Wednesday, January 30, 2008

judging books ...

i'm sitting in the parking lot of blockbuster video mentally drawing a composite sketch of what i imagine the biggest jackhole in the store right at this moment looks like. my guess is based on just one thing: he has parked his oversized marroon pickup truck at such an angle that it is impossible for me to back out of my spot. as his car is already parked on the mangled eyesore side of my broken civic, part of me just wants to fling this baby into reverse at 45 miles per hour. rip off his bumper like its a dry cuticle and spit it out on central entrance. just to teach him a lesson.

i decide he is in his early 20s, overweight, with a lazy amount of hair on his baby face. backward baseball cap and a hooded sweatshirt. and here i get pretty specific: i decide that he will be wearing adidas athletic sandals and tube socks on the coldest day of the year. his jeans will be too long.

you're probably wondering how i can be so sure that i am dealing with a jackhole and not just a sweet, gentle sort who is easily distracted and accidentally parked badly. here's how: there is no way the jackhole was able to extricate himself from the driver's side. he had to slide his bloated substitute right fielder kiester over the truck's bench, crushing nitty gritty dirt band cd cases, and exit via the passenger side.

i watch the door of blockbuster in my rear view mirror for seven minutes. if i know this kid, he's taking his time, browsing. maybe he even snagged a copy of rolling stone under his arm and made for the unisex bathroom where he can lay a deuce.

finally i just go back inside.
i head directly to the video game rentals. he's more xbox and less playstation.

he's not there. i dust the perimeter for my jackhole, but he's not in the new releases. not in vintage action or comedy. no one in this store meets the profile i've created.

i approach one man and ask him if he owns a big truck. as soon as he turns around, i know its not him. too clean. and he's wearing a peacoat. then i ask another, again immediately sure its not him. in fact, i'm pretty sure this second guy has never even spit in public, let alone fill a mountain dew bottle with brown drool and let it freeze in his passenger seat like the jackhole i'm looking for.

and i'm right. both shakes his head no when i ask.

when i find the culprit, my mind is blown. she's in the comedy section and she's a she! that didn't match my profile at all. although as soon as i saw her i knew: she kind of looked like a jackhole. a different kind of jackhole, but a jackhole nonetheless. she told her boyfriend -- who also didn't meet my desciption, and in fact looked nothing like a jackhole. "i'm going to go move the truck for this girl." he didn't seem surprised.

i followed her out to the parking lot.
"hmm," she said, looking at her truck. "i should probably get in on the other side ... doesn't look like there is much room on that side."

so, what? you -- or your boyfriend -- just got out on the other side for sport the first time? or am i going to find a mysterious marroon racing stripe next time i look at the passenger side of my car?

this is why i never leave the house.

girlie purchases ...



it took me 7 minutes at walgreens to find the crucial ingredients for my perfect wednesday. i'm going to drink/apply/read/brush/wear the heck out of all of it!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

ninnies with vertigo ...



there was a night not so long ago that i silenced an entire table at mr. d's when i introduced the idea of heating the streets of duluth. this wasn't an environmentally reckless proposition, i mean, i'd considered solar panels and wind energy and the gas-passing of livestock as a means for this scientific achievement.

my big idea was barely a blip in the conversation. they looked at me like i'd taken off my sock, put my foot on the table and sent black shards of toenail in the general vicinity of their drinks, then resumed a conversation about ballads by cinderella. when i repeated my idea, they just laughed at my silly ideas.

you know who wouldn't have laughed at me that day? the woman who's ford taurus spun 180 degrees while traveling down an avenue today, ending up butt-to-broken butt with baby honda civic. leaving the trunk ajar, a tail light busted and me with a thought i'd not had in years:

i wish my dad lived in duluth.

this feeling probably says a lot of bad things about my current maturity level, or maybe even an unhealthy degree of charmed childhood i had. i like to think it mostly means that my dad is a clear-headed, deliberate sort of person who i believe knows what to do in any situation. and i needed him to skulk around my mangled civic, surveying my car from seven different angles, ask a lot of questions, but peppered slowly into long silences, and then dig in the trunk of his practical car for a practical solution.

***

my car was parked on an avenue where i never park on a warm day.
within an hour, i heard rumors that it was slippery outside. i assumed this was hyperbole from a bunch of ninnies with vertigo.
a half hour later i went outside and it was slippery.
a police car was blocking cars from going down the avenue.
i decided that a steep avenue is no place to ditch the civic if every taurus in town is going to take a left turn, pause briefly, then fling itself cartwheeling down the road to the next stop light.
i could barely cross the street, the bricks were like mirrors. i felt like a drunk ice dancer.
nearing my car, i noticed it had already gotten the got. the right side crunched. toaster oven dangling from my trunk.
i decided to move it into a public parking lot, so that the next 10 cars to test this wretched hill wouldn't each leave it's own special mark.
i couldn't move the car. it was too icy to move backward, and i didn't trust forward.

that's when i started thinking about pa pista.

***

the hitter seems nice, although we've not met. a wisconsin woman who went through the trouble of completing an entire police report and leaving it on my windshield. god bless her. the last person who hit my car screamed at me because they didn't have car insurance, and i ended up paying for 2,800 dollars in damages all while googling "small claims court minnesota."

guess who will never treat car insurance as "optional" ever again?

***

the policeman said he wasn't letting any cars attempt this avenue until a sand truck had made a pass ... well, unless there was a burglary. one needed only to cock her ears slightly to hear that duluth sounded like a war zone at that particular moment: an entire musical comedy starring ambulances, fire trucks and police cars. it was as if everyone in duluth was crashing into everyone else in duluth.

then the sand truck came.

***

i asked my burliest, most cocky friend if he would move my car into the public lot.
i wanted someone comfortable behind the wheel, who wouldn't double over weeping at the site of this young car on the cusp of its second reconstructive surgery. because of the latter, i was incapable of the former.

burly cocky friend seemed optimistic, tried to cross the street and bowed out.

"where's your car?" another man in a t'shirt asked as we surveyed the street.
i pointed.
"give me your keys," he said.
at this, the man took three steps backward, and crouched to the position of a middle-distance runner seconds before the gun. he took a breath and sprinted toward the street, making a wide arc, then purposefully sliding into the snowbank in the median. from here he pushed off again, rounding up, then sliding toward my car.

he inched his way around, holding onto the vehicle.
i saw the civic disappear around a corner.
the man emerge from the parking lot.
he carefully walked back across the street and returned my keys.
two hours later, he sent me photos of my car. apparently he had gone back for a second look.

***

a few hours later, the roads were fine. but the temperature is scheduled to drop 60 degrees over the next few days.

now, you jackholes, about those heated streets. ...

Monday, January 28, 2008

stalk her 'til she loves you back ...

this past week was rich in restaurant food and movies with fantastic soundtracks.

BEER PROJECT
surly furious: had to sit this week out, as this is only served via keg in this part of the world. the only thing i can imagine drinking an entire keg of is cherry nyquil. so this is actually a nonreview.

FOOD EATEN IN PUBLIC
lake avenue cafe: i've not been here since my first birthday in duluth, when -- because of the limited items on the menu -- i had eggplant parmesean. i learned on my 26th birthday that i'm not into eggplant parmesean. this time i had falafel. chuck had puttanesca. we shared the best tiramisu i've ever eaten half of.

anchor bar: olive burger. even two hours after this was removed from the grill, it still had subtle reminders that it probably would have tasted good if i'd eaten it in a timely fashion. on this visit, the cook refused to make french fries. this may have been for the best.

chester creek cafe: a-gain? uh-huh. fannie and i had sunday brunch. i had mary anne's egg thing. let's just say it is pretty hard to eff up scrambled eggs with cheese and a toasted english muffin. and they didn't. and they threw pomegranate into what could have been a pretty beige collection of mixed fruit. kudos!

ONGOING QUESTS
tempeh reuben: i'm on an ongoing quest to find a best tempeh reuben that i can possibly get into my face. the one in the deli at whole foods falls somewhere between the standard of excellence served at the new scenic cafe, and the one i made on my crusty old stove. [other ongoing quests include finding my favorite muffaletta].

