Sit ‘n Spin.

“Spin” is a pleasant word.  When I think of the world “spin,” I think happy things:

The sweet innocence of childhood.

Katy Perry and her boobs taking an adorable basketed bike ride.

Some guy spinning records in a Seattle garage circa 1998.
That dudechickthing from Dead or Alive who spins you right ’round, baby. Right ’round.

That dumb chick from
Rumpelstilskin who spins straw into gold in exchange for a baby.

But now that I’ve been to a “spin” class, only one image comes to mind when I hear the word “spin“:

Spin class reminds me a little of jousting; jousting if there weren’t any horses or lances, and the knights just sat on stationary bikes and pedaled until they were both dead.  My spin instructor, Pedro, seemed especially content on making sure I died today.  I made the mistake of choosing a spot in the back of the classroom so that I could be confused in peace–people came in and had all sorts of rituals, adjusting levers and knobs and draping towels with geometric precision, one guy even had leather gloves a la Ryan Gosling in Drive, and he velcroed them on with Driver-like purpose and composure.  Apparently, sitting in the back put a big red sign on my forehead, and to Pedro, that sign said “PUNISH ME.”

My whole life, there have been only two kinds of men who naturally gravitate towards me: gay men and Hispanic men.  Gay men like me because I practically am one of them.  I’ve never figured out why the Latinos me gusta me.  My first boyfriend ever was from Puerto Rico, and even in middle school, he was vastly more attractive and intelligent than me. We were in the same English class, and he used to whisper the grammar exercise answers to me so that I wouldn’t cry when the teacher called on me to answer out loud. But still, I broke up with him constantly, always via a note that looked a lot like this:

My mother was convinced he was after a green card.  I am convinced that I was either born with some mysterious, spicy, taco-shaped extra chromosome undetectable to anyone but a Latin man, or that they mistake me for a ghost and are intrigued by what it would be like to have sex with a specter–mainly because Dan Aykroyd did it in Ghostbusters.

So when I saw that the Spin class was being taught by a guy named Pedro, I was like, “Score, he’ll wink and give me sexy eyes and kiss my sweaty hand after class.” Nope.  I turned out to be the only one sitting in the back row of a class of about ten people (in a classroom meant for forty). If you’ve never been on a Spin bike, let me tell you, it’s a lot like sitting on a telephone pole just slightly wider than your anus.  It also has a “Torture Knob” that increases the resistance of the pedals, making it feel like you’re trying to move an immovable bike through a brick wall while trying to keep a telephone pole out of your anus.  And you cannot slow down, or Pedro will see.

First Pedro started by making pointed eye contact with me and making a “SPEED IT UP, CHUBS” rotating circle sign with his hands.  Then, when he caught me turning down the resistance on the Torture Knob, he shouted “UH UH, PONYTAIL! YOU KEEP IT UP! I SEE THAT!” After our first minute-and-a-half-stand-and-pedal interval, Pedro announced, “That was unacceptable.  It wasn’t ‘terrible,’ I don’t blame people for ‘terrible,’ but if I see that kind of slacking again, we’re starting over,’ and then he pointed at me.  Luckily, everyone was so focused on not dying that they didn’t turn around to spit at me.  Plus, I don’t think anyone had any bodily fluids left.

Pedro continued to glare at me throughout class, and at one point told me, “YOU CAN FAIL IN HERE, THIS IS A SAFE ENVIRONMENT!” and if I had had any breath to speak, I would have shrieked, “I HAVE NEVER LONGED FOR DEATH LIKE THIS.”   But I just wheezed and gave him a thumbs up, so he continued to give me the rotating circle hands, making me want to chain him to a treadmill and crank it up, then watch until he begged for my chubby mercy.  Unfortunately, Pedro probably has what I estimate to be .5% body fat, and could comfortably sprint on a treadmill until he died of old age.

To add insult to injury, Pedro was also flamingly gay. I had no excuse. After class, he should have wanted to go straight to the nearest Claire’s to buy BFFL necklaces.  Instead, as I left, Pedro caught my eye and said, “Next time, I want to see you sitting in the front row pushing yourself.  You’re never going to win the race unless you push yourself.”  And I was like, “Really?  I’m not going to win a race on a bike stapled to the floor, AGAINST OTHER BIKES STAPLED TO THE SAME FLOOR?”  I didn’t actually say that. I just smiled and gave him the thumbs up, then limped off to chop down all the telephone poles in New York City.

These days, my middle school ex-boyfriend looks a lot like Javier Bardem. So, he won.

I’m patriotic for two weeks every four years.





I feel like I am, in general, a typically cynical person when it comes to Amurrica.  When I studied abroad, I lied constantly and said I was English, partly because it’s my dream to be British, and partly out of fear I would get blown up if anyone knew I was American.  I dressed in decidedly neutral colors and talked about how much I love Team America: World Police, and kept my love for country music under wraps.  I’m not, you might say, well-educated on the subject of just why I’m supposed to disdain America so much, but I do it because people who are much smarter than me do it, and they have numbers and pie charts to back up their contempt.  Sadly, this is the only pie chart I’ve ever actually understood:

Regardless, I once wrote a paper in college called The Demise of the American Dream, and wrote a lot of things like, “We could be good again.  We could be great again,” and “The Great Gatsby does a stellar job of illustrating the inherent flaws in the American Dream,” and “I have no clue, literally no goddamn clue what I’m talking about.”  My teacher was not very Paul Revered of it.

But for 2 weeks every four years, my family becomes the most patriotic bunch of hillbillies you could possibly imagine.  Because of yes, oh yes, the Summer Olympics.  In 1996, when I was but the age of 7, my mom let me stay up late every night to watch the Women’s Gymnastics team (I was taking gymnastics lessons at the time, but it became clear very early on that my strongest event was jumping on the trampoline we used for warm-up).  When I saw Kerri Strug land that vault on her injured foot and win gold for the USA team, I sobbed with joy. I sobbed harder than I did years later when I suffered my first real loss in life, as I watched Buffy Summers vault herself off a bridge and into a Hellmouth portal in season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to save her despicable sister Dawn.  Those were embittered tears of a grief.  True, heartfelt, “Harriet the Spy should burn in Hell” grieftears.  And as lame as it sounds, whenever I’m feeling my cockeye brim with those same grieftears of young adult strife (unemployment, relationship troubles, watching Muffincat’s fear during a thunderstorm), I watch this:

I’m pretty sure that I even saw a tear glistening in my New England born-and-bred father’s eye when Kerri stuck that landing.  Actually, that’s a lie, nothing makes my dad cry. I did hear a rumor once that he almost teared up at the end of October Sky, but I never heard that rumor twice.

Kerri’s moment was my moment.  In that moment, I became some semblance of a young woman, a young American woman. I remember that even then, at the tender age of 7, that communal feeling of pride in my country.  It made me want to do a whole mess of things I hadn’t even considered before.  Suddenly, I wanted to make out with Toby Keith in the back of a pickup truck while simultaneously chugging a Budweiser and voting.  I wanted to walk into my 1st grade class the next day draped in nothing but the American flag.  I wanted to buy a shotgun and start making monthly donations to the NRA.  I wanted to knock my two front teeth out, build a log cabin, then burn it down.  I wanted a tramp stamp of George Washington.

I have become increasingly zealous with each Summer Olympics since then.  This year, despite my deep Anglophilia, I will shed the tolerant veil of my liberal arts education, put war paint on my face, sit on my sofa, and curse every other country to a crushing defeat by the U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!  I will not google Kate Middleton once, or drink tea, or make any Monty Python references, or even think about Cousin Matthew Crawley of Downton Abbey. I will not have one Sir Winston Churchill sex dream, out of sheer will.  I will insist my place of work refrain from playing The Beatles.  I will–and this is truly difficult–not watch Love Actually for two whole weeks.  I will, in essence, lose the entire point of the Olympics (international tolerance and community blah blah blah) to my rampant, unfounded patriotism.

I want to see Michael Phelps dominate, I want to see him win every race and then slap his opponents in the face with a fish screaming, “THIS IS MY BRETHREN, U-S-A! U-S-A!”  I want to see all those fantastic prepubescent little gymnasts flip and flop and do the anatomically impossible while wearing their colorful Saran Wrap suits.  I fully plan on oogling the beach volleyball dream team Misty-May Treanor and Kerri Walsh as they dominate for a third Olympics, and then blasting Born in the USA and jumping around naked.

Then, at 12AM on August 12th, I will return to being the average disenchanted American.  I’ll let myself go see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and write an apology letter to the Queen for my insubordination.  I’ll go back to being ambivalently skeptical about Occupy Wallstreet when asked at parties–“I see their point, but there’s no organization, so what will it accomplish?”–and lying about having requested my absentee ballot.

But in the meantime:

I wrote a love note to Kristen Wiig, and she hugged me.

Most of “pursuing your dreams” involves working low-paying service and temp jobs, then trudging home and weeping into your almost-expired cereal.  Fresh out of college, there’s a grace period, a Chekhovian kind of “work is fulfilling, and so I shall do it always and do it with joy!” cloud upon which you briefly float.  That grace/cloud period lasts about three weeks. Ultraman just got a job as a barista, and he’s currently going through that whole “happiness” thing.  It will end soon, but in the mean time, I enjoy stopping in to visit him:

Ultraman: Welcome, welcome, welcome, darlin’! How can I help you?
Grumplekee: You can’t. My problems are vast. Can I have hot chocolates?
Ultraman: A hot chocolate?
Grumplekee: I think we both heard the plural. Let’s not pretend.

