Saturday, October 31, 2009

Everything I remember about Hall-o-winkie ...

HALLOWEEN: 1984
All I ever wanted to be was a "punk rocker," hair spray painted a glittery purple color. My parents considered being a "punk rocker" to be a crime on the same level as hanging out at the mall or behind gas stations, buying "Like a Virgin," eating sugar cereals, or watching "Dukes of Hazard."

I went as a hobo.

HALLOWEEN: 1986
I wore a red hockey jacket with the name Jeff stitched on the left breast. Breezers and thigh-high hockey socks, stripped with black and red. A fashionable red hockey hat, styled the the Copenhagen hats that were all the rage, on top of my short, shaggy hair. Eyes blackened like I was a talentless goon. Stitches drawn across my cheek.

"Am I a boy or a girl?" I asked at every single door in a new development near our neighborhood.
A man studied me. I was standing in the lobby of his house with about five friends, waiting for his wife to dump candy in my pillow case.
"Boy?" he said.
My friends and I cheered. In those days, I loved being on the receiving end of gender confusion. Of course, this abated when I got older and any gender confusion was directly related to my concave boob spots.

HALLOWEEN: 1988
The first major event of a newly minted junior high student at St. Pius X was the Halloween dance. The first time in 12 agonizing years that we would encounter sanctioned touching and swaying.

And in 1988, a big effing deal was made of this rite of passage.

The dance would start with a "snowball." A few couples doing an awkward knock-kneed bumbling under a disco ball, herky jerky movements in a strobe light, until the DJ called "snowball," at which point the couples would split, each grabbing a new partner from the partner patch lined up against the wall.

Rumors of people pairing up for the first dance started circling sometime around the Fourth of July.

One of the school's most notorious teachers, Mrs. Pista (no relation) was a task master when it came to junior high dances. Starting in September, she herded seventh-graders into the music room for a half hour of dance lessons every few weeks: Fox Trot, Waltz, and The Hustle.

She also gave us a very serious list of rules, including: You had to dance with everyone who asked you to dance. You didn't have to dance with that person twice. But definitely once. Including Shawn, in his baggy gray sweatpants that tapered at his ankles. (I remember knowing that sweatpants were the wrong thing to wear to a dance, but not knowing why. I now suspect that Shawn probably thought sweatpants were exactly the right thing to wear to a dance, but didn't know why).

And then there was Chris, who led with his pelvis, his chin on your shoulder.

That year I wore a cardboard box, decorated like a pair of dice. I placed in the costume contest.

HALLOWEEN: 1989
Fannie and I went as Pebbles and BamBam. I lucked into Pebbles since Fannie had terrible hair. The kind of mess that would be seen below the belt in a shower scene from a 1979 horror film.

I'm pretty sure we just wore pillow cases. Let me say that again: At some point my body fit into a pillow case.

Around this same time, we used to go to an annual Halloween party at my friend Dong's house. Inevitably, the night would end with about 10 of us sitting on his basement steps while two couples played horizontal kissy face on various surfaces of the rec room while listening to the Steve Miller Band.

When they finished, we'd go back inside and eat more Doritos.

HALLOWEEN: 1998
Ma Pista (related) had a vintage purple suede skirt that she passed on to me from her era as a fashionista working at an upscale boutique while she was in junior college. This skirt was awesome. I wore it all through high school, until the seam ripped and then the staples I used to fix that bent and then rusted.

The last time I wore this skirt was when I went as Daphne from Scooby Doo. This was probably my best costume, paired with my worst boyfriend as Fred. We spent the holiday in Shawano, Wisconsin. Why would someone go to Shawano, Wisconsin, you ask. Good question. But I remember leading a conga line of strangers through a bowling alley to the song "Barbie Girl."

HALLOWEEN: 2004
My first experimentation with wearing rollerblades in a bar. First the Pioneer, then Norms Beer and Brats in Superior. I liked it enough to try it again a few years later.

HALLOWEEN: 2005
A men's white T'shirt, no pants, high heels, smeared lipstick and messy hair. I was a "walk of shame." I felt very liberated, all night, getting away not wearing pants in public.

HALLOWEEN: 2006
I dyed my hair purple, using a temporary dye from target, for my vampire costume. My hair remained a plumish hue well past Thanksgiving. Temporary my ass.

HALLOWEEN: 2007
Roller girl. A shirt red jersey dress, and my inline skates. We went to Pizza Luce. Chuck got us beers, and on his way back caught a glimpse of my exposed butt cheeks. I later almost came to fistacuffs with a girl who was dressed like Oscar the Grouch. She was incessantly playing the lid of a garbage can like a tambourine against the side of the garbage can. When I complained about her on my blog, she saw what I had written and told me she wished she had pushed me over on my stupid skates. Oh, internet.

