Monday, January 21, 2013

The New Year of Fear and and Loathing

Most people greet the New Year with a sense of optimism and vigor; they see it as a chance to start over, break bad habits, build new ones.

But when you are the mother of a junior in high school who turns into a senior in the fall, the year is completely predictable, and there is nothing pretty about it. As you may have read in my Washingtonian article it is the year when you must sign up for a job that pays nothing, that requires extensive travel and expense, and whose end goal is something you don't really want..

Here's how it goes:

January--Enroll client in SAT prep class
February--First possible tour date--President's weekend
March--Client takes the SAT
April--Dedicate your spring break to schlepping around college campuses
May--Possible supplementary tutoring to improve client's SAT test scores
June--Client takes the SAT again plus the damn subject tests
July and August--Sacrifice part of your summer to more college trips and/or send child on impressive community service trip to add to the "resume."
September--Meet with the counselor for the dreaded "It's Time" meeting,show up with a list of 9 colleges, three reach, three targets, three safeties
October--Start harassing client to write common app essay
November--Some of the first application deadlines appear now, hammer the client to write the supplements, get the transcript office to send; much paperwork and spreadsheet activity.  If smart, apply for at least one school early action or the even more heavenly early decision.
December--Finish apps, most are due now if not in January. Worry and fret until April 1st.

Every day of the year, expect to experience stress and anxiety, push back and procrastination from the client.

Happy New Year Everyone! I will keep you posted month by month to let you know if it gets any easier the second time around. Like childbirth however, I bet it's much the same.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

I think icon, I think icon, I think icon


Why is it now virtually impossible to get through a newspaper article or news broadcast without hearing the word iconic at least once, and often more than once?  When women were admitted to Augusta National Golf Club last summer a reporter gave us a double dose of iconic, referring to both the course and the green jackets as iconic. Who can forget that the Hostess Twinkie represented the death of an “iconic snack.”

I think of iconic as a word that describes things.  I have no objection to “the iconic Capitol Dome.” But in the same news report there was a reference to “the iconic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” Now even people are iconic. Naturally the first definition of iconic is “of, relating to or having the character of an icon.”  But the second definition says “Having a conventional formulaic style. Used of certain memorial statues and busts.” Were they referring to Hillary’s bust? The second definition in another dictionary also saysArt. (of statues, portraits, etc.) executed according to a convention or tradition.”

I find it ironic that now every person, place and thing is iconic. If everything is an icon, nothing is an icon. Yesterday I saw iconic modified in a story in the Washington Post:  “the climb up Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome is one of the national park’s most iconic hikes but fewer people are going to be able to scale the granite monolith.”  Can iconicer  and iconicest be far behind?

Iconic has become the “it word” of the millennium much like the “it girls” of the 1920’s.

To what do we attribute this surge in the adjective iconic?  Perhaps we can blame the geeks in Silicon Valley for the introduction of computer icons. All day long our eyes are barraged with the sight of icons. No wonder this is the first adjective that jumps into a writer’s head.

But please, it’s exhausted and exhausting. It almost makes me feel a certain fondness for “awesome” as the most abused adjective. Not really. The great Spaulding Gray once spat out on stage that he was going to wait to use the word awesome until something truly was awesome. Not a new pair of jeans, not a soccer goal. More like a solar eclipse or Venus transiting the sun for the only time in 150 years.

Research and evidence (to prove this rant is not without foundation).

Even the Old Gray Lady commits this offence at least once a day, by a recent search.

·         …”Ted Williams Now?” about the iconic baseball player

·         …in the region, from the now iconic scenes captured by Abbas of the Iranian revolution in the 1970s to Nermine Hammam's candy-colored ..

·         ..The castle-like structure at Bellmansgatan 6, which dominates the island of Sodermalm in Stockholm, is an iconic image of the Swedish capital.

·         ..She told Nice-Matin she was now ready to bequeath her iconic status to Russia.

·         The work of Eric Drooker, “the artist behind some of the most iconic images of the East Village's era as a squatter's haven”

·         Craig Wedderspoon presented a unique assignment to him: draft a model for a statue of one of college football's iconic active coaches

·         “but also the debased, money-driven culture, with its desire for ’an iconic look-alike by a tiresomely familiar name’ that had come in its wake”

In the past 30 days, the New York Times used the word iconic no fewer than 2,480 times.

The Washington Post managed to use the word iconic 34 times in the past seven days. Must have been a most iconic news week.

The NBC website features 38 “iconic videos.” Jay Leno appears to be a heavy user of the adjective, as his extensive car collection features many iconic models.

The venerable NPR website turns up “about 2,498” iconics.

Let’s suggest that we as a nation turn to the inspirational lyrics from “The Little Engine Who Could,” and revise them slightly to “I think I con, I think I con and I think I have a plan, and I con do most anything…even stop using the word icon.”


