Everywhere you look

It was not my intention to freak out Linda Blair. But there she was, darting away from me as if I were one of those fans. I hardly consider myself a “fan” at all really. I’ve seen her movies, sure, and admittedly have a quirky sort of fondness for her women in prison flops from the 80s, but there’s nothing alarming in my interest, nothing that should make Linda Blair especially uncomfortable.

Even Steven Spielberg stuck around long enough to accept my apology for running him over with my bicycle a few years ago. That, too, was not my intention. I should have known better than to attempt to navigate the trail around the Lake Hollywood reservoir – my bike riding skills are no better than my driving skills. Steven just picked the wrong time to go jogging and wound up the unfortunate obstacle in my unsteady path.

He didn’t seem to be hurt, much. His sunglasses were crumpled under my front tire and my head was tethered to the bike thanks to a tangle of headphone cables, hair and chains, but the only blood spilled was mine. And from my vantage point down there on the pavement, I apologized to the film mogul profusely. He nodded, smiled wearily, and tugged his baseball cap visor over his eyes. As he jogged off, I called out the only thing I could think of: “E.T made me cry!”

I can think of 946 better, or at least, more appropriate things to have said, although they likely would not have been as meaningful. It kills me to admit that one of the first movies to get a rise of me was not from my beloved Walt Disney. Bambi had left me dry-eyed and vaguely bored, but E.T. had me sobbing into my popcorn. I loved that silly hunk of waddling alien, almost as much as I did The Muppets, and I really just wanted Steven Spielberg to know that. I like to think he understood.

I shared similar sentiment with John Stamos as a preteen. He and his hair had recently made their debut on Full House, a show so vapid that even as a ‘tween I knew it wasn’t cool to be caught watching it. John’s face was quickly plastered over all my favorite teen magazines, which, being the geek I was, I actually read for the articles.

And in one tell-all interview, John admitted he had been picked on as a kid. He said that because of it he tried to be nice to everyone, and swore he’d never make fun of a person for being different. It was a lovely sentiment that could have just as easily been pulled out of a fortune cookie, but it rang true to my blossoming, misunderstood heart, so much so that I dashed out a letter to John.

All of my ‘tween frustrations gushed onto two pages of notebook paper. It was just so hard being different, I railed. Why couldn’t more people have the same attitude as him? I pledged to watch Full House regularly from then on, thanked him for being such a nice person, and dotted the “i” in my name with a circle, full of wishful thinking.

The letter went in the mail to his official fan club and my life continued, with Full House added to my regular nighttime routine. Within a few months I’d all but forgotten I’d ever written to “Uncle Jessie,” that is, until the day he wrote me back.

The envelope was handwritten and postmarked from California with no return address. My mother, never a snoop but definitely a curious woman, insisted I tell her who the letter was from. My teen magazines back then were full of ads for pen pals, many of whom were really prisoners soliciting care packages, and I suspect she feared I’d taken up correspondence with Charles Manson.

This particular letter wasn’t from a serial killer; I had another year or two in me before that became a temptation. Instead, I held a handwritten note that was signed “John Stamos.” It referenced my letter specifically, thanking me for sharing my thoughts and telling me to hang in there – being different would get easier when I got older.

His response was mortifying and thrilling at once; I hadn’t expected my letter to actually be read, much less considered and responded to. I never showed the note to any of my friends, I was too terrified they would ask what I had written to him, but I kept it tucked away in a journal that I still have today, some 25 years later. And sure, it was likely some public relations intern at his office who took pity on a flustered young letter-writing girl, but were I to ever see John Stamos in person, I’d still thank him for writing me back.

So no, I don’t consider myself to be any sort of crazed fan or celebrity stalker, but I do have random associations with odd people that, on occasion, manifest themselves in unexpected ways.

Which is why there was no way I could miss Linda Blair’s appearance at a local theatre for a screening of The Exorcist on Halloween.

I waited in line with 30 or so other people, paid my $20 for a photograph, and smiled with mild excitement when I was able to pose for a picture with the woman whose image has plagued more nightmares than I can ever count.

She turned to me then, and before she could pleasantly ask for my name, or my impressions on the movie or her charity as she had done with the others before me, my mouth got the best of my brain and I blurted out, “You ruined my childhood!”

Linda backed away and mumbled something that I think was akin to, “Sorry about that.” She quickly ran to the shelter of her handlers before I could do worse.

My intended affection wasn’t as obvious as I had hoped, and for this I had a pang of disappointment. Through The Exorcist Linda had made an impression on me that I had hoped to better acknowledge.

However, after some mild obsessing and a few drinks, I’ve realized I may have actually paid a better tribute to Linda than I could have planned. Unintentionally or not, I managed to give Linda Blair back a small taste of the clenching fear she once gave me, and that, in my little world at least, is decidedly satisfying. Bizarre and somewhat wrong, admittedly, but satisfying nonetheless.



