Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why I'm hooked on "How I Met Your Mother"

Goodbye (for now), Golden Girls. We had a long run. Sex and the City, Absolutely Fabulous, Lucille Ball: Thanks for the memories. I'll be back. For sure.

Right now, a new TV obsession has grabbed my undivided attention and refuses let go. I'm not sure what took me so long. It's been on the air forever -- currently in its sixth season -- and my friend Cara has been raving about it for nearly as long. What am I going on and on about? How I Met Your Mother.

Now I'd seen the show before this past weekend. I'd watched several episodes on international flights this year, and I even caught one or two on TV when I was in Melbourne. But since it doesn't air in Buenos Aires -- at least not to my knowledge -- I'd never become a regular viewer. Then a couple of weeks ago, while I was still in Melbourne, I accidentally knocked my laptop to the ground.


Luckily for me, my friend Marcus is an IT god. After I spent a night tossing and turning and worrying about the future of my poor beloved laptop (though not before I'd enjoyed a memorable night out on the town), Marcus came to my rescue. He rebuilt my hard drive, made it better and faster, and also copied seasons 1 to 3 of Mother, along with several other shows (including five seasons of Doctor Who), to my desktop.

I don't know why he thought I might enjoy the show. We talked about a lot of things while I was in Melbourne, but if my memory is serving me well, Mother wasn't one of them. Maybe I said something about how much I love sitcoms that are based in New York City. Or mabye I told him that I'd much rather spend a lazy afternoon watching half-hour sitcom blocks than devote one hour to some high-concept drama with a convoluted plot. Whatever his reason, I'm glad he did it.

The names of the characters still don't roll off my tongue, but they're starting to feel a little bit like family. This weekend, in lieu of going out, I watched season one, episodes 1 to 18, and I sort of can't believe I'm taking a break to write this. You see, Ted just almost slept with Robin, his long-time crush, after lying to her that he'd broken up with Victoria, only to have Victoria call from Germany while he was in the bathroom with Robin's phone. (He had accidentally left his phone in Robin's living room, and Robin answered it). It sounds kind of, um, convoluted, but it was executed smoothly with minimal fuss. And I love a good cliffhanger!

I'll get back to them soon. But first, let me explain why I've fallen so head over heels for Mother.

I don't have to hate the stars because they're too beautiful. Most people knew Neil Patrick Harris (Barney) and Alyson Hannigan (Lily) before How I Met Your Mother, from Doogie Howser, M.D. (Harris), and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the American Pie films (Hannigan). The other three leads I'd never seen before Mother. All are solid performers, with good comic timing, and they're all attractive. But not distractingly so, in a way that's likely to make us mortal viewers feel resentful. It's hard to imagine any of them growing up to be Jennifer Aniston.

It's a solid ensemble. That's not to say that everyone in the cast is created equally. There's a concept-dictated focus on Ted. And Harris gets the Emmy nominations and the bulk of the press. But why shouldn't he? He's freaking Doogie Howser! Though Robin occasionally drives me bonkers with her bitchiness (which the actress bravely doesn't always play for laughs), I enjoy watching the show because of all the characters/actors. The show would suffer without any one of them, which is the mark of a great ensemble. With characters/actors this entertaining, I've even stopped wondering about the identity of the titular "mother"?

It's so gay. When did TV comedies become so gay? The easy answer would be Will & Grace, or maybe even Sex and the City, but since the days of Friends and Frasier, sitcoms have been featuring male leads who often skew equally masculine and feminine and just as often find themselves the butt of gay jokes. Consider, for a moment, Two and a Half MenScrubs, The New Adventures of Old Christine. If you're a slouchy guy married to a hot girl, or if you're a straight guy who easily could be mistaken for a gay one, you can be the typical sitcom male.

It's great escapism. Friends, the vintage sitcom that Mother most resembles, never managed to nail single life and dating in New York City, and neither does Mother. The guys and girls that come in and out of the single characters' lives are too attractive, well-groomed, well-dressed and well-educated, and anyone who has lived in the Apple knows that one inevitably kisses as many frogs as princes there. That's just the way it is. And of course, the apartments are too nice and too big. But if I wanted to see people living in shoe boxes and kissing sketchy guys, I'd go back to New York -- or stay right here in BA. When I turn on the TV, I want to see attractive people (but not too attractive -- see No. 1) living in beautiful homes with unrealistically huge bathrooms.

