Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mardi Gras in South Carolina

“Who got the baby?”
“Brenda.”
“Did she bite into it?”
“Haha yea.”


This was not a usual conversation heard in our office. I imagine it’s not something heard in most offices north of Louisiana.
But, on Friday, Brenda was quietly enjoying a piece of cake in the office lunchroom, when she bit into a baby. And she lived to tell about it.

Brenda was one co-worker who had never been to New Orleans and has never eaten King Cake before. She bit into her first baby at 70 years old.

“My husband is going to be so tickled when he hears that this will make me queen for the day!” she said on her way out of work.

I didn’t mention to Brenda that when you get the baby you are also required to buy the king cake for next year.

I don’t mind getting a king cake again next year. I’m just glad that no one protested eating it this year.

See, some people in South Carolina aren’t comfortable the idea of a King Cake. This baffles me to no end.

Biting into baby Jesus???” people at the office have said.
“The idea of having the nude baby in my mouth is offensive,” I was told via email in response to my “King cake in the breakroom!!!” email. “ I didn’t know that’s what you did with those babies.”

These reactions confused me. In New Orleans, elementary schools have king cake parties in class every Friday during Mardi Gras season. They are at every grocery store, in almost any kitchen in town. I figured everyone loved king cake. How could you not love king cake?

The problem was, I think, that in that email, I included a short description of the king cake tradition and what each of the parts meant.

“The colors purple, green and gold represent the three wise men who trekked long and far to see Christ Child,” I wrote thoughtfully, cc-ing everyone on the floor. “The baby inside represents baby Jesus.”

That was the year I was working for a larger newspaper in town and didn’t know every person by name. Newspaper staff keep odd hours, and there were 40 reporters or so on day and night shifts.

So, I didn’t know the person who was offended by the king cake personally.
“Count me out," she wrote in my inbox.

I now work at a smaller newspaper, where I have regular conversations with each and every person.
That made last year’s Mardi Gras chastising more personal.

It wasn’t the king cake. Maybe Sherri took that Friday off of work.

She was offended by Mardi Gras Day. Fat Tuesday. The best day of the year.
It was one of the few times I've had to celebrate the day in South Carolina.

“HAPPY MARDI GRAS!” I yelled when I walked into work, throwing beads at both front desk receptionists/classified sales reps.
“Oh…happy Mardi Gras,” Sherri said back, reaching for the gold string of beads that landed on her desk.

Sherri and I were not the closest friends at the office, but she had warmed up to me when I ran a press release about her church’s three-day retreat in the paper.
She was in her mid-40s and a very religious woman, just…not Catholic.

It took me awhile to get to my desk because I was throwing Mardi Gras beads to all the other 11 co-workers. Immedaitely after I sat down, my phone rang. It was Sherri’s extension.

“Hi, Jenny. I didn’t know what Mardi Gras was when I told you Happy Mardi Gras earlier….”
pause.
“And I looked it up and it’s a pagan celebration and I would like to take back my Happy Mardi Gras that I said to you.”
What?

“Oh!” I said, throughouly flustered. I was completely thrown off guard. Take back a happy Mardi Gras?
“Oh…I didn’t mean to offend you,” I said. “See, I’m from New Orleans…”
“Oh I know,” she said curtly. “I am not offended. I just wanted to take mine back. I would personally feel better if I took back the happy Mardi Gras.”
“Um, ok.”
“Bye.”

That was just the craziest conversation I’ve ever had. Take back a Happy Mardi Gras??? You can’t take back a Happy Mardi Gras! Pagan holiday?
It’s not a pagan holiday! It’s a celebration! The last hurrah before Ash Wednesday and 40 days of Lent until Easter!

“Take back a happy Mardi Gras!?!” I said aloud. The other reporters looked over. I was still staring at the phone.
“That was Sherri from downstairs and she just took back her happy Mardi Gras because it’s….a 'pagan' holiday!”

“Are you serious?” they asked.
“Mardi Gras fail,” the crime reporter laughed.
They all chuckled. At least they get it.


Taking back Mardi Gras, 2009

Sherri left the office last summer. So I felt pretty good about the office embracing the holiday this year.
When the BLACK AND GOLD king cake (Randazzo’s, brah) arrived at work on Friday, I sent out a very "politically correct" email about the cake. No mention of baby Jesus whatsoever.

Subject: King Cake for all!!!

If you get a chance, stop by the lunch/conference room today because I got the office a Mardi Gras King Cake!! It's like a cinnamon bun only round and there is a small plastic baby inside.
If you get a piece with the baby, you are king or queen for the day. It's a New Orleans tradition!
Normally the cake is purple green and gold (mardi gras colors) but this cake is BLACK AND GOLD because THE NEW ORLEANS SAINTS ARE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL!!! Who dat.

Come have a piece!


Jenny

p.s. let us know if you got the baby!

And, I’m telling you, the cake was a hit! No protests! No burning crosses! I even got nice return emails about it.

“Didn’t get the baby, darn, but it was delicious”

Brenda was so excited.

“Jenny, I found the baby. I was glad Stefan was in the room or you may have
believed I cheated.”

How refreshing! It was the first year that all my co-workers embraced the cake, even asking questions about it — was it authentic? Actually from New Orleans? Do they serve king cake at that Café Du Monde place in the French Quarter?

