Last night I was in bed, on the penultimate phase of "Sag Harbor" by Colson Whitehead, and I heard a noise.
It sounded like Toonses was in the bedroom giving himself an acrobatic full-body cleanse, the old multitasking, no limb ignored, loofah-tongue spa treatment. (It's the part involving his left paw that I don't understand. The whole thing sort of looks like a furry little funny man, patting his own head, rubbing his stomach and licking his shoulder. It's weird. It's interesting).
Anyway, he is not supposed to be in the bedroom. He knows this. When he decides to chance it, he always turns his head, eyes me defiantly, and barges in. By the time I get there, clapping like the backup singer in a Swedish pop duo, he's elbow deep in the water glass on my nightstand.
I peered over the side of the bed: No Toonses.
It sounded like it was coming from the closet. No ... outside the window. No ... inside, behind the closet door. I could hear pattering or skittering or a man with a claw rat-tat-tatting.
Mice? I wondered. There used to be mice, but that was before Toonses changed his address. And why would they be in the bedroom, if we did have mice? It's not like we ever sit in bed and eat pizza watch 28 consecutive episodes of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." That would just be gross.
Hairy man on a ladder outside the window, using a screw driver to bore his way into the bedroom? Maybe. I couldn't tell. Chuck has a coat of tin foil over the windows to block the sun, since he sleeps during daylight hours. I've had to steal a corner here or there when cooking. True story.
And by then I was completely freaked out. Firing SOS text messages that I knew were vibrating into the abyss. The abyss being Chuck's pocket, which was at work, and not at all on a break yet.
I crept around the apartment, the vision of the girl on the cover of Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase. I went out on the deck, peered around the side of the house, and saw a red glowing thing in the bushes. I wasn't wearing my contacts, so it could have been anything: A four pronged hot poker? A wolf? Julia Roberts?
I watch enough of the Sy/Fy Network to never limit my fear to the normal range of burglars and mass murderers. I let the whole gamut into my consciousness: Aliens, Ghosts, Chupacabra, Vampire, Werewolf, Wyvern, Jaws, Spot-on horoscopes. I'd relegated this one to alien or hyper-active birds nesting in the vines on the side of the house.
I was still scared shitless when I fell into the kind of sleep you get in a tent.
It seems that this past week was the infamous Blogher get together in Chicago. I tend to avoid such events, as my lunar cycle is easily hijacked when I spend time with other women.
Also, after spending a lot of time talking about how I couldn't wait to see Toad the Wet Sprocket at Bayfront, I didn't even end up going. I accidentally bought myself a pair of jeans that are far too good for me, and decided to freeze my cash for the rest of the month. Instead, I cruised along the lakewalk with Chuck, where we caught the occasional sounds of Toad-eling. I am going to have to wear those jeans a few more times before I decide if I made the right decision. I'll get more use out of the jeans, but will I like them as long as I have liked Toad?
In other news:
THE MAKING OF THE FOODS
Black Bean Smothered Sweet Potatoes: This was the basic recipe I followed, but I boiled the potatoes instead of baking and I added onion to the bean mix. And I doubled the cumin and coriander, although next time I'd triple it or maybe even quadruple it. Oh, and I used yams because there is a sweet potato shortage at Cub Foods.
Sushi: One of the greatest mysteries of this apartment is why we don't have sushi at least once a week. It is so easy. We used just smoked salmon and avocado. Readers, I abused the wasabi. I ingested to enough to give myself the equivalent of a colon cleanse for my sinuses.
MOVIES Aliens: Considering this movie stars Paul Reiser and Bill Paxton, I'm stunned it isn't billed as a romantic comedy.
The Ice Storm In my head, this movie is exactly the same as Wonder Boys. Katie Holmes' projects always confuse me. I think it is her doe-eyes. Let it also be said that I will never be involved in a key party. You have my word.
The Other Boleyn Girl This set off a Bolelyn fervor that later had me marathoning The Tudors. I had no idea I'd be this interested. Sometimes I think I hardly know myself. I thought I hated period pieces. [Insert menstruation joke here].
READIN' The Bolter Frances Osborne is fairly young when her mother tells her that Idina Sackville, Osborne’s great-grandmother, is not someone to be admired. The infamous Idina didn’t follow conventional rules, and Idina’s mother before that was a bit of a scuttle-butter. Idina’s crime: Divorcing her husband, leaving behind two young sons, and splitting to Kenya with another man. The Bolter is Idina’s story — five husbands, hundreds of lovers, wicked parties, drinks, drugs, notorious friends, and scandal that goes from London to Kenya and back — as traced by Osborne.
