Don't Hose Me

Daily showering is such a vicious cycle. Everyday back in the shower - shampoo head - hold on to sliver of soap (like greased pig) - pick up shampoo bottle (again) - wait, I did this part. If it weren't for the growing need for my shower to need a shower (aka mold accumulation) nothing would change.

I know some of you don't choose or say you don't "need" to shower daily (I believe I've stood behind you in line at the grocery store) well I am not one of you. With me the problem isn't about smell, it's that I have fine hair, oily skin, and I live in Florida. If I don't hose down daily I look like I've slipped into a vat of oil.

When I was a teenager wearing a permanent bag on my head due to pimples, my mother would say, "When you get older you'll love your oily skin, because you will have a built in moisturizer and no wrinkles". Well, I'm fifty two, I still get pimples, I have wrinkles, and the oil vat.

For some reason, writing about hosing myself down, reminds me of a spa treatment I had once. I decided to get a body loofah at this old world spa an hour from my house. The spa facility was just as beautiful as I imagined - the treatment room was another story, it looked like an auto mechanic's garage. After doing a quick once around I began to get the creeping suspicion that nothing good could happen in this space. The only furniture in the room was a gray hard plastic surgical-looking table in the center of the room. My instinct told me to run, but before I could act, in walked Helga. Actually I don't remember her real name but Helga should give you the proper visual. She was about six feet four with hands like oven mitts, and either she was wearing shoulder pads under her uniform or she was a VERY BIG BONED girl.

She walked over to me and uttered one monosyllabic phrase, "Get on table". Then she asked, "Do you need to keep towel?" almost like she was challenging me - like I was the new girl on the prison block. Well, I didn't know if I needed my towel. I didn't think I needed my pepper spray when I left the house that morning but things change. The towel may be my only remaining line of defense. I actually began to think back to my brother snapping me with a towel as a kid. Did he twirl it clockwise or counterclockwise?

I decided my best move was to act tough and toss the towel aside, I had bluffed my way through many sales presentations in my career, I could bluff my way through Helga. The next thing I knew Helga grabbed a scrub brush and preceded to scrub me within an inch of my life.

As the torture ensued I began to notice little things like...Helga's outfit looked a lot like the uniforms I saw the cleaning crew wearing on my way in to the spa....Is that an SOS pad in her hand?....I think that's a jar of turtle wax sitting on the shelf?....Why is there a big drain in the middle of the cement floor?....and why the heck does this Frankenstein table have wheels on it? Among Helga's other stellar qualities, she had the grace of a hippo, every time she walked around the side of the table to gain better access to my remaining tissue she would bump the side of the table, sending the table and me skidding across the wet floor until she grabbed us with her Grizzly Bear claws and abruptly stopped us. My spa treatment had become like some awful ride at a $2.00 carnival. I was waiting for the loud rock music to kick in.

Well, eventually every skin cell had been removed from my body, Helga put down her Brillo pad and asked me to stand up. It appeared the worst was over until I saw her grab a hose (wait where did that come from?). She proceeded to hose me down like a circus animal. Then she dried her hands with - MY TOWEL - and left.

So maybe this is the reason why I'm not so excited about my daily showering ritual. Maybe I'm having Helga flashbacks? Come to think of it I don't like to scrub pots either.

Lisa Alex Gray

The Happy Camper

The other day I went to my local health food store and asked the clerk for a pill that would make me not want to" lash out irrationally".

She just looked at me blankly then proceeded to walk across the store weaving in and out of the aisles until she stopped in front a shelf containing various holistic mood elevators/suppressors.

She picked up a bottle from the shelf and held it up to me. "It's Happy Camper." she said matter of factly, "We make the Store Manager take this during her "monthly" inventory audits! Then she put the bottle back down and walked away - I guess she felt her job was done.

I stood there staring at the bottle when it hit me, man she punched the word MONTHLY kind of hard, and I think she winked when she said it. What was she trying to say? It's not like I had a heating pad ducked tapped to my waist or something. Is this the point we've come to as women? Even our own kind assumes a bad day must be attributed to hormones?

Then suddenly I remembered the other thing she said the name of the product was - Happy Camper?? The fix to all of my problems was to become a "Happy Camper"...I allowed the thought to sink in for a minute to determine whether I thought this was a good thing or semi insulting thing, but I couldn't deny the reality that ever since I was a little kid, at summer camp, I have always wanted to be a "Happy Camper". It seemed to be such an illusive beast.  Memories of my childhood were peppered with pointed comments from the adults in my life, "Looks like someone isn't a happy camper!".  Well, it looked like someone, problem dealing with my same childhood demons, had finally stopped harping on the problem and came up with a solution. Why hadn't I heard of this before? Shouldn't it be a headline on MSN's home page? Breaking News....Happy Camper pills now available for the masses...limit one container per family to prevent shortages. I mean this is what's been missing in our society, Happy Campers! They should be putting this stuff in our drinking water.