It was so nice hearing all the New Orleans excitement, rather than hearing fear for the natives’ souls.

Yet, right as I was getting comfortable, an advertising rep threw in a wrench. I had to defend the city once more.
As he helped himself to a slice of the beautiful cake he announced, “You know, I’m more of a Colts fan.”

“Who dat!” I snapped back.

Pfffft. Maybe next year.

-Jenny

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tales from the kitchen

Can you think of the worst server you’ve ever had at a restaurant? Was it me?

I won’t be offended. I was a terrible server, no doubt about it. The opposite of fantastic. I was spastic, clumsy and I couldn't remember daily specials. I always misplaced my pen, got easily stressed out and grimaced when someone ordered bacon. (bacon, blech!!!)

Thankfully, (for me and the general public) I no longer wait tables and can laugh about spending summers home from college serving Middle Eastern food in uptown New Orleans.

I worked at a very delicious and moderately priced Lebanese restaurant, and considering my server skills, I actually made good tips. Enough to buy clothes and beer.

I was hired because Joy, my twin sister, had already been working at the restaurant's other location as a back waiter/“pita bread girl” and hadn’t set the place on fire.
And since we're twins, that must mean we have the same work ethic.

The owners were Lebanese and made a mean Baba Ghanuj. One owner was named Marejuan.
“Nice to meet you Marejuan,” I said on my first day, with a tiny smirk.
“Yes, I know, Marejuan like marijuana,” he said in his thick Middle Eastern accent.
I laughed.
“First time I hear it I laugh. Second time, I giggle a little. THIRD TIME NOT FUNNY!” he shouted.
I laughed harder. Thank God Joy wasn't there because we would have been on the floor.

Marejuan kept his distance from the servers although he used to come in yelling angrily into his cell phone in Lebanese when he was upset at the restaurant staff.
You know, like if the kitchen got backed up during belly dancing Thursdays and someone complained that the lamb kabob took too long.

We had to wear all black with a long black bistro apron (those things are especially long when you are five feet tall, I had to roll mine ten times just so it would clear my ankles) and we had to answer questions about the detailed Middle Eastern menu.

There were times when I literally forgot to ring in orders. I remember this one young couple sitting there for a while looking hungry when it hit me.
I never put in their order! They’ve been sitting there for 20 minutes and I haven’t put in their order!
There was no reason why I hadn’t. I probably just plum forget between making more iced tea (iced tea, blech!!!), toasting pita bread, filling up sodas, telling the vegetarians that no meat is ever fried in the deep fryer, only eggplant, and forgetting that they do fry children’s chicken fingers in there sometimes.

I rang in the their order immediately, begging the line cooks to make the dishes as quickly as possible. I then got the couple a free draft beer each.
There was no bartender during the day so you could sneak a free draft beer or two. Or five.

Another problem I had with being a server is the math. I hate math times infinity. My brain literally rejects the idea of enjoying and retaining mathematics skills. I still count on my fingers, no joke.

Thus, I dreaded when people would pay with cash and ask for change. I would hand-write simple arithmetic problems in my notepad in order to give correct change, because I never bothered to get a calculator.

“What is this?” asked the manager, Sean, who was American and graciously put up with my foolishness.
“A math problem,” I said. “I had to give some people change earlier.”
“So what do you want me to look at?” he asked.
“Can you tell me what kind of wine they want?” I said, pointing to my notepad. “I wrote it out phonetically.”

He looked at the notepad, which had a fancy Italian name followed by “peen-no-war."
"It's a type of red wine, I think," I said.

Wine was quite a hurdle for me. We had to open bottles at the table. Sometimes I did it well, but not all the time. It was a crapshoot, and even I didn’t know if it was going to be successful when I began the process.

“Let…me,” said a man before I even started to open a bottle one day. He must have sensed my incompetence.
I looked hurt, but gave him the wine and opener.
“Don’t worry about it,” his date told me. “He’s a wine rep, so he gets like, really anal about it.”

None of these exploits held a candle to the nightmare that was being a server at Applebee’s.
Don’t ask me why I decided to work at Applebee’s, because I don’t know. I think I thought I’d make money because it’s such a popular place.

It wasn't a cash cow. And none of the other servers liked me because I was working to make extra spending money and not to support a family or pay rent. I was treated like a spoiled stepchild.

One morning, two girls sat down at 11 a.m. and ordered strawberry daiquiris. They looked old enough and, besides, I hated it when people carded me when I was 18. Welcome to New Orleans.

I heard the bartender loudly exhale when he read the ticket for the daiquiris. Those drinks required a blender, you see, and ice and mixing different things together. There was also the cleanup afterwards. He was a lazy. He looked at me and then his eyes darted at the girls who placed the order.

Ugh, did you even card them?” he asked me, hoping to dodge the blender drinks.
“Yes,” I said in my confident voice. “And they want whipped cream on top.”

I was called into the manager’s office the next day.
Bobby told me that you aren’t carding people,” she said.
I didn’t say anything, because she was much bigger than me and I was scared of her.

As a punishment, I had to wear a piece of flair that said, “You’ve got the cutest little baby face, may I please see some I.D.?”
“You will card anyone that looks under 30,” the manager said. Welcome to Applebees.

