Monday, August 31, 2009

Now 34 ...



1. I read about Erik and Lyle Menendez, and the gruesome killing of their parents, then Google imaged them to see if they were cute.
2. I chased that with a chapter of "Insomnia," a 700-plus page book I can't complain about reading because Chuck is reading "Infinite Jest," which weighs in at a cool thou.
3. I woke after just 6 hours of sleep and pattered into the world, beaming like it was Christmas. Or, as I like to call it, Christamas.
4. I drank too much coffee.
5. Chuck made me a cake.
6. Blow dried my hair.
7. Received a bouquet of carnations in the shape of a cupcake from Lil Latrell.
8. Got my drivers license renewed, Just. In. Time. Decided to be honest about my weight. (Well, at least in a suburb of honesty).
9. Ate the Monday's Special from Subway, but almost had to ditch it in favor of bulimia when I saw a woman sitting at a table blowing her nose. Loudly. With obvious, gelatinous results.
10. Received a Carmel-flavored iced something from Starbucks from JCrew.
11. Immediately went Pixie Sticks crazy off the caffeine-sugar tag-team.
12. Decided that every person should have a friend like Tuska, who can be on the receiving end of Bristol Stool Scale text messages that just don't translate well on Facebook or Twitter.
13. Chuck woke up and took me out to dinner at Lake Avenue Cafe, where I did tongue laps around my plate until there wasn't any evidence of my falafel platter left.
14. Tonight: OJ Simpson and more "Insomnia."

PS: I've decided to extend this year's birthday through Labor Day. Usually I claim all of August as mine, but this year I only need eight days, and I'm fine to take it in September. Do what you want with that information.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

You ain't a beauty but hey you're alright ...

Every single Monday I try to reinvent myself as a better person. A person who makes delicious healthy foods every day, goes for long, techno music blasting runs, and drives a car that isn't a time capsule for empty bottles of my favorite flavored waters. Better yet, what if this is the week I become to be a person who always rides a bike.

This typically lasts until Wednesday. And by Friday I am closer living as a frat boy than I am to living like a responsible and peaceful adult.

This year, the stars have aligned against me. Cruel, cruel world, my birthday is today. On a Monday. Barf. It's the first time in a decade that I haven't cleared the next two days on my schedule. No. It will be bizness as usual for this old lady. Go here. Go there. Come home. Read a book. Go to bed.

On the other hand, it gives me the grand opportunity to do not just the traditional Monday reset. Now I get to do a Monday as a newly minted 34-year-old reset.

My grand resolutions for being 34 include:

Reading that friggin' New Yorker that I've subscribed to for years, but rarely do more than glance at the cartoons when I'm on the can.

That's it for now. I hate to put too much pressure on myself. Anyway, here is how I spent last week:



Red Bean Gumbo with Greens: I wanted this to be really spicy and it wasn't and I don't know why. It was good, and it meant being all show-offy with a roux. But the zip was zip. Not to mention a fatal error involving not chopping the greens, which, between the floaters in the water -- I love that about gumbo, It makes me think it was made in a dirty Louisiana river -- and the sopping drapes of leaves, I felt like I'd been washing clothes in a stream.

I also made cornbread, but just the recipe from the box of cornmeal, so I hardly deserve any awards for that.



Baked Tofu with Braised Vegetables: This had a lot of steps and resulted in a game of "Guess some of the ingredients in this!"

The tricky answers include: Cooking sherry; Dijon Mustard; Tomato Paste; Soy Sauce ... I could have played for hours. Every bite tasted differently to me, ranging from a strong feety flavor to something pretty good. I think I liked it about 60 percent, and it was definitely better than I thought it would be as it baked.

MOVIES
Brotherhood of the Wolf - Director's Cut (Two-Disc Special Edition): Oh my God. Awful. So long. So lame. It could only be worse if it was called "Dances with the Brotherhood of the Wolves."

The Informers: This is like "Less Than Zero," with less attractive stars and no soul. With a delicious 80s filling.

READING
Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell: After reading food-memoir-Julia-Child-love-letter-turned-movie Julie & Julia by Julie Powell, I have two regrets: A) I wish I had come up with an idea like this. But not this one. I’m never going to eat liver, let alone saw away at a bone to get to that succulent marrow. And you’ll be hard-pressed in this book to find a moment when Powell isn’t going all Patrick Bateman on something that would have made a fine pet;

B) I wish I’d been following her blog when she was in the middle of this project. Unfortunately, I’ve jumped onto the bandwagon at the point where her Dooce-ian count of readers make comments on her site that rival the jackholes who comment on the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Web site.

Full review will be here.

I'm So Happy for You: A novel about best friends by Lucinda Rosenfeld: Congratulations to Lucinda Rosenfeld, who has created the least likable protagonist in the history of fiction for women by women. To the readers of "I'm So Happy For You" who laud the honest portrayal of female friendships, I say, "Who the hell are you hanging out with and why?"

Full review will be here.

Salve for the bed sores ...

THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU ARE BEDRIDDEN (A short list)
* Check out iTunes' new release movies. Find that one that is based on that Bret Easton Ellis book that you didn't understand. Realize it isn't available for rent. Buy it for $14.99. Shrug. Recognize that being bedridden is keeping you from doing anything else that costs money. Consider this a money-saving technique. Do not, however, make the same splurge on "Adventureland." That would just be silly.
* Realize that the tv.com ap includes episodes of Melrose Place. We're talking mom-jeans and bangs, kiddies. Feel the tug of ghoulish nostalgia when the theme song kicks in.
* Alternate between a poorly conceived novel with a horrifying protagonist, and a 700-plus page Stephen King novel.
* Make a pile of cold mozzarella cheese sticks, using your stomach as a cafeteria tray. Eat slowly.
* Wonder when your body will begin to recreationally make water again.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Redrum ...

Me: We should sell everything and move to some small town. Bayfield. Grow our own food, never leave the house. Maybe hang out at the VFW. It wouldn't matter if they don't plow the roads, because we could just hole up all winter.
Chuck: That sounds great. Until February. Then it sounds like "The Shining."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kiwi ...



Who is this statuesque woman, and what does she have to do with me? Well, she is a net ball player in New Zealand, who plays for the Southern Steel. And, her hyphenated last name is the same as Chuck's full name, meaning that when my designated Chuckers McChuckenstein Google Alert* starts going all net ballalicious, I know that somewhere far away strangers are hunkered over a bowl of Hokey Pokey Ice Cream and filling out net ball brackets. Even though I don't know exactly what net ball is.

Judging from the media attention, I'd she is quite good at whatever it is she does.

*Is it weird that I have a Google Alert for my boyfriend? Maybe.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Smoke 'em if you got 'em [eggplant] ...

Well hello friends, family and creepers,

I seem to have watched plenty o'movies last week, including one that found me terrified to go to sleep until the sun came up. I say that, but really I used that as a good excuse to read until 6 a.m. Sunday morning, yet garner sympathy for my bad behavior.

Did I tell you about the time today that I put together a shoe shelf? Two of them?

In other news, my 34th birthday is a week from Monday. I can't believe I haven't mentioned it sooner. This is very uncharacteristic of me. Not the sort of thing I did as a 32 year old.

In other "Stuff I did this past week" news:

THE FOOD

Eggplant Steak with Mediterranean Salad: This is simply marinated eggplant that is roasted for like two minutes per side, then topped with a mix of chickpeas, feta, roasted red pepper, olives and a bit of the leftover marinade. The topping stands alone; The eggplant does not. "You definitely need to have the salad," Chuck said. "Otherwise, you're like 'OH. I'M EATING EGGPLANT!'"

Fun fact: Did you know eggplant has nicotene in it? Eating 20 lbs. worth is equivalent to smoking one cigarette, so don't get any funny ideas. I doubt you can fit 20 in your purse.

READER SUBMITTED RECIPE

Cork1's Cheesy Polenta with Bacon: This one comes from one of those high-metabolism readers in Michigan, who seemingly mad-scientist cooks like my dad: Chop up a bunch of good-tasting things, throw it in a pan, serve it with an egg.

Cork1's recipe includes frying up some bacon [I used prosciutto because it's snobbier] with some onions [He uses green onions, I was plumb out but had a mesh net filled with onion-onions]. When these are respectively fried and softened, add a half cup of polenta and two cups of water [I used a cup and a half of water] and stir that sucker until it congeals. Then Cork1 adds the green onion tips and American cheese. [I used Gouda, which is so good-ah.] When the cheese has melted, let it cool. In the meantime, poach an egg to eat with it.

I'd never poached an egg before, but found it to be fascinating. I'll do it again in the very near future.

This was, of course, delish. And easy. And my only regret is that I didn't have a hangover that could be cured by this magic mix. Maybe next time.

Thanks, Cork1.

MOVIES
Three Colors Trilogy (Blue / White / Red): We watched the first of the trilogy: Bleu. There is very little dialog in this French film, which means you can probably even watch it without subtitles and little will be lost. Those long pensive shots of the sun setting over a tea cup know are the same in any language. In this one, a woman's husband, a famous composer, and her daughter die in a car accident. She throws away everything and moves into an apartment where she knows no one. "What do you do?" The building manager asks her. "Nothing," she says. "I mean for work," he prods. "Nothing," she says.

Cursed (Unrated Version): Think Scream with werewolves. This Joshua Jackson vehicle is the best werewolf movie I've seen yet. Probably because it was also like Dawson's Creek gone wild.

Another Woman : This is one of those serious Woody Allen films about a writer who's writing apartment is next to a psychiatrist's office. She can hear his patients through the air vents, including a suicidal Mia Farrow. I had a hard time following this, which was set much like a play. I got distracted by cell phone games.

The Haunting in Connecticut: I'm not sure why I decided to start watching this at 3 a.m. when Chuck was at work, but it will not be an error I repeat. The only way to get it out of my brain was to turn on every light in the house and read "Julie & Julia" so that any sort of ghoulish visions in my head had to do with lobsters and not the severed eyelids of the dead.