Bourbon Street

I had a moment while stopped in traffic this morning. Motion caught my eye, I think, a breezy stirring that rustled against the exterior of my car and drew my gaze to the left. The entrance to a forest preserve had all the makings of a Tennessee Williams story: autumn leaves in a colorful eruption, hordes of pumpkins lining a dirt path, bales of hay topping a wagon. I wondered how I’d managed to live in my town for so many years, never noticing such a vibrant display when I remembered it was new. New to me at least, since this particular morning I’d been forced to reroute my usual path to work.

A hundred different scents and sounds accompanied the landscape, and with the radio off and windows open I could pick each out as assuredly as I can the flavors in a stew. But above it all was the ringing of a bell. Maybe from a church, perhaps from a town square, but definitely a bell – the Quasimodo kind of bell that clangs with authority in an uneven rhythm. It’s a sound from another time really, but so perfectly suited to the morning.

My guy and I debate over when a city or town is at its most perfect. He prefers the night and all its glowing lights and commotion. And to his credit, there is nothing quite as engaging as the bustle of a cityscape that’s alive with frenetic activity.

But me, I prefer the moments in between.

Dawn is my time, when a place is just waking up and you have the silence of energy spent. There’s a certain wonderment to it, of who is waking up plus a new life, or, perhaps, minus a soul.

When I’m feeling morbidly romantic I like to fantasize about packing up and taking a sabbatical with my guy to the French Quarter of New Orleans. Mornings in the Quarter are amazingly still, the only movement coming from the thick suds they use to wash the streets. It made me laugh the first time I saw the sanitation trucks flushing the pavement – I could just envision the foul remains of Bourbon Street filtering down the sewer.

But with that comes a satisfaction, too. So goes the night, and before the day begins there is only the prospect of what’s to come. And in New Orleans, that could be anything.

We once stayed at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, and like everything in the Quarter, it has a past. Built in 1817, it served as everything from a ballroom to a convent, school and medical ward. Portions of the hotel are brand new, others destroyed by fire, and still others remain as a reminder of what the hotel was in 1817.

Everybody in the Quarter seems to have a story to tell about the Bourbon Orleans, including the lobby bartender, who refuses to enter the original part of the building – the same part where our room was located.

The room was what they called a “townhouse suite.” It had two levels, the main  level being accessible by a hallway off the main elevator to enter the room, the other level accessible by the stairs in our room and what we called the door to nowhere. We were perhaps a bit overly fanciful in such a description, but not inappropriate, as that quirky door opened to a  winding hallway between floors that led directly to the ballroom.

The story goes, of course, that the Bourbon Orleans ballroom is haunted, just like several other “hot spots” within the hotel. And who knows, maybe it is. My guy and I snuck into the ballroom one night in an amateur Ghostbusters sort of way only to take a few pictures and be chased out by a haunted tour guide on a power kick.

It was a bit of a relief for me – the empty, dark ballroom had all the welcome of a catacomb and even my eyelashes were bristled by the undercurrent of the room. My guy calls my ghostly antennae an absurdity, of course. And being a confirmed atheist, I accept that conceding the existence of the supernatural is a contradiction.

Yet still, it doesn’t seem beyond the realm of science to me that perhaps there is an energy to life that hangs around. Subtle eccentricities of nature don’t have to be divine, despite there being a lack of reason for their reality.

Like the bathroom of our suite. It was located directly opposite of that door to nowhere. I’m still not sure what the purpose of having a hallway between floors was. Logically, it was likely an unobtrusive way for hotel staff at one time to serve rooms. And were it any other city, I probably would accept that explanation as true.

But that wouldn’t account for the man in our bathroom.

There was no spectral cloud, no orb of light darting through the room, only a subtle shift in the air, a hint of movement and the prickling insistence that once upon a time a man stood in the openness behind me at the mirror and was likely still there.

I joke with my friends that he was a polite ghost, and never made his presence known when I was showering or otherwise vulnerable. But without fail, each night as I tended to my hair and daubed makeup on my face, the wallpaper behind me would move.

A similar sort of movement caught my eye in the car today, and as I breathed the colors and the sounds and the delicate peculiarities of the morning, I was for a moment taken back to New Orleans. It made my day.



"He interpreted them with a practiced melodic tempo, a sing-song of adages masquerading as mysticism."
“He interpreted them with a practiced melodic tempo, a sing-song of adages masquerading as mysticism.”

Where art deco meets rock n’ roll

Our photogs, i luv photo, could not have captured our day better. Click on the thumbnail to see each image in its full, glorious size. Special thanks to the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago for making the day truly rock, and especially for hooking us up with that fabulous Angels & Kings suite! Stems provided the stunning flowers, Libido Funk Circus kept everyone dancing … And my guy makes everything perfect.


Time of my life

I had an imaginary boyfriend named Jonathan Turner in the eighth grade. Faking a boyfriend isn’t nearly as complex as Jan Brady might lead one to believe, but it does involve a certain deranged finesse.

