Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The 'ween ...

Halloween is always the Halloween of junior high. We were those no-costume teens on your doorstep with pillow cases. Though I'd heard that adults hated this, I didn't think it applied to my friends or me. I now, as an adult, understand that Halloween is a cute parade you pay for with Snickers. And things in zits, teal mascara and pinstripe jeans, people who are certified to babysit these bumble bees and teddy bears, aren't part of that parade.

All of my friends houses were in Elton Hills, so we centralized there and eventually made our way to Dong's at the top of a hill. There would be Doritos in a bowl in the basement. We could pick through our loot, listen to music. Then, about 45 minutes before curfew, a message would come around the circle and a few of us would land on the basement steps while two or three couples played grab ass on various surfaces of the rec room.

The best part is the not-so-suave way they evicted us. It had to be something like: "Psst. Princess Linda. Brian wants to make out with you. Do you want to make out with him? Okay, cool. We'll just tell everyone else to go sit on the basement steps."

The next best part is that we just sat quietly and waited while they played, like, Mr. Big or Martika or whatever got them in the mood for some hot Halloween action. How did they know when they were done making out? When the song ended? When the kisser decided she'd rather have Doritos in her mouth than Brian's tongue? Did I feel bad that I wasn't singled out for some epic face sucking? Doubtful. I had a boy back in Country Club Manor.

By high school I hated Halloween. Boys could take a page from the sexy nurses, sexy witches and sexy nuns. So many crushes died at the sight of an ordinarily cute boy in a Frankenstein head or with a rubbery blood wound hanging off his neck.

I saw a man in a trench coat and mask today in the Holiday Center and decided: How lucky for sociopaths to have this special day where they can walk around looking like stranglers and perverts and people reward them with Smarties and the sociopath gets to think, "Okay, fine. I won't go all 'Game of Thrones' on you. I was undecided, but now I just won't. Happy Halloween."

Anyway, I always make a plan to really get into Halloween: Watch the movies, read a bunch of Clive Barker -- or maybe even "Dracula" -- buy a Ronald Regan mask and really go nuts. But I didn't do it again and now it has passed again. I didn't even pass out candy. I hid off site until I figured all the kiddies were at home, forcibly removed from their superhero outfits and asleep beneath a blanket of peanut butter cups. Then I carefully drove home, terrified that a 2-foot-tall Star Wars character would shoot out in front of my car.

My lone acknowledgement of Halloween: I made the joke "Oh my God. That costume is terrifying!" twice this week to people obviously not in costume which makes me your weird uncle who tells corny jokes.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The effect ...

Rest assured, this is just a reenactment of the time Chrissie took a digger and got  mad skids on her hands.
Listen. I'm not saying Millsy and Nels are bad influences. They're good people. They make art and keep pets. They host Fourth of July parties and chili cook offs. They're adorable and they play grab ass all day long, as far as I can tell.

"I want to be the bad influence," Chrissie says when I tell her my theory. That these two have "drink to excess" mojo shooting out of their hair. That I'm powerless against Nels's beard. That when I'm around them, I get drunk even when I just planned to be social. While, somehow, they remain on their best behavior.

There is seriously something chemical that happens when they come near me. The loosening of a gullet. An opening of the spirit. A desire to have fun, be fun, see fun. And the next thing I know it's 5 a.m. and I'm drinking chili beer and playing French pop songs on a record player. Even if my intentions were the best. To just veer off from this skyway and see what my friends are up to at RTQ. Even after Nels approaches the table with a tray of shots. I throw it back and then wisely call "Time Out."

"Know what," I say. "I'm going to move my car to the parking ramp." I check the bus schedule on the way back to the bar. Great. I'll catch the 12:19 a.m. mainline to West Duluth. Such convenience, 2012. Public transportation is such a nice option. I'll walk six blocks home in the fresh air, maybe ditch into Walgreen's for purple Gatorade and frozen pizza. I can still start building a running habit tomorrow. I'll write. I'll be a human being.

They seem so harmless, these two. Millsy knits! She likes to watch the sky! Nels works with wood! He sings songs by country artists on karaoke night. They're wholesome!

Around 11:30 p.m. I see that this isn't going to work. I don't want to leave the bar at 12:19 a.m. and walk six blocks. I want to orbit these pushers. I'm having fun. I had the wherewithal to ditch out on the next round of shots, so I've shown I can handle it. Right?

Later Nels will wear Orin like a hat. Millsy and I will tour the house. I'll sit on Chrissie's lap and QT will disappear. My lips burn from the chili beer; the roof of my mouth has been shredded by a lava of pizza cheese. Chrissie says she woke up wondering if we turned off the oven.

There are people who affect you. This is true. For instance: There is something about my former landlord that turns me into a raging bitch. Everything is fine at first. He starts to talk to me, I respond, he says something stupid and my blood starts bubbling. He says something else and we are at full on boil. I'm talking in a voice that reminds me of the voice my mom used on holiday mornings, after she had seen the gummy toothpaste luggies in the sink bowl and before my grandparent's shuffled in the front door. I think: In another life, this would be me. I'd see the world through the blood filter in my eyes. What if something happened and I had to always be near this person who makes me rage-y?

So the Millsy-Nels Effect is minor in comparison. They've never made me want to stab someone. But they've make me want to dance to death.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A few thoughts on 'St. Elmo's Fire,' Age 37 ...