The next shift, a man who looked like he was in his 30s sat down and ordered a Bud Light.
“Can I see your I.D.?” I asked.
“You kiddin me?”
“No, sir.” I pointed to the button. “This is serious.”
He had to stare at my chest (great) in order to read the button aloud.
“You’ve…got…the…cutest…little...baby…face…may….I…please…see…some..I.D.?”
He chuckled. Hehehe hahaha OK.
I think his I.D. said he was 40. Someone with better math skills could have said specifically how old he was.

Another man misinterpreted the button as a pick-up line and made me a flower out of his napkin.
“Cute, huh?” He said. “Cute like a baby face!”

One Applebees diner, who I will never forget, placed the oddest, most disgusting order I have ever heard.
“I’d like the oriental chicken salad, but instead of dressing, I’d like nacho cheese on top.” (This was the exact conversation.)
“You want what?
“Nacho cheese on top.”
Perhaps I didn’t hear him correctly.
“You want…the ORANGE cheese we put on the nachos on top of your salad?”
“Yes.”

I rang in the order and typed, "Sub dressing for nacho cheese.”
“Where’s Jenny?!?!” shouted the expo. I walked into the kitchen. “What the hell is this??” he yelled, waving the ticket with the special note on it.

“I know, it’s weird and gross,” I said. “But, I asked him about it twice and he said he definitely wants nacho cheese on top.”
“Well, if he sends it back we're not making it again!” the expo yelled at me. Welcome to Applebee’s.

The man ended up eating the salad, every last bit of it, and I almost gagged when I had to bring the orange-stained bowl to the washing station.
It was almost as bad as cleaning up the riblet plates with the round, spit-covered, marrow-like bones on them.

I quit Applebee’s when a “secret shopper” came in and gave me an “F” for not suggestively selling the Mucho Margarita or the potato skins appetizer.

“What does it matter?” I managed to ask the manager. “I mean, are people really going to order something because I suggested it?”
“Absolutely,” she said with a straight face. “Now go over there and ask those people if they want to split a molten lava chocolate cake.”

I think about these experiences every time I go to a restaurant. I observe the servers walking in and out of the kitchen, I pay attention to whether they are nervous and sweating or calm and collected. It’s a hard job! Certainly too hard for me. I didn’t need a “secret shopper” to tell me that.

As someone who eats out at restaurants a lot, I have a high level of respect for genuinely good servers, those who remember to put in food orders and can open bottles of wine on the first try.
Yet, even if I do get a less than stellar server, I make sure to always tip well. Just in case they’re in it for the extra spending money.

-Jenny

Monday, January 25, 2010

WHO DAT NATION

A friend sent a text message saying there were church bells ringing in New Orleans at midnight.

Others reported that fireworks and music could be heard all night long, from the French Quarter to Baton Rouge.

THE SAINTS ARE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL!!! THE SAINTS ARE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL!!! WHO DAT WHO DAT WHO DAT!!!!!
Their first Superbowl ever!!!! The excitement is infectious.

Who dat say has a bad headache today?” read a Facebook status update.

The answer: EVERYBODY. Who can concentrate on work on a day like this??
WHO DAT WHO DAT WHO DAT!!!!

My twin sister, Joy, and I turned our South Carolina house into New Orleans for the game as much as we could.
We ate gumbo and drank Abita beer. We were loud and rambunctious, holding hands and jumping up and down. We wore black and gold and talked smack about the other team (even though Katy, our future roommate, is from Minnesota and was sitting next to us). We were not sorry when Brett Farve, the rival quarterback, limped off the field.

In a city where they never broadcast Saints games on regular television, we could have very well been the only house celebrating on the whole block.
I’m sure the neighbors had turned off the TV long ago, uninterested unless the Falcons or the Panthers were playing. ( F the Falcons, by the way).

“I can’t watch!” said our Aunt Joy, calling from our parents’ house in New Orleans. The score was tied and the game was about to go into overtime. There had been interceptions, turnovers and injuries.
“I just can’t handle it!”

Our house shook as the final kick was made in overtime putting the Saints three points over the Vikings. OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD!!!!
WHAT!!!!
WHAT!!!!
WHAT!!!!
We jumped up and down hugging each other, not caring how many beer bottles were being knocked down on the coffee table. We nearly cried.
There were no yells loud enough to show how excited we were. I suddenly understood the need for fireworks, to show how EXPLOSIVE the win was.
WHAT!!!
WHAT!!!
High fives all around.
OH MY GOD I CAN'T BREATHE!!! I said.

We popped champagne and passed the bottle around, no need for glasses.
“I’m drinking champagne, too!” shouted my brother over the phone from Los Angeles. I was jealous he still had three hours on us in which to celebrate.

I’ve never been prouder to have a Saints flag in my yard and a WHO DAT flag on my door, gold streamers and all. We even had a WHO DAT doggie.
Our friend, Rachbob, taught her dog Jazzy (perfect) to howl as she said WHO DAT! WHO DAT! hoooooowl hoooooowl hoooooowl!
We hear ya Jazzy!!!
I've watched the video of that dog ten times today already.

I have also watched this video ten times, documented by my good friend Keith who has the great fortune of living in the French Quarter:
http://blog.nola.com/twobitbeat/2010/01/like_mardi_gras_on_red_bull_th.html

Today should be a holiday!!