FOOD MADE BY ME
irish oatmeal: we're still working through that issue of vegetarian times. this oatmeal takes four hours to congeal and eventually tastes like oatmeal that takes 1 minute, 35 seconds in the microwave. but this makes the apartment smell more like food, less like plastic. and the dried cherries plump up, and are a nice surprise every three bites.

MOVIE PROJECT

valley girl (1983): this movie sparked a love affair with nic cage that stayed strong just past "gone in 60 seconds" when my feelings were quickly derailed by a purely heterosexual fascination with angelina jolie. now doubling back to valley girl, i see that this movie doesn't star nic cage as much as it stars his neatly trimmed falcon-shapped swath of chest hair. this movie's life lesson: if a girl breaks up with you to re-date the hoity toity boy from her high school, stalk her 'til she loves you back.

purple rain (1984): this movie follows a pornographic template for movie-making, with music playing the role of porn. 10 minutes of plot, 101 minutes of music -- the perfect ratio. i'm trying to remember: was prince considered sexy in 1984?

MOVIES IN NO WAY RELATED TO MOVIE PROJECT
"cloverfield": a movie filled with people who need to reassess their priorities -- namely the survival instinct -- and tendancy to herd around a deeply flawed, possibly concussioned leader, all from the eye of a hand held video camera. stars a monster that sounds like he had a helping of my very special chili recipe. to say i loved this movie would only be scratching the surface. not to mention that i kneel at the alter of the church of 78 minute films.

READING
"look at me" by jennifer egan: creepy subplot about online culture that seems inches ahead of its time. after plowing through the first half, i got a little meh about certain subplots. i've already bought 'the gift' -- i'll give her another shot.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

teddy bear part deux ...


i come to you under the most surreal experience in the history of cab rides in duluth. our cab driver is sitting in a chair in chuck's living room; his son on the couch -- on a break from schooling chuck at guitar hero. the cab driver's dog -- teddy bear? sniffing out the dirty laundry, rat traps, crannies. me? i'm preheating the oven for pizza. i'm assuming they'll be gone before we dig into the pie.

i'm not sure how this happens, other than we live in duluth and are pretty friendly?

we went to quinlan's for one medicinal drink. chuck didn't want to go, and i was pretty emphatic in my use of the word "one." but the fun continued to happen, and so we had another. and eventually we called a cab. and he was like: um. i don't have any available. ... but what the hell ... whatever. i'll pick you up in my camri.

your camri? i asked.
yeah, he said.
okay? i responded.

and they were there, in 15 minutes, like they promised.
"christa?" he asked.
"todd?" i said. like a blind date with the person who's driving you home.




he said he'd stop at the ghetto spur for us. and i remembered that he liked root beer, but non caffinated. teddy bear climbed from my lap to chuck's. that's when i realized his son was in the front seat. a fifteen year old who had just beaten his dad at monopoly minutes before we called and because the game was over, his dad was able to give us a ride. apparently, last time, he gave us a business card with his home number on it. his son's ears perked up when i mentioned that we had guitar hero.

"do you want to play a bit?" i asked.
i assumed he'd say no.
but it was his dad's night off; his 15 year old son who is used to playing a version of this game on his desktop's keyboard ...? a camri? no meter running and a poodle?

"okay," the cab driver said.

here i set a rule: at 3 a.m., we need our night back. todd agreed. and actually stood behind that, coaxing his son away from the guitar he owned for 45 minutes while the stove was heating and teddy bear wandered from room to room, making me fall in love with each little poodle heart beat.

i had things about the night i wanted to write: a conversation overheard outside about the portrayal of women by media; a funny old man with the wrappers from our beef stick buffet wrapped around his neck. then this happened.

stuff i didn't write about:







"you've got your whole post written?" chuck asked.
"well, i had stuff to say ..." i said.
"this kinda writes itself," he agreed.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

new week, same old over guesstimation of my stomach size ...

i'm eating a lot of sandwiches from amazing grace. at least once a week. it's my latest manic food hobby, although its a carryover from at least last spring meaning its more of a lifestyle commitment. even if this little hippie take on subway didn't have the best sandwiches in town, i'd still just like going there. as a rule, i like any place that you have to walk down steps to patronize. favorite bar? quinlan's. favorite bakery/sandwich/coffee shop: amazing grace. i'd have really thrived in a speakeasy era.

for three dollars you can buy a loaf of three pepper french bread that is the most delicious thing to ever self combust with acne-like mold spores after just three days on top of your refrigerator. when you buy it, you are actually signing up for a foot race with nature and the clock starts the second they cinch the bag. you could make bread this good -- if you weren't running a back alley abortion clinic for yeast in your kitchen. not to mention that when you bake bread, there is that uncomfortable moment between rising and rising more when your wimpy little hands are covered in something the consistency of shower caulk. and so, the foot race with nature it is.

i like a turkey sandwich with cheddar, provalone or swiss. onions, tomatoes and black olives -- although about half of the time, i've found that the black olives have shriveled into something that tastes like a dirty diaper. obviously, that can really ruin a sandwich.

i always order a full sandwich, plotting how i will eat one half and save the other half for later. these sandwiches are the size of my tibia. i figure half is the size of my stomach in its resting position. the food hording, while something i've always done, became more pronounced in the onset of this relationship. before i felt comfortable opening chuck's refrigerator, let alone contributing to the contents, i lived in fear that midway through a veronica mars marathon i'd suddenly become famished. that i'd steal into his pantry while he slept and find it bare, save for a can of chickpeas and some baking soda that expired when i still had braces. that's when i started carrying emergency clif bars. that's why even today i have the cremains of two pop tarts in my purse. that's why i always order a full sandwich.

oftentimes, the girl who makes my sandwich is this bubbly conversationalist who frequently reminds me that she has put toothpicks in the sandwich to hold it together. "DON'T FORGET I PUT TOOTHPICKS IN THERE!" she warns, wagging her finger. "BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE TERRIBLE!"

i nod and spend the next seven seconds tasting the roof of my mouth and imagining being impaled by this four-inch sliver decorated with a blue cellophane ribbon. my bloody tongue jutting through the small crater, licking my own sinuses. that would be terrible.

i eat the half slowly, a textbook case of savoring each bite. and a half hour later, i'll always, always decide to eat the entire sandwich. it tastes so good, i'm still a little hungry.

bam.

two hours later, it's like the thing has doubled in my gut. my stomach pushes to a painful convex shape. i wobble when i walk. i fantacize about bulemia and elastic pants and rue that moment i said "full sandwich."

and then, the next week, i make the same mistake.

Friday, January 25, 2008

surf and turf ...

our waitress was dewy. pleat marks in her black apron, pens loaded with ink, her timberlodge polo shirt lacking the seasoned butter stains of a veteran, dark shapes the size of sweat marks. and when she bumbled and spilled our salt shaker before she had even taken a drink order, i gave her a smug look and said: "don't worry about it. but just so you know, i'm a food critic for the post bulletin."

i was not a food critic for the post bulletin. i was manpower temp with a tryout at a local nonprofit, where i answered phones and opened mail, and they did me the favor of referring to me as an "editorial assistant." [later i would get a job at the post bulletin, but as more of a high school tennis critic than a food critic].

it should have been obvious that i was lying: in rochester, in 1998, the occupation of "food critic" would have quickly become obsolete. one night you're hitting the grand opening of timberlodge and within three weeks, resources spent, you're interviewing the woman who works the drive thru window during the afterbar rush at hardees. [true story, i did write about her for rochester magazine]. plus, a real food critic wouldn't out herself to the waitress, a real critic wouldn't show up on opening night. a real critic wouldn't eat at a timberlodge.

not to mention i was young. 22 masked as a 17 year old. unrefined in every way. i had a dull slab of pink palate. a hunk of raw boneless chicken breast idle in my mouth. linguistically capable of only: hmm ... salt or tobassco sauce, me likey. definitely not a food critic.

