Midnight In Paris Syndrome

MIPS, or Midnight In Paris Syndrome (a syndrome I just made up) is a hell of a thing. Named after the movie, Midnight In Paris, it is a syndrome that affects all of us at one time or another in our lives. If you haven’t seen the movie, I suggest you give it a watch. In my opinion, it is one of Woody Allen’s best films and I say that as a fan of Allen’s work. Not the work he did with his step-daughter, that’s just nauseating. But the man can make a movie. In a very brief nutshell; the film is about a man named Gil, (Owen Wilson) who travels to Paris with his fiancée (Rachel MdAdams) and her stuffy, wealthy, boorish-American family. While there, Gil is magically transported to the Jazz Age each night at 12, where he meets and mingles with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali and many more. Gil is enamored with this time period and when he eventually falls in love with a girl from the seemingly time-stuck parallel universe, he decides he would rather live that life in that universe rather than the life that he had in daylight reality. One of the most interesting conversations in the entire movie comes near the end. He and the girl he has fallen for are magically transported to late 19th century Paris or a time referred to as, La Belle Époque. This happens to be his new love’s favorite time period from the past. She makes it clear to Gil that she would rather spend the rest of her life there, rather than the 1920’s or the Jazz Age, which was Gil’s favorite time from the past. It is at this moment when the truth dawns on Gil and he realizes that people will always be nostalgic for the past, regardless of what generation they belong to. Again, excellent movie.

This idea became very apparent to me a couple months back while having a conversation with one of my students. For some reason, this particular student is interested in the music of my generation. Namely; grunge and alternative from the early to mid-nineties. It is fun to talk music with him and dig up names, songs and ghosts from the past that I haven’t thought of in years or spoken of in ages. It is almost flattering to hear him speak in such glowing terms about the bands that became part of my everyday existence when I was his age. Flattering insofar as it is nice to know that someone appreciates the generation for what I love it for; the music of the time. For the entire lives of Gen Xers and millennials, we have had to endure endless hours of circle jerking and tearful remembrances of the 1960’s from our parents. Let me be clear; I enjoy the music of the 1960’s. I am not saying that the decade was not an incredibly important time in American history. As for the pop-music, I absolutely love a lot of the songs, bands, groups etc. that came about in that almost insanely talented and musically innovative decade. However, I couldn’t give a rat’s about the ‘movement’ that went along with it. Honestly, it just seems like everyone decided to become a whiny little wimp for a while until the harsh realities of looming adulthood eventually forced them to grow a few more layers of skin. For some, it was unfortunately too late and that is why we still have to endure people like Jerry Brown. So, it is nice to receive some credit for my generation’s contribution to pop-music for once. Even if it is from a kid who isn’t legally old enough to vote.

As life seems to have a twisted sense of irony, it was ’90’s weekend’ on a popular radio station out of Hartford a couple days ago. The wife and I had a few errands to run which gave me about an hour in total to annoy her with my off-key singing to such gems as ‘Big Empty’, ‘Plowed’, ‘Sex and Candy’, ‘Backwater’, ‘The Distance’, ‘Peaches’, ‘About A Girl’ etc. I should mention; she is 4 years my junior and so while she remembers the majority of the songs that I caterwalled to, she was a little too young to really embrace the spirit of the music at the time. Most 7-year-old girls aren’t interested in being sullen and telling their mothers and fathers that they don’t “understand the pain of this generation.” At least I hope they don’t. Strolling down memory lane was fun as it usually is but as it always seems to do it led to the dull ache of nostalgia. Which led me to think about the conversations about the 90’s and pop-music that I’d had with my student. It was sort of eye-opening in a bizarre and relatively harsh way. I realized that once I removed the sentimental hooey from my analytics of the time period and thought about some of the passing comments I had made to my student, it became clear; my generation was dangerous.