Neil Patrick Harris. I think the guy who plays Marshall is just as deserving of Emmy's attention (for proof, check out his dance routine in the season 1 episode where he jumps out of the bathroom window and goes to the VIP club), but the Mother-launched NPH revival touches me because it proves that 1) Child TV stars can become adult TV stars, and 2) A gay actor can play a metrosexual womanizer as convincingly as a straight actor can sell the sex in homosexual. May his career live long and prosper for totally side-stepping typecasting.

And may Mother, like Friends, survive to its 10th season and some day earn the right to be called, as NPH's Barney would say, "Legendary!"

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Did I shower, shave and log on just for this?

I'm still not sure how or why Jorgé entered my life. One day I was on my laptop minding my own business, when suddenly, his name popped up in my MSN Messenger. Soon after, I was drowning in waves of IMs from this guy back home in Buenos Aires whom I'd never met. He wrote to me practically every time I logged on, as soon as I logged on, while I was in Australia, which wasn't often, as Australians tend not to be as Messenger- and Facebook-focused as Argentines and Yankees (at least not the ones I met).

Thank God, the 14-hour time difference meant that occasionally, Jorgé probably was asleep when I was online. But if the timing was right, there he was, requesting my undivided attention. Sometimes I responded, but usually, I pretended not to be around.

He was persistent and consistent, that's for sure, but I was kind of moved by how polite he was. He said he wanted to meet me when I returned to BA from Australia, and I played along because A) I have a hard time saying no, and B) Because a good friend once told me never to penalize someone for being interested in you.

So what that he never really had anything to say, and his beso emoticon (crazy red lips that looked like they were fashioned after Lisa Rinna's pre-reduction pucker) were a little bit creepy? I really had no intention of meeting him anyway. He was cute but not really my type (too groomed and kind of short), and I'm so over meeting up with complete strangers and feigning interest over Sprite Zero. I figured that eventually he'd sense my lack of enthusiasm and move on.

No such luck. Jorgé wasn't going anywhere. I'm not sure what got into him yesterday. Maybe he was drunk, unbelievably horny, or just ready to show his true colors. Out of the blue, this guy who, those scary red lips aside, had never floated a single sexual innuendo by me, finally went all to way and sent me an R-rated message.

"Activo o pasivo?" (Top or bottom?)

That's always been my second-least favorite question (and one I've only been asked by Argentine guys), and posing it pretty much guarantees that you'll never find out, but I was slightly bored and looking for a little bit of trouble.

"No 'Hola, Como estas?'" I responded, forgetting that sarcasm doesn't play too well here in Argentina, and it doesn't quite translate in Spanish.

"Bien. Vos?" he responded, totally clueless.

I decided that our virtual "friendship" had run its course and didn't respond, but Jorgé wasn't going to go quietly. He then began sending a series of images of naked guys going at it and one of what I presumed was his own wide-open anus. I wasn't sure what he was getting at or what he was trying to accomplish.

"Te gusta ver el porno?" he asked. (Do you like porn?)

Well, since you asked, not really. But I maintained my vow of silence. I considered blocking him, but I'm trying to be nicer, not so much the grumpy old man I'm slowly turning out to be. Anyway, without guys like him, I'd have so much less to write about. Eventually, he got the message and went away. I know he'll be back. Maybe in a few months, maybe in a few weeks, maybe in a few days, maybe in a few hours, maybe before I finish writing this post. Guys in BA always come back.

Welcome home.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The end of the affair?

I'm back in Buenos Aires after six weeks in Australia, and once again, I'm doing that thing I do where I idealize a vacation way too hard immediately after the fact. It's exactly what happens when a beautiful romance ends too soon. Never mind that your now-perfect ex snored, dropped crumbs all over the apartment and pissed on the toilet seat every single time. Suddenly, he's the best man in the world.

This time, though, I think that my idealized recollections are pretty dead accurate. Yes, a few nutcases entered my orbit while I was in Melbourne, and Sydney was no better the second time around, but my love of Melbourne is strong and undying. It's Saturday night in Buenos Aires, and I have no great urge to go out, unless it's to the Peel (which is in Melbourne). Sunday is supposed to be one of the most beautiful days in the history of weather, and all I can think about is Windsor Castle (natch, in Melbourne!).

Yeah, I've got it bad.

