Friday, February 29, 2008

while my car is being fixed ...



... i've been toolin' around in this. heavy emphasis on the word 'tool.'

* if you are from this area, you know that this auto body shop's commercials include one of the more inane jingles. it's not so much an ear worm as an ear eel. lubed with gasoline, and rammed into brain. luckily, every time i stop playing it on repeat in my head, it's time to go somewhere and here we go again ... "arrowhead auto body, don't just go to anybody. arrowhead auto body gonna treat you right ..." [there are a few verses of this madness.]

Thursday, February 28, 2008

leaving the prov-alone ...

wednesdays are my favorite day for the exact opposite reason that thursdays are tied for my favorite day. it is the day that all the fun i've been collecting for a week morphs to a milky pod. chuck asks what i have planned for the day and i rattle off an ambitious to-do list of leisure: paint my nails! read an entire book! become an expert at something ... anything! host foreign exchange students and airbrush a wolf mural on the side of my loaner car! and at the exact second that he has locked the door behind him, i've got that milky pod pinched between my thumbs and i pop the sucker.

then i:
* dip into chuck's secret stash of provolone cheese, which i lovingly compress between a toasted everything bagal, beneath a fried egg. [typically i leave his provolone alone -- tee hee -- since he uses it for his lunches, but let's be honest: chuck's food inventory skills are remedial.

* spend five minutes deciding which i should watch first: "quarterlife" or "one tree hill." decide that i prefer to watch "one tree hill" when its darker outside, and opt for the season premiere of "quarterlife," which won my devotion by being about a vlogger and from the people who brought you "thirtysomething."

* call for a hair appointment while maintaining a running e-mail to-and-fro with fanster, who has decided that she is just not that into blond men. word, fannie.

* the hair people can tame the matching puberty mustaches jutting out of control on my forehead in 45 minutes; they can cut my hair in four hours. i accept the inconvenience because it's WEDNESDAY!

* "so ..." eyebrow hotwaxer asks me. "you from duluth?" i've never not been asked this question while getting my aesthetic worked on at this place. "so ... you married? have kids?" is her followup. "no and no," i say. "so you have freetime, then, huh?" she cooes. lately i choose silence. i'm not trying to be mean. i know she is doing her job. but sometimes not answering is more fun for me. i like an awkward silence that i created. besides, this is just a waxing. we are committed for less than 10 minutes. if she were going to cut my hair, i'd tell her my life story and we could hug and exchange beaded bracelets at the end of this.

* i have 37 laps to swim, in a pool filled to lap-swimming capacity. the only thing worse than swimming is sharing a lane. the only thing worse than sharing a lane with one other person, is sharing it with the entire italian national swim team -- who collectively have enough swimsuit material to make a doily for a sock puppet's end tables. i bowed out after 23 laps with a headache. open swimming had begun and the entire cesspool was echoing with screaming toddlers bonking each other with fun noodles. sometimes i wonder why they don't keep emergency toasters and alarm clocks next to the pile of kick boards.

* the shortened swim means i have a few seconds to hit benetton's winter sale. i go ape batshit, throwing thises and thats onto the counter and screaming PUT IT ON MY DEBIT CARD! i got a lot of good stuff for 12 dollars each. it was like benetton broke up with its boyfriend, got wasted, and turned into old navy. its not going to remember anything tomorrow.

* just in time for my haircut. i've decided on a hybrid: diablo cody's reverse bob meets katie holmes' bangs in the world series of love. my hair guy tells me i don't have a long enough neck for this. he also tells me that sometimes women will beg a man for attention. damn near shake their behinds in his face to get him to look at her. when he finally gives her a glance, she will run off and say to her friends "oh him? he hit on me."

* to the grocery store and home, where i turn avacado and chickpeas into taco salad and firm tofu into dessert. and never once turn on the stove. magic. all while watching "one tree hill."

* my hybrid looks more like bedhead.

* i read part of a book, and 15 minutes later chuck comes home.

next up: THURSDAY!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

adulthood ...

[overheard while i was showering at the ymca]
young girl child: mommy, can we go to mcdonalds after this?
mom: no.
[child's sobs echo through the shower area]

i could hardly lather i was laughing so hard. i'm not sure why. probably because it was so easy for that mom to ruin her child's life and i had the pleasure of anonymously listening to it unfold.

all i know is that it stirred something in me: a deep craving for mcdonalds. i'm totally going tomorrow. because i can.

i used to get this same feeling when i woke up in the middle of the night and ate -- from the carton -- leftover chicken curry singapore from chef yee's. my only light the street lamp reflecting off the metallic paint-colored milk mustache of a huffer passed out in my lawn.

i'd snort, wipe my curry-stained hands on my pajama pants, drain a shot of cherry nyquil, belch my full name and head back to bed thinking: damn its good to be an adult.

Monday, February 25, 2008

shark bait ...

this week doubled back to the terminator movies, so i could more fully understand the sarah connor chronicles; i spent seven days trying to find the perfect pms-style substitution for doing a belly flop into a chocolate fountain; chuck has the flu, so i am forced to beeline from room to room like an action figure, evading his germs.

FOODS I MAKE
beer bread (via recipezaar): healthy? no. healthier than the cinnabon i was craving? yes. easy and delish? for sure. i used about 1/4 cup more beer than the recipe called for, and in a strange twist neither chuck nor i wanted to finish that opened, barely used summit. ... wha?

potato and apple soup (via vegetarian times): remember hypercolor shirts? they changed colors in different temperatures? this is a hypercolor soup: warmed, it tastes like potato soup with a hint of apple. cold it tastes like applesauce with a hint of potato. the gist of this creation is 1. bake apples and potatos; 2. peel off skin; 3. mash with hand masher; 4. put in sauce pan with 4 cups of water, curry powder and onion powder; 5. heat its head off. as with all vegan meals i've attempted, coat tongue with a layer of salt before consuming.

LISTENING TO
nada surf "lucky": i've been listening to nada surf since 2002, and this is the first cd where i've ever noticed they sound like deathcab. and i didn't even notice that specifically. i did specifically think: if i were on the o.c., i'd like this music to be playing.

MEALS TAKEN IN PUBLC
midi, pecan crusted salmon with reisling wine sauce: this was my second trip to midi and i basically ordered the same thing as last time. i have a tendency to REALLY LIKE THINGS A LOT! which makes it very taxing to try new things. the space has obviously improved since my last visit -- when i felt like i'd been stuffed into the basement of fitgers for a private party no one else knew about, with the upper crust members of the elite traveling bingo team. this time i was at an actual restaurant.

we were starving and went all out, including a cheese tray starter that was $11 for the equivilent of a lunchable. we also had raspberry torte which just about satiated my pms-neediness. still craving cinnabon, but my substitutes are getting better.

oh, and dessert came with an orchid. did you know you can eat orchids? me either. it felt very "into the wild." like eddie veddar yodeling could only enhance my chewing.

MOVIE PROJECT MOVIES
the basketball diaries, 1995: big pussy gets puked on by a junior huffer; dr. melphi won't lend her son $5; christopher maltisanti used to make steaming dog crap bombs until he gets cancer -- then this movie quickly segues into an anti-drug public service announcement where leonardo dicaprio struggles with addiction by sweating, drooling and twisting his body into shapes unrealized by even the finest contortionists. that's no way to get a basketball scholarship to st. john's.

NON MOVIE PROJECT MOVIES
terminator: california's governor falls naked from 2029 to 1984, revealing to los angeles the toned muscular buttocks of a cyborg who is no stranger to free weights, banana hammocks and baby oil. a $6.4 million chase scene ensues, as he tries to kill the morally flexible sara connor -- who uses a dead roommate and a romantic jilting to justify one of the more horrific "love" scenes in the history of synthesizers when she beds her protector -- equally toned and from the future -- in one of the most egregious of cradle-robbing violations, considering technically he wasn't born when they throw down. all in all, i'd say the catholic church probably has a stance on this film.

t2: judgement day: part two introduces us to a strong and silent, albeit loveable mimetic polyalloy who attempts plan b: skip the middle man and go after JOHN CONNOR'S BANGS! all sorts of crazy plot twists and science lessons, but not nearly enough chase scenes. how about linda hamilton's arms?

can you believe i'd never seen either of these films?

hudsucker proxy: this movie about the rise of the hula hoop may be the cutest, most clever movie i've seen in a long time -- although i'm not sure a coen brothers movie has ever been called "cute" before. it's very "big fish" and "pushing daisies" in its grandness and narration. i rarely demand that you do as i say -- aside from strongly encouraging you to use mint-flavored "kiss my face" chapstick -- but i demand that you put this in your netflix queue immediately!

