Monday, January 30, 2012

Aloud

Chuck's prescription for me: Two stiff drinks. "How about one beer?" I say. I can control one beer. Controlling two stiffies, well, that's drunken roulette. It might work. But it might result in noodle limbs, drool and hugs for everyone.

I have a recurring dream that I'm hammered. So hammered that gravity has doubled, tripled, and that I am unable to get up off the floor. That I'm dizzy and I can feel the air and that air is like a giant hand on my forehead pushing me back to the ground. Two stiff drinks could take me there.

***

"I was thinking: You should come down here and interview this high school senior. She is really amazing. She's class president, Homecoming queen, people just love her and she only has one leg," my mom said.

"For what?" I asked.

"For your reading. Isn't the theme 'New Beginnings'?" she said.

"I'm not reading a news story," I said, frustrated. "God."

"Oh? Then what are you reading?" she asked.

"It's like a poetry reading, except not poetry," I tried to explain. "I'll probably re-work something from my blog."

"Why don't you read poetry?" my mom asked.

"I don't write poetry," I said.

"YOU DON'T WRITE POETRY?!" she said. "Since when?!"

"Um. Like, since I was 8?" I said, picturing my last chapbook, heavily influenced by Shel Silverstein, bound between the pages of gift-wrapped cereal box cardboard, bound with yarn and presented to my Great Aunt Jule, who flattered me by keeping it on her coffee table for guests to read.

***

I had about two months to prepare and I spent about seven weeks of that time thinking about everything but what I was going to read. During that time I became Facebook friends with another woman who was scheduled to read. Luc sent me game-changing advice:

"Read the story that you tell at the bar while gesturing wildly," she wrote in a message.

"Well, that story isn't very appropriate," I told her. It's true. Describing a vagina as a "dark cave, no windows" might sound like genius-level humor, but no one wants to pay $5 to hear that.

***

I cobbled together two old blog posts. Actually, I didn't. I took the gist of two old blog posts and completely re-wrote them as one. It was about living in a duplex with drug dealing neighbors. Bounty hunters, that sort of thing. It got a lot easier when I realized I could turn jagged truths into a smooth mostly-true and hell, if I wanted to, someday I could write a completely not true at all!

"The weirdest part about shopping for khakis with Jason Bateman was ..." 

***

About six hours before game-time I sent it to Jodi for approval. I was looking for a Yes or No, but sensed it would be tricky for her to read it without editing it. I was right, thankfully. She found me using a word wrong. I do that a lot. If this was the Acknowledgements page of a book, I'd bump up the font a few points and thank her. (She's used to getting her name in books).

***

Terrified? I'll say. Before we left the house and I thought our printer wasn't working I caught myself about to hit shrill octaves that reminded me of my mom having a pre-Thanksgiving Dinner freak fest because there were still gobs of toothpaste stuck to the bathroom sink and someone in our extended family might see them.

Chuck put his hand out and said calmly: "I'll take care of this." And I stood by and nearly fretted myself a bald spot.

He checked with me twice to make sure I'd brought my piece.

"It's in my purse," I told him. "Next to a similar sized bunch of papers, a summary of my last trip to the urologist. Worst case scenario I'll read that: 'The patient experiences a searing pain when ...'"

***

I went with a single beer. About an inch into it, I felt ready to rumble. I nursed it for two hours.

***

I stole this from a local blogger. I think that's legit, since it's me. 
There were 10 readers, a mix of poetry, fiction, personal narrative, scriptless storytelling. The Great Archivist read a grocery list, in part, which he is funny enough to pull off. The podium was dark, I couldn't see a single face, just an occasionally pocket of chuckle here or there and a gasp when I got to the part about the downstairs neighbor getting attacked with a baseball bat by her roommate.

People said nice things afterward.

"I think three people told me they liked my story and nine people told me they liked my belt," I told Chuck.


***

Afterward at the bar I found out the beer had 10 percent alcohol, which explains why it only took an inch to numb my shy place.


I took this photo after 2 and a half 10 percent alcohol beers to send to CHRISSIE! to explain what all the belt excitement was about. 


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cosby Curious ...


We are at dinner, a 7-course tasting menu at a favorite local restaurant, and right around the waffle, fried pork, marmalade first course, JCrew gets distracted by a painting hanging in the corner over my left shoulder.

"Wasn't that painting on an episode of 'The Cosby Show'?" she asks.
"Yeah. And now it's here," I say.
When you put the waffle, the pork, the marmalade on the same fork load there is a burst of grapefruit citrus. It seems like a magic trick. JCrew calls it a "Pork Donut."
"Someone probably sold it," she says, still eyeing the painting. "As seen on 'The Cosby Show.'"

Chuck is a trooper, sitting here at a candle lit table listening to restaurant-volume Flaming Lips, Roxy Music, in the middle of his sleep cycle. This is often how it works for him, what with his work-nights, sleep-days lifestyle. I keep singing "Chicken Liver for Breakfast!" It has an AM radio feel.

The server puts a bowl in front of each of us: Tootsie Roll sized pieces of Beef Marrow, Lemon Cloud, something Green.

"Don't touch it yet," she says. Comes back with a metal soup tureen. Pours pureed Pumpernickel, Cream, Anise around the obstacles. These flicks of the wrist. It's like she's painting the bowl. The soup is the color of chocolate mousse.

"Seriously," JCrew says. "Don't you remember seeing that on 'The Cosby Show'?"

She asks Chuck if she can have his sparkling wine, which comes with the dinner. He says yes. We talk about the certain smell of the boys dorm at St. Thomas. The character names and actor names of every woman on 'The Cosby Show.' The texture of chicken liver. The naming conventions of meat dishes in France in 1066. Billy Ocean. "Paradise Lost" and "The Canterbury Tales."

"At one point I had memorized the first 18 lines of 'The Canterbury Tales,'" I tell the table. "In Middle English."
"Brit lit!" JCrew says. Same college. Same senseless assignment.
"Wan that (mumble) shore as shoot, ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dupe," I say.
"I had a Brit Lit professor who didn't make us memorize the first 18 lines," Chuck says. "He said that when he went to parties and told people he taught Chaucer, someone always wanted to recite the first 18 lines of 'The Canterbury Tales.'"
"Like I just did," I say.

There is a fish course: White Fish, Tangerine, Dill, Rice Noodle Crab Cakes, Umami Mayo. This will be my favorite part; This will also be the part where I hear the seams in my stomach splitting.

I'd made a rookie error earlier in the night in the face of Pizza Man. It tasted so good. And there was an urgency to my pizza consumption: My Former Landlord was sitting next to me, stacking six square slices at a time to make a Pizza Man pizza sandwiches. My survival instinct kicked in and I kept snatching pieces of the pie to make sure it didn't all just disappear into his face.

"I wish they would bring out the Umami Mayo and squirt it all over my plate," JCrew says.

A shooter of Kefir with a drizzle of Blood Orange. Then dessert: Fried Ganache. Crack it open and a lava of Chocolate seeps from it, muddying the plate. There is a Waffle Tuile, crunchy, with a citrus-y fluff of white for dipping.

