Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Violent Fun For The Whole Family (except grandma and grandpa)

As we at Cats In Petticoats are prone to bouts of whimsy and general chaos, it seems that one of us happened to attend a demolition derby for the first time a weekend past. The experience of it is indelible; the crunch of metal, the smell of smoke, the thrill of violence . . . the corndogs . . .

The feeling of it was so lowbrow yet exhilarating. In my mind I likened it to the ancient coliseums of yore, except that instead of a man fighting a lion it was a hatchback fighting a sedan. Certainly I happened to be sitting behind the fattest man in America, whose various folds and rolls penetrated numerous intimate regions of my personal space, but it only seemed to add to the spectacle.

I cheered as the tiny white hatchback that seemed to run on miracles triumphed over all the larger cars and eventually won the derby. From the window of the welded shut door emerged a petite woman who was promptly embraced by her exuberant husband who sprinted out from the sidelines. Her name was Tina and it was her first time competing in a demolition derby.

The victory of this woman kindled in me new ambitions to compete myself. I find my mind drifting to fantasies of my friends and I purchasing a beat up car and transforming it into a rusted chariot of conquest . . . adorned with a ruffled petticoat and a giant tiara welded onto the top. Oh yes, she would be the HMS Satan's Little Princess and she would be the baddest hot pink family sedan that ever competed in a demolition derby . . . or at least that ever competed in the state line area. Regardless, when we cruise onto the field in our matching helmets and Pink Lady jackets, we shall truly be modern day gladiators . . . in a station wagon.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Cake

It was cold outside. And inside our 1989 Dodge Caravan it smelled of butter cream, cheap toffee, and NestlĂ©’s cafe.

We were public high school students. We lived in a small, conservative, religious town where football was king and we were lucky to be the court jesters. It was not the best of times, but we tried to make the worst of it funnier than it really should have been. So we were comedians underneath it all, each of us taking on our separate roles of chummy sidekicks with crackerjack wits.

NC and I had decided to bake that night as a birthday present to one of the few people that would have ever invited us to a party--a Dungeons and Dragons (D and D) playing, theatre kid who went to the private Catholic high school. We’d never taken Home Economics. This was apparent whenever we glanced down at the little lopsided brown one-layer cake topped with neon candy canes that sat, uncovered, on my lap that December night.

"Why did you insist on putting coffee icing on it?" NC asked me, exasperated with my creativity and general obsession with coffee.

"I thought it would be interesting," I scoffed.

D and D Girl lived far too far in the woods. We were unfamiliar with the general darkness of her area and neither one of us really knew where were going. Just as I said “interesting” a deer scurried in front of the wood-paneled minivan. NC gasped and swerved to the right. I held steadfastly to our cake.

Without missing a beat he said, "Well, it smells like rotten coffee."

"It smells rotten," I offered through gritted teeth, "because you crystallized geraniums with egg whites and old sugar, which tends not to smell too perfumery when left out."

"You are insane," NC indicated as a matter of fact.

"You are going to hit a mailbox!" I screamed.

NC swerved to the left. "It is not mailboxes that I am concerned about, K," NC sighed and calmly outlined his true concern, "It is our reputation as premier cooks."

"Our reputation as premier cooks?" I repeated as I raised a single eyebrow. "We are in high school.""This is the time to start working on the reputation that we might possibly want to have someday!” he pointed out as a tree branch hit our windshield. Where were we anyway?

“NC,” I quietly began. “Last week you wanted us to read the “The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious” because you were concerned about our future as Jungian analysts. The week before that you wanted us to practice Fung Shui in our bedrooms so we could develop our inner beings in such a way that would be beneficial to our future as Buddhist decorators. Well I’ve got a news flash for you, buddy--we do not have a ‘reputation’ other than that of the freakiest freaks on the freak show! We will not have a better reputation until we leave this god forsaken town!”

Then I picked off a miniature candy cane and began to suck on it.

NC ruminated. “So, what you’re saying, “ he eventually said, “is that you’re not enjoying our little hobbies?”

“NC,” I said, “what I’m saying is that no one cares about our reputations or who we’re trying to be. To everyone else, we’re just a mess. Weirdoes, you know? We’re like this cake. Like, maybe this cake doesn’t taste too bad,” I held up the cake, “but would you want to eat it?”

NC glanced over at it. “Ummmm. No,” he confirmed, “but maybe someday I will…want to eat it. See, K, that’s the difference between me and you. I like to keep an optimistic attitude even in the face of discriminating circumstances. See, we’ll just have to make the best of our current situation.”