FROM THE READER MAIL FScotty, who is currently traipsing all over Europe with his mouth wrapped around a vat of gelato, suggested the following running music. To him I say: I am assuming that the next time I see you, you will be wearing skinny jeans.
This photograph suggests that Whiskey Marie was in town and that JCrew and I seemingly spent some time with her at Quinlan's last night. But I'll be damned if I actually remember that happening. My guess? Whiskey Marie ruffied me.
There is also a delightful story about me sleep walking down the steps and on to the front porch, where I was intercepted by Chuck, who asked where I was going. To the bathroom, I told him.
1. We both like to rock wife beater tank tops, and have a liberal approach to bras. 2. I, too, seemingly woke up in a pod with an orange striped tomcat I can't seem to shake. 3. If I found myself in a sound proof room, about to be impregnated by a slimy crab-like face hugging creature, I'd blame Paul Reiser, too. 4. Like Ellen Ripley, I prefer to do everything at the last minute. Whether it is my taxes, getting my oil changed or Christmas shopping. Just like Ripley and her last-second antics escaping LV-426. 5. I will sometimes wake with night sweats, and in fact look better under a mist of my own perspiration. 6. Neither of us is a stranger to an unfortunate incident in the late 80s involving a home perm. 7. I could transition to a normal robe and coffee lifestyle after a 57-year hyper sleep. 8. If left in my possession for more than a few minutes, a child -- like Newt -- would soon be wearing a charming layer of planet dust, alien goo, and sewer rust, topped with the hair of a pencil troll. 9. Although I've never been wronged by one, I, too, am racist toward Androids. I think it's because I've never bought a computer that lasted more than a year. And I always hold the remote control upside down.
The biggest question I have from the past week: Am I wearing my elbow pads on my knees? I finally hit Munger Trail for the first time this summer, all decked out in robo-roller gear. My God. It takes 15 extra minutes to get ready. And forget about hopping songs on the ipod while wearing wrist guards.
Chuck has started hitting the farmer's market after work and before I wake up. When he asks what I want, I like to say "surprise me." Last week he brought home lamb's quarter, and my challenge was to find something to do with it. (I made lamb's quarter strata). This is basically a very nutritious weed, and if I ever write fan fiction about the farmer's market, it will include a hyper-stoned farm boy pointing to a lawn across the street and saying:
"I'll give you everything you can fit in this burlap bag for $6." "What is it?" "It's lawn." "What do I do with it?" "Hmm ... just use it like you would spinach."
He got us some mint on Saturday and I'm a little stumped. I may use it in a sauce to cool down fried chickpeas. But I'd like to use it in a dessert. Ideas? I don't want to use it for mojitos. But only because mojito drunk is like pixie sticks drunk.
As for the rest of the past week:
Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble: I was trying to figure out why this was so damn delicious -- aside from the obvious, duh, rhubarb and strawberries -- then I remembered exactly how much butter I put into the crumble and cringed. Zoiks. Oh well. It was truly awesome.
Spinach Strata: I had all sorts of fun with this one, substituting lamb's quarter for spinach, and tapioca gluten free bread for firm white bread. This quiche-y mix is stone-cold comfort food. Comfortably bland, but lovely. My mom used to make something similar for every Christmas Day breakfast, which is why I was confused that I never encountered any ham. I made mine a day ahead of time so I could just stuff it in the oven. This one made me have "If you like Eric Estrada ..." stuck in my head.
Chick Pea Taco Salad: This is an old standby from when I first started making foods. It's a vegan taco salad mix of avocado and chickpeas, with garlic, lime juice and salsa. Of course, I completely deveganize it by adding cheese and serve it on tortilla chips with some sort of green. I used a mix of herbs that included cilantro. Wee! Summer food.
READING Unlubricated: A Novel by Arthur Nersesian: It’s 2001 and Hannah is a paycheck-to-paycheck actress, disrobing and gyrating, pressing the flesh at parties, in a relationship with her college theater professor Christy, and looking for a break. She’s at a party she shouldn’t be at when she overhears a former classmate, Bree, talking on his cell phone: He has unearthed a copy of a lost play written by the infamous and recently deceased Lilly Bull, a woman who’s life included a prostitution phase and that time she killed a downtown street musician. Her play “Lubricated,” is mentioned briefly in her memoir, which is all the rage after she dies.