"I swear. That is from 'The Cosby Show.' I can't believe you don't remember that," JCrew says.

I do, kind of. But it's foggy.
I know how to solve this. I take a photo, send it to Lil Latrell.
"Was this painting on 'The Cosby Show'?"

"Yep," my favorite Bill Cosby fan replies immediately. "It's painted by Claire's uncle Ellis Wilson. She buys it at an auction for $11,000. Her grandma had sold it."

It's all who you know.

* The painting at the restaurant was not the one from 'The Cosby Show.' It was a sort of re-interpretation of it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tonight! Live! Padma's Arm Scar! ...

This week I've added a new category to my Weakly Reviewed, Trending. This is where I'll post stuff that is so hot right now ... in my brain. Stuff I read (inspired by this post by Chuck about how no one does link blogging anymore), mini-marathons, music I'm listening to, off-roading research inspired by something, whatever I'm into right this second that probably won't last on my radar.

Mostly this is so that when I'm 89 I can rifle through my brain internet to January of 2012, remove my oxygen helmet and say: "What the hell was 'The Only Way is Essex'?"

So, here's the haps: Cooking, Watching, Reading, Not Reading this past week.



MAKING FOOD

Sweet Potato Chickpea Stew with Quinoa: This was pretty good. I'm not sure it needs the quinoa, but I like quinoa so I won't complain. It's just a stew with delicious sweet potatoes. Always a game-changer.

At the grocery store the cashier asked me the difference between sweet potatoes and yams.
"I don't know," I told her. "I use them pretty interchangeably."
"Inter-what?" she asked.
"Interchangeably," I said.
"Oh," she said.
"I do know that if you eat a certain amount of sweet potatoes your skin will start to turn orange," I told her. Fact or fiction? Who cares. It makes for a fun nugget.
"Oh!" she said. "Maybe that's why some people are so orange!"
"Right," I said. "Like Snooki. HUGE sweet potato fan."
"Who?"
"Snooki," I said.
" ..."
"'Jersey Shore'?" I prompted.
" ... "

READING
Daytripper: In this non-linear graphic novel by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, the protagonist Bras de Oliva Domingos dies at the end of every chapter. The obit-writer turned novelist is shot, he drowns, heart problem. It's very well done and art-wise, it's lovely.

Assassination Vacationby Sarah Vowell: Learning history has never been so fun! Sarah Vowell examines the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley while touring around to the most minute of landmarks, checking out the signs and the brain matter and the bloodied this and thats, as well as hitting monuments and memorials.

So conversational, so interesting, so smart and so fun. I'd let Sarah Vowell teach me about anything.

NOT READING
Ghost Lights: A Novel by Lydia Millet: I made it 100 pages into this story about a man who is sure his wife is diddling one of her coworkers and in a moment of drunken angst volunteers to go search for her boss, who has gone missing while on vacation in another country. All of a sudden I realized I wasn't reading so much as just staring at the pages of a book where words zipped past and I wasn't invested in anything that was going on. Abort mission.

TRENDING
"The Only Way Is Essex": This English reality show is about a bunch of young people living high personal drama in Essex. Lauren and Mark just broke up after nine on-again, off-again years, Sam and Amy are glamour models, which is like working for Maxim, but mostly means they work the door at hot new clubs. Dirk is a reformed player who has it bad for Amy. There is an old woman named Nanny Pat who always shows up at Mark's door with a hotdish and then segues into ironing his clothes. It takes about three episodes to understand English, but after that, cue addiction.

I started watching because of this article from Vulture about all that is wrong with "Jersey Shore." (On TOWIE they actually at one point show the key players watching an episode of their own show).

***

I have never watched an episode of Top Chef without mentioning a) Padma's arm scar (which would make a great band name) and/or b) Salman Rushdie. So finding this was a real treat. It's a dummies guide to Salman Rushdie.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Into its vajazzled vortex ...

The first thing I do is hide in plain sight. I park it in front of my laptop, the scene of the crime, a cup of coffee and twin tornadoes at my feet. I should be writing, but instead I am continuing a "The Only Way is Essex" marathon that started late last night and ended well after the newspaper landed on the porch this morning. This English dramatic reality show, billed as the antidote for all that is wrong with "Jersey Shore," but which actually has more in common with "The Hills," has sucked me into its vajazzled vortex and left me curious about air kisses and eyebrow pencils. Did you know when they hug, they say to the huggee, "Come in for a snuggle"?

As I said, I'm supposed to be writing. Not like this, present tense blog posts that will focus on getting seconds at the Food Court and buying Rosemary Mint shampoo, but writing-writing. Words that can be read in front of a paying audience, writing.

Next Saturday I'm part of a handful-plus of writers who are going to read with a microphone and on a stage. If you're like me, you're wondering what I could possibly have to read. I'm rich in "and then today at Subway, a customer pronounced the H in Herb. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?!" I promised myself I'd shelve any sweat over it until Jan. 1, 2012, at which point I would work myself into a frothy lather of salty freak-out-dom.

The first of the year came and went and I got used to ignoring this date so far away in the future. And so here I sit, a week out, going ... "Fuuuuuu--- I should probably just finish Season One of 'TOWIE' so I can really concentrate."

My nightmare is that I will find no way around reading the story about the time a tampon was lost in my body, when my doctor described women's innards as having "Lots of nooks and crannies."

There are actually two seasons worth of "The Only Way is Essex" on Hulu. For real.

***

Whenever I watch shows starring super groomed women I start thinking about my eyebrows and the way I am content to let them grow cartoonishly wild. This is exactly how I treat my leg hair, but this tangled mess is actually happening on my face. Its like the opening credits to "Little House on the Prairie" when the youngest Ingalls girl takes a digger while running through a field of unkempt grass and flowers.

I wish I could find a list somewhere the ranks the grooming hierarchy. Like, is this something I'm supposed to care about, or is it just cool if I dip into Shear Katz every six months or so and ask for the weed-whacker treatment? Anyway, that's what I do today. 911 Weed Whacker. I tack on some Rosemary Mint Shampoo and Conditioner because it is another way to hide from writing and, well, it just smells nice.

***

I'm surprised at how much I like Jessica Simpson's clothing line, especially the shoes. But mostly I'm just craving a hotdog wrapped in pretzel, and here I am and there is the Miller Hill Mall Food Court. They have a new menu item, MINI hotdogs wrapped in pretzels. So popular that the stock is depleted and the cashier gestures to his left where a guy is slicing bite-sized pieces of dough for a new batch.

"They'll be ready in about six minutes," he tells me.
"Six minutes," I say, nod.
"Now. I want you to feel comfortable to wander around a bit, do a little shopping, whatever. They'll be ready when you come back," he says. This is after he explained the dipping sauces in fantastic detail, like a sommelier for things thick and creamy. "Well, we have plain cheese, but we also have a nacho cheese, which has a little bit of bite, but not too much bite, certainly okay for someone who doesn't like things too spicy, Ranch, honey mustard ..."

