Christmas in Hollis – Tales of an Italian Superhero

I’m not sure if my grandmother was born on a Sunday, but I know that was her name. Her name was Domenica, which translates to “Sunday” in Italian. Her friends knew her as “Maggie” or “Madge”. I never even thought to ask why. I knew her as “Gram”.

If you ask most people how they remember Maggie, the response is often negative. You’ll hear stories about her being irrational and demanding. You’ll hear about the time my father returned home from the Vietnam War and many of his possessions were missing/sold/gone. You’ll hear about her blind hatred for her step-mother and her apparent inability to relate to her own daughter. You’ll hear about an ungrateful woman full of bitterness and impatience. That is not my story… and most people know better than to argue with me on this subject.

hollis argue italian girls

I’m a worrier. I was born serious. I was a serious child. I’m a serious adult. I’ll be a serious elderly person. The world, if it remembers me, will remember me as… Serious. Maggie was also serious, precise and deliberate. I’ll save the details of the serious child-Marie discussion for a separate blog. Or, let’s face it, a series of blogs. Back to Gram…

Gram listened to me. In a world where people don’t often pay attention to unaffectionate children, she paid attention to me. She made it her mission to embrace my nature and to point me toward a life of self-sufficiency. For those who know me, mission totally accomplished. Probably to an extreme. I tend to be a bit… productive.

hollis productive woman

hollis productive cartoon

Gram would often take us to interesting, out of the way places. She took us to fish hatcheries to learn about fish farming and to learn about forestry. She also took us to “the brook”. I have no idea where this brook is. It’s in Berkshire County, MA, USA somewhere. It was a typical New England Brook. Rocky shore. Clear running water. Minnows. Trees. We ate egg salad sandwiches on the rocks and waded around in the brook.

If there were ever other people around, it was usually another family or a couple of teenagers drinking Genesee Cream Ale listening to the radio. This time, there were two men in their 30’s. No swimming gear. No fishing poles. No picnic baskets. They were staring at me as if they were waiting for something to happen. Gram came over to us and said, “Girls, everything is ok. We might have to leave. If I say something, you obey.” She had never used the word “Obey” before. I noticed she was side eye-ing Beauregard and Jimmy-John (Pretty sure these were totally their names). Something wasn’t right.

About 2 minutes later Gram (who was calm, beautiful and, of course, serious) started walking sideways toward us. She was walking calmly in a way that she could see us, and our unwelcome guests, at the same time. Calmly and deliberately, she stepped into the brook. She picked up Sissy in one arm and me in the other. B and JJ sprang into action.

They were probably 100ft away and started running toward us. “Girls, stay calm and do as I say”.

With two lanky primary school children in her arms, Gram ran at what felt like a gazelle’s pace. At first B and JJ were so close that I could smell them. I could see their calloused hands reaching forward as if they were trying to propel themselves faster. I looked down and saw Gram’s legs outstretched and strong. Huge strides on an uneven terrain of oddly sized rocks. Wet and dry land. Tree limbs and rusty pieces of metal. In her bare feet. “Don’t look back”. I didn’t. She didn’t. Sissy didn’t. I failed to mention that in order to get to the brook you had to walk down a very steep hill with a winding dirt path. So steep that it was hard not to fall forward on your way down, and hard to catch your breath on the way up. No time for the path now. No time to catch your breath now. Like an Italian Superhero she flew up the rocky slope. I could hear rocks falling down the hill behind us.

Hollis Italian Superwoman

We finally reached the road. “Almost there”. I see the blue Dodge Horizon in the distance. Tilted at a right angle half on the paved road and half on the dirt path. I hear her shoes fall from her fingers and hit the ground. I hear panting and footsteps of B & JJ but can’t tell how close they are. I obey and don’t look back. “I’m dropping you now. RUN”. We fall to the ground and run. These were the days of unalarmed, unlocked cars. Her right arm reaches out and grabs sissy by the back of the shirt, shoving her through the open driver side window. I open my door, jump in and curl into a ball. Driver door slammed. Key into the ignition and the car starts. Tires burn out leaving skid marks from the driver’s side tire. The acceleration slams my door shut. I sit up and look out the back window and see B & JJ bending down, hands on knees, exhausted.

Hollis Dodge Horizon

Gram, serious and calm. Her hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly that her knuckles looked like they would pop out of her skin. Her right leg pressing so hard on the gas pedal trying to make the piece of shit engine go faster. “It’s over girls.” Wet bathing suits. No shoes. Calm Gram. Life continues as usual.

