Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bathroom Etiquette 101

Bluffton Today column
January 19, 2011

I had to use the handicap bar in the bathroom at work last week. I couldn’t get up without it. No traumatic injury here. Rather, I just started a “boot camp” fitness program. And, I am exhausted.

Since launching this New Year’s torture (I mean, endeavor), I have been walking on rubbery legs, writing with quivering implements, and sipping shaking coffee cups. I am sore to the core, literally. Ten days ago I didn’t even know what my core was. Now I spend an hour each morning channeling that inner strength in an effort not to look like a total idiot. Who knew that avoiding idiocy was so dang difficult?

I thought I was in shape. I mean, I’ve been walking (with an occasional jog thrown in for good measure) three to four miles a day, for three years. So, of course, when I completed my intake form, I ranked myself a seven – of ten – in terms of my fitness level. Turns out, I am actually looking at something more in the two to three range.

When I couldn’t ascend the stairs at work last week, I knew I was in trouble. But, I still got my aching body out of bed every morning, in the five o’clock hour, to tackle the challenge while chanting: I will not give up.

Ha! Easier said than done. I almost gave up this weekend, while on a quick getaway to New York City.

If you are from the north, or if you’ve traveled north, I suspect you will concur that Newark Airport and Penn Station are two hotbeds of germs, grime, and everything gross. And both top my list of places I never want to be stuck in, for more than hour, for fear of having to use the facilities. Unfortunately, because my new workout regime requires that I drink half my body weight in water (you do the math) – every day - I can now be found in the bathroom 200% more than I ever was (see handicap bar entry above). Which means I had to break “Courtney Rule Numero Uno” and use a public restroom. More than once. Oh, the horror!

So, our flight lands at Newark Airport and I have now been “holding” my grande non-fat mocha for about three hours – because there is no way I am going to use the restroom on the plane. So, here I am in miniscule bathroom stall, with my luggage. Now, typically I would rely on my leg muscles to hold me slightly airborne so that I didn’t have to touch the seat. But, as you have read, my muscles were mush, so the question became … where to put my tush?

And this leads me to the real problem -- women who pee all over the toilet seat. This is a phenomenon that has stymied me for years. It happens everywhere. At the local bar. The local college. The library. The dentist’s office. Your favorite restaurant. Your office.

What is it so difficult to hit your target? It’s a pretty big target for crying out loud.

I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you too are participating in an intense exercise experience and a little shaky on the hind legs. Ok, so you dribble a little. Now here’s a crazy thought – look to your right. Do you see that roll of white paper hanging on the wall? You do? Good. Now pull that piece of paper – that’s it – pull a few squares. Now use them to wipe the seat. Good work, champ.

Was that so hard? Think of the good deed that you have done. Women everywhere will silently thank you as they shuffle into that restroom, check for feet under the stall doors, push the door back with caution, learn that the latch is broken, balance on shaking legs, stand in a puddle of a lord knows what, while trying to hold the stall door closed with their finger tips, and simultaneously finish their business as quickly as possible.

This isn’t rocket science ladies (and men, it would hurt for y’all to follow suit) – if you sprinkle, when you tinkle, be a sweetie and wipe the seatie. Case closed.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Why Do We Do The Things We Do?

Bluffton Today column
January 5, 2011

So, I’m watching TV and a Badcocks Furniture commercial comes on. The Dad in the commercial is upstairs jumping on his bed with his son. They are jumping, and jumping, and jumping and Mom looks up as the chandelier in the dining room begins to shake. Next thing you know, Dad’s feet are dangling from the ceiling. And, this drives me crazy. Why? Well because I have a hard time believing that by jumping up and down, Dad managed to bust his way through the mattress, box spring, bedroom floor, and dining room ceiling. It’s just not feasible.

As I shared my disillusionment with TV commercials, my TV-watching partner commented, “You never take things for what they are worth, you always dig a little deeper.”