I'm in Eddie Bauer when a woman asks me where I got my winter coat and I'm able to say for the first time something I've wanted to say forever:

"Target. It's their Converse line."

My first bite of this new delicacy sends half of the hotdog squirting out of the end of the pretzel casing, hitting god-knows-what, hopefully some pussy sucking down a shake from Body by Vi. Eventually I will go back for seconds at this same place, this time opting for pretzel bites without the hot dog weapons.

"Do you need any sauce?" the cashier asks me.
I flash her half a plastic container of nacho sauce.
"I still have some left," I tell her.

***

Chuck and I have just finished dinner, and we've ordered dessert. A threesome comes into the restaurant and is seated at the table next to us. Like, two feet from us, 33 percent of them sharing bench seating with me.

I know them, they all used to be regulars at the Pio, and they include ... dun-dun-dun ... my Former Landlord's baby mama. We're not, um, close. I'm sure I've been an asshole to her in the past, but it's been years. These days I'm a little fiery about some custody junk that is none of my business but that I have TONS of opinions about anyway.

So: This. Is. Dramatic. I'm not one for hoarding enemies, but now I understand why the universe threw "TOWIE" in front of me this weekend. SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPENS ON EVERY EPISODE!

I greet the dudes she's with and she sits in her chair and very deliberately shifts it sideways so her back is to us and immediately begins screaming about how she isn't staying here at this bar, how everything she says is going to end up on the internet and she's going to be hearing about everything that happens all night from My Former Landlord. She grabs her stuff and storms out of the restaurant, dudes trailing, right as I've begun explaining to one of them that the Cheese Steak is delicious.

It was pretty epic. At first it was just uncomfortable. Then it was funny watching her be SO MAD! Then, as we watched them cross the street and charge into the casino, it just became confusing.

"Wait," I said to Chuck. "Why is she mad at me?"

***

Our plan was to go to JCrew's birthday party, but she texts me as we're finishing dinner and says they are leaving the bar. So we decide to go to the late showing of a play. Then JCrew texts and says that if we can get to the bar in 15 minutes, they will stay.

So now I'm confused. Do we go to the bar or not go to the bar?

She calls me and when I answer I can hear her screaming to her fiance Sea Dawg: "WHO GOES TO DINNER THIS LATE?!"

"People who work nights and sleep until 8 p.m.?" I say to her.
"Oh. Did you hear that?" she asks, cackles devilishly.
"Who goes to the bar that early?" Chuck asks.

She tells me they're on their last drinks and are going to go home. Chuck and I go to the play, which is fantastic and includes a scene with tender puppet lovemaking. During intermission I get a text that says JCrew is still at the bar. So we swing by on the way home and there she is, the little princess, busting a nut with her sister, dancing to the sweet sounds of an 80s cover band.

The band plays one more song and pulls the plug, ignoring her request for "House of Pain" by Faster Pussycat, which is unforgivable, so she sings it herself at the table. Later, JCrew pulls a woman aside and tells the woman is too good for her sleazy boyfriend. "You're smart, you're pretty, you can do better than this dipshit," she says.

In my head I'm writing a Lifetime Original Movie in which JCrew is a vigilante, she has an office in a public restroom. She councils as women re-apply lipstick. Then she's off to the next stop. She storms into a bar wearing a Burberry cape telling women to DO BETTER THAN THIS DIPSHIT!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

(Almost) inventor of the BLT ...

Subway and I are both restless. I see it in the way I pull up and frown as soon as I smell the signature smell. The hot doughy breath of obedient yeast. I see it in the sandwich shop's recent menu modifications: The Sub of the Month, the Twist on Turkey options, the gluten-free bagels and brownies. It's all the same stuff just in a different order and with a new mug shot.

"Ohh. How long have you had gluten-free sandwiches?" a woman asked yesterday, in a very public-radio voice.
"About a month," I start to tell her, stopping as I remember I'm not the Sandwich Artist. She's not asking me. She's asking the professional. It would be nice if I could also remember this when I'm at Barnes & Noble.
"Since the beginning of the month," the Sandwich Artist responds.
"Wow," the woman is at a loss for words. Gluten-free. Here. At Subway. This is the best thing that has happened to society since the invention of the reusable grocery tote. "I'll have one of those!"

(Later I will swear this woman and I are both standing in front of the three shelves worth of gluten-free breads and crackers at the grocery store. Here, too, she has the star-eyed look of someone whose mind has been blown that this option could possibly exist in the same aisle as Hamburger Helper. It's like the time the Butler on Downton Abbey busted Sybil Crawley learning to make soup from the help).

***

I'm so tired of sandwiches. This is a highly solvable problem, I know. But solving requires planning. And planning requires thinking about lunch right after dinner or when I wake up and my stomach is still clenched into a fist that I can only coax from hostile toward friendly with coffee and time. Lots of time.

Anyway, I ordered Tuna Fish, with extra gluten. I know. Tuna Fish. Ugh. But I was desperate for something new. Tuna Fish is one of those things where "like" and "loathe" are way too close together. Once I lean to loathe -- an extra mealy chunk of fish muscle, an unappealing splatter from the sandwich onto my Subway wrapper, someone else eating a Tuna Sub with their mouth open, or even just a passing thought about goldfish -- I can be put off it for a very long time.

I made it through 80 percent of the sandwich before it hit. This time it was just the two-word combination. "TUNA fish. Tuna FISH. Raw pink TUNA FISH in a can, packed in a TUNA FISH-flecked watery soup making a TUNA FISH smell." Dry heave. Lunch over.

***

"I don't know what I want," I whined to the Sandwich Artist last week.
I have this luxury. I eat in the mid-afternoon when the lunch crowd has thinned and the shop is just filled with regulars: that guy playing Nintendo DS, the one in the wheelchair aggressively selling tiles, the fans of the free refill, puck hounds.

"They had to lose sometime," says one guy of Saturday's hockey game.
"Yeah," says the other.

The sandwich of the day is Turkey. Turkey and Ham, great. Ham, Meh. Turkey, double meh. I know it's crazy; They just work better together. I go for the new sub on the block. Something that suggests fire and bravery: The Turkey Jalapeno Melt.

"Let's mix this shit UP," I tell the Sandwich Artist.

She begins crafting it: Turkey, cheddar, jalapenos. She puts it into the toaster oven.
"You know what I like," she says. "Chicken tenders dipped in honey mustard with a jalapeno at the end of it."

Clearly she has been off-roading. Subway doesn't have Chicken Tenders.  She takes my sandwich from the toaster.

"Mmmm-MMM," she says. "Chicken tenders dipped in honey mustard with a jalapeno on the end. The honey mustard really cuts the spice and you get the full flavor of the jalapeno."

She scatters a handful of lettuce on the sandwich. Some onions, some tomatoes. A dash of salt and pepper.