“Jonathan” was born in direct response to a first kiss – the kind of monumentally awful first kiss that can only occur between two eighth graders who are too consumed by bravado to admit they’re clueless. I certainly was: At that point, the only thing my lips had ever connected with was a Bon Jovi tour program. My appearance suggested otherwise, of course: Nothing screams eighth grade sexpot like a pink mini skirt, denim jacket and ponytail jutting off one side of your head.

It was enough to attract the attention of Tommy, a shaggy-haired basketball player who was generally considered the cutest boy in class. He even had the added distinction of having dated a ninth grader.

“Dating” was a fuzzy concept in my junior high, so whether or not Tommy had actually done more than bump into his ninth grade “girlfriend” at the bus stop a couple times wasn’t entirely clear. Most of my classmates could barely work up the nerve to ask their crushes for a homework assignment let alone a “date.” The few of us who did hook up did so in packs at the mall where we’d awkwardly buy each other an Orange Julius and wander from store to store in slurpy silence.

If Tommy did have experience with a ninth grader, as junior high folklore went, he certainly hadn’t learned any romantic notions from the experience. After our obligatory trip to the mall, we wound up back at his house, where he promptly locked his little brother out of their rec room and cued “Add It Up” by the Violent Femmes on a Radio Shack boom box.

Tommy’s seduction scene could have used a bit of finessing. As we sat side-by-side on a moldy couch in his parents’ basement, pretending to listen to his rotten music selection, the only thing we had to fill our conversation gaps was the stench of his borrowed Drakkar Noir.

If either one of us had any sense, we would have worked up to the kiss with some heated hand holding or the kind of frisky hugging I see all the teens in vampire movies doing these days. Instead, he looked in my general direction, said, “Let’s do it,” and smacked his lips on mine with all the aplomb of a suckermouth catfish. Instantly, his tongue was cartwheeling through my mouth, and before I could fully acclimate myself to his frenetic lickings, I realized I couldn’t breathe.

My eighth grade Romeo’s face was suctioned onto mine, his right chipmunk cheek mashed against my nose and blocking any hope I had for gracefully inhaling.

I wondered if kissing was really just an experiment in holding your breath, with the “sexiness” coming from the inevitable head rush. The idea depressed me. I always lost that game at the pool – the one where we’d all hold our breath under water as long as possible. I’d inevitably be the one sputtering and snorting and dripping snot as I gasped for breath while my friends all sat underwater like miniature Buddhas. Sadly, my first kiss ended much the same way.

He might have been able to get past my initial attempts at mouth breathing through the kiss, and could probably have (mis)interpreted my gasps as passion. But when I couldn’t get a deep enough breath, panic set in and I wrenched myself away from him furiously. In the process, I might have taken a chunk of his lip with me. That’s a hard one to ignore.

Popularity is a precarious thing in junior high and since – big shocker – the only gentlemen you’re likely to find are the English Lit teachers, it wasn’t long before word spread and I was unfairly branded the worst kisser in the entire eighth grade class.

Jeers of “Hey Lippy!” followed me from room to room. Girls who had never so much as frenched a bed pillow were suddenly more popular than me and soon my social banishment was so profound that the only seat I could find in the lunchroom was with the special ed kids. And they only agreed to let me sit at their table on the condition that I buy them ice cream.

The exclusion didn’t bother me so much as did the fact that it was based on an entirely incorrect assumption. Who was that little pudgy-faced punk to call ME the bad kisser? I knew it was too late to launch a smear campaign of my own, so I decided instead to create a diversion – a story that would make people forget about my burgeoning skills as a kisser and instead focus on irresistible, fascinating me. That my skills in social manipulation at the time were more developed than my general social skills is only a bit alarming.

I’d just returned from a three-day trip to Madison, Wisconsin with my parents and it had occurred to me while there that the best way to get people talking would be to show up on Monday morning with a new boyfriend, one who was so outlandishly cool it could only serve to boost my own reputation.

And so Jonathan Turner came to life on that rainy Sunday evening: A gorgeous freshman in high school who had the charm of Michael J. Fox, rakish appeal of Johnny Depp, and moves of Patrick Swayze. (What can I say? I had high standards in the 80s.) I decided that we met at the trade show I had attended with my parents. He would have been working in his father’s booth and been so smitten at the sight of me that he dropped what he was doing and walked right up to ask my name.

He’d buy me a soda and nachos and we’d spend the weekend holding hands and wandering around Madison. On my last night in town, he’d drape his coat over my shoulders, kiss me while standing on the steps of the state capitol building and promise we’d talk every night until he could see me in person again.

He was a teenage fantasy come true, really. I went to school on Monday clad in my dad’s discarded leather jacket and promptly told anyone who would listen that the coat belonged to my boyfriend, Jonathan.

