Sunday, November 28, 1999

Dating & Spelling In High School

As my clothing choices prove, I know absolutely nothing and care even less about fashion, but I do feel sorry for anyone who tries to stay trendy. By definition, you're never going to catch up. And when you see some supermodel in a fabulous new outfit, you just have to know it will never look that good on you.

This rule, of course, does not apply to girls in their late teens, who are destined to get swept up in the popular tide. We were out to dinner with another couple recently on what turned out to be some high school's homecoming weekend. The restaurant was swarming with dozens of late teen couples, all charging dinner to their parents' credit cards.

Every one of the girls looked like Ally McBeal, all wearing the same dress (my wife pointed out that it wasn't really the exact same dress, or they would have died when they saw each other, but trust me, it was). Worse, they all had the same Calista Flockhart body. Okay, not quite that bony thin, but let's say they were so thin that when one of them swallowed an olive she looked suddenly pregnant.

What intrigued me even more was the boys who were with them. Each and every boy had the same, short, almost-crew haircut. This is exactly the opposite of how we all looked when we were their age. Of course, those were the, "These kids today, with their rock and roll, and their dungarees, and their hair down to their shoulders so you can't tell if they're a boy or a girl" days, and we did it mostly to annoy Mom and Dad. I suppose now they get that buzz cut thinking it will annoy us, but frankly, I found it pretty easy to accept the clean cut look.

On their face was a look that every American boy would recognize, the look that said, "I am completely clueless in how to handle this social occasion and it's obvious to me that the girls know something they're not telling us." Then they immediately broke off into a boys-only circle to talk football and recharge their confidence.

Not every high schooler looks and acts this way, of course.

Take the story of Jamie Schoonover, a 15-year-old high school freshman from Baltimore who was suspended from school last month for "casting a spell on another student." You see, Jamie claims to be a practicing witch, just like her mother, Colleen Harper.

Well, Jamie's not exactly like Mom, because Mom used to be Dad. That's right. Colleen Harper used to be a man, and is Jamie's biological father, but has since had a sex change operation to become her mother. There is a technical name for this kind of family setup. In the nomenclature of pop psychology, it's called, "a Jerry Springer show waiting to happen."

What's most shocking about this story is that the principal of the school actually wrote down that Jamie was suspended for casting a spell.

Hello? This is an educator? How about handling it a little more logically -- perhaps pointing out to the offended student that there is no such thing as witchcraft and that no one can cast a spell on anyone else? This is the most ridiculous reaction an adult has had to a witch since Gladys Kravitz on "Bewitched"!

While this was quite a shock to the kid on whom the "spell" was cast, it couldn't have been a happy day for Jamie, either. She probably went home all depressed, gave herself a nice buzzcut hairdo, and spent the evening crying in the arms of her father -- who was wearing the family's Ally McBeal dress at the time.

Saturday, November 20, 1999

The Hurry Up And Wait Trip

The holiday travel season is here. If you’re lucky enough to be staying home, let’s enjoy the wonder and excitement of a virtual trip instead. Our theme: Hurry Up And Wait.

Come on, come on, we have to get going! Our flight is in two hours, and we don’t know what traffic’s going to be like.

Okay, whew, we made it to the airport in record time. Now let’s get in line to check our bags. Great, it looks like only about a hundred people ahead of us.

I wish this line would move faster. Next time, let’s only do carry-on.

Where’s the gate? Oh, gotta go through security first.

Oh, good, they have the x-ray machine set to “super-sensitive,” so that the foil wrapper on my chewing gum makes it beep. This is good, because we want to be sure that no one has anything that can be used as a weapon to hijack the plane with. Of course, once we’re on board our cross-country flight, they’ll give us real silverware with our meal. But no one would ever think of using a knife or fork as a weapon.

Okay, we’re through security. Let’s get to the gate, because the flight’s in an hour.

I’m getting impatient sitting here at the gate. I sure wish they’d start the boarding process already.

Here we go. Wait, that’s not my row they’re calling. Might as well get in line anyway.

Come on, what’s taking so long? Row 14 wants to get on board!

Down the jetway we go. Let me quickly check in with the crew in the cockpit. Hi! Anyone in here so depressed they’re thinking of taking us all down with you? Okay, just checking.

Let’s find our seats and jam those bags in the overhead compartment. Better grab one of those oh-so-fluffy pillows, too. They’re about as cushy as two wadded-up Kleenex.

Is it possible the airline has actually moved these rows closer together? My kneecap is touching the spleen of the passenger in front of me. Mighty comfortable. No, mister, don’t recline, whatever you do!!!

Everyone’s on board, our tray tables are up, and we understand about the oxygen-dispensing margarine cup with the dry-cleaning bag attached. Let’s go!!

Finally, we’re leaving the gate, we’re taxiing, hey, we’re headed for the runway, and we’re taking off. Now I can sit back and relax.

The flight attendant has just announced that they’ve turned off the seat belt sign and we’re free to roam about the cabin. That’s good, because there’s plenty of room to roam. I like to work up a good sweat making that walk up and down the aisle. Sometimes I have enough stamina to make it all the way up to the first class curtain, which is now electrified so no one in coach can trespass.

Fifteen minutes have passed and not one word yet about a drink. I’m getting thirsty.

Here comes the beverage cart. I can see it ten rows away. What should I get? Can’t they move any faster?

Ahh, that was refreshing. Now I’m hungry.