the waitress's eyes doubled, stunned. she scurried away and within an instant was replaced by a husky fellow who introduced himself as assistant manager and was joined seconds later by a huskier fellow who introduced himself as the manager. in between hearty banter, they passed out business cards like tag-team black jack dealers. i nodded cooly with a steady stream of "oh shit-shit-shits" bleating in my head.

because when this popped out of mouth two minutes earlier, it had seemed like a funny prank to play on some high school cross country runner from john marshall earning money for college over summer vacation. now management was involved and we were being promised the surf and turf experience of a lifetime. mashed potatoes double-checked for luggies; shrimp combed for stray hairs. we would be massaged and loved with the attention of a thousand stalkers.

the rub: for the next 45 minutes i was going to have to pretend i was a food critic. and eventually this morphed from funny to uncomfortable. our waitress hadn't been terrible. i would know: i'd been a terrible waitress. just ask anyone who ever ate at the ground round in roseville in 1997. they would be lucky to escape with salt spilled on the table. if a customer didn't leave with his lap filled with linguini debris, it was probably because they had left in a huff when i forgot to place their order.

a real food critic's dinner companions wouldn't get blotto, 32 ounces at a time, on michelob golden draft light. a real food critic wouldn't get a little blotto herself. a real food critic would have declined the free dessert, and definitely would have waived the two 20 dollar gift certificates that appeared folded along with the bill.

but i wasn't a food critic. i was an editorial assistant. an editorial assistant who's next meal at the timberlodge would be free.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

all the birthday, none of the drizzle ...

today was jcrew's birthday, which is usually a decent holiday. and monday when i asked her how she wanted to celebrate, she hemmed and hawed and acted like maybe we didn't need to decide right then. we could let the stream of bars percolate a bit.

less than 24 hours later, i was part of a mass email sent out by jcrew. she lamented her lack of friends, and how she was sending out her own party invite. she invited us to the anchor bar on wednesday night. later, jcrew looked at me sternly over her glasses. like a principal, or a dominatrix, and said: "you know, christa. this is the first year that you didn't send out an email inviting people to my birthday."

"but! i asked you what you wanted to do! i thought we were still talking about it!" i responded.
she shook her head.
"i don't think so," she said.

i felt awful. just like she wanted me to. feeling awful was the least i could do. it was like a birthday gift.

***

my landlord was going to hit the party early, while the grill was seething. i had him order me an olive burger. have it waiting for me when i got there. i haven't eaten meat in so long that if a deer ran past the window right now i'd beg it for one venisony lick of its underbelly.



***

when we got to the bar, a half-dozen surly goths and/or mimes were in a semi circle in front of a large-screen television watching the movie "hot fuzz." cigarettes poised near their smeared white makeup and exaggerated eye makeup.

"it's hard to get used to the cigarettes," chuck mused. "this place is so dirty, people are rude, everyone's smoking. i feel like we're in france."

***

jcrew did not yet seem moved by the birthday spirit. i mean, by this time last year, it looked something like this:



whereas this year, it was a much tamer this:








then things ramped up:






***

i just wanted a water. but chuck came back with this:



it included a free cherry cheese cake shot for jcrew. i put my finger in it. bubbles tested it. then jcrew finished it off. i conceded to drink one free foamy beer that had fallen on the floor.





and then it was time to go home.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

fluent in gooey gibberish ...

search blog for hyperbole: "never drinking again."
decide "never" averages out to "for six more days."
reiterate i'm never drinking again, for the sake of consistency.

recreate events of last evening: a pleasant dinner. falafel platter and tiramisu at lake avenue cafe. an entire night to do whatever the hell we want, and we want to go out. stand on corner in frigid weather, one of us has rabbit fur covering his ears. run to the middle of street to look for tall vehicle, thenvery responsibly board inbound bus, dropping sixty cents each into coin slot. sixty cents equals the price of waking up with a car parked in front of the house instead of abandoned in a parking ramp within smelling distance of the scene of the previous night's crime.

i hate seeing the bar i was at in the light of the next day. it's embarrassing. like still wearing a toga at 10 a.m. it makes my innards seize up.

pizza luce is a little too bright, a lot too empty. every time the juke box runs out of songs, it feels like last call. three of my friends are at a table in the corner, post-sweeney todd, miming throat slitting. we hadn't planned on a party, but this will do. we play music, deconstruct the song "hey ya" and dane cook's ability or inability to coax a chuckle from the depths of your diaphragm. chuck diagrams an art project on the back of this week's transistor.

i drink our combined weight in whiskey.

early in the night i wander into the coed bathroom. ladies veer right, gents to the left. and there is chuck, on the right, studying a photograph at the mouth of the women's stalls. he jumps when the door opens, like he has been busted -- i don't know -- loitering on the wrong side of the unofficial gender line? seems relieved that it's just me doing the busting and that i already know this about him.

more friends arrive, some leave. we create a bar tab that looks like it should include dinner and a pretty cute pair of shoes. the bartender calls us a cab. we are whisked to the ghetto spur, where we purchase pizza and gatorade. chuck intercepts my computer five times right before i am about to click on the "post comment" button. we fall asleep just as we become fluent in gooey gibberish.

i feign fine health when we wake. i can't hide that my right eye is crusted shut from falling asleep in my contacts. i sit with chuck while he eats an emergency burrito before work, knowing that when he leaves i am going to destroy his bathroom then do a face plant into those four pillows. i only half-sleep, weird dreams about bloggers i've never met. this is my new recurring dream. i no longer spew teeth into my palms, now i hang out with bloggers.

i don't drink much anymore, but still drink like a person who drinks often when i do drink. drinking, i think, is a commitment. if i'm going to do it, i should do it big and often or not at all. once a week or less means that when i do drink, the next day looks like this:

seering head pain, followed by crumpled stomach, followed by a deep thirst, followed by urinary tract pain pills -- taken preventively. skipping the ymca, feeling like i'm going to barf when i smoke, yet needing to smoke to feel better. i want food, but it may bungee back out of my body. around 10 p.m., the symptoms dull. my organs stop rejecting moisture. but i'm still craving a happy meal.

i'm never drinking again.

when chuck got home from work, he had picked up refried beans. it was like he had read my soul. helpful hint from pista: if you want a hangover helper big mac, refried beans should trick your body into feeling like you ate one, without then subjecting your health conscience to visions of a home triple bypass kit.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

oh fer shizzo ...

great soup. seriously fantastic. um ... mushroom? I ALMOST ATE THAT! YOU ALMOST POISONED ME!


then we took the bus to the bar.




then my camera died.

Monday, January 21, 2008

smells like indian food ...

doing my best immitation of an agoraphobic for a third week.

BEER EXPERIMENT
flat earth belgian pale ale: i'm totally moving to belgium.

FOOD MADE BY ME
vindaloo: it's amazing to me that if you mix the right combination of foods, it just immediately smells like indian food. garlic, curry, tomatoes ... i could eat it, don't make me spray it on my cleavage before a night on the town. instead of garlic naan, i accidentally made flat garlic biscuits that looked suspiciously like the bun of a mcdonalds hamburger that had been in my backseat for a month. what? you don't do that?

gouda mac: open mouth. put face in cheese. it's so good-a.

MOVIE PROJECT
"kramer vs. kramer" (1979): i haven't cried so hard since half pint gave ma the stove for christmas.

"airplane" (1980): a story of love, war, bad fish, and kareem abdul-jabbar incognito. otto pilot steals the show and a grope.

"arthur" (1981): this movie has acheived a level of suck that deserves it's own post entirely. suffice to say that the one shining moment in the movie is christopher cross theme song. liza minella bears a creepy resemblence to the karate kid. this movie would never be made in the year 2008 because some people get really uptight about alcoholism.

"48 hours" (1982): there is a definite sexual tension between eddie murphy and nick nolte.

MOVING PICTURES ON MY LAPTOP
"the importance of being morrissey" (2003): my friend the punk rock girl has had very special feelings for morrissey for more than two decades. finding his myspace profile has exacerbated it a bit. i, too, would consider myself a fan. the smiths greatest hits vol. 2 was the first cd i ever purchased, but when she goes into a fevered moz coma, i feel inferior in my fandom. that said, this 45ish minute documentary from 2002 -- broken into five segments and now on youtube -- gave me goose bumps for 45ish minutes, in five segment intervals.