I’d yawn during study hall and say that my boyfriend had kept me awake all night on the phone. I’d nod sympathetically when girls would fret over their hair after gym and say that Jonathan liked my hair best when the wind was blowing through it. In just a few days, I managed to rebuild my social status with nothing more than a men’s jacket and some wishful thinking.

Jonathan was my very own George Glass, and I adored my fauxfriend at least as much as a real person. That’s the one nice thing about being in junior high: What you lack in personal experience, you can more than make up for in imagination.

Which was convenient, really, because while I could easily have staged a fake breakup with Jonathan in order to accept another mall date, I decided it would be best to keep him around for a while … At least until a real high school boy – or Johnny Depp – asked me out.


Starting anew, again

WordPress, you suck.

Once again I’m forced to make my guy rebuild my blogsite because your plug-ins blow and enable all sorts of fancy viral attacks. Note the new URL, all. New blog posts will appear here. Older posts may have been lost in the change over. Again, suck it Word Press.

A few updates:

Saw Paul McCartney at Wrigley. He reminded me why I love music. It was truly a life changing show.

The wedding is just DAYS away!!! I’m sure there will be much to write about soon.
Enjoy summer, all. More to come soon!

Rock down to Electric Avenue

The oozing bandage probably wasn’t the first indication of my tension, but it was the goriest.

I’d been picking at my cuticles. This oh-so ladylike habit had replaced my fixation on mangling pen caps with my teeth, and I swear I’d kick it if it wasn’t so ridiculously satisfying. The best habits tend to be the ones that require no thought but yield perverse rewards; I’ve found the twingey sting of a fresh-plucked cuticle suits me quite well in moments of contemplation.

This particular cuticle had all the makings of a crime scene after I was done with it. Who knew a finger bed could bleed so much? The bandage did little to absorb my aggressive ministrations and I was soon leaving little bloody fingerprints on everything I touched.

But since we’d been without electricity for four days it really wasn’t noticeable.

By that point, random tracks of blood were the least of our concerns. I’d peed in the dark so many times that I started to curse the Amish. Not that they had anything to do with the power outage – that I could blame on the unlucky combination of a microburst and an oblivious driver crash landing on a local power grid – I was just looking for a place to direct my surplus of rage when the batteries on my computer died and I could no longer post thinly veiled threats on the ComEd Facebook page.

Those Amish creeps just appear so damn pleased with their electricity-less existence. They toil away peacefully hammering nails into barn walls and churning butter while I had spent the better part of an evening trying to figure out a way to hotwire my curling iron to a double A battery. (Hence the severed cuticle – I pick while I think.) I was rapidly falling apart.

It all seemed like such a cute adventure when the power first went out. My guy and I watched Tropic Storm Suburbia tear through our neighborhood with mild interest on Monday and rolled our eyes when the power went out. An overweight jogger is enough to knock out the voltage in our townhome community, making ComEd just slightly better service providers than Comcast.

We dutifully closed our blinds, pulled last-chance cold drinks from the fridge and set ourselves up on the front lawn with cocktails. Not that we needed an excuse of course, but given the circumstances there wasn’t much else to do.

Neighbors we never even knew existed soon began to stagger from their homes like the living dead. “You got any power?” became license for introduction up and down the block. My guy is always game for conversation, but I glowered behind him like some kind of rabid dingo.

A casual nod is the height of my neighborly acknowledgement; conversation breeds far more familiarity than I’m comfortable with. Before you know it, these people, people whom you cannot ever get away from because they’re always right next door to you, are interrupting a perfectly lovely drunk on the patio to whinge about the tardy garbage pick-up or the genius of their trumpet playing son.

By 6 p.m., rumors spread that this was no ordinary power outage. The few who could navigate ComEd’s labyrinth of phone lines learned from tired and cranky operators that the problem was wide spread, and complicated in our particular area by a car accident. Our power, they estimated, wouldn’t be restored until late Wednesday.

The color drained from my guy’s face. All the benefits of working from home – solitude, comfort, convenience, a functioning internet connection – had just been yanked away, and I could see him imagining the horror of working from a coffee shop the next day. I quickly poured him another drink. This was going to be a long, long week.

We slept on the floor in the living room that night. It was the coolest area in the house short of the bath tub, and the cat had commandeered that spot for herself. To see the sweat seep from our bodies you’d think we were on the lam.

Reality sunk in Tuesday morning. We’d been holding out vain hope that we would awake to the wonderful mechanical whir we are accustomed to. Instead, our phones flashed “low battery” warnings and the electric stove mocked us. There would be no coffee or tea this morning, only vicious aches and the vague notion that we had somehow been shipwrecked in our own home.

Survival mode kicked in: I started hording liquor and my guy rationed batteries. We all have our priorities.

He soon vanished in search of free wi-fi while I napped in the shade of a tree. Occasionally, I’d rouse to find a neighbor staring down at me, a befuddled look on their face.

“Still no power?” they’d ask in greeting, to which I’d reply, “Oh, ours came back on hours ago. You’re the only one without it.”

