Lessons in Lindsanity: Or, How to Wear Orange with Grace (August 3, 2010)

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Lindsay Lohan’s release from a Los Angeles jail at 1:35 AM yesterday morning, after serving just 13 days of a 90 day sentence, annoys me.

Please tell me how this woman will EVER learn her lesson? And by “lesson,” I do not mean that the hopeless train wreck should have been “scared straight” by her days in the clink, nevermore to find herself on the wrong side of the law. None of us are naïve enough to expect that, and in fact I look forward to the evidence of Lohan’s recidivism with relish. This is, after all, her second trip to the pokey at the ripe old age of 24.

What Ms. Lohan should have learned by now after a dizzying amount of arrests, lawsuits, and video images documenting the rampant drug habit that only she and her mother are delusional enough to deny, is how to besmarter with her lawbreaking. And please Lindsay, if you can’t manage to do that, and insist on sporting “fuck you” nail polish to court, at least have the wherewithal to expect the book to be thrown at you.

But it’s clear, against all logic, that Lohan was genuinely shocked to discover that the laws of the little people also apply to her. Thus the widely circulated You Tube video of Lindsay’s sentencing hysterics on July 7th. This reminds us of the equally humorous “Mommy, it’s not fair!” ejaculations unleashed on the court by Paris Hilton three years ago, before she was hauled away pursuant to a DUI conviction, for a brief stay in the same jail.

Would I be totally perverse if I welcomed the increase in she-celebrity incarceration as evidence of feminist gain? There was a time, not too many decades ago, when ladies were deemed too “soft” to handle the psychological and physical torments of jail, particularly members of the well-to-do crowd. Small crimes committed by women were thus either covered up or ignored, and this might have been fine except for the maddening and condescending implication that female criminals were not self-aware enough to comprehend their actions. Those of us who want equal rights must not cherry pick the situations were they should apply. Therefore, I truly applaud the fine work of the L.A. court system, which has made inmates out of not only Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, but also Nicole Richie, Michelle Rodriguez and a host of other bad girl celebs.

I am pleased to say that Richie and Rodriguez took their lumps like the tough girls they are. Lohan and Hilton, as we have already affirmed, not so much. The pathetic lack of fortitude displayed by Lohan throughout her two-week stay in the Big House, punctuated by late night wailing, catatonic despair and the ironic continuation of the drug abuse that landed her there in the first place (Adderall and Ambien among the list of approved “medications”) leads me to dislike her more than the thoughtless and dangerous actions that warranted the initial attention of the 5-0. Though I will never be proud of my own visit to jail in the summer of 1999, I can at least satisfy myself with the certainty that when trouble and I found each other, I dealt with it as a chastened adult.

Before being picked up in the small town of Kentland Indiana, on August 9, 1999 – the day after my 21st birthday – I often wondered what I would do if the moment arrived. If I found myself in hock with the law, would I panic and break down? Kentland (population 1,822), part of Newton County, outdoes Mayberry in stereotype, with its stated distrust of “big city folks.” While driving back from a weekend celebration in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I was pulled over by a Conservation Officer (whom I dubbed “Fish Cop” behind his back), who actually had to call in another patrolman with the authority to arrest me. It is, my friends, a fine thing to have to filibuster and make small talk with the man ruining your day, while he waits for the authorized cavalry to come slap the cuffs.

Because I had just turned 21 and was, by any measure, a complete moron, I was breezily speeding down the highway at a clip of 80 MPH while simultaneously smoking a “happy birthday to me” joint. I was but minutes from the Illinois border, en route to the University campus at Urbana-Champaign, a place where the marijuana laws were much more forgiving to students such as I.

My bad luck to be picked up in Indiana. My worse luck that I had just come from a shopping spree at a renowned head shop in Michigan. When the fish cop asked if he could take a look in my trunk, this is what he found: an 1/8 ounce of weed, a six pack of beer, incense, a new and unused gas mask, three bowls of all materials (glass, wood and stone), and a brand new water pipe (more commonly called a “bong,” for those of you who actually studied in college).

Thus when Fish asked me to pop open my trunk, tipped off as he was by another motorist, I had no recourse other than to approve his request. Unlike Lindsay Lohan, I was not however, taken aback when I found myself snugly encased afterward in a pair of form fitting silver bracelets, and led to the back of a squad car.

I wish I had a copy of my mug shot for posterity but the Newton County jail is pretty stingy about souvenirs. This bad humor did not however stop a bunch of officers from posing jovially with the armloads of contraband they had snatched from my vehicle. They even had the bad taste to enjoy themselves in my line of vision as I was printed and booked. Abu Ghraib anyone? I have oft suspected that not all the “evidence” found its way to the locker that evening.