After the initial excitement wore off I picked up the bottle of Happy Camper to get a closer look. The jar was bright yellow (my favorite color another good sign) with a little cartoon camper guy on the front. He had a big smile on his face and was wearing shorts with big brown marching boots. I want to march. I don't think I've marched since I was in first grade and I think it was for a fire drill. It was obvious this was the product for me right color, marching boots, shorts. Who doesn't like to wear shorts.

The camper guy also had a little derby hat on his head, kind of like a robin hood hat. To think a pill that would make me so happy that I would want to put on a hat. This just keeps getting better and better. It took everything in me not to wrench the jar open right there in the aisle and start popping pills, then open more jars and throw pills around the store at the rest of the customers, "Happy Camper pills for everyone!", but I'm an adult so I restrained myself and waited til I got in the car.

Once in the car I cracked the lid on the little jar of freedom and popped two pills in my mouth washing them down with my bottled water. Then I sat perfectly still and waited. I'm not sure what I was waiting for. Did I think I was going to jump out of my car and start marching around the parking lot? Eventually I decided to drive home. I figured it was safe afterall they weren't called crazy camper.

The rest of my day was spent patiently waiting for the pills to take affect but nothing happened. I continued to take the pills everyday for a week in the hope that any minute the urge to put on shorts might strike. I even kept a hat in my car, just in case. But nothing happened. I guess my mutant hormones were just too powerful for the Happy Camper ingredients to overcome.

Eventually I stopped taking the pills all together. What was the point. Marching was overrated anyway. It makes your legs hurt after a while. I tried it just to see. I also put the yellow bottle away in the place where all good ideas go to die the back of my cabinet next to the bottle of fish oil capsules (nothing like burbing fish all day). There was only one thing left to do. The next day I drove by my grandpa's house and gave him back his hat. He'd been asking for it anyway.

Lisa Alex Gray

It's Just a Game

Remember the children's board game Chutes and Ladders? Ironically it is also a fairly accurate depiction of what my life looks like in 2-D. For those of you that find the visual imagery incomplete, I will tell you how the game is played (i.e. my life).

The object of Chutes and Ladders is to get to the end of the game without being sent back down a chute/ladder to the beginning of the game so many times that you run screaming from the room crying to your mom that your brother is cheating (okay, I don't actually do that part anymore).

Sometimes you're lucky, you land on a square that says you've done something good, and you get to climb the ladder a bit closer to your goal (my life in the 90's). More often you land on a square that undoes much of your hard work sending you tumbling back to the beginning of the game again (my life in the last year).

I personally am not finding the fun in this game. I can't help but question why someone would want to make such a frustrating life scenario into a game in the first place? I can just imagine how this decision came about.

It obviously took place after a horrible meeting at Hasbro. A few people got fired, a few demoted, and the rest were given one last chance to come up with an exciting new game that children would love and parents would buy.

Mr. Hasbro Executive, who's job now hung in the balance, headed back to his office and worked late into the night - possibly assisted by friends Jack (Daniels) or Jim (Beam) - to come up with a game. Which he did, based on the only thing on his mind, his years of hard work and dedication followed by a swiftly faltering career.

He probably presented the game partially as a joke to upper management assuming he'd be given his walking papers as soon as the presentation was over. I'm sure he never expected the company to actually like the idea. The rest is history.

Well, I have found a way to bring this frustrating 1970's game into the future. Below is my prototype of what the new game would look like....

They may want to include a pair of rubber gloves with this version.

Lisa Alex Gray

10 FOR 10!

There was a display at the entrance of my local grocery store yesterday. It was of a tower built from Little Debbie Swiss Roll boxes.

The sight literally stopped me in my tracks.

My husband Kurt was half way down the first aisle before he realized I wasn't with him. I was back at the Swissonian staring at my version of the statue of David, and if the image itself wasn't enough to inspire poetry, the sign was. It read.

"10 FOR 10"

I had to read it twice to be sure I wasn't seeing things. Ten for ten. That meant all I had to do was give a store employee ten dollars and I could begin to create my own swiss roll masterpiece? My imagination ran wild with ideas. If I gave them fifty dollars I could build a Little Debbie fort. I could hide away from the whole world while surrounded by swiss roll wallpaper.

I was already grabbing reinforcement shopping carts when Kurt caught up with me and snapped me back to reality. "What are you doing?" "You're not buying those are you?" "They're not healthy". SH*T! My words have officially come back to bite me in the butt.

All those years I ran my kitchen like a donutless dictatorship. Only healthy snacks could cross our borders. I was drunk with power and I didn't care who got hurt. Did Kurt really need to eat Kashi crackers while watching the football game? Who knew!?! But that's how I played it.

Well now it was my football game and Kashi had yet to create a good cake roll. Which meant I was screwed.

Why did I want this stuff anyway? I thought I had outgrown childish indulgences. How could one properly placed display undue all my hard work? Those grocers really knew their stuff. Unfortunately for them, I was smarter. I was not going to let them win this time. I put down the Little Debbie boxes and courageously walked away from the display with my head held high. Then I grabbed two boxes of Caption Crunch on sale "2 FOR $5.00" and continued on with my shopping.

Lisa Alex Gray