When I first started talking to my student about the 90’s and grunge, it was because I had made a passing reference in class to a Nirvana song which only this one particular student recognized. At first, I found myself being the preening generation groupie that I used to loathe. I gloated about how great the music was, how it was a time of rebellion and breaking cultural expectations and how for the first time kids got the idea that they were more than robots operating solely out of hormones and stupidity across to their parents. Yeah, pretty much a bunch of bullshit. The kid was eating it up. MIPS in full effect, he said something along the lines of, “I wish it was still like that.” I swelled with pride. The 90’s meant something to me. They were the decade in which I found music and more importantly, my own music. For the first time, driving around in the backseat of my parent’s car didn’t mean that I had to endure hours of their music whether I liked it or not. Now, when flipping around the dial, every once in a while I would yell, “LEAVE IT!” from the back of my dad’s Oldsmobile. I was officially plugged into the scene and I was hooked. I would watch hours and hours of MTV by myself or with friends because I was in the transitional time of life between watching cartoons and discovering sketch comedy like MTV’s The State. I knew more about pop music at 12 years old than Duke Ellington knew about Jazz at 30 years old simply because I was inundated with it. It was the only form of entertainment we had. Or at least that is what I thought. Clearly, I was aware of the existence of TV and movies and comic books and video games and blah blah blah, but none of them seemed as important to me. To illustrate this point, years ago, I was talking to a friend about shows that we used to watch when we were kids. He was absolutely astonished when he heard me utter the words, “I’ve never even heard of Thundercats.” I had no idea what the hell a Thundercat was nor could I tell you literally anything about WWF but I could tell you what the cover art for STP’s Core was and the songs that I liked and the songs that I disliked from Siamese Dream. I thought he was going to have a stroke when I told him that I had never seen The Goonies. Whoops.

I have friends my age who absolutely know what a Thundercat is and could tell you how much oil was used to make those WWF wrestlers as shiny as they were and they know a hell of a lot about music also. I pointed to the fact that I was borderline obsessed with the music of my generation and how oblivious I was to everything else to illustrate how proud I was when discussing those days with my student… at first. I say at first because after a few more chats I found myself saying things like; “yeah man, it’s good stuff but I mean… don’t listen to too much of it” or, “I don’t know dude but if you start to get depressed, put Incesticide down for a while and play some Blind Melon or something.” All I could think of was this poor kid going home and staring at his wall until his eyes started to bleed while listening to ‘Runaway Train’ by Soul Asylum. And that is what I ultimately mean when I say that the generation and its pop music were and could still possibly be dangerous. There is no doubt in my mind that the reason we only have Eddie Vedder and Billy Corgan left of the ‘big’ frontmen is because when you peddle bleakness, hopelessness and depression for the better part of 25 years and throw in a healthy heaping of drugs there is a good chance it’ll all come back to string you up one day. Literally.

This is partly the reason, I think anyway, why my generation sort of skipped over the 90’s nostalgia and for some reason decided the 80’s were the end-all be-all of ironically cool fashion, music, movies etc. When I was in college (early 2000’s) there were a plethora of 80’s themed parties. It was almost like you couldn’t escape it. It grated on me. I was not the biggest fan of the decade for a number of reasons.

  1. I didn’t give a shit about being in the first grade nor do I look back on it and say, “those were the days.”
  2. The music overall was crap. However, my favorite band is still Tears For Fears and I have a robust library of 80’s songs and groups that I think are fantastic.
  3. I don’t really remember them other than … nah I don’t really remember them.

So there I was, in my early teens / late twenties surrounded by people pining for the days of Flock of Seagulls. I never understood, perhaps because I simply didn’t want to, the fascination with the 80’s and the nostalgic game of leapfrog my generation played which completely cropped out the 90’s. It is much clearer now. No one want’s to recreate being miserable whether it is genuine or ersatz misery. Case in point: arguably the worst episode of the Simpsons ever created was the flashback episode where Homer and Marge were supposed to have gotten together during the 90’s. The, ‘Sadgasm’ episode. *Shudder* Talking to my student for a few weeks about the 90’s put things in a much clearer perspective for me when it came to being honest about my generation and the music I loved. I find myself now thinking; I am glad that the 90’s are over and they need to stay over.