Hannah propositions her old friend: She’d like to produce this play, and besides, Bree, an out-of-control addict owes her a favor.
There is a lot going in Arthur Nersesian’s novel Unlubricated.
FLICKS Tell No One This was a suggestion from the Rockstar Amy Abts. It was fantastic. French suspense about a man whose wife is murdered. Eight years later, he seems to be receiving messages from her. Layers of intrigue unfold. And I cried. Alien Dammit. I thought TiVo grabbed the sequel. This one is lighter in goo and tank tops and marines. But it did put me in a good place to watch "Aliens" later this week.
SERIOUSLY BUNK TV Warehouse 13: Reader Quackers asked if we'd been watching this instant SyFy classic, so we immediately watched two episodes. Oh my lawd. It is like Willy Wonka meets Doc Brown of Back to the Future. Holy Hokey Hell. Secret Service agents dispatched to a super-secret base in South Dakota. They solve crimes involving paranormal keys. (ie: a former musician's music makes the people who hear it paralyzed with love! Perfect soundtrack to a bank robbery.) Oh world. We can do better than this. I'll keep watching so you don't have to.
In the days after I was robbed at gunpoint, I wondered how this event would change me -- or if it even would. In the Lifetime Original Movie, it would ruin my relationship. Chuck would sour on my melon-like vigilante triceps dangling awkwardly from butch tank tops. I'd lose him, but I'd gain a posse of women friends and a nonprofit organization. The realities I worried about were more broad: Fear. Agoraphobia. Racism. A skittishness toward 1990s-style Ford Tauruses. An inability to freely live the nocturnal lifestyle I'm used to.
One time when we were first dating, Chuck asked me if I was a person who was affected by pills. We were probably trying to figure out my dosage of over-the-counter sleep aids. Would an entire Wal-Sleep II knock me into a coma? Or could I take four and still be trusted to run a Cuisinart? I had no idea. I always think of this conversation when I wonder about that 30 seconds last summer. You can't know until you take two pills, sleep 16 hours straight, then seemingly operate in an underwater montage for the next three days. You can't know you will change you when a young kid holds a pistol no bigger than his hand up to your left ear.
It was after midnight. I was talking to Chuck on my phone as I parked. I lingered in the car, finishing our conversation, even though he was waiting in the house. Dropped my cigarette. Closed the window. Opened the door, left leg dangling in the street. Reached across my body for my backpack and my reusable grocery bag. Still talking.
Someone runs up on the side of the car. I look up, expecting it to be a friend. A surprise. It's a kid. He has a gun so small it can't be real. He's short -- shorter than me. Thin. His face is round. Possibly a teen, more likely in his 20s. A dark hooded sweatshirt. White baseball cap, or did I add that? American Indian, I think. I scream, fumble, drop the phone. He tells me to give him my purse. Maybe he even called me a bitch. Throw him my back pack. Looking for more things to give him. He reaches behind me for the grocery bag. I watch him run off to a car waiting for him 30 feet away, the door still open. They slowly drive away. I slam my door. Try to dial 911. Fail. Try again. Wonder if I should chase them? Call 911. By then Chuck is standing in the middle of the street screaming my name. This is captured on my voice mail. I listen to it once, and its as scary as the actual robbery. Delete.
My purse had been slung across my body. He hadn't seen it, and I'd forgotten it in the rush to give him things. In fact, as he ran away, I almost yelled "Hey! Here's my purse!" True story.
Twice, when talking to my mom about this, she said "Well, hopefully you learned a lesson." A lesson? What kind of lesson? Not to be out after dark? Not to park in front of my house? Not to give subtle cues to strangers that I have leftover soup in the passenger seat, but that it will have to be taken from me with force? Any kind of lesson this would teach me was a lesson I didn't want to learn: To be fearful. To not trust people. To see every 20-year-old boy in a hooded sweatshirt as someone who is going to hold a gun to my head.
My immediate response was maniac hilarity. I kept thinking of how lucky I'd gotten. I pictured the boys in the car, rifling through a stinky backpack in the dark, looking for some sort of treasure. Realizing they had been stiffed. Maybe not even realizing the risk they had gone through for Champion's 2007 fall collection, petrified with sweat. Maybe it all ended with that backpack. "Screw this," the passenger says, chucking the bag out the window. "I think I will go to Harvard."