He makes a point. Rather than just enjoy a lazy day on the couch watching TV, I choose to spend 30 minutes analyzing a 30 second commercial. And that made me question (surprise, surprise!) why exactly do we do the things we do?

For example, why do we put our napkins in our lap? If I am at a restaurant and eating a platter of sloppy wings, I wipe my hands on my napkin, and then put that same dirty and now dripping in wing sauce napkin in my lap. So, my hands are clean – until the next bite – but my pants are dirty. Brilliant.

While at the meal, I may also put my elbows on the table. You know why? Because if you are telling me a story I am going to lean in and give you all of my attention. Do you know why? Because if I am sitting back in my chair, with my hands in my lap (on my dirty napkin), I appear un-engaged. It is also important to note, that if I lean forward, no crumbs will hit my lap, and therefore the napkin serves no purpose. Just sayin …

Believe it or not, as I pondered why I act the way I do, I started thinking about Carlos Olivera who lost his life twelve days ago over a car towing incident. Because someone else acted the way he did – it truly makes you wonder how and why people make the decisions they do, especially at the expense of someone else.

Almost five years ago I wrote a column about a car being towed in my neighborhood. As I read that old column, my stomach turned, as I realized that I referenced alleged murderer Preston Oates in my column, as Pro Tow was the tow company in my story as well.

I had been hosting my sister’s baby shower at my house and as the guests dispersed, one of them couldn’t find her car. Since cars don’t usually just disappear in broad daylight, we began our investigation. It took under a minute to realize that one of my lovely neighbors didn’t like that a car was parked in front of her house so she had the car towed.

At the time, my Mom and I were pretty upset and being the ballsy Jersey girls that we are, we marched right up to the “neighbors” front door and started yelling at her. One of our guests, a retired New York City police officer, convinced us to get the heck off that woman’s property before we got arrested. She had a point, so we acquiesced, but my “investigation” continued for days, as I interacted with the Bluffton Police Department and Pro Tow to figure out how the course of events went down.

My Mom and I have had a number of conversations about Mr. Olivera in the past week. And, we talked too about how rash we were to scream and yell at our neighbor, on her front porch, not knowing what was behind her front door.

I’ll admit that I have a temper and if someone ticks me off, I tend to let them know. And on more than once occasion my Mom has said to me, “Cour, calm down, that guy/gal might have a gun.” It scares me that she is more right than I ever imagined.

Maybe I was naive in thinking that moving from the hustle and bustle of New Jersey to the sleepy town of Bluffton, SC would indeed be safer, quieter, and a simpler way of life. But, right now I am on guard. I have read too many headlines this year, in this very paper, about tragic losses of life.

At this moment however, more than anything, I am sad for Mr. Olivera’s family who had to witness this tragedy and who will forever be marked by this reckless act.

Crossing the Line appears every other Wednesday. Email Courtney at

Monday, January 03, 2011

2010, Year in Review

C2 magazine, January issue

If you are like me, every bleary-eyed New Year’s Day, you begin the annual ritual of taking stock of the previous year. You question what you’ve accomplished, you curse what you wish you had accomplished, and then you prepare the all too familiar (meaning the replica of last year’s) list of resolutions.

2010 was a rough year.

Our country is at war and more than 500 American soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice in 2010. The Gulf oil spill threatened our ecosystem, the fishing and shrimping industries, and the economy. As many as four million homes received foreclosure filings. 15.1 million Americans remained unemployed, at year’s end.

Locally, non-profit organizations have been scrambling to meet the increasing needs of our neighbors who have been impacted by the economic downturn.

Yet, as I ponder the year in review, I realize that what we were most interested in were actually the headlines that stole the real headlines.

For a child of the 80s, it was a devastating year, as we bid adieu to our favorite TV family members. You know actors and actresses who actually played a character on TV, as opposed to playing a part in the reality TV revolution.

What'chu talkin' 'bout Willis? Well, I’m talking about Gary Coleman and his untimely death. I believe that the biggest surprise on this one is that Todd Bridges is the last standing Different Strokes cast member in the game of life. I didn’t see that one coming.

