“Sexy Beast” 2020 Mazda 3

Image result for 2020 mazda 3 car and driver

When it made its world debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November.  The word in the room was “Damm”.

While American auto makers are exiting the car market the rest of the world is foraging ahead.  With Hyundai/Kia, Toyota and now Mazda either refreshing or introducing all new models for 2019.

Related image

Mazda, one of the smaller players in the Auto world, has taken a page out of the Hyundai\Kia playbook, by offering  value at a competitive price.

The new Mazda 3 comes in two flavors a Sedan or a Hatchback

Related image


Image result for 2020 mazda 3 car and driver

In its last generation, I preferred the hatchback.  In this generation, I prefer the lines of the sedan.

If you took away the Mazda logo, this car could pass for an Audi and while its looks good outside, the interior looks very expensive, again Audi and BMW

Related image

There isn’t anything its segment that can touch it.

Image result for 2020 mazda 3 car and driver

Its available in automatic or six speed manual.  As in the previous generation.  The standard engine in the “3” is a 2.0 Skyactive engine producing 155 hp and 150 pound feet of torque.  The optional engine is the 2.5 Skyactive engines producing 185 hp and 180 pound feet of torque.   New for 2019 is an all wheel drive  model.  It would be nice in Mazda dropped a turbo into the “3” bringing back the days of the hot hatch Mazdaspeed.  One can dream.     To keep this car competitive they have dropped the independent suspension for a less expensive rear torsion beam set up.  Mazda is using more sound deadening in the car making it quieter

This sexy SEXY beast starts about just under $22 grand and the top version with sunroof and a Bose systems tops out about 30K .

Mazda is known for its handling. Later this spring, were gonna see not only how well it handles. We will see in the little “3′ will accommodate this Big City man.

The all new 2020 Toyota Corolla design isn’t earth shattering and  2018 and the Honda Civic is still bat shit ugly, But side by side, which would you drive?

Image result for 2020 toyota corollaImage result for 2019 honda civic2019-Mazda-3-Sedan-Gray-Front-Quarter-Left


Mazda sales numbers are minisule compared to all the other players. Both Honda and Toyota out sale Mazda nearly 15 to one.  The big question, will the new Mazda 3 bring new and first time car buyers to the brand?






Hey Pot, get out much?

Image result for donald trump ilhan omar

I could go on for hours about the Pot’s (President Trump) racists comment for hours, but you and I don’t have that kind of time.

Racism in any form is unacceptable. Freshman, Congresswoman, Iihan Omar, the first Somali American elected to the house.  Her anti-semitic comments are not welcome. as she represents all Americans in her district.

Speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi called on her to apologize.

On Tuesday, Pot said Omar should resign or be barred from serving on congressional committees as punishment for her remarks on Israel.   Pot’s Vice President, said Omar’s apology was inadequate

House Majority Leader Steny Hover said Omar would not lose her assignments.

Nancy Pelosi dismissed the GOP calls for Omar’s punishment.  She said the GOP was not coming from a place with clean hands.   She reminded a reporter from CNN of Pot’s anti-Semitic comments and said:

“I think the administration owes a public apology for some of the things that were said there. As I heard the president speaking this morning, all that was going through my mind was “Jew-S-A, Jew-S-A” at his rallies that he never distanced himself from. They shouldn’t go down this path, they do not have clean hands.”

Yesterday, Omar responded to Pot, accusing him of “trafficking” in hate and intolerance.

“Think before you Tweet”

One of Omar critics is House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.  Last year, he Tweeted

Image result for kevin mccarthy jew tweet

The tweet included a video featuring McCarthy discussing George Soros, Tom Steyer and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, all Jewish men who are significant donors to Democratic campaigns and causes.

It invoked a stereotype about the Jewish faith that has long been considered to be an anti-Semitic dog whistle popular among the alt-right, and it’s a tactic that the president himself was accused of employing in his 2016 campaign

McCarthy denied expressing anti-Semitic undertones in a now-deleted tweet he posted before last year’s midterms that warned of three prominent Jewish Democratic donors trying to “buy” the election.


