Friday, December 31, 2010

Infinite Friday: Friday No. 2

This is my favorite story that my friend moccasins tells: His daughter had received a gift of $20 from her grandparents, and didn't immediately fold it into a purse or wallet or whatever. The family dog, aged and going through a gnaw-on-important-things period in her life, ate the bill. This was not long after the dog had ripped apart my friend's own wallet and left his driver's license looking more like an ATM receipt that went through the wash.

They waited patiently for the dog to void the 20-spot, which she did in their yard on a cold day. Moccasins was able to extract the bill from its digested Purina casing. It was still intact. He washed it, dried it, and quickly got the money out of their home, and into public circulation.

This is an approximation of a metaphor for reading "Infinite Jest." It will do because I like the gruesomeness of the tale. When Michiko Kakutani reviewed the novel in the New York Times, there was an accusation that DF-Dubs simply tipped over his brain, and let all his words spill into it. According to "Although You End Up Becoming Yourself," an extended interview with DFW by David Lipsky, this is exactly what the writer did not want people to think. I'm trying to remember that every 20-page chunk of text was labored over, every sentence purposeful. But damn. That is a struggle. I've emerged from these chunks of text blurry eyed and defeated, having gleaned just the gist and a gem of a sentence, a phrase, or some bit fantastic humor. The proverbial 20 dollar bill rescued from the intestines of a precocious dog.

This week, for the first time, I wonder if I will finish "Infinite Jest." When I like it, I really really like it. When it just seems like a string of acronyms I start eyeballing everything else in our house that contains words. Something to save me from this book.

Progress: I am on Page 430. But I realized mid-week that I missed end note 110, and so I have to double back to that. I've been chiseling away at it willy nilly.

3:05 p.m. Sunday: I'm hiding from "Infinite Jest." I know it's coming. A 20-plus page section about a complicated game that the students at Enfield Tennis Academy play. There is an element of Math, I'm told.

I haven't avoided spoilers. I don't believe there is a spoiler in the world that can sully this book. It's too fine tooth combed for anyone to ruin anything with a casual "Oh, the Eschaton part ..." Reading this part is the only thing on my to-do list for the day. But here I sit on the couch, "Infinite Jest" in the kitchen, where I can't see it. On purpose. Once I get past this part, my resident spoiler has said, it is smooth sailing. Still ...


Sometime early Monday morning: It is still dark when I wake from the most amazing dream. In it, I watched an L-shape corner of light on the wall, as a corresponding L-shape slide into it like a puzzle. This, David Foster Wallace told me in the dream, was the answer to "Infinite Jest." I was euphoric. It felt the way walk-toward-the-light moments are described. For the entire day, I walk around glowing, but barely remembering the details of this dream.

"Maybe David Foster Wallace haunts the people who read his book," Chuck suggested. 
This book is fucking with my head.


Wednesday-ish: David Foster Wallace is at his best when he is describing physical deformities.


Thursday PM: The 2007 short-lived TV show "Hidden Palms" seems to be a generic version of "The O.C." Rich kids in California, plenty of mixers at the Country Club, a misunderstood hero with a six month stint in rehab after he got all whack with the booze because his father shot himself. I had planned to read until the words turned into one word and spun off the page. Instead, I stare mindlessly at 4.5 episodes of this show. 

Supplemental reading
"A Country Dying of Laughter," by Michiko Kakutani, Books of the Times, New York Times, Feb. 13, 1996: "Somewhere in the mess, the reader suspects, are the outlines of a splendid novel, but as it stands the book feels like one of those unfinished Michelangelo sculptures: you can see a godly creature trying to fight its way out of the marble, but it's stuck there, half excavated, unable to break completely free."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Crisp-ish ...

Today I learned that I have no idea how to make rice in a microwave. Joke's on you, basmati. I actually hate rice.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pupils itching in confusion ...

I'm not trying to be one of those bloggers who is all "CHEESE IS SO GOOD!" but seriously: Do you know how much cheese I can cram into my face? It's like if I could, I would just loosen the hinges on my jaw and slide tongue first into a cheese display.

So that's part of how I spent the past week, when I wasn't getting wonky about David Foster Wallace. It's weird to be obsessed with something that other people aren't obsessed with at the same time. Like, it surprises me that he isn't trending on Twitter because he's so at the front of my brain. About twice an hour I stop myself from starting a story with, "Well, in 'Infinite Jest' ..." The other six times I just say that and hope I'm not boring Chuck.

In other news:


Potato and Kale Enchiladas with Roasted Chili Sauce: Well of all the labor intensive meals in the entire universe. This one is messssssy. (Actually, it's not too bad, but I did spill some on my socks). But the kind of foodie funny recipe book Veganomicon has yet to fail me, so. So this is pretty good. Especially when you get a potato chunk with plenty of kale. Super secret ingredient: pumpkin seeds.

Easy A: I'm a sucker for teen-demographic movies staring unconventionally attractive people with fantastic plumes of hair. And this one seemed to get the nod as something a little more smart, a little better message-y than, say, one featuring a teen-aged boy making sticky love to dessert. Still: total disappointment. The premise is close to inventive. But this whole thing just wasn't clever enough.

Plus, there is this montage that references the teen movie genre of the 1980s that made my pupils itch in confusion.

1. Are 17 year olds in 2010 watching "Breakfast Club," "Pretty in Pink" and "Ferris Bueller"? Maybe, if their Gen X parents are foisting these titles on to them. I know that my parents didn't foist boomer teen movies on me when I was a junior in high school. Were there teen flicks for the Boomers?

2. Aren't there any teen movies from the early 2000s that appeal to teens of today? What will they be nostalgic for when they are 35? Certainly not "Say Anything." Right? Or will they be? I don't think they'll be nostalgic for "Easy A," for instance.

Termite Parade by Joshua Mohr: Such a great opening scene before everything sputters into meh. Full review will be here.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The vegetables are ignored ...

The shelves at the grocery store look like the place has been robbed. Good luck finding baby carrots or free range eggs. People are flinging ingredients into push carts without even looking at the packaging. It's like: "I'll figure out what the hell jicama is when I get home. We just need large chunks of semi-edibles that at least orbit the food pyramid."

I'm all: I wonder what kind of $1.99 meat I should wrap around a pickle, using cream cheese as an adhesive?  And Merry Christmas.

Then later: The ketchup container is making noises like an injured bird. It squawks as I push for the final dollops, then it takes a deep breath and starts in again. Ketchup is one of those things you can't think about too much without dry heaving. The aesthetician who decided the color and texture of this condiment was obviously a sadistic fuck. And that smell. It's thick enough, and alive enough, to weave into your hair or the fur fringe of your hoodie. You'll emit a tangy wake when you move from room to room. On the other hand, try eating a fried egg sandwich without it. You might as well just chop your tongue off, and gum away at Chocolate Slim Fast Shakes for the rest of your life.

I'm scooping raw Italian sausage, breadcrumbs, egg, milk and onions into golf-ball sized hunks that I assume will taste delicious. It's a gloppy wet mud of ingredients. I wonder if I'll catch ptomaine poisoning from a half moon of raw meat that gets trapped in my fingernails. I'm more of a nail gnawer, than a hand washer. These balls get dumped into the slow cooker for the duration of three mood swings and the robot dance.

Cheese gets shredded: A plain old gouda, and an aged gouda. This choreography goes, sloosh, a tablespoon of cheese on the cutting board, sloosh, a pinch of cheese in my mouth, sloosh, another tablespoon, sloosh, another pinch packed into my mouth like milky chewing tobacco. We will be having fondue with our "Gremlins," white wine boiled with lemon juice and all this cheese, $16 worth of cheese, melted to a drinkable state. Say what you want about good will toward men, the real meaning of Christmas Eve is saturated fat pushed to the boiling point.

"Have you ever seen the animal that the mogwai is based on?" Chuck asks. Digs out his phone, and pulls up an image of a dandelion-haired monkey clutching an anonymous finger. I remember the photograph from when he showed it to me last year, as we ate fondue and watched "Gremlins." It gives me a sharp pang somewhere between my uterus and the place where the ghost of Toonses lives.

The pickles are dressed in corned beef cloaks, glued on with cream cheese. Rednecks certainly know how to make finger food. This is delicious. We eat an entire plateful. I haven't had a single meatball. Sometimes if I touch a food too much, I become unwilling to eat the finished product. It's like getting to know someone too well. So it's fancy pickles. And the pecan cookies Chuck made. Reminding myself again to memorize Phoebe Cates' monologue about how her father died: This could make a great parlor trick. I'm always looking for a good parlor trick.