THE BOOK
Inherent Viceby Thomas Pynchon: I'm a sucker for chatter and August has been lousy with chatter about Thomas Pynchon's "Inherent Vice." New York Magazine found it too busy; The Washington Post calls it a "page turner" and a "comfort book," Entertainment Weekly got distracted by the author's name in neon and gave it an A, but probably didn't read it.

Full review will be here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Social shame ...

Worse than any crippling, knitting-needles-to-the-brain drinking-induced headache is the lesser-talked about side effect: Social shame. And, lo, do I have it in spades today.

Bubbles and I went to Quinlan's late last night, where I instructed her to park her keys and put her car in her purse because we were going to drink ourselves into cab-condition. There is nothing more pathetic than ditching my Honda in a parking ramp, only to find myself whipping around in the backseat of a cab at 2:31 a.m. with a BAL of .07. Pa-thetic.

The night was relatively uneventful. We befriended a 24-year-old feminist, who was unusually apologetic about the fact that she was wearing a sundress and heels and that she was upset over a non-boyfriend sort with whom she had been romantic, who wasn't treating her in the way non-boyfriends with whom you have been romantic should treat you. Common courtesy, she said.

Bubbles and I were the last fools on Michigan St. in the middle of the night, and had fulfilled our mission. We came back to my apartment, drank a beer and cooed over Tori Spelling. Then we called Frenchy, who lives a few blocks away, and raided his liquor supply. The night ends with me, per usual, cramming a bunch of his beers in my purse, and Bubbles and I limping back to my apartment. She barfed and passed out mid-sentence on our couch; I sent a bunch of embarrassing text messages to the love of my life.

Today: Social shame.

I can't pinpoint exactly what I'm embarrassed about. The fact that my own voice is ringing in my ears doesn't help. I'm not proud of the kleptomania ... I'm going to have to wrap Frenchy's beer in a Whole Foods bag, drop it on his doorstep, ring the doorbell and run. All I know is that I feel shame and agoraphobia -- which is why it is always better for me to go out on a Friday than Saturday. More time to rock myself in the fetal position before returning to civilization.

I'm told other people get social shame, too. This is surprising to me. I rarely see other people doing things that would induce social shame.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Scene: While watching a movie.

Me: Do you think we'll ever have help? Like, someone to come in and make us coffee and bring us the mail and clean. And when guests come over, answer the door, mix a drink and then come and let us know the guests have arrived?
Chuck: I think it's more likely that we'll have help than guests.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Your post-apocalyptic skill set ...

I'm sitting here trying to catch up on the Discovery Channel's post-apocalyptic reality show "The Colony," which promises to be a show that Chuck and I can watch together. He's got a few episodes lead, and my homework is to get up to speed. This show has what we both need in TV: A hybrid of "Myth Busters" and "Terminator II" for Chuck, and real-life, interpersonal disharmony for me. I just have to ignore the "How to extract gas from wood," science lessons, plotted on a white board. Chuck just has to ignore the parts where I say "I bet those two will hook up. Huh. I bet those two will hook up, too."

What I'm mostly learning from this show is that I have no survival skills. Here a man scratches his dirty chin and suddenly remembers "Hey! I know how we can build a water purification system, so we can drink from the Los Angeles river!" I'm struggling to figure out what my role would be in a post-apocalyptic society.

1) I'm not especially violent, so the marauders could easily steal the Vienna sausages I looted from a burnt out grocery store.
2) My needle and thread skills are nil, so I won't be crocheting a fish net or doing, like, sutures.
3) One of the things I'm worst at is carrying things.
4) I can make veggie fajitas, but I can't commit to skinning a rat or breaking a goat's neck so I can make, um, goat chops. I'm not even convinced I'd eat chevre from an animal I could potentially call my best friend.
5) I'm not much for multitasking, and my short term memory is sketchy. I'm probably not going to remember the steps involved with manufacturing an outdoor shower stall, and assembling a water heater.
6) Sometimes I think it's funny when people get mad.
7) I find hot, post-apocalyptic weather to be oppressive.
8) I think scurvy is too hilarious of a disease name to actually worry about. Besides, I hate peeling oranges.

My skill set seemingly includes:
1) A lack of skittishness about toilet cleanliness.
2) I don't really need to wash my hands.
3) I'm a people person!
4) I can sleep anywhere.
5) I know how to ask for the bathroom in both Spanish and Swedish, although I'm told the Swedish version is the equivilent of speaking the language of The Canterbury Tales.
6) Speaking of that, I can read pretty quickly.
7) I like to do some clownin'. You know, funny jigs and made up songs.
8) I can maintain an online presence, although I'm not sure there is room for blogging in a post-apocalyptic society.

So ... I don't know. I think I'd be screwed.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Title unknown ...

Is it just me, or is the entire internet on vacation? My Google reader has run dry, Twitters are few and far between. What the wha ...?

In other news, this is how I spent the past week of my life -- henceforth to be known as "The week I tried to become addicted to energy drinks, but found that while they make me spazzy, then taste like perfume."