Watch Out Tesla: Hyundai and Kia is coming soon, like today

Image result for niro ev

The 2019 Kia Niro EV

The Hyundai Group (Hyundai-Kia-Genesis) is serious.    Hyundai’s popular Sonata and Elantra models as well has Kia’s Optima’s and Forte has seen huge declines in sales.  Like the most of auto industry, consumers are choosing SUV’s over passenger cars.  With one exception Tesla.  If you in any major city you have seen a Tesla.

There are more 2018 Model 3’s on the road than the Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, and Nissan Altima.

Elon Musk now has the worlds attention.  Within the next 16 months, nearly every automaker will have an electric vehicle with a range of at least 200 miles in their lineup. The problem is, most of the planned vehicles are out of the price range of the average car buyer.  Jaguar I pace starts at 69K , Audi’s E-tron with 240 mile range will hit the streets in April starting at 74K.

The Tesla Model 3 was supposed to be at 35K the affordable electric car.  However, few has seen one. The average Tesla is selling for a pinch over 50k.   Tesla says, they will begin offering the base model this spring.  If you buy the base model as advertised, it will have a range of 264 miles and if your sticking to that price you must like the color black. Any other color is a fifteen hundred dollar option.

General Motors electric offering is the Chevy Bolt.  For 35,000 you can get a nicely equipped Bolt with a range of 240 miles.   The designers at GM went the Prius direction when it came to styling.   A car that said, I’m driving  I’m driving an environmental friendly non polluting car. Unfortunately the Prius isn’t selling and the Chevy Bolt are accumulating dust at Chevy Dealerships.

Its a sound car and a good alternative to Tesla. Unlike Tesla, no one would call the Chevy Bolt sexy.

Enter Hyundai

Hyundai, developed its first all electric car in 1991.  In 2011, the Company introduced the Hybrid Sonata Hybrid to the US Market. Currently, the automaker has seven variations of Hybrid, Plug In Hybrid models including two all electric models the Kia Soul EV and the Hyundai Ioniq models.  Those two electric models have a range of less than 115 miles.

Last November, Hyundai announced they would sell an all electric version of the Hyundai Kona.  This car,while smaller than the Tesla has an all important range of  258 miles.  Only seven fewer miles than the standard Tesla model 3 and a well equipped model will begin at $37,000 excluding the $7500 Federal Tax Credit, no longer available on the Tesla***

The  Hyundai Kona, recently received the Prestigious “North American Utility Vehicle of the Year” a first for any Hyundai.   The Kona. should go on sale any moment in California. That’s the good news for California Residents.  The bad news, is there is a long waiting list.

However, the Kia is plans to release an all electric version of its Niro next month. The NiroEV is larger than the KonaEV. The two vehicles share the same  64-kWh battery  however the range on the NiroEV is 239 miles.    Unlike the KonaEV, the NiroEV will offer faster charging,  a CCS DC fast-charging setup, which can refill the battery to 80 percent in 75 minutes.  30 minute will add approximately 100 miles of range.

  Kia says the NiroEV will go on sale mid-to-late February and will be available in 12 states.  California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington.

Pricing for the Niro EV will began around 38,000 before the $7500 Federal Tax Credit.

What is the Federal Tax Credit and why is it no longer available on Tesla’s? 

The Federal EV Tax Credit is not a rebate on the price of the car that you get instantly when making the purchase. You have to apply to receive it when you file your annual tax return. You or your tax professional will fill out an IRS Form 8936, which is submitted with your return. Since it is a tax credit, you have to wait until you file your next year’s return before you will receive the tax incentive.

You cannot claim the tax credit until you take delivery of the new vehicle. Deposits and prepayments do not count. It is not available on leased vehicles.

Each vehicle manufacturer is allowed to sell up to 200,000 qualifying plug-in electric vehicles (battery-electric cars and plug-in hybrids) before the EV tax credit on their products begins to phase out.  This isn’t for one model, its applies to all EV models sold by a single Auto maker.

***Last year, Tesla sold nearly 150,000 Model 3’s,  When you include Tesla’s Model S and the Model X its has sold more than 200,000 cars.   To stay competitive, Tesla has reduced prices on all of their models.  