HALLOWEEN: 2008
Chuck went as David Foster Wallace. It. Was. Awesome. Not as much "too soon" as "no one knew who he was, even though he lugged around a copy of Infinite Jest." I went as a jazzercizer, which was far less inspired. We started at Carmody Irish Pub, and worked toward a darkened Pizza Luce.

A transformer had blown downtown, rendering Pizza Luce worthless. We went to RT Quinlan's and nothing happened of note.

PRESENT DAY
I already miss Halloween, and I haven't even decided yet on which no-pants, mega-lipstick, dirty-pillow puckering, fedora-pimping costume I'm going to wear tonight. This is truly my favorite of all the holidays, in recent years even surpassing my birthday -- which is probably the most selfless thing I've ever said.

I love the collages of wet leaves on the sidewalk and how our TiVo lit up with a half-dozen horror movies. The scattered kiosks of candy corn, and pumpkin recipes. Haunted houses, vampire fangs, fake blood, and grapes peeled to feel like eyeballs.

Unfortunately, I don't have a costume idea. This means that, like most favorite holidays, this one will probably be anticlimactic.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mating season for the water buffalo: The Musical ...

Many years ago, I had a very positive experience using the public restroom at our local transit center. I remember it feeling like quaint sanctuary in an upscale hotel. The paint as fresh as the flowers. Through the magic of perfect lighting and flattering mirrors, I managed to look more like the protagonist in a Cover Girl commercial and less like the antagonist in a Midol commercial.

I used to be an expert on public restrooms, favoring them over their slightly more private two-stall counterparts. The more public, the better. I guess, to use an analogy, I prefer to be part of a symphony played in front of a large crowd to playing a solo for an audience of one.

And also: I don't even own hand sanitizer.

So it is always a surprise to me when I return to the public restroom at the transit center and see it for what it is: A fecal-colored playground for weirdos. Somehow I always forget this right until the second the door swings open and no one hands me a free tampon, spritzes me with Aveda product, and brushes the cat hair off my coat.

Nope. My memory has failed me. This place is a shit hole.

Today I shared this space with an older woman. Her cane was laid out across the counter top. She was attacking her hair with an old-school hairbrush. The flat kind that goes thwack thwack thwack as it rips through one's mane, 100 strokes each night while perched at the vanity before bed.

I avoided eye contact and went into a stall.

One of the most significant issues with public toilets is the U-shaped toilet seat. People don't have these in their homes. There is always that opportunity for a stumble when lowering oneself to a sitting position. That one spot on the thigh comes in contact with the cold and exposed ceramic lip of the rim. Or, as I like to call it, the urine backboard.

I hate when that happens.

My 30 second respite from the world was interrupted by this woman's personal metronome of deep grunting heaves. It was like she had crested a summit. Moan. Thwack thwack thwack. Moan.

My God, I thought. Is it mating season for the water buffalo already? She's just brushing her hair. What does she sound like when she plays tennis?

I was washing my hands, as I tend to do in bathrooms where someone is watching me, and she spoke.

"Do you like my hair like this?" she asked.

I paused. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be comparing it to. Was she going to click open her coin purse and pull out a plastic accordion of photos dating back to 1945? The history of her head? I certainly liked her hair more than I liked the groaning. But not as much as, say, Audrina Patridge's hair. In fact, I'd had the same haircut as this woman very briefly when I was in fourth grade. Granted, I started growing it out the second I left the barber shop. Yes. Barber shop.

"Yes," I said. "It's very cute."
"Are you sure?" she asked.
"Yes," I said. "Why? Is it different than before?"
"No, not really," she said.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Carrie is so very ...

Color me refreshed.

In other news:

MOUTH MUSIC.


Dumplings with Chickpea Gravy: I've been wanting to double back to this recipe ever since I made it in the spring. When the blogger originally posted the recipe, she forgot to include Nutritional Yeast and when she saw that I'd made it was like "Ohhh! I hope it wasn't gross" or something. I'm paraphrasing. Anyway, so this time I made it with Nutritional Yeast in the Gravy ... and honestly, I think I liked it better without. ?? Oh well. It's still good. Hearty. Comfort food.


French Onion Soup: I ad-libbed this one for the most part, which is not to say I've done anything that fantastic. It's just onions, broth, cheese, toast, blah blah blah. But it was fun to just dump according to whim. My version ended up being about equal parts garlic and onion. It was excellent.

BOOKS.
Out: A Novel by Natsuo Kirini: Four very different women are friends-by-proximity, working the night shift in a box lunch factory in Japan in Natsuo Kirino’s slow-broil thriller Out.

The ringleader is the all-powerful Masako, with a mysterious past, and a distant husband. Kuniko is weak and garish, drawn to name-brand knock offs, a heavy coat of foundation, and recently abandoned by her common law husband. Her debt is matched only by her bad ideas. Yoshie is in a spin cycle, widowed and charged with changing her aged mother-in-law’s Depends. She has two daughters, both are assholes. And Yayoi is young and beautiful with two small sons and a philandering husband, Kenji, who sucks pretty bad at gambling.