MIXING UP THE FOODSTUFFS
Baked Polenta with Swiss Chard and Cheese: Hello, labor-intensive, long-baking-but-worth-it. I'd only tried polenta fried with things on top of it. This was a nice little quiche kind of thing. We had to eat it before it had time to cool, thus the pancakey shape. Me+Chard=Love. And that corny flavor. Yum.
It involves cooking the chard with red pepper flakes, garlic and onion, then making polenta. Then whisking together egg and ricotta. Then mixing egg and ricotta with the polenta. Lay down layers of polenta mix, chard, mozarella cheese. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Salmon and Eggplant Curry: Separating salmon from it's skin is easily the most disgusting thing I've ever done. So, it doesn't really matter that this was really tasty and fun to eat. Because I'm not sure I can ever erase from my brain the sensation of being knuckle deep in this semi-solid, gelatinous mess of fish. I have long nails, people. And that smell lingers well beyond three pretty solid hand washings.

It's like this: you think you can just rip the skin off like it's the back of a stamp. Unfortunately, much like your skin or my skin, it's attached to the meat. It probably would have gone better if I had a super-sharp knife. But that is out of the question. I'm one of those people who would accidentally slice her Achilles tendon, trying to mince garlic. "How did that happen?" "Slipped on a banana peel with a $150 chef's knife in my hand."

It got to the point where I didn't even care how much meat I finally pulled away from that shimmering silver layer. I was all "Fine. Keep that. I don't friggin care. I just want to be able to get into my car without every cat in the neighborhood clamoring for a whiff of my digits."

Like I said: delicious. The snow peas, nice. Surprising bites of spice. If you want to invite me over and make this, I'll RSVP affirmative. But it won't see the light of day in this kitchen.

Call me a pussy, BUT THIS IS WHY I DON'T COOK MEAT! EVEN IF THAT MEAT SWIMS!


Black Bean and Hominy Stew: This stew begs the question: Why don't we eat more hominy? This was so good. Soo soo good. Black beans, onions, hominy, garlic and a pepper, with some nickel sized circles of Italian sausage. The hominy really makes it. I love that mushy on your teeth feel. Make this, people.

MOVIES
Ginger Snaps: Oh my god this movie is so stupid. "The premise is okay," I told Chuck, "If they could just make the main characters shut up." This is the story of Ginger and Bridget, misfit sisters attached at the slit wrist. Something whack happens the night Ginger gets her period -- three years late, according to her mom. Suspension of disbelief breaks here: A 15 year old girl with boobs and hips like that got her period when she was 11. Maybe 10. She also gets bit by a wolf. Those trying times of trying to learn to shave now include trying to learn to tape her wolf tale under her gym shorts. Death ensues.

The Howling : A TV news anchor develops a relationship with a mass murderer and scores an exclusive interview with him in a coin-operated booth of an adult bookstore. It doesn't unfold a planned, she's so distraught she can hardly get her hair to do that late 70s Faucette flip, and gets sent to a retreat in the woods. This is like being invited to play the Oscar Meyer at a wienie roast. This movie is so hokey.

Solicitations: Chuck is looking for good werewolf movies. Please advise.

READING
Jessica Z. by Shawn Klomparens: I started reading "Jessica Z" by Shawn Klomparens while getting gas. I was three pages in when the pump clicked to indicate a full tank, and I jumped like a foot. It was like I'd gone into some sort of Klomparens koma or something. "This is a good sign," I thought. "I'm not going to be able to put this book down."

That much is true. I read Klomparens' first novel over the course of a single rainy Saturday.

Read full review will be here. Spoiler alert: This book is all show, no go.

Miracle on Fourth Street ...

Ruby was the kind of girl who got in bitch fights and never lost. She was round with a slack face and a thin slimy pony tail, hair the color of snow on a muddy trail. When she moved into the lower level of the duplex I was living in about five years ago, it was with a much older man with a name like Walter or Glenn. A few days later he disappeared, leaving behind a gold sedan with a broken back window and two flat tires, and his check book. A few days after that, Jam had moved in with Ruby. They continued to use Walter or Glenn's checks to buy meals from China Dynasty.

Neither Ruby nor Jam had a legitimate job. One that didn't involve the doorbell ringing at 3 a.m. and secret handshakes. They did have a huge black SUV protected with elaborate alarm system with a hair trigger. Whoop-whoop. It must be raining. Whooop. A firetruck drove past. They also had two vicious dogs that looked less like pets, and more like something that wanted to play tug-of-war with your lower intestine.

I liked Ruby about as much as you can like anyone who might stab you, which is with the big fake smile of the terrified. She had stopped paying rent about two months after she moved in, and seemed fearless in the face of eviction. She may not have known how to spell Jerry Springer's name, but she was MENSA when it came to rental laws.

Ruby would stop me on the steps and tell me something like this:

"Yeah, I was just in jail for three days."
"Oh?"
"Yeah. I got pulled over in Minneapolis."
"For what?"
"No reason. They just pulled me over. Then they threw me in jail because some girl stole my ID and got a DUI and used my name and there was a warrant for my arrest."
"Oh ..."
"Yeah, so they impounded my car."
"How did you get back here?"
"Some guy ... Jam's still in jail."