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

TV Ranch with no TV's

The Tanque Verde Ranch

My BFF and I decided to celebrate our birthdays by spending the weekend at the Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson last November, a fully self-sustaining environment where we would want for nothing.  The kind of place you can check in and not check out. To get to the ranch you have to take Speedway, voted the ugliest street in American by Life magazine in the 1960’s. It hasn’t changed much, only widened with age like many people. But if you drive to the very end of Speedway heading east, you find this beautiful guest ranch. It smacks right up to the Rincon Mountains; it has big desert skies featuring starry, starry nights with no light pollution, mountains within an arm’s reach, rich expanses of lawn, a spa and tennis courts, bridal parties and a corral full of bridled parties. More on that later.
The Entryway to our Casita
 Our casita was lovely and spacious but had a king bed in one room and a sleeper sofa in the other room, which was a hindrance to our sleep-over giggling parties. My friend called the first night to ask housekeeping to make up the sleeper sofa and they obliged. But on the second night when she asked for turn-down service she was turned down and told by the front desk that they were “a working ranch.” And the work, apparently, did not include accommodating such requests. Despite the obvious abbreviation of the TV Ranch, there were no TV’s in the rooms. I guess we were supposed to be enjoying nature unfettered by TV, but I have no trouble doing both. There is a TV outside of the main dining room and on Sunday morning we found it packed with men watching football.  It was a Redskins bye-week, as luck would have it, so I didn’t miss MY game.

The only thing that was slightly off was the weather, it was cooold for Tucson—in the 50’s and low 60’s instead of the expected 80’s. And our first scheduled activity, the Cowboy Cookout in the Cottonwood Grove was bone chilling.  We had to hover by the bonfires for warmth. After loading up our plates, we could only find seating at the table covered with S’more preparations. This was all right until little children started flailing around with sharp steel sticks.
The Bridaled Parties

“The horse is an animal weighing over a half ton and with a mind of its own. Its reactions are unpredictable. Even a small piece of paper or a sudden movement of your arms, hat, etc. may cause a horse to shy spontaneously and unpredictably”…from the TV Ranch Horseback Riding Rules.  Note that “unpredictable” is mentioned twice.

My friend and I are both afraid of horses but are interested in overcoming this. We felt that the 90 minute “Walking Ride,” would be just that, very easy and gentle and flat. There were a couple of early warning signs to the contrary.  The wrangler asked a man in our group how his wife was and we learned was that she was resting comfortably in her room on Percocet. We chose not to pursue the story until after the ride. But another red flag was raised during basic training when we were instructed how to control the horse when it goes up and down hills. We didn’t want hills; we wanted walking not climbing, no heights, thank you, and made that clear to the wrangler.  There were very rocky paths, narrow trails, and steep downhill challenges, and while the surroundings may have been beautiful, my primary focus was survival. My horse, whose name I forget, I guess you could say we never bonded, did nothing offensive or scary. But as the wrangler reported, I looked nervous and appeared to be gripping the saddle horn for dear life. I could not turn around to look at my friend because it would have taken the neck of the girl in the Exorcist to do so, so I ended up resorting to hand signals. When the wrangler said we had 20 minutes left and asked if we wanted to take another loop, I flung my arm out in the “cut” symbol, and my friend got it and spoke up and said no, no thank you, we have had enough, we are happy to forgo the rest of the ride.  And then it happened when we were returning to the corral—a rider in front of us got off of Goose, a huge Triple X-sized horse, who ran wild the minute he was free of a rider, whooshing past my friend in a terrifying fashion.  I guess we weren’t the only animals thrilled to be finished.

On land we were brave enough to ask what had happened to the other rider’s wife and learned that she had broken her arm yesterday at this very juncture when the horses were overcome with excitement. She had gotten bucked off.  I was confused by the wrangler’s rather casual inquiry about the injured woman, but later read this section of the horseback rules in all caps:  “ALL GUESTS RIDING AT TANQUE VERDE RANCH DO SO AT THEIR OWN RISK AND UNDER THE KNOWLEDTE (SIC) THAT AN ARIZONA EQUINE LIABILITY STATUTE APPLIES TO THEIR HORSEBACK RIDING ACTIVITIES WHILE AT TANQUE VERDE GUEST RANCH.”  Ah yes, what’s a broken arm when you’re covered by the “Arizona Equine Liability Statute?”

As Eleanor Roosevelt says:  “Do something every day that scares you.” Make that every few years for us.

Back to the feed bag (dining hall) for lunch and then the antidote to the ride—The "Off the Trail" 80 minute massage which was just perfect, and cancelled out all of the equestrian induced tension. We headed to the Doghouse Saloon for happy hour, equipped with an iPad so we could do a “dead or alive” check on some of the people we knew when we lived and worked together in Tucson.

Another fine dinner and sweet sleepover and it was time to bid adieu to the ranch reunion weekend.  At the airport I was comforted to see the soothing glow of several televisions, and was relieved to know my ride home would have wings instead of hooves.

Check in. You May not Want to Check out.