Thursday, 6 December 2012

Spoiler Alert...

Hello Friends.

Before I got my current job in a fancy clothing store in a mall, I just applied at the mall itself. You know, at that little customer service kiosk where people wearing suits tell you where the bathroom is. I'm not precisely sure what else that job entails, but once I got hired on at fancyclothes, I didn't think anymore about it. Well the mall called! They asked if I was available for a temporary position in "concierge services", which I learn meant "seasonal customer satisfaction agent", which they finally revealed to mean Santa Elf! I'm so grateful for employment at fancyclothes, because it meant I could turn them down outright, but part of me wanted the job just for the story.

How often does one get asked to be an elf? Especially a six foot long haired elf with a pizza gut? David Sedaris once took a job as a Santa Elf, and his essay recounting the experience became his most famous piece, earning him spots on NPR, book deals, and worldwide acclaim. But I think for me, such a job would kind of ruin my holidays. I don't need to see the old guy playing Santa sneaking a smoke in his Taurus before a shift. I couldn't bear to hear about his life and the choices that lead him to taking an $8/hr shift job through the Christmas season just because he's both aged and fat. And I'd never want familiarity to creep in where we could make snarky asides about greedy children or terrible parents. As much as I know that there's no jolly North Polish guy travelling the globe by sleigh every Christmas Eve, I want to keep my idea of Santa in tact.

Similarly, I don't need to know anything more about the hand up Elmo's ass. I'm not even part of the Elmo generation of kids (he may have been on Sesame Street when I watched, but didn't become hugely popular until after my time) but I found the whole news cycle about his puppeteer's lascivious behaviour really heartbreaking. I get that the guy made some really shitty decisions. Chatting up teenage boys in order to have sex with them the moment they come of age is pretty gross, and while I know that his private life is none of my business, and has no bearing on the joy that his work brings his audience, I keep thinking that someone's gonna have to tell Elmo.

Before this whole scandal broke, I was listening to NPR the day after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in New York City. On some radio show, Elmo and some New York children's advocate were guests, and Elmo was clearly there as a comfort for any children listening. "The noise scared Elmo and then all the lights went out but then Elmo's Mommy and Daddy lit candles and we played games and it was so much fun and Elmo wasn't scared anymore!" Basically, they were interweaving information about handling kids' questions about the storm with anecdotes from Elmo and I found myself tearing up a little. It's a thoughtful and meaningful gesture on the part of whatever the radio show was and the Sesame Street people to use Elmo to help kids not be scared. Thinking back on it now, it's also incredibly sad. Elmo's just a cute, furry monster who loves everybody and wants to be your friend. I hate that he is now forever tainted.

I think the problem with being elfin or an Elmo-fan is the same: too much information ruins the experience. Sure, knowledge is power, but in some cases, isn't that a bad thing?

Dream: Don't look too closely at things I love, lest I destroy them forever.

Goal: Achievable. I worked in video stores for quite a few years and often encountered a fascinating type of customer who never watched the special features on a DVD and never wanted to know anything about the stars of the film. They just wanted to enjoy the movie experience without a look behind the scenes. They were like the proverbial butcher's son who loves sausage, but hates to see it being made. I love a good special feature, but I know exactly where this customer is coming from, and want to apply the same standards to certain things in my life.

Plan: Never find out another thing more about...

1) Food. God, I love food so much. But not, like, kale. I love garlic and pizza and hamburgers and chicken pad thai and chocolate cake and potato chips, oh my god. And while part of me knows I'd be healthier if I were a vegan, for instance, or if I cut out refined sugars and processed foods, part of me doesn't want to learn another thing about it. I know a happy, healthy, hilarious guy who is a longtime vegan, as is his entire family. He's not the type to shove it down your throat or anything, but we were talking about it once and he said, "I used to eat meat without a thought, but then I watched this movie about the conditions under which animals are treated to produce our food and I've never, ever touched an animal product since. And that movie was called--" "LA LA LA LA LA!" I screamed in my head, trying to mentally block the title (which worked, I can't remember what the movie was called). I totally admire all forms of vegetarianism, I recognize the blatant hypocrisy of slaughtering some animals while keeping others as pets (there was an ad campaign in Toronto last year where a kitten was pictured beside a calf and the caption read, "Why love one but eat the other?" and I always felt a twinge of guilt for all those cats I eat). But I'm not ready to give up the food that I love so much. Not yet, anyway.