But I’ve come to discover something, a loophole, in the awful-post-grad-job circuit.  Somehow, through some twist of karma or fate or John Cusack-fueled serendipity, you run into celebrities.  At one job I was temping, Paul Rudd showed up.  A fabulous fellow temp told Paul Rudd how huge a fan I am, and halfway through the day I hear, “HEEEEY KEELY!” and turn around to get hugged by a devastatingly handsome, ridiculously friendly, plaid-clad Paul Rudd.  I sputtered some nonsense about being a fan and thinking he was grand, then tried to make a joke about having rhymed, and ended it all by running around and trying to find a window to jump out of.

Another time, the same  group of temps all stared at RuPaul from afar, each of us silently knowing that RuPaul was clearly only ever meant to be painted, and never spoken to.

My biggest celebrity experience was meeting Tina Fey–and I waited 12 hours at a book signing for that, it was no lovely coincidence.  But when I got up to the table, Bossypants clutched to my bosom, I literally blacked out.  It is something I seriously regret, because Tina Fey is a legit hero of mine.  I vaguely remember saying “I LOVE YOU” too loudly, rambling about Second City, and then ending it all by running around and trying to find a window to jump out of.

Celeb sightings at temp jobs are one thing; big, expensive events need cheap, desperate workers with shiny hair and decent teeth.  My job as a waitress has been different.  I haven’t seen one celebrity–I always somehow miss them.  People talk about serving Quentin Tarantino burgers, and seeing Susan Sarandon walk by flashing the peace sign, and Diane Lane and Josh Brolin stopping by for beers and then tipping $100.

But oh how the tables turned today.  And they turned with glorious, glorious ferocity and beauty and magic and ahhhhh yes! Today I came into work, horribly sunburned from the one hour I spent sitting in the half-shade yesterday, and my manager took one look at me and told me to go home and rest.  I lingered around for a bit to talk to the servers who were on–we’re basically all 20-something creative types, so there’s always a lot of “I got the iambic pentameter all screwed up and I want to die,” and, “they told me I’m just not ethnic enough!” and “they told me I’m just too ethnic!” etc.  Then, out of nowhere, the hostess comes up to the bar and says, “Kristen Wiig is here.”

It was like Christmas morning, but awful.  But wonderful.  But absolutely horrible.  Because I knew instantly that this was my chance to redeem myself after Feygate.  I had to convey to Kristen Wiig that she is my goddamn hero, and that she must put the lotion in the basket, without coming off as a creepy fanboy.  I had mucked it up with one hero, Gilda Radner is dead, and Carol Burnett is probably a hologram.  Everyone else was like, “Oh wow, cool, let’s go look at Kristen Wiig!” and I was like, “SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP I NEED TO THINK, YOU ANIMALS!”

So I sat down at an empty table with my serving pad, and anyone who asked me what I was doing was told to fuck right off.  It was business time; dream weaving time.  I went through seven drafts, and came up with the following:

It obviously doesn’t speak much for me as a writer that this was the result of seven drafts, but my signature had to be perfect.  I asked Laura, the waitress who had taken Kristen Wiig’s table, to slip it in with the check when she brought it.  And then I waited.  I sat at the bar like a hunted animal, watching Laura and not even pretending to listen to what anyone was saying.  I begged Laura not to forget to slip it into the check every time she walked by–she promised she wouldn’t forget, as long as it would be made very clear that she, Laura, had not written Kristen Wiig the love note.  I understood.  And then Laura dropped the check, and the most amazing thing happened.

Kristen Wiig asked where I was, and if she could meet me.  To ensure I didn’t black out again, I slapped myself in the face.  Hard.  Like I had seen in Western movies when a family member has just died but there’s no time for an emotional breakdown because villains are afoot.  Then I walked over to her table.

And guess what. Kristen Wiig might be the coolest goddamn person on the planet.  She hugged me, and thanked me, and said I had made her day and that she was going to hang onto my note because it meant a lot to her.  She introduced me to the guy friend she was with–noooo idea what his name was–and joked that when she came back I needed to write her a longer note, with some of my hair attached.  I suggested I also attach toenails, and that we meld into one person, non-sexually. Wow, I blew it again, right? NOPE, she was cool enough to not be terrified by that joke and run away, BUT actually laughed.  Then she left a $20 tip.

Kristen Wiig really might be the goddamn coolest person on the planet.

And now I feel redeemed.  Miraculously, the encounter did not end with me running around in search of a window to jump out of.  I did walk away shaking, and when she said she was going to keep the note, I teared up, but I didn’t screech “I LOVE YOU!” or ask for her trendy headband as a keepsake (even though I really wanted to).  I felt good, and normal, and grounded, and full of worth.

But then she left and I lost my shit and had a photo shoot with the diet coke glass she was drinking out of.






Now I have a daydream that Kristen Wiig and Tina Fey take high tea together, and my name is mentioned, and Tina Fey goes, “Oh my, that rather unbalanced girl who yelled at me in gobbledygook?” and Kristen Wiig goes, “No, no! That sweet, eloquent girl who so admires our work! I have a very well written note from her framed in gold over the vanity in my boudoir.”
And then they both smile warmly and take delicate bites of their crumpets, then talk about dear Lorne and all his goings on.