"I'm struggling to see the difference between this and an ordinary turkey sub," I tell her. Maybe it's in the finale. A special cream sauce. Otherwise I'll be paying an extra dollar just because I made the error of calling this a Turkey Jalapeno Melt instead of a Toasted Turkey Sandwich.

"It's the heating of the jalapenos in the toaster," she says. "It really gives them a kick."

I nod. I'm not a historian, but I'm pretty sure Subway has always had the option of warmed jalapenos. It requires jumping line a bit in the sandwich assembly, but nothing so heroic that would cost me a dollar.

At the cash register she gives me a little look.
"I just charged you for the regular turkey special," she says. Wink wink. Which is nice ... and weird. Because that's exactly, technically, what I ordered.

***

I was sitting at a back table eating and reading and The Regular walked into the shop, filled his Subway plastic cup and approached a woman at the table next to me.

"Hear that music?" he asked her. It was faint. Something from the 80s.
"What?" she asked, and as she asked it the music got louder.

I looked at The Regular. I looked around. How did he do that? He does, admittedly, look like a person who would create his own universal remote using pieces from an old tobacco tin, a pocket watch, electrical tape and a mechanical pencil. But I choose to believe this was magic.

***

I've been plotting my own signature sub sandwich. Okay, it's technically a BLT, which I believe is a rather significant omission on the menu.

"I suppose I could just order a veggie sub and have them put lettuce and tomatoes on it. And bacon," I explain to Chuck as we're lying in bed. I can see this sub in my mind. It looks like it should be featured on a commercial or in a two-page spread in a magazine. The lettuce as crunchy as Cheddar Baked Ruffles, one of my favorite side dishes. The juicy tomatoes, bacon sizzling. Me, spreading Lite Mayo to suit my own specific taste.

"I'm going to create my own sub," I tell the Sandwich Artist today.
She looks at me warily. Like how many times has someone said this. No, wait, put the Turkey on it LAST. That's how daddy likes it. 


"I suppose technically it's just a veggie sub with bacon," I say and she goes to work. Slices the bread open, lays down matching triangles of cheddar -- so I'm deviating from a traditional BLT, there are no rules here.

She stops with her hand over the bacon.

"A veggie sub with bacon would have two strips," she tells me. "A BLT gets four."
"Wait. A BLT? You have a BLT?" I ask. Robbed.
She steps backward and points at the menu mounted above her head. "BLT: Bacon, Lettuce and Tomatoes."
"Oh," I say. Egg on my face. "I guess I'll take the BLT, then."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dance Party USA

Fun news: I have referred to my iPhone as a Walkman four times in the past two weeks. If that isn't bad enough, I called our central speaker system, which was playing music from Spotify, a "radio." As in: "I hope the radio didn't wake you up."

There is some kind of technological Dorian Gray craziness going on in my head.

Also: Could someone call my mom and explain to her that I don't want to be the next Erma Bombeck?

NEW FOODS TRIED!

Butternut Squash and Edamame Zosui with Ginger-Green Onion Relish: So this soup included kombu which was completely off my radar, but does exist in the city limits -- which is more than I can say for finding two full sized leeks. Kombu is a dried seaweed-y sort of thing that I just used in the broth, but omitted the step where it is chopped and re-introduced to the soup because I could tell the texture was going to skeeve me pretty hard. This is really not-adventurous of me. But consider this: I dumped something that looked like jerky into the soup and in the course of heating it unfurled to a de-jerkified sheet of something slippery. Chop it and eat that? No can do, friend. I can't even eat a Gummy Worm, and that's supposed to be delicious candy. 

Anyway, brown rice, squash, broth, edamame, miso ... then with the ginger-onion relish. This is pretty good, easy, different from the standard bean-veggie fare we're usually going apeshit on.  

Also, this calls for a pressure cooker, but I just eyeballed it and it seemed to turn out the way it was supposed to, maybe a little less watery. 

MOVIES
Girls Just Want to Have Fun Of all the movies from the 1980s, this one was embarrassingly influential on a young Catholic school girl with strict parents who wanted to be a wild-child adventurer with a secret exit out her bedroom window. "Which character were you?" CHRISSIE! asks me via text message. She watched it earlier in the day, inspiring my watch later that night. I was Janie with dreams of being Lynn.

Age: Pre-teen. On the school bus, ripping off my plaid skirt to reveal a pair of colorful jams. Unbuttoning my collared shirt to what would be a sexier view if not for pancake chest. Tying my hair into a high ponytail. Slathering my face in tinted chapstick. I love movies like this that are such a time capsule for what movies looked like in the 80s. It's hard to remember if it was funny then, or if it is just funny now, or funnier now, in the way that it is just so so true to the period. Anyway, this one is about Sarah Jessica Parker as a Catholic school girl who just wants to DANCE! She starts up at a new school, makes friends with the outrageous Helen Hunt and they audition for a spot on Dance TV, a close relative to "Dance Party USA."

Vernon, Florida This documentary from the early 1980s is about the quirky residents of a small town in Florida: A worm farmer, a guy who keeps a zoo of animals in a makeshift cage, a turkey hunter, a bored cop. It's pretty agonizing to watch and if it was longer than an hour I'd probably have thrown the TV out the window. It's a little bit assholey, I think, to interview a half-dozen old men and be all like "Look how weird this town is!" Although I understand that allegedly the movie was meant to be about a rumor that its residents were purposely self-amputating to collect insurance. That would make a great documentary.

Comic Book Confidential: The history of comic books, starting in the 1930s through about the early 1980s. It's decent, but really only starts to get super interesting when R Crumb is introduced in the mid-1960s. I'd like to see a documentary starting where this one left off to now. More women and some creative takes on the old genre.

BOOKS
Underworld by Don Delillo: This is the best book I've ever read. Full review will be here.

Growgirl: How My Life After The Blair Witch Project Went to Pot: by Heather Donahue: The girl from "The Blair Witch Project" spends a year in northern California growing medicinal marijuana. Heather Donahue is totally a riot. Full review will be here.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Brie fever ....

Today is a day I have been waiting for for more than a decade. I finally, after a half-dozen fits and starts, finished "Underworld" by Don Delillo. Two weeks of gape-mouthed awe at what this late starter to the world of fiction made for all of us. Writer-wise, an intimidating story, no doubt. The kind of thing that leaves a wannabe novelist a little raw and a lot bruised. Who would dare try, even try, to make a complete sentence after reading that thing? Remove "return" key. Demolish it with hair brush. Shut laptop. Bind it with electrical tape. Soil it with feces. Chuck it into Lake Superior. Make sure it sinks. Wipe hands on red jeans. Resign oneself: In a post-reading "Underworld" world, reality TV is the new writing. Grand statement alert: "Underworld" is the best book I've ever read. So there.

 ***

My reading resolution for 2012 takes its cues from the old bridal custom "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue." Except it is "Something old, something new, something borrowed and something graphic novelly." This means that every month this year I will read: Something we already own, something from 2012, something from the library and, well, a graphic novel or memoir. Of course, some of these categories might overlap. I could find something from 2012 at the library. I could read a graphic novel that is already in the house. Any additional reading I do during the month is just extra credit.