One night, fresh from a beating and the news that he has lost their savings, Yayoi strangles her husband with her belt in the entryway to their home. She solicits Masako’s help.

I liked this one. Full review here.

Whiskey Heart (American Fiction) by Rachel Coyle: In the opening scene of Rachel Coyne’s debut novel, the mysterious narrator Kat is having Ala-tween memories of growing up with an alcoholic father and a mother who was fiercely devoted to him. After bar close, her mother would pack the kids into the Chevy and drive around looking for him, in one case even scooping him off another woman’s front porch while the woman wailed from inside the house.

When she comes out of a car coma that started down south — Kat is back in the rural Minnesota town she fled years ago, having not returned for her father’s funeral or her older cousin Tea’s funeral. The latter being a more serious violation than the former. It’s Kat’s relationship with Tea that is at the crux of the novel.

I thought this book was well-done. Full review here.

Cooking Dirty: A Story of Life, Sex, Love and Death in the Kitchen by Jason Sheehan: In Jason Sheehan's food memoir "Cooking Dirty: A Story of Life, Sex, Love and Death in the Kitchen," the kitchen grunt turned writer sets out to present an honest look at what happens behind those swinging diner door. If Sheehan was a rock star in his former life -- which started as a dishwasher at a pizza joint, and spanned hotel dining rooms, the Waffle House, Irish Pubs, and all-night eateries between Rochester, New York and Tampa -- he was the sort of ill-behaved rock star who urinated on the plants in the lobby and stubbed cigarettes on the bony ass of a barely legal groupie.

This one was good, too. Although for some reason it took me like a month to read. Full review will be here.

MOVIES.
The Uninvited: One of those fresh-faced girls with cute hair returns from a stint at a local mental institute after a big fire, the death of her sick mother and a never-explained wrist-slitting incident. In her absence, her mother's former nurse, a pretty breasted do-gooder has moved into her father's bedroom. The girl and her sister are suspicious of the nurse's motives, and coupled with some weird messages from the dead, they set out to figure out who this woman is. Turns out, she's a killer!

I enjoyed this one 100 percent. It was just hokey enough.

Sometimes I wonder if various Widower Support Groups have ever considered fighting back against their portrayal in horror films as clueless men who are easily seduced.
Carrie (Special Edition): Believe it or not, I had never seen this movie. Here are some thoughts:

1. This could be a 20 minute film and lose none of the context if they sped up a bunch of the slo-mo shots.
2. Full frontal nudity in 1976 sure was a different kind of full frontal nudity than exists today.

Aside from that: enjoyable, of course.

EAR BUDS.
Turning Down Water For Air (Remixed)James Yuill: One of the best things to happen to modern music is that every band I like sounds like vintage Depeche Mode. Like pre-Black Celebration Depeche Mode. It's a good time to have ears.

I heard this guy on this week's episode of "One Tree Hill." He's an English folklectric singer. If that isn't about the best genre, I don't know what is.

If you like "Just Can't Get Enough" or "All I want to do Is See You Again," this guy is doing it.

CONVO.
[While watching the movie "Carrie"]
Chuck: Your title of your weakly review is going to be "Carrie is so very" isn't it.
Me: So.
Chuck: That's the only reason you even wanted to watch this, isn't it.
Me: So.

The Awesome Blossom ...

I met Teemo in the fall of 1998. We were part timers at a job we for which were both, according to the classified ad, overqualified. Must be 18 years old, have a valid drivers' license, and be able to work nights. We were rich in all of the above.

Teemo was probably one of the most normal looking people I've ever seen in my life. Brown hair, with the sharp, straight bangs found in yearbook photos of senior boys from small towns who take sophomore girls to prom. Muddy eyes. Average height, small hands. The heels of his tube socks hung out of the back of his standard-issue black restaurant shoes like dirty gray fanny packs. He looked like the kind of person who would probably spill clam chowder on his pants, shrug, and just walk around with clam chowder on his pants until some day, very much in the future, when he would chisel it off with his thumb. Then chew the dried soup out of his thumb nail.

Teemo had another part time job at a Greek restaurant, and a girlfriend leftover from college. I never met the girl. She was one of those women who would be described as "having her shit together," according to rumors and speculation. She lived in Minneapolis. Teemo rented an efficiency basement in Rochester. When he went to visit the girlfriend for a weekend, he returned smelling one apron shy of becoming an associate from Bath & Body Works.

Anyway, the gyros at his restaurant were mediocre.