I am not going to attempt to lay out all the positives and the negatives from that decade or explain why I loved it as much as I did. That is not the point. The point I suppose I am trying to make is that MIPS is a real thing. Real enough to seduce a normal, modern teenager. Unfortunately a serious case of 90’s MIPS can produce more than just someone wearing outdated clothes and blasting music their parents like. It can produce a longing for a time when everyone was absolutely miserable for one reason or another. Even if you weren’t miserable, you had to pretend to be. Sullen was the name of the game and we who played it were fucking masters at it. A very real possible by-product of that mock misery is real misery. Make no mistake, the aftershocks of the 90’s can still be felt in our modern social justice warrior legions. We all need something to be miserable about or at least that is what the 90’s convinced us of and the parents of the college kids you sneer at for needing safe spaces are the people who grew up listening to the morbid shit we shoved in our ears constantly in those days. The only difference between the unchecked misery of the current generation is that they have to put some effort into finding music that fits their attitudes seeing as how pop music seems to have reverted to a modern version of Frankie Valli-esque, bubblegum crap. We were lucky. Our anger-fueling music was spoon-fed to us on a daily basis by major media confirming our right to be depressed and justifying our anger at a world that hadn’t done a fucking thing to harm us yet. What a time to be alive.

I found myself trying to sell the 90’s short in subsequent conversations with my student. Not because I dislike the music now and not because I have the power to dissuade him from heading down the 90’s rabbit-hole. I never once said to him, “well I was there, kid” in an attempt to sound like an expert or belittle his interest in the music. The fact of the matter is that I was there. They represent a special time in my life for a number of different reasons and that is why they will always be special to me. Remove those reasons and all I see is a bleak, pretentious, depressing, annoying, violent and kinda stupidly serious decade. My parent’s generation wanted to run away to San Francisco. Mine wanted to run away to Seattle. ‘Nuff said. I end up selling the generation and decade short now on purpose because of those awful aspects of it. There is no reason under the sun to fondly desire a time when if you didn’t tell people you hated your life, even if you didn’t, you would be ostracized for being, “lame.” Unfortunately, in true 90’s fashion, the more I shit on the decade the more my student seems to be interested in it. Eventually I am going to shake his hand at graduation and look him dead in the eyes and say; “it’s been awesome knowing you and talking to you about some of my favorite music. Now please go live your life and don’t kill yourself.”  If that isn’t a stinging indictment of my generation, one which I never thought I’d make, then I don’t know what is.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go watch Seinfeld and listen to Greta.

Midnight In Paris Syndrome

Let’s Talk Turkey

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching I thought it would be prudent to teach you uncouth rubes the proper way to celebrate the holiday. Surely, there are many traditions associated with this wonderful day that we as Americans… and for some odd reason Canadians, although theirs falls on a different date I think, set aside to thank God for everything we have been given the previous year. Or, if you are some Godless, heathen POS, a day that is set aside for you to thank yourself for being you much like the other 364 days of the year in your calendar. Whomever you are thanking, it is a nice day. The traditions range from familial, to neighborhood, to municipal, to statewide, to regional and finally to national. That being said, some traditions are better than others. Namely; mine over yours. So I figured it would be a mitzvah if I were to educate you on how to truly squeeze all the drippings from Thanksgiving and make it a day worth looking forward to all year. Without further ado, let’s get started. To make it a bit more quaint… I will be using the traditional 17th century spellings of the foods and activities I will be listing for you.