General Motors is projected to reach its maximum by late spring early summer**

In addition to the Federal Tax Credit,  some states are offering credits and rebates. Colorado is currently the most generous of the states, offering a credit of up to $5,000 that can be used in conjunction with the federal tax credit to save you up to $12,500 off the price of the car. In some cases, the incentives come in the form of an instant vehicle rebate.

California offers rebates up to $7000*  for residents on purchased and leased Electric Vehicles, plug in’s and fuel cell vehicle.  The state offers higher rebates for lower income car buyer.  *Unlike Colorado, California’s rebates are based on specific models and the is less you earn, the greater the rebate.

Sometime, Somewhere in 2019  “The 2020 Kia Soul EV “

The Kia Soul is Kia’s best selling model by a wide margin.  It is known for its generous interior space and urban dimensions.   It will also be powered by the same battery as the Kona EV, and the Niro EV.   The Kona and Niro storage is larger the the Soul’s but the Soul upright interior is larger.   The 2020 Soul’s are all new, and with an estimated range of 239 miles the 2020 SoulEV has more than double the driving range of the 2018 SoulEV . The release date of the SoulEv is unknown.  Some sources say next month, others say mid summer.

Currently on sale in California, is the first SUV fuel cell vehicle the Hyundai Nexo

with a base price of 59,000 and a range of 380 miles. Last month Hyundai sold 35 models.   The challenge for fuel cells vehicles, is refueling  stations.

If your keeping count, the Hyundai group has four electric vehicles, four plug in vehicles and one fuel cell SUV.

The demand is high for electric vehicles, with prices under 40K Hyundai will be Tesla’s largest competitor this year in the US.

While Tesla has an apple like following, Hyundai will put a sizable dent into Tesla’s sales by the third quarter of this year.    Tesla’s Model 3 was to be the peoples car, and its technology is superior to anything on Hyundai’s drawing board.   However, what separates these companies is price and service.

 Tesla, has a much smaller dealer network than the Hyundai Group and a shorter warranty.  However, many of Tesla’s fixes can be done electronically without the customer stepping into a service department.  Hyundai has more experience building cars.

If I wanted to buy an electric car today, are there any deals?  

With the exception of the European makes and the Chrysler Pacific plug in hybrid models, deep discounts are available.  There are also deep discounts for the lower range (less than 150 miles) all electric vehicles.

However, the best buy is on the all electric Chevy Bolt.  The Bolt has a range of nearly 240 miles.  When it was released, they sold quickly at full price.  Today, they are sitting on dealers lots.  Deep discounts and are available (check Chevy’s website for rebates) and as of this writing The Chevy Bolt still qualify for the full ($7500 Tax Credit-today**)  

How does the Niro Drive?


Adventures in Blackface: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Apologized about the picture Friday, Not so sure on Saturday

Image result for ralph northam

We all have bad days………

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is having a bad week.  This week, the embattled governor has been asked to resign after pictures of him in blackface and in a Klu Klux Klan surfaced.

The 1984 pictures was on his personal page when he was a student at the Eastern Virginia Medical School.

After apologizing on Friday,

 “I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now,” Northam said. “This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine and in public service.”

He said he wasn’t resigning.

Epiphany Saturday

In a press conference today.  The Governor says THAT AIN’T HIM IN THE PICTURE!

Actual Wording:  “He does not believe its him”

In fact, he is considering using “facial recognition to prove HE is not the one in blackface.  As for the Klan get up, well…….

The New York Times wrote, the Gov is planning to call his medical school classmates to jog their memories (Is it me, are you sure?)

He has an uphill climb, on Twitter there are quite a few who remember himRelated image

With so many gems from his press conference.    Including his win in a Talent show as Michael Jackson. Were he does remember darkening  his skin ,on a black man who’s skin doesn’t need darkening!   BTW, he knows how to “moonwalk”   I am sure the people at Saturday Night Live (not live tonight) hope he doesn’t resign this week. There is simply too much material .      Did you hear the one about the Virginia governor……………

Members of his Party has asked him to resign including Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, Virginia Republicans have joined them.

