Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mad libbing ...

LOS ANGELES -- I like when I'm doing something that, when described, has a certain Wacky Mad Lib-bedness to it. For instance, last night we:

Watched a silent movie with a glo-fi soundtrack in the parking lot of a grocery store.

I suppose that this has the same effect:

Sang live band karaoke with Chainsaw from Summer School on bass.

I suppose I could live like this back home in D-town, USA, but I never really try. There is something about being in a place that is unfamiliar that really opens your eyes and resets your brain. Instead of coasting from here to there, there are so many whats and whys around every boulevard:

What is it like to live in that apartment?
How did that single nugget of dog feces end up so high up, on that wall?
What if I stood in front of an audience and told them my life story, with dry humor and well-time pauses and people paid me $5 to hear it?
Can I wear cowboy boots with shorts, too?
Could I live here, or would I be in constant fear that the entire country was going to buck and shift, and I'd land in the ocean?

***

Yesterday we also cruised Mullholland Drive, visited Greystone Mansion.

Chuck: What is this place? What happened here?
Cath: Violent murder. And part of Ghostbusters was filmed here.

We went into Beverly Hills, and hit some shops on Melrose. I ate something that can only be called Wall of Meat.

***

The film was hard to follow, and we were popping a squat on asphalt. A man dressed in a bunny suit was acting as a sort of cheerleader. I went inside to use the bathroom, and it cost a quarter. I took my time, I'd already lost the plot, and bought a box of Better Cheddars.

About an hour and a half, and an entire box of Better Cheddars later, Chuck discretely checked Wikipedia to see how long this film was going to last. One hundred 97 minutes. We laughed. Oh how we laughed.

"I'm going to go catch the late show of 'Scott Pilgrim' and meet up with you guys at the end," I joked.

We left.

We ate dinner, drank absinthe mixed with something else, and then headed back home. When we walked past the grocery store, the movie was just ending. Back at home, we had a dance party featuring Snoop, Depeche Mode, Michael Jackson, Katy Perry. The sun was coming up when we all finally crashed.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Things get deadly ...

LOS ANGELES -- I won't be able to do LA: Day 2 any justice until Chuck uploads the video, but suffice to say: Once you perform live band karaoke with the guy who played Chainsaw in Summer School on bass, you might not ever be able to go back to that soloist with a single microphone and a badly pixelated screen ever again.

The video reveals me to be off tune for my interpretation of "Kiss Me Deadly," in the smooth styling of Lita Ford. But the video also reveals me to be a white-girl fist pumper with a ton of energy in the form of beer. I now know that I need to get Christa (Pista) and The off the ground the second my feet hit Duluth soil. I will no longer settle for golf claps after a performance.

***

Earlier Day 2, Chuck and I took the subway downtown to Little Tokyo and did a mini tour of some of the places I haunted during my 12-day stay in May. Even buildings with little significance were noted:

"That's where I gave this former smoker two cigarettes and she said 'I hope my boyfriend doesn't find out about this.'" We walked past Far Bar, where I must have spent at least 8 nights drinking Sapporo under a heat lamp in this narrow alley-way bar, watching muted horror films and listening to shoe-gazer music. I also hit this Japanese bookstore, brimming with Manga and Japanese books, a small section of Japanese novelists whose work has been translated. I stocked up on two books by Ryu Murakami, the author of one of my favorite books of all time "In the Miso Soup."

We had fish tacos and a drink at Senor Fish, and then hit an arcade in this Japanese mall with a disproportionate amount of candy stores. Note: I am really, really, really bad at Dance Dance Revolution, although I want to pay it every time I see it.


***

Yesterday we were sluggish from the Great Karaoke Experience of 2010, so we took a bus to Silver Lake to hit this Cuban cafe we hit last time we came here. They make the best hangover food on the planet.

After that, we laid around and read graphic novels, had Indian food for dinner, and then went to Upright Citizens Brigade to hear a storyteller/comedy guy wax on, wax off about growing up poor in Connecticut. He was followed by some internet famous 20-something dolts rich in puns.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mama's fallen angel ...