The vegetables, by the way, are ignored.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Infinite Friday: Friday No. 1

I have been reading the multiple-pound Gen X trophy "Infinite Jest" by DF-Dubs for about a week, sometimes even daring to lug this around in my purse for quickie reads at lunch tables, and for the increased shoulder strength. "Infinite Friday" is a weekly series chronicling the mental disaster of reading a book fatter than a slab of super expensive, family-sized beef. It's a wordy road trip. And yes, I am making a BFD over reading a book a zillion of people have read before me. Just like people who whip up a froth of baby batter, ingest it, and crap out a two-legged screamer make a BFD out of doing that. And double yes, I'm comparing reading "Infinite Jest" to giving birth because I'm naive. I probably should have compared it to running a marathon.

Progress: I'm on Page 278.

Here is the truth: This book is divided into hearty chunks of seemingly unrelated activity. Young tennis players, burglars, an NFL punter, and a wheelchair-bound dude on a hill in Arizona, trading information with a cross dressing agent. Whenever I am faced with a sliver of white space, I pause, wipe my greasy brow, take a deep breath and dive into the next skyscraper of text. (Later, while supplementing my DFW fiction with my DFW fact, I'll learn that he wrote this like this for that reason. Natural time out breaks). Sometimes these sections are super charming, super funny, super interesting. Sometimes they are written in dialect and I glean a fraction of what is happening, and that is when I begin referring to the book as "Infinite Gist" in my head. Sometimes I'm counting the words until I can get past the area in question, I'm just reading to get through it, and then I hope it never doubles back to that storyline ever again. But it probably will.

I have at least four times set the book aside and said: That was my favorite part. No, that was my favorite part. The current leader is a hefty chunk-of-a-scene where Hal Incandenza is having huge success clipping his toenails into a wastebasket positioned a few meters away, while talking to his estranged brother on the telephone about discovering their father had killed himself by putting his head in the microwave. For a good visual, imagine putting a potato in the microwave, sans slit. 

Chuck has read the book, and has stressed the trust DF-Dubs mantra enough that I'm not panicking over any of my own confusion. He's also said that reading this is about reading this and not about getting to that final page, slapping the beast shut and getting a celebratory-style shitfaced about it. I'm, of course, paraphrasing. There is a it's-the-journey-not-the-destination-ness about this.

This is a fun book. I mean, really fun. "Fun" is exactly a word that DFW uses about 900 times in the interview with David Lipsky. I also spend a lot of time flipping pages, like I'm waiting for animation to appear in the lower right hand corner. 

When I'm not reading "Infinite Jest," I'm reading about "Infinite Jest": Wikipedia, the NYT's book review -- curiously written by Jay McInerney, and interview Laura Miller from Salon had with him in 1996. Plus, Chas is reading Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallaceso I like to pick that up for snack-sized moments of DF-Dubs, IRL.

The unusualness of reading the candid dialogue of a 34-year-old long hair in the aftermath of this thing he made, while at the same time reading the thing he made. I have, at my fingertips, DFW's entire life: His resume, his discography, his love interests, and everything he wrote or will ever write, save for his posthumous whatevers. David Lipsky's Foreword, or actually Afterword that appears before the book starts, paints this thinned version of a once-hulking man, his medication isn't working, his mom is rubbing his arm aware that he is about to leave the planet. Lipsky quotes Franzen: DFW's death as his friend being sci/fi sucked from an airlock. His sister knows, just knows, that he kissed those dogs on the mouth before hanging himself. I'm finally crushed by something that I simply found tragic with a side of interesting before all of this.

This is pretty typical of me to develop an emotional attachment to the writer, instead of an intellectual attachment to the work. I never walk in the front door, I tend to check the windows first.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How I spent the time I was going to spend cleaning the refrigerator ...

Whoa, bitches. Here's an approximation of how I've spent the past month -- kitchen, book, and movie-wise. As long as we're all here together, gathered all cozy-like with our silk soy egg nog, I'm just going to warn you that I might start a new project called "Infinite Fridays," in which I get a weekly case of the howling fantods over this ridiculous book I'm married to for the next fraction of my life. It seems a damn shame to keep all these dog-eared pages and supplemental links to myself. And since I rarely make internet sentences anymore anyway, why the hell not further alienate myself? I think that's what DF-Dubs would want.

I have other big ideas, too. 

Clears throat.

Oh! But first a picture Ma Pista clearly did not want me to take: Here she is nursing a bum ankle during last weekend's pre-Christa-mas Christa-mas celebration at Brother and Sister-in-Law Pista's place in the greater metro area. It seems that Ma Pista got her wheel caught in the front door, and was chillaxing with a cold pack when I got there. You'll see that one thing we have in common is putting our Best Face Forward when eyeball to eyeball with a picture-making machine. Cheers!


Golden Turmeric Latkes with Applesauce: These have a little bit of zip, and the applesauce has a lotta bit of zing. I'm a huge fan of latkes, and these were probably the best I've made. It might be the hot peppers. It might be the fact that I didn't create a cement of potato paste and have to throw away an expensive kitchen appliance in disgust

French Onion Beef Tenderloin: Now I'm just showing off. Huh, meat. This is actually super good. It's a bit of steak, but has all that French Onion Soup love without that pesky chin drip. And cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. (Not responsible for your inevitable meat sweats).

Chilean Corn and Un-Turkey Chowder: You know, I liked this. I don't remember a lick about it. But I always like soup-ish things. And avocado is awesome. I know I got the recipe from Vegetarian Times, and I know it calls for Un-Turkey. I think I used sausage instead. Oh, snap, VT, I de-Vegetarianized yo 'cipe.

Chocolate Mint Surprise Cupcakes: Made these intricate little fuckers for Chuck's birthday. Holy cats they were delish, agonizing recipe debacles aside. Okay: You take a bite of what seems to be a normal vanilla cupcake. Except inside there is this awesome dollop of green minty goodness! Paired with the Chocolate Ganache Icing ... eating four sticks of butter never tasted so good!

Red Lentil Thai Chili: Duuuuude. I made this last night and it was so, so, good. It's a spicy sort of thing, if you're into that. I learned something exciting about coconut milk, but I'd rather leave some things a mystery. So make this one, vegan faces. And non-vegan faces alike.

(These get brief mentions because typing is exhausting)

The Kids Are All Right: It's good.

I'm Still Here: Can I just say what no one is saying in the post-release world? Meh. And you know I love the Phoenixes. I just liked this movie way more before I saw it.

Hellraiser:  I would like to thank the evil mind of Clive Barker for developing this hokey piece of awesome body horror.

The Extra Man: I'm coming closer to a theory on Jonathan Ames, and it is this: Jonathan Ames equals excellent when his words appear in tandem with moving pictures on a screen. In something that requires book glue, he's more of a dud. Subject to change. But this movie was pretty damn funny.  

You Lost Me There by Rosecrans Baldwin: Starts strong, but totally dives into a slow trudge through nothingness. Review here.

The Impostor's Daughter: A True Memoir by Laurie Sandell: Such an intriguing story, unfortunately told in the wrong format I think. Someone give this lady a do-over. Review here.

The Best American Comics edited by Neil Gaiman: A good primer for a figuring out what one digs and does not dig in the world of comics. Review here.

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote: I'd never read it, and needed something to jack me back into word mode. It did the trick. Review here.

The Extra Man: A Novel by Jonathan Ames: Sexually confused New York newbie with an eccentric older roommate who works as an extra man for the elderly high class ladies. It is okay. Not as good as the movie. See above. Review here.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman: Such a fun, fun, book of almost sci/fi slash super sci/fi moderness. Cute. Review here.

By Nightfall: A Novel by Michael Cunningham: A lovely, lovely book. A coming-of-middle age story about want and authenticity and a bunch of other stuff. Review here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Infinite Gestation ...

I have embarked on one of the ultimate of commitments. One just shy of getting a tribal tattoo on the small of my back: I am reading David Foster Wallace's 3.2 pound, 1078.5-page novel "Infinite Jest."

People have done this before me. In fact, I live with a DFW head, the kind of person who would understand the significance of a Enfield Tennis Academy T-shirt with the name Incandenza ironed in block print, sandwiched by shoulder blades. Among those who have taken the roughly three-month time out from life to read this epic Gen X trophy, there is a sort of survivor mentality. No one seems to regret reading it, and everyone seems to have advice for how to tackle something that resembles in girth the hip younger sister of the Norton Anthology of British Literature. They changed, the grew. They are, admittedly, a bit insufferable. They say:

Use two bookmarks, one for the story, one for the end notes.
Trust David Foster Wallace. This is all worth it. And he was a genius. You'll love it. LOVE IT!
Use the available online references, including chronology aids, character bios and section summaries.
Set page goals: Something like 30 pages a day to finish at pace more like training for a marathon than the suggested gestation period for building a human being.

