Friday, January 25, 2002 posted by Jen at 1/25/2002 05:38:00 PM
There are things I just love about living in Philadelphia (my neighborhood, for one). There are things about Philadelphia that I can't stand, things that leave me confused and frightened (the Mummers. Especially this New Year's Day, which I celebrated with the sight of a grown man in a skirt and face-paint peeing on the sidewalk about 100 yards from my front door).
Then there are the things I love, even though I knew that by all logic they should frighten and confuse me. Like Wing Bowl, our city's annual orgy of sexism, deep-fried foods and wretched excess.
There is no Wing Bowl where you live. There certainly wasn't a Wing Bowl where I grew up. And if there were once other Wing Bowls dotting this great nation, I can only guess that they've been driven underground by the combined forces of political correctness and the fat-gram police.
What, you ask, is Wing Bowl? It's a yearly contest, sponsored by WIP, Philadelphia's big, dumb, loud sports-radio talk station ("Yo, Ange, first-time, long-time. I got two comments and a question, and I'm gonna hang up and let youse discuss.") that gives me a full-body cringe every time I inadvertantly come across it on my A.M. dial and have to suffer through a few inadvertant seconds of some angry white guy second-guessing the Eagles' offense.
But Wing Bowl....ah, Wing Bowl. Once a year, WIP gathers its iron men of culinary achievement (we're defining achievement by consumption, not creation, here). These are men with nom de feedbag like Gaseous Maximus, Lord of the Wings and Ali Blobba. They qualified for Wing Bowl with stunts like eating an entire sheep's head in half an hour. Yes, you read that right.
And at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. on a cold Friday morning in January, they gather in Philadelphia's First Union Center, where they're escorted into the arena by lightly-clad lady Wingettes. They take their places on a stage and, as the JumboTron rolls and the clocks tick down and the judges keep careful watch, they eat. And eat and eat and eat. The winner's the guy who downs the most wings in the allotted thirty minutes, and he gets the crown and...something. It may be a trip to Hawaii. That, of course, is not the point. (Sometimes, I'm convinced that the point is waiting for someone to heave. I was there last year, and some guy barfed all over the table in the middle of the second five-minute period. The JumboTron showed it over and over -- even, once, backward. It was quite something. You really haven't lived until you've seen a guy vomit seventy-some wings live on stage).
So who'd turn out that early in the morning to watch grown men make vomitous pigs of themselves? Thousands of people. The event airs live on the same website that hosts the Inquirer and the Daily News, and is covered on all the TV stations. In case you're curious, this year's winner was three-time champ El Wingador, who downed 143 wings in 30 minutes to take the crown at Wing Bowl X. Only in Philadelphia, kids. Only in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, I finally caught an episode of this season's Temptation Island last night. I was a big fan of Season One, and then for some reason, didn't start watching this season, and boy, am I sorry now. They're all cheating! Cheaters, every one! And once again, I can't tell them apart, except for the blond girl and the really dopy-looking guy with two pierced ears who enjoyed the company of one of the Temptresses in a tent on the beach and then said something to the effect of "There's not a man in America who wouldn't want to be me." Um, yeah. Except for the "being you" part.
My favorite part was when host Mark Wahlberg, all serious-looking, told the guys he was going to show them footage of their ladies at a moment "when they didn't know they were being filmed." "Please let them be on the toilet, please let them be on the toilet," I chanted. But noooo. Instead, we got three of the four ladies engaged in various acts of illicit nook-nook with the Fox-provided Man Hos. My question -- they really didn't know the nookie-cam was there? You're on a show called "Temptation Island," where they point is to get couples to engage in ratings-boosting booty, and you really don't believe they'd have a camera on over the bed? Please. Wouldn't it be funnier if the characters broke the fourth wall and acknowledged the camera with a big, cheesy thumbs-up and possibly a "Hi, Mom?" (Also, I just looked up the couples' bios on the website, in a doublessly futile attempt to be able to tell them apart next week, and by my count three of the ten of them are bartenders, or bartender-slash-something else, and one of them's a waiter. Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to work in restaurants!)
Finally, for everyone who's asked, yes, I am still working on a book here (in between cogitating about wing-eating and nookie-for-ratings). IN HER SHOES is almost done, and is scheduled to hit stories in May 2003. Chapters will be posted on the website soon. Patience, my pets!