It alarmed me to see so many neighbors out and about. I’m constantly amazed at how people in general band together during times of hardship. Our “crises” was trivial in comparison to many, yet it didn’t stop the neighbors from wandering the blocks in a stupor to seek companionship.

Maybe I’m just wired differently, because my inclination is to scream “Every man for himself!” not stop in the driveway of a stranger to chat or spread idle speculation as the people in my neighborhood are wont to do.

I didn’t want to hear when they figured we’d be back on the grid. I didn’t care that two pounds of liverwurst was smoldering in their hothouse. Unless one of these people worked for ComEd and had something useful to say, I really just wanted to be left alone to my Jim Beam and heat stroke.

Adversity, however, is the mother of invention. Inspiration struck my guy that night, and by Wednesday morning our house was jury-rigged like a Tom & Jerry cartoon. He’d unearthed power converters that could be plugged into our cars, giving us the ability to string a series of cables through the garage and up the stairs to our main level. We immediately got a fan blowing and juiced up our computers while our cars droned away in the background.

It wasn’t ideal, of course. With both our cars idling we were likely pumping enough carbon monoxide into the neighborhood to off a few house pets. Plus, the cables wound up tethering my guy to the front stoop, which was the only area where he could plug his computer into his car and still steal an unprotected wireless signal.

And it all would have been fine except for the stoop’s correlation to our neighbor’s front room window. Somewhere between my guy’s Google searches on alternative power sources and my lethargic sipping of room temperature bourbon, we heard it.

“Is that …. Scales?”

It seems that the genius trumpet playing offspring of our neighbor practices from that room. Once he’d massacred most of the notes to the C-major scale, he switched to “London Bridge Is Falling Down.” My guy added a healthy shot of whiskey to his flat soda.

The kid chose “Theme to Star Wars” for his next number and played it in such fits and starts that I would never have been able to identify it if his dad hadn’t been humming along. It was only fitting that he followed up with “Taps.”

And that is all I care to recall about Wednesday.

By Thursday, the neighborhood was on the fringe of feral. All the friendly greetings had turned to seething assessment. Do they have a generator? Is that a refrigerator running in the garage? Would they notice if I stuck my face in it?

The community became so primitive that I half expected to find a boar’s head on a spear and men hunting rabbits in the common areas. The barbeque pit was controlled by a gang of rogue soccer dads. The communal carwash area had been overrun with unmerciful children who wielded the hose like a horse whip. A couple down the street nearly came to blows over a bag of ice. So much for the common good.

And then, between the clawing and the cannibalism and the looting, a current buzzed through the air. Someone had finally flipped our switch and the neighborhood was alive with the magical spark of electricity once again.

Normalcy took hold quicker than penicillin. With air conditioners churning out chlorofluorocarbon and washing machines ready to agitate four days of sweat and grime from clothing, we all returned to our homes and the conveniences we needed to maintain order.

And somewhere, the Amish laughed. Jerks.

Here comes the bride

The first time I watched the movie Cannibal Holocaust, I felt oddly exhilarated and slightly dirty. Mutilation, gore and general exploitation will do that to a chick like me – which is partly why I enjoy watching such movies.

I wouldn’t give it much thought, except I experienced the very same reaction upon watching the movie Bride Wars.

Romantic comedies and otherwise BFF-related movies rank somewhere slightly above home videos of childbirth on my preferred watching queue. They’re certainly not what I choose to watch on any given night, but when left to my own devices – like when my guy is out of town for business – I have a tendency to do weird things.

This typically involves eating tortilla chips dunked in cottage cheese for breakfast or reading Tennessee Williams plays aloud to the cat. Nothing particularly shameful, although not the type of behavior I like my guy to witness. He’s already privy to far too many of my wackier traits that the last thing I need is for him to observe my dramatic interpretation of Night of the Iguana, riveting though it may be.

There’s just something about the empty house that encourages oddball behavior – the combination of isolation and boredom can be dramatically liberating. Fortunately, my “home alone” activities tend to lean more toward creativity and less toward The Shining.

Except when I’m lazy. It’s astounding how far out of my way I’ll go to not have to go out of my way. There’s no sense in this, I know. Not that it stops me from grabbing a good washcloth from the upstairs bathroom to sop up cat vomit (she’s not a fan of Tennessee Williams, it seems), which I will then have to immediately disinfect and launder, simply because I didn’t want to have to go downstairs to collect a roll of paper towels.

Of course, after that kind of excitement, the last thing I want to have to do is channel surf. Effort, concentration, and primetime television programming are far too taxing for consideration. So on this particular night, I settled instead on staring at the first thing to pop up on HBO, which, as it turned out, was Bride Wars.

Right from the opening credits I knew this would be a movie that I would regret donating hours of my life to. Any sense of charm it may have had was obliterated by a trite script that could have been better written by an intern at Cosmo magazine. The characters were reprehensible, the dialogue predictable and with every plot twist my gag reflex kicked in just enough to remind me that tofu with salad dressing was not the best dinner choice.

