Saturday, December 21, 2019

Domerberry Movie Review: Cats

Well, friends, you knew it would happen.

Ever since that horrifying trailer hit the internet so many months ago, I have known that I would, at some point, be going to see the Cats movie. How could I possibly not? Movie musicals are my entire personality. I love abominations against mankind. Taylor Swift is in it! Yes, I knew I would go to see Cats, and a few days ago, it occurred to me that this would be the perfect opportunity to resurrect the Domerberry Movie Review.

I am pleased to inform you that I was very, very right.

Tonight, I took myself on a solo date to Logansport's one movie theater to see Cats. (Shoutout to the Price fam for witnessing this extremely normal night in the life of a mentally stable 27-year-old woman!) It was beyond my wildest dreams.

I'm going to return to that godforsaken trailer for a moment, because if you haven't watched it, I need you to go and do that now.

Did you do it? Excellent. Now, how many questions do you have?

The answer is likely "thousands." What size are these cats? Why do they have human hands? What poor animals are skinned to make the fur coats of fancy society cats?

I need you to know that none of these questions are answered in the film. I came into this movie with so, so many questions, and yet I emerged, somehow, with even more. I'll get to that in a minute, but for starters, I will make two small points of praise for this harrowing cinematic experience.

First, the dancing in it is great. Basically the entire cast except for the big-name leads are professional dancers, and a lot of that work was cool to watch. It reminded me that I should really go watch more professional dance. Second, Jason DeRulo, who played a cat that essentially was Jason DeRulo (right down to singing its own name repeatedly), was a delight. I have no notes for you, Jason DeRulo. Be in more musicals.

Unfortunately, my friends, that is where the delight ends!

I should begin with a quick overview of the premise of this film. Cats is a show about a group of cats who get together for a large party at which a wizened elderly cat will choose one of them to die. That's it! The chosen cat gets "reborn" into a "new life" in a magical land in the sky called the Heaviside Layer, and only one cat gets to go there each year, so naturally, all of the cats are clamoring for it. This raises some very interesting questions about what happens to every other cat in the Cats universe when they die, but whatever. What you need to know is that they throw a ball to figure out who gets to go to cat heaven, and they compete for that death-prize by singing songs about themselves. That is all that happens. Since the only plot element, therefore, is who gets chosen to go to the Heaviside Layer, I will leave that out and talk freely about everything else, since the "plot" is unspoilable save for that one thing.

Another thing you should know is that a lot of very famous people are in this movie. I don't know how. I don't know why. But Idris Elba, James Corden, Jennifer Hudson, Rebel Wilson, and Ian McKellen and Judi Dench (!!) all make an appearance in this thing, and it's all just too much to bear.

With all of that in mind, let's dive in to a few of the most distressing parts of the film.

Rebel Wilson, for instance. You may have noticed from the trailer that some of the cats in Cats wear human clothes and others waltz around naked. That's weird enough. But Rebel Wilson's character starts out looking like a regular, non-clothes-wearing, furry cat, and midway through her big number, she zips off her skin to reveal a second, rhinestone-studded skin WITH HUMAN CLOTHES WORN ON TOP OF IT! I cannot overstate how much I would not advise seeing this movie if you are prone to nightmares.

Making matters worse, Rebel's song is backed up with a giant chorus of singing cockroaches, each of whom also has a human face. Did I mention she's the first cat to sing her intro song? Because hoo boy does that set things off on the right foot for the rest of this monstrosity.

The next thing I suppose I should bring up is that these are ~sexy cats~. The internet has been talking about this ad nauseam. I will leave it to you whether you want to open that particular can of worms, but it bears at least mentioning that these cats are making eyes at each other for the duration of the film and it makes me uncomfortable. "What is this rated?" I thought to myself as the lead cat, dropped at the start from a previously high-society family life, immediately and vehemently attempts to seduce every slightly-sketchy street cat she sees. "Is this supposed to be a family film?" It's weird throughout the movie, but it's especially weird when Idris Elba (the criminal cat) finally sings his song. Idris's cat spends the entire movie slinking around the background looking mysterious in a large fur coat and hat, but when it comes time for his musical debut, he strips those and performs in the cat-nude.