READING
"then we came to the end" by joshua ferris: page after page of office gossip. funny sometimes, inane others.

TV THAT BLEW MY MIND
the x effect (mtv): are you serious? exes bring their new boyfriend/girlfriend for a couples weekend at a posh resort. BUT, the new significant others are immediately, and surprisingly, sent home. the exes shares a room. the banished get to monitor the exes' interaction, when they are not taken home, but sequestered in a tiny hotel room at the same resort. sometimes they have video, sometimes audio. the exes are moved to the honeymoon suite. a light in the banished couple's room indicates when the couple is touching; a locator map shows where they are in the hotel room. meanwhile, the banished are supplied with plenty of liquor while they watch the exes grind in the hot tub. at the end of the weekend, the exes decide if they want the ex, or the newer significant other that just watched them kneed suntan lotion onto their ex's shiny rumpus.

this. is. unreal. dear teenagers, mtv is treating you like a game of sims. unfortunately, i can't stop watching, which means i'm probably part of the sims game, too.

WII
guitar hero: in the three days this has existed in the same room as me i've been late for an appointment and skipped a trip to the YMCA. like a toddler transfixed with, i don't know, "finding nemo" ? watching and rewatching, i've become obsessed with the song "when you were young" by the killers.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

national 'name your price' day ...

the only thing that makes this grocery store more appealing than, say, the ghetto spur is that this store, in theory, has a produce department. i can't vouch for the contents, but you could probably even put these fruits and vegetables in your mouth. i have a lot of complaints about the store, but the most tangible is this: they don't carry a single flavor of fanta. no grape, no orange, and the most egregious oversight -- no strawberry. on the other hand, the ghetto spur is the purveyor of the quintessential gas station burrito. this could be all it takes to bump the ghetto spur ahead of the grocery store on my personal ranking system.

that's why it hardly bothers me at all that i -- in the loosest, most passive sense of the word -- stole a package of steel cut oats them tonight.

duluth, today, feels like you are singing the national anthem at center ice. when whiskey marie mentioned frozen spittal, she was only mildly exaggerating. i'm an active spitter and what leaves my mouth is pure, unadultured saliva. what hits the sidewalk sounds like a dollop of yogurt. i haven't bent my knees in hours because at 20 below, when your bare flesh brushes against denim, it feels like you've wrapped your thighs in a headache.

in honor of this very special weekend where it is maybe going to clear 2 degrees on monday, i decided to make a very complicated version of oatmeal. none of that "just add water" stuff of ninnies. the sort of thing that could wipe away that smug smile of a highly fiberified quaker.

this calls for dried cherries, maple syrup, vanilla soy milk and the aforementioned oats. a few hours in a crock pot. and as i load my basket i'm thinking this has to break some sort of record for the ratio of total price of groceries to amount of items in this basket. especially in this neighborhood, where on monday nights you can rent like five movies for 99 cents, but three of those movies have to be from the "problem child" trilogy.

at the checkout there is some confusion over a bunch of parsley -- which is for a different recipe -- and i solve the cashier's mystery by saying, "it's parsley." then come the steel cut oats, ominous and rolling down the conveyor belt. the cashier looks at the bag from about two different angles, then asks: "do you remember how much these cost?"

[sorry you missed out. today was "name your price" day at super one].

i gave him a blank look while $5.99? and $6.99? battled for tongue-time. i can't remember, i just know that i was surprised and that it seemed like a lot. but i have no frame of reference, i've never bought steel cut oats before. just as i said: "five? --" he cut me off and said: "a dollar? okay."

oats are kind of a disposable food, the kind of food that is always available in your pantry. 90 percent of you could probably make oatmeal cookies RIGHT NOW! the sort of thing that is so expendable that it has uses well-beyond the realms of food: itchy chicken pox? oats! want to jazz up a hum drum bath? add oats! need to give your skin a little extra attention? oatmeal facial! running late and need a dry shampoo? finely grated oats!

but a dollar? nothing costs a dollar. i didn't try to right this error. maybe i would have if they carried fanta.

what i saw was a cashier who paid me to not make him run to the steel oats aisle and look up the price. as long as we were old-school bartering, i should have held out for another fifty cents.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

from the annals of fantastic text messages ...

Friday, January 18, 2008

skin grafts from a stranger's ass ...

the world was never colder than when i was in elementary school. my bus stop -- which i shared with a bunch of jackhole mama's boys -- was just a blink under a mile from our house. sometimes i'd "cut through," which meant a waist-deep trek through neighbors' yards. home was up two steep hills, and at 68 pounds, i could take three steps and be blown backward nine steps on the icy incline.

fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, we were allowed to wear dark blue cordoroys under our plaid uniform skirts, so our knees didn't get frostbitten: turn red, then black, the skin eventually ashing away like flecks from a dying log. the exposed bone re-covered in april with skin grafts from a donor's ass. for the entire winter, the hallways of st. pius x were filled with the sound of levi's cordoroy friction, the whoshk-whoshk-whoshk of citizens who read at a fourth-grade level. it's a wonder there weren't more fires. or at least chafing.

on the coldest day in the history of planet earth, minnesota, my bus driver dropped me off a blink under a mile from our house. as the bus drove away, i realized i had a problem. readers, i had to pee. which was the quickest way home? through the back yards grunting like the arctic snow monster from scooby doo season one episode eight? or bumble up these hills like the downward spiral of an anorexic drug addict broken gymnast from an after school special?

back yards. seriously, i had to pee.

twenty minutes later, my legs are so cold they're burning. snot-cicles are stalagtites on my chin. my tear ducts are gurgling with something the consistancy of mr. misty. if i could see through the thin film of ice on my eyeballs, i'd see that my house is just half a block away. i trudge on.

our driveway is about 15 feet long, 60 degree incline. at the top i have to walk over mashed potato-like snow mounds, along the side of the house to the garage door and attempt to open the door while wearing mittens. a hip check to the door, and a reminder to myself to NOT LICK THE METAL DOORKNOB! [again]. in the garage, i have to fumble around for the key we have hidden under the first of the 14-steps up to door.

standing there, staring at the steps, calculating the time it will take to unlock the door, return the key to the bottom of the steps, run back up the steps, get inside, take off my boots, get into the bathroom, shut the door, unbutton my cordoroys ... my bladder gives out. it's like this poor little pink bubble had been holding its breath as long as possible, and now, so close to the bathroom, it just plum gives out.

i stand in the garage, my legs warmed by the outburst, the floor, my shoes, my socks soaked. and while i know at the time that i'm too old to wet my pants, i'm less ashamed than, well, warmed.

two things happened that day: 1) i realized that going to the bathroom when it's cold outside is a good way to warm up; 2) that as long as i told no one about this incident, i could "accidentally" do it again if i had to. since no one ever knew, it was like i had gotten a "get out of jail pee" card.

well, friends. it is supposed to be 60 degrees below zero this weekend. it may be time to cash in a 22-year old voucher i received from a very special little girl.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

starring meryl streep ...



tonight we eat from a cheese tray and watch "kramer vs. kramer." just like the night most of you were conceived.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

a study in mallitics ...

i'm standing in line at abercrombie, the proverbial meat in a glee sandwich, book ended by customers who found a sale table and have two arms with which to fill with 18 dollar t'shirts and 29 dollar sweatshirts. there is a woman in front of me who's face has been eaten by her own excitement: she is a glow of shiny teeth. the woman behind me is buried under hangers filled with her daughter's branded cotton whims. me, i'm a bit more even-keeled. i mean, i really want this sweatshirt, but this is taking forever. the vacant-eyed muscle behind the counter is puzzled by ole teeth's check, her ID, her check again ... and the line is growing.

there are piglet squeals coming from the fitting room: one girl is lounged lazily on a leather couch while her friend performs archiac dance moves. mc hammer meets a barbershop quartet, knees flailing, testing the mettle of a pair of sweatpants with "abercrombie" scrawled in tiny letters across the tiny ass. after retreating back into the fitting room, the girl calls out to her friend: i don't know! i don't want to look like a lesbian gym teacher! and there is a collective sigh of relief from lesbian gym teachers everywhere.