My attention span for books weighs in at about 250 pages. There are exceptions -- especially if the font is gigantic. But the font in "Infinite Jest" is mostly standard, with pages and pages of end notes, which are decidedly below regulation. It takes me approximately 8 hours to read a contemporary novel. I average two-ish books a week. This means, best case scenario, I could finish "Infinite Jest" in just less than 3 weeks if I devote all of my optic powers on this one book and hide the TV in the garage. Unfortunately, I've never heard of anyone finishing this book in less than two months, so I'm probably deceiving myself.

I've considered a few game plans:
1. Read "Infinite Jest," and supplement it with just graphic novels for when I need a boost of something different.
2. Read a set number of pages a week, and once I hit that goal read something else.
3. Read it only on weekends, when I really have time to plant my happy ass deep into the upholstery and get really weird with myself.
4. Maybe think about not reading it at all, and just going about my life secure in that decision.

But really, the only option for me is to bust through the fucker. I've got to read it and read it hard. Totally commit myself to this one book. Coax my body into cooking up something akin to Adderall. It's my only chance for success. 

So far, so good, though. I carried it with me to get my oil change, but the oil changers were so speedy that I barely made a dent in a section that I was enjoying. I had an errand at the mall afterward, and instead of shopping, I first spent 15 minutes on a bench near Santa's lap reading about Orin Incandenza, an NFL punter with a cockroach phobia.

I am, as of 1:43 a.m. Saturday morning, nearly 1/10th of the way through the book. See you this spring.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Greetings from West of the Duluth Grill ...

The following is a holiday letter to the internet, co-authored by Chuck and me. I am re-purposing it from its original place on Facebook. 

Dear people we know and friends:

As 2010 comes to a close, we can't help but reflect on the gigantic loans that have us tied up into our AARP years, the dead pets, and the crippling ailments that surfaced over the past year.

At the end of January, we moved into Lorenzo Music's wife's childhood home. You may know Henrietta Music as the co-composer of the theme to “The Bob Newhart Show.” We're hoping it is full of creative gypsy juice. It was the first house we looked at, and certainly the least haunted. It is in West Duluth, just blocks from where Chuck spent his weird childhood. Favorite features include: A huge kitchen, a claw-foot tub, the gentleman-of-leisure rumpus room, and two bedrooms we haven't even gone into yet. It is riddled with mice, which is unfortunate because at the end of September our cat went mental, then died.

Toonses (December 1999-September 2010) was an okay roommate and the perfect combination of misanthrope and Marmeduke. We don't really want to talk about it. Something happened to his brain, he could only turn right, he peed on the kitchen floor, we had him put to sleep, and we're never getting another pet ever again. That's all.

Speaking of broken bodies. Chuck got a brand-new disease! It's called Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is not just for old people anymore. In a nutshell, his immune system now thinks that his joints are made of SARS virus and monkey hearts, and does everything in its power to destroy them. In the past, this would have him employed as a church-bell ringer in no time, but luckily we live in the future, which has awesome drugs. The treatment is going very well. You wouldn't even know that he's handi-capable now.

Christa spent 19 days total in Los Angeles, between a fellowship through the National Endowment for the Arts in May, and a vacation in August. This is about 17 more days than she has spent in her hometown of Rochester in the past eight years, which she considers a success. Next to the V-shaped couch in the living room during a “Criminal Minds” marathon, this is her favorite place on the planet. Every street looks and smells like the county fair happened last night. This is why she thinks it is okay to wear jeggings and face-dwarfing sunglasses.

In the upcoming year, we are looking forward to pill cases, rat poison, body horror films, and the next terrible fashion trend.

Happy holidays, and keep barking big dogs,

Christa & Chuck

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Black olives ...

Yesterday I received a check for $147.90, which in these dark times is a pretty significant amount of dinero. I'm in the habit of a bit of one-for-you, two-for-me holiday shopping which has me tapped to the point of eating pitted black olives from the can, with a fork, for dinner.

I took the check, folded it three times, and stuffed it into the back pocket of my jeans. I think. Truth is, when I tried to recall the events that began with receiving the check, and beginning my walk to the bank, I went blank. It was like my brain had been wrapped in gauze and in dipped in rubber cement. This is not unusual. I frequently find myself somewhere and wonder how I got there, why I'm there, and when did I get a glockenspiel. Sometimes I get my mail forwarded to blah-blah-blahler land. And I've always said that I drive like I'm a passenger in my own car.

I got to the bank and the check wasn't in my back pocket. It wasn't in my jacket pocket or other jacket pocket. It probably wasn't in my purse, but who can tell in that waste land of Animal Cracker wrappers. I maintained my game face, but freaked the fuck out.

Back to my point of origin. Pockets, purse, counter top surfaces, pockets, purse. Retraced my route. Nada. I began the arduous task of having the check canceled and re-issued, which was going to take a decent chunk of time. Enough time that my mom would probably be the victim of gum and Windex for Christmas.

I'm exaggerating here a bit. I really didn't panic-panic. I was peeved at the inconvenience, but suspected the check would be found by a stranger, and returned to the address listed by one of those "It's a Wonderful Life" sentimentalists who think December is a good time to do good things. (If it was January ... I'd be fucked).

Sure enough: A few minutes later I got a phone call. "Do you want your check?" a kindly woman asked me. Someone had found it somewhere and returned it. Intact and anonymously. It was a Christmas miracle that played out exactly as I'd imagined.

"It's because you think you're lucky," Chuck said, adding that he was uncomfortable for the entire story until he knew the check was in my pocket.
This is true. I do think I'm lucky. I'm exactly the kind of person who assumes that if I lose $147.90, that someone will return it to me. Unfortunately, I'm also the kind of person who loses $147.90, so maybe "lucky" isn't the right word. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's a shame about Ray ...

Today is Chuck's birthday, and so I dug down deep and got a bunch of frosting under my fingernails, which I plan to enjoy Monday-ish, when I'm gnawing away at my ragged talons and emerge with a face full of choco-mint flecks. And that, my friends, is exactly the kind of surprise that affirms why I never wash my hands. 

Here is the behind-the-scenes super secret footage of how a bunch of stuff becomes a tiny little cake. And happy birthday to my favorite person in the entire solar system. 

Step 1: Find a recipe for cupcakes that is in a skill level near the neighborhood of your own skill level. One that deviates from the standard vanilla/chocolate blah blah blah. Something that seems like an adult-ish person who can work a spoon should be able to accomplish without getting batter on the ceiling, blood in the frosting.

Step 2: Select dinosaur cupcake cups. According to the Netflix archives, the recipient is like the HUGEST fan of dinosaurs.

Step 3: See the instructions. Read them. Seem to comprehend them. Then fuck up the order of ingredients, forget to sift, and treat vanilla extract like it is optional. Wonder if it is too late to repeat second grade. Imagine towering over a sea of pigtails in the Christmas program. Wonder if owning a 10-year-old two-door Honda Civic would increase invitations to skating parties. 

Step 4: Pensively lick raw egg, sugar, flour mixture off beaters. Decide that the fetal position and/or geyser-style barfing and/or pasty blue skin exposed to rookie EMTs totally worth it for the sweet sweet taste of raw eggs, sugar, and flour mixture. The lack of vanilla is palpable.

Step 5: Decide to start over with another batch -- this time including the vanilla. But follow through with the vanilla-less batch, because you aren't a quitter!  (These can go in the freezer for times when the desire for cake is so crippling that it doesn't even matter if the cake is good. It just needs to shuttle the frosting directly to the place where diabetes is made).

Step 6: Pandora queues up "It's a Shame About Ray," which spins you back to 1992 for a solid three minutes. Whatta song, from more than half a life ago.

Step 7: Butter creams are mixed, and tinted green; Chocolate is melted (mostly, save for about four unappetizing chunks) and morphs a frosting.It is spooned into a plastic baggy to ape an actual baker using an actual piping bag. This is about the third most hilarious way to frost something.

Step 8: Varsity squad cupcakes are assembled, with decreasing dedication to the aesthetic. The B-squad cupcakes get the leftover frosting and undivided attention from my broken impulse control-ometer.

Step 9: There is no left over interest in cleaning up dishes. And nothing says Happy Birthday, Chuckers! like a sink full of frosting smears.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Conversations with my former landlord: Pain Relief Edition

Me: Do you have the sort of thing that a person might take to relieve a headache?
Former Landlord: (Rustling through his mass accumulation of ... things) I think so. ...