Thanks, I hate it!

It's also worth noting that, even if the cats weren't depraved and even if the cat-human-hybrid animation was well done (it isn't), there's something a bit scary on its face about that many cats wandering around.

Remember that time when I went on a fox hunt in Ireland and ended up literally surrounded by a sea of identical hounds? Every group scene in Cats was like that, but worse — because while those dogs' owners were around and they therefore could not hurt me, I'm not at all sure that those cats won't hurt me (psychologically) for years to come.

Next, I feel I must turn to poor Jennifer Hudson. J.Hud sings "Memory" in this movie — that one Cats song that you've heard of, and possibly sung in voice lessons. She did a lovely job. What a voice! Classic Jen.


You know how Anne Hathaway won an Oscar for taking that one song that teenage theater girls like from Les Mis and turning it into three minutes of rip-your-guts-out emotion-fest? J.Hud tried to do that with "Memory" too. But Les Mis is an emotional show. Cats is a 101-minute trip on the sparkly catnip drugs that Taylor Swift doses the other cats with near the end of the show. (YEP.) A random gut-wrenching belted high note in the middle of Cats will not an Oscar make. Someone give Jennifer Hudson another role, please. Any other.

There are many, many more things I could bring up about this movie, but I'll stick to the three remaining items that have stuck most firmly in my psyche.

First, a brief thought: The fact that Taylor Swift landed a role in what may be the biggest dance movie ever made is proof that 2019 is the year of the scam.

Caroline Calloway is shaking.

Second: This movie ends with the Judi Dench elderly cat staring straight into the audiences' souls and explaining to them how to speak to cats. Phoebe Waller-Bridge did not cancel the fourth wall for this!! If there's anything worse than the cats staring at each other suggestively, it's the cats staring at me in any capacity at all. Tom Hooper must be stopped.

Anyway, dear readers, there is one thing that has left me reeling from this film more than any other. I think humans, in the Cats universe, do not exist. The thing is set in London, yet businesses around the city are renamed with cat references. "The Grand Feral Hotel." "Milk Bar" — and not the Christina Tosi kind. There's evidence that humans existed at some point. Their trash is everywhere. But I get the distinct feeling that something sinister has happened to them. The buildings are all decaying. One entire scene takes place in a mansion that appears to have been abandoned Roanoke-style, table still set for dinner and drawers left half-open. They reference Queen Victoria constantly, yet the setting seems to be the 1920s.

Something terrible has happened to the human race in the world of this movie. Watch your housecats, people. It's coming for us next.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Domerberry Album Review: Lover

When I left my apartment for work this morning, I discovered a charming surprise outside my neighbor's door. Sometime in the 12 hours since I'd last walked past, a vase full of pretty pastel flowers had been delivered.

On a normal day, I might be jealous of such a sweet little gesture — but not today. Because I also had a pastel-colored, lovey-dovey surprise delivered overnight last night, along with everyone else on earth: the seventh studio album of one Ms. Taylor Swift.

Friends, this album is good. Because of my years-old contract with Satan stating that my blog must come out of hiatus every time Taylor releases new music, I would be writing this post even if Lover were bad. But fortunately for us all, it isn't. Lover is a g*sh d*rn delight.

Back when 1989 came out, I feared that the all-pop Taylor lacked the songwriting oomph of her country days — and Reputation hardly assuaged my concerns. Did I spend the better part of $200 last year on tickets and costumes for the Rep tour's Chicago show? Yes. Did I still feel like the whole era was some Babysitter's Club version of a goth fever dream? Also yes. I could tell from the first single that this TS7 era would have the friendly, vintage-Taylor aesthetic I'd been missing, but the jury was out on the music. Seven years after Red, would this finally be the Taylor album I could sit back and enjoy?

The answer is yes — and not a minute too soon.