1. Sometimes when we are watching movies, we like to pretend that, for instance, even though his name is Alec Newbury in this movie, Judd Nelson is really still John Bender. The bad ass from "The Breakfast Club" took a left turn in the right air duct and ended up graduating from Georgetown. He auctioned off his steel toed boots, fingerless gloves and Claire's diamond earring in exchange for Politics, leggy saleswomen and, oddly enough, that girl from detention who seemingly no longer eats cereal sandwiches and no longer packs a full purse in case she has "to jam." Except! The weirdo Allison Reynolds is now Leslie Hunter and she applies her own mascara.

It also works when Kevin (played by Andrew McCarthy) finally gets his big chance with his best friend's girl. ("God. It's not like she's a mannequin," Chuck said).

2. I'm too close to this movie to know if it is actually good. I suspect it is not.

3. In 2012, the soundtrack to "St. Elmo's Fire" is unlistenable. This happened sometime between the last time I stood in the bathroom of my childhood home singing "Young and Innocent" into a hairbrush and, well, today.

There is one exception: "Man in Motion" by John Parr. This song is a warmly-lit portrait of a runner pumping her way to the top of the stadium steps, each individual bead of sweat like Christmas lights on her body. And written in a very serious font on the photograph, this little inspirational nugget: I'll be where the eagle's flying higher and higher to the beat of a man in motion. 

Now the rest of the songs sound like the generic pop soundtrack that accompany shopping at JCP. The good news: The album is on Spotify so you can conduct your own science experiment.

4. I love the way Jules clinks when she walks. So many bracelets interfering with each other and maybe even getting mixed in with her huge earrings. I bet she smells like Salon Selectives, Primo and Virginia Slims. She epitomizes what I thought womanhood should look like. If two fingers of vodka tasted as good as she makes it look, I'd be so hammered right now.

5. When this movie was released it was considered a sort of Gen X version of "The Big Chill," minus my mom doing that one weird dance she does with her elbows when someone mentions "The Big Chill." But where "The Big Chill" is more on the sad-sack end of the spectrum, "St. Elmo's Fire" has grown up to become a comedy. Right? Isn't this a comedy? When Kirby, once a total stud wrestler who did something unthinkable involving tape and a nutsack, follows his college crush to a weekend getaway he does this Jack Tripper-esque man-meets-ice move that is pure gold.

Better than that: When Billy and the Breeders play a gig at St. Elmo's Bar. Our resident sax player is going apeshit on the alto in a yellow sleeveless tank top decorated in bats. Man is he sweating. Then he jumps back on stage, claps his hands over his head and calls "Let's Rock!" That took a two handed belly clutch to manage. I believe that he believes he is rocking. But I also believe he is just performing the choreography for "Get in Shape Girl."


6. I'm pretty sure that "Love Song from St. Elmo's Fire" was the theme for one of my high school dances, which is ... huh. I can't imagine how we decorated the gym to accompany that decision. But I'm hoping it was a play on Jules' Hubba Bubba pink apartment with the mural of -- please tell me that's Billy Idol -- on her wall.

7. Kevin is going to be so embarrassed when he gets into his 30s and looks back at all his insufferable "I'm a writer (insert random quote from a philosopher here)" chain-smoking, stalker smile 20s.

8. The climax of this movie has a lot of holes in it. Refresher: Jules is jobless, broke, crazy-eyed and dealing with the repercussions of her terminally ill step monster. So she locks herself in her apartment on a cold day and leaves the window open. She means business. She's going to shiver to death. She refuses to respond to knocks and the old blowtorch-to-the-window trick. Eventually Billy gets inside and gives her the weirdest, least sensical pep talk in the history of uplifting moments. "Blah blah, I'm a fuck up, too, Jules" and then he lights her Aqua Net on fire. It's supposed to be a metaphor, but ... Still, this saves her. I guess.

7. I like considering where these characters are today, now that they are in their mid-50s:

Leslie Hunter (Ally Sheedy) is the national-renowned designer of IKEA floor displays. Corporate level. None of this branch bullshit.
Jules (Demi Moore) will turn her shit around with one final gust of financial assistance from her father. She will rock power suits with shoulder pads and take an evil pleasure in dismissing young colleagues who act just like her. She will take to Whip-Its to unwind.
Billy (Rob Lowe) will become a prolific session musician and an obscure piece of music trivia among serious jazz heads. No fame will come from this and his primary toilet will still be a chamber pot.
Wendy (Mare Winningham) will tirelessly move up the social services ladder until the only way left to honor her is to name a building for her. By never changing her look, she has become the gold standard for bold hipster fashions.
Kirby (Emilio Estevez) will accidentally choke someone to death while giving them the Heimlich manuever at TGI Friday's in Times Square.
Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) will be part of a very public sex scandal involving an inanimate object that isn't even necessarily shaped like a human.
Alec (Judd Nelson) will say something stupid about vaginas on national television during election season.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cairns ...

I'm pretty sure I'm getting a visual on The Neighborhood Shitter. It's 1 a.m. and I'm on the front porch and this Marmeduke-looking thing is leading his handlers down the sidewalk. One handler is waxing earnestly about her new job, she's all: "I really think I'm going to like it, ya know?" and her partner is offering supportive non-words.

Marmeduke veers off the sidewalk and into the neighbor's yard and gets into position. His haunches shake. I start preparing what I'll say:

"You have to clean that up, you know."
"I got your dog's poop on my finger this summer."
"How would you like it if I crapped in your yard?"

A dog has been shitting in our yards all summer. I suppose it's a local canine, but I've imagined that he is an import from another neighborhood. I'm not a trained investigator, but I know we're looking for a big dog with a diet of semi-raw burritos slathered in chorizo cheese sauce. I have it in my head that his walker loads him into the back of a nondescript van, drives halfway across town in the dark of the night and then lets him out on our block. Owner stays behind the wheel, smoking a heater and listening to Styx while Fido unleashes his bowels, building cairns of crap. Fido leaps back into the van, lets out a deep yelp and the van chugs down the street.