[Hands me a small, tubular packet of a powder substance. Like a single serving of Crystal Lite. Or a small Pixie Stick]

Me: Where the hell did you get this? The trunk of a stagecoach?
Former Landlord: You just pop it open, and dump it in your mouth.
Me: Is this experimental?
Former Landlord: [Mimes his previous instructions in a way that looks like he is doing an imaginary shot]
Me: I can't take this candy medicine. Do you have anything else?
Former Landlord: [More rustling. Hands me a brand of "safety coated enteric aspirin"] Here.
Me: What is this? I've never heard of this.
Former Landlord: It's new.
Me: [Reading label]: It says it expired in September, 2010.
Former Landlord: Psh. Like it went bad. [Shakes head] It's sealed!
Me: [Still reading label]: It says that adults should take 4-8 pills every 4 hours?
Former Landlord: Huh. That many?
Me: Yeah. It says 'Do not exceed 48 pills in a day.'
Former Landlord: Wow. 48 pills. That's a lot.
Me: I'm going to take 7.
Landlord: 7?!
Former Landlord: [Looks in bottle] Oh. These are small. You can take eight of these.

Monday, December 6, 2010

More fun with flesh eating ...

Logically, these itchy patches on my skin -- which I've torn away at to the point of blood flecks with my talon-like nails -- are the result of dry air. I've almost perfected a parlor trick in which I absorb the contents of a sealed bottle of Jergens from 10 feet away. There is also a chance that I'm reacting to what seems to be a life sentenced to antibiotics. Nightly ingestion of Mike & Ike-sized drug, which then travels south to my freakishly large bladder where it goes all Space Invaders at anything that looks infection-y. Pieces of said pill then break off and explode into softball-sized itch pockets on my shins, thighs, forearm, chest, shoulder blades,and dime-sized splotches on my lower spine, and along my hair line.

I've even considered that the super secret ingredients of my latest addiction, Sugar Free Rock Star, is rusting my innards. I mean, what the hell is Guarana, and can I trust that it isn't causing me to gouge myself to skin layers well below freckle level? 

I've been bathing in oatmeal-infused washes, then slathering on enough Hydrocortisone that I could feasibly slide my entire body into the cavity of a chicken. This dulls the itch for awhile. Then, suddenly, I'm ripping away at my skull like the star of a Public Service Announcement about the evils of H.

I actually like to believe that this is either psychosomatic itching, or something supernatural is afoot. These are far more mysterious, dare I say sexier, options. Woman itches her way out of her own body, and starts new life as Halloween decoration. Or, tiny evil motes drill way to surface of woman's skin; she frees them with a hearty thrashing of nails, flicking her own skin dust into the couch.

Hey! Have you guys ever stood in front of a bunch of lotions at Walgreens and Google Imaged psoriasis and eczema on your iPhone to try to self-diagnose your animal behavior? And then moved skittishly away from the other person in the aisle who was doing the same thing? Me too.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Conversations with my former landlord, Vol. 98 ...

Former Landlord: Hey. I finally finished that bag of chips.
Me: Thank God.


Former Landlord: Hey. What's your email address?
Me: Why?
Former Landlord [Shows me a photograph of a plate of shrimp]: I'm trying to get these coupons. These are some good deals.
Me: Use your own email address.
Former Landlord: I only have a work email address, and I can't use that.
Me: Get an email address.
Former Landlord: Psh. I can't. I've done that before. Then I forget to check it, and it closes down.
Me: Just get an email address.
Former Landlord: No.
Me: They're free. And they'll give them to anyone in the world.
Former Landlord: Just give me your email address.
Me: No.
Former Landlord: It's probably[snorts]
Me: [Blank and super incredulous stare] You're an idiot.

[Brief reprieve from dialogue].

Former Landlord: Hey. Did you ever get those rebates I had sent to your house?
Me [Recalling some vague plan he had to send for rebates on booze, but needed a different mailing address for each of them]: No.
Former Landlord: You didn't? You didn't get those rebates I had sent to your house?
Me: No.
Former Landlord: Huh. Well what the heck. You should have gotten those rebates by now.
Me: Who knows. I might have thought it was junk mail.
Former Landlord: What?!
Me: [Shrug]
Former Landlord: You owe me 40 dollars!

Former Landlord: Hey, I need to use your credit card.
Me: Absolutely not.
Former Landlord: It's just 25 bucks. I'll give you the money right now.
Me: No.
Former Landlord: The security code rubbed off on mine. I think it might be 603.
Me: No.
Former Landlord: I need your credit card.
Me: Absolutely not.
Former Landlord: Look. You can't even see the security code.
Me: Call your bank.

[Brief reprieve from dialogue].

Overheard as he talks on the phone: That's L-A-N-D-L-O-R-D. Yeah, my security code is rubbed off on my card? ... No. No. I need it right now, though. Oh. You can't do that? Hm. Okay.

[He's back].

Former Landlord: Give me your credit card.
Me: No.
Former Landlord: Well, cripes. That was a good deal, too.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Don't it make my brown eyes blue ...

I've only recently come to realize that the brain is a terrible place to store memories. I have always prided myself on being a person who recalls the minutia of adolescence. The appendicitis-like agony of not being allowed to wear jelly shoes in third grade (trashy). Although for self-preservation purposes, I've gone floppy disc versus magnet on my 20s. Nothing to see there.

My point is, I have no idea if the following is true, or a brain blend manipulated by "Three's Company," Capri Sun, Martika, and Vuarnet T-shirts.

There was a woman who had a son who played hockey with my brother. She had super long hair. Like, butt scarf long. She treated it like a fragile crown, whooshing it carefully to the side when she sat on the bleachers in the arena. It wasn't pretty long hair, treated to 100 strokes twice a day. Or the frame of a mermaid's face. It was just hair. Like a field of free-thinking strands mid-scatter. Nothing a little Hot Oil Help couldn't remedy, though.

I always thought of Crystal Gayle driving a clunker when I saw her.

Finally I asked my mom why this woman had such long hair. She told me this. (I think):

"Some women never change their look after they meet their husband. They don't want him to not like what they look like, and then leave them."

There are a few things that lead me to believe she actually said this. Most recently, it was when I told her that we needed a bigger counter top in the downstairs bathroom because maybe the sink isn't the best place for storing a flat iron.

This, she said, was another reason Chuck and I should get married. A flat iron in the sink is annoying, just the kind of thing that can be the last straw. A deal breaker. If we were married, he would be contractually bound to the fact that my flat iron lives in the sink in the downstairs bathroom. Quick. Sign here so your boyfriend can't flip shit over the dangers of electrocution.

Man. It must have been weird to grow up in the 1950s.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Reasons a playa might not post words on her blog for more than a week ...

1. Perhaps she has taken up creating a graphic journal, within which she records an event from the day with a  crudely-drawn representations of her world. Maybe part of her relishes being able to draw whatever she wants, including Jamie Lee Curtis holding a container of Activia, or a uterus encasing Jiminey  Cricket. A person, maybe especially this person, can get pretty something when no one is watching. In which case, a trip through her recent Google Image searches would be a real hoot and a half.

2. She could be sleeping off an epic 2 day hangover, sponsored by Patron, Grand Marnier, and, um ... Diet Coke? Or something. Who remembers such nonsense.  Whatever it was, it took more than a 20-hour single serving of sleep, DiGiorno's Stuffed Crust Pizza, Purple Gatorade, Ruffles and French Onion Dip. Another life lesson for the kiddies: Four PBRs are probably enough, and there is no reason an adult-aged person should go to an afterbar.

3. She could be busy starting an electronica/experimental band with her boyfriend. Starting with a MySpace presence and segueing into downloading iPhone apps with funky, fresh beats.

4. She probably forgot she has a blog. This is not out of the question, even after more than six years Dear Diary-ing all over the internet. She also seems to have forgotten that she reads book-books, without pictures, where the conversations are wrapped in quotation marks, not bubbles. 

 5. What if she is bereft over the loss of Leslie Nielsen? After all, the Naked Gun series is still the standard by which she judges all other humor.

6. Her boyfriend has potentially found a name for what ails her, and it is called "Acute fascination with the body horror genre." If it wasn't illegal in the tri-county area, she would probably watch "Hellraiser" at least three more times before reluctantly sending the DVD back to Netflix. (Hopefully by then "Black Swan" will be at a theater in her zip code).

7. I bet she's bored of words. And cooking. And running. And anything more than nightly episodes of "Entourage," and cookies that taste like orange and lemon zest. 

8. Some people can get awfully caught up in trying to eat as many orange-ish brown foods in one sitting is possible. Would the sir like a side of Tator Tots with these fake Chick'n Nuggies?

9. Other people get super busy growing out their hair. So they can be shirt optional. Like "Splash."*

*Repeat joke.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My fingers they are blisters and my eyes they are bullet holes ...