I was confused, but not shaken. I wasn’t shaken because she wasn’t shaken. She behaved how I now behave. Behavior that is often mistaken for unemotional or cold. In reality, it’s just serious. We went to the Friendly’s take-out window for ice cream. None of us wearing shoes. Life went on.

hollis italians forgive

Gram in a nutshell:

She took me to see every breakdancing movie that came out. Ever. She was obsessed with gang wars being resolved by dance battles. This knowledge hasn’t come in handy in real life…. Yet… (I’ve got my cardboard slab ready to throw down)

Hollis breakdancing

She felt it was important that I could find my way around by myself. She would tell me our destination and I would have to tell her how to get there. I now have a keen sense of direction and no fear of getting lost.

She knew that I didn’t enjoy life. She knew I was capable but that I just had no desire to enjoy it. I felt it was unproductive. One of the ways she countered this tendency was to bribe me to enjoy myself. I would be allowed to stay up late, or to try on her clothes, or watch soap operas if I would enjoy myself for 30 minutes. She chose to do this by taping songs from the radio and playing them back on a small, portable tape player. She played the music loud. Very loud. No breaks. I had to dance the entire time. Not move my feet around. Not move my hands around. DANCE. I had to dance my ass off for 30 minutes. It was an order. It was also amazing.

I really dislike sports. I refused free Red Sox Tickets so many times when I worked in Boston that my boss asked me if I was crazy. I explained to him that sitting through a sporting event for me was akin to him having a crying baby held in front of his face, and asked if he wanted free tickets to that. No… no he didn’t. Gram was one of the most dedicated NY Yankees fans I’ve ever seen. She took me on a tour bus to the Bronx to see a game once. This was her happy place.

My grandfather was a stone mason by trade by a guitar player by heart. Gram played saxophone. In their basement was an oil tank covered in signatures from people having partied with them over the years. I loved that oil tank and wonder if the current residents have painted over the signatures.

Natale / Ned / Grampa (Added bonus, Natale means Christmas in Italian)

She complained about housework constantly. Her house was spotless. You could eat off the bathroom floor. Her complaints to me weren’t just annoyance or regrets over life choices, they were direction. Don’t be like me. Be something more. Do not do housework. Ask my husband, I don’t do housework. I should, but I don’t. Blame Gram????

Gram loved Bruce Springsteen. She would lecture me on his music with detailed explanations about why he was the best musician, and best human being, on the planet. “The Boss” really understood life, apparently. She was very interested in pop culture and fashion. I knew all about which dresses Nixon’s daughters were wearing and how Nancy Reagan was a fashion nightmare even though she meant well. Poor thing.

She taught me that health is our most important asset. She hiked every day. She also loved to eat (and loved forcing others to eat… a lot… and then eat again). She taught me about balance. Ok Marie you can eat a Jim Dandy for dinner but then the next day you’ll want to just have a salad. Don’t deprive yourself or life isn’t worth living.

Hollis Jim Dandy

For those not from New England, USA.  THIS is a Jim Dandy.  Hellll yea.

Hollis nonna food

She taught me which plants you can eat and which plants could heal you. She taught me how to survive in the woods to the extent that I always felt being stranded in the woods was something inevitable… I’m still basically waiting for it to happen.

Gram learned as much as she could about rap music. She loved Run DMC. She bought me the Christmas in Hollis 45 record. We played it constantly. To me this was all very normal. In hindsight I re-think the scene. Me in my black, leather jacket, red nails and Metallica T-Shirt. Eating piles of pasta with poppy seed rolls. My grandmother in her Madonna-esque, but very appropriate, black outfit and thick silver, short, modern hair. Listening to Christmas in Hollis over, and over and over and over. When RUN DMC and Aerosmith later decided to collaborate, this was basically a national holiday for us. All very normal…

Hollis Album Cover

hollis aerosmith

Yassssssss

She must have told me a THOUSAND times to “Work in Computers”. “Computers are the future”. “You’ll never make it if you don’t know computers”. Yup, she nailed it. In 1981, she knew.

She was a fierce democrat. This isn’t uncommon for Italian immigrants, especially during this time. I would post the photo of us at a Mondale/Ferraro rally but my sister would stop speaking to me. Let’s just say we didn’t look our best that day (or that decade if I’m being honest).

