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On Howard Dean, the European Paper Crisis, and how I came to care about politics
by Gina Marie in

I still remember when I fell head over heels for politics. It was my senior year of high school, on the day after the 2004 Iowa Caucus. As the bell rang to start class, our Giddy Civics Teacher exclaimed something like, “Last night, a top candidate lost his bid for the presidency in just 10 seconds.”

Then, he played Howard Dean’s wack-a-doodle, screamy “We’re going to [all the states plus more states], WHOOOOO!” proclamation. The class was in an uproar.

“Yes!” said Giddy Civics Teacher. “Your reaction right now is exactly why this man will NEVER BE PRESIDENT. This soundbite has been played over and over, and it makes him look off-kilter. And he’ll never recover from this.”

We respectfully requested that he play the clip eight more times before discussing the implications.


Quick backstory: It was pretty clear that this man was a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. We knew this not because he’d told us, but because he was incredibly passionate about conserving paper in his classroom. Once, he’d teared up when two girls asked him if he'd heard about “The European Paper Crisis,” a fake paper shortage they’d created to stress him out.

“I can’t believe you haven’t heard that they bulldozed the entire Black Forest,” my classmate said sweetly. “It’s such a huge issue, I assumed you’d be really upset about it.”

GCT was in panic mode at this point, and it was hard to watch. I remember wondering how someone so smart could be hoodwinked by these two who — like most 17-year old girls — knew more about bronzer than they did about German forestry.

I digress.

GCT was explaining how Dean was previously considered to be the savviest Democratic candidate, and was by far the party’s best fundraiser. He related Dean’s squealing to the Kennedy-Nixon debate, where Kennedy wore makeup and looked flawless, while Nixon appeared to sweat through the screen.

We spent the rest of the period talking about perception, and how it can be even more critical to a candidate’s success than the candidate’s stance on the issues. And I was hooked — not only at the absurdity of it all, but also by the confidence of GCT to pronounce Howard Dean dead in the water.

I wondered, How do you know the difference between a gaffe and a career-ender? How do you know when something is just that day’s big story, and when it will become an in-joke used for decades?

For example, Todd Akin had said all kinds of terrible things about women over the years but it wasn’t until he talked about “legitimate rape” that people took notice and emptied their coffers to support his opponent.
In the 2012 debates, I remember being delighted as Mitt Romney uttered the words, “I love wind jobs” when discussing alternative energy. But only minutes later, he trumped it with “binders full of women” and the rest is history.*

All of this is to say, we have so many absurd stories to choose from these days. And so while I had blind faith in GCT’s assessment of Howard Dean’s collapse, I’m not sure these falls are as easy to predict as in 2004.

What is clear is that the gaffes just keep coming. This morning, for example, I watched two 60-year men — current and former governors, no less — throw a dual tantrum over the use of a fan during a debate:


I haven’t been able to get that clip out of my head all day, but it doesn't seem like this bizarre series of events is really going to affect either of these yahoo candidates. I'm still not sure how GCT knew so clearly that Dean's shrieking was going to stick.

What I do know is that ten years later, I’m still making connections from one lesson plan. And while things like #FanGate are fun to talk about and obsess over, I'm interested in the complex issues of policy, too.

That was the gift GCT gave us — he first showed us something that was easy to access and dissect, then moved to the more difficult stuff throughout the course.

GCT, I don’t know where you are today. But I hope you’re out there playing a clip about #FanGate to a group of high schoolers. And even if they look apathetic, and even if a few of them are telling you that every California redwood was torched last night to make way for Google’s new headquarters, just know that one future wonk is in the back, listening to every word.

And because of you, she’s going to grow up to pester roommates, cousins, boyfriends and her parents to care about candidates and the big issues. Because of you, she’s going to be the weirdo who cries on election day as she considers the importance of her vote.

Thanks, GCT, for teaching me to be giddy about civics, too.

*Big ups to Kelli S. for prompting this post by telling me today is the two year anniversary of Binders Full of Women.
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Why we don't have a house
by Gina Marie in

Jeff and I are pretty typical Gen Y-ers, which is to say we sometimes put a skewed value on goods and services.

Ten dollars a month for an unlimited Spotify account? Preposterous! Two lattes in one week, totaling more than that unlimited music account? Totally worth it.

Once, after I bought a stupid amount of gourmet cheese, Jeff yelped at me, "THIS IS WHY WE DON'T HAVE A HOUSE!"

At the time, we'd been dating six months and lived in different cities. So the lack of homeownership back then was due more to geographical logistics and our new-ish relationship than my high-quality dairy addiction.