The recession people have been talking about? That's cancelled. The patriarchy? Done. The old Taylor came to the phone today, and when she answered, she said "GAY RIGHTS." Like Marianne Williamson at the presidential debates, girlfriend, this album has a message, and that message is love.

In the midst of our long national nightmare, Taylor Swift has decided that happiness is back.

I Forgot That You Existed. I love this song. I cannot listen to it enough times. Some people are calling it a roast, and, like, sure. Calvin who? I get it. But it's also just relatable. It's a great feeling to finally move on from someone who used to ruin your life! This song made me grin, and, as we know, I am not a grinner. The theme of this number may be indifference, but I am not indifferent to this jam. It is fantastic.

Lover. Listen, when this was released as a single, I was pretty neutral on it. It grew on me more once the video came out, and now that I hear it in context, it's grown even more. It's a love song! It's a cute little old-Taylor love song, and I for one accept this return to form with open arms.

That said, the meme of that girl trying kombucha for the first time is now all of us who must bounce between Thank U, Next-era Ariana Grande (set your boyfriend on fire!) and Lover-era T. Swift (tattoo his name on your face!). It's a confusing time.

The Man. Has she mentioned she's a Democrat now?

Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince. As someone who dated exactly zero people as an actual teen, this song (a bop) is a great way to pretend I understand adolescent love. It also, given the title similarity to Half-Blood Prince, has intoxicating potential for Harry Potter crossover case you're wondering why no one in high school wanted to date me.

Paper Rings. This is another great song. A jam and a half! We love an upbeat pop moment that also includes casual references to waking up in the night to watch someone breathe. In seriousness, this is one of my favorites on the album, though you've been warned — if you invite me to your wedding in the next three to six months, I will make you swear on Gender Trouble that this song didn't peer-pressure you into matrimony.

London Boy. I said it in 2017 and I'm saying it again: WE GET IT, TAYLOR. BRITISH GUYS ARE HOT.

Soon You'll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks). I know people have been loving this one, but I'm not gonna lie...I was hoping the Dixie Chicks collab would be a little Dixie Chicks-er. Call me in a few weeks when y'all have recorded a remix of "Goodbye, Earl."

False God. This song exists already, it is called "Take Me to Church," and I refuse to listen to any imitations. Moving on!

You Need to Calm Down. This feels like a good time to mention that, for me, Taylor's newfound activism is pretty satisfactory. It's not perfect — this video in particular felt a bit convenient to release mid-Pride — but I think it's a net positive that one of the biggest pop stars in the world has decided to use her platform for a cause or two. And if you disagree, well, Ms. Taylor has a song title for you!

ME! (feat. Brendon Urie). You guys. A Panic! at the Disco collab that also includes an interlude about spelling is about as on-brand as you can get for Sarah Cahalan. I know that most people didn't really like this song, but those people are incorrect. Also incorrect is the album's decision to omit the line, "Hey kids! Spelling is fun!"

Daylight. :')

My only complaint with this album is the last 45 or so seconds. The voice memo she ends this thing with is painfully cheesy, and, being who I am as a person, I fundamentally disagree with her premise. The things I hate are absolutely what I want to be defined by. In fact, that's kind of my whole schtick.

But, right now, being defined by love is Taylor's. And I don't hate that at all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

9 Reasons Why Justin Bieber Should Marry Me Instead

Hello, everyone. As usual, it's been a number of months since you last saw me here on the blog, but the magnitude of the news this week has compelled me to return.

What news story is she referring to?, you may wonder.

The Supreme Court pick? No. My only comment on that is that I wish it had been one of the Notre Dame grads on the shortlist so I could have finagled a work trip where I got to breathe the same air as RBG.

Those Thai kids in a cave? Also no. Elon Musk was involved, and when I hear the words "Elon Musk," I stop listening.