Two blackface stories in a week 

This women believed she would be more effective telling a story to children about Africa in Blackface

Victory Christian School Black Face

Click on link below for full story


“School Days” Submit to your husband! No Gays! It’s 2019 right?

Related image


The School says it will refuse admission to students who participate in or condone homosexual activity,

If your looking for a job, be sure to read the fine print.

You are pledging not to engage in homosexual activity or violate the “unique roles of male and female.”  and watch your Moral Conduct or misconduct.

They include, and not limited to, such behaviors as the following: heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites,” 

This effects a LOT of people straight and gays.

The application says that the school believes ” marriage unites one man and one woman” AND that a wife is commanded to submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ. ”   The job application asks potential employees to explain their view of the “creation/evolution debate.” 


If your really, really,  REALLY! want your kids to attend the Immanuel Christian School
Image result for immanuel christian school

Springfield, Virginia, you will need to acknowledge the sanctity of marriage as a strictly

heterosexual practice. Families who condone, practice or support “sexual immorality,

homosexual activity or bi-sexual activity go against the principles of the school.  In other

words get the hell out sinner!

Why are we talking about this school? 

Because the second lady , Karen Pence is teaching at the school.  


Image result for karen pence

Her husband, the snappy dressing, snug suit wearing, never a hair out of place  Vice

President of these United States Michael Pence has long had issues with the Gay Community.

He has said, that homosexuality is a choice and keeping gays from marriage was not discrimination but an enforcement of god’s idea.  Image result for mike pence looking at donald trump

He voted against a law that would prohibit discrimination of the LGBTQ community in the workplace.

Related image

He didn’t like the Obama directive on transgender restrooms. “The federal government has not business getting involved in issues of this nature,”

Image result for mike pence looking at donald trump

He supports Conversion Therapy. He suggested that federal money used for fund research on HIV/AIDS should be diverted to programs that provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.

Image result for mike pence casual

Defending his wife, he said he found the criticism of his wife working at the school deeply offensive.

How can they legally discriminate in 2019?

In Virginia and many other states, it is legal for private employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual and gender identity. 

It is a challenging climb, but we will get to the mountain top.






I am a “Masterchef” survivor

MasterChef casting

Have you ever wondered what kind of person auditions for reality TV? Here’s my story, and what I saw

By: Jessie Glenn/

This life story was originally published on Salon on February 18, 2018.
If you take 300 people and push them to an extreme stress level, some of them will die under the pressure. I believe producers of reality shows know this is true. There are no former reality show contestants who will candidly discuss the process of casting and filming a major reality show because the contracts contestants sign contain nondisclosure agreements in addition to frank threats against their family and friends.
And, elements of reality show casting are horrific enough to deserve a transparent discussion. Full of dangerous, dirty secrets; no one can talk about the full details except me, an unlikely candidate from the start. The only explanation I have is that my interest was accelerated by a desire to please, an insensate understanding of pop culture and a pathological curiosity. 

When my husband Billy and his daughter Lila moved in with me and my children in 2008, they brought with them a riot of  pop culture we had never been exposed to. As I sorted through the novel offerings I understood two things almost immediately: I hated video games the most and liked cooking shows the best. We had watched “Hell’s Kitchen” for two years already when  “MasterChef” began its run in 2010. Billy got me hooked in the first season. I dug into the sort of anxiety that resolves deliciously at the end of each season and enjoyed recreating and embellishing the food in my own kitchen. We watched season 2 but, really, I watched Billy watch the second season. He liked watching it, and I wanted to be the thing he liked watching.

Even with my limited knowledge of reality shows, I knew that real people became unreal characters. I’d long understood that the caveat to my lifelong atheism was that though there is no one creator god, all gods are real, because people create them through belief.

Once made, gods take on their own power. It’s not just mental illness that causes a person to think a god voice has spoken to them. It’s also that the god has been brought into existence as a character with a measure of his or her own free will. Same with reality show contestant fame. Did I want my husband to see me on television as a kitchen goddess creature brought into existence for a moment? Yes, I did. I wanted to be more special than a person. That impulse alone is both questionable and problematic for a person weighing the odds of a dangerous decision. And I imagine it’s a feeling shared by most people wanting to be reality stars.