Why do rules make everything so much more fun?

No matter how many times I visit the library, the premise of it continues to slay me. I can walk into an architecturally interesting building and I can read the books from here for free. FOR FREE. I can indiscriminately tug titles from shelves, read the inner flap -- or not -- and make a stack in my arms. And then I can scan them in a way that thrills my inner 9-year-old who must have, must have, played librarian at some point, take them home, rub my eyeballs all over them and then return them. Libraries. My god. A girl could lose her mind.

On this trip I feel like I'm stealing three novels with plots that sound a little similar. Like all three stories shared a bathroom mirror when they were 15. And something by Sarah Vowell.

***

I spend a lot of words lauding the magic of nutritional yeast and mustard experiments that thicken into vegan cheese sauce. While I do believe this is delicious, and magic, cheese is still cheese. We used to have a brick of cheddar on hand at all times and I could dismantle that sucker during a single midnight snack. We used to have a tray with salmon, grapes and two kinds of gourmet cheeses -- a blue brie, an aged cheddar, havarti, a Merlot Cheddar mix -- that we ate on Wheat Thins. Now the closest thing we keep to cheese in the house is a bag of Cheddar-flavored Daija, which looks like cheese, melts like cheese, but is actually made from the hippie-tear hydrated toe jam of an organic farmer.

I recently finished reading a novel about an artist from the 1920s painting her muse and in between sessions they picked at a baguette, nipped at cheese. The imagery gave me brie fever. I told myself that on Saturday I would go to this restaurant, order a cheese plate and read. What a simple bit of awesome and a reprieve from being my old, predictable self.

So that's what I did. A plate with a stack of crispy Lavosh, a sliver of Brie, a hunk of a White Cheddar and a Blue Cheese. A bunch of grape. And then, optimizing this "Hey why-not-ness," a Bellini in the middle of the afternoon.

Since it was out of character for me, I began projecting all sorts of stuff the bartender must have thought about me. I imagined that she didn't know what to make of me and was comparing the cleanliness of my hair to the women sitting at the bar, tossing out a big league wine vocabulary. I imagined that maybe she thought I was celebrating something (like finally finishing "Underworld"?) or that I was two hours from handing my car keys to someone standing at a bus stop and then swan diving off the Bong Bridge.

Really I was just waging an inner protest about the lack of cheese in my diet and dousing it with a flute of fruit-flavored champagne.

***

When Chuck wakes up he's still the groggy eyes of a baby chick. We decide that we want to spend date night napping. Back to bed, where I zonked for three hours, him for five. Our pizza is disappointing.

***

JCrew calls with plans to stop over for a little get-together I planned earlier in the week and then never told her we weren't having. I'm on thin ice with my friend, I bet. This is the second time I've ripped plans out from beneath her. Today's was worse because she had spent the day at a bridal show where someone tried to convince her to purchase a wedding dress from a cheesy warehouse and then to bind and gag her with DJ options. She even made cake-pushers, my own personal patron saints, sound like monsters.

***

We watch two movies and work on training Hal to do a common circus trick.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Monday Memoir: That's Don Fey ...

I spent a lot of time with my dad during some pretty pivotal years, and this period is a blur of denim accented denim, rust and German Shepherd breath. It is all condensed into a single vision: Our blue beater parked in front of the house and we're going for a ride: To a ranch outside of town where he will break horses, to a pool outside of town where a woman who has had great success with quadriplegic and special needs children will fail to teach a snot-nosed ginger to put her face in water, to The Farm, just outside of town, a couple acres of land with hiking trails, a stream, a rust-bucket school bus and tomb for toys from the 1960s, a wooden shed aged to a tilt, with no electricity and cobwebs on the toilet paper.

Any unwillingness to wear a dress growing up, any balking at nylons or religious belief that slips are optional and hoodies mandatory was pinned to my dad.

"He's the one who brought her up through her formative years," was my mom's favorite punch line for at least a decade, although she said it like more of a curse a decade later.

In those days my dad loved Marty Robbins' records and gave equal time to Paul Harvey played over noon hour on a clock radio in the kitchen. Every time I heard Harvey say "And that's the rest of the story" I wondered where the first part of the story went.

My dad could dump a leftover into a frying pan, add ketchup, stick it between bread and call it lunch. He trotted out the delicacy Cream Peas on Toast. We got a deep fryer for Christmas and he made Corn Fritters, but just once. He hid Girl Scout cookies and boxes of chocolates in his closet on the high shelf. He approved rations of ice cream. Survival instinct. He was the second oldest of eight children who grew up in a three bedroom house in a neighborhood that now has lost its sheen. I imagine the attic looked like a scene from an orphanage, a bunch of boys ranging from teen to toddler on single bed cots in a row.

The last time I was in that attic there was a text book called "Your Friends in Eurasia" and the whole house still smelled like hot linoleum and lemony dish detergent.

"We were so poor growing up that we were allowed to run through the sprinkler," he said one time. "But we couldn't afford to turn on the water."

Then he did the laugh he does when he finds himself hilarious, one eye squinched more than the other. He likes a good joke, the cornier the better, especially when he is the one telling it. No judgement here.

One day my friend Elise and I were comparing discipline highlight reels and she passed along a tip: If you're about to get a spanking, run. Just run. So I did that. Out the front door, across the lawn, up a steady grade, my dad chugging behind me. Where do I go now? I wondered. I could never outrun my father. No way. Then I stopped at the top and waited for him, laughing. Not at him, certainly not with him.

My dad cut his toenails straight across, rather than rounding the corners. In my head I can hear them clicking across the kitchen floor, but that is probably an exaggeration.

He worked nights. He slept with the phone in the drawer. My cue to wake him was the end credits of "The Young and the Restless." I can see his puffy white sleep face, a protruding red mole beneath one of his eyes, his hair a light brown mess of curls, poking out of a nubby white blanket and I can see it as though I'm standing at eye-level with the bed. He would make me a grilled cheese sandwich, send me walking the three blocks to school. Later we would all climb blurry-eyed into a two-door car in the dark and cold to drop him at the Law Enforcement Center. My mom was in school to become a teacher and we would pick her up at a turnaround spot on the community college campus.

"Here she comes," he would say. "Mama Mia with the spicy meatballs."

My dad was a deputy sheriff, an amazing thing when you are in kindergarten and it takes no more than siren-on-demand to impress your peers. A uniform, a patrol car, a gun that he put on top of the refrigerator during his lunch break when he went to regular hours. My dad worked in the civil division, plain clothes, when I was in grade school. A confusing thing when he got involved with a custody situation that involves a classmate, the only child of divorce in my class. For the rest of my childhood the mom glaring at my dad from across the church. Her daughter, my friend, unable to come to my house or hitch a ride to a high school basketball game.

"It's not my fault she broke the law," would be something my dad would say. But he never really told me what was going on.