No, friends, the news I'm referring to is the biggest news of all: Justin Bieber's engagement. Suspending whatever good judgment he had left, the Biebs proposed this weekend to his girlfriend of roughly three minutes, Hailey Baldwin. Hailey is apparently a model, but mostly, she is a Baldwin. I wish them all the best and everything, but let's be honest — if Justin Bieber was going to get engaged, it shouldn't have been to Kendall Jenner's Friend. It shouldn't have been to Selena Gomez, either. It should have been to me. I have a longstanding relationship with the Biebster, and I firmly believe he should have chosen me over Generic Blonde Person. Here are my reasons why.

My beloved roommate on our first day together: May 5, 2012.
1. Justin and I have lived together for more than six years. Can Hailey say that? No she cannot. Talk to me when Justin's constant presence in the corner of your apartment has scared all of your family and friends, Alec's Niece.

2. I live in a relatively small town. Justin apparently likes hanging out in those, shopping at Target, eating fro-yo, dodging the paps. We could do all of those things in South Bend. It's fate.

3. My sole connection to Selena is that time I saw her from across the stadium at a Notre Dame game, when she mostly was an obstacle blocking my sight line to Taylor Swift. Not saying Hailz is necessarily more connected to Selena, but like, statistically, he's a whole lot less likely to run into her or her friends when hanging out with me.

4. I, too, have heard of Jesus. The only thing Justin is a Belieber in these days is Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I spent several weeks in elementary school teaching my classmates how to say the Lord's Prayer in Ubbi Dubbi. We are meant to be. Hailey is apparently also a baby Christian of some sort (having recently begun attending Justin's nightclub church, Hillsong), but I've heard that same phrase used to describe Donald Trump, so clearly it doesn't mean much.

5. My hair is distressingly similar to Post Malone's. Posty is Justin's best friend; Justin clearly likes frizzy-haired brunettes; I am one of those. Next.

6. I really, really want Canadian citizenship, oh please God, Justin Trudeau, let me in away from this dumpster-fire-on-the-deck-of-the-Titanic of a country. I haven't figured out yet how this benefits the Biebs, but it is one of the leading ways in which the Biebs benefits me.

7. I'm a journalist! This may sound like an anti-reason, but what I mean is that I have a strong enough hold on journalistic ethics that I would never leak/sell our personal matters to tabloids. That said, I make no promises for the ethics of the dozen friends and random acquaintances I tell all of my secrets to.

8. You need someone older and wiser, telling you what to dooo-oo. This poor mess of a child clearly needs some gender-swapped "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" guidance in his life from a somewhat responsible older woman, and, as a 26-year-old who occasionally recycles, I can provide that. I will tolerate none of his DUI nonsense. And, unlike the supposedly helpful older party in the Sound of Music song, I actually hate the Nazis.

9. I have no particular desire to get married. Want to come to your senses and bail before the wedding day, Justin? Look no further than lil' old marriage-skeptical me. Truly a match made in Scooter Braun's dreams.

Watch out, Less Totalitarian Ivanka Lookalike. You just got Despacitowned.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Domerberry Year Review: 25

A couple of years ago, Queen Adele I of Tottenham released an album called 25, ostensibly chronicling her 25th year of life. Adele and I, despite both being delightful plus-sized ladies with golden voices and dazzling senses of humor, have little in common. At 25, she had a baby; I had one four-inch-wide succulent, which I store in a small pot with googly eyes. She had sold 40 million albums; I had sold a ten-pack of thank you cards via my on-again off-again craft business once or twice.

But I recently finished my 25th year, and just as I reviewed Adele's 25, I figure I had better review my own.

March: I celebrated my birthday last year with a whirlwind trip to Dublin, which sounds hard to top because it is. But I also began my first day as a 25-year-old violently ill from a late-night batch of garlic cheese chips, so, like, it wasn't that auspicious a start to the year.

April: Fresh off the heels of having all of my wisdom teeth removed, I survived an April Fool's Day blizzard - foot of snow and all - all by my lonesome, and I bought my first bodysuit. I may not be wise anymore, but I am fashionable. A fair trade.

May: My sister graduated from college. She had a better GPA than I had in college, but I had a better seat at her graduation, so it evens out. Later that month, I had a Memorial Day reunion with an old friend, which involved good Indian food and even better Primark shopping. May was good.