About this point of the conversation, a man would limp up the front steps -- a friend of Ruby's -- carrying speakers and ask us if either of us wanted to buy a stereo for 20 bucks. You could practically see the steam coming off of it. The owner probably didn't even know it was missing yet.

"Um, no thanks."

Jam, on the other hand, looked harmless. A wimpy version of lanky skinny that made him seem like he had at least six elbows. One time I saw him get into a fight in the front yard. His frantic flailing and the strip of underwear hanging out of his pants gave the whole scene an elementary school playground vibe. He was probably worse than Ruby, though. Three times a day he would tap on the door and ask to borrow a cell phone. Ask for cigarettes. A couple bucks. When we weren't home, he stopped strangers as they walked down Fourth Street.

My former landlord tried to evict them. But this process involves more than just putting a note on their door and taking their TV, which he didn't realize. It involved court dates and documentation. It takes weeks. Ruby and Jam sat on the front steps smoking Marb Lites while they're housing tab went up every day. People would come over, Ruby would lead them to the Denali parked in front of the house. They would get inside, and play the same heavy-bass song on repeat for about 15 minutes. The visitors would leave. Ruby would go back to her spot on the porch. This went on all day every day. Sometimes my doorbell would ring at 3 a.m., and a man who looked like Mr. Miagi would be standing there blinking.

"Bottom doorbell," I'd tell him. Again and again and again.
Sometimes men in hooded sweatshirts would come inside, clomp up to the second floor and rat-tat-tat on my door.

"Gotanyweed?" they would mumble.
"Wrong apartment," I'd say, watching them through the peep hole.



One night I came home late on the day that Ruby and Jam had been given 24-hour notice to get out. There were three police cars parked in front of the duplex, cops lined up on the steps like they were part of an a capella choir. A few were scattered through the yard.

"I live here," I said. "What's going on?"

Ruby's mom was in the entry way and I got a version of the story. Jam had beaten the shit out of Ruby with a baseball bat. She had been whisked away by ambulance. Both jaws were broken. Jam was missing. I handed them a key to the apartment, and the lead cops recoiled in horror when the door swung open. There was dog shit everywhere. Ground into the carpeting. Large piss stains. Two hungry dogs growling and drooling.

Ruby's mom searched for her daughter's purse, one hand cupped over her nose and mouth. Policemen gagged. There was no sign of Jam anywhere. Later I would find out that Jam had been hiding in the unfinished basement. He'd burrowed into a concrete and dirt cubby in his storage area. This would give me nightmares for weeks.

"Call us if you see him," they told me, and left.
Ruby's mom promised to come back in the morning and clean out the apartment. When I saw Ruby again, her face was the color of sherbert and her jaw was wired shut. Then I never saw her again.

***

A few weeks later I woke up on a Sunday morning to a half-dozen men dressed in camouflage skulking around the yard. They were bounty hunters, hungry to kick down doors, and they were looking for Ruby. I sat on my steps and told them everything I knew about her: The Denali, the dogs, the baseball bat. They told me she was going to be locked up for a very long time.

As for Jam, he showed up late one night looking for my then-roommate. While my roommate talked to him through the open window, I called 911, like I'd been advised. When I called back to tell them that he'd headed East in an SUV, the dispatcher told me that Jam had been cleared of all charges. There were no warrants, nothing. I saw him again, walking downtown.

"What happened that night?" I asked him.
"Ruby had a knife," he said. "She was trying to kill me."

Anyway. I saw Ruby at the grocery store yesterday.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Shut her up ...

More than three years ago, I was in a Minneapolis Star Tribune story about blogging. [Actually, Chuck was in the same story, it ran exactly a month before we met.] This is how I appeared:

"I'm single, and I'm 30, and I live in Duluth, which is not the most exciting place in the world to live," [Pista] said. "I kind of like to write about Duluth and how crappy it is and drinking."

[Pista] adopted a party-girl persona for her blog, [Name of my old blog here], but said she reined it in after realizing that her family was reading her postings: "I'm worried that someone might try and ship me off to rehab."


And then this was a pull quote from my site:

"i want a jeep so bad it tears my soul apart. the older i get, the more i realize that i am not my honda civic and my honda civic is not me." - Christa, on [Name of old blog here]

Oh Lord. You would think I would have known better. I'm glad that identity crisis is over. Finding this is actually worse than looking at my senior picture.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Huh. So is mine ...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Couscous ka-choo, Mrs. Robinson ...

Today I was at Whole Foods, filling a plastic bag with a bulk supply of couscous and holding a cucumber. The bag slipped and pound after pound of little beige beads came pouring out of the spout. It was like winning the jackpot at a slot machine. Except it was couscous. All over the floor.

I believe this is what the kids call "making it rain."

It seems like I stood there watching it, transfixed, for a really long time. Then I shook the shop with a loud "Shit!" I'd bled out about $4 worth of couscous.