Teemo and I were a textbook case of sanity compared to the other two men who were hired at the same time. One was a very serious literalist. It goes without saying: He was no fun at all. The other was sweet and deliberate. Too sweet. Too deliberate. The kind of sweet and deliberate that eventually pops off when trying to read a blurry fax, and gets sent to a special camp where he spends afternoons playing balloon volleyball and talking about feelings in the sun room with the other campers. He returned a little bit fragile, but ultimately more likable. So I stopped goading him.

Teemo was droll, hapless, did terrible impersonations, save for his sports-announcer voice, and was so laid back that if you saw him sleeping, you would think: "Finally. Some enthusiasm." We had a mutual appreciation for the vending machine in our lunch room. He was that guy at work, where you would walk in, see him, and sigh with relief. Five minutes later you would be honing an inside joke that would last the next six hours.

***

One of the first street lessons an 80s child in Rochester learned was that The North Star Bar was the best place to catch hepatitis or a shiv to the kidney. [Side note: urban legend says this is where my grandparents Pista met. I can't remember if that is true or not, but hot damn I hope it is.]

This was a huge one-level bar, oddly bright, and filled with cafeteria-style tables and mismatched chairs. Getting a beer meant wading through a three inch layer of losing pull tabs. Getting to the bathroom meant wading through six feet of black leather and active pool cues. On Tuesdays, the North Star Bar had $2 pitcher night. While my friends and I were at the Smiling Moose a few miles away, eating spicy popcorn chicken in an aesthetically appealing blue bar glow and listening to Big Head Todd on the jukebox, Teemo was sitting alone at what he had nicknamed The N-Star, trading in his tips for Schlitz. Not even bothering to try not to get stabbed.

Eventually Teemo's girlfriend broke up with him, as girls "with their shit together" are bound to do to boys with clam chowder pants, and his car died, as cars do, instinctively, when other areas of one's life shift south. Around this time we all started hanging out at the N-Star on Tuesday nights. I stole a pretty nice pool cue once. Just walked out with it, laid in its very nice case. I'm told.

Teemo spent the next year on foot. Traipsing through rain, snow, sleet and hail in his restaurant shoes. At least the N-Star was on his way home.

***

It was the night before Princess Linda's wedding, Halloween weekend, 1999. After the groom's dinner, a few of her more beer-curious bridesmaids, including Fannie and I, went to the Smiling Moose. Fannie's crush, a tiny cute bartender named PT, was dressed in drag -- a red wig and a blue dress -- and dancing on the bar. I cheated my way to a prize in a pie-eating contest. We invited a few people over for an afterbar. Teemo and I were the last party people standing at the end of the night.

The well had run dry, except for a bottle of tequila I'd gotten from brother Pista, who was at that time a liquor distributor. This bottle of tequila came with rules: Use it for margaritas, or don't use it for margaritas. Don't drink it after midnight or get it wet. It's hard to remember. We ignored the instructions and twisted off the top. I poured us large glasses, equal parts tequila and some of Fannie's fresh orange juice.

Teemo poured the next round.

"Whatever you do," I slurred to Teemo. "Don't dump the tequila into the orange juice container. Just make them one at a time."

Spiking Fannie's orange juice would be a punishable crime. She's one of those people who doesn't like it when people fuck with her stuff.

When I went in for our third round, the tequila bottle was empty, and the pitcher of orange juice smelled like Lemon Pledge. I slurred some insults at Teemo, then we both passed out: Teemo on the round cushion from a papasan chair. Me in my bed.

The next day Fannie got up to get her hair done. I slept in. I had terribly short hair, and "getting it done" would only mean making it bigger and stiffer. I met up with her at the church, and she was remarkably bright-eyed for a woman who had put her liver through an Ironman Triathlon the previous night, then gotten up at an hour usually reserved for people who try to catch nightcrawlers.

"I feel fine," she said. "I just had some orange juice and totally felt better."
"That orange juice was spiked with tequila," I told her. "You're probably just still drunk."
"Huh," she said. "I thought it tasted funny."

***

The last time I hung out with Teemo was in the spring of 2007. I was in St. Paul for the weekend, and summoned the different factions of my world -- my cousin Drewcifer, Fannie, Teemo -- to meet up at the Happy Gnome. Teemo couldn't find the bar, and a very drunk and very aggressive woman with dagger nails ripped my cell phone out of my hand, screamed all sorts or "rights" and "lefts" into the phone, then, satisfied, charged me $5 for the information.

I handed it over. Not happily, but with an eye toward making sure that at the end of the night there was more of my blood in my body than staining Selby Avenue. Teemo rolled up in a clunker and we got busy making fun.

Another night, another afterbar. This one in a hotel room, the supplies from a battered paper sack Teemo had in his trunk. The beer had undergone a string of menopausal temperature changes in its short life.

Drewcifer, Teemo and I sat at the desk in the hotel room, pouring beer in our throats and telling stories about spiked tequila and the N-Star Bar. Eventually the young cousin yelled uncle, and stumbled into one of the Queen-sized beds. Teemo and I propped ourselves against some pillows and continued to drink, watching an E! True Hollywood Story on Drew Berrymore, shouting MST2000-like comments at the screen until we were dizzy. Then stopping. We were enthralled.