LOS ANGELES -- The mayor of Inappropriate-ville is sitting across from me on a flight from Minneapolis to Salt Lake City (1). After a brief interaction with a tot before we boarded the plane, she finds herself seated next to the child's father, while the child and her mother watch a Disney princess movie in the seats behind me. The woman, an athletic sort with her breasts bandied into a single unit, turns to the father and said: "I don't believe in coincidences. I knew when your daughter talked to me that our paths would cross again." When both parties realized they were both traveling to Tahoe, she made a noise that sounded like the opening guitar wail in a song about stalking.

This paved the way for the single most uncomfortable 2 hours of conversation ever witnessed by my ears. My favorite moment: The man was talking about the trapped miners.

Inappropriate-ville: Oh, I haven't really been following it.
Man: It's pretty hard not to ...
Inappropriate-ville, responding as though trapped miners are like AIDS: You know. I've seen so many headlines over the years about trapped miners, and what I want to know is this: What are we going to do about it?

Little does that woman know, but she is about to become the protagonist in my first short story since college, written in the vein of Joyce Carol Oates. 

***

We flew into our favorite airport, The Bob Hope in Burbank. Love this place for its 1970s roller skate rink decor. It feels like the kind of place where John Candy should present you with a lei when you step off the plane. 

Stepping outside was like walking into dragon breath. It is the hottest air I have ever felt in my life. I took my sweater off, walked back inside, and was already sunburned on my left shoulder. That's some powerful sun. Admittedly, for about five minutes, I wondered why we weren't vacationing in Alaska.

***


We were both sleep deprived, so spent all of yesterday wandering around Hollywood Blvd., and Sunset Blvd., staying close to home base lest one of us spontaneously narcolepsied This gave us plenty of time to hit all of those chain retail environs that Duluth doesn't have. Like American Apparel, where Chuck stared at a pair of pants with a 25-inch waist and wondered what sort of manorexic third graders this place caters to.

***

We ate burgers that dripped with sweat, convinced my doctor to refill a Cipro prescription, collapsed on Cath's furniture and shot the shit, then slept so hard that if my life was a soap opera, my evil twin sister would have run off with my boyfriend while I was out. (2)

***

Whenever I am in LA, the song "Fallen Angel" gets stuck in my head for the duration of my stay. This was helped along last night when I saw a dude dragging luggage, a guitar slung over his back. God bless America.

***

Since I spent 12 days here earlier this summer, I've started saying "I used to live here."

FOOTNOTES
1. The Salt Lake City airport has little smoker alcoves. Inside. Wha?!
2.  I've started recycling 140-character jokes I post on Twitter. Pretend you've never seen them before.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Going back to Cali ...

There are about 99 reasons that you don't want to make vacation plans with us. That said: the first time Chuck told me about his then-recent trip to New York, decided on a day's notice, and with just a backpack as luggage, I knew I wanted to not make travel plans with him for the rest of my life.

We are going to LA. We've had the time off for months, but our plans see-sawed between back to New York for a ramshackle one-star hotel in Chinatown, and back to Los Angeles, my favorite city.

I tend to push harder toward whichever coast I'm currently crushing on: Reading some J-Mac? New York! Reading Bukowski? LA! Thinking about bagels and dark bars with loud music played by men in women's jeans? New York!

The final decision was helped along after an LA Ink marathon. We got our tickets three days ago. Whenever I watch LA Ink, I feel that I'm about five episodes from getting a sleeve. And honestly NOT getting a tattoo is the one thing about my life that I know I'll never do. She's good, Kat Von D. Even if she does look a walking talking bathroom stall in a dive bar. But prettier.

Anyway. We're using a suitcase this year for the first time, but I like to think of it as an ironic use of a suitcase. So far we've packed: 1. A pack of Hanes boxer briefs; 2. Some wrinkled denim in the shape of a dress.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wet ...

... and when the water came back, they lapped greedily from the tap, not caring that the wet was getting in their hair and eyes. Then they retreated to the yard where they danced and played in the sprinkler, stripping down to their under things and singing salutations to the gift. The gift of water ...