My game plan for the Cloud Cult show was to sit in the back row by myself and cry. Something about the chemical makeup of my body, when mixed with their music, results in this total wash of feeling like I'm actually melting. It's involuntary. It's very Tourettes. It's like a bloodletting, but with snot. It's not happy crying, and it's not sad crying. It's overwhelmed crying, pleasure crying, like a cello/violin/trombone/guitar/live painters/all those voices jangled the right combination of organs to activate every sense at the same time. It's like being able to touch smell.

I don't know how they do this to me. But the song "Trapeze Swinger" by Iron & Wine has a similar effect on me. "Viva la Vida" by Coldplay (Shut up. I don't pick the song, the song picks me.) gets close.

Whereas I believe that all bands should be Swedish pop duos, I also believe that if that is not possible -- say you aren't Swedish -- all bands should have a strong string section. I think the cello is my favorite instrument. Other things I love about Cloud Cult:

* They put on a show. Six musicians, two live painters who occasionally ditch the brushes to join these epic vocal moments. So many voices at the same time;

* They are these wholly good people. Recycled CD cases, planting trees to cancel out the carbon footprint of touring. Reminders that we are the keepers of Lake Superior and that it is our job to keep it clean.

* Their back story is one of huge tragedy, which is still at the core of their music, although now there is an added layer of celebration. Sometimes they lean to the group hug side of inspirational, but in an appealing way. If they were a church, I'd bake brownies and join the choir.

Anyway, usually the face gushing doesn't start until they play "Love You All"; Last night it started midway through their first song "Unexplainable Stories" -- a slowish, string heavy song that explodes in the center. That's when the two live painters spun their canvases and just started chucking colors and my chin and nose had a seizure and my eyes felt like they were filled with smoke.

So I finally lassoed the tremble. It returned a few times through the rest of the show. Specifically during the encore when they played "Exploding People," and all eight people on stage started beating on drums or drum-like things. In one case it was a bucket. Sticks flying all over the place during the apex of the song. 

In an awesome manipulation of fate, Chuck was able to go with me to Saturday night's show at St. Scholastica. I'd gotten two tickets on the off chance that he would wake up early enough to be able to be in public at 7:30 p.m. That made it the first time I've gone to a Cloud Cult show with another person, so I was able to grab his leg and squeeze it in delight throughout the whole show. Even better than sitting by myself in the back row, crying alone. I think this was my favorite Cloud Cult show of all time.

In other news, this Minneapolis duo For Wilson Riot opened the show. They are a guitar, levers and gadgets, and voice, and by the end of their 45-minute set I was totally enamored with them. At first it was iffy. But they looked like they were having fun. Dude playing guitar, girl's hair whipping in her face as she played keyboard and twisted and poked at buttons.

"I don't know about their music," Chuck said. "But I think we should do that when we get home."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Booked ...

Today I was gifted with an armload and a half of free books from longtime blog reader turned friend, FiFi. She's gone electronic with her lit, plus, she said her husband is worried about her piles upon piles of books toppling on her head.

And you thought you could only salivate over food. We stood at her kitchen table as she held up a mix of graphic novels, memoirs and fiction. I'd only read three from the haul. She frowned when I told her I already owned a copy of "Nocturnes." That frown seemed to say "Dammit, Pista. Now I have to put this back in my topple pile."

This was so truly awesome. I already zipped through one of the graphic novels in the late afternoon. I can't believe I spent 34 years not reading graphic novels. This has been the most exciting thing to happen to me, reading-wise, since Christopher Pike and his YA freak fests in the late 80s. Thanks, FiFi.The next three months are booked. Get it? Booked. Huh.

I should also note here that this comes on the heels of a rather large shipment of words from Jodes, who is also responsible for getting me into graphic novels. My reading life is ridiculously satisfying.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Welcome to the jungle ...

I got pulled over for driving with only one headlight last night. I was in the process of committing, or had recently committed, a handful of traffic crimes around the time I saw the cherries. He cranked a U-y. I muted my third-favorite local radio station, a one-stop classic rock shop that plays "Welcome to the Jungle" at least once every time I am in my car.

"You didn't know you only had one headlight?" the state trooper said incredulously when I expressed genuine wonder at his judgment call. Like he thought I was someone who pantsed a bus driver, then fleeced him for his super secret pre-route check list. Brake lights. Check. Blinkers. Check. Head lights. Oh. Snap. 

No, I didn't know my headlight was out. I don't spend a ton of time on or near the front of my car. I'm not, like, Tawny Kitaine.

Cop: Where are you going?
Me: Home.
Cop (Holding my drivers license): Where do you live?
Me: [Address]. It says right ... there. (Points to ID)
Cop: Is this your car?
Me: Yes.
Cop: Where are you coming from?
Me: Work.
Cop: Where do you work?
Me: Uh ...
Cop: I'm just curious.
Me: [Says place of employment. Add job description]
Cop: [Makes very strange joke about my job, and this vehicle heist]
Me: [Fake laughs uproariously]

Then I showed him a crumpled piece of paper with the name of my insurance company on it, he ran my ID and let me go with a warning.

I did not have time to go headlight shopping during the day, and found myself in a situation where I would be driving home in the dark. I solicited a little help from my former landlord.

Me: Do you know if there is an auto parts store downtown?
Former Landlord: There's one by your house.
[He misses the subtext here, which is "Hey. Why don't you go find me a headlight and insert it into my vehicle. Your hands are already dirty.]
Me: But I can't drive home with one headlight. Better if I can just change it before I drive anywhere.
FL: Hmm. Just drive with your brights on. That should work. It's not a permanent fix, but it'll do in a pinch.
Me: Huh. Thank you, Duct Tape Face.
[The subtext here is: "Thank goodness for a friend who uses a tin can and a garden hose to manipulate the windows of his car." 

So I got a new headlight. And when I asked the salesman about the difficulty level of changing it, he offered to do it for me. This made me pissy because I wanted to know how to change my own headlight. The whole give a man a fish versus teach a man to fish scene from Karate Kid or the bible or whatever.

But he seemed to want to change a headlight pretty bad, so I let him. Then, as he struggled with it, I started to get pissed off that I had to stand out in the cold offering gratitude and encouragement. And that is how, for 30 seconds today, I was a super huge bitch deep down.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dinosaur meat ...

Big week last week. I started my new series: Pop Culture Curiosities, wherein I investigate things I feel like I should know about but don't know about. So far it has been pretty week sauce -- lots of playing catch up with fast food menus, including the Double Down, the McRib, and energy drinks. I gotta couple doozies this week. Both promise to be so painful that I might just abandon the project.

Also: I finally dropped my iPhone into the toilet. I suspect my subconscious had a hand in it. I'd had that phone through two iPhone upgrades and mine was starting to taste like dinosaur meat.There wasn't even a video camera, yo. Now I can take a higher quality of shitty photographs. I can't stop staring at it. The screen is so pretty.

In other news, here is what I've been watching and reading. 

Bored to Death: The Complete First Season: New favorite show. Now, like everyone else in the world, I'm addicted to Zach Galifianakis.

En La CamaThis is a naked foreign take on the "Before Sunrise" concept. These strangers meet at a party, and the movie opens with some Olympic caliber skin gymnastics. Then they slowly get to know each other, seemingly going through the entire stages of a relationship in less than 24 hours.It's a little dull and a lot hot.

Zeitoun (Vintage) by Dave Eggers: Over the course of the 300-plus pages of Dave Eggers’ journalistic narrative Zeitoun, the leading lad of one of my favorite self-indulgent, albeit delightful, memoirs became more than the guy who was almost on “The Real World: San Francisco.” Mind blown. Imagine having this ability to write, a mix of ambition plus passion, and an established name as a check to float while changing the entire world.

The Hellbound Heart: A Novel by Clive Barker: Where was my head? I spent the Halloween season searching for the ghostly and gruesome without ever once considering the work of Clive Barker. Then, one night, we landed on the Sy/Fy Channel in time to catch a wonderfully gross movie based on one of his short stories. Eyeballs popped out of heads. A meat hook blow was delivered to a crotch. Bodies were hung and bled like sides of beef. I cackled and gagged. Sometimes simultaneously. And then cracked into Barker’s The Hellbound Heart, the horror novella behind the Hellraiser series.

Full review for both here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nectar ...

Pop Culture Curiosity Chapter 3: The One Where I Get Addicted to Energy Drinks!

I've made no secret of the fact that I enjoy the neon green flush of urine that chemically occurs when I drink Sugar Free Rock Star. It's in the beeturia genre of fascinating biology. But it's more than a glowing toilet bowl that keeps me cruising back to the cooler at my local C-store.