But no amount of fan fiction made driving home easier. For a week, maybe two, Chuck waited for me on the front steps every night. First I'd circle the block to make sure I wasn't being followed. If a car slowed near the house, we would both hold our breath. "That car was being weird," I'd say into the phone, even though I could see him. "It was," Chuck would agree. The first time I came home without needing him on the steps, I thought "I'm the kind of person who gets over getting robbed at gun point pretty easily."
It has been nearly a year, and that is a lie. I think about getting robbed at gunpoint every single day. At least once. I still have trouble getting out of the car in front of the house. I am still suspicious of men who walk down our street. I jump at loud noises. If someone runs up behind me, my heart races. Sometimes when I am at the mall, I imagine the feel of a gun held to the back of my head and I have to literally shake myself to make it stop. Every day I wonder if tomorrow is the day I finally stop thinking about it.
It feels very selfish to talk about the time I was robbed at gunpoint. When it comes to the creative crime scenarios available to the average human being, mine was Sandals Cancun. I wasn't raped or maimed and while he got my stuff, he didn't get any of the stuff that requires paper work and phone calls and cancellations. He got a dirty sports bra, dirty tube socks, dirty running pants and a dirty tank top. Asics running shoes -- frequently worn without socks, a straightening iron, and an impossibly outdated collection of makeup. Some Sarah Jessica Parker perfume, some leftover gazpacho and a water bottle that smelled like the inside of a fish tank. One yellow Edie Bauer backpack I'd had forever.
Sometimes I think: So that was it. My crime story. No big whoop. What are the odds of getting robbed at gunpoint once? Now divide that by a kajillion. Those are the odds of getting robbed at gunpoint twice. Then I think I'm just being naive. Getting robbed at gunpoint could be like finding a 4-leaf clover. Once you find one, you easily find more.
Last night Chuck and I bussed it downtown to Pizza Luce to catch the Meat Puppets, the sort of band that draws out your standard khaki-pants-and-Twins-hat crowd and throws it in with a mix of your every day organic fennel-flavored toothpaste hippie. I liked imagining these 30-something men today, home row indentations in their cheeks, coffee stains on their spread sheets. "Dude. Caught the Meat Puppets show last night," he says at the urinal. "It was intense. But I just can't party like I did when I was at Bemidji State."
I remember liking the Meat Puppets for one summer while I was in high school. Not enough to buy a CD, but enough to get really crazy-whack-spazzy when I heard the song "Backwater." The best I could hope for going into the show was that they would play "Backwater" 13 times in a row.
The place was packed, with the customary "Sold Out" sign written with sharpie on a round pizza cardboard. We hung out in the bar area, and watched the show from behind a window. Every time I went to the bathroom, I had to push a path through a tight people-pack. Cue the flashbacks to coming down the birth canal. All the while, chanting to myself "I am 90. I cannot handle crowds. I am a 90-year-old."
"Everyone in here is old and used to be cool, or young and never will be," Chuck said, looking around. "Used to be cool like THAT guy?" our friend said sarcastically, pointing to an old bedraggled sort of dude. That guy turned out to be one of two former members of Husker Du who made cameos during the show. A fact we realized later, when he took the stage.
At one point I'd ducked into the front row to talk to some friends who had scored primo space. A dude squeezed between us to get on stage, and the other girl and I turned our heads and avoided eye contact. We both saw a mess of hair and assumed it was a mutual acquaintance. One of those roulette drunks you have to avoid after 11 p.m., lest you want your face to become covered in a mist of booze spittle, your brain to begin to eat itself. When it was safe to resume normal activity, we realized we had misidentified the man. That we had actually just been the bread in a Meat Puppet sandwich.
The show was meh. At it's apex, I was standing on the ledge inside of the bar pounding on the window while the Meat Puppets, Husker Du, and a faction of Low were all crammed on the stage. There was some old-school crowd surfing, acrobatics more stunning than Mary Lou Retton's floor routine in the 84 Olympics. Things chilled after that. I hoped down from the window, walked into the main room, yelled "BACKWATER!" and then returned to the bar. Twice.