Actually, we just had a toilet flushing party and promptly forgot about those 12 waterless hours.

That said: Chuck has developed a taste for jugs of purified water. His palate will probably reject the tap when those jugs run dry, and he has to make his coffee the common way.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cool, clear, water ...

Through a random confluence of domestic hilarity, the city of Duluth turned off our water today.We tend to ignore any sort of mail that doesn't have an -e- in front of it, or a present inside of it. And so any company that doesn't just extract the required amounts of money at a designated time from one of our bank accounts gets treated a bit like that pesky 35 pound tabby that skulks around this joint:

Ignored until it interferes with our creature comforts. And even then we usually just spray it in the face with, ironically, water.

I got through my coffee, shower, toilet treatment no problemo. But when Chuck went to brush his teeth when he got up tonight -- after Water & Gas operating hours -- he was met with puffs of nothing from the pipes.

"Why don't we have any water?" he texted me, right before he went out and bought three jugs of Apocalypse gold.

This comes at a bad time for me, as I've been dealt the combo platter of urinary tract infection* and the simultaneous shedding of my endometrium. Flushing a toilet is more than a luxury, it's a common courtesy. Luckily, we have two bathrooms in this house. We are able to privately operate under our own take on the credo: "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown take water from the dehumidifier, dump it in the toilet tank, then flush it down."


"It's like in the book 'A Good and Happy Child,' when he says they're between middle class luxury and absentminded squalor," Chuck said, coming out of the bathroom without washing his hands because he couldn't. "We have two toilets, but we have to flush them using a bucket of rainwater." 

I kind of like these random times of inconvenience. Adversity usually puts me in a pretty good mood for whatever reason. I like using a dirty strainer and using purified water to boil eggs.

All around this house, there are half-filled water glasses from a time when we were rich in taps. This has come in handy.


"So, I had bed head when I woke up this morning, and I had to use half of your glass of water to wet my hair."

Blah blah blah [insert hippie diatribe about water conservation here].

* my fourth of the summer. Holla!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Two weeks covered in Cheeto dust ...

Hello Planeteers. Another week of my little life has zipped past, and whoa, if this couch could talk. Here is what I made, read and watched. You'll see there is a bit of a theme when it comes to cultural consumption.

The past two weeks have been full immersion Scott Pilgrim, including one night when I had a dream that included ink spots and featured comic panels. Sad that there is no more marrow in the Pilgrim bones for me to gnaw on. It's been a blessed run.

The point is: Read these even if you think you don't like comic books or graphic novels or whatever the hell they are. 

FOODS
Well, I didn't actually make-make anything that included anything like a pesky recipe. I've mentioned before that I grocery shop one day at a time. One person's impractical is this lady's European. So I end up at the store every day, which is fine. But when I don't go to the store, we're eff you sea kay'ed. Although we have been good about keeping a constant supply of Golden Grahams in the cupboard, so much so that I've given it the title of our Official House Cereal. (That will be on the test).

So on Saturday I wandered through our neighborhood market, dismayed that there is no arugula to be purchased east of Lake Ave. It's like they think you can't live in West Duluth, and like yoru greens a little bit more clever. Sometimes I jokingly try to find things like that at our grocery store just for a chuckle: Lentils. Ha! Orzo? HAHAHAHA! I ended up just leaving, and then Chuck and I  played: Invent a dinner: Just like when Lynn Rosetta Casper takes five contents of a caller's refrigerator and makes it into a meal. Yeah. Just. Like. That.

Fake meat.
Noodles.
Shredded Romano.
Black Olives.
A blend of Italian seasonings.
Onions.
Tomato sauce, and supplemental chunks of tomato.
Baked.

And it worked! Hot damn, it worked. When something like that happens, the creation of a meal using just things that we've already got in the cupboards, it's called FREE DINNER!

WATCHING
The L Word: Final Season: Mostly, this was a half-assed season filled with the ghosts of the past. But it was all worth it to see a bearded and pregnant Max at Lamaze class. Thanks for the hilarity, The L Word.