I had just started mentally rehearsing a, “Baby, have you ever thought about changing careers?” discussion (because why should I change the channel when he could change jobs and not leave me alone to watch this nonsense?), when something sparkly caught my eye.

It was the lobby of The Plaza Hotel. Oh, how it sparkles. My guy and I pay homage to it every time we visit New York by having a cocktail at the Oak Bar, and as the two dolts in Bride Wars flitted through the lobby to plan their respective weddings, I couldn’t help but sigh. We’d been chased out of that same lobby once by a curmudgeon who was offended by our affectionate kissing, but I could still see its grand potential as a wedding venue. And suddenly, for better or for worse, I got sucked into Bride Wars and its whiling vortex of wedding porn.

It’s the only way to describe it, really. The surreal lure of gleaming gold decor, pristine white dresses and towering arches of cake had me engrossed and frothing like a twelve year-old boy watching his first women in prison movie. My eyeballs actually started to hurt from lusting so intently.

By comparison, my own wedding looks as though it’s being coordinated by Morticia Addams, though I must confess I do have a considerable stash of the Martha Stewart Weddings magazine hidden alongside a tiara in my closet.

The juxtaposition of the two influences makes my wedding plans seem more like a perverted Mad Lib: “Juliette’s dress will be a flawless sheath of white satin with [insert whorish adjective] stiletto heels. The reception will include [insert favorite hard alcohol] served straight-up in etched Swarovski tumblers.” Where Martha recommends personalized water bottles as favors, I’m still looking for a cost-effective way to gift our guests with mini bottles of absinthe.

I never expected to fall intoxicated by Martha’s wedding counsel, let alone a movie like Bride Wars, but there I was, twitching and drooling and scribbling down ideas in my secret wedding notebook. Gilded china? Want. Monogrammed wedding bells? Need. Cake toppers shaped like manatees? MUST. GET.

Every drop of girly instinct that I usually manage to suppress with layers of snark and disinterest came bubbling out of me like pink champagne thanks to that damn movie, and by the end of it I think I may have been weeping Skittles.

It would be nice if I could say my Jeckyll Bride retreated when the movie ended, but the closer the wedding date gets, the longer she sticks around. So it seemed perfect reasonable then to pick up the phone to harass my parents.

The due date for RSVP cards is fast approaching, and I’ve yet to receive one from my parents. They don’t seem to grasp the concept that when you’re dealing with a guest list of 100-plus people, crazy brides like me don’t want to have to remember each person who says, “I lost my response card, but we’ll totally be there.”

My dad’s explanation for the tardy card involved a complex description of the location of the post office in relation to their house. Jeckyll Bride didn’t care. I cut him off abruptly and said, “[My guy’s] 90 year-old grandparents were quicker on the reply than you are. You want to get past the dogs at the door? Send me your response card!”

I was horrified by my actions, yet perversely tingly and excited. Planning a wedding will do that to a chick like me.

Not surprisingly, Bride Wars was panned by film critics as being a disturbing social commentary. What I find rather interesting is that exact phrase was also used to praise the movie Cannibal Holocaust. My wedding, I imagine, will fall somewhere in the middle.

Burn baby, burn

I set my sister on fire once. I don’t mention this as a bragging point, only as an example that I am in fact capable of setting something ablaze. It’s annoying to even have to bring up really, because I’ve been led to believe since childhood that fires were exceptionally easy to start.

As any issue of Highlights magazine will tell you, a pot of boiling water can go up in flames the second you turn your back on it. And god forbid a spent match should land on the ground because – run Bambi, ruuuun! – the whole goddamn forest will go up in a towering inferno.

I’ve been mapping escape routes and practicing my stop, drop and roll since I was old enough to light a bottle rocket, after which I’d carefully submerge my lit punk in lakewater before disposing of it in a sand-filled tin can.

Even now I live in constant terror that one of my guy’s lighters will spontaneously combust the second it goes for a spin in our clothes dryer, and well, there goes the neighborhood. He’s far more casual about his lighters than I ever could be, and will send two or three of them rattling around while I twitch and confirm that our townhouse is bolstered with cinderblock.

My trepidation around fire does not override my fascination, however. Every trip to a Greek restaurant includes flaming saganaki, and with each cheer of “Opa!” I think, “I could totally do that.”

There’s just something magical about the way fire quells the bite of alcohol and turns a dish into a toasty, caramelized plate of heaven. Why should I wait to go to New Orleans for real bananas foster, or pay some guy in an apron to flame my cheese? I never did quite complete my culinary degree, but no matter. I have enough bravado to be certain my kitchen skills extend to flambéing.

For my first foray into deliberate fire starting, I chose a simple shrimp recipe. Loaded with garlic, cayenne, and a symphony of other Cajun flavors, the final burst of cognac combined with fire would create a rich meal to rival any we’d ever eaten down south.