I genuinely like the sweet and tinny taste. And I genuinely love the spazz-mitude inspired by this PBR tall boy-sized energy drink. It's not so much the stomach gnaw or the acute awareness that your hair is growing, like with coffee -- which I also love. It's more of an accelerated heart rate and involuntarily doing the Roger Rabbit. That feeling that IF I DON'T HEAR A SONG BY KATRINA AND THE WAVES RIGHT NOW MY ORGANS WILL IMPLODE!

And that's a wonderful feeling.

Chuck and I recently had a taste test: Sugar Free Rock Star versus Lo-Carb Monster. He mixed up the samples, then presented me with both options. I knew my Sugar Free Rock Star the way a mother knows her baby -- even though all babies look exactly alike. Monster was too thick and syrup-y. More like nectar from flowers watered with the urine of a thousand 12-year-olds with ADHD. I prefer the higher carbonation factor of Sugar Free Rock Star, and it's much more subtle sweetness. Perchance, nectar from flowers watered with the urine of just 500 12-year-olds with ADHD.

Chuck, by the way, chose the Monster in his blind taste test. 

So there it is. People like energy drinks. I tried enough energy drinks to have a favorite energy drink. And I've tried my favorite energy often enough to actually trick myself into thinking "Hm. 3 p.m. Time for my Sugar Free Rock Star. Do-do-do."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Time out for Lydia ...

I had no place to be, so I stopped off for a beer on my way home. It was late, so I'd already missed Chuck before he left for work. One beer, maybe two, at a townie bar close to my house sounded good.

I ordered a Fat Tire, filled out my name, address and phone number on a slip of paper without questioning what sort of contest I was entering. If I know this place, it's a meat raffle. I began reading from a book of short stories that I keep in my purse. I call it purse-book.

I like reading in bars. It's a nice mix of being in public and in private at the same time. I usually have to explain this to at least one person who asks what I'm reading, then apologizes for bothering me. Reading in bars is confusing to people who have never tried reading in bars.

After the bartender asked what I was reading, I went out for a cigarette purposefully leaving the book next to my drink to a) save my chair and b) give her time to look at it if she was curious. I came back, diddled with my phone, and wondered if I should write a short story about a woman who secretly becomes an alcoholic and her boyfriend never finds out about it because he works nights.

"What're you doing? Just playing with your phone?"

It was a super tall 20-something who had come in earlier with a woman who was noticeably older than him. He seemed like a regular. He called the bartender by her first name and had a slurry remorsefulness that suggested he understands that he sometimes annoys her.

"Reading," I said, wishing I had the book in my hand instead of splayed out on the counter.

"Well, now you're going to have fun!" he said.
"Right. Reading," I said.
He gave me a cockeyed look.
"I'm at the bar with my mom," he said, confirming the fan fiction I'd written about him in my head the second he walked in the door.

Down at the other end of the bar, the surly blonde was scowling at nothing.
"Now you can have fun with me and my mom!" he said.
"Hm. I think I'll just read," I said, nodding to my book.

He picked it up.
"The Collected Stories of. Lydia Davis," he read the cover.
I was moderately surprised. I had bet myself he'd call her "Linda," and lost.
He flipped through the book.
"What. Are you going to read to me?" I asked him.
He opened to the story I was on, and read the title aloud: "Meat, My Husband."
"That's funny," he said. "Because 'meat' is spelled like that."
And again I was moderately surprised.
So he began reading: 

"My husband's favorite food, in childhood, was corned beef. I found this out yesterday when some friends came over and we started talking about food. At some point, they asked what our favorite childhood foods had been. I couldn't think of any, but my husband didn't have to think before answering.

'Corned beef,' he said.
'Corned beef with an egg on it," one of our friends added. 

"Corned beef with an egg on it!" he slurred, clearly appalled. "Who would ever eat corned beef with an egg on it."

The bartender interjected. She would. For sure. Grew up on the stuff.
"With an egg on it?!" he asked.
"Sure," she said. "Haven't you ever had corned beef hash, with eggs?"
He made a face as she walked away.
"Must be a new thing," he said, and continued reading.

My husband often ate in diners before we met. He had two he liked, but he preferred the one where they did a particularly good hot roast beef sandwich. He still likes a good piece of roast beef, or steak, or hamburger mixed with sauce and spices and grilled outdoors with ..." 

He struggled with the next word, brochettes, and said instead "bruschetta."

"... of onions and peppers.
He put his thumb between the pages. "Does any of that sound good to you?" he asked me. Frankly, I'd already stopped listening. So I grappled for a memorable word.

"Bruschetta," I said. "Bruschetta sounds good."

"HEY MOM!" he yelled down the bar.
"Shhhh," said the bartender.
"What?!" squawked his mom.
"Do you want to cook bruschetta!" he yelled in a whisper yell.
"What?!" she said.
"Do you want to cook bruschetta?!" he yelled in a non-whisper yell.
"Tonight? No. I work all goddamn day and I want to go home," she growled.
(These are all direct quotes. I was texting them to myself at the time because I didn't want to forget a lick of it).

I'm not sure what he thought was going to happen. Were we all three going to bumble to the car, drive to Morgan Park, and sit around the table listening to him read "Meat, My Husband" while his mom chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic and placed them on a baguette. Ponder the meaning of the 800 word story while it baked at 425 degrees? Chuckle over that clever Lydia Davis as we finally ate the bruschetta? Maybe segue into some Cribbage. Whatever it was, she seemed to know what he was thinking.

"Your mom wants to go home," I told him.
He looked at her at the end of the bar. Got up. Walked away.
I ordered another Fat Tire, and finished the story.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wishing for a hangover where there is none ...

Pop Culture Curiosity Chapter 2: KFC's Double Down

The best place to eat a tired relic of pop culture, during daylight hours, is in the front seat of your car in a parking lot on a side of town you don't usually frequent.

Enter KFC's Double Down, item No. 2 on Project Catch Up With What The Hell People Are -- or in this case Were -- Talking About. (Unofficial title). This once-taboo introduction to a world that refused to accept that something called a "sandwich" would have the audacity to substitute chicken breasts for a bun caused a ruckus, and then that ruckus ended. It is, as plenty of internet people have pointed out, a chicken dinner gone vertical, rather than horizontal. So no one's talking about it anymore -- except Canadians. It just migrated north. I bet that audience will cycle through its outrage at the sodium content in a much cooler way.

I have terrible news, carrot-faces. Dr. Colonel Sanders found a hangover cure. I wasn't hung over when I ate mine, but as liquid fat pooled near my elbows, I wished I was hung over. This thing is delicious. First of all, it's fried chicken, which has never sucked. And it has slats of off-white cheese, that curiously did not melt nor bend. Some sort of salmon-colored sauce. Bacon. It's not pretty. It's food-itecture.

I ate about 75 percent of it before I got meated out. Then I tossed it into my backseat for part two of the experiment: How long would this sandwich last in the post-apocalyptic world that is my vehicle. 

I like to consider myself pop culture curious, but there are whole categories of things that go by unnoticed in a way that suggests I've never seen the internet. I'm dedicating this week -- give or take a week -- to introducing certain much-talked about things I've not experienced into my life. And then blogging about it.Not all of these posts will be about food. Chapter 1: The McRib is here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

McMermaids. Or McHair ...

I like to consider myself pop culture curious, but there are whole categories of things that go by unnoticed in a way that suggests I've never seen the internet. I'm dedicating this week -- give or take a week -- to introducing certain much-talked about things I've not experienced into my life. And then blogging about it.

Chapter One: The McRib

One of the greater things you can do with a Pla-Doh Fun Factory is take a salty mound of blue, and shoot squiggles of tasty clay out of the holes in a Pla-Doh Fun Factory character's head. This handful of colorful oozes can be squeezed with a helmet-like mold to create the representation of 1970's housewife hair 'du. It's a blast.

This is what I'm reminded of when I open up a coffin-shaped fast food box filled with the oft-talked about McRib. The decorative xylophone of lines that represents an animal's upper torso seems to be a facade. An aesthetics thing. There are no bones. At least not born of a mammal. You would be more likely to choke on a fish bone in this thing. You want ribs? I'll give you a hamburger covered in BBQ sauce, pressed into a set of ribs. With this in mind, McDonald's could also make the McMermaid or even the McHair.

This on-again, off-again delicacy is a wild stallion. That bad boy lead from a romantic comedy. It crops up on menus, disappears. There are whispers: It's back. Limited time only. Then it's gone again. It's Jude Law leaving half-dressed messy-haired 20-somethings weeping in his wake; It's Matthew McConaughey's drawling his refusal to even commit to wearing shoes throughout an entire movie.