2) Porn. Maybe skip the next couple paragraphs, family members and/or prudes. I think I'm probably part of the last generation of young people that was exposed to pornography at a rate where (I think?) I was equipped enough to handle it. That is to say, my porn consumption was severely limited until I was an adult, which is a good thing, I think. I remember that a friend's older brother had a Playboy or something, and feeling that mixture of titillation, guilt, and shame that everybody must feel the first time they see porn. But I was thirteen or so, and, as I recall, it was just boobs. We didn't get the global pornography distribution centre of the internet in our house until I was in high school and even then, we had a dial-up connection which meant I certainly wasn't watching x-rated videos of any kind. The best one could hope for was to steal a few moments to download a single picture and that was enough for me. I remember the first time I covertly downloaded a picture of a naked man (I think he was wearing a cowboy hat) and I was so thrilled I nearly passed out. The point of this prurient trip down memory lane is to recognize that my experience is practically quaint when compared to people just a few years younger than me. I know that if I had the access then to what I can easily access now with just a few mouse clicks, my thirteen year old brain would have exploded. And I'd probably need an endless parade of really hardcore stuff now to turn my crank. For me now, though, I think my porn consumption is probably normal, but if I really think about it, how can any porn consumption be normal? If I knew about porn performers, for instance, what their lives are like, could I catch a scene from Spring Break Studs and still enjoy it? And what is it about me that is gratified by the experience?

I'm not condemning porn, and I'm not going to begrudge you whatever gets you through the night. I live with my partner 24/7 now and so don't need any artificial substitute for intimacy. But I need to maintain my vague awareness and appreciation of porn to justify a lot of lonely Saturday nights in my first apartment. I've even heard studies saying that in places like Tokyo or Amsterdam where all kind of porn are available everywhere, there are fewer incidence of sexual assault. The suggestion being, I suppose, that if a pervert can get his kicks from a video and release pent-up sexual desire, he's less likely to grab a stranger's breasts on the subway. I don't know if I believe that, necessarily, but I do have to believe pornography can do some good in some cases, or else so many of us are, forgive the word choice, fucking disgusting.

3) Saturday Night Live. Welcome back family/prudes! Like so many of my contemporaries, I have watched Saturday Night Live every week for most of my life. Reruns of certain sketches can automatically transport me back to whatever age I was when I watched them, who my friends were at the time, the basement tv we were huddled around. I remember Janeane Garafolo cutting her finger off as penance for getting an answer wrong on a Japanese game show sketch, or Will Ferrell as an angry boss screaming, "I am this close to raping you!", or Molly Shannon crashing backwards into those chairs, The Falconer, Maya Rudolph's bonkers Whitney Houston, or Bear City! Do you guys remember Bear City? Fred Willard narrated these weird shorts about bears that I can't describe to do justice, but boy I laughed at those. Anyway, a few years ago I auditioned for a newly formed sketch/improv company that would create several teams to perform around Toronto. To pump numbers high, I suspect they took every person who auditioned and our first meeting was held in the back room of a popular bar in Kensington Market. There were probably a hundred people there, maybe more. The guy who was to run the company was talking about his vision. He asked, "How many of you would like to be on a show like Saturday Night Live someday?" Every single person in that bar raised their hand. I did too, and my heart just sank. I mean, of course everybody who thinks they're funny dreams about being on Saturday Night Live one day, but we were a room full of adults who still held out hope. It's like saying to a kindergarten class, "You can all be Prime Minister one day!" Of course they can't. And of course, even the cleverest comedy performers and writers don't have a prayer of getting in that pitch room or soundstage at 30 Rockefeller Plaza without a whole lot of stars aligning in their favour.

While being a part of that show would be some amazing, unbelievable, fever-dream of a fantasy, never getting in the door would be okay too. I could keep the illusion of SNL, a mythical breeding ground of comedy genius, forever perfect in my mind. I could still laugh so hard at a weirdly-premised 12.50 sketch and think, "I could never come up with something so funny in a thousand years." Because there are so many people that show seems to chew up and spit out. People who lasted an extremely short time as writers or performers, made little to no contribution, but then went on to be brilliant, like Sarah Silverman, Larry David, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mindy Kaling, Louie CK. Or the people who don't last long and you never hear from again. Or the people on the show for years who you never hear from again. I don't want to know what the warts are there. I don't want to think the people working at SNL are fallible, imperfect, human, like the rest of us.

4) My lucky life. I've never fully understood the phrase, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" because what's a gift horse? And how do you look something "in the mouth"? Does that meaning looking inside their mouths? Or just at the mouth area? And what's bad about that? But I think it means, don't question what's good in a given situation. But I've been so goddamn fortunate, it's tempting to find out why. Why have I always had amazing people in my life? How many more fantastic opportunities will continue to fall into my lap? Why have I been spared heartaches that others haven't? What have I done to deserve all of this luck? All this joy? I don't have any answers, but I don't need 'em. If this is ignorance, it is truly bliss. Ho ho ho...

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