Waste NOTHING. I swear this woman’s garbage on the curb was the size of my fist. She would find a use for everything, and if someone was wasteful I had to assume they were basically going to hell. Quickly. And we would be judging them as the descended.

hollis italian tupperware

She drove fast. She told it like it is. She did not GAF. She really didn’t. Except when she did. And when she did GAF it was about me. So she gets her own blog post, and she gets me punching anyone in the face who tries to tell me she wasn’t amazing. My often irrational, demanding, ungrateful, bitter and extremely loyal Italian Superhero.

Gram / Domenica / Maggie

 

Acoustic or Electric? “The Voice” Auditions.

You should know that once a year-ish I’ll be doing a shameless plug for my 14 year old daughter.  This is no ordinary “my kid is awesome!” post… She is, but this is different. Keep in mind when you watch these videos… She’s FOURTEEN.  We need help deciding which “voice” she goes with for her audition for “The Voice”.

Here are two of her most recent performances, one is VERY electric, a cover of “Zombie” by The Cranberries at a live show (the end is my favorite part).  The other is VERY unplugged and recorded last night in our dining room, a cover of “A Team” with acoustic guitar.  She taught herself to play guitar over the last 3 months.

Auditions for the voice within the next 12 months.

Trying to decide which “voice” to go with for auditions… her acoustic voice or her electric voice…  Which do you prefer?  The first is a link to the Zombie performance because I can’t seem to figure out how to get WordPress to let me embed both.  The acoustic is embedded.  #ISuck

They review her YouTube channel as well, so please subscribe to help her chances!  ❤

Link to LAB Rocks Zombie Electric Cover that her Mother Can’t Figure Out How to Embed Because She’s Incredibly Old and Incompetent

 

The Redneck Police

Let me start off by saying that I have a self-imposed blog rule.  I do not talk about my parents, or childhood, except in passing… on this blog. I don’t say anything good about it that would make my mother (who is reading this right now) feel awkward, and I don’t say anything bad about it that would make her feel regretful or sad.  It’s very unlikely that my father is reading this, but the same rules apply.   

Now let’s begin the story of the ever looming Redneck Police.

When I graduated from college, I moved to Norfolk, VA. I had been to Virginia Beach to visit a boyfriend who was in the Navy at one point, and thought hey… why not?  They have a beach, it’s nowhere near my hometown, and it’s not so far South that I won’t fit in… so I grabbed a college friend, and we went.

I got a job as an underpaid financial products sales-rep during the day, but worked at Morrison’s Cafeteria at night.  Sadly, Morrison’s Cafeteria paid more.  I had waitressed at Friendly’s Restaurant during college.  This was different.  In a cafeteria style setting the customers would get their food, and essentially I would refill their drinks and bring them extra napkins.  There was no assumption that I would receive a tip, so I was forced to get creative and make them feel as though I had earned one.  I’m a hustler, I did well there, but it was not fun.  It was, often times, humiliating.

imposter waitress

One evening, a very Southern man and his family came in for dinner.  I engaged them in conversation and refilled their drinks and napkins quickly, essentially securing at least SOME tip, even if it was just a dollar.  The father asked me if I had considered college, and I replied that I had recently graduated.  I turned and saw a teenager across the room drop her entire tray of half eaten food on the floor, and walk out.  As was required, I went over and started to clean it up.  Beef stew does NOT come out of a carpet easily, Plus, who puts a carpet in a cafeteria?

I felt a tap on my shoulder, looked up and saw the Southern man from earlier.  I stood and asked him what he needed.  He put his hands on my shoulders, paused and stared at me for a moment.  I said, “Are you ok? What can I do for you?”  He said something I will never forget.  He said “Marie.  You don’t belong here.  You need to stop cleaning up after rude customers and start the rest of your life.  Quit this place.  Quit and never look back”.  I looked over his shoulder and saw his wife, nodding in agreement.  He squeezed my shoulders, and walked out of the restaurant.  I still remember exactly what he looked like and what he was wearing that evening.  He also looked and sounded like Morgan Freeman, and somehow that makes the advice much more powerful for real. That is the day I decided to elude the Redneck Police and take control of my professional life.  2 weeks later I moved to North Carolina and got a job as a paralegal.  I’m skipping a short stint at a sewing factory when I first arrived… but trust me, you want that to be its own blog story.

Imposter Over it

Fast forward to the next 20 years of my adult life. In 1997 I started working as a claims adjuster at a Fortune 500 Insurance Company in Warwick, Rhode Island.  Fast forward a few years later and I was managing a team of complex claim adjusters at a Regional Insurance Carrier in Central, Massachusetts.  Fast forward to me running all Claim Management at one of the world’s largest retail companies.  Today I’m an adjunct Economics Professor at a Private College and a Strategy Director at a large insurance carrier.