Nor could I have predicted that Michael Seaver’s Growing Pains sidekick Andrew Koenig a.k.a “Boner” would pass so young. He made millions of teens and tweens giggle through the 1980s every time he walked on set and into our living rooms. I mean, with a name like Boner …

And, Corey Haim, the cute Corey, whose poster donned the closet door of my bedroom for much of the late eighties. There is indeed a Teen Beat reunion going on in heaven these days.

We also witnessed the passing of legends – George Steinbrenner, the meanest man in baseball, who we all got to know via Seinfeld and one quirky George Costanza. J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author whose novel The Catcher in the Rye tackled the topic of adolescent alienation and became required high school reading. And Tony Curtis whose acting credits spanned 60 years.

And lest we forget Blanche Devereaux, that saucy minx. She made it ok for women to be loose and wild, at any age. She was the first cougar and for that we thank Rue McClanahan. Rue, thank you. Thank you for being a friend.

When I think about what got people talking in 2010 I remain miffed by the shock and awe over a killer whale at Sea World killing someone. Um, it was a killer whale. I am pretty certain that it got the name “killer” for good reason.

Bedbugs were a whale of a story in twenty ten. When you get hundreds of different people sharing the same hotel room over the course of a year, something gross has got to give. To respond to the hysteria, the first ever bedbug industry summit was held in Chicago in the early fall (seriously). No stunning breakthroughs were made therefore we will continue to get the heebie-jeebies every time we slip between the sheets in a hotel room. The good news is, the bedbug carries no disease and their bites have no effect on one-third of their victims. So you have a one in three chance of being just fine. Sleep tight.

Speaking of sleeping, in other people’s beds, Tiger Woods apologized to his wife, in front of the whole world, for being a cheater. She up and divorced him anyway. And then Howard Stern invited all of Tiger’s mistresses to compete in the Tiger Woods Mistress Beauty Pageant. Jamie Jungers took home the $75,000 prize.

Bristol Palin was tapped for Dancing with the Stars. (I wonder if she wrote her dance steps on her arm?) I’m sorry, if your Mom unsuccessfully runs for Vice President, you automatically become a “star”? I’ve been trying to convince my Mom to get on the POA board, which should definitely secure me a spot on American Idol.

As if the table-flipping Real Housewives of New Jersey didn’t do enough to tarnish the reputation of Jersey girls everywhere (this one included), then the brilliant executives at MTV thought a show dedicated to the summer at the Jersey Shore was just the ticket. For the record, everyone in the cast was from North Joisey (not the shore) or New Yawk!

WTF? Healthcare reform was a BFD for Vice President Joe Biden, who in his excitement over the March bill signing was caught whispering, "This is a big f***ing deal," into the President's ear. Mr. Loose Lip’s exchange was just loud enough to be picked up by the microphone, and quickly made its way onto cable TV and into cyberspace, for all of the world to hear.

The iPhone continued to stun us with applications to make our life much less personal but oh, so much easier. Don’t have time to type an email? The Dragon Dictation application translates your voice into text, so you can simply dictate your message and then send the text, taking that pesky typing chore completely out of the equation. Of course, if you were going to say it anyway, how about picking up the phone and calling? I’m just saying …

Lady Gaga was certainly looking to simplify things in 2010. She yearned to go back to the times of yore, when animal husbandry was the career of choice. So much so that rather than buy a dress at a store, like the rest of us, she had one made -- of meat -- with matching accessories. No really, this was actually news.
Conan O’Brien boldly ended his seven-month stint as host of The Tonight Show, on principle. As a part of his deal, he had to walk away quietly and wasn’t allowed to address his departure on television. So, he turned to Twitter, and began making his first public statements since leaving. In an hour, he gained 30,000 followers, thirty minutes later he reached 50,000. After 24 hours, O'Brien had well over 300,000 followers. Today, he has more than two million.
While we are talking about tweeting, it seems that the “twitterverse” is all akimbo with the tweet revolution. I don’t know about you, but I don’t care what you ate for dinner, how long it took for you to digest your dinner or how many squares it took to end the cycle. Less is more people. Less is more.