READING
"kitchen confidential" anthony bourdain: in your life, you belong to a little subset of people based upon your job, your college, or a shared hobby or experience. occasionally, when you get together with the people from your niche, an outsider is thrown into the mix and everyone spends the whole night telling stories about the "good old days" and how reckless and badass and drunk everyone was -- pretending these are stories to update the outsider, but really they are just stories you want to repeat. and for the outsider, sometimes its funny. then as things ramp up more, it gets less funny. pretty soon they're yawning and hate everyone in the entire world and would rather slit their own throat with shards from a wine bottle than hear another story about this guy who did this thing ...

that, in a nutshell, is kitchen confidential. when anthony bourdain writes in the introduction that he wrote this for other chefs and was surprised that it got so much outsider attention, i think that was genuine.

the first third of the book is a collection of funny and interesting stories about making his way through the cooking industry and the characters he met. then he starts repeating himself, then the chronology gets confusing, then he throws in a love letter to his mentor -- referring to him only as 'bigfoot' and spends paragraph after paragraph explaining that he's NOT GOING TO TELL YOU WHO BIGFOOT IS! then insists that anyone who is anyone KNOWS who bigfoot is. [i became so distracted by this 'who is bigfoot' thing that i could barely read the book ... not that i know anything about the new york restaurant scene. i just hate secrets.]

on the other hand, there is one completely fantastic chapter about eating his way through tokyo that is so colorful and paced so perfectly. you can almost see him -- an insatiable westerner gorging himself to the delight of the restaurant's staff. drunk on sake and eating and eating and eating. this chapter is where he puts away his voice, his drug years, his knives and you see that he can write.

TRIATHLONING
somehow i need to swim about 65 laps by the end of the month. i should note here that the primary excuse for girls to get out of the swimming section of gym class is bearing down on me. i'm in a race with my own shark bait.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

hating it, wearing it, befriending it, eating it ...

we went to luce last night to see my favorite local band in the whole world, cars and trucks. what i thought would be a pleasant night of live music, deviated pretty significantly.








as you can see, there was an intervention. and it all started because of one adorable pair of waterproof recycleable all-purpose footware.

i mistakenly thought that in the glow of a full bacardi diet moon, jcrew would concede that, in their own special way, these are cute shoes. while she had sneered at them when i first introduced her to them, jcrew has been known to opt for warmth and practicality on occasion. it's not mary janes and strappy sandals all day everyday for my friend.

"see, they aren't so bad," i said, posing in the bar.
"they're ugly," she spat.
i looked to seadawg for backup: he's an athlete, white bread and khakis, palm pilot sort of person who would certainly understand the appeal. he shook his head and sided with jcrew.
"ugly," he agreed.
"i don't even know you anymore," jcrew accused.

***

tis true, i suppose. when i signed onto this friendship i was a walking hangover aching for super potato oles. a bit of a moral contortionist. a trucker's vocabulary and no control over my bladder. a karoake artist. i spent a lot of time wishing duluth would take a shower with real soap. take a spin through its armpit with deoderant. rinse out its wool socks.

this adorable pair of waterproof, recycleable, all-purpose footware seem to indicate to jcrew that i have officially crossed the line into some sort of unacceptible duluthdom. it was bad enough when she surveyed my mint-flavored organic chapstick and sneered: "how new you" before handing it back to me without testing its minty tingle. now, laced into these shoes, it's like she thinks i'm going to accidentally whap her in the mouth with a clove-flavored dreadlock when i'm dancing; i might douse her with a patchouli spray if she gets too close; i could pick up a ukele and make her listen to the songs i write about free range chickens.

honestly, i didn't even know the shoes were recycleable until i got them home. i just thought they were cute, and they were exactly what i wanted in terms of utility.

this intervention went on for the rest of the night. it seems that ever since i started to like duluth -- hiking it, eating it, befriending it and wearing it -- my friends have started to hate me. there is a good chance i will alienate myself from everyone i know by the time the homegrown music festival starts. definitely before geek prom.

all this over a pair of shoes.

***

i walked back down to luce to get my car today. near ski hut the sidewalks were flooded. but i was wearing an adorable pair of waterproof and recycleable shoes. so there.

Friday, February 22, 2008

if you're looking for us ...



today chuck got a new car and i got a new pair of shoes.
which means he will no longer be driving this:



and i'll be no longer wearing these:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

flapping skin skirts ...

when i complained about my broken pelvis parts, i was told my keister would callous up and that i would soon get used to the seat of a spin bike. so everytime i plopped onto one, the word callous echoed in my mind: you're callousing. that's just going to callous right up. christa and the case of the keister callous. ... and everytime, after about a 15-mile gouge was taken out of my rump and the 112-mile goal this month, i'd start to get a little uncomfortable.

i'd shift so i was sitting up straight, like backbrace biking barbie; then i'd hunker over the handlebars like it was the surface of a bar; then i'd drape myself further over bike that looked like i didn't even have to be awake to do this. my last ditch balancing effort included book in one hand, sitting straight up, right palm pressed into the seat's peninsula to take weight off my butt. [the aforementioned has been referred to as 'bony' before by the various people who have had to carry me to and fro on their lap, but never until recently, have i actually feared these serated butt blades would make clean incisions and threaten to saw out a sort of flapping skin-skirt that i could hang over the back of the bike seat.

i've fallen behind in the YMCA's month-long couch potato triathlon, neglecting primarily the pool. i've completed 25 of the 87 laps, the same meager tally of two weeks ago. as you know, last week i decided to instead drown myself in amber boch instead of the 25-meter fecal-matter stew. today i planned to do a short run, and then swim until i was pruned to three times my age. until i eminated a certain eau de chlorine. until i had done at least 20 laps.

so i did a quick run and just as i was winding down, the front desk announced that the pool would be closed for the rest of the night. i said "shit!" loudly and without the usual remorse that i'd once again sullied a family environment.

why would you close the pool two and a half hours early? every reason i can think of involves children and their natural inclinations toward bodies of water. and that scene from caddyshack.

i decided, instead, to finish the biking portion. get at least one thing knocked off the list. and that is how i came to bike 37 miles today. [only to get home later and realize i had only needed 35 miles ... doh. math.]

as for the callouses? let's call them blisters. plural. plural-plural. lined up all over my special sitting place. this means that if i am going to make biking my cross train of choice, i have to nurture these buggers. let my bottom know that this is how we are going to feel now. show my butt who is boss. this means i am going to need an IKEA bike-seat shaped couch cushion. and a bike-seat shaped toilet.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

cereal monogamy ...