My dad taught me to do a layup a half hour before I went to my first basketball camp. "That's it?" I thought. It was instinctual. Later, at the camp, I was one of the few kids who could do one or had ever even heard the word. He built me a section of a basketball court in our back yard.

When a kid in my brother's class when apeshit with an axe all over most of his family, my dad was involved with the case and escorted the juvenile to a facility in Texas, where he waited for his trial. This was an incredible nugget that made me feel like I had VIP privileges as the case unfolded in the news. Of course we all felt like we had VIP privileges considering two of our school mates had died and a boy with a unibrow we thought we knew had done it. A fit of satanism, was the rumor. An unyielding father, another. And it was all like trying to solve "CSI: Rochester" with Encyclopedia Brown's database.

By the time I was in high school I was terrified of my dad. Not terrified about anything he did, but terrified of his masterful look of disappointment. A shake of the head. A stony expressionless look. Silence. Or a half-yell where his voice bounced. He hated lying, cheating and stealing. "Greg has poor sportsmanship," he would say of a boy on my brother's hockey team who cried after losses and chased down refs with who-me? hands after bad calls. When I missed state, hell missed regionals, because of a case of the yips on the runway to the long jump pit, when I threw my walkman at a sophomore girl who dared to ask how I'd finished, he gave me a talking-to that was less salve for my disappointment than a life lesson: We don't act like that, he said. We don't act like that.

Most of the big rules came down from my dad. The "Dukes of Hazard" made cops look foolish, so we weren't allowed to watch it. Our curfews were strictly enforced because my dad knew what a car accident looked like in the middle of the night. Before I was born, or at least before I saved memories, my father's good friend, a fellow cop, was shot while on duty. Before his shift started, my dad made fun of him for having a stain on his shirt.

When I was 19 or 20 and my parents were away for the weekend my brother dug into the pocket of the jeans I'd worn the night before looking for my car keys. Instead he came out with a handful of beer bottle tops, counting out nine, a mix of Red Dog and Ice House.

"If dad found this he would kill you," he said.

When my dad was my age, 36, I was 12. My brother was 16. When we got the dog, rode around in the pickup truck, he was 27. That time when I ran up the street to escape a spanking he was 29. He built me a basketball court when he was 32. When my brother went to college he was 38, younger than my boyfriend is now. When I went to college he was 42, the same age as my one of my best friend's fiance. It's weird to think that we obeyed him. The idea of someone taking me seriously as a disciplinarian is laughable.

That makes him, what, 60. He's been retired for more 5 years because that's what you do when you become a government employee at age 20. He turned my parents basement into a something that resembles an upscale lodge with built in book cases, a bar, a stone fireplace, two bedrooms and a full bathroom. He has gone fully grey, but convinced my niece a few years ago that he is blond. He plays hockey with other "old timers." I called home a few weeks ago and my mom could barely speak, she was laughing so hard at a bad round of Wii Golf.

I have friends, maybe not friends, but people I talk to regularly, people whose conversation I enjoy, people I can swear in front of, who are within a five year radius of my parents. Aside from a bum hip here, sleep apnea there, my parents are staying the same age but it seems that I am catching up to them.


The Monday Memoir series is a writing project that uses Tina Fey's memoir "Bossypants" as a template for my own life story. I'm using her subjects as a prompt. Tina Fey's memoir is very funny, by the way. It just seemed so easy to do. In Chapter Four she talks about her dad, Don Fey.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1 teaspoon of chitter chatter ...

There is a lot of stuff here, so I'm going to go light on the chitter chatter. Here is what I've made, watched and read in the past few weeks.

MEALS MADE IN OUR KITCHEN THAT HAVE NEVER BEEN MADE THERE BEFORE
Slow-cooker Bean and Corn Bread Casserole: Crock pot things happens and you get chili with a layer of corn bread attached on top of it. Science! This. Is. Awesome.


Artichoke and Spicy Tofu Casserole: Okay. So this is a bunch of rice with a bunch of vegetables and tofu, a non-cream cream sauce and then baked like a casserole with a few bread crumbs and shredded fake cheese. I'm not sure where I got the idea it was going to taste like Tuna Noodle Casserole, but that is what was in my head. Regardless, I liked this. It was different. It was good. It actually made me hungrier, though.

MOVIES
Super 8 "Goonies" + "Stand By Me" / "E.T." = This is my favorite thing I've seen in awhile. Little geeky filmmakers save their town from an alien.

"New Year's Eve": Have you ever been at a shitty party and every time you turn around you see someone you are trying to avoid?

J. Edgar This movie that includes the secret side of J. Edgar Hoover was good. It was too long, like 90 percent of all movies. But mostly it has given me good background for sections of the book "Underworld" by Don Delillo that include J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson.


Magic Trip: Found footage of the Merry Pranksters and the sights and sounds described in "Electric Kool-Ade Acid Test." This documentary, now streaming on Netflix, was pretty delicious and will make you eternally grateful that you've never been trapped on a bus with that maniac Neil Cassady.

I Love You Phillip Morris: This true-ish story of Jim Carey as a scam artist who meets the love of his life in prison and then proceeds to scam, scam and scam so more is really cute. Like.

Dawning: Anyone who has ever spent time in Northern Minnesota knows woods can be terrifying. But this horror movie is poorly plotted and kind of like a junior high film project. Brother and sister visit alcoholic dad and his new wife at the cabin. Evil ensues. Blerg.

TV MARATHON
Portlandia: Good. God. We started watching this on New Year's Eve Day when I was so hung over I could barely blink or even stand upright long enough to shuffle to the bathroom to dry heave into the toilet. It was physically painful for me to watch because instead of sitting quietly and laughing occasionally this was going to require laughing non-stop and rarely sitting quietly.

For the three people on the planet who haven't watched it, this was my point of entry:



BEEN READING
1Q84by Haruki Murakami: This one is very Murakami. I liked it. I probably don't need to read another Murakami sex scene for awhile though.

Full review here.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes: This is the story of an older man who doubles back to think about his past and then has a jarring awakening that things weren't exactly the way he remembers them and maybe he didn't know all the facts. I loved it.

Full review here.

Ten Thousand Saints: A Novel by Eleanor Henderson: This was deese. It's the story of teens gone wild, then falling into a straight edge lifestyle in NYC in the 1980s.

Full review here.

The Last Nude by Ellis Avery: This is about Paris in the 1920s. The art deco painter Tamara De Lempicka and her muse slash lover. I liked it. It's a nice introduction to the artist. Things get a little hokey when Avery brings in other famous people living in Paris in the 1920s.

Full review will be here.

Anyway, I also posted my list of my favorite things read in 2011 (And somehow missed the Julian Barnes book in my tally. Gross oversight). Here is the list.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Eight things I did on Saturday ...

1. I read a book in its entirety. I did it for all those people out there who "wish they had more time to read." It was like a 5K for people battling beeturia, except it was reading for people who are too busy to read. I read through coffee, lunch and a bath. I read through bed sores and brushes with blindness. I risked coming out of the whole thing having adopted the author's accent. And I did it for you.