However, since we are on the subject of social media, let’s address the fact that my Mom joined Facebook this year! Your Mom probably did too. I haven’t seen the movie, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a predicted outcome.

Just like I am fairly certain that Elmo didn’t think he’d see Katie Perry’s boobs at a Sesame Street taping. Well, it was Elmo’s lucky day (and I am sure his giggle could be heard on set), because no one else got a peek, as Sesame Street scrapped the episode after the revealing segment was reviewed by editors.

Speaking of boobs, the TSA instituted the “Free Feel-Ups” at the airport policy, which should make travel in twenty eleven just titillating. Unless of course, you are filmmaker/ actor Kevin Smith, who last year was deemed too fat to fly. Yet, in an ironic twist, the fat guy I always get stuck sitting next to made the cut.
Locally, there remains only one way to get on and off the Island. Unless you fly. In which case, you can entangle yourself in the “is the runway at the Hilton Head Airport long enough” debate. Maybe not, but the lines at Starbucks are, so if someone would please add that to our 2011 county agenda, that’d be just great.
But, in all seriousness, wherever your travels take you in 2011, may you be safe and smiling.

My New Year’s resolution? Smile more, bark less. I give it a week.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

You Wanna Pizza Me?

C2 magazine, January issue

I broke a bar stool at my favorite pizza joint on my 21st birthday. I mean I didn’t
smack it over the top of someone’s head or recklessly toss it at a bouncer. Rather, in the heat of celebration, I may have stumbled a little and the stool took the brunt of my fall. I’ll argue that it was on its last legs (pun intended) anyway.

Why am I telling you this? Well, if you had been paying attention you would have noticed that I spent my 21st birthday at a pizza joint. Not in New York City, not in Vegas, not at a classy restaurant where the champagne flowed like water.

Nope. I was at the Saw Mill, on the Seaside Boardwalk, New Jersey. (Yes, home to the first season of MTV’s Jersey Shore. ) The Saw Mill had dollar drafts and the biggest slices of greasy Jersey pizza you could get your hands on.

Any way you slice it, America’s love affair with pizza is hot, saucy, and laden with temptation. 93% of Americans eat pizza at least once a month. (100% of the Americans in my household eat it once a week.) So, why the obsession?

Ancient Greeks used to top their breads with olive oils and spices, yet it is the Italians who get the lion share of credit for pizza. And more specifically, are the ones responsible for bringing the tempting treat to the United States, in the early nineteen hundreds, when they traveled here seeking a better life on American soil.

The first pizza joint in the United States -- Lombardi’s— opened its doors in Lower Manhattan, in 1905. The combination of garlic and oregano scents wafting from the windows signaled the dish as “foreign food” that would likely upset the stomach, and as such it didn’t catch on. In fact, most middle-class Americans stuck to boiled fish and toast.

It wasn’t until the 1940s, that pizza in its modern form flourished in the United States and became popular across all cultures, no longer limited to Italian immigrants. American Heritage magazine, in a 2006 article on the history of pizza, points to the 1943 opening of Pizzeria Uno in Chicago as the moment when the tides turned. Chicago-style deep-dish pizza was born and a nation was changed.

When I was young, Friday night was pizza night. We would stand at “Pizza Charlie’s” counter, boxes stacked to the ceiling, Charlie’s red hair frizzed from the heat of the ovens, a line out the front door, while the whole town waited to pick up our orders. Back then, there were only so many choices, and Charlie was our guy. I later fell in love with Pete & Elda. Their thin crust and sweet sauce still haunts me today. In fact, when I go back to home to visit, I almost always pay Pete & Elda a visit. The Saw Mill was a dive bar on the boardwalk, one I didn’t discover until I was of legal age (coincidence?) and there was no better summer night than one that included a cold beer, a huge slice, an off-kilter bar stool, and the smell of the ocean. All have left an indelible mark on my senses.