Of course, they saved "Backwater" for the last song, and turned on the lights the second it ended. We beat the streets for Quinlan's, which was clearly hitting an epic BAL. There were giant groups of men hugging. And gibberish was spoken.
I have spent the entire day in bed, rousing myself long enough to take the pizza medicine from the nice man from Bulldog Pizza. Some people think it is a waste of a day to sleep through it. I think those people tend to be assholes.
I think it's funny that tonight Chuck showed me a cut on the palm of his hand, asked me what I thought it was, and when I said "Stigmata," he immediately, in all seriousness, looked at the palm on his other hand.
He was finally kidding when he looked at his feet.
This past week was incredibly busy. I did all of my hobbies a lot: Made dinner all but two nights; read two books; watched three Woody Allen movies; Ran a 5K; Had a role in eight different plays. And my parents came to visit.
Anyway, you know how I feel about busy-ness. Cue coma.
In other news:
MAKING FOOD ALL OVER YOUR FACE
Red Curry With Vegetables: Aw, man. This was so good. I never mix these particular vegetables together: green beans and sweet potatoes. Plus, sauteed tofu slabs are only like my favorite thing. It was pretty light on the curry sauce, but I think that is because I OD'd on green beans, because my other option was to have the leftover 1/4 pound of green beans festering into a soup in the crisper drawer. This reminds me: I need to make good on this commitment to more sweet potatoes.
Pasta with Golden Garlic, Tomatoes and Sage: Oh, I don't know. This was fine. I'd make it again, probably, but only if I was stuck somewhere with just pasta, garlic, tomatoes, olives, sage and chickpeas. It wasn't gross. It was sometimes weird to eat a chickpea at the same time as a noodle. But it didn't wow me, either. So there.
Maverick Grits: Here I tried to recreate something from one of my favorite restaurants, Chester Creek Cafe, and to be honest, the cook had given me full access to his methods the night I had it. [He knows Chuck, and stopped by our table]. I had to ad-lib on some things. For instance, I didn't want to wait an hour for my grits, so I went with my standard grits recipe. The Maverick Grits in the restaurant -- way better. Those tomatoes were little explosions. Mine turned into a pretty serious meat party, and my body didn't know what to make of chorizo. It was okay. Unfortunately, the one at Chester Creek will be gone with their next seasonal menu change.
Korean Sesame-Crusted Tofu: Now this was fantastic. A mix of a lot of fun veggies like Bok Choy and those mini corn cobs, etc. I had no idea what to do with bok choy, so I watched a demo on YouTube. This was fantastic. [The food. The video was a titch dull].
Once again, the Internet has provided me with a kind soul who posted the recipe so I don't have to.
Mattar Paneer: Speaking of restaurants, one of my other favs is Mattar Paneer -- cheese and peas in a curry-like sauce -- from India Palace, which I've been reluctant to make at home because of homemade paneer. Our friend V-Nick was up for the challenge, and made paneer this week. He dropped some off for us, basically doing all the heavy lifting, and I got to take the easy-peasy mattar paneer route. This was awesome. I like mine spicier than how this turned out. But with some adjustments, I think I could ramp up the temps. Also, it was weird to be like "Oh! That taste is mustard seed!" It was like looking behind the curtain.
READING Ablutions: Notes for a Novel by Patrick DeWitt: here are a few things that make me leery when reading a debut novel: 1) When one of the blurbs is by someone who is listed in the acknowledgments (Well that was nice of your friend/writing mentor/college roommate Dennis Cooper to say he loves this book very much); 2) When the book is, oh, say, about a bartender, and in the author’s short bio on the back flap it says, for instance ” … Oregon, where he currently resides … blah blah … has worked as … a bartender.” That makes me say, “Then write a story about a piano teacher, you fool.”
Patrick DeWitt probably could have found a stranger to say nice things about his novel Ablutions: Notes for a Novel, an alternative-format story told in vignette sized character sketches, and starring the dozen-or-so regulars this guy encounters while working at a bar in Hollywood. And by “this guy” I mean “You.” Ablutions is written in second person. The nerve.
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister: I didn't hate Erica Bauermeister's novel "The School of Essential Ingredients" at all. I picked it up because I liked the premise of a woman teaching a cooking class, especially after reading Jincy Willett's "The Writing Class." I wanted to see how the approaches would differ, and what kind of characters would show up for a Monday evening session in the kitchen of a restaurant, versus the kind of characters who would show up for a writing workshop.
