......TRANSLATION: It's a conspiracy and the universe won't allow me to be photographed unless I am physically compromised in some way. Do I sound paranoid?.......Perhaps I am. Oh, for crying out loud.

The rest of the evening was fun, nonetheless. I drank lots of free beer missed my last train then rode through the streets of Antwerp drunkenly perched on the back of my friend (and fellow comedienne) Öznur's bicycle, and stayed the night in her guest room. This morning the weather was brisk and spookily overcast, just the way I like it, and my makeup still looked fabulous. Still does. God forbid anyone should take a picture of it.