"I kind of love her," I admitted.
"Me, too," Teemo slurred.

It segued into an E! True Hollywood Story on Chris Rock. Teemo and I cheered.

"Would you two shut the hell up?" My cousin groaned.

When I woke up, Teemo was gone.

***

I talked to Teemo about a year and a half ago. He was working at a restaurant and had tenuous ties to something that could be considered an international incident if he had followed through with it. He didn't. And he asked me not to write about it on my blog. He lives in his parent's house, I think, while his parents live in their other house.

I'm not exactly sure where he is now, or what he does. I've always suspected that he has a trust fund, but a shitty trust fund that allows him a sub-modest lifestyle that suits him better than the alternative: Commuting by bus to a career set in a cubicle, wearing a shirt void of stains.

If he were to call me right now, we would probably talk about the N-Star bar and the tequila incident. We would try to outdo the other one by remembering the names of high school mascots from Southeastern Minnesota. [Plainview Gophers. Lewiston Altura Cardinals. And our personal favorites: Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms.]

Saturday, October 24, 2009

No plan plans ...

I woke up on Friday morning to a bountiful hall from the grocery store. Chuck got me a weekend snack pack that would make it possible for me to not leave the house for days: cookie dough, cheese, wheat thins, ingredients for three dinners, including Chuck's specialty: Pad Thai. Pretty much any craving I would have for the next 60-plus hours can be found in one of our crannies.

I was given the gift of self-imposed house arrest. The opportunity to experience two and a half days of own sweet, sweet, thoughts and curiously soft sweat pants. I love not having any plans at all. For as much as I consider myself an extrovert, I can introvert the shit out of a weekend.

I picked up a six pack of Tecate, on the off chance that I might want to cruise TiVo with a Mexican beer buzz. Then I locked the front door and giggled manically.

Plans for a no-plans weekend include:

Eating lots of cheese and crackers and cookies.
Relieving TiVo of all my junk TV.
Scattering my words to various places on the Internet.
Reading the new Chuck Klosterman book.
Renting horror movies from iTunes and watching them on my phone from a horizontal position.
Listening to folklectric music.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How this happened ...



Creative No. 1: I don't know. I'm not sold on the label. ...
Creative No. 2: What do you mean?! You're crazy!
Creative No. 1: I mean, what is that bear even doing?
Creative No. 2: He's barfing, Stan. He's barfing up the fresh water fish he had for dinner. He's hairy, he's mad, he's an animal. He's a barfing animal.
Creative No. 1: But why would anyone buy that?
Creative No. 2: They'll respect our honesty, Stan. This wine costs 8 dollars and tastes like the tongue of a 4-year-old pair of Reebox. You'd barf, too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

At the Ropa. Ropa Vi-e-jaaaaa ....

Well, lets see: This past weekend I went to Pizza Luce for a rock and roll show. Twas great fun. Cars & Trucks, with an opening performance by a man named Hot Rod, who performed comedy ala Laffy Taffy. As one audience person said: "We were pun-ished."

Speaking of music: Things are shaping up with forming my own 80s cover band, which will be called "Christa [Pista] And The." [I think I made this up. But if I stole this band name from someone, please let me know before I get T'shirts made]. You may ask what I bring to the table, as I could barely fake my way through the school song on my ole battered alto sax in high school: Leg Warmers. I bring leg warmers. I have a guitar player, a harpsichord player and a leg-warmer wearer. I have a rumor of a drummer. Our covers will range from Belinda Carlisle, to early Madonna, Lita Ford, the Footloose Soundtrack, and other songs I have been studying during band practice. [Read: when I am alone in my car].

In other news. Here is how I spent the past week:

RAW FOOD SATURDAY.

Beat Ravioli with Pine Nut Goat Cheese: This week's experiment was a new level of raw food cooking. The previous two meals have mostly been combinations of chopped vegetables. This one was more labor-intensive, the taste was more interesting, and the end result had a gourmet vibe to it.

As I explained what we were eating to Chuck, he had to keep correcting me.

"Um ... That's not cheese."
"When you say 'Ravioli, I think Ravioli."

The Ravioli in this dish is just thinly sliced beets. The 'cheese' is a combo of pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, which is smooshed between the beets.

And the sauce is a mix of the cheese and water and oil and Rosemary.

I liked it. It would be fun to put the fake cheese inside of actual pasta and use the same sauce, with some cooked beets in a nonraw version of this meal. Which is kind of why I am experimenting with raw food anyway, to glean new ideas.

So ... success. It actually almost tasted desserty, which was kind of cool.