I keep getting on Facebook to see more videos, pictures, Saints phrases. I can’t get enough. It’s black and gold crack.
WHO DAT FRIENDS! I WILL SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS! Their first Superbowl! WHAT!!! The ‘a’ints are truly Saints!

“I can’t sit still!”
“Holy sh*t bomb!”
“What a night in New Orleans!”


After 43 years, we've made it to the Superbowl!! The glory couldn’t have come at a better time — right when the city could use some post-Katrina pride; right when critics said they couldn’t pull off a ‘miracle’; right when Joy and I have rekindled our love for the city — The Saints do something like this.

Bless you boys!

See you in two weeks! We’re making more gumbo.

-Jenny

Friday, January 22, 2010

Things I learned at a baby shower



My co-worker, Sarah, handed everyone a baby diaper and said if someone is “caught” saying the word baby, they’d have to give their diaper back.

It soon dawned on me that I’ve never actually held a baby diaper. If I have, it was too long ago and/or insignificant to remember.

I didn’t know what to do with the diaper, really, so I ended up awkwardly pinching it between my thumb and index finger and holding it away from my body like a dirty dish rag.
I stared blankly at my 12 co-workers who had formed a circle around the table of food and cupcakes.

The men of the office were, for some reason, invited to the lunch party and looked as uncomfortable as I did, wondering what to do with their diaper.
One guy stuffed half the diaper into his shirt, and used it as a bib.

We stood around eyeing the spread of four different varieties of chicken salad and vegetables on the normally clean, long lunchroom table. The blue cupcakes proclaiming, “It’s a boy!!!!!!” were the most enticing.
“You know, I’ve never been to a baby shower before,” I said.
Sarah pointed at me and snatched away my diaper.

I was now out of the running to win a Lindor chocolate ball, the prize for not saying the B word through the entire lunch. I took my loss as an excuse to say the word baby as much as possible, with emphasis.

“Oh, I didn’t know they made baby bottle drying racks!” I said loudly as gifts were opened.
Baby sleeping clothes? Aren’t all baby clothes sleeping clothes, really?”
The gifts were by far the best part of the shower.
I don’t have any close friends that have children, you see, and I’ve never even been down the baby aisle at Target. The toys and gadgets fascinated me.
I mean, a baby rubber ducky whose bottom turns red if the water is too hot?! Holy shit!

“Are people still bathing babies in kitchen sinks?” I asked. “Or is that old school?”

After the baby gifts were opened (mine, a Target gift card) we had another game to play, which also required not speaking certain words.
Pictionary. Baby edition.
“Now, this is going to be exciting!” Sarah said, holding a heap of diapers she had seized from the group.

The whole shower could have been a plot for a sitcom, where men are placed in uncomfortable situations and must embarrass themselves in order to leave.
I can see it as a Home Improvement episode with Tim Allen having to choose a Pictionary card with a baby phrase on it.

Of course, a male baby shower participant (who I’m not sure has ever had a girlfriend) drew the “diaper genie” card.

“I don’t know what this is,” he said, black marker in hand.
“Let me see,” Sarah said. “I will give the men help.”

Sarah took him out of the room to explain what a diaper genie is, which took close to five minutes. He returned looking more confused than when he left and ended up drawing an actual genie coming out of a lamp, like Aladdin.
Diaper genie!” I exclaimed. Obviously. The editorial team got one point for my correct answer.

My “baptism” drawing was also guessed correctly, although some wondered why I had drawn a pope hat on a regular priest.



You know what?” I said. (Pictionary really does bring out the worst in people) “At least I didn't draw as bad as Sheila did with her ‘in labor’ card."
(It really was bad, she drew a stick figure on a delivery room table and we all wondered why the person had eight legs, but, no...those were not legs. They were details.)

Things got really hairy when the newspaper photographer (and Shelia’s husband) chose a card with a little-known baby phrase on it.
“I don’t know what this is,” he said, repeating the same line almost every other man had used.
OK, Come here,” Sarah said.

They exited the room for a few minutes as we oodled over the adorable mom-to-be --- the one who you can’t even tell is pregnant unless she turns to the side.

“Do you miss drinking alcohol?” I asked. Of course I asked that.
Not as much as eating sushi, she said. And blue cheese. And honey. Honey? Apparently you can’t have unpasteurized honey when you are pregnant.
But you can get your hair colored. They make baby-friendly chemicals now, I was told.

We were all still gabbing about baby things when the photographer snapped at us to pay attention to his drawing.
“Clothes,” we guessed. “A onesie.”
“Yes, but there’s more to it than that,” Sarah said.
“Um, OK, a set of clothes,” we said. “A collection?”
“Mmm hmmm. Mmmm hmmm,” Sarah said, as the photographer got frustrated, voraciously circling and re-circling the clothes he had already drawn: a hat, shirt, pants, booties.

“Clothes!” we said again.
“No, that’s not the name,” Sarah said. “There’s a special name for a collection of clothes for newborns.”
We all looked at each other and shrugged.
“Do you all give up?” Sarah asked, as the photographer started fuming. He had a competitive streak.
“We give up.”

“It’s a layette!” Sarah exclaimed.
We all looked at each other and shrugged.
“See?” the photographer yelled. “That’s not fair! A layette... I have two kids and didn’t even know that’s what you call matching baby clothes!”

Sarah paused.
“Give me your diaper,” she said.