I hope to be adding to this progression in a couple of years: Assistant Vice President of XYZ.  I feel confident that this is on the horizon.  Yet, I’m still an imposter.

Imposter Syndrome is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.   What does this mean?  How does it apply to me? How might it apply to you?

Impostor Cartoon

There is even a debate on the spelling of “Imposter” vs. “Impostor”.  Both are correct.  “Impostor” is more widely accepted, so I chose to use the underdog.  The imposter of the imposter choices, if you will.

Imposter syndrome is especially prevalent in woman, and even more prevalent when crossing over social classes.  My bosses and colleagues over the years have expressed nothing but confidence and appreciation for my work ethic, work product and friendship.  I have no evidence that I’ve ever disappointed any of them in any professional way.  I would also argue that I’m one of the most confident people you’ll ever meet. Yet I still, at times, feel like an imposter.  Why?

I’m currently surrounded by co-workers who were seemingly born and bred for success.  Their stories are almost identical to each other’s, even though their personalities are very different.  They don’t appear to even realize how similar their backgrounds are.  You’ll often hear them talking about having struggled as children with parents who were perhaps middle or upper-middle class.

I nod in acknowledgement as they re-tell the horrors of only vacationing locally or having a job during high school. They usually have very deliberate, and readily available, examples of not having everything handed to them, even though it essentially was.  It doesn’t mean they aren’t hard workers or good people, but there’s a lack of perspective on the reality of the experience of being in another social class.  Just as other social classes lack the perspective on having resources or proper guidance and what that might be like.  Overall I would say that the middle class and rich can never really understand how the struggle feels and evolves for the working class. The working class can never really understand that the middle class and rich have struggles as well, just different ones.

I avoid talking about myself in most work situations, with the exception of a very select few (who are probably reading this right now). Even then I try to keep it to a minimum whenever possible.  It is what it is… “normal” means something different to everyone,  as does “struggle”.

Impostor Maya Angelou

The vast majority of my friends from childhood did not go to college. I, personally, always assumed that I would go, and I did.  I got a B.A. in Sociology and went on to get an MBA.  I don’t see my high school friends very often, but when I do I try to downplay my job and my education to the point where it’s probably ridiculously obvious that I’m doing so.  I truly care about them and want them to know I’m the same person.  But, it is what it is.  I’ve never believed that you need college to be smart, or successful.  But I always knew that I would go to college, to give myself as many options as possible.

My first day at a real corporation was on January 17th, 1997. I felt very proud wearing my professional dress and heels, walking into the building.  I met my training class and immediately realized I was not with “my” people.  People talked about graduating from Brown University or Salve Regina and their family vacation homes in Newport. They asked questions about being taken off their parents’ health insurance (health insurance?!!!! I get health insurance?!!!!) while I asked questions about how health insurance works.  They lived in condos in the city, and in Westerly near the beach.  I lived in a basement apartment in Pawtucket, in the parking lot of a working factory building, with 2 roommates and a dog that we hid from the landlord.        

I participated but was, for some reason, assuming there would be more people like me there.  There weren’t.  At UMASS there were all kinds of people.  Rich kids who couldn’t get into better colleges, poor kids on scholarships, people from other countries…  A lot of us working toward the same goal, a degree.  Not here.  This was a group of people born with resources.  People born with the assumption of a white collar future, and health insurance! I made friends and did well.  3 friends I made there (Lisa, Stacey & Cyndi) I still speak to today and cherish their friendships and opinions.  One of the 3 is a black woman, which was as close as I could find in the group to another person not from the exact mold. Years later the two of us left on the same day to go to another company together.

20-ish years later I’ve come to understand that being an outsider isn’t a bad thing.  I actually believe that it’s an asset.  That said, it’s VERY hard to find like-experienced people once you’ve crossed a line like that.  Walking into the building with my dress and heels back in 1997 I didn’t realize I was passing through an invisible portal separating one life experience from the other. It’s probably even harder crossing in the opposite direction.

imposter portal

It’s best not to try too hard to find our counterpart portal-jumpers.  We tend to gravitate toward each other seemingly driven by some unknown force.  Once the realization hits that you have this common life experience it does reduce the amount of times a day you question your decision to cross the line.  You create a sort-of secret society of people who have infiltrated the system.  It’s one of the strongest bonds I’ve seen in a professional setting.

Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not one to pretend I’m someone I’m not.  I’m not a new person.  I’m just me.  I’m the same person I was in 1985 in high school as I am in 2017.  I’m the person who drinks cheap beer and smokes generic cigarettes in a 2 bedroom apartment with 9 residents AND am also the person who eats lobster and drinks bloody marys in downtown Boston. I’m both of those people, but also an imposter in both of those situations.

This is a fairly accurate pre and post-portal depiction, sans black hair.

For the most part, both of those groups of people continue to accept me.  I like to think it’s because they recognize that it’s possible to be both of them at the same time.  I think it’s really the assumption by both groups that I’m strictly theirs. I won’t say it’s easy, because honestly it’s not.  You’re in a constant state of feeling like you’re betraying one group or the other just by simply existing. You belong everywhere and you belong nowhere… and there’s no going back. 

I’ll be at a party and feel like people are staring at me because my earrings are expensive or because I’ve had a manicure… or maybe they “KNOW” that I went to grad school. I’m in a conversation thinking “Please don’t ask me what I do for work.” I’m an imposter there.

The elevators of the tower I work in will open and I’ll begin to step off the elevator in my suit, as my co-worker complains about the contractor for her beach house working too slowly or not meeting her expectations.  I’m an imposter there.  I’ll start to feel faint and look to the left and look to the right.  I’m looking for the Redneck Police.  They will tap me on the shoulder and say the same thing the Morgan Freeman doppelganger said at Morrison’s Cafeteria in the summer of 1994.  “You don’t belong here.” … “It’s been a nice ride lady, glad you enjoyed it, but the jig is up.  No time to pack a box, just leave.  We don’t want your non-beach house having a$$ up in here.”

As of today, the Redneck Police haven’t shown up.  I’ve learned that they are a figment of my imagination, and the imagination of those like me… and that there is a real term for this: “Imposter Syndrome”.  As a middle aged woman I tell the women I mentor and the men and women who will follow in similar footsteps… you are not an Imposter. Be strong. Stick together. You belong everywhere. Infiltrate the system, and take it over.  It’s up to you.  If you can’t trust Morgan Freeman’s doppelganger, who CAN you trust?!

I’m Part of the Problem

I’m part of the problem, and you probably are too.

There are an increasing amount of forums available for people to express their opinions.  I stopped using Facebook at the end of 2016 because these opinions became a bit unbearable, but that’s a story for another day.  I’ve been using Twitter, which is much more informative and less pretend-reality, which is nice.  It’s not perfect, but it gets me my info fix for the day and I can move on… without having to see someone’s 15th post about their ambiguous state of mind, or photos from a romantic dinner with two smiling people who can’t actually stand each other.  I don’t miss the “Having a terrible day!” posts, followed by “What’s wrong?”, “Are you ok?”

problem internet

Sharing opinions is good. Sharing opinions is necessary.  How will we ever evolve if we don’t have a diverse input of thoughts and information?  We express our opinions.  We mean it.  We truly mean it.  But then what?  What happens after we express our opinions?  I would argue that we can do better at what comes next… but will we?

Let’s start with some of my basic opinions and then we’ll move to why I’m part of the problem:

  • All human beings have equal value.
  • Basic healthcare is a human right.
  • Red is the best color in the spectrum, hands down!
  • Judge not lest ye be judged.
  • “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” –Madeleine Albright
  • No child should ever go hungry.
  • King crab legs are the best meal on earth.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover.
  • The government has no business making decisions regarding reproduction.  Period. (no pun intended)
  • Six Feet Under had the best series finale I’ve ever seen, or ever will see.
  • No earthly human has the right to sentence someone to death.
  • Police Body Cameras should be mandatory.
  • Corporations should pay a lower tax rate. (Wait, aren’t you a democrat? Yep)
  • Common Core works, whether you understand why or not.
  • Gold is from Aliens (obviously)
  • Brock Turner is not a person, he’s an epidemic.  Parents: don’t raise Brock Turner.
  • The “bailouts” in 2008 were necessary and pretty much saved our economy (Yes, still a democrat).
  • Charter Schools and School Choice represent a gentrification of the public school system, creating an unequal and biased system for public education.
  • If you’re sitting on a bus and there’s an elderly person standing in front of you, give them your seat. (this falls into the “Don’t be an a$$hole” category)   

So, now that I’ve catalogued and declared these opinions as mine…  What do I do?  I FEEL like I do a lot.  I’m a teacher.  I’m a mentor.  I’m an activist.  I’m a parent.  I’m a strategist. I help others. I make sacrifices.  I listen.  I often put others’ needs before my own.  I volunteer.  I treat others as I would like to be treated.  I’m respectful.  I compromise.  I think before I speak. I think before I act. I consider the consequences of my actions.  Wow… I’m pretty amazing! …Or am I?

problem victor medal

This is me and Paralympic Gold Medalist Stefani Victor.  I’m an advocate for people with disabilities.  See!  Here’s sort-of proof that I’m a good person!!!! And yes, that’s totally her gold medal she’s holding and it’s really heavy and shiny (and from Aliens obviously).

