Spangles. Sparkles, glitter and glitz. Somewhere under the small mountain of gold and silver lamé and shiny spandex is the Lizard of Fun, cackling with fabric-inspired lust. I slip on my sunglasses and check the calendar. Yup, this is the Metro Times Best of Detroit issue. Oscar night is just around the corner.
"Whaddaya think?" asks the Lizard, surfacing through the billows of fabric, a ruffle of gold lace shimmering around its neck like a feather boa. "I’m trying to decide how to reupholster the furniture. Also what to wear."
I’m too tired to argue, so I collapse into the sofa (which the Lizard is about to wrap with gold spandex) and groan. "Best of Detroit. Best of Detroit. Must tabulate more ballots ..."
"You’re babbling incoherently again," notes the Lizard. "I’ll take that as an endorsement for the silver ruffles. I’ve gotta look my best at the red carpet reception, you know. Sharon Stone or Harrison Ford might be there."
I wonder if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, they of the Oscars and the glamour and the long, drawn-out acceptance speeches, has as much fun putting together its list of winners as the Metro Times does with its Best of Detroit poll. "And they are such similar entities," says the Lizard, rolling its eyes. "OK, I gotta know. Who won? Which places have been declared the Best? Because you know, I only want to go to the Best stores, the Best restaurants and the Best secret hideaways."
You, me, the Lizard, we’re all in love with anything that’s been declared the Best. It gives us a feeling of importance, to gobble coney dogs at the Best coney island, to wear Oscar night outfits purchased at the Best department stores, to take our loved ones ("And our lizards," notes the Lizard) out to the Best places to schmooze, drink and dance.
"Maybe because it makes us forget about how we spend so much of our time doing stuff we hate," suggests the Lizard. "Like laundry, and grocery shopping, and filling out tax forms."
"But if you shop at the Best Grocery Store, it’s okay?"
We like to name the Best (even if it’s a sucky movie like Titanic) to give us yardsticks by which to measure our own likes and dislikes. ("You mean some people actually liked Titanic?" snorts the Lizard, doing a little dance. "Kate and Leo in a boat, they couldn’t act and it couldn’t float. Whoopee.")
But too often it comes down to popular opinion (or the inscrutable voting of members of the Academy, which might just amount to the same thing). If enough Metro Times readers vote something the Best (be it massage parlor, divorce attorney or bathtub-gin emporium), it becomes so. There’s tremendous power in being The Best. Just look at how many people go to a sucky movie, just because it wins the Best Picture Oscar.
"What I want to know is, why don’t we have awards and honors for the obscure things in life?" I ask the Lizard, pointing out that it would be great to know the best way to clean house without doing any work, or the best way to get ketchup out of the bottle. Really useful information.
"Uh-huh," says the Lizard. "If everyone voted for, say, gently tapping the neck of the ketchup bottle, we’d avoid all those awkward early-morning scenes in diners when you end up pounding half a bottle of ketchup onto your sunny-side-ups."
But then, I add, we’d also need a Best Comeback for Someone About to Say "I Told You So."
The Lizard is busy building a bonfire with the tallied ballots.
"You should have an award for Best Ballot-Stuffing Effort," it suggests. "You could count up all money they wasted on stamps, and use that amount of cash to finance a modest vacation. Like to Flint."
Not that there were many obviously stuffed votes this year ("Ah-hah, they’re just getting better at it," says the Lizard), but a strong contender would be whoever sent in a half-dozen or so photocopied ballots ("Hey, that’s not allowed!" the Lizard says, bristling). Nope, they didn’t win. ("I’ll bet it was all votes for "Sexiest Article of Clothing, right?" says the Lizard, smoothing its outfit. "Gold spandex shorts, that’s what they said, isn’t it?")
"Never mind," I say. But maybe we should mention the Best Alternative Use for a Metro Times "Best Of" ballot. This year’s hands-down winner would be the reader who sent it in with each of the 432 categories filled out — with the proclamation, in red ink, that "Popular Culture Sucks." Reminds us of Bart Simpson writing lines on the chalkboard at the beginning of a "Simpsons" episode.
"I will not take myself too seriously, I will not take myself too seriously, I will not take myself too seriously," mutters the Lizard, wrapping itself in a sequined cape.
"Smooch-smooch, freak girl. Gotta go practice my Oscar acceptance speech now. I’d like to thank the Academy ...."