This sandwich looks messy. It smells like a concentration of food stands at the county fair, yet manages to not have that classic McDonald's smell. That fleshy stench of wet Doritos that clings to hair long after the extra value meal has been voided.

It's slathered with a sauce that stains the box like the endometrium artwork of a clever old hippie making a statement about womanhood. A period muralist. Raw onions and about three pickles. A soft bun that completely matches the size and shape of the pork patty, as if they were born to lie together in this perfect union.

The McRib is neither bad, nor good. And I'm no snob. McDonald's cheeseburgers are good. It's the lint-sizes slivers of onion. The Filet O'Fish is something else. There it is the combination of cheese-product and Tartar sauce. I'd do some pretty wretched things for a Shamrock Shake, including ordering something I am going to consume from a drive-thru window. The McRib will simply make you less hungry than you were before you ate it. But you could drink 14 mustard packets, and that would coat your stomach for awhile, too.

The McRib seems to have pretty good PR, and its identity is wholly wrapped up in the fact that it is The McRib, rather than the fact that a bunch of pork, smooshed into the shape of ribs, and slathered in a thin hickory-flavored liquid is the perfect melding of tastes.

It could stand for some cheese. Barring that, something yellowish pressed into the shape of cheese. And when it comes to special sauces, the Big Mac has it beat with that Thousand Island tang, and the In-N-Out Burger would kick it in the nuts, and then make it apologize for having left its nuts in a kick-able position.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Shitstorm of media consumption ...

On this episode of Weakly Reviewed, I hit an unprecedented level of laziness that has me simply making lists and linking when I feel like it without explanation. (All of the book links to go Minnesota Reads, where full reviews of this shitstorm of media I've been consuming can be read in 500-plus word detail). In a strange twist of literary fate, I'd actually recommend any of these books to anyone. Not sure how I managed to fall into a six-book win streak, but it shows no sign of abating. I'm currently reading another winner. My inner bitcher is totally pissed off. It might be time for me to pick up the next installment in the Twilight series so I have something to complain about.   

As for the movies, I feel into a horror fest during the Halloween season, which was helped along by AMC's willingness to feed my insatiable need for gore. Our TiVo looked like it was being operated by a very macabre teen-aged boy. As for the random French film, blame Marcy Dermansky's book "Bad Marie." So. I included like sentence thoughts on everything I saw. No time or effort was harmed in the making of that list.

In other news at the McChuckerstein/Pista residence: We do indeed have mice. They went Old Country Buffet over some rat poison. Now we wait for the house to start reeking to gauge our success. In related news: our bedroom and kitchen have never been cleaner.

And personally: I've come to discover that I am powerless against Target's Converse collection. Also: I still have glue stuck in my eyelashes from the falsies I wore on Halloween. I got some of the chunks out by ripping out a handful of eyelashes. So now I have bald spots and clumps. I'm adorable.


Mexican lasagna: So this is like lasagna, cept with tortillas and built in a springform pan. It was decent. I'd make it again. All the yum of lasagna without the mess of working with wet noodles. Ole!

Sun Dried Tomato and Arugula Tartines: My only complaint about this is that it was flavor overload. But, damn. Delicious. These little sandwiches got the sun-dried tomato, tofu, olives, arugula, and fancy Swiss cheese treatment with favorable results. I could only eat about one before I almost had to have a stomach-ectomy.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: Dave Eggers 

The Hunger Games: Suzanne Collins

Rat Girl: Kristin Hersch

Cruddy: Lynda Barry

Handling the Undead: John Avjist Lindqvist

Bad Marie: Marcy Dermansky

Leprechaun: Turning Shamrock Shakes into laughable horror
Tropic Thunder: Laughed a lot, then had best nap ever.
Friday the 13th 2: Inspiring.

The Shining: Never gets old.

Halloween 2: Keep getting it mixed up with Friday the 13th 2.

Sherlock Holmes: Funny. Fell asleep.

Creature from the Black Lagoon: Love.

Midnight Meat Train: Perfectly disgusting.

Funny Games: Uncomfortable.

The Omen: Too long.
Rois et reine (Kings and Queen): Huh. Interesting.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Skittering ...

We either have mice or ghosts, I realized when the invisible skittering in the bedroom woke me up at about 5:12 a.m. Friday. You would have to be a pretty big asshole to not know that I'd prefer the latter like nine hundred fold. I've been super conscious of every noise in this house since Rodent Security floated off to the great big bag of Iams' Weight Control in the sky.

I had a false alarm less than a week ago when I woke up to a similar noise coming from the foot of the bed. This constant rustling. I tuned into my CSI-whatever and realized that a Benetton receipt was being pushed across the floor by the force of air from a vent. That got a pretty hearty internal laugh.Silly rodent-phobe, I thought. This is what you get for buying an argyle sweater.

Just because it wasn't a mouse that time didn't mean it wouldn't be a mouse in the future.This place is almost 100 years old. There must be at least one dime-sized hole with a blinking cartoon-ish Vacancy sign somewhere on the premises.

I do not like small things that wiggle.I'm not going to hold a frog/worm/gerbil. And I don't want to see a mess of them squiggling around either. Mini punctuation-shaped beings in motion. Peach fuzzed bodies. Pink eyes. Tails.

I texted Chuck about the skittering, and I believe he spent his work break investigating mouse karate. Horror stories about mouse nests and dryer fires and elimination tactics. He's had mice before. They licked his peanut butter jar clean a few years ago, so he used something he generically referred to at the time as "Rat Poison." Then one time we woke to find a mess of them had gone loco-diabetes on Candy Corn we'd left in a bowl on the table.Still more Rat Poison.

Despite my lentil lean and unwillingness to do things like, oh say, ram my hand into a chicken cavity, take the skin off salmon, or readjust a slab of pork tenderloin once I've squirted it out of a bag, I have no problem with dead animals. I'm not going to chain myself to McDonalds, in less it is in support of, say, Year Round Shamrock Shakes! A dead mouse, in my opinion, is better than a live mouse. Best of all, if it dies having never made eye contact with me. Alone, mummified, little claws making a mini-rawr in sign language.

A cat would fix this. Chuck's allergic to cats, and this non-cat era of our relationship has done tremendous things for his lung capacity and mucous moderation. I don't want another cat. Cats weasel their way into your cold heart, and leave you in a bubbling pool of snot when they spin themselves senile and die in your arms on a crappy old couch in the back room of the vet's office. Plus, I hate thinking of bringing a furry being into this house that would likely still be skulking around the baseboards when we are 50.

"Some 50 year olds have cats, you know," Chuck said.
That's not the point.

Maybe if we could get a cat that understood its role as work horse. If we could just maintain a professional relationship. Debrief when necessary. Shake hands. Walk away. Maybe then.

ADDENDUM: There is a third option. That skittering noise might be coming from a drafting bedroom window and some scratchy blinds.This option came to me at about 5 a.m. this morning, my sleep again broken by that noise. I spent a sleepless hour imagining mice nipping at my toes, and weaseling into crooks of my body for warmth. I played some Cloud Cult to distract me. I turned on the light. I stared at the offending corner. I readjusted the blinds, and didn't hear another peep.

We might still have mice, though.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Internetrovert ...

Somehow I have gotten out of the habit of recording the inane things that happen in my day through a sassafrass filter. I can't decide if this is because I don't drink 4 nights a week anymore, nights that really didn't get off the ground until I'd wrestled an entire fistful of JCrew's hair out of her head. Nights that ended when I'd licked clean a plate of gas station burrito.

Maybe it was all pure hubris, believing that people needed to read about what happened to me every day. Or maybe it was all just a big writing assignment slash amusement park.

Fact: I used to tell the same story, honing it, tweaking the punchline pauses, over and over and over again. When I started blogging, I stopped doing that. I'd start to tell a story about something that happened. Stop. Say: "Well. Did you read my blog?" And eventually I just stopped making more than small talk with almost everyone.

I used to be really proud that I could extract the blog-able moment out of every day. A few days ago, maybe even last week, a guy who works at the gas station was singing, I mean really singing that "Constant Sorrow" song from "Oh Brother Where Art Thou." He came in from outside, moved along the perimeter of the store, back to the refrigerators and his voice was just gigantic. It felt like an epic moment. We'd find out later that he was famous. Or maybe he'd get famous after this. It would be his story. "... Used to sing while I stocked Dr. Pepper ..." The guy who was working the register rolled his eyes, if not every roll-able part of his body.

"Does he always do that?" I asked the kid.
Kid nodded.
"Is it so annoying?" Imagine working with that vibrating half of a harmonization.
Kid nodded.