2. I went to Target to critique Converse's Winter Collection. There is no such thing as a too many dresses made of sweatshirt material. Instead I bought the cats an industrial strength scratching post that is earning rave reviews from Orin and is not nearly as awesome of a hobby as serial murdering a stuffed mouse with a bell attached, according to Hal.

3. I heard a woman at Barnes & Noble say to a man: "You just can't buy a paperback for less than $15 these days." To which he replied "I know."

4. Chuck and I went on a dinner date to Tycoons where I had the Duluth Cheese Steak with something called "Epic Cheese Sauce." Chuck described a scene in which he rides up on a dirt bike, skids to a halt and then flashes the hang loose sign while saying "Epic Cheese Sauce." The restaurant is so new they didn't even have dessert yet.

5. We walked 50 paces down the block to another restaurant, Zeitgeist, and ran into tens of people we know. We split Flourless Chocolate Cake and it was probably the best dessert I've had in weeks. It was a dense concentration of cool chocolate, like sucking all the air out of chocolate frosting, compressing it, and then eating it.

6. We got to the Incline Station in time for a single game of bowling. I finished in fifth place and won a wonky feeling in one of my bowling fingers and my thumb. Chuck, who insisted on being named Ace for the game, finished in sixth place. I only wanted to beat JCrew, tried to bring her down with big talk about college varsity track and athleticism, and then I lost to her so we'll never talk about this ever again.

7. We watched "Super 8" which was way better than the movie "New Year's Eve." It's like "Goonies" and "Stand By Me" and touches of "ET," if ET was a couple skyscrapers taller and more tuned into electricity.

8. I finally shut down the fun factory at about 5:30 a.m., then slept until 2:45 p.m.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I'm only Cumin ...

We aren't collectors per se, but Chuck and I have amassed a pretty serious collection of spices. Some he brought to the relationship, some I brought, we purchased some of them together as a couple. I'm not trying to be all "Look at our super global palates," but it is safe to say that I could create a dish from almost any flavor profile in the entire world. (Who wants Yemen-style cauliflower?!) Mostly we just have like 20 jars of Cumin.

I was looking for Cumin last night, in fact. I dug through the spice shelf three times. I moved everything from the right side to the left side, then back to the right again. I read labels, wondered how many times the Ground Mustard had been thrown into a box and driven to a new address, and if there were enough days left on earth to get around to using all that Star of Anise. This is the sort of archeological dig that, in Chuck's hands, would end with him whooshing the entire shelf into the garbage can and suggesting we just start over. Or learn to lean heavily on Pepper.

"Where in the heck is the Cumin?" I asked him.
"I just used it last night," he said. He was sitting at the table. "It's on the right side and toward the front. Move your hand a little further to the right ... That should be it right there."
"Comino Molido," I said. "What the heck is that?"
It's something I've always wondered, but not hard enough to Google it. What is Comino Molido? It must be something Chuck brought to the relationship. It sounds Cumin-y, but not a Cumin I'm familiar with. A sub-genre of Cumin? A higher grade of Cumin? Something like the difference between Paprika and Hungarian Paprika and Sweet Paprika? Not Cumin-related at all. The opposite of Cumin. A question for another day, I guess.

I kept digging, then threatened to get super extreme with this hunt and to check the spare spice cupboard.
"No, no, no," Chuck said. He got out of his chair, peered into the spice shelf, pulled a jar and flipped it to me. There, on the back side -- or front side, depending on your angle -- of the Comino Molido it said Ground Cumin.

It was Cumin all along.

How many years have I used that Ground Cumin, then not used it for a few more years because I put it away with the Comino Molido side showing. Life lesson: Trust your basic Spanish instincts.

FOOTNOTE
Much like a post I started writing the other night about a dream I had, this story was far more interesting as it was happening. But since we're here: In the dream, Chuck asked me if he could engage in a romantic relationship with a woman named Alison. I said "Of course!" thinking there was no way he was serious. Soon after I walked into a pristine, albeit cozy public restroom on a college campus and found condom wrappers littered like confetti on the tile. The red, I understood, belonged to him; the blue, to her. Then, as I was standing there, I heard them talking about what had happened on MPR in calm, public radio voices.

I woke up from the dream suddenly because I thought I heard someone playing the xylophone in the living room. I was so terrified I didn't even get around to getting fake dream-mad.

FOOTNOTE'S FOOTNOTE
There probably wasn't anyone in our living room playing the xylophone. Probably.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Dispatches from Feline Nation: Week 16



Dear Hal and Orin,


Well, guys. We finally got you trained to do your one trick. It's nothing that will make you YouTube famous, but it's enough singing-for-your-supper to make it feel like you aren't just 10 pound dervishes with the colon health one would expect from animals that eat triangular granules of salmon-flavored horse intestines for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

First Chuck walks up the steps to the bedroom. You run along, sometimes diving in front of him, anticipating his where his foot will fall and then faking narcolepsy in that exact spot. Sometimes you nip behind him. Once in the bedroom, you take your positions beneath the bed. Chuck -- who is also now trained, one could argue -- picks up the laser pointer. You recognize the subtle jingle of the keychain and this is when you really reach your ultimate rev. Teeth bared, claws poised. He creates a small red dot in the hallway and you attack it. Hardcore. Noises from deep in your throat. Pounce. He points it further down the hall and you sprint toward it, sometimes knocking into the wall through sheer momentum, your tiny skulls whacking plaster as you turn left at the top of the staircase. He points it down the steps. You sprint, skip steps, half slide and roll, ripping at the carpeting and wait at the bottom, your tiny hearts beating, practically visible through your fur. He flicks the light into the kitchen and you match each other, leap for leap, colliding on top of the dot. Then Chuck runs back into the bedroom and barricades the door with a piece of furniture to keep you from interrupting his REM by using his nutsack as a springboard for your vaults.

You've turned the leather parts of our couch into something that resembles a teething ring. Chuck, who does more cat behavior Googling than the most serious of feline scholars, says that is because we need to find a substitute for you to scratch. He's done the math and determined this needs to be at least a ceiling-high structure. I see how this goes, our wants and needs pushed to the outer edges of the house. Me, sitting on the kitchen counter holding a Kindle while you dangle from one hairy cat arm, all Peking Acrobat, squealing with glee. I've seen "Gremlins."

Chuck came home one day to find you, Hal, playing with the water in your dish. Face flopping and poking at the drink, making rivers on the kitchen floor. So, as a substitute, he carried you into the bathroom, poured you a fresh bath and set you in the tub. You proceeded to perform water ballet with a big old smile on your face.

Orin, you've gone freegan. Every day we find a new ingredient that you love, an ingredient you found in the garbage. The day we thought you were bleeding, but it was really beet juice clinging to your fur. Onions, onion skins, garlic, garlic skins. Avocados. Cucumbers. You even crave the things that the internet promises will poison you, like tomatoes. "Turns out Orin loves chocolate," I said to Chuck while baking cupcakes. And sure enough, you turned to him with an innocent look, the corners of your mouth fur matted with chocolate. That one gave you the most toxic of cat farts, so raw and ripe they seemed human and inspired by chorizo and egg skillets.