[as i stand up from the couch]
chuck: hey! a fruit loop just fell off you!
me: wha? i haven't had fruit loops in like ... six months.
chuck: it was probably in your hair.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

the old neighborhood ...

i grew up on a scoliosis shaped street called fifth place on part of a flat pause between two hills -- one was more dangerous than the other when propped in a rusty old radio flyer and given a nudge. our house was a forrest green rambler with mustard-colored carpeting in the living room and an unfinished basement where my parents hosted new year's eve parties.

we lived next door to a looming giant man with a white shock of einstein hair, a local judge. next to him were two dirty-fingernailed boys, jay and robert. divorced parents, and an layer of naughtiness, kept them from being our full-time friends. they had a yappy dog and their mom had a pretentious boyfriend. when the dog strayed from the yard, the boyfriend would stand on the edge of the driveway and command: "charles, halt!"

robbie lived on the other side of our house. he was the youngest in a family i would later associate with the television show "eight is enough." i think my mom had robbie's dad as a teacher in high school. robbie did not yet have his drivers' license, but he did have a motorized dirt bike. he spent hours each day tearing a dirt race track just inside the property line. nee-nneeeering that got louder when he had passed the raspberry bush in the backyard, was crossing the front of the house, taking a left and running parallel to our driveway.

later dean would come over and robbie would back his dad's car out of the driveway, leaving its doors open and the stereo cranked, and they would play H-O-R-S-E or "around the world" while joan jett echoed through the neighborhood.

sometimes we would sit on doorstep and watch. sometimes we would get kicked out.

one street over were the rowdies, or rowds: kids on this block had long greasy hair, leather jackets, out-of-wedlock children, and nicotene fits. i was as afraid of them as i was of:

*the old hermit who lived on the hill in the woods behind harriet bishop elementary school and allegedly shot kids who came into his yard;

*a gravel pit, affectionately called "the pit," which was filled with things called "drop offs." i assumed if you went into water with drop-offs, you would be sucked under the muddy seaweed and immediately be eaten and/or drown;

*our unfinished basement with steep wooden steps that led to a playroom with a fuzzy swatch of red carpeting. inside was a chalkboard where someone had written POLTREGEIST in large boxy capital letters;

*getting kidnapped.


***

matt, annie, elise, laurie and i were "the little kids" as opposed to "the big kids", who were my brother, matt's brother, annie's brother, and their leader and heartthrob to the pre-k sect, brian. [years later i would learn that the big kids referred to our next-door neighbor robbie and brian's brother dean as the "big kids" which i guess would make our "big kids" the "medium kids."]

our big kids would steal our bikes, leaving a ransom note stained in ketchup-flavored blood, signed "mr. x." we skittered around nervously those days, wondering if we were about to be killed by this dangerous bike stealer. we fell for this week after week after week.

"last time it was the big kids," we'd say. "but what if this time there really IS a mr. x?!"

us girls fought for the attention of matt -- charlie to our angels -- a sandy-blond with a bowl cut. he could flip his eyelids and turn himself into a zombie. he had a willow tree we would swing from, branches bowing, our palms ripping and a sandbox where one time a worm crawled into my shorts. matt would press his nose against the screen door to make a snout and say: "can christa come out and play?"

[as opposed to annie, who would later be diagnosed with a learning disability and have to go to transition -- an extra layer of school between kindergarten and first grade -- who would say: "christa can come out and play?"]

we took turns kissing matt, a reluctant chasee, in various bushes around the neighborhood. i was just a little faster than matt, until he got a pair of blue sneakers that he called his "fast shoes." one day matt stood on the sidewalk yelling: "i'm going to go put on my fast shoes, then i'll catch you!" i was terrified. i hid inside for the rest of the day.

matt's dad was from new york: a husky high school math teacher with a brooklyn accent, his colorful shirts unbuttoned to mid-chest. a gold medallion hiding in a thatch of black chest hair. "christa, baby," he'd say, listening to juice newton while washing the family's orange van with heart-shaped bubble side windows. "call me your uncle fred."

annie's family was long-limbed, lanky, deeply religious and strict. i woke one morning in her extra twin bed and heard her father reading the bible aloud to her mother. her older brother's knees jutted, his face hidden behind black-rimmed glasses. annie's older sister babysat us, but just once. when a shampoo commercial featured a woman in a shower, jenny cooed at the camera work: "okay, a little higher," she instructed during a camera shot up the woman's leg. "now lower," as it panned down her neck. when i tried this trick for my parents, they exchanged glances but ignored the bucktoothed underaged pervert in nubby pink footie pajamas.

annie, to the delight of the big kids, had begun responding to the command: annie, strip! i was sitting on matt's front steps when his older brother gave the order. "watch," he said to me. just then annie's dad called her home for dinner. faced with "christa, strip!" i thought about it, but then i went home, too.

elise's older sister took us to the municipal pool, one moccassin propped lazily against the dash board as she drove, the windows open, popping hubba bubba bubbles. while playing house one day, elise told me that she heard a story about a woman who gave birth to twins -- a boy and a girl -- and when they came out, the girl was pregnant.

"impossible," i said. "the girl hadn't gotten her period yet." "what's a period?" elise asked me. i heard her mom pause outside the bedroom door. "i don't know," i confessed. "but if you don't have a period, you can't do your income taxes."

we continued to play house, and elise said her name was going to be "doghouse."

i was madly, desperately, hopelessly in love with brian, the big kid. neighborhood events centered around his house. his mom had always just baked cookies, his older sister was always bronzing in the backyard. she was the most beautiful person i had ever seen and i always wished my name was cindy, too. brian's dad did auto body repairs in the garage. sometimes he would let us watch, but other times we crouched outside the garage door, peaking through ventilation holes as he painted cars.

the big kids took turns peeing in the drains in the shop, just like brian's dad. i think matt did this, too, just because he could.

brian had a tent set up in the backyard. the little kids were trapped inside, and he ran around outside, hitting the tent to scare us. i was peering through a webbed window just as he released a rock he had thrown to deke us out. i sat on the toilet sobbing as my mom surveyed the damage. "quit crying," my dad said. and i remember thinking "if i can't cry when i get hit by a rock, when can i cry?" i received two stitches and that night brian brought me a tiny stuffed hallmark teddy bear as an apology. i named the bear brian and carried it around in its original box, claiming it was allergic to oxygen.

laurie was my best friend. she was quiet, had long dark braids and a playroom filled with colorful plastic toys. i was standing on her driveway the day her mom came home from the hospital clutching a dark-haired pruny purple newborn, laurie's sister susan. the week before laurie's family moved to the other side of the planet -- duluth, minn. -- i came down with the chicken pox and was not allowed to go near her before they left. i gave her a monchichi as a going-away present.

other people came and went: for awhile we hung out with melissa from up the street. we played boyfriend-girlfriend, lounged in bean bag chairs in her basement. "now this is when the boy puts spanish fly in your drink so you'll kiss him," melissa instructed. and we all snaked beaded necklaces into coffee mugs. she knew a lot about love.

jenny h. was chunky with big glasses and involved in the local roller skating scene. she took lessons at skate country, wore a flimsy turquoise skating skirt, had pompoms on her laces and a partner named jack that she loved. one time she told me she was going to be a professional photographer. i wore knickers and a turtleneck decorated with strawberries, my red pageboy haircut parted in the middle. i looked like a cheerful little orphan standing under a tree. jenny sold the poloroid to my mom for a quarter.

***

my parents decided to build a house less than a mile away. up a few hills and along a path at the edge of a cornfield -- on second place. after we moved we referred to fifth place as "the old neighborhood." we maintained those friendships, crammed into my brother's bedroom playing monopoly. new house, same old rules applied: no talking. no giggling. when jenny h. snorted at something he had said, my brother looked at her without smiling: "jenny. you're treading on thin ice. and for a big girl like you, that's dangerous."

this remains the standard by which all other jokes are judged.

after we left, matt's family got a pool. i was in it too long and uncle fred told me that my lips were turning blue. annie's sister jenny got pregnant, then banished to the public school where the rest of the sex-havers went. elise's dad built her a fort in the garage. it was decked out with a couch and kitchenware. she stole his old tins of chewing tobacco, using the residue leaves stirred into water for a pretend tea that we really drank. brian dated a local model and his sister cindy got married. i drank coke at the wedding dance while a cover band played songs by alabama and the oak ridge boys. then she got divorced, then she got skin cancer. annie's brother shot himself in the bathroom.

***

it has been at least 10 years since i've seen any of these people. matt's girlfriend, then wife, now exwife lived a few apartments down from the one i shared with fannie. his brother derek, who grew to resemble morrissey, owned a coffee kiosk at apache mall. brian tended bar for awhile at the smiling moose. still cute, but a hipster version with silver rings of three of his fingers. elise and her husband hang around with one of my high school friends and her husband. i've heard they like to play spin the bottle.

i ran into laurie's mom when i first moved to duluth. she had digitally aged me in her mind and recognized me as the former five year old, as the once walking, talking, stringy hair, freckly chicken pox delivery system.