Since my hands were full, I had to use my snout to hit the lever to make it stop. My snout. That is the only word for one's nose when you use it as a third hand. This felt barbaric. A woman came to my rescue. I stood there dumbly as she filled my plastic bag. Apparently my reflexes rival that of an underwater baseball player.

There was seriously couscous in my shoes. If I know my feet, it was optimal conditions for cooking the little granules.

This isn't the sort of thing that usually embarrasses me. But every time I picture myself trying to shut off the lever with my nose, I cringe. I have the shames. I'm going to have to start going to Cub Foods until I wear off the burn.

Monday, August 10, 2009

On sharing ...

Dear [Redacted's] Parents,
Welcome to Facebook. You two always were among the more -- shall we say "experimental" -- of my friends' parents. And I'm not just saying that because you had a strobe light in your basement.

As you know, Facebook is a social networking site. It enables you to reconnect with long lost friends, and become more intimate with new friends' digestive malfunctions. To put it in old-fashioned terms: It is like a phone book of the world. But it's a magic phone book that not only allows you to easily communicate with, say, Jenny. You can also find out which character she is from "The Office" [Dwight. Ohhh, snap]. I know you'll get a kick out of that, Mr. and Mrs. [Redacted].

Unfortunately in order for this system to work, Mr. and Mrs. [Redacted], you have to use your real name. People who want to "friend you" aren't going to search for Al Peggy**, no, they are going to search for Al [Redacted] or Peggy [Redacted]. I understand that you are concerned about identity theft, and that putting your name on the Internet is akin to just leaving your Mastercard on the sidewalk, with a Post-It note attached listing both your mother's maiden name and your high school mascot. This precaution, along with your cell phone that only dials 911, should keep you safe from all sorts of predators.

What you might not understand is that Facebook is a free service. You can both have your own account, under your own fictitious names. I know you share a home phone number, and a home mail box. Maybe your email even goes to [Redacted]family@aol.com. I think that is awfully cute that you're turning your home into a functional museum of the obsolete. Not many people these days have the opportunity to say "Did you see what Jenny wrote on our wall?" But you should know that having your own page to fill with badges and virtual spankings and Lexulous bingo scores isn't wasting Internet. It's not lemon meringue pie, Mr. and Mrs. [Redacted], there is enough Internet for everyone.

NOTE: I write this knowing that some 14-year-old is sending me a text message right now about how no one wants to read more than 140 characters in a row. And that even this "140 characters in a row" joke is already tired.

** Names have been changed to protect the [Redacted family] from identity theft.

5K for Beeturia sufferers ...

Hmm. ... This past week. We decided to start watching werewolf movies. That's about it.

In other news:


FOOD IN FACE

Tofu Ranchero: This one is easy-peasy from this month's issue of Vegetarian Times, and might just become a go-to menu item for brainless, autopilot cooking. It's refried beans, wrapped in a tortilla and smothered in a mix of tofu, tomato sauce, onions, chili powder and cumin, and accessorized with fresh tomatoes and avocado. Good. Fast. Easy. Yum. Blurry photo. I have noticed my red foods are the least aesthetically appealing.


Baklava: Baklava, I learned, is what happens when you are excessive with all things bad: namely butter and sugar. But it is so delicious. I made an easy recipe from Vegetarian Times, but this recipe is close enough. I OD'd on this by having three pieces in one day, then swearing off of it. I probably won't ever need to eat baklava again.



Roasted Beet Salad with Beet Greens and Feta: This was inspired by my BFF Fannie, who suggested I try to find a beet recipe that included feta and a vinaigrette. So that is exactly what I did. Good stuff, yo. The capers were a nice add. Sproactually pointed out that we eat the greens, too. Also a good call. Although I didn't wash them well enough, so it was a little like licking a sandbox. In other news: Turns out I don't have beeturia. Unfortunately.



Golden Summer Squash and Corn Soup: I like to call this "Yellow Soup." Unfortunately I won't have to ever use that name because I won't be making it again. It falls into the "good not great" file, and since it involves pureeing it, the soup has to be great to land back in the rotation. Sorry, Yellow Soup. (Although, with enough Feta on top, it really sings.)

MOVIES
An American Werewolf in Paris I can't think of a worse movie. Maybe Caddyshack II? Although I fell asleep in the last 15 minutes, so maybe it redeemed itself. But I doubt it. Three American X-game d-bags travel through Europe, meet a pretty werewolf and get involved with a sinister underground blood bath of rabies and saliva coated incisors. You'll know it's dumb in the first scene.

Wolf: I can't decide who should be more ashamed of himself -- Jack Nicholson or James Spader -- in this 1990s story of a mousy book editor who gets bitten by a wolf, which coincides with being demoted and finding out his wife is slinking around with his snaky little mentee. The one who took his job. Nicholson becomes more bold as he transforms to a werewolf-by-night. In his greatest moment, he whizzes on Spader's suede shoes. There are a lot of bionic man antics and Teen Wolf tributes.

Annie Hall: Phew. Now I've seen that and I'm caught up with the rest of the world. Absolutely loved it. (Thankfully Chuck had warned me about going glossy eyed in the face of "mom jeans" and ignoring them so I could continue to enjoy the film).