My favorite trick is when I wrap a blanket around me and walk across the room all regal like and you guys claw at the blanket, seemingly waterskiing behind me on the wood floors.

My worst-favorite trick is how you broke both a water glass and a coffee mug in the same day.

Hal, you are a true cat. The most classic of cat pets. The kind of cat that people think of when they think cat. You play hard, sleep hard and mangle anything that moves. You don't give a shit about the soothing touch of a human hand. You recognize when you are doing something wrong, like standing on the table drinking from a coffee mug, and freeze up and act guilty the whole time you are doing it. Orin, I don't know what the hell you are. So damn cute I find it impossible to not use my coo voice while you are probably plotting how to make a pipe bomb out of pieces from your Kitty City playground and chocolate farts.

Tolerating you with all my heart,
Christa

On pink ukuleles ...


Of all the hardcore: Our friends got married on the beach in Duluth on December 30. That takes 40 pound nuts and an appreciation of Mukluks as formalwear. A big bonfire. It means saying, "You think you know Duluth? I'll show you Duluth." It. Was. Awesome. The bride wore a fur shrug over her strapless dress. There must have been thick-soled boots under that subtle puff of skirt. A friend crocheted white gloves for her. Geo Grrl made an 8-minute walk on the beach from a B&B on the shore, across a mixture of sand and snow, on the arm of her uncle, a former professional wrestler. The ring bearer was on a leash in front of them, escorted by a cousin and the maid of honor. The officiant wore a stocking cap. So did the groom, until seconds before the ceremony. Chuck, the best man, had a boutonniere pinned to his wool coat and he regretted wearing dress shoes instead of boots.



When I slid my car into the parking lot, a wedding guest was lacing up knee-high boots over his snow pants. The boys had built a big fire and everyone gathered around it to watch the bride make her walk and listen to a folk duo sing along to an acoustic guitar. It wasn't too cold -- about 30 degrees -- the waves on Lake Superior about shin deep and everything was pretty grey, more of a fragile color than a dour colorless color.

The photographer split the crotch of his pants during his first plie of the day, back when he was shooting the pre-game. When he stood a certain way you could see a flash of red underwear, but only if you were looking for it.

If you got a little choked up over the perfectness, it would be hard to tell if those were tear-tears or the wetness that involuntarily leeches from ducts in the winter.

***

The reception was at Norway Hall, a recently re-decorated venue the local Norwegians buffed up with warm hues for a visit from Norway's royal family. We ate barbeque ribs and salmon on a bed of dressing and the bride and groom sat in thrones and drank from mason jar shaped goblets. According to wedding day lore, the bride's bouquet had been kept in the venue's refrigerator overnight and ended up smelling like the leftovers from a lutefisk feed.


The wine flowed like wine and the beer flowed like wine and a local rockabilly band took requests. I saw a teenaged kid do a legitimate moon walk. It was pretty impressive. Chuck gave a great speech, short, funny and sweet about the time about seven years ago when he asked The Great Archivist, his oldest friend, about his plans for the night. "I'm hanging out with my girlfriend who I love very much and am going to spend the rest of my life with," he'd answered. The Great Archivist didn't remember he had said that.

Mod Podge and Me


***

Did the wheels fall off at the reception, or was it later when we collected a small group of people and went to a douche-y college bar just because Chuck had about $70 in gift cards? We stood around a table; Chuck made it rain. Hot Rod would stop random bar patrons and say:

"Yeah, we'll take another round of drinks."
"What?"
"Another round," he'd say.
"We don't work here," they would tell him.
"Yeah, one more round."
Until it seemed like this was going to end in injury, this fantastic bar trick.

JCrew and Knifey

Then we stumbled down the block to a better bar. I hung back with my friend Knifey and we sang the hit single "Whiskey, Cigarettes and Country Music" from his 2010 album. I mis-sung the lyrics in a way that Knifey found preferable, or so he said. What if he officially changed them and then he mentioned me during an awards ceremony!

Also: from the annals of Knifey-advice: Don't buy a pink ukulele. A pink ukulele is a toy. Buy a real ukulele and paint it pink.  

***

I have no idea what happened at Pizza Luce. Every one in town was either wasted-wasted (on booze) or sugar-wasted on wedding cupcakes (Chuck). What a shitshow. I got to see my friend CHRISSIE! But first I hugged another woman with blonde hair in a fit of wine-blindness.

***

I felt fine on New Year's Eve day. A little cloudy. A little bloated and puffy. My tongue tasted like it had been soaking overnight in a mason jar filled with sweet white wine. We had plans to go tubing, maybe dinner, perhaps a movie. A straight-edge New Year's Eve. I hopped out of bed and immediately begin firing off text messages to the principals. Then, suddenly, hangover. Epic hangover.

Chuck and I spent New Year's Eve holed up on the couch watching "Portlandia," a shitty horror movie, "I Love you Phillip Morris." In and out of almost-sleep, pizza and Coke. A marathon of "House Hunters" that caused Chuck to proclaim "I hate white people."

He passed out during "Ghostbusters 2" while I summed up a years-worth of my favorite books for future publication on the Internet. He set his alarm for midnight and woke up just long enough to suck face and then drop back into where he left off with his coma.

***

Brunch with CHRISSIE! Then Chuck and I went to "J. Edgar."

***

CHRISSIE! and I planned to go see "New Year's Eve." I found her at RT Quinlan's with her mitt wrapped around a PBR tall boy.

"Oh, you came," she said. Stood up, moved toward the door. Set her PBR on top of the phone booth and walked out the door. "That will still be here when I get back."

"Are you going to tell QT (her husband) that you're leaving?" I asked her.
"Nah," she said. "He won't notice."


The movie was brutal. Every time a big name actor cropped up on the screen, CHRISSIE! groaned as though she was physically pained. 

"Zach Efron?" 
"Oh no, her?" (Katherine Heigl)
"Ugh." (Sarah Jessica Parker)
"WHAT?!" (Robert De Niro)
"What the hell is wrong with her face? Why does she look like that?" (Michelle Pfeiffer)
"Take it all off!" (Ashton Kutcher)
"Is that John Mellencamp or Jon Bon Jovi?" (Jon Bon Jovi)
"There are like five Academy Award winners in this movie. WHAT ARE THEY DOING? (Halle Berry)
"Oh I hate her" (Hillary Swank)

This went on and on and proved to be far better than the movie. When two characters get trapped in an elevator early in the show, she made a  noise like menstrual cramps and slunk lower in her seat. 

"Is that the girl from 'Little Miss Sunshine?'" 

After an hour of not-funny, cliche bullshit I googled "How Long is the Movie New Year's Eve" only to find that we were in for another solid hour of non-entertainment.

"I'd rather just stare at a blank screen than watch this," I told her. 
So we left.