Christmas

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On rain and lines and four-year-olds.

Published January 1, 2013 by mandileighbean

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For Christmas, I had the brilliant idea of taking Jimmy, my nephew and godson, to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.  When Jimmy opened up the box on Christmas morning with a printed ticket for Platform 9 3/4 inside, he was less than enthused and looking back, that moment should have been a great indicator for what the trip would be like.

The morning of the excursion was sunny but chilly.  Jimmy hadn’t been feeling well the day before so I was not sure if he would still want to make the trip, but when I woke him up, he bounded out of bed and got dressed quickly – all by himself, without any help from myself or his Mimi.  The night before, I had invited Sammy and she said she wasn’t sure.  That morning when I asked her she said no and that she was sick.  I asked her one final time before heading out the door and she said no, that she really didn’t feel good.  Just Jim and myself packed the car and headed out, in search of a gas station to fill ‘er up and some breakfast to fill up our tummies.  In the midst of the search, Sammy called and asked that I turn around and pick her up.  I agreed because we were not that far and it would be much easier tackling a four-year-old at a theme park with two adults instead of just one.

The thing about Vero Beach is that once a traveler gets himself turned around, it is nearly impossible to become righted, unless of course that traveler is a seasoned veteran of the highways and byways and lanes and courts and streets and drives.  I am not versed in the geography of the city, so I inevitably turned down 22nd Avenue instead of 22nd court, and made a right onto 4th Street instead of a left onto 4th Lane.  I had wanted to be at Universal Studios, a trek of one hour and forty-eight minutes from Vero Beach, around 9:30AM.  With the failed attempt of locating a gas station and the debacle that was returning to the house to pick up Sam, we didn’t get on the road until 9:00AM, and there was still the matter of finding gas and breakfast.

I used the GPS application on my phone to locate a Dunkin’ Donuts and the one found was conveniently – or so we thought – located beside a gas station.  However, when we pulled up to the pumps, we realized that most were out of order.  There was a gas station just across the street, so we decided to get breakfast at the Dunkin’ Donuts and fill up nearby.  Jim wanted to eat inside and seeing as how the day was really all about him, I acquiesced to his request.  In hindsight, what a mistake.  The employees of the eatery were incredibly rude and probably incredibly bitter that at this point in their lives, they were still only cashiers at a donut shop located within a convenient store off a local highway.  I ordered a large, iced mocha latte but the establishment was all out of large cups.  The cashier had already rung me up and was incredibly disgruntled and annoyed that I was indecent enough to order a large drink without first checking to make sure there were large cups.  Sam’s order took forever and was gross, as was her coffee.  Jim was all smiles though, so we managed to salvage some enjoyment before painlessly filling up next door and hitting the road.  Again, in hindsight, the mishaps should have served as a warning for what the day was going to be like.

We were parked and exiting the car from E.T. section 363 around 11:15AM.  We were hours behind schedule and paying the price for the delay as the park was bustling with people – it was remarkably crowded.  Jim’s excitement was contagious enough to curb my anxiety and we made our way towards the Islands of Adventure theme park.  There, we had to wait close to an hour to purchase tickets but that was not so bad; I felt better with tickets in hand.  We marched straight to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter … and were essentially denied.  That particular enclave of the theme park was packed to its maximum occupancy.  Attendants were handing out standby return tickets – tickets for patrons to return hours later and enjoy the park.  No one felt particularly like waiting, so we figured we would enjoy other parts of the park and just come back later.  We looked around for what rides were nearby and decided that Jimmy would get the biggest kick out of the Jurassic Park ride.  Fighting the crowd like salmon swimming upstream, we got to the beginning of the line to find it completely vacant and although that seemed promising, the ride was non-operational, and that was why no one was on line.

Fuck.

Shit.

Balls.

Sammy had the inspired idea of checking out the super heroes’ section of the park because Jimmy loves – I mean absolutely adores – Spiderman.  When we arrived at the start of that line, the appropriately decorated, electronic sign announced that it would be a 160 minute wait time for the ride.  Refusing to be deterred a third time, Sammy, Jimmy and I chose to wait on the massive line.  Jimmy was a perfect angel.  How any four-year-old could wait three hours with the patience of a saint is an enigma to me.  He feigned sleep on Sam’s shoulder and did some climbing, but man – he was amazing.  Sammy and I made small talk with the surrounding families and friends, disposable companions that are particular to lines.  Most were from Alabama, which was interesting due to our familial ties, all were friendly, and ALL were impressed with Jimmy’s patience.