I cackled. That story would have been worth 500 words, after I figured out what the song was called and what movie it was from.

Fact: When you take one thing, a conversation or a scene or an event, and record it, the entire collection becomes this filtered chapter book of your life. You can be pretty manipulative with that, if you do it right. It can get ugly if you do it wrong. Few have perfected the art of identical twin this-is-me and this-is-me-on-the-internet.

I feel like I'm writing all the time. And if not writing, reading something I'll write about. Yet none of those words seem to be ending up here. Sometimes I don't even notice that they aren't making it onto a screen.

First I disconnected my Twitter feed from Facebook.
Then I stopped having Facebook open every time I was online.
Then I ran out of things to Tweet.
Now Facebook is a place to post links to Goodreads and occasional photos.
I still can't think of anything to Tweet.
Maybe I'm become an internetrovert.

Fact: When I was in Los Angeles in May and surrounded by 20-plus strangers, I had a really hard time figuring out what to say to them. Especially in the beginning. Bus rides required seat partners required conversations. Like, conversations. At that time, I was barely thinking thoughts that lasted more than 140 characters. Let alone conversations. How pre-2006.

I wonder what this all means. Will I eventually just be completely without words? Conversation was killed by blogging was killed by Facebook was killed by Twitter was killed by sudden internetroversion. Soon Chuck will be the only person who ever witnesses a word come out of me. And considering our telepathic communication skills, those words will probably be limited to just "soup's on, bitches."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Today I wonder ...

... if our next door neighbor, the West Duluth OG, put up curtains in his dining room because sometimes I don't wear pants when I'm on our deck. Or is it just because he has a draft in his dining room, and I'm a self-centered person who thinks an 80-year-old man would give a shit if I wore pants on the deck.
*My shirts are always long.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hallowinkie ...

I went as Kat Von D for Halloween. Artwork by Chuckers McChuckerstein. In other news: I was so hung over that I missed all 200 plus trick or treaters who wandered past our dark house. Around 8 p.m. I ran outside with a bucket of goods and said to some teens: 

"Hey! Do you guys want some candy?!" 
They did.

About an hour later I barfed Gatorade all over the front yard. Lemon Lime flavor. 

Today I had to try to wash off all my prison tats, including a very inappropriate "flower" drawn by JCrew. The neck one is still half there, as is the one on my forearm.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Printed bullshit my mom can't read ...

Like everyone else who has ever spelled a word, I have a novel in my head. It's like ... exploding out of my cranium. I have the main character named, a wacky bit of dialogue she has in a throwaway scene with her bestie. I also have some ticks and quirks and other lines tucked into various brain pockets. I do not, however, have the first line and so I cannot start writing.

There are other things standing between me and writing this novel:

1. I have an overwhelming commitment to whittling down the Now Playing List on TiVo. Right now this is teeming with different movies from the Friday the 13th franchise. But there is also quite a bit of the CW on my weekly to-do list.

2. If I don't read at least two books a week I start to freak out in a really uncharacteristic way, previously seen in the 90s when I alphabetized my CDs. These manic control freak moments are so bizarre. It's like my inner Virgo is trying to claw her way to the surface, but she keeps getting defeated by sweatpants girl, whose personal motto is: "Am I asleep, or am I awake? I'll never tell." If I don't read enough, I feel like I'm falling behind on all the words out there and I'm not going to get to everything I want to read before I'm 90. I tend to my Amazon wish list the way some people handle a container garden. Reading is my favorite hobby.

3. I like to spend all of my free time that overlaps with Chuck's free time sitting no further than four inches away from him.

4. I get up too late in the morning to do anything more complicated than drinking a cup of coffee and wrapping something colorful around my head to distract people from my unshowered hair.

5. I have a huge problem with Saturdays. I find them really depressing, and I can't get myself to do anything until the sun goes down. When I say Saturday is the Monday of weekends, I mean that in a really bad way.

And now, to further distract myself from the task at hand, I have come home two days this week with a short story knocking around in my skull. I started the first one, and the second is on simmer. But this, too, is just another thing standing between me and a bit of printed bullshit that I won't let my mom read.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Saturday is the Monday of weekends ...

Like sands through the hour glass, I tell ya. 

Wha-Oh. The only new food I've made recently had a weird consistency and so I cannot in good conscience pass along the results. It tasted so weird that I'm surprised it didn't have mushrooms in it.

"Iron Man 2": Well, it has been a mere week-ish since we watched this and I remember little. Although I liked it at the time. Possible there has been a mysterious concussion. But all I see when I picture this movie is Robert Downey Jr. in a red transformer costume. Perfect for Halloween.

The Social Network: So delicious. The only difference between Jesse Eisenberg and Michael Cera, is that I won't not go to a movie just because Jesse Eisenberg is in it. 

"Red Hook Road" by Ayelet Waldman: I come to you with, curiously, no complaints about Ayelet Waldman’s Red Hook Road.  I believe the fiery ginger has written her best novel to date, possibly the best novel she can write, and it is pretty damn good.

This is what literary limbo looks like. It’s a place where you read a book, enjoy said book, probably won’t try to jam it down anyone’s pants with a breathless “You. Must. Read. This.” But if anyone asks your opinion of the work, you will beam like a Glo-Worm, and maybe throw in an appreciative sigh. List 101 things you liked about it — the pace, the characters, the tone. It’s so neutral that you can safely pass it along to your mother as an emergency birthday gift with positive results and without being accused of only reading books about men who -ectomy their own leg bones to use as weaponry.

Kudos, Waldman.

Full review here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

If these walls could talk (like Garfield) ...

For about 16 hours, I thought we really had something. That, at least to someone, our new house had an important place in Duluth history. Something big happened here.

Lorenzo Music, the voice of Carlton the Doorman on "Rhoda," Garfield, and Larry the Crash Test Dummy had gummed his first mushy clumps of Gerber carrots in this house we have lived in since February.

The promise that this house had some creative ju-ju associated with it. Exclamation point.

It all started with a mid-afternoon conversation with our 80-year-old next door neighbor, the West Duluth OG. I'd stopped home for a sandwich and found him hefting a ladder so he could do some yellow-paint touch ups on the exterior of his house. He was a little winded, and seemed happy for the distraction. During the 15 minute neighborly chat, he dumped a semester worth of Americana into my proverbial sponge. The man is oozing with interesting info. I'd postpone more than a sandwich to hear a few of his yarns.

He's not someone to trifle with things like segues and transitions, and just began dishing:
That young girl who was kidnapped and murdered in this region in the early 2000s is his granddaughter. He had squirrels at the cabin, shot one with a .22 right there in the kitchen and put a hole in the floor. One time at the hunting shack, his friend died next to his truck and they didn't find him until 3 hours later. The woman across the street had in vitro, and all three eggs took. Viola! Triplets. ("Thank God they didn't try five eggs.") There is no way that the previous owner of our house got his money back when he sold to us. OG has done the math on the cost of a garage, a roof, a deck, the kitchen remodeling ... then, Carlton the Doorman.

I didn't know Carlton the Doorman from John Boy. This bit of 1970s pop culture fell through the sieve. But I know "voice of Garfield." Fan isn't a big enough word to describe an 8-year-old with a stuffed orange cat wearing running shorts and sweat bands that she takes to school, to Montana, to bed. Plastic Garfield-shaped pencil erasers, striped doodles with a round belly and shaded ears, belly laughs at Jim Davis's thoughts on Mondays, Lasagna, and Nermal.

Later that night, I shared this misinformation with Chuck. We whooped. We YouTubed. I posted my factless finding on Facebook.

"We should put a portrait of him over the fireplace," I said.
"That would be creepy," Chuck said.
"Then in the upstairs hallway," I suggested.
"That would be creepier," he said.

Today I did some more research and discovered Lorenzo Music went to Duluth Central. He grew up in the Central Hillside. Red Alert. No Trojan lives West of Duluth Denfeld. Not in those days. But he married a West Duluth girl. ... I see that at the crucial point in the conversation with OG, I'd gotten a bit lost. He must have told me that Lorenzo Music had married the girl who grew up in our house. Myrna, I believe, although like Lorenzo, she had a name change when they jetted off to Hollywood. She became a Henrietta.

This was, of course, a buzz kill. To be fair, Henrietta and Lorenzo paired for a few projects -- which means she has some Hollywood cred, too. She wasn't the voice of Garfield, though. No, he lived across town. Who wants to be charged with giving my inner 8-year-old that correction?

So now we have cool history once removed, which is not the same thing as a tour bus filled with baby boomers driving slowly past the house. Charging admission for a looksee. Although, it's probably still cool if I get a little gold plated something for over the door that says "Lorenzo Music was here." That much is probably true.