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MADRID, SPAIN

When I lived in Segovia, Spain in 1993 on a study abroad program, I saw my first bullfight.

I was 20 and full of post-teen angst and mid-college confusion, sympathetic to all underdogs in the world, including bulls.

I remember being nauseated by the spectacle: a bull charges into the ring and after 20 minutes is dragged out, punctured, bloodied and lifeless.

Fat Spanish men gnaw on wet cigars and yell vulgarities or praises, depending on the bull and bullfighter.

The bulls rarely stand a chance of surviving a bullfight.

SACRAMENTO, CA-

Awhile back my boyfriend told me a story over dinner that pretty much put me off my food. I then proceeded to tell just about everyone I know about said story and then just as quickly forgot about it. That is until it came up again tonight.

And now I just can’t resist sharing it with you good folks.

But first, a disclaimer: This story was told to me by my boyfriend, who heard it from his coworker. Therefore I cannot guarantee its veracity, nor my accuracy in its telling. It could be an urban legend for all I know. But, really, who makes this stuff up?

Now for the story:

My boyfriend’s coworker and his roommate were sitting around one day when the roommate’s girlfriend came over looking incredibly distraught.

The two men of course asked her what was eating at her. And she told them her best friend had just been hospitalized.

Naturally, they wanted to know why she’d been hospitalized.

She told them it had been for a possibly fatal case of Toxic Shock Syndrome.

You may not have read my post about it, so I’m just going to tell you here that I’m completely paranoid about TSS, which means even by this point in the story I was totally terrified.

“Did she forget to take out a tampon?!” I asked my boyfriend.

“Oh no, it gets worse,” he replied.

The two men ask the woman what caused the TSS.

She hesitates for a minute, maybe bites her lip. She reminds them that her friend, let’s call her Betty, is a little bit overweight.

And, well, apparently she’s a little more overweight than her best friend would like to admit because good ole’ Betty got pregnant and didn’t even realize it more than six months into the pregnancy.

Nor did Betty realize that when her period finally came again, it was actually her having a miscarriage.

Which is why she was shocked when the doctors asked her how long she’d been pregnant. And even more shocked when they told her the baby had died more than two months prior to this emergency room visit. And probably horrified when they told her that her Toxic Shock had been caused by the rotten fetus still inside her.

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, a rotten fetus. This is what my boyfriend brought up at the dinner table.

And the moral to this story is: If you’re a sexually active obese woman who has irregular periods, keep some home pregnancy tests on hand.

What’s the most unconventional way you’ve met a romantic partner? See how this compares.

2 a.m., local public channel:

SUBTEXT – THE DATING SHOW

The hostess, a clear-skinned brunette of +/- 24, whose wardrobe is ostensibly provided by the Urban Outfitters sale rack, appears to have eschewed formal on-camera training. It may be that she was one of few adventurous souls who responded to what was undoubtedly a Craigslist ad in search of local on-air personalities for a unique new “cross-media dating show” but in any case it will turn out that neither training nor talent are integral to the show’s popularity.

Brunette Hostess hangs out in the small left corner of the screen on a Scandinavian sofa and greets the 2 a.m. viewing audience colloquially, heavy on the mascara and sarcasm, getting down to the business of cross-media dating within 9 seconds. Her behavior is not consistent with drug or alcohol consumption but she doesn’t seem sober, either.

Brunette Hostess’s post postmodern job description is wondrously brief: saying many times the number viewers should send a text to, reading verbatim the texts received which appear onscreen, and outrageously bad attempts at witticisms.

Actually 4 duties, if looking mall-hot counts.

Participants in Subtext text the host-recited number, reply Yes to the Terms and Conditions, get a User ID and then their message with User ID appears on screen.

Representative sample text:

Yo ladies! 26 SWM here. Hit me up!

Even if, like me, you find texting mostly feeble, Subtext is conceptually transfixing.

And the number of participants (assuming all the texts were from legit breathing people in their homes or apartments or condos or trailers) – flabbergasting.