Jimmy was amazed by the Spiderman attraction and after having some pizza for lunch, we decided to bite the bullet and wait on line for Harry Potter World.  We made more friends, tried Jimmy’s patience some more, but once we were inside, the look on Jimmy’s face was worth it, absolutely worth it.  I bought him a wand and candy and we looked through all the shops and stores.  Ollivander’s was far too crowded, but Jimmy was excited to look through the windows and loved how excited everyone else was.  We waited on another three hour line to get inside Hogwarts Castle but Jimmy’s pure enjoyment and exhilaration made the whole miserable experience of being caught in a downpour and waiting nine hours in lines not so bad.  It was the best Christmas gift I have ever given and have ever simultaneously received.

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On Andrew McCarthy and being un-pretty in any color.

Published December 26, 2012 by mandileighbean

The world was supposed to end on Friday, December 21st. However, I am proud to report that I am still here, along with the rest of the world. Actually, aside from the raging winds knocking the basketball hoop in the driveway onto my car (which cracked the windshield and prevented me from entering the vehicle on the driver side) and an increased police presence at work, Friday was awesome. The days leading up to this posting were also quite awesome; I spent Christmas in Virginia with my nephews and now I am in The Sunshine State – vacationing in Florida. Though I traveled close to eighteen hours from home, I could not escape the fears and insecurities which essentially plague me.
I am slightly terrified that I am more skilled at picking up and impressing women than I am with the opposite sex. It makes me feel like a loser and terribly lonely. Last night, I went to the more prestigious branch of the Ocean County library to listen to Andrew McCarthy speak about his book, and to have him sign it, and get a picture. I was really dressed up in a red, lace number, complete with black stockings and black high heels. I curled my hair and rouged my lips and made sure my eyes looked smoky in varying shades of lilac, lavender, violet and purple. I thought I looked seductive, mysterious or, at the very least, pretty. When I walked into the library, no one seemed too impressed though. I didn’t see any heads turning to watch me pass and no one struck up a conversation even though I was clearly flying solo and obviously unattached.
I slid into an uncomfortable, plastic chair at the end of an aisle that was near the center of the large, dimly lit room. It did give the place a certain ambiance and that set my mind reeling with romantic, optimistic possibilities. I turned to the woman beside me. She was older than I was, with red hair and small eyes. About her was a decidedly academic and impressive air. I asked her if she would mind if I put my bag on the seat between us and she politely replied that no, she wouldn’t mind and that it would certainly be all right. An awkward sort of silence descended, as if both of us were waiting for the conversation to continue but neither of us really wanted to bear the weight of that responsibility. Eventually, I bit the bullet and asked her if she read a lot and that question and the resulting threads of conversation carried us to the start of the program. I learned that she was also an aspiring writer, but spending hours alone in a locked room putting words onto paper did not really appeal to her; she freely admitted to being a herd animal and to being dependent upon human interaction. I commiserated and confessed that I was turning into a writer recluse myself, and supposed that could either explain or rationalize my chatty behavior of the evening.
The conversation was cut short as an older, chubby, and balding man came to the podium with his chest puffed out, as if he believed the small audience assembled before him were just as interested in him as they were in Mr. McCarthy. He cracked a few mildly funny jokes and then introduced the man of the hour. I watched him climb onto the stage with baited breath and slight trepidation not because I was starstruck, but because I was nervous. What if he was completely narcissistic? What if he spoke at length about Hollywood and acting and did not even mention writing or his process? Or worse, what if he attempted to discuss the craft of writing and it became painfully clear that he had no idea what the hell he was talking about?
Refreshingly, none of my fears came true. He did talk about himself, but that’s the nature of the beast, isn’t it? The book is a memoir and he is a celebrity- are they not more inclined to be something of an attention whore? After all, if one is a writer, an actor, a painter, a musician or any kind of artist, one is constantly demanding to be noticed because creations are parts of the artist himself, some pieces more personal than others. However, the key for any artist, in my humble opinion, is to strike a healthy balance, which McCarthy did. He spoke of how he came to be an actor, of how he came to be a writer, about his character flaws and insecurities, of his family both past and present, and of his tastes. He confessed to being a huge Springsteen fan and mentioned that the song “Badlands” is especially important to him and holds a special, significant meaning for him. Clearly, I only fell more and more in love with this romantic hero from my younger years.
He stated a couple of ideas which struck me and will stick with me for some time, I believe. He mentioned that he sucked at journaling and that he found his entires to be self-indulgent and repetitive; I couldn’t agree more. He talked about how traveling allayed his fears and as he traveled, he wrote to keep himself grounded; that inspired me to take my iPad along on the family trip to Florida this year. He also made up my mind- I will travel to Ireland, England and France. McCarthy was genuine, honest and authentic. He is who he is and did not apologize. He wanted to do things and he did them; he did not plan, he was just passionate and pursued those impassioned ideas, goals, aspirations. McCarthy also said that the aforementioned passion was what moviegoers and fans responded to, that there was something in his eyes that confirmed he was right where he was supposed to be doing what he was supposed to do. According to McCarthy, that something was pure, unbridled joy because he felt at home in the world and, perhaps more importantly, in his own skin. I truly enjoyed myself.