Full review will be here. MOVIES Manhattan 1978: Here Woody Allen really stretches himself to play a 40-something New York writer with a 17-year-old girlfriend, played by an actual 17-year-old, Murial Hemingway. This is ranking up there with my favorites of his so far.
Know what Woody Allen does well? Two couples dining in a restaurant. Those are some of my favorite moments in his movies. Really makes me want to travel to late 1970s Manhattan. Unfortunately, after watching this, Chuck and I both caught Woody Allen-itis and everything we said sounded like the neurotic banter of his characters. That was ... weird. Everyone Says I Love You: God I hate musicals.* This has been my least-favorite Woody Allen of the bunch.
Mighty Aphrodite This one was cute. And the Greek Chorus didn't annoy me at all. Woody Allen's adopted son came from a prostie; Woody gets to know her; Woody plays matchmaker ... pretty standard fare.
GOD BLESS LIFETIME ON SATURDAY NIGHTS "Natalee Holloway" This was exactly what I wanted to watch on Saturday night. Unfortunately, you know how it ends. Fortunately, it starred Alex P. Keaton's girlfriend from "Family Ties," the one who danced with him to that Billy Vera and the Beaters song. The one he married in real life. It was good to see her. I love when I can bust out some fond 80s memories.
Who wants to play Where's Waldo? I'm in this photo, which is from here.
I was standing at the starting line of Wednesday's Sidewalk Shuffle 5K when my former landlord turned to me and said:
"So, are you just going to jog this, then?" "Psh. No," I said, incredulously.
No one has "jogged" anything since the 1970s. "Jogging" brings to mind a dude in red short-shorts, kinky hair, and sweat bands cinched like a tourniquet around every sweat-emitting surface. A wet stain the circumference of a pizza splashed across his stomach. Or women who take a lap around the block in a shiny blue spandex leotard, made snuggie proof by virtue of miraculous nude "jogging nylons."
But this wasn't something I could explain to a guy holding a Miller Lite keg cup filled with water. A guy wearing a sheer dirty-white tank top with twin gaping maws of pit ventilation. To him, anything less than a sprint is the j-word. And so by his definition, yes, I would be [what he said-ing.]
If there isn't any word I hate worse. Jogging. It hurts my ears. And frankly, to be accused of doing it hurt my runner's sensibility.
So anyway, that's what I did on Wednesday afternoon. My second 5K, which was remarkably like the first, right down to my finish-time. Notable in no discernible way other than I got sunburned, it seemed harder than the last, and one of those awkward preteen boys whose feet have beat him to puberty was a total gnat. He'd lope off in front of me, flailing arms like wishbones drying on a clothes line. Then he would walk and huff and puff dramatically, like a child-star acting like he was exhausted from all this jogging.
As much as I like doing these little races, the novelty has started to wear off on sub-mediocrity. My former landlord asked Bubbles if she was really focused during the race and she said she was last time, but not this time.
I've totally forgotten about focusing. And maybe that is why I fail to get into a groove and never get comfortable and never stop thinking "Gah. This is so stupid," as a mantra, every step until I cross the finish line, at which point I immediately begin cooing about how much fun it was, just now, running that horrible race. And that is what I actually believe as I'm saying it.
Tonight I went for a run with an iPod and strict orders with myself to relax my body, but stay in the run instead of getting distracted by lake views and the bugs stuck to my contacts and how I bet that girl right there is with her mom and her mom is drunk and the girl is embarrassed, thus the wan smile, and now she'll take her home and put her to bed.
I did okay, with the help of Girl Talk.
Next week there is a 5-miler, and I think I'm going to take a pass. I'm not running an organized race again until I've done my homework. It's been a three T'shirt summer already. And I don't want to do another crappy run where I'm mistaken for a freakin' jogger.
Anyway, my former landlord finished 16th overall. This is funny because no one with a head that size should be that fast. He took great pleasure in beating some skinny dude in a running jersey and athletic sunglasses. Especially while wearing 20 dollar women's shoes.
From the Ladies of Silver Lake Canoe & Paddle Boat calendar series.