I cooled my heels in jail overnight, before my angry and embarrassed mother came to bail me out the next morning. My cell mates – three prostitutes and a crack head – could not have received me more cordially had it been their own parlor, rather than county lockup. They handed me the best reading material in their possession, and informed me of the unlimited calls I could make. Things definitely could have been worse.

In the end, I paid a $1000 fine for my indiscretions, and was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. After a full year of good behavior, my probation period ended and my record was wiped clean. Know why? Because I kept my nose clean (pun intended Lohan!) and didn’t make myself more annoying to the law than I already had. I finished school, paid my debt to society and most importantly of all, didn’t cry about it. I had been caught red handed. What was the point? I won’t say I never smoked pot again, but I sure didn’t indulge while operating a moving vehicle. Lesson learned.

Making a lot of noise over my deserved punishment would have made it that much harder for myself and everyone I loved to put the incident behind them and move on. Do you hear that Lindsay? It’s called taking responsibility. I owed those who believed I was on my way to life as a hardened convict, the strength of character to bear my sentence with a modicum of composure.

I wish she had served the full 90 days of her sentence. Maybe that extra time would have served to break and humble her, which is really what a situation like this requires.

Consequential Disparity (July 13, 2010)

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In a 2010 reality of rising costs, flat wages (for those lucky enough to have a job), foreclosures, 401k loss and just about every social, political and environmental ill you can dream up, one of the few free sports left to us “small people” is the amusement of watching the rich, famous, powerful and greedy stumble over their own hubris and excess to fall on their pretty faces.

Admit it people – last Thanksgiving was a real downer for a lot of us. But witnessing the fallout of Tiger Woods smashing into a fire hydrant before the world became aware that he was an epic manwhore, was good clean fun for those not named Elin Nordegren (side note: I wonder if she noted the irony before she decided to place a well placed swing at her hubby’s cranium). Tiger, as we have all seen by now, will be more than OK, even if he lost his family in the process. His wealth, fame and prestige are (largely) intact. Tiger is definitely not one of us, is he?

Because for the rest of the world, the ones who swim upstream in the ever thickening sludge of actuality, had we made even one of Tiger’s mistakes, our lives would be effectively over. Had we been the ones to crash our vehicles in the fog of an Ambien coma, I think arrest, if not a heavy fine, would follow in short order. If we made a mockery out of our own image as a solid, sober family man, only to be exposed as a total hack, we would not be able to pick up business as usual after hiding from the media for a couple months. Respect would be lost, prospects forgone, and a broken family in the “real” world cannot be atoned via a large alimony payout.

And now we get to the heart of my post. Is anyone else demoralized by the consequence-free environment in which the top 1% of the American public lives? I extend benefactors’ rights to corporate and non-human entities, as well as the golden ones who enjoy society’s free ride. I realize it is not good for my soul to root for the downfall of anything, but it feels cold and alone out here sometimes in the place where the laws of physics rule. In my world, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. But not so for the banks, BP, Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Roman Polanski, or our favorite whipping boy of the moment, Mel Gibson.

Charlie Sheen held a knife to wife Brooke Mueller’s throat last Christmas. We are now approaching mid-August while Charlie decides which option he likes best from the probationary roulette wheel. Meanwhile, he has gotten a huge raise from CBS for the next, and possibly last season of his hit sitcom Two and a Half Men. Our man Charlie was hardly a choir boy before this. Anyone want to wager on the fortunes of you or I had we found ourselves in a similar scrape?

Roman Polanski drugged and raped a 13 year-old girl in the 1970s, and has enjoyed 30 years of freedom as a European citizen and Oscar winning film director. On Monday, Switzerland effectively closed the book on any hope of justice served, by denying the U.S. government the right to extradite the pedophile. Let’s just say I had been caught en flagrante with a grade schooler. Mary Kay LeTourneau anybody?

Wall Street is hiring again. The very charlatans who led us into this prolonged economic predicament are back and feeling better than ever, while the rest of us choose between groceries and filling our prescriptions. BP has been allowed to lie and fuck up everything it touches for months, but we all know that in the end, they will survive, even if the same may not be said for the Gulf of Mexico. If I went to the shores of Lake Michigan right now and dumped even one gallon of crude into the bay, I would be arrested as an eco terrorist (rightfully so) before I had time to get back to my car.