“Where are we anyway?” I asked as I peered into the darkness. All I saw was trees; no houses, no mailboxes, no cars.

“We’re here.” NC announced as he suddenly took a sharp right and we began down a gravel driveway. “I knew we’d find it if we just kept looking!”

As we pulled up next to Dungeons and Dragons girl’s house I opened the door before NC had made a complete stop. I almost fell out except NC grabbed my shoulder and pulled me back in. The cake slid halfway off the plate it was on. We both looked at the little pastry and sighed.

We got out of the minivan and walked up to the house. After we rang the doorbell, D and D girl greeted us. “What’s that?” she asked, sticking her nose up in the air a bit as she pointed at our cake.

NC and I looked at each other. We grimaced and squirmed for about 15 secs. Then we looked back and said in unison, “It’s for decoration.”

“Decoration?” she repeated.

“Yeah,” NC said, “It’s art. It’s the newest thing. Obscure cake art. K and I are exploring it right now because we’re thinking of becoming nouevou art buyers. It’s all the rage in Holland. Right, K?”

“Yeah. Exactly. See, this cake represents our tortured souls…that we’re trying to cover up with, uh, other stuff and such,” I offered.

D and D girl shrugged and said, “Whatever.”

And then she invited us in.

Friday, June 26, 2009

What Happened and Where are my Pants?!

We here at Cats in Petticoats enjoy the subtle and forgotten art of entertaining. The elegant and timeless ritual of hosting a party can be a lasting memory of happiness for all involved. Or it can be a disaster of such epic proportions that the guests will never forget how they were coerced into driving to the woods at 2:00 AM to bury a smack addict birthday clown. It wasn't anyone's fault really . . . we certainly didn't inject ourselves into his veins and kill him. But regardless the damage is done and suddenly your party has become the subject of expensive therapy sessions. This can all be avoided by careful planning and educating oneself about the intricacies of being a good host. However most books written on this topic are of the overly fussy and extremely treacly variety. My recommendation is "I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence" by Amy Sedaris(actress, comedian, and sister to famous satirist David Sedaris). It's a hilarious, twisted and strangely helpful book that is a hodgepodge of good advice, recipes and craft projects for people who like googly eyes on random objects in their home. She also extolls the value of good vaginal hygiene and having a backup dealer, which can apparently solve most party related problems.
The bottom line here is that no one should be afraid to try throwing that party they always talk about, life is just too short not to. So scrub your genitals, call your dealer, put on that pretty dress and throw the best darn shindig that everyone will be too drunk to remember the next morning. And for Gods sake invite us!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

NYC Prep: A lesson in life's little ironies

Last weekend was dull. The only matter of note was the television show called “NYC Prep” that I came across on Bravo. As the title suggests, the show follows around ridiculously rich children attending the finest and most expensive schools in New York. They don’t work, they don’t worry about how they will pay for college, and they can get into any bar or club they like because they have the finest fake IDs on this side of the Atlantic. Never before have I witnessed such retched children wallowing so openly in their retchary.

Some characters of note are P.C. who at 17 has decided that his favorite pastime is going to fashion shows and commenting on the art that is overpriced couture; Jessie, who’s bizarre cross-eyes can’t seem to focus on one solid point and who likes to throw dinner parties; Camille, who’s bizarre boggle eyes suggest her mother may have drink too much champagne while with child; and Sebastian who considers himself a lady’s man and has feathered long blond hair and a baby face and whom I want to send a picture of today’s Leif Garrett with the inscription “Hey, kid, take a look at your grim future.”

Yes, they are magnificent specimens of privilege, which it wholly undeserved and wholly unappreciated by Fifth Avenue brats. And I hate them. I hate them because they have everything I did not and are too stupid to realize it. I hate them because they wear scarves in August and designer jewelry to the supermarket. I hate them because they have ironic acronyms for names. But mostly, I hate them because they are living under the delusion that they are somehow mature because they can drink and smoke and screw lots of strange people that they barely know. “I’ve grown up fast,” each one of them said in their micro-duction. As if they have some deeply intimate knowledge about the world that most people don’t understand until they are *gasp* 25.

Really, the children I would like to see on Bravo are the children who in this recession are working before and after school 20, 30 or 40 hours a week so they can attend college or, hell, even help their parents out with the rent check. Who’ve learned at 16 that no one takes care of you but yourself and that tough times don’t last but tough people do. I’d like to see those kids. Because they are inspiring and tough and wise in a way Fifth Avenue can’t touch. But, mostly, I’d like to see those kids kick Fifth Avenue’s ass.