Monday, February 18, 2008

the smell of cooked ketchup ...

this week i inadvertantly found all of my recipes on the same web site, fell in love with a controversial flavor of beer and attempted to order pizza online. i also went out two too many times, meaning i added two days too few to my triathloning, yet coaxed all of fourth street into loving me through gentle song.

FOODS I MAKE
sweet potato curry soup (via recipezaar.com): someone should invent a candle that smells like this soup. it is orange spoonful's that taste like mushy yum melted on your tongue. then, as your nose gushes, you realize "hey! this is spicy!"

mini garlic naan (via recipezaar.com): this sort of tastes like the naan you know and love from your favorite restaurant, in that it is a garlic vessel -- in a good way. regardless, it is as good as any sort of small mound of bread brushed with garlic, butter, corriander and parsley and then baked. i liked it. but bread touches cheese as one of my favorite foods. these baby naans served as great sweepers for the leftover curry soup residue.

turkey meatloaf (via recipezaar.com): chuck and i have a long-running joke about meatloaf being a food of abuse. the kind of thing that, if made in correctly, could result in "accidentally running into the door [repeatedly]" or "burning myself with a hot iron." last year i promised him a heart-shaped meatloaf for valentines day, but never followed through. i made this with italian seasoned turkey and was amazed at how hearty and old school it tasted. plus, i got to say "hmm ... i do love the smell of cooked ketchup."

MEALS TAKEN IN PUBLIC
fitger's brewhouse, wild rice cheese burger, french fries, wildfire beer: after my waitress assured me that the wild rice burger had been NOWHERE NEAR A MUSHROOM EVER IN ITS LIFE, i opted for this often-lauded version of the classic cheeseburger -- except with rice. it was excellent, although with slightly hard pieces of rice, it sometimes felt like i'd kicked loose a tooth. the ultimate award goes to the french fries, which i didn't even have to bastardize with a single lick of salt. [this is my highest compliment].

more importantly, the beer: this brew, with its strong jalapino flavor, is controversial enough that when you order it for the first time, they demand that you try a shot of it first to make sure you like it. it was amazing. it was like drinking a beer and eating nachos at the same time. the only thing better than drinking it was burping it back up later. honestly.

MOVIE PROJECT
"carlito's way" (1993): somehow al pacino falls into the role of a former gangster -- definitely a stretch -- who is trying to go straight after serving five of a thirty year sentence. sean penn recedes his own hairline and gets a perm to play the role of his coked up, crooked lawyer. next summer when chuck and i take our vacation to 1985, i'm hoping we can swing into 1975 for a day or two and do the hustle at the club carlito runs in this movie. it's a little out of the way, but when else am i going to get the chance to wear a wrap dress?

"the river wild" (1994): being an absentee father has never been sexier or included more slapstick humor. i've decided that if i ever become a wii artist, that meryl streep will be my first mii subject.

NONPROJECT MOVIES
"michael clayton": george clooney, known to be an extraordinarily hairy actor based on oceans 11, 12 and presumably 13, manages to go four days without sleeping, eating, crapping and most noticeably shaving without any ramifications -- including fuzz-face. i predict this will win best picture.

READING
"the keep" by jennifer egan: cousins reunite in a european castle for indescernable reasons years after one left the other to die in a cave. i think jennifer egan has mastered the art of miserly doling out details. it works well, and the whole novel feels ominous.

i like when a writer can really get to the heart of a bad smell: "not rot, but something after rot, a moldy emptiness, the smell of stale pollen, bad breath, old refrigerators that haven't been opened in years, rotten eggs and certain wool when it got wet, the afterbirth of his cat polly when danny was six, his aching tooth when the dentist first drilled it open, the nursing home where great-aunt bertie dribbled pureed liver down her chin ..." i gave it four stars.

TECHNOLOGY!
online pizza orders: i attempted to order pizza online from papajohn's, all while loving that technology has given me another opportunity to avoid talking on the phone. i keyed in my info: large. pepperoni. cheese bread. coke. and then clicked to the checkout. unfortunately, papa john's online ordering capabilities were out of order. i eventually had to call. but i see the beginnings of a beautiful relationship, and "special requests" boxes filled with: extra pepperocinis! and a keg of garlic butter!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

humming along to ringtones ...

why am i in the fetal position, glued to an america's next top model marathon and demolishing a peanut butter and banana sandwich, you ask? i blame amazing grace, my favorite place to buy a sandwich bigger than my head.

when i stopped by for dinner last night, amazing grace was packed and the stock was depleted. the bread shelf was empty and the only flavor remaining on the board was honey wheat. honey wheat? this sandwich diva requires something with the word "pepper" or "cheese." preferably "three pepper" or "three cheese." so i walked upstairs to northern waters smokehaus, careful not to make eyecontact with any of the cheese -- specifically that brie-devil. the small store was crammed with couples double fisting chunks of cheese and two men ransacking a plate of smoked salmon.

that's when i realized that everyone in duluth was out and to not be out would be to deny my inner duluthian.

we walked to the roundup for karoake night, where the regulars were paying tribue to garth brooks and i sang "borderline" badly. i blame the dead microphone and a pingy version of the song that made it sound like i was humming along to a ringtone. "we don't get much madonna around here," the bartender said when i finished. i probably should have channelled reba.

outside i overhear a man telling a racist joke to a woman who is the race in his punchline. she laughs wildly and he continues the schtick back inside at at the table.

the roundup closes at 1 a.m. and the bartender says we are all headed to o'gilby's! so we file two blocks east and i realize that if pressed, i would not know the difference between o'gilby's and the roundup if i faced them in a lineup. they are exactly the same and filled with the exact same people. the only difference is that no one flushes the toilet at the roundup, and at o'gilby's one stall over a woman spent 8 minutes slurring to me that the door didn't lock, but she didn't care because she had nothing to be ashamed of and then got angry when a woman assured her that she wasn't going to bust into the stall.

then we walked home.
i don't think there is any reason for me to ever go out three times in one week ever again. amazing grace be damned.

Friday, February 15, 2008

i'm smelling something from yesterday at least ...


"snow waffle" by christa pista

* woke up at 1. let's be honest, 1:20 p.m.
* drank coffee.
* read internet.

[99 percent is about how much people hate valentine's day; 1 person writes about how she likes it.]

* i write a post and realize i've not even acknowledged the holiday. ooops.

[i love you. all of you. except the creepy yous. you're gross.]

* "i've run out of internet, but i want to keep reading it!" chuck panics.
* "this is why i read julia allison," i tell him. "you'll never run out."

* i pick up a book.
* for the next four hours we will not talk. he will make another pot of coffee. each time the other shifts on the couch, the nonshifter will look at the shifter expectantly, as if to say: "are we doing something now?" depending on the circumstances within our own heads, this "are we doing something now?" will be thought with excited anticipation or a reluctant "why NOW! why midchapter!"

* i'm hungry.
* chuck is, too.
* i know what i want. i want an everything bagal with a scrambled egg inside of it. maybe two. maybe some cheddar cheese.
* so does chuck.
* somehow i convince him that we should eat this, and that he should make it so i don't have to stand up.

[above all else, this is why you get into a relationship: so you don't starve to death just because you're lazy.]

* this is the best food i've ever eaten in my entire life. seriously.

* we both go mute again.
* for another four hours.
* i formulate a plan.
* chuck is agreeable:
* to the brewhouse for dinner, then walk to carmody for the anti valentine's day party slash anniversary party for the transistor.
* he cheers.
* it's good to hear his voice.
* i shower and perfume myself. it's a special occasion, so i wear a bra.

* while waiting for a table, we sink into a two-person chair.
* we fit perfectly.
* "we should get one of these," chuck suggests.
* "definitely," i say. "an ottoman and [that green blanket] ..."
* "i'll go get the car and back it up to the doors," chuck says.
* "one time jcrew and bubbles stole a christmas tree from this lobby," i say.
* "there are security cameras," he points to a sign. "they can never come back here again."