What I am trying to get at folks, beyond the larger, obvious and unchangeable circumstance of life not being fair, is that it isn’t only the financial gulf that widens perceptibly between the haves and the have nots. There is, quite literally, a whole separate reality for the privileged, that may go a long way toward explaining the seemingly disproportionate current anger of the middle and lower classes. We are so helpless, even after playing by the rules, while those who flaunt every one of society’s guidelines, fly away unencumbered, free to continue worsening the lives of those around them. And they will, because unlike the rest of us, they haven’t learned a damned thing

This Minute in Pop Culture…. (June 29, 2010)

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I don’t know about you guys, but my brain hurts, not in the “I’ve been concentrating too hard and now I need an aspirin” way. It’s more like, “OUR SOCIAL FABRIC AND THE WORLD ECONOMY ARE DISINTEGRATING BEFORE MY EYES! AH! EVERYTHING SUCKS BUT THE WORLD CUP! WE’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO ‘WIN’ IN AFGHANISTAN! THE GULF IS TOAST! MAYDAY! HELP!”

Yeah it’s kind of like that. I know that awareness and consideration are part of my job as a responsible American citizen. If I attempt to bury my head beneath clouds of sunshine and rainbows, in the first place I will find no such place exists for my weary noggin’. But in the second, I understand that avoidance of circumstances never, ever leads to resolution. I am but one small person in this terribly troubled global community, but I am committed to doing whatever I can, whatever form that takes, even if my only available weapon is the pen, to move our human race forward and out of this persistent downward spiral.

That said, there’s nothing illegal about taking a break from absorbing the constant assault of bad news (Russian spy cells are active in American again!?) and indulging in a bit of escapism. My drug of choice for dulling my overstimulated senses is the popular gossip website run by mini-media mogul Perez Hilton, though one could easily substitute E! media, Entertainment Tonight, TMZ or a host of other pop culture news outlets.

After spending half my lunch hour furiously clicking the buttons of my Blackberry, trying to drink in as much nonsense in 30 minutes as my limited vision could stand, I spent the next few moments challenging myself (using the word “challenge” very loosely) to come up with stream of conscious impressions of my information gathering. Ah but that we could always live in the comparatively simple world of entertainment reports! My thoughts went something like this, and in EXACTLY this order. After all, I must remain faithful to the parameters of this exercise:

– So Mel Gibson’s left his wife of 28 years, the mother of seven of his children for a plastic-faced baby tramp, and now she’s stirring up ugly allegations of abuse and non-payment of child support? Perhaps conservative Catholic types ought to broaden their studies to include the Eastern philosophy of karma.

– WHY am I still reading about Heidi and Spencer? No seriously, someone tell me why. I have never watched an episode of The Hills in my life. And yet I am somehow dying to find out if their “divorce” is a sham or not. These two have the oddest, most predatory love story I’ve ever seen play out publicly. It’s like Star 80 for 2010. Except Heidi is no Dorothy Stratton.

– Poor misguided Jessica Simpson. Turning to Eastern medicine traditions will never bring Nick Lachey back. You know it ain’t Tony Romo your bed and career are regretting.

– Lindsay Lohan – Linda Lovelace, SCRAM bracelets, a new Lohan reality show and father Michael is engaged to a 25 year-old who also once dated Jon Gosselin. Not sure who the current poster family for white trash America is since the Hogans slunk off into ignominy, but I think we have a clear front runner.

– I hate the new season of So You Think You Can Dance. Eliminating Mary Murphy from the judges table was the dumbest decision ever, and I don’t accept a clearly-trying-to-be-less-of-a-bitch Mia Michaels as a substitute. I want back on the Hot Tamale Train!

– I still miss Lost as much as I did six weeks ago. When will I get through the withdrawal?

– Most welcome comeback of the last decade: multi-talented and super hot Neil Patrick Harris. Christmas with Harold and Kumar? Hell frickin’ yeah!

– I can’t believe Michael Jackson has been dead a year. I still can’t believe he died at all. People with that much talent always seem immortal.

– So stoked for the next season of Weeds. Zack Morris is going to get some good loving and herb from Ruth Jamison. My little 80s and 90s heart goes pitter patter at the prospect.

– I still don’t care about any of the following and vow that I never will:Harry Potter, Twilight and True Blood. Do we still need fantasies and monsters anymore? The world is frightening enough. Although I do find Emma Watson adorable. R-Patz? Over it! However Taylor Lautner is more than welcome to do other films where he doffs his shirt and I will consider attending. Meow.