We’re an hour into the flight, and I am incredibly bored. Maybe I should have paid the five bucks for the headphones, even if they are showing an Adam Sandler movie.

I have read everything in sight, including the “fasten seat belt” sign in German. I particularly enjoyed the airline magazine’s fascinating photo spread on houses of the rich and famous in Des Moines.

Does anyone ever actually purchase anything from that inflight shopping catalog? Who needs a putting green alarm clock cuff link? And what the hell is a tongue scraper?

Hey, look, you can get realtime stock quotes on the in-seat airphone, and it’s only $3.99 for the first eight seconds and $12 for every second after that. Now day traders can lose all their money while they fly! I wonder how this airline’s stock is doing?

Here comes the meal cart. I’m surprisingly hungry. Do I want beef or chicken?

Wait a minute, all they’re doing is handing out plastic lunch bags. Well, a sandwich is better than nothing, and it’s been a long time since I filled up on two whole Lorna Doones.

Now I’m thirsty again. Where’s the beverage cart? Oh, it’s behind the eleven people in the aisle waiting to dispose of their earlier beverage in the lavatory.

Lavatory. There’s a word you never hear anyone use in conversation. As in, “I’m sorry sir, the lavatory is occupied.” Must have been named by the same person who decided that my seat cushion can be used as a flotation device. Too bad it can’t be used as a comfortable place to sit for three hours.

Okay, I’m done with my snack. Come take this trash away.

Hurray, we’re almost there! That sounds like the landing gear coming down. Through the window I think I can see...it looks like...yes, it’s several non-descript buildings and a community of cul de sacs. Just like I remember it.

That was a nice smooth landing, and right on time, too. I guess they don’t include the ten minutes it takes to taxi to the gate as part of their official schedule.

There’s the two bell signal, so everybody up! We have to stand here in the aisle for several minutes before we can deplane, deplane!

Finally, we’re headed up the jetway and into the terminal. What a relief. No more exasperation, no more “hurry up and wait.” We’re done.

Now where’s baggage claim? I’m sure our bags will be the first ones out.

Monday, November 15, 1999

Jerry Springer

Jerry Springer took a few minutes off from hosting his notorious daytime talk show to talk with me today about his appearance defending the show before the Chicago City Council, the episode he did with the man who married a horse, his thoughts on the Jenny Jones show controversy, and whether he's going to run for the US Senate.

Listen.

Wednesday, November 10, 1999

Let's Play Genes & Geography

So what if George Dubya Bush couldn’t name the leaders of India, Pakistan, Taiwan, and Chechnya last week? I can’t even remember the names of the parents of all my daughter’s friends, and we expect him to know the names of every leader of every nation on the globe, just off the top of his head?

This reminds me of when every presidential candidate has been asked how much a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk cost. The subtext of the question is that if they don’t know the answer, then they must not be able to relate to the average American. As if these politicians who are spending their days and nights campaigning for the highest office in the land ever have time to do their own food shopping. “Excuse me, but between the debate in one city, and the fundraiser in another city, and the America Is Great rally in yet another city, all in the same afternoon, can we stop off to pick up a couple of dairy items and some Wonder bread?”

Put aside the question of whether or not the reporter ambushed him, and ask the bigger question: are we looking for a President, or a contestant on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”

By the way, if Fox can do that lousy ripoff, “Greed,” I’m thinking about borrowing the concept to do my own show, with contestants Donald Trump, Warren Buffett, Steve Forbes, and Bill Gates. I’ll call it “Who Wants To Lose So Much Money That You’ll Only Be A Millionaire?” I’m sure Robin Leach would host it for me.

If only Dubya had used one of his lifelines to phone a friend.

You see, whether it’s him or someone else who ends up the next occupant of the Oval Office, he’ll have plenty of staff members around who will have -- or can get -- any information he wants whenever he wants it. At the very least, they can go to that new no-charge Encyclopedia Brittanica website, where all the world’s knowledge is now stored on one big server.

They haven’t used that site lately in the current White House, because the President has been tying up the internet connection day and night trying to look at that site with the models sellling their eggs.

And wasn’t THAT story blown out of proportion?

After all, if some sucker wants to pony up big dough for the genetic goo of some attractive woman, why should anyone try to stop them? It’s perfectly legal for a sperm bank to promote the fact that the donor of some sample was a genius, so what’s the difference here?

If they truly believe that they can buy genetic beauty like that, they should take a look at photos of the model’s parents first! For reference, may I suggest a glance at some pictures of Brooke Shields’ mom?

Naturally, it’s only the genes of thin, attractive women that are being sold this way, because anyone can make a kid that looks like Camryn Manheim. You don’t need to buy a model’s eggs to get that; you need to buy Chips Ahoy and Haagen Dasz.

Of course, you’re putting a lot of pressure on your kid if she’s conceived with one of these model’s eggs. It's gotta be tough having to live up to the chromosomal standard from which you were sprung, not to mention the relentless nagging: “Honey, don’t eat that entire sprig of parsley for lunch, you’ll balloon up and never make that cover of Vogue! Wipe that smile off your face! No one wants a model who looks happy, so pout, pout, pout! Now, hurry up and purge so we can get to your fashion show walkway class!”

WAIT -- inspiration strikes!! Instead of extracting an egg from some unknown Cindy Crawford wannabe, let’s take one from Madelyn Albright! Sure the kid might not grow up to be named People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, but we might be able to create a Presidential candidate who can answer that world leaders question.

Yes, Reege, that’s my final answer.