Ropa Vieja: Okay. I've made this once before, but it has been awhile. I can't make the picture look good, but this is so friggin' delicious. Plus, it takes about 10 minutes of prep, then the crock pot incubates the meal for the next 4-6 hours. Awesome.

It's a part stew part meat party style Cuban dish, made with 2 pounds of meat, tomato sauce and tomato past, green pepper, onion, garlic, cumin ... paired with Jupina, of course.

MOVIE.
Sunshine Cleaners: Oh, I don't know. This movie about sisters who start a business cleaning up bloody crime scenes and the homes of dead hoarders is fine.

Purple Violets: Here is a strange thing. The "Made for iTunes" movie. I'm trying to figure out where that falls on the hierarchy of movie respect. Is it greater or less than a made for TV movie? And are these greater or less than the straight to DVD movies? It has all the blurry plot lines of a straight to DVD film (which it was, it was just exclusive to iTunes for a month). For instance, sometimes Selma Blair looks like a person who knows she is being filmed, but is trying to ignore the camera, unsuccessfully.

But, whatevs. It was dec. Blair hates her husband, runs into her college boyfriend, leaves her husband, leaves her college boyfriend, all while Debra Messing is ignoring the advances of Edward Burns, her college boyfriend. This creates a problem: Namely that Debra Messing is trying to convince an audience that she is 33, which -- as a former 33 year old myself -- I think she struggled to do when she was 33.


BOOKS
Beat the Reaper: A Novel by Josh Bazell: There is a scene, too close to the end for me to provide context, where our hero Dr. Peter Brown rips open the skin on his own leg, digs his fingers into the muscles and breaks free one of the less-essential leg bones to use as a makeshift knife against some Mafia thugs. Pass the garbage can, please, my sandwich just made a U-turn.

I freakin’ loved this book. Full review here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Four out of five were lies ...

Dear Diary,

Whoa have the past few days been crazy. You see, I picked up whatever weird airborne spore Chuck ingested at that canister of germs where he spends his nights. Dizzy, achy, fatigued, and nauseated. Not too sick to play 230 games of Bejeweled, mind you. But sick enough to instinctively look to the Russian judges upon completing nine upright steps into the kitchen for a glass of water.

I'm not a doctor, but I decided that if I roasted four heads of the magic garlic, and drank a bowl of miso soup, I would be cured. According to the Internet, garlic is good for you, and miso soup helps fight breast cancer. I don't have breast cancer, but I figured consuming miso soup would be like using a flame thrower to swat a mosquito.

I also slept about 16-18 hours a day.

Whenever I am sick, I imagine a day spent in a fluffy robe -- let's say pink -- watching "The Price is Right," eating Saltines, tube socks pulled up to my arm pits, drinking flat 7-Up, with a stack of "Choose Your Own Adventure" books at the ready.

It is never as glamorous as this. Eventually my hair formed a clay helmet, in the cool stylings of a Flapper or Maggie Gyllenhaal when she went through that one hair phase. I didn't catch one Show Case Showdown, or even a lick of the Young and the Restless. While I'm rich in sweatpants, I don't have a robe.

I reintroduced myself to the world today. I'll say it: I wasn't ready. But with a little luck, I perhaps passed along some delectable sick to someone who will use it better than I did.

***

When I got home tonight, one of those precocious youths was slugging down the sidewalk. He cursed me for parking behind his car. I think it was the Vodka talking. Homeboy had at least a liter of it cradled in his arms. The label looked like it had been designed to attract the kind of people who only drink booze because it gives them an excuse to go ape shit on grenadine.

"Move your car! It's not my fault if I hit it!" he slurred.
"Hint: You probably don't want to be driving around with that bottle in your lap."
"I'm putting it in the trunk! Why did you park so close to me?"
"I didn't. But if you hit it, I know who you are. I've seen you around. I know where you live. I know your name." [Only four out of five were lies].

I watched him do a five point parallel un-unpark.

Lately I never know if I should narc these f'kers out or not for the ole D&D. I can't decide if I'd be doing it for the right reasons.

***

But by far the best thing that happened to me today: I walked past an older man, who said something I couldn't understand.

What? I asked.
You just can't find many good marine biologists around here, can you? he asked.
The answer was obvious: Nope.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rascal optional ...

Sometimes the planets align and you are actually in the bean aisle of your worst-favorite grocery store when you hear the chickenish squawk, the rev of a low-powered vehicle, and turn your head just in time to see a woman plow her Rascal into a display of kidney beans, sending about 50 cans tumbling to the floor. She'd cranked that sucker to about 3 miles an hour while I was trying to decide between pinto and black beans.

In that brief quiet moment of the aftermath, you'll wonder: Do I have to leave this aisle before I explode with laughter and/or Twitter this? Or will a woman on a Rascal, starring sheepishly at a moat of kidney beans, not notice that I'm wiping the tears off my face with this painfully anti-absorbent Tweet Deck?