Silver Lake draws people. Outsiders, mostly, who see water in this flat, landlocked town and think it suddenly has a view. In actuality, Silver Lake is a man-made lake, originally built to cool something-pipes-whatever from the electrical plant across the road. Fine in theory, but confusing to the Canada geese that live on the lake year round. It steams instead of freezing over, like real water in a real lake. Silver Lake is said to be 9-feet-deep in some places. By my estimations, there is a false-bottom of goose shitty mud, making it only about 3-feet deep.
I imagine diving into it would sound a lot like the first slurp of a milkshake.
I worked there for three years, alternating shifts between the food stand, a tin Coke trailer, and the paddle boat and canoe rentals, a warming house shack. It was one of those jobs bequeathed to Lourdes students by former Lourdes students, owned and managed by a Lourdes family. And later sold to another in the purple-and-gold lineage.
The grass around the park is teeming with squawking birds. Unfriendly little fuckers that try to eat your Big Mac and children who aren't tall enough for roller coasters. Audacious creatures that will strut right up to your car window, and scream for something higher-grade than a whatever-cent Coke cup filled with corn. Steak, perhaps. Shrimp.
Walk through the park in a pair of Tevas -- the favored footware of Silver Lake Canoe & Paddle Boat employees in the mid-1990s -- and your toes would look like they had been covered in pesto, or overly ripened avacados. If Lake Superior is the largest freshwater urinal, Silver Lake Park is the largest litter box for geese.
Frequently asked question about the lake: Can we swim in there? Frequently answered: I wouldn't. Wish I would have frequently answered: Please do.
These jobs required little, beyond a copy of Jane magazine, Toad the Wet Sprocket's "Fear," and sunscreen. We each had our own shoelace, which we wore around our necks, with keys to the boats. The combination to the paddle lock on the Coke stand in the brain vault.
Make hot dogs, try to sell them before they turn into something resembling ET's finger. Make popcorn. Eat popcorn. Sell popcorn. Sell coke, Snickers bars, and Push Ups. Make googly eyes at boys who inline skate, run, or skateboard past the stand. Lock stand, leave note saying "Back in 5 minutes," call friends from payphone and ask them to visit. Promise free popcorn. Note sales with a check mark in a box. Write your initials in popcorn salt dumped on the counter. Wipe it up. Count money. Leave change for the next day in a super secret location. Drop off profits at owner's house.
The boats were trickier. Unlock canoes, and leave them in aesthetically pleasing formation. Put flotation devices on the paddle boats. Turn on the transistor radio in the shack and learn to like Bread and The Association and the Twins. Lie on a picnic table in the sun, eat a Brueggers bagel. Drink an Arizona Ice Tea. Lock the shed, run to the payphone, ask your mom to bring dinner.
That summer brought a lot of families from Saudi Arabia. The women and girls draped under layers of fabric, a mix of body sweat and musky perfume. A pair of Gap jeans underneath. The men with beards and light pants rolled to their knees.
There were also lonely hearts. "Want to go out with me?" "No."
And there were entire family reunions, trying to cram four bodies into four paddle boats, while Grandma stood on the dock and waved. People who wanted to stray outside the buoys. People who were stranded when the chains fell off the old paddle boats.
[Protocol: Grab life jacket and rope. Lock shed. Apologize to waiting customers. Loudly hum the "Baywatch" theme song and sprint down the dock. Hop into a paddle boat, peddle to the customers, tow them to safety. No refunds.]
The first year, the other employees were all older than me. The next year, they were friends. People you could count on to roller blade down for a visit. People who agreed that creating a Ladies of Silver Lake Canoe & Paddle Boat calendar would be a good idea.
By our final summer, Dave was packing Zima in his blue cooler. We had discovered the novelty of calling Pizza Hut from a payphone by the public restrooms and ordering a stuffed crust pepperoni:
"To the paddle boats," we would say. "The paddle boats?" "Yeah. You know. Down at Silver Lake? We're in that little house." This felt very rebellious.
Some nights we would lock up the boats, but keep out a single canoe. Raid the tin stand for old popcorn, Cokes, and Snickers bars. We'd paddle well out of the designated area. Leave the buoys in our wake. Under a bridge and down behind the Rochester Civic Center. Pause for snacks and turn back only when we got so far we weren't sure there wasn't a water fall ahead.
By then, the other employees were kids we barely recognized as the malformed clay-mation, dopey-faced freshman stuttering in the halls when we were upperclassman. When the food stand got robbed, we found out one of the girls had gotten drunk at a party and blurted out the combination to the food stand paddle lock.