The casting process that no one is allowed to talk about occurs in multiple stages. Most contestants send a video, then go and prepare a “signature dish” in person at various tryouts around the country (I drove to Seattle to do mine), at which point the “signature dish” is graded by subcontracted cooking school judges in secret. If they pass you on, the next step is filling out reams of paperwork that end up coaxing a TV-ready backstory and a streamlined brand where, before, there was simply a person.

For other contestants there is a different path. Quite a few of the “kooky” contestants, the ones with puppets and spells and flying falcons, are recruited, but for comic relief rather than a quick advance to the finals. They are Hollywood eccentric staples. Christine Ha, however, the winner of season 3, was recruited based on her Blind Chef cooking blog. Luca, winner of season 4, was recruited after an unsuccessful tryout with me in season 3. For me, this raised the question: Do they choose the winner before the first tryouts?

For us regular schlubs, once you pass the next few rounds of casting online, you get to fly to LA (which you pay for yourself). You gather with some of the other contestants in a nondescript meeting room at The Doubletree Hotel in Culver City and you all complete a two-hour-long personality psych test reminiscent of the somewhat outdated Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). The test is analyzed by a computer while you wait and the results are then given to a psychiatrist who meets with each potential contestant. You do not get to see the results. It seemed to me that the point of the test is to judge what dramatic traits each person has that could be harvested later for a plot twist.

I filled out the questionnaire carefully, consistently, and not at all truthfully. “You’re a real rule follower, hmm?” asked the tall, fit examiner, who looked as if he could be a psychiatrist out of central casting himself. “I suppose so,” I answered blandly. I knew that tests with multiple similar questions asked in different ways are testing for lies. But, I think I beat it. The doctor figure asked a lot of other questions about mental health and what I guessed were follow-up questions for: hypochondriasis, hysteria, psychopathic deviation and hypomania, among other conditions. More generally, the test was an attempt to predict behavior in various situations. Or, what TV producers would call plotlines. Over the course of the 15-minute interview I peppered posed naïveté with sassy, authentic eye contact, thus maintaining the brand I had created without breaking character. Had he worked for other shows, I asked? My voice pitched higher than usual. “Yes!’” he said, “‘The Biggest Loser,’ ‘American Idol,’ all the Fox shows.”

I was too pissed at the thought of his sadistic prying into the vulnerable psyches of the idiots who would want to go on reality TV to maintain my “PNW Organic Mom 2.0” profile. “What about that First Do No Harm clause in your medical training?” I asked, my eyes narrowing now. I never imagined I would actually get to say that to a doctor in real life. I wanted to make him uncomfortable.

“We’re done here,” he said, opening the door. “Go see the private investigator now.”

The experience with the “MasterChef” detective felt just as invasive. No, I never modeled underwear for softcore porn. I don’t think? I’m sure I did many worse things he didn’t ask about, though, and I sweated guilt. He must have known I was guilty. I can’t remember what he looked like or how long I was in his office. Was I ever arrested? I don’t remember. What will the financial credit report, arrest records, residential history and historical reports he ordered dig up? Because I’ve done nothing. Right?

I flew back home to Portland, Oregon, the same day I left and felt wild, violated and alive. The blood and pee samples I had to send to them from the lab after I got home felt like no big deal after the professional interrogation. Submit. Submit your blood, they said. Yes, sir. I did.

I passed the next round of casting and they sent me the final multiple contracts by email and I sent them back 17 bulleted questions about the details because oh my god, they were unbelievabledocuments. Any part of myself that desired to please got trampled by the part that liked to win.

In the “MasterChef” contract, which a casting director later told me was essentially identical to those of most reality competition shows, they asked me to agree to be subjected to physical and mental distress, to agree to have my medical history used in any way that they wanted and to use it in perpetuity, to agree that my family would likely not be contacted in the case of an emergency. They asked me to release the show and its employees from liability for any injury to myself from risks both known and unknown. They asked that I release them from liability from the social and economic losses that could result and to please note that the consequences could be substantial and could permanently change the future for me, my family, friends and significant others.