MOVIES
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The books are better. But, BUT! This movie is really super fun. I might have laughed at every sentence and smiled a lot. Although Michael Cera has the single most sexless kiss face.

BOOKS
Scott Pilgrim Bundle Volumes 1-6 by Brian Lee O'Malley:
I drank the Jodi Chromey Kool-Aid and readers, it was delicious.
As anyone who has ever lurked the hallowed halls of Minnesota Reads knows, when Jodi likes something — I mean REALLY likes something — she damn near holds her very own Fourth of July celebration for that thing. Under these circumstances, I tend to listen to her. Aside from a few ticks in her taste buds (what kind of 80s teen disses so hard on Bret Easton Ellis? It’s inhuman), home girl tends to save virtual exclamation points for things that are truly delicious.
When it comes to the passionate reads, we lean similar: I’d guess that we will both end 2010 with plenty of crossover in our Top 10s, including Hot Pants Bognanni, and Cirque de Egan. And neither of our lists will include anything from the vampire domestic assault genre, or “it” books by 120 pound men with first world problems.
But when we leave the aisles of contemporary fiction, Aunt Jodi takes a left at graphic novels, and I take a right at food and addiction memoirs. And never the twain shall meet. Until she went all Tourettes on the Scott Pilgrim series by Brian Lee O’Malley. I peeked warily over the proverbial bookshelf, saw she was having a blast, and dove in.
My god, Jodi Chromey. You made me a believer. I spent an entire weekend laying around in my underwear reading six consecutive comic books (I believe this is her preferred method as well) and hot damn, I liked it.

Full review here


Thursday, August 12, 2010

We've been dancing ...

Chuck and I went to see some rock 'n roll tonight, starring the wild-haired former drummer from GNR and a bunch of other longhairs who got held up at the border of 1989.

It. Was. Fantaz.

I worry about the weird stains on my dress. And I seem to be wearing some other fool's BO. I've seen more R-n-R in the past four months than I would have dreamed of seeing when I actually liked rock and roll.

(Wait. Did I ever like rock and roll? I remember a Beastie Boys phase in the 80s. Some country in the 1990s. Alt and college bands in the latter half of the 1990s. Minimalist vocalists in the early 2000s, Top 40 in the mid 2000s, Swedish pop duos and the Cure-influenced post-shoe gazer shoe gazers now and forever. One day in mid-June: Glo-Fi.)

Well, I know I liked "Appetite for Destruction" at some point, and still do. I also had a damn good porketta sandwich.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tawni Kitaen'ed the crap out of that hood ...

My goodness. I don't remember anything that happened this past week. This is only acceptable in the hours between Friday night to early Saturday morning, in which case I was purposefully numbing my recall brain cells at the Spirit Valley Street Dance.

It was a delicious night complete with an 80s hair band tribute band that kicks it theatrical with wigs, explosions, and live snakes as they perform in the smooth styling of everything from Journey to Prince to Alice Cooper to Poison to AC/DC.

The whole thing made me wish I'd been just a smidge older during that golden era so that I could have Tawni Kitaen'ed the crap out of a hood while it was still en vogue. These days, it would probably be the sign of ill-breeding. I am, afterall, nearly 35.

***

Also, I spent the whole weekend reading comic books. This is totally nothing I've ever done before, but color me a convert. More on this later when I finish the Scott Pilgrim series and have time to wrangle all of my superlatives.

I didn't make any new foods. In fact, one night Chuck and I had Anchor burgers and beer, another night we ate out of a food cart, and another night we ordered pizza. My lack of creativity can be measured in caloric intake.

I didn't see any movies, either.

Which leaves us with just this. My favorite book of 2010 so far. My Top Ten list is coming along nicely at this point. Cracking it might be akin to getting into Harvard if the next four months are anything like the previous two. 

