Cleaning House!

Arnold & Arianna, happy at last

Photo by Tenaya HillsWhen Arnold Schwarzenegger talks, I listen. Well, I mean, sometimes I listen. Sometimes I just stare off into space and wonder what would happen if you put a cheeseburger in front of Maria Shriver. Or a plump baby. Actually, come to think of it, I really don't listen at all.

But he said one thing that really resonated with me. It wasn't that bit about America welcoming him, an immigrant, when he really just keeps waffling on Prop. 187. It wasn't that thing he said . . . well, I guess he really hasn't said anything else1.

But this was the resonating thing. He wants us all to "clean house." And you know what? He's right! It is time for a change!

I don't know about you, but my house is really dirty. Plus, I just moved to Santa Ana, and I don't really have all the new furniture I need to go in my ranch-style home (my Mexican-grandmother kitsch was much better fitted to my 1920s Craftsman bungalow), and I have this big yard that has a lot of potential to really be fabulous if I can just force myself to get medieval Martha Stewart on its ass.

So when Schwarzenegger said it was time to "clean house," I got Commie Mom on the horn. "Mom!" I said (that's her real name; "Commie Mom" is her rap alias). "I think it's time to 'clean house.' You know, beat the rugs, wax the floors. Maybe put up some lingonberry jam for winter." Commie Mom tentatively agreed. So I continued.

"Wanna go with me to the Home & Garden Showat the Anaheim Convention Center? We can 'clean house,' and also find a really pretty tree for my front yard, maybe. What do you think about Japanese maples?"

"Japanese maples are gorgeous!" Commie Mom said.

I moved in for the kill. "And there'll be people from Trading Spacesthere too!"

"Oooh, that sounds fun!" said Commie Mom. When she's not watching C-Span, she watches Trading Spaces or the Food Network. She doesn't actually make any of the food. She just likes to look at it.

We were on our way.

Now, from the outside the Anaheim Convention Center is a nice bit of real estate, all glass and steel domeage. Real estate is another thing Arnold Schwarzenegger knows quite a bit about, even if he's not so hot with his other businesses and the constant lawsuits and all. But. The city of Anaheim still hasn't figured out how to stop the road rage that ensues whenever you try to figure out where to park. The main parking lot, a block down from the convention center, said "Closed." The parking lot under the convention center said "Full." The old man "directing" traffic—and who was probably personally responsible for Prop. 13—finally told us we should park at the Marriott, right after we had passed it. It took 22 minutes to circle back around the block. We decided, as I always do and Commie Mom probably doesn't, because it's decadent, to valet. Valet parking may very well have been the greatest invention of the 16th century; with someone else parking our car, we didn't have to shoot anyone. That's always a plus.



Inside, at last. We would see the "fantasy gardens" and the modular homes, and the living room "designed" by Star 98.7's Ryan Seacrest(also host of a little thing called American Idol), which we had a chance to win! (We had a chance to win the furniture, not Ryan Seacrest himself, and the poster actually had the word designs in quotes! Like this: Ryan Seacrest "designs" an entertainer's living room. Truth in advertising. Isn't that fun?) Also, there were many, many large bronze statues of children playing leapfrog, and bronze statues of children with creepy, heavy-lidded eyes that made them look like the needle and the damage done. There were $2.75 "ice cream" cones and there were massage recliners with signs on them that read "Please do not use," which is pretty much not the point. And there was a booth with one of those make-your-kid-a-star scams, and another with that whole "Habitat for Humanity" scam. You know what the Bible says: Give a person a house and he'll have a house for a day. Teach a person he don't deserve a house, and you can be the next Republican governor! Poor people don't need "houses"! They need to get off their "asses" and get four jobs! (Or as Ann Coulter likes to say, "working families is a euphemism for families where no one works." The old gal really hits the nail on Jimmy Carter's head, don't she?)

One of the fantasy gardens had shrubs shaped like butlers, which Commie Mom bizarrely stated was very much my style. I think she had me confused with Arianna Huffington. (Oink, oink, Arianna2.) Another had a koi pond with a sick duck on it. "That duck is sick," my mom announced, looking at the little duck that was deathly still under a reed. "Maybe he's just tied to that reed," I offered, filled with hope that maybe the duck was merely tied to a reed. We love the Home & Garden Show!

Trompe l'oeil banners covered the ugly, fluorescent lit convention center walls, showing off views of noble Italian gardens shockingly lacking in butler shrubs. And there were old people and middle-aged people and skinny people and fat people and middle-class people and lower-middle-class people. There were no rich, young people. If the Trading Spaces peeps really were in the house—Commie Mom was hoping it would be Hildy—we saw them not. Just some guys with Ultimate Mops3.

1. Fun With Talking Points. Okay, he hasn't said anything else except on NBC's Today Show, when Matt Lauer asked him, "You talk about the budget deficit. You talk about the energy crisis, the slumping economy, people leaving California. Give me some specifics, Arnold. How are you going to turn it around?" Then Schwarzenegger said, "Well, I think the first and most important thing is to know that it takes leadership, because Gray Davis is saying he has the experience and all of those things. We have seen now what happens. He has sold himself as the man that has experience you cannot buy. What happened with all his experience? Look at the situation we're in right now." Old news, yes, but fun with talking points! 2. Fun With Hypocrisy.Let's spare a footnote for poor Arianna, shall we? You know how she likes attention. Now, I was actually terribly excited about getting to vote for her; over the past several years, I've watched with fascination as she's come to the light side. Everything she's written about the poor and about corporate irresponsibility—especially their deep-seated inability to pay their fair share of taxes, which was the focus of her last book, Pigs at the Trough—has, you know, resonated with me. But there's just that one small problem. That one niggling thing about how she herself has paid $771 in federal taxes (and no state taxes) over the past two years. She didn't break any laws; her $2.67 million in stated losses were perfectly legal. And so are Bermuda post-office drops. Now, I'm a writer too! And I also write off many expenses on my tax returns. For instance, since I'm a nightlife columnist, I write off any drink I buy in a bar. I also write off the mileage to get to that bar. Sometimes I even take people out to dinner and write that off, because they're giving me gossip I can use, or we're checking out a restaurant and I often write about restaurants! Also, I write off my cable bill because I write about television as well. Yet somehow, even with all those write-offs, I still, on my nice little salary at an alternative weekly, managed to pony up—carry the one—oh, 10.3 times the "fair share" Arianna Huffington paid. And that's not counting my payroll taxes, which Arianna would be the first to tell you are what really breaks the backs of the lower- and middle-class workers. Sooo-eeeey!Old news, yes, but fun with hypocrisy! 3. Fun With Ultimate Mops. This doesn't have anything to do with the recall, but I remember about 10 years ago, my best friend Jess' then-boyfriend got a job as a vacuum cleaner salesman. So his parents and Jess and I all sat down for his very first pitch about his ultimate vacuum. He wore a tie and everything. When his father, after the pitch, asked four times how much the vacuum cost, and got back talking points each time about how much this vacuum would save him in the long run, he finally demanded to know how much the damn vacuum cost, and Jess' boyfriend, finally cornered, said, "Four thousand, ninety-nine dollars," and there was this terrible sick hush in the living room as we all realized this was not a job that would be putting food on his family4. But still, the Ultimate Mop looked cool, if you're a person who cares about things like mops, and likes to "clean house"! And it was only, like, $30 or so. I don't know. I wasn't really listening. 4. Fun With the President. George W. Bush in Jacob Weisberg, George W. Bushisms: The Slate Book of the Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President.Old news? Yes.

THIS HOUSE IS CLEAN! rschoenkopf@ocweekly.com!

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