I’m still part of the problem.  I write this blog not to punish myself or to implore anyone to live their lives in a particular way.  I write it to remind myself, and perhaps someone else, that we are all part of the problem.  Before we point the finger at someone else, figure out if we need to point it at ourselves first.

problem italian face

Just a few of ways that I’m part of the problem…

I go to a private hospital.  I live in the city.  I live in a part of the country where medical care is readily available.  I would argue that I live in one of the best places in the world if you’re a sick person.   If I get sick… if my family gets sick… we don’t take our health insurance card and go to the state or public hospital and support them and the community.  Nope.  We pull up to the private hospital, park 3 feet from the door in the expensive parking garage, and we walk into the giant atrium.  The atrium greets us with an array of delicious food options, and a tranquil waterfall.  Legit guys there is an actual, huge, real waterfall in the lobby.  Most days there is also some sort of entertainment… perhaps a young man playing acoustic guitar or someone playing piano.

Why do I do this?  Less crowded.  Cleaner.  Shorter wait.  No people asking me for change.  No riff raff.  Right?  No riff raff. But wait, aren’t all humans equal to all other humans?  Shouldn’t we all be at the same hospital?  You’d think so from my opinion list, but when the rubber meets the road, I pay more to avoid things that I don’t want to deal with when I’m sick.  I’m part of the problem.

Problem text and drive

What makes a “bad” person, a “bad” person? Who decides which indiscretion is worse? Who decides what an indiscretion is? (insert flask reminder here)

I go the gym several times a week.  My kids often come with me and use the indoor and outdoor pools.  The gym is also a Tennis center, but we don’t really take advantage of it.  How is this part of the problem?

The gym I go to is expensive.  It’s right outside the city in a fancy-pants suburb. There are at least 5 gyms within 10 minutes of my house. I live in a very populated area.  I pay about double for MY gym even though I don’t play tennis… which is basically what this gym is all about.

Why do I do this?  Less crowded.  Cleaner.  Shorter wait.  No people asking me for change. No riff raff.  Seeing a trend here?  I can tell myself it’s because I have two jobs and very little time, and this is more convenient… or I like the pool, or the family that owns it. All of those things are actually quite true… but at the end of the day… I pay more to avoid things I don’t want to deal with because I’m part of the problem.

problem paxton fitness

See, at least I can watch Tennis while I run. Note the lack of people around. 

IRONY ALERT: If I’m being honest, the people at the gym are super nice, and at the beginning of a class, or when I first step on a treadmill, they smile and make small talk.  We laugh and share stories about past classes or complain about how out of shape we are.  Then, inevitably… and because I absolutely hate sweating, I take off my long sleeved gym shirt and am wearing a fitness tank top… exposing a very pretty, but very gigantic half sleeve tattoo.  At this point, I become the riff raff.   The longer I go to this gym, the more they get used to me… if you will.  But it’s always fun to see their look of confusion.  Wait, isn’t this gym expensive enough to weed out the half-sleeves?  Nope. I thought this half-sleeve was one of us… I’ve been duped! I can only assume that I’m not “that nice lady from the gym”, but rather “That lady with the half sleeve” or “She must be from Worcester”…But I digress.

problem half sleeve

As I mentioned, I live in the city.  I love my city.  We have amazing restaurants and so much to do in the way of entertainment.  We also have a rich history, beautiful architecture and very cool people that I feel I belong with.  It’s one of my favorite places on earth.  I have two daughters.  One is 14 and one is 9.  My 14 year old goes to school in an affluent suburb outside of the city where her father lives.  My 9 year old goes to another suburban public school in a different town, under the city’s school choice program.

Problem diner

Wait, didn’t I just say that school choice is basically the anti-christ of the public school system? Yes, yes I did, and I honestly believe that.  I can tell myself that the suburb she goes to is NOT affluent (it’s most definitely not… working class, diverse, all that), and that she’s a sensitive kid who struggles with being too hard on herself who would not thrive in a school with gang violence.  These are true statements.  That said, what makes HER so special that she should get a pass and contribute to the demise of public schools?  I do, I suppose. Anyone can apply for school choice, but does everyone know they can? Does everyone know how? …This makes me a hypocrite and an opportunist, does it not?  I’m part of the problem.