They asked for a clause that could have kept me from working at my own media publicity company and to remove my own company website on their request.

They asked me to agree to pay a 15 percent “management fee” to a company called One Potato Two Potato (OPTP) owned by . . .  Gordon Ramsay. This fee would then apply to any income or even gifts I received in any context potentially related to the showI asked if OPTP would do any other career management. No, they said.

Despite the huge number of questions I asked, and despite the lawyers that they undoubtedly employed along with the detectives and psychiatrists, somehow someone missed that I never sent back the signed contract. I promised nothing.

The day before all the contestants arrived, the casting department called to say I had made the cut. I was a contestant. They were flying me out to LA the next day. Clearly, I was a replacement for someone else who dropped out at the last minute and I figured, fuck it. I never signed anything waiving any of my rights and as the daughter of a journalist, I’m genetically hardwired to be curious. It was the most perfect setup for a pathologically inquisitive, masochistic exhibitionist that ever was. I couldn’t wait to get there.

The contestant minders were called wranglers. They were all gorgeous. Perry was the lead wrangler but her official title was Contestant Coordinator. There were quite a few wranglers and in my memory they run together into one attractive, fit, amoral blur. All of the contestants stayed in a hotel for the first two days and, pelted with questions, the wranglers told us some things and would not tell us other things. It was hurry up and wait and whisper and guess. We spent all the time asking what was happening and where we were going and when we were eating. They got direction through earbuds which would then be transmitted to us.

There was an odd assembly where a producer (who appeared to be an actor) assured us that all the contestants had the same chance of winning or he would get in trouble with some official body and we should try our hardest. Then a member of the “official body” came on stage and shook his finger at the phony-looking producer and the producer pretended to be scared. It was like watching a psych version of WWF.

Everyone there besides me seemed like they were OK with believing whatever they were told. The contestants applauded and shrieked like initiates in a revival tent. Each one was a winner. They all just knew it. I was almost jealous. I missed out on the orgy of emotion and faith that the reality show congregants trampled over each other to prove.

We contestants were each interviewed during the first two days in front of a production set of fake produce, a regular horn of plenty, where I refused to be filmed holding the Walmart bag. We weren’t allowed out of the hotel room unless we were with the wranglers, who would take us on one or two outings, either to the hotel pool or a burger place, where we would share enormous confidences with one another. Explosive familiarity bloomed in these small portions of time we were able to see other people, strangers, who were all equally anxious to unfold their shininess to other shiny strangers after the stress of staying hours in a hotel room with antagonists and no phones. Because the wranglers made a huge deal out of telling us our roommate selections were random. And because that appeared impossible.

Everything the wranglers said seemed a pretty obvious setup to me to add intensity and create plotlines. I could see it from the outside (I kept a notebook, of course) and the artifice was fascinating and well done. From the inside it felt . . . gross. They had asked me about religion; Atheist, I said. And food: all local and organic! So I was roomed with a devout Evangelical Christian woman who used sugar, Rice Krispies and food coloring to make statues of the judges’ heads, which she brought with her from Texas. The Palestinian and the Israeli were roomed together (the Israeli contestant dropped out before the end of the weekend). The short, anxious, possibly gay man and the bully banker. The flamboyant opera singer and the dead-eyed animal tracker. Contestants chosen for the producers’ raw accessibility to stereotyped plotlines. Locked in together for hours. Fascinating. Cruel. Effective. More than any other experience in my life, the wranglers exemplified the ideology of “just following orders.”

Once filming started we had 14-hour days on set while contestants took turns cooking, then either failed or made it through to the next round. Our clothing was assigned the first day and cleared with costume and we wore the same thing each day as the musky people smell increased and slept-in hairstyles were prodded back to center. As the people who didn’t get an apron left each day, the remaining contestants’ relationships grew more intense. The man with the puppets who read handwriting samples, the pastor’s wife from Detroit, the witch who tried to put a spell on the judges and the vegan bread maker who was shocked (shocked!) to hear that yeast was alive left fairly quickly. The Jamaican Marine cooking peas and rice; the Italian cook who came back to win season 4; the gentle Hawaiian man whose parents promised to kill me a pig; the fabulous, black, Christian opera singer; the racist, alcoholic redneck, they mostly stayed till the end of the week.