According to the 5-year-old next door, the Grill Master on the end of the block is going to kill the dog if he ever catches him.

"Oh, okay," I say to the 5-year-old.

We've gotten hit a few times. The worst was a mound close to our kitchen window. I was mowing the lawn and purposefully circling it. I couldn't avoid it forever, so I stopped the mower and grabbed a plastic bag from the newspaper. I closed my hand around the pile and tugged. It hadn't quite set yet, though, and getting it off the grass was like cleaning peanut butter out of hair. When some of it smeared on my thumb, I ran into the house screaming like it was a burn.

"I really wish this dog would stop shitting in our yard," the 5-year-old's mom said to a few days ago and I nodded, then pictured the Grill Master holding the large, burrito-eating dog by the neck.

Everyone started leaving their porch lights on at night, as though an illuminated yard would make the excrement climb backward in the dog's intestines. Chuck noticed one night that a dog walker was eschewing the sidewalk in favor of walking down the middle of our front yards. When he came out of the shadows, the walker returned to the sidewalk. Could've been The Neighborhood Shitter.

So here I am, watching this crime unfold, moving my mouth to warm it up for the accusation. Then the dog notices me and yelps. He tries to sprint at me and trips over his leash. He goes vocally crazy.

"Gretzky!" his owner growls.
Gretzky? I think. Ugh. I know exactly what this guy's basement looks like.
"Gretzky!" his owner growls again.
The woman with a new job backs away from the man and the dog and disappears at the end of the block. She's either embarrassed about the ruckus, embarrassed about the shitting, or embarrassed about the earnestness with which she described her new job not knowing she had an audience.

"Gretzky, sit still so I can clean this up," the man says.
He pulls a plastic bag out of his pocket, a sort of magician's tug.
He leans down and collects the sample.

So maybe this isn't The Neighborhood Shitter, but I still kind of think it is. If I had a dog, I'm pretty sure I'd only clean up the crap if I knew someone was watching.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Owl panic ...


On the 10th day of vacation I spring from bed like it has an eject button, the pain of not having access to a communal robe dulled by the fact that I had not gone to bed in a haze of spicy margaritas and VFW popcorn.

I sort through our luggage, making piles of clean clothes and piles of dirty clothes. Usually a suitcase will sit in the middle of our living room floor for weeks and it makes every day as jarring as waking on January 1st with a noisemaker clenched in your teeth and glitter spilling from body crevices. It's the worst.

I had a long list of books to finish and reviews I wanted to write because when I fall behind on reading and writing I feel this panic that is unhealthy, considering these are hobbies. It shouldn't cause me physical discomfort that I have only read three books in October, but I wouldn't say no to an IV filled with words. I call this Owl Panic, named for the time in kindergarten when we made owls out of lunch sacks and I grew frustrated with the slow pace of my peers and tried to work ahead and fucked up my owl and Mrs. Miller made me sit quietly while the rest of the class got to a certain point so she could help me start over again. I watched owls bloom around me while I sat with a busted out sack and my heart raced and I thought "I'LL NEVER CATCH UP!" Owl Panic.

Chuck gets the new iPhone in the mail while I'm finishing "Malarky" by Anakana Schofield. I'm so envious, my teeth itch. Then he gives me his old case so my phone looks new, or at least different. My senses. They're like toddlers.

I decide to maybe join Pinterest. Make a Vegan recipe board. Collect shoe pictures. I sign up, poke around and almost lose my mind. This must be the most inane hobby in the world. I'm sure it's Disneyland for people who like to look at and make pretty things. But I make words and aside from the sort of philosophies that fit perfectly on to the side of a mug, I'm not seeing a lot of words here. I decide to sit out this round of Internet Life in 2012.

Chuck runs errands and texts me from the store: He's forgotten his wallet. I think if this was "Little House in the Big Woods," he would just have someone pencil his purchases into the ledger and we could roll around in a pile of chickpeas cackling at our coup and then pay our bill later when the general store's muscle shows up on horseback and flexes his lice-y beard at us. Instead Chuck has to come home, get his wallet and go back.

I fold clothes and watch "Jersey Shore." I have a lot of stuff to say about "Jersey Shore" in its final season, but I'm not ready to blow my anthropologist wad quite yet. I need to know more about Vinnie.

Dinner is chickpea salad. We struggle to find moving pictures to watch. Turns out I can't handle "Alice in Wonderland" and I don't remember a ton from "Shutter Island," but I have a clear vision of a woman hiding in a cave that seems like a spoiler. We settle on "Oceans 11." For some reason I really like this movie. Chuck hypothesizes that maybe I'm into heist movies. "I bet you're into heist movies," he says. "Siri? Is Christa into heist movies?"

We eat popcorn. We read in bed. It's the end of summer vacation.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Spine fusion ...

So then we went to Minneapolis for a few days. We had to. You've seen "The Shining." Staying home for vacation is good in theory, until your spine starts to fuse to the couch and you run out of professionals who are willing to bring food to your home in exchange for legal tender.

We stayed at a nicer place than we would usually stay and our first five minutes in the room was akin to  monkeys experimenting with iPads. We wandered around the room pushing buttons and moving curtains and making throaty yelps. Scrutinizing the drunken munch-fest dream that was the minibar. This place anticipated every possible crave -- from a mini-sleeve of Pringles to an "intimacy kit."