June: June was even better. I received the coolest pair of jeans I've ever owned, hand-painted by my very talented artist cousin, and began wearing them everywhere so as to ceaselessly fish for compliments. I went to New York and got to watch my parents' choir perform at Carnegie Hall, see the best lady-created show in Broadway history (Waitress, duh), take my first SoulCycle class, and eat at Momofuku Nishi. And at the end of June, as you all know, I discovered my secret passion: ATVing.

Eat my dust, or something

July: In the first 96 hours of July, I watched two friends get married, attended what was easily the best wedding reception in Morris Inn history, went to the Backer, and spent three full days solo-dining and street-art-peeping my way around Quebec City. At the end of July, BFF in tow, I climbed a mountain and paid my first and only visit to the best nightclub on earth, Whiskeys 20. I miss you, Whiskeys 20. I miss you so.

August: I watched my Irish wife marry the love of her life and took my Irish choir director to the Indiana State Fair. I glamped. I piloted an ATV and a stand-up paddleboard, and no one died either time. Successful month.

September: Listen guys, in September last year I went on a solo date to the Lady Gaga Joanne tour and then spent a week in Iceland. I could try and describe those two things, but whatever I'd say would not do them justice, so I'll just leave you with this never-before-seen selfie of me in a Gaga muscle tee. I'm sorry and you're welcome.

Behold, the headshot I will use if I ever need to apply to a lesbian biker gang

October: Moved across the country, by car, by myself. (Everyone who has ever met me should appreciate what a miracle it is that this went semi-successfully.) At the tail end of said move, arrived in South Bend just in time for USC weekend. Backered again. Another excellent month.

November: WENT TO PUERTO RICO! Yes, that's right, it's another shameless plug! You should donate! You should vacation there (and take me with you)! While you're at it, you should read my story!

Oh, and also in November, I won $250 on pull-tab lottery cards on Thanksgiving Eve at a Logansport bar, and I will never forget the look of rage and disbelief on my jock ex-classmates' faces as long as I live.

December: I'm sure other things happened in December, but look, I spent New Years Eve at a ping-pong nightclub, so I'm kind of on a one-track mind when it comes to this month. Here I am in a bathtub full of ping-pong balls. Normal night!

2k18, everyone.

January: It never got warmer than roughly three degrees in January, so, like, let's just pretend this month never happened.

February: A few short weeks ago, I spent a long weekend in Denver and, going against type, didn't hate one second of it. There was wedding dress shopping with a group where no one is engaged. There was fancy Italian food. There was curling. It was heavenly. February also involved several dozen home-baked cookies, three rounds of speech meet judging, two hours of Roxane Gay lecture right here in the town where I live now, and one Galentine's Day party, all of which made it a wonderful lead-in to...

March. Spent a lot of time with a lot of cool people. Booked my first trip to South America. Smiled a lot. Turned 26.

Friends, it's been a good year. Here's to another one.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Domerberry Album Review: Reputation

Well, folks, the time that at least three of you have probably been waiting for has arrived: I'm finally writing my review of Taylor Swift's new album. This is a thing that happens on my blog. Mine is not to question why. Tradition says I must review TayTay. My iTunes account says I'm still that sucker who'll fork over $13 every time she releases a new album. So here we are.

To start with the elephant in the room, yes, I know. This album is not that good. And yes, I also know that Taylor is problematic these days and needs to be better at renouncing white supremacists and not to say yadda yadda to a serious issue but yadda yadda. I get it. We should hold our public figures accountable for using their platforms for good, and we should hold Taylor Swift accountable for better songs than "...Ready for It?."

But pop music is fun, and the burning trash heap that is 2017 is terrible, so I don't know, LET ME HAVE THIS!