  1. Turky (Turkey) – The honored guest! Now, I know most of you reading this are probably saying; ‘ummm I know how to cook a turkey, J.M.’ and you probably think you do, which is swell. But you don’t. First of all, how many of you are buying organic, farm raised, truffle-fed turkeys for your feast? I would wager not many. You are content with the frozen ball of meat in the plastic body bag and yellow nylon stocking that you heft out of the cooler at your local market for the plebs. Pathetic. You need to up your game, literally. Your bird should be treated as royalty while alive on earth and then, if the farmer is even halfway conscientious about the bird’s feelings, put to death in a gentle manner. Preferably in its sleep or mid-orgasm so the poor thing has no idea what hit it. Speaking of hitting it, if you are a real man like me, you hunt your own turkey. Now I know some of you hippie types and beta-males are going to call me a monster for hunting such an impossibly stupid, slow and easy-to-kill semi-flightless bird. But you have no idea what it feels like to be one with nature. To respect the land, the vegetation and the prey itself. To know that the animal you are about to kill is going to be used to feed a family and that the bird is going to be killed quickly and humanely is truly wonderful. To hunt as our ancestors did. To hunt as the noble native people of this land once did. To understand the primacy of nature and man’s place in its plan. It is truly transcendent. So when I raise that small homemade flamethrower to my shoulder and slowly pull down the welder’s mask that I’ve painted to look like the face of the Cookie Monster and take careful aim at that bird, the feeling I get is more of reverence than excitement. Murdering your own turkey will make the day feel so much more wholesome and dare I say, holy. Prep is the next step. Some people choose to brine their birds for periods as long as five to six weeks before the big day. That seems excessive to me. In fact, the whole brining process seems a little odd. I have never sat down to dinner with anyone only to have them turn to me and say; “mmmmmmm have you ever had something so viscous and slimy? It’s like heaven slithered right onto my plate!” Nor do I put much stock into any method of food prep which exists to essentially destroy the natural flavor of whatever it is that is being prepared. So skip the brine. Unless you want to brine your bird. I mean, I don’t care because I don’t plan on eating whatever dreck you are cooking that day. Moving along, we need to discuss the most important thing; cooking the bird. Again, there are a lot of different opinions on the best way to cook a turkey, but they are all mostly wrong. So I will tell you how to do it. Get a roasting pan, coat the outside of the bird in Bell’s seasoning, bring 9 pounds of butter to a boil and slowly dip the turkey in the butter for no longer than 3 1/2 to 4 seconds at a time, pulling out rapidly to allow to cool and drip for about 10 seconds. You will repeat these steps at regular intervals for about an hour or two, depending on your desired level of frustration. After the arbitrary dipping of the bird which the original Puritan colonists referred to as; “the most egregious example of frustration and the wasting of tyme carried out by mankynd, that Heaven itself cries out for the blood of the entire werld“, you are to place your bird in the roasting pan and cook at 170 for four to five hours a pound. You may want to start cooking your bird a few days after Halloween just to be sure it will be ready for your guests! Trust me; murdering your own bird, boiling it in butter and then slow cooking it to a carbon cinder is the only way to go and if you don’t believe me, try it for yourself! And if you are still not convinced, fuck you!
  2. Pyes (Pies) – I have decided to forego instructing you on the proper methods to cook your sides. Mashed potatoes, creamed onions, stuffing, sweet potatoes, gravy etc. all of that stuff is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. However, if you do not know how to mash a potato or buy a packet of Knorr turkey gravy, you should probably check and see if either your local YMCA or homeless shelter is handing out food that day. I couldn’t, nay, I wouldn’t dare skip over the fan-favorite of this glorious day; the pies. Can you smell them now? Baking in the oven or cooling on a window sill? Which brings me to an observation I would  like to make. Who out there has ever cooled a pie on a window sill? By the way, why was this a thing? What genius thought that exposing freshly cooked pastry dough filled with macerated fruit to bugs was a good idea? You only ever see it done in cartoons. Old cartoons, at that. Were there no flies in the thirties and forties? From what I remember from high school, didn’t wild packs semi-ferrel hobos roam the streets looking for food because it was the Great Depression? Didn’t something like four out of every five kids either die or get polio by the time they were three? You’d think that people would have wised up and thought better than to expose their food to the elements in such an uneasy and truly dangerous time. But, I digress. Ok, back to pies for now. There are a few that are staples and by staples I mean we can’t seem to get away from them no matter how hard we try. The first is probably the crowned king of the Thanksgiving dessert table; the pumpkin pie. Which, like all things flavored with pumpkin, tastes nothing like pumpkin and is an affront to God. If you had no idea of what pumpkin pie was and I offered you a pastry shell filled with custard that had the color and texture of puppy shit which was supposed to taste like a gourd, would you eat it? Of course not. Let’s leave that one in the dust. The other two pies which make their appearances are the traditional apple and sometimes, if you are down south or are lucky, pecan. Apple pie is good because it’s dreadfully uninteresting. It is the vanilla ice cream of pies. Apples? Ok. Pastry crust? Ok. A sweet, cinnamony flavored binding sauce? Ok. Nothing wrong with apple pie. Good with ice cream and I am told that some people, probably communists, put a slice of cheddar cheese on it. Next is pecan. Pecan pie is good but after three bites your teeth start to hurt, your insulin levels do things that nature never intended and you start to feel the first pangs of diabetes. If you manage to finish the pie, which from what I can tell is plain gelatin, 9 sticks of butter, four sacks of sugar reduced and studded with pieces of pecan you can plan on losing a foot or hand to the gout within the next few days after the holiday. Pie is essential for the Thanksgiving table. It is easier than making a cake.
  3. Spirited Drink and Wyne (Alcohol) – Let’s face it; if you do Thanksgiving right, you probably shouldn’t remember it the following morning. However, the holiday is a marathon, not a sprint. This means that it would be in your best interest to start slowly and then work your way up to shots of whatever brown liquor you hide from your wife and keep in your car. Start with beer. Beer is delicious and most importantly, your stomach can hold a lot of it. It is a good sipping drink and if you buy only one kind of beer your guests will never be able to tell if you’ve had twenty or are still nursing the same one you were holding for dear life when you opened the door to grant them entry to your sublet. As for wine the question of what to drink with turkey is something that is thrown around a lot. Turkey is gamey and the foods that accompany it are so rich that you are probably safe with a bright, crisp Sancerre or white Bordeaux in order to cut through all the fat. That being said, if you have guts, instead of contrasting your meal, complement it with a heavier (Oregonian) pinot noir. Luckily for you, good wine is expensive and most people know that so cheaping out and just buying a box of something won’t garner too many sneers and derisive chuckles. Some folks like to have a signature drink in a punch bowl waiting for their guests to enjoy. This could include, spiked cider or… well… spiked cider. Not a bad way to go if you want to get your guests loaded relatively quickly and on the cheap. The punch bowl strategy works wonderfully because it allows you to buy bottom shelf everything. From “US GOVT. CIDER, RECIPE 3C”, orange juice you found at the bus stop and rum that “some guy that works with my cousin’s friend makes” you can pretty much hide the fact that you are a cheap bastard by blending a whole bunch of stuff together and diluting it with sugar and cinnamon. Don’t forget to hide the good stuff. Coming home after a long day of metal detecting on the beach or freelance crime-scene photography can only be made much worse by heading to your kitchen, grabbing your favorite wax, Daisy bathroom cup and reaching into your cupboard only to see that you only have a microscopic amount of Old Harper left. This would be positively life-shattering. If your family and friends are anything like mine, they will sniff out your liquor and demolish it within seconds of entering your lair. This fact has forced me to discover some ingenious methods of hiding liquor which I will disclose to you now. Old Faithful – Hide your liquor in the bowl of your toilet and tell your family that they have to use the bathroom at the 7/11 down the street because yours, “broke today and won’t flush and I only figured that out this morning AFTER I went.” Pennywise – tie a string to the neck of the bottle and lower it into a sewer grate. Tell your guests that your neighborhood has been recently terrorized by a gang of ornery teens in clown outfits and that you’ve been selected by your neighbors to periodically head outside to check and see if the coast is clear. Molon Labe – simply hold your liquor with you at all times and defiantly dare your loved ones to, “come and take it” whenever they start to salivate whilst spying the bottle in your pocket, hand, wherever.
  4. Gaiymes Uv Shportsh (football) – I don’t like football so I don’t have a rule or tip for this one. I will say that football is good for one thing on Thanksgiving; giving people excuses not to have to talk to each other. It’s impossible to watch a sweet pass or rush or wicked pick-6 or testicle tingling field goal or asshole puckering punt and talk to someone at the same time. Any red-blooded American male knows that or should know that and if they don’t then they should be politely, yet firmly be asked to leave and never return. Women who break this rule should be taken politely, yet firmly, into the kitchen and be made to apologize to the gravy for no longer and no shorter than 45 straight minutes, tears preferred.

Well, folks… That’s it. I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with joy, thanks and most importantly, giving. Because without thanks we have nothing to give and without giving no one would be thankful. Without the thankfulness of those we give to, we would never even begin to be thankful or even endeavor to give thanks, to those who have given us so much to be thankful for.



Let’s Talk Turkey