THURSDAY
Dinner at The Bachelor Farmer, drinks at the hotel bar and then The Local. We get caught up in, first, the hotel robes, then in the ability to order room service at any hour and call in for chicken strips, sliders and tator tots at 3 a.m. I cackle into the sleeve of the robe while Chuck signs for the meal.


FRIDAY
Lunch at Muddy Waters, record store, clothes store where I buy pants that make me look like your handsy Scottish uncle. Meet with Fannie for happy hour at Masa and suck down a bunch of spicy margaritas. Meet up with Chrissie, QT, Millsy and Nels at Bryant Lake Bowl for dinner. VFW for karaoke, not a nurturing environment. After bar in our room.


SATURDAY
Brunch at Triple Rock where something like Slayer is assaulting my hangover and the bloody mary I'm trying to fight it with is only making things worse. We leave just before the start of the Zombie Pub Crawl. Stop at a super great comic book store, but Chuck looks a little green so we return to our hotel to watch "The Pelican Brief." Later we rally for my friend Dong's birthday party at The Nook. Awesome cheese-stuffed burger and a pumpkin beer. Back at the hotel I read Julia Wertz's new collection of comics.

SUNDAY
We go back to Muddy Waters because they have poutine and I'm not leaving the city until I've had poutine. Plus, we're both loving this place. Ikea to get things to put the finishing touches on the Atomic Lounge: A new rug, some pillows.

ONE STORY
There is a nightclub at street level of the hotel and it is particularly bad idea-ish. Lots of dudes, lots of skin, a velvet rope though I can't believe they actually use it. There are all these secret service-style watchers at the perimeter and inside so much air humping that the air must feel violated. I'm standing outside engaging in the mixed media art of Watching the Shit Show and playing Dice with Buddies when a kid who looks like Napolean Dynamite taking fashion cues from James Spader in "Less Than Zero" walks up and begins talking in the middle of a sentence.

I think he's telling me that his friends are ignoring him.
I think he's saying he hates all the bullshit.
I think he's saying he just wants to keep it real.
I think he's saying he hates this scene.

"I just want to go home, ya know?" he says. "Smoke a bunch of bud and just get so high."
"Huh," has become my standard response every time he pauses and seems to be searching for a response.
"So what do you think? You smoke bud? Want to go to my house and smoke bud and hate human beings?"
"No," I say.

He moves on to two girls who are willing to talk to him, until he gets into a screaming match with a woman who is leaving the club.

"What are you, like 29?" he asks and it sounds like he means this as a dis.

By the time I go inside, weaving through this strange crowd of awful people, he's on to his third woman. She, too, seems skeptical.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Barefoot leaps and rugby scrums ...


On the fifth day of vacation I get a root canal. First thing in the morning. All my neighbors with government jobs are catching carpools at the curb and the 5-year-old next door needs a sheep dog to herd him to the car, so distracted is he by wearing a puffy coat and this thin gloss of snow-ish substance on the ground.

Considering how much I like to learn about things that happen inside the body, I'm woefully unprepared for this. When it starts I make panic eyes and say in a distorted numb way: "Ah Ahr Oo Oong? (Translation: "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!") First my mouth is open, then it's draped in a latex tarp, then there is some sawing or drilling and it sounds like the dentist is playing Space Invaders on Tooth 31.

"Does the sound bother you?" he asks.
And I'm like, "No, dude. Everything is Atari right now."

If I had to guess the procedure, I'd say this is how you perform a root canal: Numb the patient's jawline with a gigantic needle. Isolate the tooth so that it is just a tiny fleck poking out of a green latex tarp. Play Space Invaders in patient's mouth. Poke holes into the suspect tooth while patient considers: "Wait a minute. Isn't this technically a felony?" Stick different sized pins into the tooth and work it like a drain snake until the patient wonders if she's been in this chair for four hours, four days or a half hour. Fill the mini holes with a nice-smelling substance that seems to be a technically advanced version of the metal caps that made our parents' mouths look like a recycling bin.

My dentist says his ideal vacation would be a root canal in Barbados.
"It's root canal time somewhere," he says, playing on the "It's 5 o'clock somewhere" theme. Then he tells me to sit still, which is almost impossible because my stomach is laughing and my eyes are beading with humor tears.


At some point I have to use the bathroom, which requires me to wander past the lobby with a complicated network of things dangling from my face. My mouth is full of humid precipitation. I'm seconds from raining drool.

It ends not much later and I've paid the equivalent of a plane ticket to have my tooth sawed away at for 90 minutes, and for -- I must remind myself -- eliminating the massive headaches and face pain I'd mistaken for the looming threat of a stroke.

Chuck has weighed down the kitchen with some of my favorite things: Goldfish crackers with that extra blast of cheddar powder, Chocolate soy milk, eggs and English muffins. He goes to play in the woods with The Great Archivist and I do some writing, read some "Malarky," respond to an email from one of my favorite old friends Nora Gabora, ditch "Malarky" for awhile on her recommendation to read "How to Be a Woman."

This all ends with me in The Atomic Lounge with a pile of goldfish crackers on my stomach, listening to The Magnetic Fields and reading Gabrielle Bell's collection of comics "Lucky."

We make a last-minute decision to go to a dance performance in an old factory-space turned entertainment center. In it, the dancers simulate the final 70 minutes on a sinking ore ship on Lake Superior. Moves range from barefoot leaps to rugby scrums and it has a live score. It's out of this world.  We buy the CD.

Back at home, we finish making the dinner we abandoned mid-simmer and watch "Salt."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Outer space ...

I'm just about to go pick up lunch from this place down the street formerly known as the Italian Village -- two Spicy Hot sandwiches -- when I see that Chuck is watching some sort of breaking news on TV. It's our fourth day of vacation.