READING
Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (Modern Library) By Hunter S. Thompson: Is there anything more delicious than when the infamous writes about the infamous. I’m hardly one of those whacked-out Hunter S. Thompson-ophiles, but Hell’s Angels, his nonfiction-ish account of spending the mid-1960s with the motorcycle club as it revved its way into mainstream media is a total kick.

Full review here.

A Bomb Shelter Romance By Patrick M. Garry: Let me preface my review by admitting that I am an asshole. For every eye roll and every disappointed page turn, I felt like a bigger and bigger jerk. I see what Patrick M. Garry is going for in his novel "Bomb Shelter Romance," a nice slice-of-small-town-life/coming-of-age novel about the summer of 1970 in a rural Minnesota town. Unfortunately, it is a shell of a novel; an outline for what could be an endearing piece of fiction.

Review will be here.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The first kiss lasts forever ...



The lovelorn Watts goes to see her wrong-side-of-the-tracks, grease monkey BFF Keith at his garage. He's got a date with that frisky tamale Amanda Jones. Watts, a drum-playing, sullen blonde Tomboy in a rough pair of knee-length cutoff jeans, breasts seemingly bandied beneath a T'shirt, provokes him:

What, she asks Keith, are you going to do if Amanda Jones wants you to kiss her?

He's flummoxed. Like, obviously he's not thought this through. This date could easily go horizontal. Everyone knows Amanda Jones is no prude. Watts offers to give him a test run. This is hardly bell-ringing in front of a grocery store. She's got it pretty bad for the artist in a work-shirt.

"Pretend I'm a girl," Watts says. She's propped up, sitting. They are at eye level. "Pretend I'm her. Amanda. I know it's a stretch ... but try it." She slips into a girlie falsetto, leans back, bats her eyes, throws back a shoulder playfully.

Cue up the Stephen Duffy song "She Loves Me."

After some coaxing, Keith leans in for the wallop. Annnnnd ... They kiss. The camera pans down to his dirty hands on her denim thighs, and he clenches them into claws. Passion claws, if you will. This is too much for poor Watts.

She pushes him away. She's red. Flustered. She tells "You're cool" and gets up to leave. He says, "You're blushing!" Incredulous. She gives him a look. "No, you're ... pretty," he stammers.

Then she just gets mad.

Of all the things John Hughes touched, it's this scene from "Some Kind of Wonderful" that is my favorite of all time. In high school, I knew a thing or two about unrequited love. In fact, for many years I found it preferable to the real thing. If I've seen this film 300 times, I've watched this scene 900 times. It's still one of the greatest moments in film. Mary Stuart Masterson ... so perfectly cool, but with such familiar angst.

So that's my contribution to the John Hughes conversation.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

PBR-reeking assholes ...



Wednesday night is what you people call "Date Night" here at the Deluxe Duplex in the Sky. We usually fun the shit out of each other with a cheese-rich dinner and ample couch time, but last night we jumped at the opportunity to go out in public.

We took the bus downtown to a newish Finnish tapas bar. (It is a Norwegian cafe by day, that makes a magic transformation in flag-allegiance around 3 p.m. They hide all the lefse, and bring out the ... whatever it is Finnish people eat.)

We drank fancy neon-colored drinks like you would see in a futuristic sci/fi film where women wear primary colored skin tight body suits and have hair molded into the shape of a lawn ornament. Mine was called a Violetta, and was a swampy color of green with an orange-wrapped cherry staring up at me. It was the greatest liquid I have ever consumed in my life: Anise-flavored liqueur and a bunch of other things I don't hate. Chuck's was a boozier drink, a translucent shade of tangerine. I thought it had a nip of brown sugar in it.

"This tastes like trouble," he said.

We also had a square of peppered salmon served with caviar and a dill sauce on the side, and two rectangles of baked halloumi cheese. So good.

From there we took another bus to the North Star, a bar in the West End. There among the thugs, thieves, and environmentally conscious at the transit center, we saw our friend Frenchy, about to board a bus away from the fun.

"Come with us to the bar!" We yelled. And an instant later, he, too, was cruising toward $6 beer night and karaoke.

Chuck Twittered this, but didn't get a response: Does $6 all-you-can-drink beer night exist outside of Duluth? Like in a major Metro area? Or are we the luckiest, PBR-reeking assholes in all the land?

I tried to sing "Holding Out For a Hero," but two lines into the song, the screen went blank and I panicked. I stuttered and stammered.

"Focus," the Yoda-esque Thespian, our friend and the DJ, said.

And he was right. I took a deep breath and tried to go from memory. Unfortunately, that only worked for about two more lines of the song, and I was donezo.

Chuck sang "In The Air Tonight." Awesome.



I took care of the air-drum solo.

Then we were whisked away to Quinlan's for last call. Our cab driver got into a drag race with another cabbie, and I was bouncing all over the back seat. It was truly spectacular.

We came home and danced around to a Patty Smith record. At the time it sounded really good. I'll have to re-investigate that to be sure I didn't have on ear-googles.