Oh, and last thing, I swear -- I wrote something for tomorrow's Philadelphia Inquirer. Link to come!
Tuesday, January 22, 2002 posted by Jen at 1/22/2002 12:17:00 PM
Boy, do I miss Larry King.
I'm not talking about CNN Larry, who will be lobbing softballs at his guests from now until eternity, at seven million or fourteen million a year, depending on whether you believe him or independent reports.
I'm talking about USA Today Larry who, every Monday, would treat readers to the most motley assortment of random thoughts, musings, opinions and general suck-uppery ever published in a national newspaper. Larry made me laugh -- mostly because my friends and I used to play a game where we'd insert fake King quotes between the infamous dot-dot-dots and challenge each other to find the faux King. ("That Pia Zadora sure can act....for my money, there's no better author of thrillers than Tom Clancy....how 'bout those Mariners?")
I remember writing a column about the mini-scandal that erupted when King was caught plagiarizing one of those chain letters making its way through cyberspace. I was crushed. As far as I could see, this man had the easiest job in journalism, a job that required no research more difficult than picking up the phone and calling a pal or, more commonly, rummaging through his memory or his social life for a little nugget of opinion or critique. If Larry King has to resort to plagiarism, then heaven help the rest of us. (His defense, by the way, was priceless. He said he couldn't have copied the email because he doesn't know how to use email. I'm sure his corporate masters were just delighted to hear that.)
And then USA Today cancelled his much-mocked, frequently parodied column. He's gone, and oh, Lord, I miss him. Reading Larry was, for me, and for many disaffected Gen-Xers, a window into the future. What's life going to be like when you wander into the living room and can't remember why you went there, and everyone's staring at you, and you can't think of anything to say except, "For my money, the tastiest part of the chicken is the wing?" Larry was there to show me the way.
So how can I safely face a world sans Larry? I think I've found the answer. If Larry can't be here for me, then I'll just have to be Larry. In a manner of speaking. So, without further ado, a very sincere homage to the talented and much-missed Mr. King.
For my money, the best part of a cappuccino is the foam....Can you name a worse movie starring two Oscar-winners than the current Snow Dogs, with my friends Cuba Gooding Jr. and James Coburn? No? How about Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, with Angelina Jolie and Jon Voight?.....My dog Wendell doesn't like it when it snows. As best I can figure, he doesn't like the snow, but the salt that people sprinkle on their sidewalks gets into his paw-pads, and causes him discomfort....What is going on with Star Jones' hair?....don't you think most names would be cooler if they had an umlaut....windshield fluid is suprisingly affordable....That Russell Crowe is a fine figure of a man....I was sorry to hear about KMart....has anyone seen my Band-Aids?
Sheesh. This is harder than it looks! But the worst-movie-with-two-Oscar-winners is an interesting game. I can't think of a worse contender than Tomb Raider, which they were showing on the plane on the Chicago-to-Maui leg of our honeymoon voyage, and oh boy, it was bad. But if you think about some of the people who've own Oscars and gone on to make less-than-sanguine choices -- your CubaGoodingJrs, your WhoopiGoldbergs, your Robin Williamses -- and I'm sure there are some even worse movies out there. Also, I've got high hopes for best-supporting-Oscar-winner Anna Paquin. She hasn't made anything terribly drecky yet, but she's young. Give her time. And Janeane Garofalo's agent.
Meanwhile, in actual news, the dates for my spring book tour are coming together. As of now, it looks like I will be at the Borders on Walnut Street right here in Philadelphia on April 3, at New Words Books in Boston at 3 p.m. on April 7, at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cleveland at 7 p.m. on April 8, at a Waldenbooks in Dallas on April 10, at Book People in Austin at 7 p.m. on April 12, at Vroman's in Los Angeles for a writers' workshop at 2 p.m. on April 13, then at Dutton's on April 15 at 7 p.m., over to Phoenix and the Changing Hands bookstore at 7 p.m. on April 17, at Borders in Houston at 7:30 p.m. on April 18, and at the Barnes & Noble in Bethesda on April 20. We think. All of this is subject to change, but if you want to see me and you live in any of those places, them's your chances.