On the whole, this album is better than I feared it would be after hearing the first two singles. The trend from 1989 has continued in that, the more she embraces her pop-only label, the more we seem to lose the lovable earnestness that made Taylor the star that she is. Lyrically, she's again not at her best here—"I can't say anything to your face, cuz look at your face"? Really?—but there are moments when the complete absurdity of the lyrics feel like a wink to the audience. I know these lyrics are silly, she seems to be saying, because remember? I'm silly too. The old Taylor seems not dead but hiding, and if you dig deep enough behind the autotune, you'll find her.

Before we begin the important-tracks breakdown, I will say one more thing: Homegirl, I am not referring to your album as a lowercase noun. Stop trying to make angsty stylistic quirks happen. They're not going to happen.

And now, to quote from a much better different pop album that's come out recently, heeeere we go!

"End Game" - I'm not gonna lie to you. After an initial, molecular-level hate of this song brought on by the phrase "biiiiig reputation, biiiig reputation, ohhhh you and me would be a biig conversation, ahhhhh," I ended up kind of liking this song. Is it brainwashing? Is it actually good? Who's to say?

"I Did Something Bad" - Taylor swears now, guys. She has done something bad indeed. And she's done something great by creating this song. The double-punch instrumental sounds before each "good" in this chorus have given me a newfound interest in kickboxing. Have I frightened nearby passengers by quietly dancing to this song on planes recently? Maybe. Call that my something bad.

"Look What You Made Me Do" - "I'm Too Sexy," but then make it Halloween. Moving on.

"King of My Heart" and "Call It What You Want" - There is a lot of British slang on this album, and my first response to it was to think, "We get it, Taylor, you've dated some British guys. You sound weird saying 'fit.'" But then I remembered that I went on two dates with a British guy once and basically decided I was married to Harry Potter and was moving to a wee cottage down the country where my mates could come round for a spot of tea whenever they fancied, and you know what Taylor, yeah, I get it.

"Dancing With Our Hands Tied" - This catchy? And...lyrically sound? All at once? What I did to deserve this gift I may never know. I will overlook the similarity of this title to Legally Blonde's "and we dance without moving our arms."

"Dress" - I have no opinion on this song, but I read a theory online that it's about Ed Sheeran, and I want that concept—of Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, secret, steamy lovers—to ruin your life like it has ruined mine. I am sorry.

"This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things" - I will never be able to say or hear this phrase again without thinking of this song. I have decided that is not a bad thing.

"New Year's Day" - The old Taylor can come to the phone right now. Thank you, old Taylor. Never change.

So, my little snake-emoji nation, those are my thoughts. And while you're here...

You should donate to Puerto Rico hurricane relief! I was lucky enough to spend the week before Thanksgiving with the wonderful students and staff of the Universidad del Sagrado Corazon—article coming soon, stay tuned y'all—and was shocked to see conditions like these in the United States and wowed by the volunteers who have stepped up to help where the federal government has been slow to. The Hispanic Federation is one good place to direct your donations and read up on policy, and if you'd like to learn about and donate directly to the awesome people I worked with, you can do so here.

Enjoy your Taylor Swift! Donate to PR! Your reputation will get a big boost with me if you do.

...Get it?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sarah, Queen of ATVs

If you spoke to me at all during the month of June, you know that I did not anticipate making it to July. No, I wasn't suicidal or dying of smallpox; I just had an activity on the schedule at the end of the month that I was confident would spell my death.

For two days at the end of last month, I was headed to the northern tip of New Hampshire to go ATVing.

I hate most things in this world, but if I had to pick the two things I hate the very most, they would probably be the outdoors and driving. And what is an ATV, really, but a vehicle designed for the express purpose of driving recklessly through the outdoors?

I was invited on this excursion as research for a story about the local ATV industry, a story for which I freely volunteered, so I ultimately had no one to blame but myself—but voluntary death, I thought, was still death.

After texting my goodbyes to my family and friends and reminding my coworkers they may never see me again, my photographer and I set off for the far northern town of Pittsburg, New Hampshire. At nearly 300 square miles, Pittsburg (despite its population of around 900 people) is by far the largest town in New England, because Pittsburg encompasses all the territory in New Hampshire past a certain northern point where the state founding fathers apparently said, "Eh screw it, everything from here up is one giant town."