"What is this?" I ask. 
Sometimes I completely miss stuff. That whole thing with Mars earlier this year. I had no idea until it was happening and even though it was happening in real time, my lack of advance knowledge made it seem like I was already too far behind to step in and enjoy it. I suppose this is because I'm so infrequently on Twitter. 
"This guy is going to sky dive from outer space," Chuck tells me. 
"No," I say. I don't know a ton about outer space, I never like made a solar system mobile out of hot glue, pipe cleaners and glowing styrofoam balls. But I know that skydiving from outer space seems dangerous and I imagine a body in a fiery free fall that is faster than a futuristic bullet train. 
"Is he a thrill seeker or an astronaut?" I ask. Not that they are necessarily mutually exclusive. 
"He's a skydiver," Chuck tells me. 

I can't leave here now. There's a big metallic air balloon and Hollywood blockbuster-esque footage from a mission control center. It feels like science fiction that this sort of thing could just happen on a Tuesday and I wouldn't know about it. Like maybe on another channel someone is modifying genes to make all belches smell like freesia and a few clicks from that a celebrity pastry chef is making the world's biggest birthday cake -- a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge made from an unappetizing shade of blue-grey fondant. The world is just going so fast. I used to stare at the laser on my CD player and marvel at how it turned invisible information into "Bigmouth Strikes Again." 

"I can't leave now," I say, purse slung over my body and shoes snug on my feet. 
"He hasn't even left the ground yet," Chuck says. "You have time. If anything happens while you're gone I'll record it."  
How long does it take a skydiver to get from the ground to outer space. And where is outer space anyway? Is there just an invisible line in the sky: Now you're in inner space, now you're in outer space. Like that time I stood on what I assumed was the division between Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. 

I leave the house, but reluctantly. 

Here's a confession: At least every few weeks one of my Facebook friends rants about people who wear pajama pants in public, which is especially popular here, and they make such a convincing argument that I'm all fist-in-the-air-YEAH!-down-with-pajama-pants-in-public. Except it's not really my cause. I don't really care. And, in fact, faced with changing into jeans, going to this deli, coming home and putting my pajama pants back on, I decide to eliminate the middle man. I mean, come on. Aside from the 20-30 Facebook friends who regularly mention this breach of social conduct, who really cares if I wear my pajama pants to this deli? 

This place smells terrific. It smells like an Italian diner and it's warm and there is Italian music and there is all this stuff to look at while they make our sandwiches. Flavors of San Pellegrino, hard candies in the flavor of various liqueurs, biscotti, sausages and cheeses and olives. I know the owner. Both of our Pioneer Bar-regular phases intersected. In fact, I know he met his wife when she was working there. Now they have school-aged twins. This makes it seem like I've known them for a lifetime. 

I go home with two sandwiches and some San Pellegrino and when I walk in Chuck's not even watching the science experiment anymore. In fact, he doesn't mention it. 

"What happened?" I ask. 
"..." 
"With the skydiver?" 
"Oh, they postponed it because of the wind," he says. "Did you know he was going to break the sound barrier?" 
"My god." 

Now, with no science to watch and all this Italian sandwich to eat, we get hijacked by "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure," one time the preferred movie of, well, apparently both of us. It's so strange how deeply embedded some of these lines are. Like, in a pinch, I could totally be the understudy for Bill S. Preston, Esquire or Ted Theodore Logan. We both could. 

This movie has aged like fine wine. And, according to the internet, a third movie is scheduled for release next year.

We chase "Bill & Ted" with 12 hours of "Northern Exposure." Pizza is ordered. I finish a novel that I hate so much that finishing it feels like loosening a belt after Thanksgiving dinner. I start another one.

This goes on all day and more than once I tell Chuck that this is the best day of vacation yet. I never do change out of my pajama pants.

  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hollywood nights ...

If anyone asks, we decide, we'll say we spent our vacation in the Atomic Lounge. "No, it's not a bed and breakfast," Chuck explains. "It's just this room right next to our bedroom." On our fourth day of vacation, we spend the whole day here. I'm working on a form of novel writing called "word barfing" and on this day I barf a scene about a post-gender high-ranking official and a plucky go-getter named after menstruation.

We take a break to go to the library and a woman asks me for a dollar so she can go get some coffee and warm up at Jitters. Except that when I pull out a dollar I accidentally pull out a $10 and her eyes get wide and I stuff it back in my pocket and then pull out a $5 and she mentions that if she had that she could get a sandwich. Then I find a single dollar bill and hand it to her. It's what we'd agreed on, I say. I come home with a book of short stories by Mary Gaitskill and a new novel I'd sampled on my Kindle.

Lunch is at the Duluth Grill, which is curiously swamped on a Monday. I mean, it's a big place already but still the tables are filled and there is a line growing at the door. Who are these people? Where do they all come from? When I order the Corned Beef Hash and Eggs I'm imagining the stuff from a can that, in its raw form, resembles high-grade dog food. My dad used to love the junk, probably still does but won't let himself eat it. I remember stopping at Barlow's for brunch food after 10 a.m. mass on Sundays, my mom leaning toward those orange rolls that puff in the pan and shine with orange-flavored frosting. My dad's vote for this corned beef hash with eggs. The stuff at the Duluth Grill is made in house, though. Like, someone actually sliced pieces of corned beef and added it to a homemade hash. It's great, of course, just fancier than what I was craving. It's like wanting a Totinos pizza and having someone make a Margarita Pizza with a hand tossed crust and fresh basil and homemade mozzarella. Fine, big sigh, I'll eat your fancy food.