As usual, the best, most memorable parts of my time in Melbourne were the beginning and the end. The first cut is the deepest, and who could forget their first brush with any great city, or love, when everything is new, and it's all there for you to explore and conquer? Melbourne was one of the few times in my life when I plopped myself from the future and allowed myself to be in the moment, if not fully so, almost. I realized that I was having an important experience as I was having it. Normally, that realization kicks in hot on the heels of hindsight.

The middle part of the trip was real life. Once I got those pesky must-see sights out of the way (and as in BA, there aren't too many in Melbourne, thank God), I lived the way I live in Buenos Aires. I slept, I wrote, I ran, I watched TV, I drank, I ate, and, well, you know what else. The "what else" aside, this doesn't necessarily make for non-stop compelling stories, but in some ways, it was the most satisfying part of my time in Melbourne. There was still a lot to discover, but as I finally more or less had my bearings (I'd be discovering shortcuts from point A to point B until my moment of departure), everything wasn't a total confounding mystery.

Then there was the end. I hate this part. But I love it, too. I hate it because I know the fantastic voyage will soon be over (unless the voyage is not so fantastic, which does happen from time to time). I love it because once you no longer walk and talk like a tourist, the crazy experiences and wild characters that make any vacation truly memorable come pouring in. This was my final week and a half in Melbourne. Most of it is not fit to detail on a family blog (though Tyler, who provided what were perhaps my most X-rated few hours in Melbourne, ironically lived in a house that looked like it was plucked off of Sesame Street), but let's just say that the people who made the biggest impression on me in Melbourne, the ones with whom I expect to keep in touch and whom I would like to see again someday, sooner rather than later, are the ones I met in my first and final weeks.

Though I know better than to fall too hard for anyone I meet when I'm thousands of miles away from home, I'm a hopeless romantic who can't resist a foreign affair worth writing about. I spent four of my final five nights in Melbourne with someone I met six days before I left. I was already in love with Melbourne before he and I met, but I wonder how my final impression of the city would have differed if he'd never crossed my path on that Thursday night. Or if he'd never sent me that titillating must-reply-to-this-immediately text message at 8.30 the following morning.

I've travelled extensively on my own, as there are few people who share my vacation ethic (activities and sightseeing are okay, if you're into that sort of thing, which I'm sort of not, but it's the people you encounter who make a city), so I'm good without a wingman. Apparently, I'm in the minority here. When I told people that I was travelling alone, some reacted with surprise, some with horror, some with pity. Maybe he doesn't have any friends, they seemed to be thinking. Only a few seemed to be truly impressed. I'm single and independent (some would say too much so -- single and independent), and I live most of my everyday life alone (by my own design), so it's not so much of a stretch for me to travel alone (by my own design), too.

Spending four out of five nights with someone is, however, a huge stretch. It was particularly challenging because it's been years -- a decade, to be exact -- since I've been in a relationship that was serious enough to warrant my spending two consecutive nights with someone. Sleeping single in a double bed is a way of life, my life. I'm already a hopeless, frequently sleepless insomniac who talks, vibrates and sniffles while falling in and out of slumber. Who needs someone around to witness all of those digusting noises?

I'm always a little relieved when a one-nighter hits the road before dawn, and when he doesn't, I normally wouldn't even entertain the notion of entertaining him for a second consecutive night. But when you meet a local whom you deeply dig, why not go back for seconds -- and thirds and fourths? It's fun, you know there's an expiration date, it makes you feel even more connected to the place, and, well, it's fun?

Plus, I'll always remember exactly what I did my last few nights in Melbourne. I'll never know what my final opinion of the city would have been if I'd spent those nights differently. As previously documented right here on this blog, my opinion of Melbourne was already right up there. Maybe it would have climbed even higher had I gone out and lived it up, added a few more outrageous tales to the ones I'd already collected. A part of me regrets not squeezing in that final Monday night at the Prince of Wales, but maybe by quitting while I was way ahead, I spared myself the possible misfortune of having some hideous encounter that forever would have marred my impression of Melbourne. And I never might have discovered that the guy who dared to send me that crazy text was so f***ing cool. He introduced me to Family Guy, too. Cool show.

I'm happy with the way things turned out. I know this overly romanticized memory of my vacation won't last, and that's okay. For now, I'll just enjoy the afterglow of a holiday home run and hope for another chance at bat in the near future. Not that those football- and horseracing-obsessed Aussies would really get that baseball reference, but I love them anyway.

Next time I'm down under, schooners of Pure Blonde are on me.