What to do now that we know we are part of the problem?  Try to be better people?  We like to say that we do “the best we can”.  Do we?  Does anyone really do the BEST they can?

Problem better person

We like Kim Coates… and so should you.

Over the years I’ve crossed paths with celebrities here and there.  Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some interesting celebrities at various conventions.    

Sean Astin was my first real surprise.  Despite his level of fame, he spent a solid 20 minutes talking to my kids about the Lord of the Rings.  He even bowed and kissed my youngest daughter’s hand, and insisted that his friends bow as well.  For the record, we like Sean Astin… and so should you.

Then there was the best day of my life… I mean, ok, after my wedding, the birth of my children… yadda yadda yadda (wink wink).  I MET DIRK BENEDICT.  The Face-Man… Starbuck!

Let’s go back in time 15 minutes…

First, my husband, a.k.a. “Not-Tom-Brady” (See prior post) comes rushing over and tells me that he met Dirk Benedict, and that Dirk was “so cool”.  I was furious that he’d had this random encounter as I stood in line waiting for my formal encounter… grrrrr… damn you Not-Tom-Brady!

FINALLY it was my turn.  An official looking guy with an ear piece opens the curtain and lets me into a secluded area containing Richard Hatch (R.I.P.) and Face-Man himself, Dirk Benedict. They are welcoming and awesome.  JUST as I’m about to get my picture taken, the curtain opens and in blasts Not-Tom-Brady.  Smiling and laughing. I shoo him away with my hand and say “Get out of here you maniac it’s my turn!”

Dirk turns, looks me right in the eye and says “It’s ok! I know him!”…  Calls him by his name and waves him in.  YOU KNOW HIM?!  I said “So do I, that moment-stealer is my husband!”  Queue cast of Battlestar Gallactica, and my husband, laughing and hugging.  Then I asked the assistant to escort Not-Tom-Brady out.  I love it when a plan comes together.  (See what I did there?)

I was last in line for the Dirk photo op, and he ended up hanging out with my family for almost an hour. It was so long that his assistant kept telling him to stop talking and get back to his signature-selling post. He refused, and kept talking to us!  I ended up reading both of his books after we met.  So, we like Dirk Benedict… and so should you.

dirk

DJ Qualls was a nice 2-for-1 since he is in Supernatural (teen daughter swoooon) and also in The Man in the High Castle, which started as a cool sci-fi show and is now sadly looking like a possible future America… but I digress.  He was VERY tall and amazingly sweet.  We like DJ Qualls… and so should you.

dj

Oh… Josh McDermitt (aka Eugene on The Walking Dead).  At first he seemed bored with the constant stream of fans so I wasn’t expecting much other than a quick handshake.  Then he sprung into energy-mode and took (quite literally) 20+ selfies of the two of us, then proceeded to tell me about the details of his day.  Was he high on something? Probably.  Did I care? NOPE.  We like Josh McDermitt… and so should you.

eugene

Then there was the SOA script-flip.

David Labrava…. YASSSSSSSSSSSSS  “Happy” From Sons of Anarchy.  This was one of the few times I PAID to get a ticket to meet someone. As I approached him I realized he was smiling for a camera, not at the fans.  He was creating mini-scenes for his assistant to post online that were meant to appear organic, but were completely planned.  All in all, I wouldn’t say he was rude or mean… but he was NO “Eugene”.  He was enjoying the self-promotion, and I believe if there were a mirror he would have been staring at himself in it the entire time.  Then again, can you blame him? We feel meh about David Labrava…. And so should you.

dl

Then… I look over and see Kim Coates (aka “Tig” from Sons of Anarchy).   For those of you that watched the show, “Tig” was evil and disgusting enough to scare even the biggest of freaks.  He was downright disturbing in a way that would even upset a sociopath.  You often find yourself unable to sleep thinking about the horrible crimes against nature this character had committed.  Happy was a disappointment, so TIG was sure to be a complete downer… but hey… I was already there, so why not?

I approach Kim and he turns and gives me a GIANT smile.  He was legit one of the friendliest people, celebrity or not, that I had ever met.  He told me about his life, and asked me questions about my life.  He took a bunch of selfies of us and just had an awesome time.  I asked him if he was trying to offset the “Tig” perception by being overly nice and he said no, this is just who he is.  He also smelled really good, for the record.  We like Kim Coates… and so should you.