BOOKS
A Visit from the Goon Squadby Jennifer Egan:There is a scene in Jennifer Egan's novel, when an aged and plumped and be-cancer-ed rock and roll star named Bosco is pitching an idea to his publicist: He wants to tour again in support of his album “A to B.” A suicide tour. He doesn’t want to fade away, he tells her, he wants to flame away. A spectacle. An attraction. Everyone knows he is going to kick it, they just don’t know when or where. He wants interviews and videos and every humiliation documented.
“The album’s called ‘A to B,’ right?” Bosco said. “And that’s the question I want to hit straight on: how did I go from being a rock star to being a fat fuck no one cares about? Let’s not pretend it didn’t happen. . . .
Time’s a goon, right? Isn’t that the expression?”
Time is, in fact, the title goon of this novel full of short stories, a collection of pulse points in the lives of a full squad of players in the rock and roll scene. Each stars a character that is connected to another in a way that ranges from meaningful to fleeting. Then Egan upped the difficulty level: Each story can stand alone as a short story — and in some cases has actually been published elsewhere. And it isn’t told in chronological order.
Andthisismyfavoritebookever.

Full review is here.
The Lovers: A Novel by Vendela Vida:  I made a rookie error and poor, poor Vendela Vida's novel "The Lovers" is the innocent victim.

It all started when I feel madly in love with Jennifer Egan's book "A Visit from the Goon Squad." I lovingly caressed the cover, made kissy faces at it, considered starting from scratch and rereading it immediately. I tried to think of a better book in all the world over, and failed. I sighed a lot. The music of REO Speedwagon finally made sense to me.

What I should have done: Chased it with something completely different from a different section of the bookstore. A food memoir, travel essays, or lousy vampire fiction.

What I did do: Chased it with Vida's book. Climbed right back into a piece of contemporary fiction. Stupid. STUPID.

The end result wasn't pretty. "The Lovers" is probably a better book than I think it is. 



Full review will be here.







Friday, August 6, 2010

We live here now ... LET'S DANCE!

My favorite memory from the Spirit Valley Street Dance is this:

Chuck and I take a bus clear over to the wrong side of town (where we now, of course, let phone books pile up on our front porch). We make the rookie error of getting there sober, and the place is teeming with mom jeans and white man shuffles. An 80s-90s theatrical tribute band is playing. Chuck and I move through the crowd, but it's not so much moving through a crowd as something more akin to vertical crowd surfing. 

We both buy a can of the kind of beer you can get for free under most bridges, provided you are in the right company of drifters and train hobos, and make for the porta potties. In mine, there is a beer can floating in something that is either a Fisher Price urinal, or an abandoned beer bong -- or both. The tiny enclosure smells like an entire softball team was using a White Castle crave case as a diuretic. I do my business quickly, and then bathe myself in a layer of hand sanitizer, kneading it into body parts that I usually neglect with real soap.

I leave the outhouse with the same look on my face as my mom gets when I suggest she try sushi. Almost simultaneously, I see Chuck falling out of his one-man shitter. He buckles, veers left, veers right. Like he just got spun in circles, and released blindfolded into a crowd. He stumbles behind the row of outhouses and barfs. Then he barfs again.

And readers? That was before we had even gotten drunk. So that's what I think of when I think of the Spirit Valley Street Dance. And yet I still can't wait to go there tonight.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Not a Maxim model ...

This past week our city was over run with hundreds of thousands of tourists, including my parents. I made a friendly prediction: I wouldn't see one person I knew. I was right. Meanwhile, they spied their local weather man.

Have you ever noticed how people always really feel like they know their weather man? That's creepy.

The following is what happened to me today in incomplete sentences shaped like a poem, but NOT a poem:

Legs crossed.
Circulation cut off.
Phone rings.
Jump out of chair to run across
the room.

Right foot numb.
Leg crumples.
The kind of wipe out
that is all the rage in chick flicks
lets you know your protagonist
is a real woman.
Not a Maxim model.


Picture the scene
from Frenchy's perspective.
A scream
Then a cloud of hair
falling behind a partition.



In other news, this is what I read, ate, and watched this past week.