* there are two women sitting by a wall.
* a man approaches them and says "what're you doing?"
* they say "gettin' drunk" and cackle."
* it reminds me of yesterday when i was at the bank and a woman said i hope cupid freezes to death i don't have time for that shit.
* over dinner we make a bingo card. carmody bingo.

[it includes who we know we will see when we get there, and under what circumstances. we have also played homegrown music fest bingo, pizza luce bingo and rock the block bingo.]

* on this night, carmody sucks. it's the wrong shape or something.
* some dude traps me in a corner and tells me a long story. i can't hear his words. i'm distracted by the fact that every sentence he says includes a gust of beer breath.

[believe me, i'm not afraid of beer breath. but this is stale beer breath. like the stuff he's drinking tonight isn't even registering on his tongue yet. i'm smelling something from yesterday, at least. maybe last week. i develop a pavlovian response to his words. cringing when i know he has to exhale.]

* we walk to pizza luce.
* on the way we see one of chuck's exgirlfriends.

[this was totally on the bingo card, but outside of carmody it doesn't count. on the other hand, had i known she was going to carmody, it would have upped the fun level exponentially, as she is quite likeable.]

* it is so cold that i can feel my glasses freezing against my face.
* it is so cold that my kneecaps may shatter.
* it is so cold that i want to order a hot-buttered rum, but i think that is a drink my mom invented in 1982 to make us fall asleep.

* another night, another compulsive wilco fan in the house.
* seriously. something in the world has aligned to make wilco always play in any room i'm in.
* this is fine, i like wilco.
* but its a little creepy, too.
* a woman and a man come into the bar. i recognize her from outside of carmody, when she called the bus company from her cell phone to say that she had left her wallet on the bus. "i feel stupid," she said to the man. "don't," he said.
* they order drinks and sit in the restaurant.
* we dissect their relationship. in. great. detail. favorable, however. while we don't know the woman, we feel her pain. we watch her loosen up over a beer and decide this will make a fun valentine's day date story in the future.

* we want to play cribbage.
* the cribbage board is on another table.
* but sorry is available.
* meh, not so much.
* a fight breaks out during the wild game.
* more wilco.

* i go to the bathroom and find a drivers lisense on the floor next to the can.
* the part of me that still thinks i'm underaged cheers.
* a valid ID!
* i pick it up.
* it's a man: matthew. he's from a town i never heard of. he's 23.
* why is matthew's ID on the floor of the women's bathroom?
* i set it on the tampon wrapper garbage can, where he'll find it?
* later, when i specifically return to this stall again, it is gone.

* the waitress brings us two free chocolate covered strawberries.
* she probably saw us making out in the booth and thought it was the least she could do.
* de. lish.
* we take a cab home.
* second most boring cab ride home ever.
* he doesn't even hint that he wants to play guitar hero. i tell him to tell teddy bear hello. he snorts.
* chuck makes us annie's mac and cheese.
* and accidentally burns his foot.


"not so easy mac" by christa pista


Thursday, February 14, 2008

sloshy consonants ...

for many years we were sprint-drinkers -- first in rochester, then duluth -- cruising into the bar around midnight. striding through the door, snagging a beer mug and pouring from the pitcher in one fluid movement. trying to pour a night's worth of drinking down our throats in less than an hour.

i'm not the only one who had the bar's phone number trapped in my head. franticly tapping the digits into my cell phone and ordering two pitchers before last call.

the rabbits, the bar's more regular regulars, had already fallen off barstools and were now sitting in slushy urine drenched pants, head on the bar. the owner had already been guided to his apartment upstairs, slept some of it off, and was now back. stumbling around wide-eyed looking for women to hug.

we are doing math: calculating intake times drinkers times shot-gun technique. how many pitchers do we need to order at 12:59 a.m. before the bartenders suggestion that she's closing turns into a threat. before she is typing the code into the bar's alarm, she's setting a bomb, and we have 15 seconds to sprint out the door.

my friends were thrilled when bar time fell back, giving us an extra hour at some point in the early 2000s. i was worried. like i said, we were already sprint drinkers. an extra hour wouldn't give us a more relaxed, leisurely drinking schedule. an extra hour would make us an extra hours worth of drunk.

afterbars that began at 1:35 a.m. would now begin at 2:35 a.m. by the time my landlord had slopped together cheeseburger hamburger helper, doled out the mismatched bowls, and played his complete nitty gritty dirt band collection, the sun would be up. we would be clutching cans of natural light, squinting out the window while children lined up at bus stops and 9-5ers commuted to work.

that's no way to live. but we did it, and a few nights a week i'd wake up on my landlord's couch -- or splitting half of his bed -- wrapped in a thin and nubby vikings' comforter that smelled like feet and basement.

tuesday night reminded me of this. chuck and i made a last-ditch decision to hit quinlan's. if you already know you are going to take a cab home, there is no point in passive drinking. you should just attack. you don't want to be sitting in the back seat of a cab thinking: eh. maybe i could have driven. that's just going to lead to six dollars worth of remorse. no, i say do it right.

and it's like we've walked in late to a movie. the pool table is busy; a wilco fan has taken over the juke box; an older couple is using consonants so sloshy that they sound like vowels.

an older man, short, is trying to create a looming presense over a 20-something boy who is alone and hunkered over his drink.

the older man puts his face inches from the boys, asking rhetorical questions and then challenging him to a fight. the bartender is poised a few feet away, listening with his eyes while pretending to not notice. i'm staring, but i'm a gawker. chuck is tuned in, like the bartender.

"... take this outside?" the man challenges the boy.
the kid ignores him.
the man has his arm clenched around the boy's head now.
at least one tv is showing ultimate fighting.

"have you ever noticed how things start to get pretty gay in bars around 1 a.m.?" i ask chuck.
he nods.
"those ultimate fighters have been in the missionary position at least three times already," he adds.

the old man loses the cigarette he has cupped behind his ear. and eventually the two go outside. a young girl keeps the men separated.

"enjoying the show?" i ask the sloshy couple when i go up to the bar, indicating the empty bar stools of the would-be fighters. the woman nods enthusiastically. i giggle. it took me 13 minutes to drink my first beer. my second takes a bit longer. the third is a bit shorter.

when the men return, they keep a stool between them. a friend joins the boy. and we lose track of the older man. another another wilco song follows another wilco song. and our cab ride is worth it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

merry christmas from the pista-mcchuckersteins ...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

watching my stories ...

i have decided to start watching a yet-to-be determined soap opera. a five days a week, cliff hanger hating, thumbing through soap opera digest at the grocery store soap opera watcher.

mostly i just want to see how long it takes me to get roped into the plot: where i character name-drop in casual conversation and get the shakes on the weekends. how long until i consider driving to the mall of america to meet some character who is signing autographs while he drips makeup onto a card table near wet seal?

the soap opera cannot be "days of our lives." i did the whole 'marlena and the exorcism' of the mid-90s; it can't be "the young and the restless" because that's what i watched in kindergarten; it can't be "passions" because theresa, ethan and gwen upset my delicate equilibrium. their piercing voices measure on richter scales.

in preparation for my new hobby, i read some soap opera summaries, and one made mention of a text message killer. that sounds like it could hold my attention through five hours and 36 tampax commercials a week. but i'm open to suggestion.

what soap should i start sending fan mail to? [please feel free to include juicy plot points that may interest me.]

Monday, February 11, 2008

doing revlon laps around her kisser ...

last week i did little cooking and lots of watching.

FOODS I MAKE
tortellini with peas and tarragon (via real simple): i usually like to make something a little more labor intensive. this time i just tossed the mess into a pan, all while maintaing a phone conversation with fannie re: her new iphone. in the end it was delicious. apparently i'm a fan of tarragon. life lesson: sometimes simple is good, no food processor or yeast required. CONFESSION: i actually made this twice this week because the leftovers went too fast and it is really easy and good.

MEALS TAKEN IN PUBLIC
le bistro, superior, wis.: holy crap the sweet potato curry soup is probably the best food i've ever eaten in my life. they must have the most-effective puree button in the history of puree buttons. i'm totally making this next week. for an entree i had salmon with dill sauce, mashed potatos and green beans and my plate couldn't have been cleaner if i had actually wrapped paper towels around my keister, sat on it and spun gleefully. chuck's meal had a little more flavor: walleye with asparagus and red pepper.

for some reason, steamed veggies and meat always smell like my grandparents' house before sunday dinner. this is what le bistro smelled like.