Instead I Pele'd a bunch of runaway cans back in her general direction before saying, "You have to admit, that was pretty funny." And when she nodded and said "The darn brakes didn't work," I finally got to crack up. For the next four hours, actually.

What wasn't funny: She was stuck in that spot, and had to sit and watch a cashier and me kick a path for her through what looked like a meadow of botulism. Meanwhile, if I had to bet, I'd say she was Rascal optional, not Rascal by necessity.

Rings around Ur-Saturn ...

One thing I don't hate about "Melrose Place II" is the way it can go completely off-roading and be as ridic as it wants to be because it is technically a soap opera. People can come back from the dead, date an ever-spinning carousal of partners, and there is none of that silly "suspension of disbelief" because there is no belief going into it.

I can barely remember the original, although I was a total fan. That's a good sign. There was so much baby-swapping and boyfriend drugging that when I try to imagine Jane and Michael Mancini, all I see is a haze similar to the rings around Saturn.

In other news, here is how I spent the past week.

FOOD.STUFFS.

Wild Rice over Acorn Squash with Braised Vegetables: This multi-pan dinner was delicious. I blame the pine nuts, which went above and beyond the call of duty. I could not get the phrase "bountiful harvest" out of my head as I made this. That's what you get when you mix Wild Rice and Acorn Squash, I guess.



Turkey Meatloaf
and Potato Parsnip Mash: I like to call meatloaf "the food of abuse." And I like to make it on chilly, pedestrian date nights, including this one where we watched The Office wedding episode and conked out after the 10 p.m. news.

RAW FOOD MONDAY

Heirloom Tomato, Fennel and Avocado Pressed Salad: Raw Food Monday, I've learned, involves a lot of chewing. It is also a good way to get to know your veggies. I've only used fennel a few times, but this was a wild reintroduction. The texture of celery with a bit of an anise flavor. The dressing for this salad is smooshed capers and olive oil, and it kind of makes the whole dish.

I also learned that I need to start paying attention to how many servings these meals are. Our refrigerator is a mess of chopped veggies that would require a porcelain colon to consume.

MOVIES
Zombieland: I think I made myself perfectly clear here. But if I didn't, Zombieland is a kind of-funny movie with perfectly packaged lines, made-for-quoting, and a pretty fantastic cameo. Beyond that, this movie will someday appear on a forgotten shelf near the "Ginger Snaps" werewolf sisters trilogy.

WORDS
Juliet, Naked: a novel: This book is mostly adorable, with a kind of lopped off ending -- forgivable only because the rest of it is so fun.

Full review will be here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Midnight sandwich ...

When we were in Los Angeles in March, we went to a Cuban cafe in Silver Lake with an eye toward sopping up the residual suds from the previous night's excesses at a Thai bar in Hollywood. The cafe's specialty was the Midnight Sandwich, a mix of meats and cheese, pickles and mustard, served warm and swaddled in thin white paper like a fist sized present. One would order at the counter, and about seven minutes later a man brandishing a spatula would call from the far end of the counter: "MID.NIGHT. SAND. WICH?!" The "wich" part elongated, and raising up an octave.

This sandwich is one of two things we introduced to our Minnesota lifestyle when we returned. (The other being the delicious pineapple flavored soda Jupina). We bought a George Foreman grill. We scouted out the perfect English muffin-sized flat bread. We stocked the fridge with generic yellow mustard and sandwich pickles. Every few months, we rip through deli meat and a block of cheddar, and abuse the mustard until it farts Pollack globs on to the bread. The George Foreman develops a rind of melted cheese chips.

The Midnight Sandwich is an elixir. Like pizza or Super Potato Oles. It's name comes from a time when these sandwiches were served late at night in bars and clubs, presumably to combat the effects of the drink.

I made one of these sandwiches on Friday night for this exact reason. I piled pastrami on the bread, criss-crossed cheese slices, painted it with mustard, plopped it on the grill. Five minutes later I took a bite. Took another bite. Set the sandwich aside and crawled into bed. That's when the whole mess bungeed from my stomach, ejected itself in curdled waves of glop. I didn't even have time to get to the bathroom. Instead, this mess spilled over the side of the bed and onto the pile of books and magazines I leave next to my bed. The paperbacks were casualties: a copy of Electric Kool Ade Acid Test, a book by Penelope Fitzgerald I scored for a dollar at a Friends of the Library sale. A copy of Real Simple that included two recipes I hadn't gotten around to testing. The two books I am reading: "Cooking Dirty" by Jason Sheehan, and "Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby. A vegetarian cookbook. The last three are hardcovers. I sprayed them with Pledge, and wiped off the covers. The cookbook may not survive. "Cooking Dirty" seems okay. I had to finish "Juliet, Naked," fingering embedded chunks of the Midnight Sandwich.

So, that was gross. Also: I woke up at 7:36 p.m. So Saturday really did not exist at all on my planet.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Noxema-puttied lips ...