Almost everyone got their diapers taken away by the end of lunch, which I thought seemed like a waste, because the mom-to-be is certainly not going to use the diapers now. Not after someone wiped up honey mustard sauce with one.

Despite the layette card, in my opinion, the shower was a success. The mom-to-be got a ton of baby toys and gadgets, clothes, shoes and… a gift card. We all got to eat tiny bite-sized snacks and cupcakes and talk baby. It was really cute. I'd just leave the men at their desks next time.

On our way out of the shower, we were all asked to guess the weight of the baby. We were given the weight of both parents at birth and told that the winner would get a grand prize. The chart is still taped to the office wall.

The baby boy ("It’s a boy!!!!!!!!!") was born at 11:39 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and was the last baby born in the area in 2009. Camera crews, newspapers (yours truly) and other outlets covered the birth, fussing over the last baby of the decade.

The photographer ended up winning the “guess the baby’s weight” contest, and he was awarded some jellybeans. Thankfully, no one mentioned to him that in the photo for the paper, the baby was most certainly wearing a layette.

-Jenny

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Life with Angela



Yes, this is a candid shot.

Aside from brief periods apart due to school and natural disasters, Angela and I have always been friends.

We first became friends in Catholic high school in New Orleans, but neither remember our first actual meeting.
We spent the majority of our time coming up with new ways to combat boredom and we'd laugh a lot, which would always get us into trouble. We were constantly in detention.

But of course, with Angela, detention had to be funny, too.
Saturday morning detention at our small, all-girls school is where we perfected our cartoons. Our longest-running cartoon starred an annoying pig-woman named Mamma Pigg and she would walk around and...insult people.

Angela and I would each take the handful of loose leaf paper and add to the cartoon during the next class and then pass it back. It lasted for a surprisingly long time; there were secondary characters and everything. I'm sure we got in trouble for it.

Detention was such a waste of time. In full school uniform on a Saturday, we had to hand copy the handbook for two hours on loose leaf paper, including the school’s mission statement.
We memorized the lines, but really learned nothing.
The worst part about detention was that we had to pay the teacher who was presiding over us $5 each to moderate. In cash. If you didn’t have it, some teachers would make you go home. Others would let you leave an “I.O.U.”

With a room of 30 girls, that’s a lot of cash to collect by just sitting there! Mentally counting the cash the teacher was making off us was definitely, definitely the most annoying part.

The problem was that detention didn’t work for Angela and me. It was not a deterrent: right up until we graduated, our whispering, note-passing, hair dyeing, not-wearing-the-school-blazer during mass, cutting-in-the-cafeteria-line little behinds were paying out a lot of $5 entrance fees.
I don’t know if she got a detention for it, but I think Angela even fell into the bayou outside the school during canoe week in P.E. Hahahahahaha
Thankfully I was not her partner, because we definitely would have both gotten detentions for that.

High school was so hilarious.
Angela and I still talk about events from high school and laugh very, very hard. Boyfriends! Mid-drifts! J.C.C. Sockhops! There’s just so much material.

Today, I am thinking about the thousands of memories we have together, since today, TODAY Jan. 20 is Angela’s birthday!!! Happy birthday Angela! Sorry you have to work! Let’s go to Mississippi and lay out on the beach!
And get lost on the way there and back.

In 2001 on this day, we must have done something special for Angela’s birthday during lunch— it was her 18th after all. Big time! We probably brought a king cake to school.
I wonder what we did that weekend to celebrate?
I’m sure we went to the exact same bars we had already been going to…only legally. Ha. Jimmy’s on Oak Street for 50-cent night? (Yes, all drinks were 50 cents). Maddigan’s? Which, uh! The horror! Changed their I.D. policy to 19 and up!!!

We probably went to The French Quarter, where we would drink hand grenades and dance in the street. And did you know 511 Bourbon Street was where the cast from The Real World hung out?? Like, for real, y'all.

Or was it Nick’s Bar? The dirty dive bar that got trendy, in the middle of a terrible neighborhood yet drew a well-to-do high school/early college crowd.
It’s where bartenders throw empty beer boxes at girls who snub them (ahem, Angela) or people drunkenly yell at a midget but didn’t realize that person was a midget because that person was sitting down (ahem, not Angela).
You know, I still don’t know what happened there.

When Joy, my twin sister, and I lived in New York in 2004 for a wonderful summer, Angela and our other high school friend Nicole came to visit, and it remains one of my favorite visits of all time.
We brought Angela and Nicole to a comedy show that Saturday night. Joy and I were really into these comedy shows in New York. There was this once place off Times Square – Ha! (that’s what it was called) — that was decently priced because the ticket got you two free drinks (and drinks were like $10 each in New York, horrible.)

But the comedy club was wonderfully New York, and we all laughed till we cried. Not necessarily at the comedy, but each other. It was just like high school.
I remember we were giggling so much at that tiny table that the lady comic on stage pointed to all four of us and made a joke about how we did drugs with her in the bathroom earlier that evening.
“These are my bitches!” she said. She was wearing combat boots.

We laughed even harder because none of what she was saying was true...we just looked like we were on drugs because we couldn't stop laughing to even take a breath.
I don’t think we found the comedienne’s drug joke so funny as we suddenly became so uncomfortable that everyone in the club was now staring at us that we laughed even harder. And that’s when Angela laughed so hard she snorted.