MOVIE PROJECT
la femme nikita (1990): just when you can't handle one more second of nikita's goat-mawed hair and flailing elbows, she learns how to use lipstick and spends hours in front of the mirror doing revlon laps around her kisser. one part spy movie, one part '80s romantic comedy. in french. i wore a turtle neck and we ate brie for the viewing.

the people under the stairs (1991): home alone hijinks, and elmer fudd chase scenes result in the outtakes from the thriller video.

glengarry glen ross (1992): rumor has it the renegade theater did this play in the early 2000s and a young chuckers mcchuckerstein played the part of a salesman. i'd love to have seen that. as for the movie: too much talkie talkie.

NON MOVIE PROJECT MOVIES
into the wild: i still wept like i'd been stabbed. this is the best movie i've seen in a long time, although it gets a little long. one can only watch alexander supertramp roll in the alaskan dirt screaming "i'm fucking hungry" for so long. it gets a little painful, unless you're the sort of person who kills off SIMS characters [which i'm not].

no country for old men: from now on, i'll think that every expressionless man with a bowl cut is going to kill me with a cattle implement. thanks, coen brothers.

PLAYING OVER AND OVER AND OVER
the national, boxer: because i am always nostalgic for late '80s shoegazing, when i can find a band that apes something from my trifecta of favorites -- the cure, depeche mode, the smiths -- i will abuse it like a trampoline. favorites include "mistaken for strangers," and "slow show" but its "apartment story" that really puts you in the closing scene of something like "breakfast club."

cat power, jukebox: i can listen to this over and over -- and i have -- but i can't see listening to an individual song outside the context of the rest of the album. it feels like a specialty item. that's some voice on chan marshall.

READING
brooklyn follies, paul auster: charming with chunks of hilarity, unfortunately highly forgetable. someday it will be a movie and i'll be like: "oh! oh! i bet the bookstore owner dies!" i won't remember how i know that and i'll spend another month thinking i'm psychic. the last page is chilling, though. kind of feels like horrible punchline.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

morning hours: where plans go to die ...

last week i signed up for the hokily named "couch potato triathlon" at the ymca. in order to win a t'shirt -- which i imagine will be a snug men's hanes featuring a cartoon spud running on a treadmill, yet is one significant reason that i signed up -- i have to run 26.2 miles, swim 2.4 miles and bike 112 miles by the end of february.

two of my friends are also competing. in fact, i kind of honed in on their challenge when i heard them doing hearty boy banter about it. while we aren't competiting against each other, there is pride involved with not being the one who doesn't finish.

meanwhile: the greeter is the sort of person who once was paid actual money to play college football; f. scottie is the sort of person who sees the 'call of duty' and unflinchingly ups the ante to 'personal mission from jesus so i'm going to do TWICE AS MUCH!'. i am the sort of person who gets all wide eyed with plans, schemes, ideas at 3 a.m., then twists in bed blue-printing, only to wake at 1 p.m., too exhausted to follow through. morning hours are where plans, scheme and ideas go to die.

i knew the running would be easy. i can cover that distance in a week and some change. biking makes my legs tired. i'm more of a 'flailer' than a 'swimmer.' but a conversation with a woman in the locker room one day gave me a bit of perspective: she went on and on about how easy it would be to cover 187 lengths of the pool over 29 days. i decided since i thought the running would be easy, maybe 'easy' is a flexible term and that 'easy' to someone should mean 'not that terrible' to a flailer who doesn't like water on her face.

SO WHY DO THIS WHEN I HATE 66.6666 PERCENT OF THE ACTIVITIES?
1. i am planning on running a half-marathon in june, and although i have been running i know myself well enough to know that sometime mid-february i'd look at the training start date in march, shrug, stick my face in a mound of smoked gouda and not come up for air until two days after that start date. if left to my own devices.

2. this is exactly the kind of project i like: something with a definitive finish line, but flexible deadlines in between. if i wanted to, i could wait until february 25th, then hole up at the Y for six hours a day.

3. trying to stoke the dying embers of a competitive fire.

4. the aforementioned ill fitting hanes t'shirt with a gaudy cartoon potato.

THOSE BOYS
the greeter sent f. scottie and i an email last week pointing out that if we were keeping pace, we should be at about 20 percent completion. i did some quick math and discovered i was:

22 percent done running
10 percent done biking
16 percent done swimming

the next day i saw f. scottie at the Y. we gave each other the super secret nod of people working on a similar mission. i busted out a quick three mile run and when i left he was bouncing gleefully all over the treadmill like a happy puppy with a bacon bit caught in his paw. i saw him again today. when i left, i believe he was propped on a bike in the spin class room, pedaling toward a higher percentage than me.

i'm going to spit in his water bottle.

IN SUMMARY
the biking is the worst. i believe that bicycle seats were invented by someone who has never seen a human pelvis. and everything takes twice as long on a recumbant bike -- although i can bust through about 75 pages in a novel while sitting there, so i choose this bike.

unfortunately, while pedaling, i can hear the runners on the treadmill and it picques a bit of runners envy. like a dumb slogan on a runner's world t'shirt: i'd rather be running. i've only run nine miles this week -- and despite the swimming and the biking, this is disappointing.

the swimming isn't as bad as i thought. getting into the pool takes longer than actually doing laps. i need water to be the temperature of soup, and everything else is just a form of hell. one day i struggled with an adult bobber in a life vest who kept popping up in my lane before loudly apologizing; today during open swimming i was delighted to have my own personal lifeguard policing the kiddies from chucking balls and kick boards and having slumber parties in my lane.

AS OF TODAY
i've run nine miles, completed 25 laps and biked 23 miles.

Friday, February 8, 2008

superior dichotomy ...

* got up ridiculously early [11:00 a.m.]
* ate everything bagals with eggs and veggie sausages, drank coffee and looked at the intra net
* chuck took a shower, which is code for: NOW YOU TAKE A SHOWER SO WE CAN GO INTO THE WORLD AS CLEAN PEOPLE!
* i, reluctantly, took a shower
* chuck asked if i felt prodded along.
* i said 'yes.'
* we go to whole foods, where i gorge myself on samples: a sliver of apple and a square of bacon cheddar on a toothpick.
* went to the red mug, a coffee shop in superior, wisconsin.
* i flipped through a cookbook, marking interesting pages with pieces of a receipt.
* chuck looked at the internet.
* an older woman, in great detail, outlined her complete medical history right down to the vertibrae.
* the word 'lumbar' was mentioned often.
* i thought the man was probably bored.
* then i realized he was talking, too, but that his voice didn't pierce the air like a siren on the first wednesday of the month.
* he buys her another coffee.
* she asks if it's decaf.
* he says yes.
* she says: oh boy ... because if it wasn't and i drank this much coffee ...?
* "you'd crap yourself?" chuck fills in for her.

* another older couple was playing grabass on the couches, but only in those rare moments when their faces weren't stuck together.
* we go to superior target to buy a cord and some pots.

[note: the target in superior is a lot like a regular town's walmart, whereas the walmart in superior is kind of awesome.]

* we go to the dollar store
* either the dollar store in superior smells like piss, or we smell super awesome.
* knowing us, it's the former.
* we eat dinner at le bistro.

[i'm not sure i would mind living in this building.]

* both when i sit down and stand up to use the ladies, i almost do that magic trick with the table cloth.
* without the magic.
* we eat food that is so amazing, my mouth weeps.
* later i find out that it is because it has all been suffocated in butter.
* but not in that red lobster way.

* "between the dollar store and le bistro, we've experience the dichotomy of superior," i say to chuck.
* we went from cheap toys and dollar wine glass sets to being waited on by three servers.
* word.

* we came home and listen to music.
* chuck made the pantry into an herb garden.
* he tells me that he has just smelled dirt, and it smells amazing.
* i penetrate facebook.
* we listen to the national, the magnetic fields, radiohead, griffin house and colin meloy doing morrissey.