the vacant-eyed muscle is wearing a chunky silver wedding ring. he looks younger than the 12 inch strand of hair that has been protruding from my stomach since 10th grade. i search the store for which equally-vacant-eyed pixie he knocked up at junior prom. his arms are cartoonishly out of proportion to the rest of his body. they going to bust through the sleeves of his polo shirt. there is going to be striped pastel flying everywhere! that's no kind of advertising.

he hunts and pecks at the cash register -- no amount of muscle will make this easier. he struggles folding three consecutive tops, seems overwhelmed by the various sizes of bags he can select. wonders what to do with the receipt.

when we first got an abercrombie in rochester, i remember hearing that only certain people would be hired. an aesthetic must be met. i wonder if that is still true, and i wonder how this is justified. still, i've been shopping at abercrombie for years and i've never seen a flabby arm or muffin top. frizzy hair or acne.

everyone who works in this store is wearing flip flops. you may think this is the misguided footware selection of teenagers with cute feet who think life is a beach. you are only half right. a few years ago, i bought a pair of complicated pants with zippers and buttons and a strange amount of flare and cargo pockets and i asked a girl what kind of shoes i should wear with these pants. she led me to the abercrombie break room and showed me a chart of appropriate, abercrombie-approved footware. it was very specific, listed brands and styles and colors. with photos.

"you have to wear certain shoes?" i asked.
she shrugged.
"most of us just wear flip flops," she pointed to the flip flop photo. "that's the easiest."

two girls join muscle behind the counter. one is texting; the other is playing with a security tag. they look bored. i bet i look annoyed. "you got this covered?" one asks muscles. "'cuz we're leaving. ... and we don't know where keeley is." he nods slowly.

recently a friend told me that a fued had unfurled between abercrombie and hot topic, which is about three doors down. something about loud music and management got involved.

"mall politics," chuck said when i told him the story later.
"mall-itics," i corrected him.

muscles greets me cheerfully when it's my turn. another customer he can put into a trance with what seems to be a mime of what he would look like ringing up customers underwater. i wish that abercrombie had a self-check out, like cub foods.

i then skip through barnes and noble for a spontaneous book buy. i'm met with such efficiency that i begin writing a 'what if' scenario in my head: what if the employees of barnes and noble and abercrombie switched jobs for the day?

later i try to explain why i continue to shop at abercrombie. on this day, it's because the softest sweatshirt i've ever felt is on sale. two weeks ago it was because i needed new jeans. and i like how the store smells?

"would you wear a sweatshirt that said 'montgomery wards' on it?" chuck asks.
"absolutely not," i say.

i think it is because i dress the same every day. some version of jeans, a tank top and a sweatshirt. and abercrombie is rich in all of the above. its like going to your favorite restaurant, unsure of what you'll eat, but positive you'll like it. other stores like that don't exist for me, not in duluth. i could drop abercrombie cold turkey in favor of the gap -- but about four times a year i walk into the gap and it looks like it was broadsided by a minivan filled with PTA members. and everytime i have purchased gap jeans, i've felt like there was enough room in the crotch for two or three of my own.

so, whatever. i don't shop often, but this is where i shop. among the vacant-eyed, flip flop wearing sector that i will continue to mock. whatever. i like their clothes. they fit how i want, they're comfortable and until i put them on my person, they smell good. and this sweatshirt? this sweatshirt is awesome.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

can i read your ipod?

as i've said before, something about running on a treadie really taps into my neurosis. the counting and the repetition and the inability to stop watching the numbers move, trying to make more numbers and faster. add to that the way i assault a song i like and how much easier it is to navigate my ipod, as opposed to, say the rewind button on a boom box. this can get ugly during a workout.

if you had to guess, how many times do you think that i could loop the killers' song "read my mind" over the course of an hour without before i try to dig my own brain out of my head through my eyeball. hint: the song is 4 minutes, seven seconds long. answer: as many times as it takes because i'm physically unable to get sick of this song under these circumstances. i've tried.

something happens in the middle-to-end of that song that makes it a perfect song to run to. it moves toward this really great apex and truly makes me want to run faster and further. this sounds as cheesy in my head as it does in your's.

last week i read a story in the new york times' newsletter urban eye that talked about what people listen to when they are working out. that a song should have 120-140 beats per minute. things mentioned included "push it" by salt n peppa, "the heat is on" by glenn frey and that apparently some people get really psyched by the theme from rockey, as kitchy as that sounds. in the comments, someone mentioned a web site where you can download complete workout mixes. also this podcast of music for an hour-long workout.

while i was running -- and spinning "read my mind" a dozen or so times -- i decided i would ask what that one great song in everyone's workout mix is. then i saw that one of my blogger friends had also posed the question on her site today. but then i thought: eh, who cares. i'll ask here, too.

so: what's your good workout song?

Monday, January 14, 2008

the champagne of ice cream ...



i bring you another week's worth of consuming things so you don't have to.

DRINKING PROJECT
gluek honey bock: natty light with a honey after bite. i knew i'd like it the second i smelled it on chuck's breath. i only had one, as it seemed strange to be able to drink this in the open, and not shivering in my high school letter jacket near a bonfire in a quarry.

MEAL TAKEN IN PUBLIC
burrito union: "a one-fisted bean and rice burrito, but without rice ... black beans. seasoned sour cream, all the veggies -- eh, no jalapinos." sometimes i wonder if i'm becoming one of those wacky food divas who has to have this and that and this on the side and hold the, but extra ... or if i am just a regular. a burrito scientist who has honed her order to perfectly match her desires. it's such a fine line.

MOVIE PROJECT
jaws (1975): i don't care how hokily it is created, i will always enjoy watching a shark eat a crusty old shark hunter. and there is nothing quite like the sound of said shark exploding over the deck of a sinking ship after it gets an oxygen tank caught in its teeth, which is then fired upon by a new york policeman using a common handgun.

"i'm never going in the water again," i cliched to chuck.
"you don't go in the water, anyway," he responded. "you barely shower. ... you won't even eat soup."

touche.

logan's run (1976): from this movie i learned that in the future, people will live in malls and women and men will dress like they are in the ice capades! for future reference: movies from even years are selected by the project participant who is not me.

slap shot (1977): a professional hockey team generates interest through fighting, but everything really comes together for the charlestown chiefs when a princeton graduate who married into money performs a strip tease at center ice. paul newman looks like a 50 year old playing a 38 year old and he has chicken legs. with a strong fleetwood mac and maxine nightengale soundtrack.

invasion of the body snatchers (1978): pod people do the humpty hump. sometimes jesus makes movies that are about 25 minutes too long for this lady.

MUSIC DOWNLOADED
sia -- some people have real problems: i just wanted something new to listen to, you know, and the cover was so pretty ... and through emusic.com, i get 30 downloads a month for pennies and i really like that song "breathe me" but maybe just because played during the most amazing finale in the history of series finales. anyway, no song from this newest cd really jumps out at me. but it makes for pleasant background noise.

janet jackson -- control: i have made a solemn vow that my ipod would be unfettered by music i liked prior to the day i owned said nano. unfortunately, a tall amber boch and the song "nasty boys" made it impossible for me to resist this pick from 1986. i plan to listen to it in the kitchen. loudly.

READING: must pick up book. hold in hands. look at words.

SNACK TIME
talenti gelato (white chocolate raspberry): caught in a fit of ice cream cravings, chuck and i went to cub foods. i am trying to eat healthier lately, and reading the labels on the back of small ice cream cartons required math, and that math meant numbers like: 1,200; or 62. i cannot be trusted to not eat four servings of ice cream in one sitting, so i sought something that had still dangerous numbers, but comparably much better. i actually enjoyed this grainy take on ice cream. and one of the ingredients was cooked red wine. it bills itself as "the champagne of ice cream." which i guess would make it the miller high life of champagne.