FOODS

Louisiana "Sausage" and greens: I made this one, but first I unwrapped the sausage from those pesky quotation marks. For as much as I like some meat alternatives -- tempeh, tofu -- and even think that some soy-meats taste good I just can't get excited about them enough to put them into my shopping cart. They're always vaguely cat-food-esque in texture or something. Plus, there are these andouille sausages that I love and I'm always looking for an excuse to cram them in my face hole.

Okay. This was amazing. I was stunned. I used collard greens. But it's the sauce that really makes it: A mix of veggie broth, white wine, red wine vinegar and tomato sauce. Holy smokes. It was a little spicy, but not enough to require dipping my tongue in blue cheese or anything.

The best part was all of a sudden realizing that I should have made corn bread to accompany it and then realizing that I could totally whip some up because we had all of the ingredients. Free corn bread! This was so so so yum.


Bahn Mi: My God I'm madly in love with these sandwiches. I've tried a different mix before, but Chuck thought the slaw reeked (Apple vinegar). I made some modifications to this one: I bought pulled pork for the Mister's sandwich, and tofu for my own. And I added some smiley faces made out of Sriracha to mine, too. This was awesome. Now I wish I could find a place in town that would make one for me in exchange for a few of my crumpled bills.

MOVIES
Hot Tub Time Machine: Holy shit a lot of bodily fluids were lost in the making of this film. Blood, barf, there always seemed to be something oozing out of someone. I gagged a lot. But this was exactly the right movie for when we were watching it. You know, I love John Cusack. But nothing makes me more keenly aware of my own aging process than his aging process. Not cool, Lloyd Dobler. Not cool at all.

Inception Gah. Tell me about it. This is like the story of my life. 

BOOKS
The Surf Guru by Doug Dorst: Well. Now Doug Dorst is just showing off. The relative newbie to the world of book glue's new collection of short stories "The Surf Guru," is so fun, so clever and so so exciting that it will make people who play with words drool. Reading his series of 12 tales is like watching a contortionist bend and shape shift, and thinking: "Holy crap. Do you even have a human rib cage?" 

Full review will be on Minnesota Reads

How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley:
I am going to write something here that applies to Sloane Crosley and only Sloane Crosley, and God help us all — please don’t let anyone else take this bit of advice and apply it:
Sloane, you need to write more about your personal life. Dates and dudes. Relationships that lean horizontal. Getting dumped and squeezing the living shit out of a bunch of oranges. I know this is problematic: You live in New York, and when a young woman lives in New York and writes essays she gets Carrie Bradshaw’ed into a little pink box. Even if the writer spends 200-plus pages riffing on everything but shoes. But I believe in you, Sloane. I think you can do it in a respectable way, and never have to say the words: “Hm … I guess we should go with the lipstick font for this book. Is there any way to make it look like I’m lounging in a martini glass?”

Full review here


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Joint effort ...

I was sitting on the front porch at about 3 a.m., when this mini mess of a little male came limping down the sidewalk and asked if he could borrow my lighter.

I pitched him the Bic. I prefer not to get too close to things that walk down the street in the middle of the night. One time I got robbed at gunpoint, remember? But mostly this thing made puberty look contagious.

Unfortunately, messed up always wants to make friends. So he  strolled down our walkway toward me. Under the lights I could see that he was a young that doesn't know its young. Maybe 14. That weird age where a face still looks doughy and malformed. Fetal. Like that chin could turn out to be a nose by the time he's a senior.

"Thanks," he said supersuavely. "I just have to light my joint."
He said "light my joint" awkwardly. And little smugly. The testing of a new sentence, like that first time you bumble out a "we" at the beginning of a relationship. 

He handed my lighter back. I did nothing to change the resting position of my face, and continued typing on my laptop.

"Are you doing homework?" he slurred lazily.
I filed this away in a place in my brain, not necessarily a special place, just a place. In case no one every compliments me on anything ever again.

"No," I said. "I'm just ... writing."

He wouldn't leave. This kid just stood there next to the porch. Smoking a joint, shuffling his feet, and watching me ignore him. Finally I realized that I could probably just tell him to leave.

"Hey. You can't smoke that here," I said to him.

He zapped out of his little mini coma and walked away.