We prop Chuck's laptop on our brand new footrest, wrap up in blankets and nibble on the cinnamon roll I didn't finish at lunch while we catch up on back episodes of "Revolution." I'm not necessarily sold on this show, but everyone has nice hair so I'm going along with it for now.



And then it's time for happy hour, because that's what we do now: Have happy hour. We abort the planned destination and opt for a place with better parking options -- The Pickwick. This formerly rustic spot with seemingly a lot of history in its wood work has gotten a makeover. Now there is a flat screen TV in every booth and a bar that is so shiny I can see my own adult onset acne in its surface. Still, the whitefish appetizer is delicious and we end up getting a second drink.



"What do you do with Rum Chada?" I ask the bartender.
It turns out it's for pumpkin martinis.
"Can't you just serve it on ice?" I ask. I'm thinking of the time my parents were in town with friends and they all ordered a lowball of it cooing over its unique taste.
He makes a face.
"I suppose," he says. "I just don't really like it."
"Doesn't it taste like cereal?" I ask. I seem to remember it tasting like the leftover milk at the bottom of the bowl.
"Maybe Cinnamon Toast Crunch," he says.
"Sold."

Rum chada. It's my new favorite thing. So good that I can't stop chewing the ice at the bottom of the glass.



"We need some of this for the Atomic Lounge," I tell Chuck.
He fan-fictions a scene in which first this is a great idea. A single drink to get a person's creativity loosened. Until the night she downs four, five drinks and then is unable to ever drink Rum Chada again.
"Perfect," I say.

By now we've gotten the sense that Happy Hour is turning plural, so we stash the car and decide we'll take the bus home.



We have a drink at the Rathskeller.
We stop at Pizza Luce, wait almost 10 minutes for a bartender, and leave unserved.
We hit Dubh Linn, which is right next to our bus stop.

"As Bob Seger once said, 'Sometimes Hollywood days turn into Hollywood nights,'" Chuck says. "I don't know if that was Bob Seger. ... As some wise man once said ..."

(Later he'll Google this and learn that Bob Seger did sing "Hollywood Nights," but as for that line he was trying to quote: "Apparently I'm the one who said it," Chuck says).

We stop at RT Quinlan's and the bartender lets us have a few slices of his pizza.
We catch the 9:40 bus west and share a ride with people discussing domestic assault.

"Been there, done that," a woman keeps saying. She's adorable. A smooth young face and a pink zip up fleece. She's with a tall man dressed in camouflage and they both just seem so nice. People who found each other the second time around and did a great job of it.

"I liked them," I say to Chuck when they get off the bus, inviting another passenger along for some of the woman's meatloaf.

We get off the bus outside of Players, drink a beer, enjoy some frozen pizza. It's rich in Monday night football fans and my phone dies mid-text to my cousin Bergen West. We've run into a local musician who is sitting alone and reading. One time she was visiting and found this man a curious specimen. "I saw him smoking in the rain," she said that night. "It was like a poem." Or something like that. Mostly it's driving me nuts that I can't see what he's reading.

"It's from the library," Chuck says. "It looks like short stories."
But that's not enough.

We walk home. It's still relatively early, but late for happy hour. We watch a Vince Vaughn movie that's on TV and I can tell by the shape of Vince Vaughn's face that it came out in ...
"1998," I guess.
It's 1997, which is close enough.

Chuck gives up on the day and goes to bed. I stick around to see how this all plays out. Will Vince go to the foreign prison to save his childhood friend from hanging? Will he bang Anne Heche? Yes, but it doesn't save him and double yes on Heche.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A poorly made mask of Rose McGowan's face ...


On the second day of vacation, Chuck cleans the downstairs bathroom. He scrubs the floor and sink and through the partially open door I see him wiping down the full-length mirror. This bathroom is huge. It was the kitchen when Loreno Music's future wife Henrietta was growing up here. Now it's a small kitchen-sized bathroom with a huge purple claw foot tub in the corner, a setup that reminds me of a transient cowboy splashing in a metal tub while a shy teenaged farm girl adds bursts of hot water from a porcelain pitcher.

So I feel like kind of a dick sitting here watching "Grey's Anatomy" while he works. I start folding clothes to give me an excuse to sit here on the couch and when the show is over I begin a major overhaul of our bedroom closet. I get real with myself and my inability to let go of clothes I haven't worn in three years. I compromise and invent "The Holding Cell," a safe place for old clothes to hang out for a few months. If they're not missed, I will take them to Goodwill in the spring. If they are missed, well then it will be 2009 again all up on my body. I think this is how human beings do it.

***


Our rhythms are off. Chuck, who wakes at an hour reserved for people with roosters, is antsy and bucking like a Triple Crown contender waiting for the gun. Meanwhile, I'm cold and lazy and wondering if there is are enough blankets in this house to mummify myself into optimal reading conditions. He's mistaken the fact that I'm wearing eyeliner as a cue that I want to go somewhere. Really I'm wearing eyeliner because I got new eyeliner and wanted to see what it looked like on my eyes. We compromise with a trip to Pier One to buy a colorful footrest for The Atomic Lounge.

***


We stop in at Burrito Union for nachos, wings and a beer.

***

We take a nap. This is what we do now: Take naps.

***

I work on my novel for almost two hours and when I'm done I whip around in my office chair and explain to Chuck what I've just written: "Then confetti falls from the ceiling and Rosie is doing the robot dance and ..." It sounds way better than it is, which makes me feel both great and like a fraud.

***

We scavenge the cupboards for dinner food. I eat tuna on English Muffins. Chuck eats refried beans on corn tortillas.