Hey ladies. If you were looking for your 18-year-old boyfriend tonight. He was out on date night with me, Chuck, and 25 of his friends at Duluth 10 for the late show of "Zombieland." The entire theater was ripe with the smell of Red Bull breath and unwashed sweatpants.

As for the movie: I can suspend my disbelief enough that it doesn't seem at all whack that a nun would drop a piano on a dentally challenged, club-footed grunt that looks like the love child of Edward J. Olmos and a rotten Cheddarwurst.

But when the sexy sliver of a female lead peers out from beneath a swath of perfect bangs, her gaze falls on the socially awkward Jesse Eisenberg, the poor man's Michael Cera. In fact, he is Michael Cera, if Michael Cera was saddled with a crippling disease called "Forever Puberty."

"That's bullshit," I thought as the romantic duo traded 1997 nostalgia and a bottle of wine. Why would the last woman of breeding age on the entire continent choose Jesse Eisenberg when there is a perfectly handsome Woody Harrelson doing that sly crooked grin all over the place? Seriously. Why would she let Jesse Eisenberg's Noxema-puttied lips near her?

That's when I woke up and smelled the Axe Body Spray.

Oh. Because she is supposed to be 23. Like Jesse. Woody? Well, he spent part of the latter half of the 1990s dangling from the Golden Gate Bridge, environmentally activisting. Which probably makes him ... pushing 50. Me? I'm at that weird age where I feel a kinship with that 23 year old, but find the guy in the early stages of negotiations with AARP far more attractive than the knock-kneed perm explosion chewing on the strings of his hoodie.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Recycling ...

Teener: You look different today.
Me: I have bangs now.
Teener: No, I know you have bangs now. It's something else.
Me: I have my period.
Teener: That must be it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bored middle-aged kitcheneer ...

So here it is: The rare week where I didn't try any new recipes. I was a bored middle-aged kitcheneer, burning the tried and trues and ignoring my daily emails from Vegetarian Times. Looking at this week's weakly review makes me think I did nothing except hole up beneath a blanket of cookie crumbs and break the spines of books. On the other hand, I did break the spines of two pretty good books.

Here's how I spent the past week:

READING
Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro The words I want to use to describe Kazuo Ishiguro’s short story collection Nocturnes are only forgivable within the confines of a Jane Austin novel. I’m just going to barf them onto the screen and get it over with: Wonderful. Splendid. Delightful.

Full review here.

Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun: Sit down at a table at Subway. Pull Nami Mun's novel "Miles from Nowhere" from your purse. Open the sandwich, take a bite, then crack into Chapter 3, "On the Bus." And read this:

"Two days of speeding, bagging, drinking creme de menthe, and snorting procaine, and now it was daylight, and the worms were already digging into my skin. The guy sitting next to me bit into a soggy taco. The smell of wet beef made me want to vomit."

Rewrap sandwich. Close book. Leave Subway.

Full review will be here.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

She challenged the moon landing ...



1. Half of dinner is burnt, the other half is soggy, and the main ingredient is the wrong kind of bean. Before we leave the house, Chuck says: "Is there anything in your PMS bank you need to get out?"

He's right to be cautious. I have some pretty specific rules for sanity on this particular week. One is that I shouldn't drink -- especially not between Wednesday and Saturday. It's a little like setting a bucket of KFC in front of a Mogwai at 12:03 a.m. I can totter off a mood so fast, that I should be required to wear a helmet. One minute I'm doing the toothy-grinned robot dance, the next minute I'm weeping because I never learned to swim and the moon looks so beautiful and I wish I had some gouda. Hold me.

I wrack my bank, find it void of heavy emotion, and we leave.

2. We go to our neighborhood bar. There is a cluster of three women in one corner and two guys on the other side of the bar. The bartender ignores us in favor of all of them for what-say, 15 minutes, until i Frisbee a drink coaster at his head and say "Are you going to ask us what we want, or do we have to sit here another 20 minutes?"

Things devolve from there. The cluster of women are sparring with the cluster of men. The bartender is mediating. When the girls go outside for a cigarette, the bartender looks at us wide-eyed and says:

"She challenged the moon landing ... She said the recession wasn't even real!"

A few minutes later, coasters are whipping through the air from every direction. It looks like a war scene from Battlestar Galactica. No one is safe, because no one has aim. They are nicking ears and bouncing off foreheads. Dropping well before the intended target.

I knew that would happen.

3. We take a cab to Quinlan's. It's a small crew. One of those nights where if you close out everything and focus on one person's conversation you are bound to catch snippets of hilarity. I know this is true, although I can't remember the specifics. I just know that the guys I refer to as Cliff Claven and Also Cliff Claven in my mind were the stars of the show.

4. Home for some Lionel Richie, frozen pizza, and the robot dance.