My prep work that night included a mental rundown of all my necessary ingredients: Garlic? Check. Worcestershire sauce? Check. Child-safe kitchen lighter? Check. Fire extinguisher? Hello …. Fire extinguisher? Apparently in our excitement at purchasing a killer bottle of cognac, we forgot to buy a fire extinguisher.

I don’t know why they’re not sold in liquor stores, really. Seems to me fire goes as well with liquor as soda and ice, so it stands to reason extinguishers should be lined up right next to the condom and jerky displays.

It was partially the fault of liquor that I set my sister on fire that one Christmas. She’d broken her wrist falling on ice a few weeks prior – something I suspect she’d been hoping for years to do – and was sporting her cast the same way a wrestler brandishes a folding chair.

“I’ll clothesline you, muthafucka!” was her battle cry over crudités, and by dessert she was every bit the impervious superhero (with ice, of course, being her only kryptonite). I’ve since learned the quality of the alcohol you drink bears no effect on the quality of your thinking while under its influence, but at the time it seemed a fine idea to knock back another glass of champagne and challenge my sister’s assertion that her cast was no different than Wonder Woman’s wrist cuffs.

She’d been waving her arm across the table quite a bit, mostly to grab at the bottle of Dom on my side, so with the next swipe she took, I pulled out a lighter, did my best Wicked Witch of the West impression and asked, “How do you feel about a little fire, Scarecrow?”

It was my intention to just wave the flame under her cast, but a small error in depth perception brought the fame to contact the surface directly.

She snatched her arm away and was about to declare victory over fire when we all caught a strong whiff of burnt cotton. You always smell it before you see it. Next thing we knew, there was a trail of smoke coming from the cotton lining of her cast and my sister had knocked her chair back from the table and was twirling around the room screaming, “I’m on fire! I’m on fire!”

She clearly wasn’t as well versed in stop, drop and roll as I am.

In situations like these, the wise thing to do is usually offer assistance of some sort. And I would have, truly, if the whole situation hadn’t locked my body into involuntary fits of snorting laughter. It’s just what we do in my family: My dad happens to roll off the roof while cleaning gutters, we laugh. I break my foot while attempting to navigate walking and eating cheese fries: we laugh.

And she was fine, anyway. The flame had only singed a loose strand of cotton, and we were able to carry on without a trip to the ER that holiday.

That mini, not-quite fire was unintentional at worst. My shrimp were in a controlled environment, and according to my research, the ¼ cup of cognac would only produce a quick flare-up, then subside into a bubbling sauce of tasty goodness. I could always slam a lid onto the pot if I felt the flames were worrisome.

So with all the confidence in the world, I prepared to flambé, armed only with an unbridled love of food and a video camera. My guy typically has more sense about these things than I do, so he kept a safe distance from the stove as he documented the event.

The sauté portion of cooking went exactly as it should, and my shrimp were sizzling just as they do on Iron Chef or any of my other favorite cooking shows. I grabbed my cognac, inhaled the lovely scent of garlic and butter and delusion, and added it to the hot pan as instructed. With a quick flick I ignited the kitchen lighter, braced myself for the inevitable, and touched the tip of the flame to the pan sauce.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Where was the whoosh? Where was the “Opa!” moment? I wanted fire, and all I got was some crackle as the sauce continued to simmer mockingly. My guy was doubled over on the floor, rocking in laughter as I started to swear at my meal.

“Burn, damn you! Burn!” All my caution had gone to hell at this point, and I leaned over the pan, sloshed more cognac into it and fumbled to ignite the stupid child-proof kitchen lighter. My guy wrenched the thing out of my grasps before I could do any real damage, and suggested he give it a try.

He didn’t fare much better – he managed to set one shrimp ablaze for a second or two – and the dish sizzled on as if it were coated in sodium silicate and not 100-proof liquor. We gave up our dreams of flambé and decided it was best to serve the dish before it overcooked.

And while our not-so-flaming Cajun shrimp were delicious, I couldn’t help but think that I’d had far more success in setting my sister on fire. And while this didn’t entirely surprise me, it did make me just the slightest bit sad.

Going to the chapel

Last week, I became THAT bride.

It’s slightly surreal to refer to myself as a bride, and even more so to categorize myself – however temporarily – as one of the legion of seething, white-clad demons. But that white dress somehow smothers my usual disregard and replaces it with something much more sinister: desire.

The big revelation is that I have always wanted to be a bride. That I’ve slugged through 35 years without so much as a pre-engagement or shotgun attests that it’s not just the wedding I want, but a lifelong relationship with the right man – the latter being , of course, the most important part of everything.

But let’s face it, having found that one, amazing man – my guy – and even with all our love and good intentions, this wedding is mine and I’m sinking my nails into it like a slightly overripe tomato.