***

We watch a horror movie starring Rose McGowan. Her face is distracting. It no longer looks like the face of Rose McGowan, it looks like a poorly made mask of Rose McGowan's face. And her boobs are positioned barely south of her collar bone and the whole effect is creepy. "Rosewood Lane" is about a psychologist who moves into her dead dad's home and is tormented by the paperboy. She's got an ugly boyfriend she is never not fighting with and his name is "Barrett," so I squeeze Chuck's leg every time she says it. Instead of investigating this kid and finding out why he thinks it's okay to wander around her house freaking the crap out of her, the investigators actually just get mad at her. They scream at her, long bursts of yelling and flailing. It makes no sense.

"This is the worst movie I've ever seen," Chuck says.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The art of defenestration ...


On our first full day of vacation I wake to the foreign smell of ... clean? As far as I can tell, Chuck woke at 6 a.m. and got down on his hand and knees and performed detail work on the countertops and kitchen floor. This is unsettling. I need coffee, but I don't want to spoil his work by bringing this nasty nest of grease hair into the room. I'm used to a kitchen with garlic skins littering the floor, a thin turf of broccoli  and a pile of empty salsa jars and empty caper jars sitting on the counter in preparation for some kind of 2012 supply hoarding that we never quite get around to.

***

Fun fact: As of this vacation, Chuck's schedule has changed. He no longer works in the middle of the night and won't again in the immediate future. This means that now I have a place to set my cold feet in bed and if I think the dishwasher sounds like it is muttering Satanic incantations, I can pass him the baseball bat and flashlight. It also means that I no longer get to slowly rotate my body in the bed like the hands of a clock.

***

Then he makes us breakfast. Hard-boiled eggs, done to his signature perfection, English muffins, soy bacon for me. He makes the rookie error of using cooking spray, rather than olive oil, in the pan.

"It's okay," I tell him. "You'll use oil and get it right tomorrow."

***

We've been in the process of turning one of the upstairs bedrooms into a super-cool hideaway from the cats. It's in the only room with a door that shuts and latches. The walls are bright green. We have a lava lamp, but it was shaken in transit so it's muddy and no fun. We bought our friend SeaDawg's futon, I got a geometric lamp with an orange shade. This is where the records are. It's really getting great in there. We call it The Atomic Lounge.

We buy a cover for the futon at a store that doubles as a yoga and meditation center. The kind of place that sells skirts made out of recycled newspapers and grocery bags.

***

Daytime movies are the best. They're such a luxury. We're behind two people buying senior matinee tickets to "Robot & Frank," but we go to "Sleepwalk with Me," which is unbelievably entertaining. A guy who refuses to commit to anything finally goes balls deep into his comedy career. Meanwhile, his girlfriend of eight years like really wants to get married. It's very funny.

Chuck gets a beer, because he's never had the opportunity to drink one in a movie theater for various reasons. I start to get a beer, but I'm distracted by a sleek and sexy bottle of a Hibiscus, Lime and Clove-flavored drink.



If this was Blah Blah Beverage Week, I'd be going apeshit about this right now. Instead I'll just tell you that I stopped at Whole Foods on the way home and picked up a 4-pack the second the movie ended.

***

I take a nap in The Atomic Lounge with my Kindle open to A.M. Homes' "May We Be Forgiven" on my stomach. This book. I've really gone through the gamut of feelings toward it. I'm now onto "cautiously interested."

***

Dinner is roasted beets in a wasabi vinaigrette and quinoa mixed with carrots, greens and garlic, which I burn a little. This is called "Starving for Dinner." Later, while watching "Parking Wars" we'll supplement with lime chips and cheese dip.

***

We watch a scary movie called "The Ward." It ends up being not exactly terrible and for the second time today a character goes flying through the glass of a window. I just learned recently that the act of throwing someone or thing through a window is called defenestration. Now that I've learned that, I keep seeing it.

***

"Parking Wars," on A&E, follows parking cops as they ticket illegally parked cars. As a person who is constantly aware of parking cops, this show is a little unsettling.



Saturday, October 6, 2012

Meatloaffffffff ...

In our first act as People on Vacation we went to dinner at a place with a huge novelty draw. The restaurant has a view of the city and does a 360 degree rotation showing off the hillside, the lake area, the highway over the course of 70-something minutes. It also does this thing where it serves squash cubes and gorgonzola in a way that seems both like a) eating candy and b) eating something very rich and delicious. Sometimes we just go there for dessert and to listen to a four-piece string band because it makes for a great hideout in the sky.

Every time we've eaten dinner here -- twice before -- we've had the same server who seems to be a holdover from the Supper Club era. The experience always starts with a few minor gaffes that expand, roll and build up into something like a French farce. It's not annoying. It sprints into this zone where you just can't wait to see what happens next. Will she forget to place the order? Will she disappear for an hour and a half? Will she charge the wrong meal to our credit card? The suspense!

"Can I start you off with anything to drink?"

We both look up from our menus and into her face. We simultaneously shoot each other a look for half a blink, like, "game on." We both look back at her and say we're sticking with water.

"That's her, right?" I ask.
"Yeah," Chuck says.

I pull out my phone. I'm going to time her for the sake of curiosity.

Meanwhile about six tables away, a waiter is arranging a light behind a table and the hostess is taking a photograph of the diners. The guy leaves the booth, goes down on a knee and the woman leans forward and hugs him.

"I just saw people get engaged," I tell Chuck.

But I wonder if it is even possible that the woman was surprised, what with the light adjustment and the photographer ...?

It feels like I should applaud or show support in some way, but to do so will reveal my gawking.