Still, it was obvious then, even 2,000 miles apart, that we'd need to pull it together if we ever wanted to be like our good friends, Kory and Jenna. Kor and Jen are not only the king and queen of thrift, they are also Bonafied Homeowners™.

When living with them prior to moving to California, I started to take note of their habits.

"Today, Jenna made two pounds of pesto from the slightly aged basil leaves in our fridge," I reported to Jeff in August of 2013. "She did not let the basil go bad and then throw it in the garbage.

"THIS IS WHY THEY HAVE A HOUSE."

Not long after, Jeff was traveling for work. He was hungry at the airport and hadn't eaten. I told him, helpfully, that he should have brought his own snacks to the airport so as to avoid the high-priced options at SFO. He informed me that his plan was to buy food directly from the flight attendant on his next leg.

The only thing more expensive than in-airport food, of course, is on-plane food served from a cart by a blonde-banged flight attendant who resembles your aunt Tami.

"THIS. THIS IS WHY WE DON'T HAVE A HOUSE!" I hollered at him, threateningly.

We promised to do better once we moved in together, and so far, we're batting .500. We haven't been eating out a ton, but we do patronize the Whole Foods at the end of our block quite frequently. And Whole Foods, my friends, is not for the faint of heart or the thin-walleted.

Last week I made guacamole for a taco dinner night. I admitted as we ate that I had bought the stupid avocados from stupid Whole Foods.

"I simply can't stand for a life where Taco Tuesday is free of guacamole!" I said defensively. "It's un-American!"

"I'm fine with not having a house," Jeff said, "if we can ALWAYS have guacamole."

So that's where we are right now. I am a 28-year old who works in real estate marketing, and I have written all kinds of articles about why Gen-Y won't enter the housing market. They're good articles, too. They have stats of unemployment rates, of how we toiled through unpaid internships and got pointless law degrees. All of that is true, statistically.

But for now, I just love guacamole too damn much.

And THAT IS WHY WE DON'T HAVE A HOUSE.

Mom and Dad, I swear to God we're actually saving a lot of money and being quite responsible, aside from the avocado addiction. We hope to buy a house in two or three years, or until my "Should I wear a wrap-dress today" weather app takes off. 


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Red curry
by Gina Marie in

One of my truest, purest loves is Thai-style red curry. I'm not sure if I have an authentic palate or not, but I do know that I have a lot of opinions about this particular sauce and how it should be served.

So far, I haven't found anything in the Bay Area that lives up to my (High? American? Terrible?) standards and I am becoming pretty distraught over it. I even threw away leftovers last week after ordering truly terrible takeout.

Back in Minnesota, my gal pals and I would routinely trek to Amazing Thailand for the greatest dish in all the land, Mei kah thi. It's pretty much red curry with egg served over noodles and it is delicious. Plus, it comes in an enormous portion that you can easily (even on your fattest of days) translate into three meals.

Yesterday, things got so dire here that I began googling my favorite dish alongside location qualifiers. Alas, there is not any mei kah thi, in any spelling arrangement that seems reasonable, in Berkeley, Oakland or the city of San Francisco.

Google, why have you forsaken me?

I remain undeterred. There will be red curry, and it shall be delicious. Fine people of the Internet, will you help me? LH, do you know any good places?

Thanks to all the readers who hate red curry and/or do not live in the Bay Area. For you, this was not a good post.
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Snakes on a Train
by Gina Marie in

I'm a newcomer to public transport, but I'm making slow strides with my new pal BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) and the characters I come across on the train.

Jeff and I live in a very nice neighborhood, but we have some seedy characters (complete with a drum circle) who hang out at our local BART stop during the day to um, drum and smoke weed. Their real skillset, though, is harassing single women who enter and exit the stop. I've become an expert at walking the long way around the stop to avoid them, and I also wear my headphones because I've learned the hard way that I do NOT want to hear the things they are saying about me as I walk by.

So. That's the biggest bummer.

Once you get on the train, though, there is so much drama for a chronic eavesdropper like me. Last week I live-tweeted the inspiration for my first screenplay, an as-yet-unnamed romantic comedy that takes place entirely on BART.

Really, we've all been there, Male BFF, so don't lose hope. Probably don't keep pining for this chick, because I think she knows that you love her and she likes giving you the run-around. But someday soon, I'll see you on the train with a new lady who adores you and we'll make eye contact and I will smile knowingly at you, and you will have NO idea who I am. But I'll be filled with joy on your behalf.