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Some other interesting, and fairly less notable, interactions were had with Ian Zeiring & Tara Reid (Sharknado!), Elvira (the queen of darkness?) and The Greatest American Hero guy…. William Kat. OMG guys I LOVED watching that show it was so great.

The last one I want to share with you isn’t based on level of celebrity, but rather an unexpected fond memory connection… Lewis Smith, who played Bobby Fantana in this obscure 1980’s move called “The Heavenly Kid”.   I’ve always liked movies that depict heaven and hell, as well as the afterlife.  I was sooooooooo into this movie when I was in high school. There is this scene at the end where he is riding up an escalator “to heaven”.

I told Lewis that the escalator scene was my favorite, and that I would rewind it (yes, REWIND it) over and over.  His jaw dropped. He said that the scene wasn’t written into the original script, and that it was HIS idea on the last day of shooting.  He said no friend or fan had ever called out that scene in conversation with him and he was visibly moved by my statement. It was really cool to share this memory that was randomly so important to the both of us…. despite the fact that he now looks like a high school basketball coach.  I refrained from telling him the story of gold coming from aliens, but it wasn’t easy. We like Lewis Smith… and so should you.

Stay tuned for future tales of The Random Fan Experiences of Marie Christine.

I’m not married to Tom Brady

I met my husband online.  On our 3rd or 4th date he told me that people often think he’s Tom Brady.  I laughed…   Loudly.  In my opinion,  he looks nothing like Tom Brady.  I will agree they are the same height and have a similar smile and jawline… but sorry honey, no.  I was thinking to myself, okay, what have I gotten myself into?  Maybe this guy is a little off.

As the weeks and months progressed, to my surprise, there was a fairly constant stream of people actually thinking he MIGHT be Tom Brady.  Everyone from random people on social media, to my daughter’s entire kindergarten class, who actually believed he was trying to avoid the press by using a different name.  This forces him to give me this “Told you so!” look.  I should mention we live not-so-far from the New England Patriots stadium and training camps.  

One time I was in line getting popcorn at the Showcase Cinema as he stood in front of a Lord of The Rings poster getting his picture taken.  The woman behind me in line whispered to her friend “Is that Tom Brady?”… then they slowly made their way toward said picture taking.

The real You’ve-Got-To-Be-Kidding-Me moment came when I uploaded my first picture of us onto Facebook.  If you’ve ever used Facebook, you’re familiar with auto-tagging, where Facebook guesses who is in the picture and tries to tag that person for you.  It’s usually your sister or former classmate who is on your friends list or someone you have in common.  You know what’s coming… Facebook auto-tagged my husband as “Tom Brady”.  Despite the fact that Tom Brady is probably 50 lbs heavier than him, I had to give him this one.

I’m ready for Tom Brady to stop being famous now so I can move on with my life.  If you’re wondering why I haven’t included my husband’s picture here, it’s because I just can’t face the “Told you so!” as he reads through your comments confirming the likeness.

Oddly, no one ever thinks I’m Gisele… hmmmm.

I figured we should spend ONE day with ONE blog that doesn’t discuss the details of the country’s impending doom.   Stay tuned… we will be getting real shortly folks.  Gold is From Aliens.

Why is Gold valuable?

As someone who loves economics, I’m not only intrigued by socioeconomic phenomena, but also investigating why certain things have value.  Why do some people desire certain things over others?  Gold is potentially the most intriguing, in that the desire for it is almost universal.

Why is Gold valuable?????

1. The usual go-to explanation is the universal desire for it.  Anything that is this popular, just inherently has value.  (yawn).

2. It reflects infrared radiation.  Huh…. interesting, but not really INTRIGUING.

3. It has many uses in manufacturing,from teeth to towers.  Interesting, yes… thought provoking? Not really.

4. It’s the most malleable (it can be pressed permanently out of shape without breaking or cracking) and ductile (able to be drawn out into a thin wire).  Ok, this is VERY cool.  No wonder everyone loves this stuff.

5. It looks pretty.  Never underestimate the value of beauty.

6. Other than noble gases, this is pretty much the least reactive thing on earth.  Interesting, but not anything to scream from a rooftop.

7. Now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for.  The real reason gold is so valuable.  Gold is…. wait for it…. waaaaiiiit fooor iiiit…  NOT FROM EARTH.  Seriously folks, we have no idea where it’s from but we know it’s not from fricking EARTH.  Clearly, you know where I believe it’s from.  So if you happen to be wearing some gold right now, who knows what someone, or something, was doing with it a bajillion years ago.   Planet Surface - Elements of this Image Furnished by NASA