* we go to burrito union for starfire lounge.
* i drink a ginger margarita and watch a man on the discovery channel eat food out of an anthill.
* chuck drinks an IPA, and talks me down from my sudden desire to stick my face in a vat of seasoned sour cream.
* i drink another ginger margarita.
* chuck drinks anothe IPA.
* we walk home
* i'm oddly winded
* i drink naked juice.
* i find out that chuck didn't like the john cusak movie "identity."
* this could be a deal breaker.
* actually it isn't.

* chuck has a candle lit and is plugging the cord into the tv.
* i'm going to have some havarti and an apple.
* we are going to watch a movie.
* then go to bed.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

questions from a skyway ...

jcrew tripped over this a few days ago and almost ruined every lunch i could ever want for the rest of my life. is it a cockroach? a cricket? do cockroaches live in duluth? [i say no, since i'd for sure have seen one considering some of the squalor i've lived in, driven in, drank in, dated.] i think it was a cricket.



then we saw this:



i like the idea of a little skyway party.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

stained ...



phenazopyridine hydrochloride will turn your urine the color of tang, could discolor your soft contact lenses, and -- if you are the sort of person who props her legs on the edge of the bathtub when she uses the bathroom -- tye-dyes the inner toilet bowl until it looks like woodstock.

and despite being the equivilent of tylenol for you urinary tract, it is packaged poorly with two pills per flimsy, see-through pocket. if you have crawled from the bedroom to your purse for your emergency stash, it is almost impossible to rip into a package. your teeth aren't sharp enough, your thumb nails aren't strong enough, and your wherewithal to retroactively grab a scissors not nearly honed enough. and you could die right there in the hallway, a modified take on the fire-breathing dragon. however, if you are wandering around target thinking about isaac mizrahi shirt-dresses and champion sports bras, the packs open easily. at will. these aspirin-sized discs are escape artists.

soon the bottom of your purse is lined with a neon yellow silt. and you hope it doesn't rain.

phenazopyridine hydrochloride will stain your fingernails when you dig in your purse -- think cheetos, but medicinal -- and anything else that is free floating in your bag: receipts, gum, tampons, ear buds, check book, ID.

it's the weathered ID that is most bothersome. not to me, but to the people who need to verify that i am me and that is my check card and i'm old enough to get into your bar. they frown. or laugh. or furrow. they wonder if the ID is contageous.

"what happened ...?" i'm asked. over and over and over.

i used to explain in great detail: my urinary tract pain pills? they stain things. they came open in the bottom of my purse? and everything in my purse turned dirty yellowish? then i dumbed it down to: [grunt.] i spilled something on it.

"whoa. dude. did this start on fire?" was the most recent question from a clerk at a west end gas station.

i just shook my head no and didn't elaborate. i'm bored with explaining my drivers license. but it got me thinking about the questions we have to repeatedly answer. things that are fun to answer at first, but become so tedious that you eventually just stop explaining them. instead you shrug and leave the question dangling like a pinata at the birthday party that was cancelled.

then i thought, thank god i'm not a celebrity.

Monday, February 4, 2008

more puckers, folds and dents than you ...



i was never groomed for public nudity. there was never in my life any reason for me to be fully undressed for an audience. neither my high school, nor junior high had a swimming pool. and through that span, i had exclusively male gym teachers who likely didn't feel comfortable sniffing teenaged girls' armpits and gauging whether we had washed our hair after 45 minutes of pickleball. maybe in high school a few of us showered. but with just ten minutes until the bell, there was no way for me to wash and recreate what studio line pumping curls, a diffuser and a thin barrelled curling iron had berated into crunchy perfection before school.

i played team sports, but as even as a first grader playing coed youth soccer with two concave reasons to dismiss modesty, i knew how to add a long-sleeved shirt beneath my jersey without actually removing the jersey. and i have taken that slight of hand with me into adulthood.

the showers in dowling hall were each individual curtained stalls. private enough that if you wanted to multitask, you could squirt a stream of shower gel into the stream to mask the strong smell of coffee-pee. and actually, in college, i didn't worry as much about my exposed kiester as i did about my floor mates seeing my feet. i have always been told that i have feet like my dad, which isn't the genetic direction one would pick. my dad has long, thin toes that look like mangled arthritic talons. thick toenails he squares off with a scissors. his late-night ice cream cravings are obvious because of the tell-tale clicking of his bare feet across the linoleum. precious few saw my bare feet before i was 19 years old. and to this day, at my brother's coaxing, my niece mel will look at my bare feet and say: auntie christa? do you use your feet to dig up potatoes?

a few years ago, lingering in the locker room at the YMCA and waiting for the one curtained shower stall to open, i decided to get over this public nudity thing. this issue suggest a far more puritanical version of myself than is accurate. i don't have body image issues, and even if i did, the YMCA is the last place to fret it. if your YMCA is anything like mine, the unofficial motto is something like: we guarentee that there will always be someone naked in the locker room with more puckers, folds and dents than you.

and so i took a shower in public and didn't feel uncomfortable at all, although i still prefer to shower behind a curtain.

the girls on the swim team are screamers. they congregate in the locker rooms, testing acoustics and decibles with squeals and first it sounds like a slumber party before it escalates into tryouts for a girl band. their voices pierce a nerve in my brain.

soon after i'd returned to showering in private, i was mid-suds up and a group skipped through the shower area from the pool, en route to the locker rooms. the leader of the pack, a small girl, ripped open my curtain, gaped at me wide-eyed, then winged it closed again. then three more followed suit: open, gape, fling shut. it was really jarring. and annoying.





it happened again today. rinsing out my hair and i have my eyes closed and when i open them, a nine year old face is staring up at me. i screamed the scream of a thousand swim teams filled with a thousand teenaged girls. she was nonplusses, just continued to hold the curtain open never breaking eye contact.



"sorry." she said.
i ripped the curtain out of her fingers and flung it shut.

for whatever reason, it is more uncomfortable to be gawked at when you think you are in private than if i'd just stood in the middle of the communal showers.

excuse me, ma'am, but is that a glo-worm? ...

one disfigured car, two days of bed rest and movies. lots of movies.



BEER PROJECT
summit winter ale: it’s really not an offensive beer at all and seems like it would taste good with chili.

BOOKS READ
"service included" by phoebe damrosch: now replacing "addiction memoirs" as my favorite genre: food memoirs. this is a quick read by a foodie who works her way into a career as a waiter per se -- which is eventually named a four-star restaurant. the story follows preparing for per se's opening, to the central conflict -- impressing nyt's recognizable food critic during frank bruni on his six visits. in the meantime, damrosch is negotiating a tricky relationship with a somelier named andre who is still living with his exish girlfriend who also works at the restaurant.

i liked the insider inforomation and kept my food encyclopedia handy ie: what is tripe? a lot of her humor requires an understanding of a) the food industry; b) food. as with anything that you must be really into to really enjoy, reading this and getting her jokes feels really exclusive and geeky. there is just one chapter devoted to the quirks of the restaurant's regulars -- diners who fall asleep, snort between courses, need an extra chair for a stuffed dog.

damrosch writes well on a technical level, and food-writing level, but has a tough time nailing personalities, including her own. it's hard to see what draws her to andre and what draws him to her. like bruni, i'd give it four stars.

FOODS I MAKE
potage with pesto (via vegetarian times): this is a version of every soup i make: cut up vegetables, double amount of recommended garlic, add vegetable broth, simmer until everything is mushy then throw in food processor. what makes this soup different is the dollap of pesto added to each bowl. it gives a bland, predictable soup a jolt of condensed garlic flavor and an occasional sliver of walnut.

focaccia (via moosewood restaurant daily specials cookbook): in this week's bread-baking adventure, i mistook a baggie filled with lecithin for yeast. two hours and one sweaty clump of dough later, i realized my error and kneeded yeast into the mix. this gave the dough a freakish boil where the yeast sort of did its job. eventually it all came together and we ate the crap out of the entire circle of bread. a girl can forget how good rosemary tastes and if you like salt, you'll love sea salt.

pear cake (via vegetarian times): i liked the idea of a cake with 4 grams of fat per serving. luckily i was in a particularly chocolate-craving point in my lunar cycle so i was able to ignore its mediocrity. mostly, making this cake enabled me to clean out the molded stink of irish oatmeal that had been stewing in the slow cooker since last sunday. that was a bad smell. i'm sure this pear cake will, too, in a few days.