The shiniest people were obvious from the beginning. The star power of Felix Fang, the technique and focus of Becky Reams, the staggering capability of blind contestant Christine Ha and the hugely tall, kind, food lover and former Army Corps of Engineers contract specialist Josh Marks outshined the rest of us, as we all stretched our powers of charisma.

My tryout was at the last part of the last day of the weeklong tryouts. The only people left were the ones who were continuing along to the next episode and the set was quieter than the days before. My dad (the journalist), my husband, my brother and his wife (pop culture enthusiasts), our three kids and my brother’s daughter flew down to California to watch while I cooked.

That morning, I left my wallet in the hotel room and future finalist Josh Marks noticed I was desperate for some coffee. “I got it!” he said. I blushed. I hate accepting things from people I don’t know well. “I’ll get you back when you’re famous,” I said. As if I didn’t care. “Absolutely,” he answered cheerfully. But I didn’t get the chance to buy Josh Marks a cup of coffee. No one has been able to do that for several years now.

On set through the day, the pressure mounted. I am not generally fazed by strangers trying to stress me out, but the wranglers and interviewers are pros. They also try out for the job that they have and the skill is being able to set people off balance. When contestants talk into the camera in a reality show, they are answering questions that have been carefully and tactically worded to create an interestingly uncomfortable moment. I was surprised to find myself flustered. I burned the goddamn garlic. Why did I decide to use a Japanese mandolin when I had never used one before? Because I wanted to know how it worked just like I wanted to know how a reality TV show worked. But, it turns out solving puzzles with a clock running down while people try to destabilize you is less satisfying on set than in real life.

Like the scene from “The Wizard of Oz,” I walked slowly past the crowd pushing a cart with my signature dish on in through the black curtain darkness with all of the videographers and wranglers dressed in black, motionless, watching me and suddenly: there I was in a cavernous room. Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich were elevated on a stage in front of me, brightly lit god-men.

They each asked me about the dish (it’s an egg frittata with California asparagus and goat butter Hollandaise! All sourced within five miles of the warehouse and all organic!). Branding myself as “Portland Locavore” was a no-brainer. They each walked down from the stage one at a time and tasted; then, an airplane flew over the warehouse. “Damn, that ruined the ambience,” said Graham. I started cracking up. “OK, again,” said one of the interviewers. I regained my lack of awe.

“Beauty shot,” said the cameraman. “We want to take a long still of your plate.” I backed off obediently and then realized they were filming me, not the plate. That was how they got those odd shots of people nervously waiting right before a commercial break. I stared back at the camera, eyes as flat as possible. Fuck. No.

“No,” said Joe. “Yes,” said Graham. Then I remembered — they had already interviewed me about this — “which judge’s ‘yes’ vote would be most important and emotional for you?” I had told them, well, Graham will say yes, Joe will say no, so Gordon’s the swing vote. Which is how they wrote it. So that I would react.

I knew I wouldn’t get an apron because I was a replacement contestant from the start, plus I wouldn’t hold the Walmart bag. As I watched during the week, I learned that the food had little to do with moving past the first round. The tryout round was to watch contestants for telegenic qualities, one-liners and quick responses on camera and potential plotlines between contestants. The second round knocked out all of the contestants who had compelling, touching backstories but not much cooking experience and/or not enough plotline potential.

“Daaamn. Shame,” Gordon said in his thick British accent. He didn’t like my frittata (burned garlic).  “But the goat butter Hollan-dez is rally qu-white good.”

“Thanks!!” I couldn’t help being excited by the verbal pat on the head. I knew that on top of the other egregious actions sustained by the “MasterChef” contestants, Gordon’s management company was waiting to siphon off future earnings from winners. But he was awfully charismatic in person. I think it was season 3 winner Christine Ha who said he smells incredible. I didn’t get close enough and I wasn’t going to be one of those people who asked for a hug in the first round.

There was a dramatic pause in which I felt zero anxiety. “No,” he said. Because I knew he would. I can’t deny a bit of disappointment, though, as much as I would like to. So I didn’t win at not caring entirely, but I gave it my all.