Unfortunately, neither of us drank enough to paint "Sweet Pickles" on the side of this bus. That is my only regret.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Know thy talents ...



I was chopping a tomato tonight when I noticed I was missing a body part. Namely, the freakishly long pinkie nail on my right hand. Where just hours ago I was ruing the nail as a dust pan-collection of the world's yuck motes, now there was just a stubby nub of finger. And honestly, that stubby nub was a little sensitive to the touch -- the way any area of skin is when its protective shield is removed. [See: Turtles.]

"Now. Where did that go, I wonder?" I said, looking at my hand.
"What?" Asked Chuck.
"Meh. My fingernail. I knew it was loose, but ..."

We both looked at the pile of tomatoes. It didn't seem likely that it had gotten mixed in. Besides, it's not like I work at Subway. What's 3/4-inch of a pink fingernail between people who repeatedly kiss each other on purpose?

Anyway, as I was sitting here writing this, I saw another sliver -- about the same size as the missing nail -- next to the computer. But that one had blue nail polish, so I know it was older than today's missing nail. [Pink.]

Whatever. Of all things in the world, growing pinkie nails seems to be my greatest talent.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What the pho? ...

Well, I managed to salvage a shitastic week with an awesome weekend in solitary confinement. I didn't talk to anyone, or see any faces that weren't Chuck's.

I made foods, wrote sentences, read books, got stuck six miles from civilization on a pair of inline skates when it started raining, but used it as an excuse to listen to the song "Hard Rain" by Shout Out Louds on repeat as I skated back. I also got upward of 9 hours of sleep a night.

I feel like I was at a deprogramming retreat in the woods.

In other news:

THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE KITCHEN


Beets Au Gratin: Well color my fingernails fuchsia. Here's another from the "Chuck brings home foreign substance from the Farmer's Market, I make it into something" files. Obviously I know what a beet is, but I don't think I've ever had one and the only time I ever saw them was when my parents were on some weird diet in the late 80s. (I think they ate a gelatinous version from a can, my dad doing everything but plugging his nose and croaking "Down the hatch.") These. Were. Awesome. Once I got past the part where I couldn't stop thinking they were a dessert. Basically: boil beets, peel and slice, make a roux, put them in a pan, cover with swiss cheese. Bake.

This was obviously a side dish. He brought home cabbage, too, so I made Buttered cabbage. It was fine.


Pho: Making this felt like I was concocting a witch's brew. Things chucked into a cauldron -- shallots, anise stars, garlic, basil stems, etc., then left to simmer for an hour. Discard all solids, serve over rice noodles with a few other things like green onions and bean sprouts.

This was deceptive: way more fun to make than eat. But it made the apartment smell awesome. It was just okay. I think I was hungrier when I finished eating it than before I began . I won't make this version again.


Banana and Black Bean Empanadas: Here in the Up North, this thing would be called a spicy pastey. But instead of being an easy vessel for things like meat and potatoes, this had black beans and bananas, and a spicy mix of seasonings.



This is the best thing I've made in a long time. It was so damn delicious. Why do bananas and black beans taste so good together? They are the chocolate and peanut butter of the warm climates. NOTE: Chuck thought this might be better with some sort of non-invasive tomato-based dipping something.

We, of course, paired it with a sparkling Jupina. I think Whiskey Marie recommended trying this awhile ago with the promise that it was pretty easy. I'd say it was a little trickier than most things I make, but I didn't cry like I did the time I tried to make Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage.


READING BOOKS ABOUT PEOPLE
Sag Harbor: A Novel by Colson Whithead: Colson Whitehead’s coming-of-age novel Sag Harbor defies the conventional definition of novel in that it doesn’t have one of those pesky plots weighing it down. This is something a reader should understand before reading to avoid all sorts of failed Aha! moments: Nope. This isn’t going to be about an 80s child, fatally wounded in a BB gun fight. Nope. This isn’t going to be about coveting thy friend’s summer girlfriend.

Whitehead admits this himself in his video pitch: “There’s no dead body,” he says as he wanders the streets of Sag Harbor, linking his novel to Stand By Me, and deflating my ego. I thought I was being really clever when I thought to myself while reading “This is a lot like ‘Stand By Me’ without a dead body.” Boo. There are no original thoughts left.

Full review here.

The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder by Stephen Elliott: The only way this book could be more of a diary would be if it had a Yorkie on the cover and a glitter pen attached with a little belt-like loop. The book covers just more than a year in the life of Elliott, who is combating writer's block with Adderall -- which has him pacing his San Francisco apartment -- yet he continues to struggle to make words, coming off the success of his novel "Happy Baby," his best, according to footnotes on his "Also By Stephen Elliott" page.

I really liked this book.

Full review will appear here.

MOVIES
Alice: This Woody Allen movie is an insta-Top Five Woody Allen film in my book. Mia Farrow stars as a richy rich who becomes frustrated with her shopping and peddies lifestyle, which manifests as a back ache. She visits an accupuncturist who prescribes herbs that inspire her to seduce a single father. Totally charming and funny.