Friday, June 5, 2009


I experienced a similar reaction when I attempted to explain my new venture to a good friend of mine whom I shall refer to as Chocolate. In the midst of a friendly phone conversation the other day I thought to mention: "Oh by the way, I have a blog now."

Chocolate: ". . . you have a blog."

Me: "Yeah my friend and I are doing it together, it's called Cats in Petticoats."

Chocolate: ". . . wow . . . that's . . . wow."

Me: "Well it's not strictly about Cats in Petticoats, it's kind of an obscure and complicated metaphor for a variety of things. Things that are hilariously wrong, or seem to be insanely unnecessary and perverse, or the pathos of trying to be what one is not. All tied together with the motif of cats in fancy dress."

Chocolate: ". . . seriously?"

Me: "Oh come on! You know if I'm doing it it's going to be funny."

Chocolate: "(heavy sigh) Fine. Give me the link."

I ended up having this same conversation numerous times with different people almost verbatim. The only people who offered different reactions were those who were either disappointed that it was not a website devoted solely to images of cats in costume or those that simply stared silently in complete and utter incomprehension. Apparently this is a slightly tougher sell than originally anticipated. We might need to resort to a photo shoot of kittens attending a cotillion in formal wear to boost readership. What's the return policy on 12-packs of kittens?

The cat in the petticoat

I've had many pet projects in my life. For instance I've tried making flavored butter out of whipping cream. I've had my hand at designing business cards for friends who don't own a business, but just want something "nifty" to give to people they meet at bars. None of these ventures were terribly productive. But at the very least they gave me topical, somewhat personal fodder to tell my Grandma when she asks me, "What have you been up to?"

For those of you who don't know, my grandmother is a deeply private woman who has little tolerance for things like "emotions" or "problems" or "issues." She'd rather hear about the everyday meanderings if my hideously boring job. I, on the other hand, love to talk about my "emotions." My "problems" and "issues" are the common subject of my sometimes hilarious self-degrading humor. Most people in my age group appreciate this. My grandmother, on the other hand, survived the Great Depression. In her estimation, I'm kind of a whiner. And in my estimation I should learn to shut the hell up.

However, none of the strains of our relationship have impeded my desire to "connect" with her on a personal level. The forum in which I've chosen to do this generally involves me telling her about my little ventures in the hopes that she will one day see me as the brave pioneer of entrepreneurship that I know that I am.

The other day when we were visiting and she asked me "what have you been up to?" I couldn't help but bring up "Cats in Petticoats" in the hopes that she might appreciate it's artistic irony.

"Well, Grandma," I said, "My friend N. and I have started a blog."

"What's a 'blog'?" my grandmother inquired.

"Oh, just a series of writings that people post on the Internet," I answered.

"What's it about? Food or something?" She asked.

This one response had me excited by the possibility of several follow up questions, so I replied, "It's called Cats in Petticoats. But it's not really about Cats who wear petticoats. It's about, you know, being a square peg in a round hole and all those situations in life that make you feel out of place and like nobody understands you...."

Just then I looked beyond my Grandma, who was preparing her "something ain't right with this girl" face, to my cousin who had been listening in the background and had prepared his own face. His face said "Cease and desist, my friend. Cease and desist."

My voice trailed off and I stared blankly at the two. How could I save this situation? So, I said the only thing I could. The only thing that would make sense to my 80-yr-old tormentor. I said, "We might dress up cats and take pictures of them and post them. We might do that too."

My Grandma chuckled a bit to herself and looked at me, "Well, that would be funny. If you did that, that would be really funny."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The revolution we already had was not publicized

Long ago, in a northwest Chicago suburb far away the writers of this periodical had a teenage revolution of sorts.

Those were the angst-ridden days, where in we plotted and planned in our parents mini-van and two-door Le Baron. And someday the jocks will know us and fear us, we would say, cajoling each other into the quiet contemplation of revenge plots that consisted of a future with fame and beauty and general fabulousness.

Mostly, though, there were donuts. And yes, there was anger and vindication the likes of which no donut shop has seen before.

Then there were no blogs, the Internet was just an information super highway on which you drove when you wanted to see naked pictures of celebrities or pick up strange guys in chat rooms. Alas, there was no place for us, N. and K., to pen our manifesto. And now our time has arrived. Let us begin...

I prefer black kittens in orange petticoats because a darker kitty needs some brightness around the face. White kitties also look good in orange. But not gray kitties. It's a huge clash of color/fur combinations, which just isn't palatable to any well-meaning petticoat connoisseur. Ugh. Even thinking about it gives me nightmares.