She was fired. Then she got pregnant. These are probably linked.
I worked one too many years at the paddle boats. An infraction like going to one to many Homecoming games as a too-recent alum.
I have spent the past three days cleaning the kitchen. At times, I would stop scrubbing square by square and think "Some people are camping, or, like on boats. Me, I'm up to my fibia in a year's worth of pizza and fruit juice scum."
I'm pretty worthless as a cleaner. But when I tackle a big project, I have to take everything, put it in a central location, scrub the shit out of surfaces, and then start throwing things away with the reckless abandon of a person who thinks there is room in landfills for everything.
Three days later, you could totally eat in our kitchen. In other news, the floor cleaner I used smelled like the kind of deodorant a nervous boy would wear on your first date.
I also started running again, drank my weight in Coors Light, went to a used book store, ate a lot of things out of carts, watched a fraction of Superman at Movies in the Park, and decided that in the upcoming weeks I will watch Woody Allen's complete works.
On Friday night, Chuck and I stopped at an ATM in a sort of remote spot. When we came up the escalator, a teen-aged kid was propped in a corner. He asked us for a cigarette, and Chuck shrugged as if to say "Don't got none."
We kept our eyes on him as I took out money. He eventually stood up, walked around a corner, and disappeared. A few seconds later, two other dudes his age came around the corner. This seemed exactly the way a robbing would play out. One of those "But I can only take out 300 dollars a day!" tales that ends badly. We beat a hasty retreat.
In other news:
FOODS Tomato and Cheese Pie: This is a quiche-like mix of ricotta cheese, tomatoes, and basil and it's just as good as you would expect something called "cheese pie" to be. I didn't make mine pie-shaped. It was super good, easy, and a good leftover.
READING The Angel's Game This is the kind of book where you can hear men’s shoes scuffing across a wood floor in an empty mansion filled with candles and secret passageways. Where some people take long lunches filled with wine and cheese, and when they settle in with a good book, the spine creaks.
Full review here. Success by Martin Amis: In one corner, we have Terry, a tragic character who is convinced that the universe has conspired to make sure no woman will ever sleep with him. His teeth are bad, he's shedding hair, and he is in constant fear of losing his job in sales. In the other corner is his foster brother Gregory, beautiful and bisexual, a gallery worker who flounces around London living the high life and wearing a cape.
"Success," Martin Amis' third novel, follows a year of their lives as roommates in a flat better suited for one.
RENTING MOVIES FROM ITUNES SO I DONT HAVE TO LEAVE THE HOUSE Notorious 2008: This Biggie Smalls biopic required one hand on the Wikipanion, so Chuck could dole out information we'd have known if we were paying attention in the late 1990s. Things like "That's Lil Kim." Or "Oh, you're right. Tupac was West Coast." Damn this movie was good. I was finally able to weep for Big Poppa. I'd love to see this from the perspective of Tupac sympathizers, though.
Rachel Getting Married 2008: This movie has a very strange effect: While watching it, I was bored for long stretches. The entire thing is shot in long, seemingly unedited scenes. The grooms dinner speeches go on and on and on, and because Rachel is marrying a musician, there is basically a variety show as part of the celebration. Meanwhile, it's about Kym, on leave from 9 months in rehab for her sister's wedding. Throughout the weekend, Rachel and Kym square off: The former wanting her wedding weekend to be about her, the latter like "hello, I'm going through the steps right now, so as my maid of honor toast, I'll apologize publicly to my sistah." The best part is when Debra Winger and Anne Hathaway exchange blows.
It's much better in retrospect.
WHEN TIVO RECORDS A HANDFUL OF WOODY ALLEN FILMS Interiors1978: This film is the quintessential drama. Three sisters -- a successful writer, a middling actress and a malcontent -- under the umbrella of their mother, a severe updo'd beige afficianado, who becomes unhinged during a "trial separation" from her husband. Stark sets, long monologues, and it seems like an easy adaptation for a stage. Mary Beth Hurt looks exactly like a grown-up Beezus Quimby, and delivers the ultimate line "She's a vulgarian!" about the no-pretenses colorful character her father marries. I loved it.
A mysterious lack of Neapolitan So Delicious Minis at this address finds me standing in the disco glow of the refrigerator at 1:13 AM, making do by lapping Whip Cream off the three primary fingers of my right hand. Dude. We need groceries.