Everyone lost it. I mean, she seriously snorted after that joke! It really was the best timing.
"See, ladies and gentlemen??" the comic yelled.
The whole club started laughing, me, burrowing my hands into my face, red, tears streaming. We laughed about it all night. We still do. It'll be funny tomorrow.

The trick to our good friend foundation is having the same sense of humor. The greater gift is having a long-time friend who you can pick up right where you left off with.
We haven’t lived in the same zip code for years. We live five states away, live two different lives. Yet, we still meet in New Orleans (a gracious host for our exploits) and there's never a mention of how long we’ve been apart or even a worry if things have changed.
Whenever, wherever, Angela and I can transform right back into our high school selves. This time though, we give our $5 to bartenders. And don't mind one bit.

-Jenny


Laughing, 1999


Joy and Angela DO Mardi Gras, 1998


Laughing, 1997


Laughing, 2003

Friday, January 15, 2010

There IS such a thing as a dumb question


Do y'all have the same mom?


An old, Southern man interrupted our dinner this week to point at my sister, Joy, and ask me, “Are you ‘kin to her?”
“Yes,” I said. A polite smile. “Yes, we are twins.”

While the rest of our dinner party laughed aloud oh, yes, haha, of course you are twins with your same blonde hairstyles! What a funny old man! Joy and I didn’t bat an eye.

This exchange was nothing new. After almost 27 years, everywhere we go, strangers approach us in public to point out that we are, in fact, twins.

Some people get so excited about it, like it’s a big secret they had just discovered.
“Are y’all TWIIIIIINS?” exclaim many excited grocery store cashiers (who always want to get our first names and squeal when they hear that they both begin with the letter J).

“Ya’ll are twins right? You know, I thought y’all looked like twins,” said a gas station attendant in Nowhere, Alabama on a long drive from New Orleans to Charleston.
“You know, I have a frieeend and we loook alike and when she borrows mah clothes to go into town, people think we’re twins.”
Oh that’s fun, we said. Really great.

Other people use it as a pick up line.
“You are one of the twins, right??” Joy was asked as she left the stage from singing karaoke last night.
“Right.”
“Where’s your sister?”
“Who are you?”
“I own the liquor store next to the Food Lion. I remember you were both in there the other week. Vodka right??”

Another fine stranger, terribly drunk, stopped us on our way out of a bar a long time ago and flung his arms around each of us, hanging in the middle like a monkey.
“So, yur’vre telling me that if I date one of you and then I date the ofther one of you, then I wun’t know the differenss?” he asked, slurring.
“That’s very hypothetical,” Joy said, as we slinked out from under his arms.

Joy and her ex-boyfriend, who I took a college class with, even started dating after he mistakenly thought she was me and struck up a conversation.

Some people get “freaked out” by twins.
“You know, every set of twins I’ve ever known have been weird,” people have told us. “They’ve got, like, weird hands or something.” (This is also a big thing, people like to tell us how many other sets of twins they know...from elementary school.)

“Every person in the whole world has different DNA!,” exclaimed Joy’s LSU professor in a 300-person lecture class. The poor man was trying to pump some life into a generally boring subject.
“Imagine!” he said. “Every single person has different DNA…except for identical twins.”
“Ew,” Joy heard a sorority girl say from two rows behind her.

By far the most absurd part of the whole twin thing is the dumb twin questions we get.
Are you ready for this?
The number one most common question we get about being twins is:

“Do you have the same mom?”


I am not joking. People — adults! — are actually curious about this.
To make it worse, that question is usually followed with, “Do you have the same dad?”
Is this an indication of the failure of our schools? Did a large percentage of the population miss the lesson about human biology?

“We have the same mom, dad and brother,” we say. “We are just like sisters, only we were born at the same time.”
“Wait, so y’all were born on the same day??”

One unfortunate gas station attendant in New Orleans still holds top honors for Dumbest Twin Comment Of All Time.
She noticed that we were twins, despite the fact that I had dyed my hair red that summer.
“Y’all are twins?” she asked us.
“Yes.”
“But you have blonde hair and you have red hair,” she observed.
Before we could answer, she exclaimed, “Oh, y'all must have different dads.”

half-sisters?



To be fair, not all twin questions are dumb. But people just have burning questions about it - Do you like the same food?, Can your friends tell you apart?
The more intelligent commonly asked questions are:

1.) Who’s older?
2.) By how much?
3.) Can your parents tell you apart?
4.) Even from the back?
5.) Have you ever dated the same guy?
6.) Have you ever switched classes?
7.) Can you feel each other’s pain, like if Joy burns her hand, does your hand hurt too?
8.) Do you have a secret language?
9.) Did your parents dress you alike when you were younger?
10.) Are you the good twin or the bad twin?

My favorite question to date, asked by a five-year-old boy when Joy and I were camp counselors was, “Do you ever wake up in the morning and think you are your twin by accident?”
“Not that I know of,” I said.

But, aside from the nuisance of dealing with often incompetent, yet curious strangers, I highly recommend being a twin. I'm actually convinced that it's the reason why we are overly social and outgoing people.
The cure for shyness! Being forced to make small talk with strangers on a daily basis!