TV WATCHED ON MY LAPTOP
real world sydney, season finale: i got a little weepy at this one. it's just ... kellyanne and cohutta are my favorite couple to ever emerge from the house filled with seven strangers. unfortunately, my online research led me to their myspace accounts -- WHERE THEY ARE NOW LISTED AS SINGLE! that is terrible news. i was really rooting for them. in fact, if mtv can make a shows like "next," "parental control" and "my super sweet 16" why couldn't they make the kellyanne and cohutta show?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

the faux fanta cure ...

ah, we had the best intentions. strawberry fanta and "invasion of the body snatchers." the next thing i know i'm at quinlan's and this tastes suspiciously like an amber boch -- which is not necessarily a bad thing. it's just different.

this trip is a last-ditch effort to kill whatever is ailing me. this bug is obviously hiding in a cranny of my body that intimidates theraflu. amber boch is fearless. chuck opts to right himself with something shorter.



the faux fanta and a stranger's timely pick of "nasty boys" on the juke box turned our choice table into a small party. i am always amazed when i hear a song like "nasty boys" and realize that i still know not only every single lyric, but every nuance of the song. and then i get an image of a gap-toothed freckle faced weakling clutching a hairbrush and performing LIVE! IN CONCERT! in the pista family bathroom mirror. i'm glad no one ever told 12 year old me that i'd never be a more than a winner in the semifinals of a karoake competition at supposidely haunted bar that would eventually burn down.

we receive many guests at our table, including qt who is putting in a full workshift at this venue. he is still able to socialize with ease. he is drinking hipster beer.



eventually jcrew stops by under strict guidelines that she will not have fun if "fun" means ditching the escalade on michigan street over night. how cute is her new coat, though? i believe it was a wool barrier that protected her from the horror of this bar.



as for me, i like to contribute to this filthy element.



chuck is searching for the perfect self portrait, but struggles to get it exactly to his liking.




judging from today's glance through my photos, he was also unable to get the perfect shot of my cleavage.



at the end of the night, i'm tapping into the bartender's wealth of cab driver's phone numbers. he's rattling off digits, and each of them tells me it will be upward of 20 minutes.

"i can drive you home," a man says, identifying himself as a bouncer with a heart of gold who just wants to see people get home safely. he reiterates that he just likes to be kind. likes to see people get home.

seems like a waste to drive us, since we'd have not driven anyway. but we accept, regardless. it doesn't occur to me until later that it is a bad idea to get rides with strangers. at least twice on the way home, i forget that i'm not in a cab.



we eat deluxe mac and cheese and i download janet jackson's control from itunes. neither of us remembers to turn on the porta jungle, and when i wake, my head feels like it is filled with cement. i actually weep in pain.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

because i can't pinpoint my exact problem ...


... i'm covering everything that could possibly be wrong with me.

Friday, January 11, 2008

pure evil emotional spam ...

a few days ago i received a quick holiday greeting from my old friend hank. three sentences telling me he didn't want to take a breath in 2008 without telling me that he thought of me often and wanted me to know he valued our friendship. one more sentence about his first holiday with baby hankito. aw, i thought, look who found jesus.

when you last saw hank, he was:

1) wearing obscenely minute running shorts;
2) playing emotional roullette with unsuspecting coeds;
3) cackling at your misery and turning clever phrases to describe your weaknesses: you have to learn to land the plane, christa, you have a tendency to crash the plane;
4) grinding on a railing, a wall, your femur with a blue vodka mustache and a prince soundtrack;
5) coaxing you to do something you would regret with very little turnaround time;
6) keeping your beer mug filled and refilled and rerefilled so you didn't notice he wasn't drinking;
7) extricating your life story, to file away for future use.


actually, literally the last time i saw hank, he was driving a pt cruiser rental car backward at about 45 miles per hour. oh the hijinks.


but, god love the man who answers to the nickname "pure evil," and his harsh truths and hearty laugh. his rowdiness. he's the one who showed me that a life with oneniner would cause four softball games a week worth of bleacher slats in my thighs, an imploded liver, speed dials to 911 and a recurring role on "to catch a cheater."


he also hauled me on long runs, dragged me to duluth and kept me hydrated. and when i finally understood him, kept me entertained with stories of nos. 1-7 -- which are always better when it is someone else going through hank's finishing school for wayward young women.


eventually he moved to a different time zone.


i read the email aloud to chuck.
"hmm," chuck said. "that sounds like a mass email. i bet you aren't the only one who got it."

but, but, but, i spat, different now ... new life ... wife, son ... ?


that afternoon i ran into the norweigan wonder, who told me that she had just received an email from hank. i stopped.


"what did it say?" i asked, skeptically.

didn't want to take a breath in 2008 ... blah blah blah ... first christmas with hankito ...


BAH! i feel for emotional spam. and when i busted him on it later? he cackled. pure evil.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

marking my territory ...

our lives, as high school athletes, were centered in this hallway by the 'new gym' -- blue pepsi machines glowing at each end. girls' locker room, laundry room, mr. g's office. football coaches office, boys locker room.

before cross country practice, we lingered in the hallway, stretching out our prerun stretch for a glimpse of the single-file line of fully padded football players carrying their helmets toward twinkie field. our friends on the volleyball team breaking at the drinking fountain. who is going with what to homecoming.


after practice, we recovered in this hallway, moving waxy ice filled coke-cola cups up and down our shin splints until our legs were rubbed red and numb. umbro athletic shorts and ankle socks wet along the trim from the runoff. who is going to drive us to kasson on friday night for the game? coaches like bouncers, trying to herd us out so they could lock the school. did alex leave yet? i didn't see him come out of the locker room?

as an eighth grader on the cross country team, this could be an intimidating place filled with people with drivers liscenses and complicated underwear who could ruin your social prospects in a second. on the other hand, if they laughed at something you said, you wanted it to echo in the hallway, tingle in the ear of everyone. by tenth grade you have partial ownership of this space. you've been on varsity for a few years now, your personal bests and your splits are listed on a bulletin board. you train in the off-season, so mr. g doesn't make you clean out your locker at the end of the fall. now he's coaching basketball, but he remains lenient -- well, comparably lenient -- toward his runners.

mr. g has habits as strict as his rules: in the van we will always listen to tom petty; freshman are in charge of unloading the bus. right around the time of the auction, he will pass out chokecherries for the team; freshman aren't allowed to talk above a whisper on the bus. he will take us waterskiing in lake city during double sessions; after a meet you cannot leave until you've returned your uniform to him on a hanger.

it's this last rule that has me in a bind freshman year. we've just returned from a meet where -- per usual -- i had a mediocre finish. there isn't enough interest in cross country, so i'm on varsity but i'm sixth or seventh runner and my score rarely matters. on this day i've leaked blood into the built in underwear of the purple shorts. i'm standing in the locker room trying to decide what to do.

"pista!" mr. g monotones. "still need your uniform."

i've shown princess linda my dilemma. she is wide eyed and probably thankful this isn't her problem. i stall, and think of excuses. but there is no way that mr. g is going to let me leave without turning in that uniform. plus, it is made out of a material that seems more complicated than the cottons i'm used to washing at home.

so i hang my uniform in the laundry room and leave school quickly.

the next day we are stretching in the hallway. mr. g is washing uniforms. he's spraying aerosol long enough that it begins to just sound like white noise. i have my nose balanced against my knee. it's sarah, a year older, a popularity legacy who's sister paved a path for cute boyfriends, bouncy hair and tan legs. this season sarah skipped an interval workout, pleading pregnancy scare. she sat in the back of mr. g's van, face grey, listening to "free falling." the pregnancy scare was a false alarm.

"oh my god, what are you doing in there mr. g?" sarah asked. snapped gum.
"cleaning uniforms," mr. g called out into the hallway. "looks like pista sat in some mud."