Perhaps if my parents hadn’t pulled me out of private school just in time to miss preparations for a Junior Cotillion, I wouldn’t be quite so enthusiastic about throwing a formal ball in our honor now. The awkwardness of sweaty palms, stiff public waltzing and barked parental instructions could have quelled the sticky romantic notions years of Disney movies helped instill.

Instead I’m left with visions of being showered with pristine white rose petals while a band of trumpeters herald our union. I wouldn’t object to a gilded carriage somehow being involved.

Amusingly, no one has said specifically that this can’t happen. The curious thing about weddings is that they are among the few events where egocentric opulence is not just tolerated, but encouraged. Throw enough money at it, and even the most absurd whim can become a wedding reality, even if it means genetically engineering unicorns or taking Walt Disney’s brain out of cold storage.

I’m not quite as whimsical as all that, and have already designated a chunk of our budget to throw at booze. Nothing ruins a wedding quicker than wine cubes and well liquor. But that’s about where my practicality ends, because I’ve had to admit that colors and flowers – things that in any other context rank somewhere near saving endangered dung beetles on my list of priorities – have become imperatively, urgently important.

The one thing my guy can say for me is that I make decisions quickly, so when presented with the stunning facilities at Chicago’s W Hotel on Lakeshore Drive*, I knew instantly that this was the place my wedding was meant to be held.

Breathtaking. Over-the-top spectacular. Everything about this venue was perfect, from the candle-lit path to the ceremony room, to the panoramic view of the entire city from the top-floor reception area. This was the contemporary equivalent of my lavish, Cinderella-esque dreams.

If the wedding coordinator seemed somewhat vacant at the time, we wrote it off as typical to the field. Enough Vogue wannabes crossed my path in my LA public relations days that I tend to regard the lot of them with bemusement. They just try so very hard to be fashionable and in on everything that it’s hard to not giggle just the slightest bit behind their perfectly manicured backs.

Besides, what they lack in general intelligence they typically make up for with ambition – and a high regard for money, so we felt comfortable in putting our wedding in the W’s eager hands. Agreements were made, phrases like “first right of refusal” were spoken, and I was given the official permission to become a bride.

And that was the last we heard from the W.

Three months passed, and the only confirmation we had of our impending wedding was the save the date cards we’d sent after agreeing to give the W our souls. The new year had arrived, and I was getting itchy to schedule crucial events like tastings and floral previews, and all I could get from the W was voice mail. Wedding-savvy friends did their best to calm my frothings, but I knew – knew in the pit of my now silk-clad soul – that something was wrong.

The tipoff? Not receiving a call back after dangling a briefcase full of cash in front of their door. When the W ignores money, Satan has either stepped down from his reign of their corporate offices, or we were out of a wedding venue.

Up until that point, I’d done my best to suck back the vicious burblings of a bride scorned. I’m more of a terse e-mail kind of chick than a vengeful one – that is, until I feel the balance of decency has been unjustly compromised.

In fact, very few things set me off. I haven’t had a meltdown since last summer, when Three Dog Night completely bastardized one of their classics into a hokey rap song, complete with backwards baseball caps and cheap gold chains. My guy had to drag me out of the bitterly disappointing concert as I screamed, “Play some Brickyard Blues!” in a tearful, drunken fit.

And that was just music. Try to deny me the opportunity to be belle of my own ball, the one I’ve played out in my head since childhood, and let me just say that by the time I’m done with the W hotel, it will be renamed the J in my honor.

The good news is that in between psychotic screaming phone calls (where I have since forced the W to reveal that our wedding was indeed bumped for another), my guy and I have secured another astoundingly lovely venue in the heart of Chicago for the wedding. Much to my deranged surprise, there’s more than one ideal wedding location – suck it W.

It required a change of date (take a guess who’s going to pay for the new Save the Date cards), but the location and its wedding coordinator have already proven to be far more suited to our desires and needs. And, I have to say, it absolutely rocks.

Thus far, being a bride and planning our wedding hasn’t exactly been the dream I’d expected. Not that I truly crave the extravagance of white doves or gloved servers, and I’d certainly never want to diminish what the day is really about, mind you. But I do admit, this being the one time in my life when being a ridiculous, cooing girl doesn’t make me want to hurl, I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.

My fingers are crossed that dress shopping with my girlfriend this month goes well. Because, fair warning to the boutiques we’re visiting, if my dress somehow gets swapped for a neon pink Quinceanera gown, someone will lose their vital organs to an axe wound, and it won’t be me.

*Spoiler alert and disclaimer: I’m not normally one to “name names” in my essays, but the Lakeshore W Hotel has so thoroughly and completely annoyed me, I have no trouble throwing it under a bus, backing over it, then scraping the remains off the ground and force-feeding them to the vile little harpy who coordinates weddings there. Just sayin’.

Essayist, author, podcaster, and general misanthrope. Official blog of lightly fictionalized musings and general word vomit. Visit www.juliettemiranda.com for additional info.