There is no cell service in Pittsburg. There is not much of anything in Pittsburg, aside from a lot of trees, several lakes, one steakhouse, and a small army of ATVs—and, for two days in late June, ten or so journalists and bloggers with a death wish.

We opened our trip with a group dinner at the aforementioned one steakhouse, where the ATV professionals in charge of the excursion dropped a lot of, "Well, you can drive a car, can't you?," and I dropped a lot of, "Can I?"

The line, "if you can drive a car, you can drive an ATV," is central to the effort to convince first-time ATVers that the sport is easy and won't kill them. But it fails to account for people who, like me, find driving terrifying and horrible. When confronted with someone who is not put at ease by the assurance that ATVs are just like cars, ATV people basically just laugh nervously and change the subject.

Needless to say, when it came time for our half-day ride, my confidence level was through the roof.

I put on my safety gear, I signed the waiver, I dutifully watched the safety video, and then I hopped in with the guy who works for the ATV manufacturer with a plan to get behind the wheel for a maximum of five minutes.

We set off, and, strapped safely in the passenger seat with one of the few drivers on our trip who actually knew how ATVs work, I was met with a surprise.

This actually wasn't terrible.

There was a pleasant breeze. The views were bananas. And I was exploring the great outdoors without exerting a single ounce of effort!

One of the other writers in the group switched places with our driver, and I decided that ATVs are actually legit. The rental company owner had mentioned at dinner the night before that they're great for grandparents and other people who'd like to climb mountains but can't or won't, and I suddenly understood what she meant. I also understood why people look down on ATVing—"get off your dune buggy and take an actual hike, lazy!"—but, to those people, I would suggest trying laziness sometime, because laziness is fantastic.

High on my no-exercise-required adventure in the outdoors, I agreed to give driving a try. I insisted on the manufacturer rep riding shotgun to shout advice at me or grab the reins in the event that I blacked out out of terror, but still, I thought, I'd try.

And, to my shock, things were once again...pretty fun!

I drove for a half-hour or so, marveling at the fact that 35 mph could feel like 335 and finding it a little odd that we hadn't stopped to switch drivers yet, but I pressed on. Everyone was alive. All was well.

Eventually, we came to a clearing, and the lead driver stopped, got out, and came to the drivers of the next three cars in line to give them some sort of instruction.

She skipped me.

The manufacturer rep shrugged this off, positing that, since he was with me, the lead driver must have figured I wouldn't need her advice. She must have been giving them tips for the next leg of the drive, he suggested. "There's just a bit of an incline coming up."

Like when my tour guide in Hawaii told me the 760-foot volcano we'd be climbing that day was an "easy little walk," I should have known not to believe the person who'd done this before.

The "bit of an incline" the rep warned me of turned out to be a mountain. Was it Mount Everest? No. But was it a friendly little hill? OH OF COURSE NOT.

We cross a highway, line up at the start of a trail, and when I look out in front of me, what I see is a path made up entirely of miniature boulders leading pretty much straight up the side of a small mountain. I laugh one of those "nothing here is funny" laughs and tell the rep and our other passenger that I hope they are both ready to meet Jesus today. We are all wearing full-head helmets and goggles, which is good, because were we able to see the terror on one another's faces, I think we all would have jumped off the ATV and run the 40 miles back to the rental office. I shift the thing into low gear, the rep flips on the four-wheel drive switch, and we head up.

Friends, we made it.

I can't really tell you any details about my voyage up this mountain and back down it, because frankly I think I've blocked it from my mind. I can tell you that our reward for getting down the mountain was a mile and a half or so of mud pits that I only got us stuck in once. I can tell you I didn't murder the driver in front of us, despite the fact that she kept stopping to take videos while I was left dangling off the side of a mountain and therefore clearly deserved to be murdered. I can tell you I don't think that ATV rep has ever been so happy to get off an ATV in his life as he was when we eventually reached the end of our trail.

But I drove an ATV up a mountain, down a mountain, and through a whole bunch of quicksand-y mud pits, and no one died!