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

the color coded mood indicator table tent ...

the last time we ate at a mainstream restaurant was more than a year ago. this is less because our leisurely lives conflict with conventional dinner hours -- although that is one reason -- and more because we are snobs. but this time chuck had a gift card. and honestly, i like to see how many of this mainstream restaurant's breadsticks, end to end, it takes to fill the large and small intestine of a woman who is 5'6. and i don't like to leave until -- much like a play doh fun factory -- a breadstick tail has crowned.

the hostess surveyed our matching hoodies and chuck taylors and asked what everyone in the restaurant was probably thinking: is this a birthday or an anniversary? a special occasion? and we were all: yeah. it's a super special day. it's gift card redeeming day and you win because we chose you over red lobster.

later, our waiter chad held open the specials menu, pointed at red mounds of penne noodles, told us it was penne noodles with red sauce, and read the description to us -- which was probably something like "penne noodles topped with red sauce." eventually the individual features on chuck's face inverted themselves and i was openly laughing and by the time chad was to the alfredos, i had invented a new accessory for diners: the color coded mood indicator table tent.

say you go to a restaurant and want the most attention that can possible be given: frequent water refills, where's the bathroom?, what would you recommend?, appetizers, entrees and desserts and coffee and wine, and movie suggestions ... i indicate this with a universally understood color coded mood indicator table tent. and chad spends his night bustling around fluffing my chair, pushing my bangs out of my eyes and making sure i'm full but not too full.

on the other hand, if you think chad should only tell you about things not described and photographed within the binding of the menu, you are assured you will have the bare minimum of special needs, and you want to only hear his perky little tenor three times at the most ... universally understood color coded mood indicator table tent. and chad gives this table a wide berth.

and chad of course will know that his tip will reflect how closely he comes to fufilling your color coded table tent dream of what a waiter should act like. these tents are wallet sized.

***

certain professions require a level of seamless banter, and waiting tables is definitely one of them. i know. i've done it. i think i was pretty good at it. one time, while working breakfast, i got a busload of bluehairs fresh from the bingo circuit.

"i'll take a short stack," warbled woman one.
"i'll have the short stack, too," creaked woman two.
"hm ... i'd like the short stack," gurgled woman three.

"man," i said. "short stacks are selling like hot cakes."

and when they didn't laugh, i left them alone. just shy of saying "refill your own decaf, phyllis."

retail. rock star. hair stylist. information booth worker. magician. i think that a color coded mood indicator table tent would benefit everyone involved: i'm waving a purple table tent so you know you don't have to tell me about the toddler who's face is taped to your cash register, or the scar from where you had the mole removed. and you should be relieved that you can shelve your dog and pony show. save it for someone who wants entertainment. thank me, that you don't have to take your socks off to prove that the blister was really that big.

i'd just like to get through this exchange without adding you as a friend on facebook.

***

last week i had to call my insurance agent to make sure that i was automatically renewed for the next period, and did not need to come in and sign anything. i told him my name then politely gave him enough time to flip through his cheat sheet so he could feign recognition. and maybe he does know who i am, maybe he doesn't, but he immediately acted like he did.

i asked if i needed to do anything, or if i was still insured.
he said it looked like i was fine.
i thanked him and began to hang up.

"wait," he said. "you only call when you want something?"
"well," i said, "i guess i could tell you what i had for lunch ...?"
he seemed to be waiting for me to finish. truthfully, i hadn't eaten anything yet that day so this topic was a dead end.
"how ya been? what's new?" he asked.
"um ...," i hemmed.

sometimes it feels like my insurance agent is reading a "choose your own adventure" series on banter. "if customer says she had grilled cheese, please turn to page 35." it's exhausting to me. it has to be exhausting to him, if that is what he is doing from 9-5 weekdays. i'd like to give him a vacation from his efforts. i'd like to give him a color coded mood indicator table tent.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

oh, the consumption ...

i eat. i drink. i enjoy moving pictures on a screen, as evidenced last night when we, for upward of seven minutes, watched the word DVD bounce off the borders of chuck's television screen. so pretty. all the excitement of watching a televised pool tournament without jeannette lee making me feel prudish in my approach to black leather.

in an effort to chronicle what i've eaten, drank, watched, read, i bring you a week's worth of my consumption.

TV MARATHONS
the l word: season four, episodes 1-9
season three ended with a jilted bride, a stolen baby and a trust fund locked. season four begins with the jennifer beals unlikely hook up with one of those chunky blonde intern-types who hangs out at grandma's, drinks pitchers of long island ice tea and hasn't learned that appropriate skirt length is a case-by-case leg choice. this season's theme is: straight girls get experimental and everyone drinks dos equis. i hope this series continues on forever. i'm convinced that jennifer beals in her mid-40s is even better than jennifer beals at 20, meaning that at age 60 she will blind you.

dexter: season one, episodes 1-8
there is no way to describe this show without having it sound like "american psycho." except that it is more like "magnum pi." dexter's sister is arguably the most-annoying character on any tv show ever. she is the least schooled, least instictive person to ever be promoted to detective. it's like charlie whisked her out from behind the counter at the ghetto spur and said: "stop scanning marlboros and solve this crime!" i thought this show answered the question: what happened to tootie? but i was wrong.

bad girls: season 1, episodes 1-5
scenes from a lax british women's prison, complete with fashion shows and karaoke night. a lot like "oz" except the women have one extra special pocket to hide their heroin.

LIQUOR
this week chuck and i decided to do this: brew52.com -- a new minnesota-based beer every week, and another way for minnesota bloggers to drink more and get more words online -- which suits me just fine.

week 1 was schell snowstorm, which i reluctantly had one of, making it possible for me to enthusiastically enjoy four more. i gave it a 2.5 because of the way it coated my tongue with yuck. chuck gave it a 1ish and said it tasted like menopausal angst.

MOVIES
our latest movie project is a sort of make-out-with-your-first-cousin project based on chuck's experiment that he began in 2007 to read a book from every year that he has been alive. we are watching movies from every year we have been alive -- with chuck picking 1972, 73 and 74 -- then alternating years from 1975 on. first we watched "deliverance" which was great if only for the fleshy wad of muscle dangling from burt reynold's leg during the apex.

enter the dragon (1973)
bruce lee spits blood and tells his enemy that he dishonored his family. i thought this would be the sort of grainy filmed, poorly dubbed kung fu movie i used to reenact with friends on the playground, or on certain nights in chuck's living room. it was excellent.

alice doesn't live here anymore (1974)
unfortunately, this movie coincided with the schell snowstorm experiment. about halfway into the movie i got distracted by my own brilliance with a rubik's cube and the sound of my own voice. if i'm not mistaken, it had a happy ending. i can, on demand, complete one whole side of a rubik's cube.

juno (2007)
for the first time in a life filled with very sexy moments, jason bateman creeped me out. i hope i can keep my fond memories of silver spoons entact.

DINING
chester creek cafe: i had a three-cheese macaroni that only skeeved me out when i reheated it the next day and found a butter swamp in the bottom of my take out carton. i just closed my eyes and plugged my fork into it and all was right with the world. this is easily one of my top three duluth-area restaurants.

READING
vegetarian times: i spontaneously purchased this month's issue, then chuck very plottedly went on the hugest grocery shopping spree in the history of his refrigerator. [i've never woken up and immediately opened a refrigerator and began cooking. this was like christmas, finding basil and cans of roasted tomatos, and tempeh and all that garlic.

rice fried vegetables: chuck made this, and though it contained at least two ingredients i don't typically like, it was fan-fricken-tastey.

spinach lasagna: i made this for dinner last night in the slow cooker. it tasted hearty and wintery, but was ridiculously healthy. tempeh tricked me into thinking it was meat. oh, tempeh ...