Subtext participants incur $0.99 charge from their carrier, which effectively makes a shot at true love or at least a semi-decent hookup the same going price as a Value Menu Item at Wendy’s.

It’s hard to tell if being on at 2 a.m. means the show’s core audience is drunk people who struck out at the bar or if public television is just random like that. But by the sheer volume and speed of texts coming across the TV screen, you’d have to be pretty drunk not to perceive your own potential visibility as nil. Or you’d need to strategize and flood the screen, sending multiple messages declaring your availability, in order to get noticed and garner some sort of response. To be successful either way, you must paw the keys super fast while also giving yourself time to read the screen for possible bait and scan for responses to your messages. Like trying to man 10 slot machines at one time.

Occasionally (maybe in an attempt to heighten visibility) a participant will hit on the hostess.

Hey Candice, u lookin hot 2nite girl luv ur hair

Candice acknowledges such flirtations with deflective phrasing that’s a stark throwback to the 1950’s “you sly dog you” style of rejection so obviously incongruent with the futuristic or at least incredibly temporal nature of Subtext it almost destroys the show’s credibility.

If the maintext of Subtext is that text-dating is the best (being easiest), newest medium to meet people, wouldn’t it be more appropriate for Candice to respond directly with, “Not interested, thanks” or “Let’s meet at the Starbucks on Guadalupe” or at minimum confess she has a serious boyfriend who she gives early Sunday morning blowjobs to after getting done at the station, a serious boyfriend who she loves making buckwheat pancakes for and going running around Town Lake with? Shouldn’t she affirm the medium’s legitimacy by participating in it, or candidly divulge her inability to participate due to a present off-screen romantic involvement (which does include high numbers of off-set texts)?

Having a host on Subtext comes off as archaic and unnecessary, not to mention irritating beyond belief in Candice’s case, but not having one would render the format lifeless, little more than televised classified ads arriving on the screen in real time. The hostess’s unspoken role is to infuse the show’s digital nature with reality potential.

But perhaps unbeknownst to them, it turns out the Subtexters’ shot-in-the-dark approach to mating isn’t so stupid.

Researchers cannot identify a single attribute that distinguishes couples who stay together from couples who break up.

The ones who stay together don’t make more or less money.

They are not rated as more or less attractive.

They don’t have more or less education.

They’re not more or less religious.

They don’t have better or worse communication skills.

They don’t have sex more or less often.

They don’t fight less.

They just stay together.

For some unknowable unquantifiable reason (sure, of course, it could be some as-yet-undiscovered triangulation of factors, but let’s not distract from what we do know for the moment).

This level of simplicity frightens me. I don’t want to believe I’d be reasonably happy now if I had just battened the hatches instead of jumping ship in certain relationships. Yet that’s what the evidence shows.

Who you pick matters less, in a way, than your singular dedication to not leaving them.

When we reduce the complexity of relationship success it compels us to begin a laborious return to the truth.

Pick someone out of a crowd.

Respond to a text on a crowded TV screen.

Go meet that person at the Starbucks on Guadalupe.

Maybe that’s the subtext of Subtext: here’s a bunch of somebodies. Pick one. Stay with them. Make it work. Hold on.

Text now!

As I am about to put an end to an 8-year procrastination on recording my second album, I have gathered some thoughts from that stretch of time, that I would like to share.

I write songs; Folk/Pop(ular) songs (I’ll call them folk songs) as opposed to classical (formal) music, to make a simple differentiation which probably leaves many things unaccounted for.
I generally think the following:
A folk song is comprised of three elements.
Chords  –  Vocal melody  –  Lyrics

Many of the songs I love express feelings so universal that I and others feel the urge to sing them in the shower or play them around a campfire.  These three aforementioned elements are all that is needed to transfer a song from one person to another.  Each person who chooses to recreate a folk song brings to it their instrument of choice and style of playing, their unique voice, and the character with which they deliver the lyrics.