I am never going to be a person who hikes without being forced. I'm certainly never going to be some kind of mountain biker. But if you ever need someone to accompany you on a half-formed-Jeep ride through a forest somewhere, I'm your girl. I'll bring the goggles and riding jersey they sent me home with and a framed copy of the email where the rep said lied that he was "impressed" with my driving. You bring the rosary beads.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Romantic Things My Boyfriend Would Do For Me For Valentine's Day If He Existed

Ah, Valentine's Day. That day of the year when, as a meme my mother mailed me puts it, we celebrate the feast day of a saint who was beaten, beheaded and disinterred by his followers by buying each other sweets. My plans for Valentine's Day this year are to spend it as I do every year: with plenty of chocolate (why abandon my normal Tuesday schedule?) and plenty of not having a boyfriend.

But what if I did have a boyfriend? Candlelit dinner dates are nice and all, but I have a few better ideas for what my significant other would do for me for V-Day if, you know, he were real. 

So take notes, dream boyfriend Michael Cera and any other guys harboring secret desires to date me. These are the gestures you have seven days to plan. 

1. Help me come up with a fake engagement story so I can trick the salespeople at BHLDN into thinking I have a legitimate reason for a bridal gown appointment. Not because I want to get married. Just because I want to put their pretty dresses on my body and it seems like I could convince them more successfully to let me do this if I could tell them how my beau and I got engaged and show them lots of nice selfies of the two of us. I would get around the engagement ring hurdle by pretending I don't believe in them, which I don't, unless they're this.

2. Buy me a print by the girl who played Lavender Brown in Harry Potter who's now a cartoonist. Because I'm obsessed with her. He would know I'm obsessed with her without me telling him because my hypothetical boyfriend is a psychic. But also, if you can't predict that I would be obsessed with a Harry Potter actress turned hipster cartoonist, do you know me at all?

3. Buy me lots of chocolate things, but not because it's Valentine's Day, just because I like chocolate. Have I mentioned chocolate enough in this post? It's possible I'm on an extremely dangerous sugar high from the box of candy that accompanied that meme from my mother. Could someone go ahead and call a doctor just in case?

4. Help me pounce on the 10 AM drop time for Lady Gaga tickets on Monday to make sure that, come hell or high water, I will be at that concert.

4B. Sign a contract binding him to drive me to the aforementioned Lady Gaga concert even if we have broken up by that point, because it is in Boston, I am not driving in Boston, and if you have loved me at any point in your life, you are obligated in perpetuity to help me avoid driving.

5. Not just agree to but, in fact, freely suggest a V-Day movie marathon of charming British rom-coms starring young Hugh Grant and/or of Baz Luhrmann's entire oeuvre.

6. Drink my homemade wine smoothies with me without complaint.

7. Reorganize my sweater drawer for me. Note: If anyone who is not hypothetical would like to come and do this for me, please, be my guest.

8. Memorize and perform a medley of my favorite works from female YouTube slam poets, because this would be hilarious.

9. Alternatively, write a book report on Rebecca Traister's All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of the Independent Nation. Though I may just make this the essay portion of the "So You Want to Date Sarah Cahalan — Good Luck With That" application packet. TBD.

10. Get me a book deal for the side-splitting collection of essays that our relationship will inevitably inspire. (In addition to being a psychic, my hypothetical boyfriend is incredibly well-connected in the literary world.)

11. Present me with a series of exquisitely wrapped gift boxes. They don't have to have any gifts in them. I just want him to prove himself by way of gift wrap.

12. Take me to the Chinese restaurant down by the Home Depot to finally prove or disprove the rumor I've heard that Yee Dynasty has the hottest karaoke nights in the Granite State.

13. Acquire a time-turner so the two of us can travel back through history and engage in some kind of wacky shenanigan that cements Barry and Uncle Joe in the White House for the rest of time.

14. Promise me that, if he ever does propose, it will go down exactly like this.

Happy disinterred martyr's day, everyone! <3