MISC.
new jeans from abercrombie: i have regular-length legs, so i buy regular-length jeans. these are always about two roll-ups too long. one would think i would buy short-legged jeans -- which i must be according to A&F standards. but i can't bring myself to admit that i could be defined as having short legs. i'm going to need more really tall shoes.

without the decorative stud ...

i can't remember the last time i breathed normally. maybe it was a month ago, maybe it was august. maybe breathing was something i've never done, but heard about and it sounded nice: like spain. my recent history, at least, includes dried, pebble-sized blockages in my nasal passages that have me lightheaded, shallow-brained and craving that crack called uncut oxygen.


don't think i haven't tried excavating the suckers. i sit at stoplights, too, you know. i'm alone in bathroom stalls. i've done curious self-exams, probing the inside of my nose until my knuckle prevents further digging. until i believe i am about get pieces of my frontal lobe caught in my nail.

i've used my sharpest fingernail to get a feel for the pesky topography. for instance, to get to the most solid blockage, your finger would need to go north, then veer slightly to my east. i'm finding crust glued to the lining in my nose, and chiseling away at it gives me flecks of sharp scab, which i immediately empty onto second street. in an amazing show of regeneration, these jagged stalagtites return within hours. in the meantime, the discarded ones -- i'm assuming -- have made for pleasant, nonslip suburu driving for my fellow duluthians. you're welcome.

occasionally i'll knock something lose with a hearty trumpet-like nose blow. and for about 14 seconds the pure air singes my raw nose hair. it hurts. it hurts. it's like snorting dry ice and i can feel it in my brain.


sleeping is decent. chuck coincidentally purchased a humidifyer the morning after my worst instance of snort-sleeping. i must have sounded like i was gargling with chunky beef stew. he didn't complain about it, more like just made mention. now we sleep in the equivilent of a rain forest, which has done noticeable things for my peeling feet and cuticles. but within an hour of leaving the bedroom, i'm back to some serious mouth breathing.

i spend a lot of time thinking about squirting 7-up up or out of my nose; putting a dust buster hose up my nose; snorting vix vapor rub; finding a weak toddler and stealing its little blue bulb syringes and putting it up my nose.

in the meantime, the cartiledge is painful to the touch. bumping the tip of my nose feels like i'm stabbing myself with shards of porcelin. then one day i got a little tiny premenstral zit on the outside of my nose, separated only by a thin layer of skin from where it hurts inside. it was all the agony of an infected nose piercing, without the decorative stud.

so. i guess what i'm saying is: smell you later.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

i call this one ...

morning crest

... morning crest.

Friday, January 4, 2008

my favorite friend ...

rules did not apply to me when i was 20. i treated girl friend codes of conduct like parking restrictions, and metaphorically shimmied my chevy celebrity into the tow-away zone called my best friend's recent exboyfriend, oneniner.

i'm not sure how i rationalized the breach: i probably told myself, well she broke up with him, well she has a new boyfriend who is super cute, well oneniner's stoney good looks and flirty nature were too, too much for this little weakling to deny.


actually, we had all had a crush on oneniner while they were dating in high school. strong, athletic, funny. the kind of guy who could fireman carry you down the hall to the very same math class he was flunking. he always made you feel like he had a secret crush on you, and lo if not for fannie, we could be his harem.

fannie and i had been friends since the first day of first grade for a lot of conveninent reasons. mostly because we both were skinny freckle faced tots trapped in plaid jumpers under a mess of stringy straight red hair. there wasn't a priest, principal or music teacher in the school who could tell us apart. when i got kicked out of our group of friends for littering on the playground, she quit the group with me.

and i didn't mean to do it. one day i was hopped up on the twin, and creeping into my parent's house with my shirt on wrong side out. literally the very next day, oneniner was confessing that he [foot shuffle] kinda, sorta [shuffle, feigned shyness] liked someone and [gosh, christa, gee] it was me. really, my only criteria for boyfriends at that time was simple: must. like. me.

within three days we were madly in love. we had to be lanced apart at the end of each day.

i don't remember telling fannie, although i did. and she seemed fine. unemotional. she probably shrugged. i probably thought she meant the shrug and that she didn't care and that her new boyfriend was great enough to erase five plus years with oneniner. i probably told her that i would be respectful of the delicacy of the situation.

i failed 'respectful of the delicacy of the situation' by the end of the week. oneniner and i in a liplock during a barbeque. we had drank enough that we thought we were hidden in the trees; in the daylight i realized we were about 12 feet from fannie's lawn chair. things were a bit strained after that, and days before my 21st birthday my friends made me an ice cream cake and had a small party that i didn't attend. later, they showed me photos: each guest posed with my cake.

before fannie went back to school i gave her my clipped drivers liscense. she had a few months left of 20. she celebrated my birthday as her's in vermillion, south dakota; i celebrated my birthday with her exboyfriend in rochester, minnesota. and we talked very little.

fannie's boyfriend called me before christmas break my junior year. he was going to come to rochester for part of his vacation, and wanted me to help him organize a surprise party for fannie's 21st birthday.

"um," i hemmed. i remember pacing in the musty basement bedroom of my college house. "we aren't really, like, um ... talking?"
"but you're still best friends," todd coaxed.
i loved todd. sometimes i hoped he would be the second fannie castoff i'd procure. he liked depeche mode.

eventually i agreed.

todd and i organized a group of about eight people for a party at applebee's. he and her parents would pretend it was just the foursome for dinner. they would come around a corner and: surprise!

oneniner and i got to applebees about 15 minutes early and sat at our reserved table. balloons, streamers and a sign. soon semper fi arrived, then princess linda. princess linda decided to run down to edie bauer to look for a belt; semper fi had to make a phone call. fannie's dad's van pulled up in front of applebees and it was still just the two of us at the table.

nothing says "happy 21st birthday" like your exboyfriend and the gazelle who sunk her sharp, carnivorous fingernails into his fresh, barely single fontanelle. and at applebees, of all places. we cowered in the corner; we hid our eyes. and when she stood in front of us with a sort of 'i-smell-something' look on her face, we muttered a weak "surprise?"

eventually everyone else returned, princess linda with a new belt. the awkwardness was lost in the bottom of a few alabama slammers. and by the end of the night, we were friends again.

and when i eventually broke up with oneniner, i did it for the same reasons she did.

anyway, thursday was fannie's 32nd birthday and on fannie's birthday i like to write about fannie. happy birthday, bigfatfucker.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

we are rich in superballs and candy necklaces ...


i call this photo 'the shining.'

we'll call this a date because (a) i'm showered and 70 percent of my clothes are 50 percent clean. (b) we are going to eat in a restaurant instead of having a restaurant lackey deliver the food via grand prix. (c) we are leaving the couch after sunset, but before midnight. (d) i am wearing lipstick instead of kiss my face mint chapstick. (e)i have made a vow to myself to remove my toque when we are indoors.

and if these are the parameters for a date-date, it must be our third date-date. i get cramps between my soul and my kidneys when i remove the hat meaning most of our time together doesn't qualify as date-dates.

we eat dinner at chester creek cafe. i deviate from the standard: no middle eastern plate for this girl. i order three-cheese macaroni, which could only taste better if i was actually hung over, wasn't wearing pants and there were eight cheeses. i'd like to forgo my forko and put my face in the gooey mound, motorboat that radiatore pasta.

cheese is so good.

***

in my life, i've considered the seven minutes of previews an extra 14-minute bubble of when it is appropriate to arrive at a theater and still be able catch the gist of a movie. i'm all about gists.

chuck thinks you're late if the lights dim before the jackhole in the seat behind you clonks you in the back of the head with his unlaced sketchers for the first time. so, in sticking to the socially responsible side of excess, we arrive a half hour early for "juno." we spend 18 minutes in the lobby, wrist deep in popcorn and mastering a carnival game i think was invented on the price is right.



we eventually settled into the theater rich in superballs and candy necklace prizes.

first i was super excited about juno. then i weighed my enthusiasm and decided if i didn't set down my pompoms, hide my keds and stop chanting "j-u-n-o, juno, juno, juuuuuuu-NO!" i would definitely be dizzy with disappointment. plus, in some of the trailers, the title character's monotoned snarkiness seemed annoying. so i decided to hate juno, and hate it really hard.

but, honestly, juno was fantastic. every sentence wicked, plotted and hilarious, yet came out seamless. i think the pubescent clods sitting behind us were making fun of me when i made a beeline for chuck's armpit because i was suffocating with weep. nicely played, diablo.

***

we made it back to the non-date zone, where i fell asleep during episode four of a dexter marathon. unfortunate because i believe it takes four episodes to like a show. now i've seen three point two five episodes; chuck has seen four. i may have to hide the second disc somewhere he will never look. perhaps in a folger's coffee can.

my new year's eve hangover found me today. i thought i skirted that sucker.