– Tom Cruise is a fabulous actor, but I think consumers are telling him they’d like him to disappear for awhile. Think Jeff Bridges. He dropped off our pop culture radar for a time and came back with an Oscar. You don’t have a Golden Guy, do you Tom? Food for thought.

– Midway through the year and my favorite celebrity of 2010 remains Brett Michaels. I am as shocked by this as anyone. Dude is just so disarming.

See the answers are easy at this low brow level! I feel invigorated, don’t you? We now return to our regularly scheduled program of gloom, already in progress…

Facebook is No Longer my Happy Place (May 18, 2010)

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I am often the last to jump on any new technology bandwagon. In fact I sat out most of the 90s – no pagers, AOL or the first onslaught of the DVD entertainment format for me. As I enjoyed a prolonged era of landlines, freedom from wireless communications and good old VHS tapes, I figured I had all I needed. If anyone wanted to talk me that badly, well they could just wait until I got home.

And yet look at the Crackberry addicted, constantly stimulated mess I have become. I watch almost all my TV via the wonders of commercial-free DVR. I blog, I Twitter (for work anyway), and I cannot seem to drag myself away from my PC for any longer than 30 straight minutes without fearing, deep in my bones, that I am missing important intelligence. Lindsay Lohan is unleashing her drunken fury on Cannes people!

One phenomenon I was eager to sign up for right away, in 2006, was my own Facebook profile. You may be thinking to yourself, “old news Boop, so what?” Well lambs, I will tell you. Facebook opened a whole new world for me – reconnecting with people I literally hadn’t thought of in years, folks I presumed had passed out of my life like the proverbial ship. Social networking in this fashion has been an invaluable gift.

So too has been the much discussed Facebook status. Twitter fans may hate me for saying this, but I look at “tweets” as little more than the red headed, second cousin of the groundbreaking status. In nearly as many characters as I want, I begin each day with a little dose of artistic expression (or complaint). I have come to rely on this as sort of a litmus test reflection of where I am in that moment of history. Periodically I revisit my old status updates and it’s like catching up with an old friend – only it’s me. For me, it is journaling in microcosm.

It may sound like a paradox, but I would argue that I am never more “myself,” with such a keen sense of abandon, a flagrant departure from worrying about how I’ll be received, than I am when I update my status each morning. Before I have given myself time to wipe the sleep from my eyes, I shoot from the hip and see what comes out. Need it even be said that oftentimes, my status update contains one or more of the following: not-safe-for-work language, hangover laments, or declarations of opinion about “alternative” issues (being purposely vague there)? I do have some Facebook friends that I often hope will avert their eyes – for example the parents of school mates – but in general I trust my Facebook community to know me and look the other way.

It is often said, by now a cliché, that “everyone is on Facebook.” This appears to be true, and the phenomenon has gone global. I have pals in England, Germany, Israel, and very recently, India.

It is inside the boundaries of this last ancient land that my current predicament lies. For you see, I received an email from my in-laws yesterday afternoon that instantly froze the blood in my veins. Mummy and Papa are about to go viral and start a Facebook account.

Shit.

I have viewed the Book as the one place, outside the confines of this blog, where I do not have to censor myself. That is all about to come to a crashing halt. Because here is the conundrum of Facebook etiquette: one has the absolute freedom to decline or accept any friend request, but as we all know, the psychological costs of doing so can be too much to bear. This got me thinking: am I really as free on the Book as I think I am?

My in-laws are well aware that I am not mainstream. They are aware of it as I say, but that doesn’t mean they want to actively think about it. From the safety of Mumbai, I can be comfortably viewed as a loving and supportive wife (which I am), without the other R-rated fun that makes me a unique brand of wingnut. That delicate balance is about to come crashing down. How do I get them to understand that befriending me through social networking will ultimately make all of us less happy?

So now instead of enjoying my footloose and fancy free Facebook joie de vivre, I am considering the possibility of edits. I cannot tell you people how many hours “scrubbing” my profile might take. It’s not like I am a porn star or gangster, but I am cringing already at the high volume of drunken photos, ex-boyfriend pictorials and inappropriate commentary they will encounter. And yes, to answer your pertinent and preemptory questions, I WILL hear about it. Yet I cannot decline to befriend them. They would be crushed and I truly do love my in-laws. So what to do?

With one email sentence, I feel like I fell from the sky, confronted with the possibility of acting as my own thought police. This is not an appetizing prospect. It’s enough to make me wish it were 1996 again. I am going to retreat into the fetal position clutching my Steel Magnolias video.