Maybe I am spoiled, having grown up in a pizza-centric region of the country. And I know I am finicky. All pizza is not made equal. And all pizza is not fit for these lips. Yet, it remains my favorite food.

It is possible that I am biased, so I thought it only fair that I seek the opinion of a food expert. I called on my friend Gail Simmons, Food & Wine magazine’s special projects director and BRAVO TV’s “Top Chef” judge and host. And she told me, “I believe pizza may just be the world's most perfect food - piping hot, smothered in cheese, fresh tomatoes and herbs, or your choice of endless toppings, a crispy crust with just a bit of chew, that you can pick up and eat entirely with your hands! It is so delicious and ingenious I would argue it is Italy's greatest contribution to modern civilization -- forget art or architecture. Pizza (made with love, good ingredients and a 700 degree oven) will never go out of style.”

Well, it is certainly not going out of style anytime soon here. The stretch between Bluffton and Hilton Head is burgeoning with pizza business. Whether your taste buds seek a California pie, Chicago-style, New York pizza, or a gourmet concoction that you eat with your pinky in the air, your bases are covered here.

But, pizza isn’t just about the pizza. Pizza is history. Pizza is tradition. Pizza is camaraderie. I’ll argue that there is nothing better than sitting around the table with your friends and sharing a pizza. A group of friends, who may debate sports and dispute politics, will come together and agree on their pizza toppings. And, in synchronized harmony they’ll lean forward and grab a slice from a community pie. The cheese stretches, the sauce steams, the grease drips, and they each tilt their head to the side to take that first bite. That’s amore!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

CH2 Bachelor of the Year Unveiled

C2 magazine, January issue

I was stood up by C2’s Bachelor of the Year. Ok, he didn’t stand me up. He was merely 30 minutes late. Regardless, my tolerance for tardiness being nil, my brain started working overtime to determine how I would introduce this Johnny come lately to the world. Once we started chatting he enthusiastically agreed that my first sentence (as printed above) was completely appropriate.

That’s when Ben Wolfe won me over. By the end of the story, I suspect he’ll have won you over too.

Ben start wooing the women early. His first love was “Susie” a cute girl with a great sense of humor. “Susie” had an interest in the performing arts and was debuting in the school’s production of The Sound of Music. Ben saw his opening and he grabbed it – he was cast as Kurt (cue “So Long, Farewell” lyrics) – and life has truly never been the same. Their spark eventually fizzled, as most fourth grade relationships do. However, thanks to “Susie,” Ben was introduced to another passion – theatre - which he pursued through his school days and into college and today he is the Performing Arts Director at Hilton Head Preparatory School.

After “Susie” Ben chuckles as he describes dating in his hometown of Sandersville Georgia, where he attended a small private school and graduated with a class of merely 25 -- the same 25 kids whom he started Kindergarten with. “It was hard to date, everyone knew everyone so well. It was like dating your sister. So there were a lot of group outings, dances mostly. Once, I could drive -- movies and bowling were the only options and we actually had to drive outside of Sandersville to do that,” he said with a grin.

Now, that the Lowcountry is his oyster, his perfect date around here would start with “seeing something – a baseball game, a movie, a show – then dinner, so we’d have something to talk about over our meal.” I like his strategy.

Ben has a hell of a sense of humor and in fact, seeks the same in a mate. “She has to have a sense of humor.” I asked him if he ever jumped ship because a date just wasn’t funny, or didn’t find him funny. As expected his reply was dripping with sarcasm … “Listen, I’m not going to ditch a date at dinner. I enjoy food too much. It’s not worth missing a meal.”