I walked back through the door with no apron and everyone made sad sounds for the camera. I looked at my husband — let’s get the fuck out of here. “Stop. Exit interviews,” said the wrangler.

She wasn’t the wrangler I had been led around by all week and she wasn’t Perry, queen of the wranglers, but she was enough of a voice of authority that I stopped rather than diving through the open door like I wanted to. It might have been Carter. Or Angelic. It’s possible this next part is a stress memory, but I’m nearly certain that the exit interview took place in an elevated boxing ring. Although there’s no good reason there would be a boxing ring in the warehouse. Maybe the ring was there so I wouldn’t contaminate the winners with failure. Losers were very strictly not allowed to speak with other contestants. Once you failed, you no longer belonged.

I rushed through the interview quickly and was so close to the industrial backdoor when another gorgeous anonymous wrangler told me I had to see the psychiatrist again. No, not the same doctor. “Do you harbor any thoughts of killing any of the judges or yourself?” he asked.  “No . . . .” said I. They finally let me go.

When I got home I was a little screwed up. Despite knowing that they were messing with me, it worked, probably because I thought I was immune. Anxious, neurotic, easily startled and sobbing off and on for the next week, I was mortified that I could have inadvertently exposed my children to a bout of my depression (self-imposed, no less). I hid as much as possible and it passed in a week or so. The children steadfastly pretended not to notice.

I learned later from speaking with a number of the runner-up cooks that every round longer that a contestant stayed in the competition, the symptoms of traumatic stress appeared more intense when they returned home. Many of the runners-up from each season appear quite damaged. Some are unable to hold jobs, have difficulties with explosive anger. The winners fare somewhat better but not always. I’m still friends with many of them on Facebook and there are secret Facebook groups to talk about all things reality, though interest for most contestants dies off over the years other than blatant self-promotion, fundraising and talk of appearances on other cooking shows.

Despite thinking most of the people who decided to sign that contract were total rubes, the contestants of season 3 were some of the most interesting people I ever met and I don’t doubt that they all had their own reasons for submitting to the abuse. It was a group formed by a casting department for intentionally created, attractive diversity: telegenic people from as many walks of life as they could come up with, who would do practically anything for attention and who loved food. I wouldn’t have traded that part of the experience. But it’s impossible to discuss the experience of being a short-term reality show contestant without noting that some don’t emerge from the experience unscathed.

The week the season finished filming, after he lost the finale to Christine Ha, Josh Marks, the self-titled “gentle giant,” was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He struggled with psychosis. Josh got into several conflicts, including a fight with cops, and heard voices in his head. Police said he claimed he had been possessed by Ramsay. It’s not hard to imagine the god that Gordon Ramsay became through Josh’s deep faith actually manifested.  The week before he took his life, Josh was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I met this man’s family. I met his mother, who struggled to find adequate mental health resources for him in Chicago. Josh was kind and decent and excited about his future and starting a restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard and I mourned his death.

All three of our kids told me that reality TV was stupid and that on-set filming was boring. I think they were still annoyed that I tried to leave them for a month. My husband and I never really watched cooking shows again until the “Great British Bake Off” years later. I felt bad about it in a topical way — we had to start watching something else, so thank god for “True Blood.”

An activity I thought would be partially a lark and partially an unprofessional investigation became something else: an experiment in power and submission and subversion over which I had no control. I knew there would be danger, but I thought the danger would give me energy, that it would excite me creatively where a happy marriage and a calm few years had left me feeling  dull and soft without the potential for danger. But instead of feeling like a warrior surviving a crucible, I left feeling I had failed to protect the tender people. Eccentric, charismatic strangers, yes, but these fragile egotists couldn’t have completely known the results of professional abuse. Being violated is something that can make people feel alive. But that doesn’t make it safe.

A month after I returned home I got a chatty note from the casting director. “Oh, could you send me those final forms, it seems we don’t have your signed contract.”

“I’m really not at all wild about that idea,” I wrote back.

“I’m having legal call you to straighten this out.”

“Feel free to email.”

They never contacted me again.


%d bloggers like this: