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My Quasi-Celebrity Girlfriend, Part I
If I told you her name there would be a 0% chance you’d have heard of her. But if I showed you her picture, there would be a near 100% chance you would recognize her. Let’s call her the Land O’Lakes Girl. I met the Land O’Lakes Girl–a name I won’t shorten to the unfortunate LOL, though later you may Laugh Out Loud in pity at me–in the late fall. I had sat Shiva for exactly one month over my previous failed relationship and I got back into the swing of things with a vengeance.
People always say you meet girls when you least expect it. On line at the grocery store, sorting through the bargain books at Barnes and Noble, stuck in a rickety elevator. Yeah, maybe for some people. Maybe for rom-com movie characters. But not for me. I always know when I’m going to meet women. If I need groceries or bargain books or an elevator ride, that’s all I’m focused on. Not hitting on women. You ever seen the kind of clown that’s always “on” around women? It’s embarrassing. Embarrassing for everyone involved. She’s trying to peacefully do a crossword in the coffee shop and he’s all amped up, “So you from around here where you work where you go out are you married engaged dating single you like to drink????”
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with flirting with girls at atypical locations, in fact, that can be quite effective and advantageous. I just don’t like to utilize it most of the time. The bar scene has always been my playing field as it is most people’s. The place where I can focus my energy and put it to good use. Having said that, I’ve always been someone who likes to meet women alone. When I’m out drinking with my friends I’m out drinking with my friends. They are interesting, funny, and cool people so why would I want to desert them in order to go speak with a, in most cases, boring stranger? I don’t. It’s borderline rude even. Every one has a friend that will throw away a guys’ night out if he even sniffs vagina. No one likes that guy. I’d rather goof around with my friends, get drunk, watch some sports, and maybe something happens, maybe it doesn’t. So if I’m only in the mood to meet women, I fly solo.
I headed to a nearby neighborhood bar. A Utopian place for me to meet women: good beer list, convivial bartenders, perfectly dim lighting to make me look my most comely, correctly volumed music to allow for easy conversation, classy dames aplenty, and, most importantly, no television. Of course, I typically love bars that have televisions. I’m an information overload kinda guy and I always need to know what’s going on. But if you’re out alone trying to find women, a televisionless place is grand because it forces you to talk to people if you want to find entertainment that night. It’s walking a tightrope with no safety net.
I was on drink two or three, having a good conversation with the bartender about some of my latest rare beer scores between his derisive fetchings of Blue Moon for the other bar patrons. I’d just had Founders legendary Kentucky Breakfast Stout. A brew I’d been trying to get my grubby little paws on for years. Top 10 on BA’s much-debated list, I expected an orgasmic experience, and, as usual, my personal over-hype marred my experience somewhat. This was a great beer, no question, but it simply did not floor me as I had hoped. A kinda thin mouthfeel and not as bourbony as expected, or hoped. Tastes of roasted coffee, vanilla, and chocolate malt. Silky smooth with not even a tad of boozy bite. I liked it the more I had it, but I still would have to put Bourbon County Stout and Black Ops ahead of it in the bourbon-barreled beer game.
Soon enough a fellow drinking soloist had bellied up to the bar beside me. Blond, youthful, perhaps Scandinavian, dressed laid-back and funky, and reading a worn paper back copy of Steinbeck’s “East of Eden.” I don’t usually interrupt people in the act of reading–whether they are in the park, in a plane, on the can–but I couldn’t help myself. Here was a great-looking gal reading one of my all-time favorites.
I leaned in: “Thou mayest.”
I took the nerd approach, quoting the most famous line in the novel, one of the most famous lines and concepts in American literature. She would have to be a dope not to get my reference, while she would be my crush of the moment if she showed any sort of recognition.
She loved the reference. In fact, she had just read that iconic section, Chapter 24, Part 2. Steinbeck’s succinct and Midrashian explanation of man’s free will*.
She musta liked my exhibition of mine own free will because with a flourish her Garfield bookmark had been slotted into page 386 and her bar stool tilted 45 degrees toward mine. Quickly, the rapport between us was palpable. It was like we were best friends. No, like we were drinking buddies. And we were both sober. Or, at least, soberish.
We liked all the same art: “Fight Club” and Tom Wolfe, “Arrested Development” and “Twin Peaks,” Woody Allen, Billy Wilder, Bergman, Orson Welles, Hitchcock, and Kubrick. Larry David and Ricky Gervais and Chris Rock. “Lost” and “Mad Men.” Warren Zevon and Brian Wilson and Simon but not really Garfunkel though we had to admit he was still needed. Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, Quentin Tarantino, and Paul Thomas Anderson. Most specifically, the latter’s beautiful epic “Magnolia” which we both adored.
“I live on the corner, want to go back to my place, watch “Magnolia,” have a glass of wine?”
She said it all with the perfect level of casualness. A level I had once delivered back in my younger days when I thought the only way to get a girl back to your place was through means of subterfuge. Heck, maybe she did just want to watch “Magnolia.” I accepted her offer.
“Great. Let me go to the bathroom before we leave.”
When she was out of ear shot the bartender sprinted over to me. He seemed both impressed but still also like he was about to offer a warning.
“Do you know who you’re talking to?!”
“You really don’t recognize her?”
No. What’s the deal?
“Yeah, she looks a lot different in person.”
So who the fuck is it?
He smiled wide.
“The Land O’Lakes Girl.”
I searched my mind for past encounters with “her.” I could kinda picture the iconic yellow butter box with the bucolic landscape of a rolling green hill and the blue sea, a young Indian girl kneeling down on it, garbed in ceremonial clothes, presenting the world with her churned milk fat in a box that looked exactly like the box she was on. Like when you see a mirror within a mirror within a mirror. The “Droste effect” if I am to be pedantic. Odd.
“Think about…” the bartender goaded me on.
I was thinking about it. Her. And why did Land O’Lakes use a Native American pitchwoman? Were they famous for butter? Wasn’t that more of an Amish or Quaker thing?
I couldn’t fully reconcile what the bartender had told me, it seemed feasible but not exactly true. Wasn’t that character made up? Hadn’t it been around for a century? ”
“They update the ‘look’ every few years,” he noted. “She’s the newest model.”
He was so damn sure that I accepted it.
The Land O’Lakes Girl returned from the bathroom, grabbed my arm, and we headed out, the bartender offering a conspiratorial wink to me and only me as we exited. I didn’t like that wink. It was a wink that said to me, “Enjoy her. The rest of us already have.”
On the sidewalk outside, I just blurted it out.
“So the bartender told me you’re the Land O’Lakes Girl?”
She stopped and turned toward me, a grumpy exhale.
“Yeah, that’s true.”
“That’s pretty cool.”
“No it isn’t. It’s terrible.”
For the rest of the walk she explained that though she was the face of an iconic character she had only made marginal money from the use of her likeness, certainly no royalties, had achieved a worthless and empty “fame,” and, in fact, needed a normal day job. She felt that the Arden Hills, Minnesota-based agricultural collective had really ripped her off. Her visage in two out of three houses in America, yet never more than three figures in her bank account.
Back in her small studio, she searched her massive DVD collection for “Magnolia” while I looked around the twenty by ten shoe box. Once in a new apartment the first thing I always ogle are a person’s book shelves. It’s a quick and easy way to learn a lot about that person, to snoop on them. Zero books, books with pink covers, airport trade paperbacks, and you can tell you aren’t exactly dealing with a scholar. Luckily, the Land O’Lakes Girl had a potent collection of notable novels aside her Dewey Decimalized selection of books on a variety of academic topics. Hey, if we weren’t going to hook up, at the least I could “borrow” some of her tomes on my way out the door.
“I don’t feel like wine any more, wouldja go grab us some beers in the fridge?”
I did as asked, noting with glee upon opening the refrigerator that there was not even a miniscule pat of Land O’Lakes residing in the butter tray in the door. Nope, instead a spritzer of Smart Balance substitute butter spray sat on the top shelf. The Land O’Lakes girl was either watching her figure, had zero culinary tastes, or a deep-seated hatred for her impresariol company. She had a solid taste in beer though as I grabbed two Victory HopDevils and headed back to her sofa just as the New Line Cinema logo spun onto her television screen.
As the Ricky Jay narrated prologue began we sat most chastely on her cheap futon, a full arm’s length away. As Aimee Mann’s haunting cover of “One” exploded during the title sequence, the Land O’Lakes Girl had tucked her feet up under her and scooted near me. By the John C. Reilly cop character’s voice-overed opening scene we were snuggling. And, some fifteen minutes later, when Tom Cruise’s sleazy “Seduce and Destroy” pick-up artist Frank “T.J.” Mackey knee-slid into the fore-frame of P.T. Anderson’s camera we had begun making out.
“Respect the cock!,” shouted Frank “T.J.” Mackey.
She crawled on top of me.
“And tame the cunt! Tame it!”
She ripped my clothes off.
“Take it on headfirst with the skills that I will teach you at work and say no! You will not control me! No! You will not take my soul! No! You will not win this game!”
I returned the favor. Quid pro quo, yo.
“Because it’s a game, guys. You want to think it’s not, huh? You want to think it’s not? Go back to the schoolyard and you have that crush on big-titted Mary Jane. Respect the cock!”
In flagrante delicto.
“You are embedding this thought. I am the one who’s in charge. I am the one who says yes! No! Now! Here! Because it’s universal, man. It is evolutional. It is anthropological. It is biological. It is animal.
And soon frogs were raining down. It was incredible. Hilarious. A hook up set to a soundtrack of the maniacal rants of perhaps the most misogynistic character in film history. Later, we would laugh about the dichotomy. We did a lot of laughing together in the next week.
The only week we ever saw each other.
For the next week would bring me one of the most accelerated and bizarre relationships of my life.
*”Now, there are many millions who in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win…and I feel I am a man. And I feel that a man is a very important thing — maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent towards the gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed — because ‘Thou mayest.’”