Admittedly, Ben is not actively looking for the future Mrs. Wolfe. “I’m not NOT looking; I’m also not browsing Craig’s List on a Friday night.” (Good, because that would be creepy.) Two of Ben’s fellow Hilton Head Prep teacher’s – Kathryn Ramseur-Riley and Tina Webb-Browning - nominated Ben for the Bachelor contest. Ben says that he agreed to participate, recognizing that for him it would all be tongue in cheek. However, on the off chance that Carrie Underwood reads C2, he is hoping that this could be the start of something beautiful.

The prize for the Bachelor victor is $3,000 (and this fabulous article). Ben says, “Coincidentally, $3,000 is the same price as my self respect. So that worked out real well.” He intends to spend every penny on a new car. (Good! Perhaps one that will assist him in getting places on time.) Ben is also expecting that once the Christmas trees come down in all of the Island’s traffic circles, a life size statue of him will be erected. Yet, he’ll continue to live life as a commoner and has, “no plans to introduce a new walk or anything …”

Now that he’s won, it is also necessary that he be subjected to a barrage of questions. So, here we go.

C2: What is the quality you most admire in a woman?
Ben: Sense of humor and the ability to help me in matching my shirts and ties.

C2: What do you most value in your friends?
Ben: Dependability.

C2: Who are your heroes?
Ben: My parents, my close friends and ... Ralph Nader.

C2: What are your pet peeves?
Ben: Food smacking and that awkward doctor’s waiting room silence.

C2: What is the most important thing in your life?
Ben: Succeeding personally and professionally, to the degree that my success allows me to aid and support friends in need. Oh! And honey mustard, it just goes with anything.

C2: Beer or wine?
Ben: Beer, if you're offering.

C2: Hamburger or hot dog?
Ben: Do we really know what's in a hot dog? Always a burger for me.

C2: Beach or mountains?
Ben: Mountains occasionally ... but judging by my current location, I've made my sand castle, now I lie in it.

C2: If your house were on fire, what is the one thing you would save?
Ben: I am currently living alone with no pets. I know I'd grab my computer so I could update my Facebook status about the fire, then Facebook chat someone to call 911 for me.

C2: What has been your most embarrassing moment?
Ben: Besides these surveys? You'd think I'd say the countless times I've burst open the seam of my pants while performing on stage ... but somehow I've gotten used to that.

C2: If we asked an ex-girlfriend to tell us one thing about you, what would she say?
Ben: "What? He told me his name was Juan."

C2: Would you take the last sip of milk for your morning coffee?
Ben: Well as an avid avoider of both milk and coffee, the last sip is always safe around me.

C2: What was the last movie that made you cry?
Ben: Field of Dreams. Every time. It’s the magic corn.

C2: What is currently in your Netflix queue?
Ben: Inception and Shawshank Redemption.

C2: What is the biggest misperception others have about you?
Ben: That I'm really tall. Actually, they're just really short.

Ben doesn’t take him self too seriously and he loves to crack a joke. Obviously.

In addition to his stellar wit, he is a hard worker, he likes to take care of the people he loves, and he is committed 110% to everything he does -- and therefore very selective about what he weaves into his life, women included.

He is the self-proclaimed pickiest person on the planet, “I have a little George Costanza in me,” he says. Too much Costanza is likely a deal breaker for most women, so I asked Ben to elaborate. After some quick math to calculate his persona – and liken it to characters on TV – he replied, “50% Ross Gellar, 40% Jerry Seinfeld, and 10% George Costanza.” By my calculation, that is 90% normal … I’d say that’s pretty good odds ladies.

Since his pickiness may be his downfall, I thought I should give the single gals a little head start on landing Bachelor Ben. So, the three questions he will definitely ask you on a first date are as follows: What is your favorite outdoor sport? What type of music do you listen you? And, if you could spend your life working for a charity, which charity would it be? (Ben advises that the answer to question three should not be Al Qaeda.)

I have Ben’s phone number and email, and even though he hasn’t formally asked (ok, he hasn’t asked at all), I will be more than happy to screen any potential inquiries. Otherwise, you should just plan to attend the unveiling of the new Ben statue, which will likely be placed near a beach, and a honey mustard stand.

If we build it, they will come.