I saw a couple get engaged at Red Lobster once. It struck me as perhaps the tackiest thing I had ever seen. They each had a yard-long beverage in front of them and a basket of cheddar biscuits. And this was all happening like a millimeter from my elbow. I was catching back splash from the lobster butter.

The woman at the table next to this couple gets up to congratulate them. Look at the ring. I think marriage is a strange fraternity and not everyone makes it look like a luxurious vacation at Sandals Cancun. But, whatever.

I order salmon, Chuck gets the stuffed meatloaf and it all arrives promptly and without a layer of burn so maybe this night is going to be farce free, which is a little disappointing.

"Wait a minute," I say. "He's proposing again?"

The guy's back down on his knee. This time a server is taking the photo.

"Did that work?" he asks. "Because we can reenact it again."

And I wonder if I was duped the first time I saw this. Was that a reenactment, too? What's it going to be like to flip through that Facebook album in 50 years.

"This is the day we got engaged. I'm not actually proposing here. I'm reenacting proposing," he says to his grandkids as they scroll through their wirelessly interconnected brain internet.

My food is good. Chuck's is good, too. It's on top of a very finely ground potato mash. It looks like a pureed soup or grits.

The waitress  returns to take away our plates. She knocks something off the table and it hits my bench and lands on the floor.

"Oh!" she says. "I'm so sorry!"
"What was it?" I ask.
"Oh," she says. "Well, if you don't know then I'll just wait to get it later."
I sense it was the small metal container of whipped butter.

Chuck pays and we leave.
"So that wasn't terrible at all," I say as we walk to the elevator.
"Well, except the part where she almost ruined your dress with butter, and another thing," he says.
"What?" I ask.

When she dropped off Chuck's food she leaned inches from him said: "Here's your meatloaf" blowing a long breathy wind through the F.

I cackle.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tooth 31 ...


I feel like I should comfort my dentist. He's got an X-ray on his computer screen and he looks crestfallen, defeated. Maybe even upset. Like he's got the sort of news no dentist wants to share.

"I don't know how this could happen," he says.
His assistant agrees.
I sit up and look at the screen.
"What is it?" I say.
He doesn't respond.
"Abscess," the woman says, still addressing the X-ray.
"It's a perfectly healthy tooth," he says. He's lost God.
He points to the shadow around the roots of Tooth 31.
I'm already Googling, with less than 10 percent of the juice left in my phone.
"You can't read that small print, can you?" he asks, finally looking at me.
"I can," I say. "But I can't read the sign on your wall."

I'm going to need to be on antibiotics, he tells me. A different kind than the ones I was prescribed when  I thought my face hurt because I'd joined the Society of People with Sinus Infection (SPSI). He tells me he needs the area around the tooth to settle down before he goes in.

"Wha wha wait a minute," I say. "Are you talking about a root canal here?"
He's been vague, describing the procedure rather than calling it by name.
"Oh. Would you prefer I call it that?" he says.
"I can take it," I say.

This day started at my doctor's office, where I'd gone to complain that the sinus infection I've been trying to kill since a week ago Monday is still waking me up in the middle of the night. My doctor, a good-humored sort but not nearly the comic genius that my dentist is, listened to my woes:

Face hurts all through here. Teeth are killing me. Occasional ear vibrations. I think this gland is swollen. 

He takes my blood pressure (perfect) and my temperature (normal), looks in my ears and up my nose. He sticks a tongue depressor in my mouth and studies my throat.

"This might be your teeth," he says. "When was your last trip to the dentist?"
"Four months ago," I say.
"What happened to the tooth that's missing?" he asked, referencing the space that once held Tooth 30.
"It's in a little tooth holder in my bathroom cupboard," I say.
He tilts his head.
"It was damaged beyond repair," I say, suspecting this is what he really means. "Blah blah Sour Dough Pretzels. Honey mustard, I think."

Again with the tongue depressor. He asks me to bite down, while pushing on different teeth.
"Does that hurt?"
"No."
"Does that hurt?"
"Yes."
"This is a tooth thing," he says. "You're going to want to call your dentist. You might have another tooth to add to the collection in your cupboard."

I thank him and grab my bag. On the way out I bemoan the shitty fate of my teeth.
"Why do I have the worst teeth in the world?" I ask him.
"It's your mom's fault," he says.

He explains that when we are born, it's our mother's saliva that dictates the bacterial makeup of our own mouth. She's the one pre-tasting the food or wetting a pacifier.

My dentist sneaks me in late in the day and since I can't pinpoint my own trouble zone, has to poke around my mouth pushing on things until I finally yelp. Which leads to the X-Ray, which leads to his hung head.

"I've had a root canal," I tell him. "I can take it."
Still, he seems so disappointed.

The last time I had a root canal was in the early 2000s. My mom drove up from Rochester to assist me, probably assuming I'd be all eyeballs dilated, hopped up on the root canal juice, unable to feed my own quarters into the payment slot on the bus. So she took me to my appointment and picked me up afterward. I was fine. We went to the mall and for dinner at the New Scenic. She found the menu hilarious in its lack of recognizable entrees and assumed everyone else in the restaurant felt the same way. I had a Tempeh Reuben. She ate the first thing she saw that looked like it might have noodles. Later that night I put her to bed with a copy of essays by David Sedaris and then I went out a'drinking. I drank until everyone at the Buena Vista (RIP) knew that I had just had a root canal.

So: Me. Root canal. Unfortunately I can't get in until the middle of next week when Chuck and I have vacation, so it's like: "Staycation! Wee!" (Early morning root canal) "More vacation! Wee!"

Disclaimer: I only write about inflamed body parts and whacky cats.