The lights came up and there was a question and answer session. Some zealous, older woman asked about three questions and talked as he talked, talked over him even. I raised my hand, but he did not call on me, so I did not raise my hand again. That was cowardice and I mentally berated myself in my seat. We rose to form a line in the short, wide hallway where a table was set up and piled high with copies of his book. While waiting, the woman I had spoken with earlier resumed conversation. She agreed to snap a picture of me with McCarthy, though declined having the favor return – she confessed that she never gets her picture taken with people because she finds the whole process uncomfortable. We spoke about writing again, as well as brief snippets of our personal lives. She is currently unemployed and has previously worked in a pharmacy. She’s been married for a year and lives in Manahawkin. When it comes to writing, she’s having trouble getting started and developing a plot. We agreed to exchange e-mail addresses as both of us would like to widen our writing circle.
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Then came the moment of truth; I met Andrew McCarthy. He took his book from me, said hello and asked how I was. He asked who the book was for, and I told him it was for me, and that my name was Mandi with an ‘i.’ Quickly, with a light laugh, I added, “Don’t judge me.” McCarthy put down the marker, stopped what he was doing, turned to me, looked at me, and laughed. I made him laugh. I entertained him. That has to count for something, right?
Having thusly roused a chuckle from a teen idol, I was feeling pretty damn good and special and unique and all that jazz when I drove down to Atlantic City to see my oldest friends. I love them all so, so, so much because no matter what happens, we can all get together and make each other smile. We smile about the good times and joke about the rough times and it is perfect. I was having a wonderful Friday night … until we went to the club.
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I know I have been gaining back the weight that I lost, and I know that my teeth need to be straightened and whitened, but I have never been as aware of my flaws as I was that night, watching prettier girls become the centers of attention in assigned, miniature melodramas. No one approached me. Well, that’s not entirely true; when Heidi was being wooed, the possible interest had his friend chat me up to keep me busy. I saw through this ruse and called the friend out on it. This seemed to impress him, believe it or not. He said he never had a girl call him out like that before and in turn, he called me out for feeling superior to the whole scene. He was right, but that did not repel him and we kept talking and I was actually having a nice time, but I kept pushing him away with both my words and body language. I figured that since we both knew he wasn’t romantically interested, the whole thing could be over and done with and I could then avoid feeling lonely, lame and like I was the biggest loser in the universe. My persistence in insisting made him feel bad, I think, because he went to the bathroom and never came back. I was expecting as much – had encouraged him to do as much – but it still stung. All my confidence from earlier fled and I wanted to leave. I wanted to go home and cry in my room and watch “Pretty in Pink” and forget the whole thing ever happened. It’s ironic, isn’t it, because here I am, memorializing the whole incident via the internet.
McCarthy talked a lot about insecurity and about how crucial it is to shed that fear. I think he’s right, but I also think to shed the fear and to become the master of insecurity, one needs certain tools. Emotionally and mentally, I feel that I am a catch – that I will care and love someone in unfathomable amounts and be loyal and true – but physically I know I leave a lot to be desired. McCarthy also talked a lot about paradoxes and I believe there is power in paradoxes and contradictions and that is what people gravitate to. Whitman said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large; I contain multitudes” (forgive me if that was not an entirely accurate quotation). I know that I am a walking contradiction and that I am positively filled with paradoxes, but that does not make for someone guys want to grind against for a night in a sweaty, smoky club. The true, swift kick in the ass is that I don’t even want to be THAT girl until I’m in the club, and I’m so clearly the only girl who doesn’t want to be that girl. I preach and pontificate about being true and genuine and cling proudly to my self-proclaimed title of “woman of substance,” but then I find myself near tears, desperate to suddenly assimilate.
I can’t be the only one, right?
This upcoming year, the year of 2013, I am going to fix the things I don’t like about myself so that I can become more attractive, appealing and well-rounded. It is not just about getting the attention of males – though it is certainly a factor and I admit that freely because The Boss says it don’t matter what nobody say, ain’t nobody like to be alone – it is about getting the exterior to match the interior. I want to be beautiful inside and out. That being said, I would also like another crack at McCarthy. I would love to meet him again, hand him a copy of my book, tell him how great I really think he is, and snap another photo in which both of us are beautiful.
Wish me luck.

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