So to recap, sometimes there are fun things to watch on the train. On the other hand, sometimes you get on with luggage after a flight, and you see an entire three of four seats open in a quadrant, with a bunch of people standing. Your natural instinct is to think, "What luck! These fine people are so kind and generous to let the gal with the baggage take a seat!"

But really what's happening is that the gentleman sitting in the quadrant has a snake wrapped around his neck and no one wants to get within six feet of him.



The man whose hand is on the seat realized what was going on when he saw me take this picture. He freaked out and hissed at me, "I'm new to town. Is this normal?!"

I wish I knew, buddy.
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Uncertain
by Gina Marie in

I've been trying to come up with the perfect blog post to show you what a perfect life it is here in Berkeley, California. Because as you know, I now live in Berkeley, California.

Of course, no blog post can be perfect and no life can be perfect.

But life can be really good, and that's how it is right now.

Jeff and I settled in easily - so far, we've had no battles over the brand of toilet paper we'll use or the color of our throw pillows.

Last week, I got my hair chopped off and when I unveiled it, I asked, "Don't you think it makes me look older?"

He looked uncertain. Then he mumbled a lot.

"It's so great!" I interrupted, as I tend to do. "I was mistaken for a 16 year old last year. I think it'll be good for interviews!"

Suddenly, he looked relieved. "No, it definitely does make you look older. I just had no idea if that was a good thing or a bad thing."

That's a smart, cautious man, no?

Here's the new hair:





P.S. Thanks to Lee for strong-arming me into blogging again. You are one persuasive lady.

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Spiderwebs
by Gina Marie in , , ,

I can’t adequately describe the excitement I feel when I run into an old friend at the grocery store, the parent of a kid I coached at the coffeeshop. It took me years to understand  that not everyone has that reaction; it took me years to realize that community isn’t everyone else’s lifeblood. 

But it’s always been my lifeblood. 

The biggest achievements in my life – my friendships, my career path, coaching coups – are not blips that popped up on a radar out of nowhere. Each is an intricate, sticky spiderweb full of life-long relationships, almost-missed connections, out-of-the-blue text messages and friends-of-friends-of-friends-who-thought-of-me-who-thought-of-you. 

And so, when one of those almost-missed connections, a friend of a friend, became my boyfriend almost overnight, it made perfect sense to me. Though I was inclined to take it slow, both my heart and head immediately saw him for who he was - a potential partner. 

The problem was that he lived a plane ride away, and that’s where he had to stay. My life – my stable life, the community that had surrounded me for decades – would have to bottom out in order for him to fit in. The weight of the next questions nearly crushed me. 

How can I leave all this behind? 

And most importantly.

Who am I if I'm not here?

The answer, of course, is me. I'm not merely a pixelated composition of the people, places and experiences that have come so far. Those are all a part of me. 

But I'm also the brazen liberal biproduct of two apolitical parents, the dancer in the midst of athlete brothers, the girl who once forced a group of rugby players to talk about domestic violence in the back of a crowded Wisconsin college bar.

In two weeks, I leave behind Minnesota. And context. 

I'm scared of what comes next, of course, but I'm relieved that I get to bring myself with me when I go. 

Because, as it turns out, I have created my community, I was not created by it.
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Reinforcement
by Gina Marie in

My friends and I have been undergoing some major life changes this year, and we've been handling our new realities through the tactic of reinforcement. For example, in August, I moved from the bustling-ish city of Minneapolis to an outlying suburb, Prior Lake, with my friend Jenna and her new husband. For the last four months, we've been sending texts like this:

“I’ll be home at 7. Home being Prior Lake, where I live, with you and your husband, in Prior Lake. Because you’re married, and you live in a house, with your husband and me, in Prior Lake. Where you own a home. With your husband. And I currently live there.”

To clarify, I’m not a homeless troll who forced my way into the home of my newlywed friends. In fact, the move to Prior Lake (with my friend and her husband) has been part of a longer transition. Because in a month, I’ll be moving to Berkeley, California.

BERKELEY! 

CALIFORNIA!

As you can imagine, the reinforcement for this particular move has been a lot more intensive. Purging, packing and job searching is all top of mind, but my main coping mechanism has been to send reinforcement text messages to Jeff, my boyfriend and soon-to-be-roommate.

“Are you at home? In Berkeley? Where we live? In Berkeley? Because we have a home in Berkeley, California, where we will live together. In Berkeley. Where we will live. In. Berkeley.”

To his credit, he responds with minimal judgment and his own brand of repetition. In fact, I don’t think we’ll get over the novelty anytime soon.


Berkeley, California. I’m going to live there. In Berkeley, to be clear. Stay tuned. 
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