But seriously, with a twin, you always have someone to talk to, borrow clothes from, bitch at about life without needing to apologize later and generally find the same things funny. Like dumb twin questions.
You just have to learn to be able to share birthday presents. We do have the same birthday after all.





-Jenny

Monday, January 11, 2010

I wish real celebrities sent me emails

This morning, I got an email from Michael Jordan.

Was it from THE Michael Jordan, you ask? The world famous basketball player who starred in the movie SpaceJam with Bugs Bunny?
Probably not. Unless he’s moonlighting as a public relations professional for an upscale retirement community in South Carolina.

Of the 50-plus emails I get each day about happenings, events, oyster roasts, chili cook-offs, honor rolls, etc., all from people wanting, hoping, needing to get the info published in the paper, reading the name “Michael Jordan” immediately grabbed my attention.
What a great marketing tool! I thought. Create email addresses with famous people's names!
Oh, Katherine Heigl wants me to go to the Habitat for Humanity meeting? Sure!
Hugh Jackman wants me to attend the ribbon cutting for a new dentist in town? Sign me up!
Yes, I realize that Michael Jordan the public relations professional probably just happened to be named after the celebrity (better than Michael Bolton), but still...I excitedly opened his email. Marketing at work!

Press releases have long dominated what gets printed at our newspaper. As a true “community paper,” there’s also a big trend for parents to drop off handwritten “student kudos” regarding their children, usually a photo and a two-page article.
The children in these photos are always doing something grand, like horseback riding or playing a tuba, and it's up to us to transcribe it on the computer.

Last summer, I remember typing up a particularly creepy letter about a seventh grader who spent all summer attending violin camp in Florida.
As I started typing (and reading) the article, the camp began to sound less like a camp and more like a religious cult.
I had to severely cut out large paragraphs of the write-up because I didn’t want to include information about how a seventh grader and his priest would “eat Jell-O together after dinner and talk about the Bible.” FOR SIX WEEKS.

Sometimes, press releases are funny, intentionally or not.
One that I'm pretty sure was meant to be funny centered around a hair stylist who came to town in hopes of breaking the Guinness Book of World Records for the most number of haircuts given in 24 hours. (Why did he come to our town specifically to try and break this record? I don't know, maybe the majority of the population in South Carolina needs a trim.)

He ended up winning the record, giving 340 haircuts in 24 hours, shattering the old record of a mere 300 cuts in a day.
It was quite a feat, since “he was not able to simply shear heads. He had to perform complete haircuts with approval from Guinness judges,” according to the press release.

He also broke two other records - the fastest haircut (55 seconds) as well as the most haircuts in one hour (34).
His catch phrase? “It is time to put your man pants on.”
What?

I know that one is hard to beat, but for me, the press release that takes the cake (no pun intended) came last year from an organization that helps people lose weight.
Of all the doctors the national organization could have quoted about losing weight, they chose DR. SKELETON, the head of pediatrics at a northeastern hospital. No, seriously.
“I know how hard it is for people to lose weight,” said Dr. Skeleton. “I know how it’s a constant struggle for some to maintain healthy body weight.”
I found it so hilariously insulting. I mean, who wants sympathetic advice about losing weight from a skeleton??
I could just imagine an actual skeleton giving these words of wisdom, like the one in science class, his hinge jaw opening and closing.
"Don't use too much salt! Bad for the arteries!" (like he even has arteries)
"Exercise!" (like he even has muscles)
And then I imagine him demonstrating healthy eating by putting some carrots in his mouth and having them fall out of his stomach.

I find it makes the workday go by faster to find the humor in the small things. In the time it took me to write this, I received 17 emails that need attention. Unfortunately, none are from celebrities.

-Jenny

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

When you cry at the eye doctor’s office, they can’t get a good reading of your eyeball

I envy people that can go to the doctor’s office without having a nervous fit.
Some people can just walk right in, pleasantly chat with the nurses, see the doctor, get an exam and leave. I find that crazy.

You see, I’m usually referred to as the squirrelly, crying “difficult” patient in the corner who makes nurses draw straws to see who gets to go on a coffee break when its my turn to get examined.
The one who has to be left alone for a few minutes “to calm down" before getting a meningitis shot.
The one who requests that dental hygienists use plastic instruments…have you seen plastic instruments before? It’s the kind they use on toddlers. Easier on the gums.
I was once referred to as “a ticking time bomb” by the un-friendly oral surgeon who performed my wisdom teeth extraction.

It’s not like there’s anything wrong with me, medically. I don’t arrive in the lobby with a ten-pound knot in my stomach because I have a fatal, life-threatening illness. I just hate going to the doctor.
I hate being prodded and poked and studied. It’s nauseating and makes me want to jump out the window.
Have you ever been under local anesthesia, say at the dentist’s office, or getting stitches after getting a “funny looking mole” removed and you don’t feel anything, but you know someone is messing with you? That’s my version of hell.

Luckily, I’ve found accommodating healthcare professionals to deal with my neuroses.
I’ve been given so much laughing gas that I've started to hallucinate during a crown procedure on my bottom tooth. (Laughing gas….so fun!)
One doctor even prescribed me a mild anti-anxiety pill to take before my appointments. (“That’s ridiculous,” said Joy, my twin sister.)
I wish I could leave these accommodating doctors a tip.