MEALS TAKEN IN PUBLIC
chester creek cafe's middle eastern plate: this is getting embarrassing. i think i'm three times in three weeks on this restaurant. and honestly, we were headed to mount royal when we accidentally erked into their lot. i went with my old standby of the middle eastern plate, which is three falafel patties, sauce, tabbouleh, three mounds of hummus and four pita triangles, a handful of greek olives and feta cheese.

MOVIE PROJECT
prizzi's honor (1985): so far in our movie project, we have learned that there was a different standard of humor in the 1980s, that just doesn't translate. this probably means that in the year 2028 superbad will elicit shrugs. prizzi's honor's laughs are centered around hitman jack nicholson, who falls madly in love with hitwoman kathleen turner -- who i kept mistaking for cybill shephherd. jack nicholson's version of a mafioso accent is embarrassing. and everything that happens -- which is very little -- happens very slowly. like it was filmed underwater at seaworld.

the fly (1986): there are things you don't expect to see in a movie: limbs singed by an opaque vomit, ear loss and an abortion attempt that results in the birth of a glo-worm sized maggot. this may be one of the greatest movies i've ever seen. chuck, very aptly, compared it to an episode of nip/tuck.

some kind of wonderful (1987): in a perfect world, i would watch this movie in an environment where i would be allowed to quote every. single. line. unfortunately, i have to stifle this natural impulse, as i sense that what i deem as impressive will come across as annoying. so before we watch i say to chuck: "if i get a black and blue mark you monger, you're dead!" and "pretend i'm a girl. pretend i'm her. ... amanda. i know its a big stretch, but try it" so that when these lines happen during the viewing, i can smile smugly [ie: impressive]. more than any other movie in the 80s, this was my go-to flick as a teen. if i couldn't watch it in its entirity, i could always make time for the scene where mary stuart masterson lets eric stoltz practice kissing her. as it becomes more heated, he clenches at the back of her jean shorts. i've always considered this a very sexy moment.

the blob (1988): kevin dillon plays a rogue teenager who tries to save his small town from a gelatenous substance that mauls the jocks, the sluts, the cafe owner, the sheriff, a homeless man and others. this may be the best movie i'd never heard about. i can't believe none of this movie's oneliners made it into mainstream culture. ie: "kevin, stop eating with your face."

drugstore cowboy (1989): kevin dillon's brother stars in a movie about a band of roving pharmecuetical theives. it was hard to get used to a movie where no one gets chased by a science fair project. not to mention that i had to constantly remind myself the main character was not dallas "dally" winston, and there would be no "stay gold ponyboy."

NON MOVIE PROJECT MOVIES
atonement: for about one hour, ten minutes i knew exactly what was happening on screen. this probably means it should win an oscar. call me, kiera knightley!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

a week in chapters ...



photo by chuck entitled: cyborg

IDENTITY THIEF:I'M ON TO YOU, ASHLEY
i'm not accustomed to lines. i tend to operate during non-peak hours, skulking around town while you sleep. but last sunday, the lobby of chester creek cafe is jammed with brunchers. sunlight and crowds at the same time. it's a wonder i'm not cowering in the corner with my head between my knees breathing through a reusable grocery bag. ah, yes, i think. it is noon on a sunday. a woman in the couched lounge area is demolishing an apple, practically making out with it. i like a diner who carries an emergency apple in her purse. i should pass her a clif bar for dessert.

i give the hostess our information: christa ... table for two. smoking ... er, nevermind.

an old man and an old woman are sharing a small bench and when their table is ready, fannie nudges me and nods toward the chair. i quickly scan the waiting area for pregnant women, elderly, limpers, the tousled hair of a hangover victim, then decide we are okay in taking a seat.

except the bench is small. very small. fannie and i simultaneously look at the bench, look at each other, mentally add the sizes of our own asses together -- adding a few inches on both side for comfort. but this isn't computing. neither of us has a huge can. we don't, like, beep when we move backward.

fannie looks confused.
"were they both sitting here?" i ask her.
"i'm not sure how ...?" she responds.
we shrug and both lower ourselves onto the bench. giggle and jump back up. it's not going to work. she lets me have the seat. i'm older than her.

we are told it will be a 15 minute wait.
ashley arrives about four minutes after us, and gives the hostess her information: ashley, table for two. she is in her 20s, a sort of au natural pretty with dirty blonde curls in a low pony tail of convenience.

we are still waiting for a table when fannie says: "the hostess just called 'christa' and that girl said she was you."

i refuse to believe this is possible. but the hostess is directing ashley and her friend to a table. i look at the list and see my own named crossed off, while ashley's is not. when the hostess returns i tell her: "that wasn't christa, i'm christa."

the waitress's eyes get wide. "you're right!" she says. "that was ashley!"

luckily another table had just opened up, so we didn't have to throw down in the parking lot. i was identity theived. i wouldn't have pegged ashley as the type. there i go judging again ...

PIZZA MAN DISSES ITS MOST LOYAL CUSTOMER
"i'm starving."
"lets order pizza."
"from where?"
"pizza man."
"what kind?"
"pepperoni. ... and cheese bread."
"okay."
"okay."
"what was our easiest food decision ever."

***
[a conversation where i take liberties with the term "verbatim"]
"what are those?" i point to two mounds of tin foil.
"garlic bread."
"i didn't order garlic bread. ... in fact, i ordered cheese bread."
"um ... that must just be for free."
"where's my coke?"
"we actually ran out of coke. that's probably why you got the free garlic bread."
"how do you 'run out of coke?' is there a world shortage of coke? and why would you think garlic bread, a solid, would be a good substitute for coke, a liquid."
"um ... you should call the store and have them credit you with a free coke for next time."
"um ... you should direct your happy pizzaman ass to the ghetto spur and get me a coke!"

***

BED IN
yesterday i slept until 6 p.m., rolled over and immediately began watching "battlestar galactica" on chuck's laptop. it's called "a bed-in": where i am an achey, phlegm filled, drooling mess of throb. chuck agrees to sympathetically stream the video. sprawled on our stomachs, heads propped on pillows, moving pictures on screen, updating me on the ebbs of the plotline when i get narcoleptic --10 minute comas per episode.

WALGREEN ZOMBIES
today i go to walgreen's to scrounge a sam's club worthy supply of theraflu for dinner, and think: i would be more surprised if my brain wasn't bleeding than to find out it is bleeding.

the woman in front of me in line has vertigo. it seems impossible. a few days ago i wrote the line "ninnies with vertigo" now vertigo is in front of me and needs help finding over the counter vertigo medication.

i wonder if i conjured her, or if i'm just super lucky?

meanwhile, over my shoulder i hear someone threatening someone else.
"do you want me to call the police?" she says.
when i turn around, a toddler is laying on the floor near the photo counter. his mom is telling him she will call the police if he doesn't stand up. his body is limp and she is tugging on his arm.

i don't feel badly at all, being a childless adult giving her a D-minus for parenting skills. threatening to call the cops on your children is so 1987.

and then i witness another exchange that makes me wonder if there is a full mooon.

mom: "why do you need men's socks?"
teenaged daughter: "why does it matter?"
daughter stares blankly at candy, holding package of tube socks.
mom: "why do you need men's socks?!"
teenaged daughter ignores her.
mom: "i just don't understand why you need men's socks."

[here i wonder what the hells is wrong with men's socks. i've got my tootsies wrapped in a pair as we speak]

teenaged daughter: "we share socks, okay? why does it matter who's socks are who's?"
mom looks pissed.
teenaged daughter takes package of tube socks and flings them at the candy display.
they leave the store. mom wins again.
until next week, when they split the price of an ept home pregnancy test. i believe mom missed her window for "the talk." we all know what it means when a couple starts sharing socks. ...