That said, my experience at the eye doctor today was not at all unusual.
“You’re going to need to stop blinking so much,” the nurse said. (Are they called nurses at the eye doctor?)
“I’m sorry, I’m just so nervous,” I said as I took my chin away from the machine that was conducting a glaucoma test.
“You need to put your face back on the machine."
“Ok.”
"Now stop blinking.”
“I can’t.”
The back-and-forth ended with her prying my eyes open with her own fingers (eeeewwwwwww).

The reason I went to the eye doctor is that I haven’t been seeing things very well at night or from far away lately. I’ve been squinting for the past two months, and I can’t read street signs.
This became an issue when Joy and I drove 12 hours through the night from Charleston to New Orleans for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"I think that you are crazy to drive through the night especially if Jenny cannot see at night,” our mother wrote in a joint email. “That is a problem."

The fact that my eyesight was crapping out on me began to make me angry.
I was mad that I couldn’t read the illuminated signs in the Superdome during the Saints game. Or billboards on the highway. Or the menu at Chick-Fil-A.

So when the nurse (nurse?) asked me to read the row of letters on the first line, I began to tear up. Mostly out of frustration.
“I…can’t read that!” I cried.
I just felt so helpless, you know? So…malfunctioning. I mean, how is it possible that I can’t read the first row of letters? It’s the DEFAULT row of letters for Christ sake!

“Ok, try these letters,” the nurse said. “Wait...are you….crying?”
“Yes. I don’t know why. I just am…really NERVOUS!” was all I could wail. Then I became embarrassed that I was crying and started getting hysterical.
She handed me a tissue.
“You know, it’s not a big deal to get glasses,” she said. “I have glasses.”
I looked up at her.
“I mean, I’m not wearing them now, but I have them.”
I wailed into the tissue.
“You know what?” she said. “I’m going to leave you alone for a few minutes to get yourself together.”
And she left me alone in the dark room trying to find my happy place.

When she returned I had in fact managed to calm down and honestly answered the “better number 1 or number 2?” questions about that dumb row of letters.
My pupils were then dilated — also, nauseating — and the doctor came in to give me a bona fide prescription.
“Look,” he said. “Your job requires you to look at a computer screen all day. Your eyes just can’t adjust to things far away as well.”
He also told me my left eye is worse than my right eye, which I found insulting for some reason. And that for five minutes out of every hour I should step away from the computer.
“Oh don’t be so upset,” he told me. “It’s not like I used the B word….bi-focals.”

I left the office with sore eyeballs, yet refused the large geriatric plastic “sunglasses” that were offered to me.
I had to squint on the drive all the way back to work, where I made sure to tell everyone I had just been to the doctor so they wouldn’t think I was on drugs.


My, what big pupils you have!

Now this weekend I have to go pick out some frames. Where do you even do that?? Joy is coming with me, with strict orders to help me choose something that doesn’t make me look anything like Harry Potter. “That’s ridiculous,” she said.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year's resolutions

I've never kept a New Year's resolution.
Come to think of it, I've never given up something for Lent for the entire 40 days, either.
Wait, that sounds bad...does this make me a quitter?
Maybe I fail because I've made fly-by resolutions in the past that are impossible to follow through on, or I get waaay too busy to plant an entire vegetable garden in my yard...oh, wait, have you heard those excuses before?
You know those "tips" magazine writers give you for ways to keep resolutions? Tips like "be realistic" and "track your goals?"
Well, by February last year my realistic goal to "go to the gym everyday" was being tracked by another mid-morning scewdriver at Mardi Gras. ha.
Come to think of it, being from New Orleans, I have found it hard to maintain "healthy" resolutions through February (I blame King Cake).
As for Lent, the only thing I've been able to give up successfully is bunt cake, because no one ever offers you bunt cake, which makes it an easy dish to give up. Unless you are a wedding planner I guess.

Well, this year, Internet, I am aiming to change my pattern of failed resolutions!! I have decided to start a blog! Have you heard of this little thing called a "blog?" It's very 2010, I hear.
(Seriously, some people have made blogs for their dogs: "Monday. Ate grass. Tuesday. Pooped.")

My idea is to have a life/humor blog and regularly update it. The goal, or resolution, if you will, is to write more for fun.
See, my job is to write for a newspaper — which I throughly enjoy — but transcribing council members' quips and voting records and campaign finance reports isn't as, how would you say it, as creative as writing about different types of hangovers. ha
I mean, I do get to write about the occasional large shark tooth found in a neighborhood backyard or the man who turned his underground pool into a vegetable garden (which I will probably work into this blog because, damn, that's a lot of dirt!!)
I also live quite a social life as a 26-year-old living in Charleston, South Carolina with an identical twin sister. Oh, I got stories. Pictures too!

Ok! Resolution started! FIST PUMP! I feel better already. I'm really going to try and keep this one, too. I took some "tips" from the fine people at www.ehow.com, and have rationalized why this resolution will STICK:

1.) Aim low. My goal to write two entries a week. I hope Facebook doesn't miss me.

2.) Don't overload yourself. Ok, I will write one entry a week.

3.) Tell everyone you know. I have. Can you please tell everyone you know?

4.) Reward yourself. I will give myself one cupcake a month for regularly updating this blog. Other reward ideas encouraged.

5.) Wait until spring. HA! Sounds like they're on the Mardi Gras resolution train, too!


-Jenny

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