Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Belatedly ...

Oh, Hey! Here is everything I made and put into my brain last week! 

Italian Egg Drop Soup: If you are of the 101 ways to use chick peas camp, here is another one. It's chicken broth, chick peas, scallions, and after these get all hot and bubbly, add some noodles for five minutes, then arugula and keep it cranked until it wilts. Then stir in four eggs that have been slightly beaten. A few squirts of lemon juice, and some danger-ranger amounts of salt and you're good to go.

Fantastic Mr. Fox We watched two George Clooney films this week, and no one in this house is even all psycho about George Clooney or anything. I guess my favorite character was probably the rat.

Up in the Air I loved this.

Confessions of a Shopaholic What can I say? I was in the mood to watch a female character whose entire personality was based on compulsive shopping and perfectly-timed wipe outs. If I planned to ever think about this movie again, I would probably point out that the romantic male lead is the poor man's Colin Firth from Bridget Jones.

Beautiful Losers In the best moment of this documentary about a counter culture group of artists -- skateboarders, graffiti, break dancers, hip hop artists, filmmakers -- who were involved with this gallery in the Lower East Side in the 1990s, Harmony Korine is being interviewed at a playground. He stubs out a cigarette, kids are screaming, and he tells the interviewers a story about how years ago his friend's severed head was found in this spot. The now-dead pool shark scammed the wrong guy, or something. A little girl comes up behind Korine, and he turns to her and tells her this same thing. Something like "Hey! They found my friend's head here once." She yells "Cool!" Anyway, this whole thing is a pretty cool documentary about artists, done with pretty broad strokes.

Party Down: Season 1: What. If. What if "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" was as funny, less manic, but was the story of unemployed actors who work for a catering company under a Michael Scott-ian character with less hubris. That is "Party Down." It is hilar. And you can stream it on Netflix.

Whip Smart: A Memoir by Melissa Febos: Terry Gross is the voice in my head who indirectly tells me what to do. And this time, the host of NPR's "Fresh Air" introduced me to a young former dominatrix who practiced her craft while juggling heroin and a 3.9 GPA in college -- and then wrote about it in the memoir Whip Smart by Melissa Febos.

Full review will be here, but it looks like it could be awhile ... so suffice to say: If you want to read the story of a woman playing tourist in the land of S&M for about 3 years ... this one is pretty much a doozy.

Leisure patch ...

What you are seeing is a bath tub war wound, further exacerbated by ample couch time this past weekend. And, frankly, right now.

I call it my leisure patch.

It started in the tub, where back fat, water, and the rounded ceramic surface created first a vacuum, then a hickey the size of tramp stamp.

Ordinarily our couch is plenty comfortable. But in this case, the fabric versus my hickey feels like someone tried to sandpaper a short cut to my kidney.

So, whatever. TV is bad for you. Blah blah blah. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Door to door ...

A probably preteen knocked on our door today, which is weird enough. Now we live in a place where people knock on our door.

"Do you want to buy some candy bars?" she asked, pushing open the screen door and stepping into the entry way.
"How much?" I asked. She wasn't exactly Google with the deets on this sale, although by now she had moved all the way into the house.
"A dollar."
"What kind do you have?" I asked.
"Well, we don't have any caramel left," she told me, rifling through the box, coming in and setting the box on the table.
"I guess," I said, reaching for a few bucks. "I'll take two. ... What's this for?"
"Camp Miller," she said.

That made me feel better. I can stand for Camp Miller. But I didn't really want to donate $2 to, like, a band trip via Greyhound to Albany, NY. Better that type of thing falls short of its financial goal.

I gave her 2 dollars, she gave me two candy bars just as Chuck was coming down the steps.

"Heyyyyy," this future perfume spritzer at Macy's said watching him. "Does he want to buy any candy bars?"
"I just got him one," I told her, before she got any cozier and did something rash like plopping down on the couch and firing up the TiVo.

We live in a neighborhood where on a nice day, the streets look like the audience at a Miley Cyrus concert. We are probably going to have to start keeping a pack of $1 bills next to the front door to keep them all in ropes courses and soccer uniforms.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Islands in the streaming ...

Lately I have been really fascinated by the idea of "curling up with a good book." While I read a lot, it's never in a leisurely way that requires a fisherman knit sweater, a cup of tea, and a cat far-more precious than the lumbering teen-aged oaf clomping around this place. I read before bed, over lunch, on toilets, and whenever I have at least a 2-minute wait for anything. What a pleasant idea, though. I'm going to sit here and reeaaaddd. Just read. That will probably never happen because now our Wii is capable of streaming Netflix. This means I can spend 18 hours watching mediocre whatevers that I probably wouldn't even watch if it was on TV. But this, this is novel. "March of the Penguins"? Meh. Why not. As long as there are moving pictures.


Me: "I should see if the pizza delivery guy will give me a ride back downtown to get my car."
Chuck: "Someone should start a business where they do that, take you back to your car."
Me: "They do. It's called Yellow Cab."


When I thank the pizza delivery guy for traveling out of what I assume is their pie-zone, he uses the statement as a diving board into crazy talk. Hermantown, he tells me, is a tricky community. It's the moms who do the ordering there, and if you piss one off, it can sink your biz. This is hard: Some of their drivers are 20-somethings, an unpredictable lot to say the least. Who knows when one is going to piss off a mom in Hermantown and sink the biz?

I think this is what he was saying. I was distracted by a) the paint in his hair; b) the panic associated with not knowing exactly how I was going to get this guy to leave.


"Where'd you get those shoes," a man asks me at the bus stop. "I've never seen shoes like that."
"A trail store at Fitger's," I say. "There kind of hiking, all terrain shoes."
"Oh! Do you hike?" he asks.
"Well, I walked here," I said.


I'm sitting in a chair at Barnes & Noble reading. I hear the man next to me taking photos with his cell phone. I adjust so I can see what he's looking at. Profile shots of boobs in magazines. Photos a little edgier than what would run in Maxim, but not edgy enough to warrant "behind the counter" status.

I can't help that I immediately am able to see exactly how his night will unfold. Leaves store. Transfers photos to computer. Opens a bag of Cheetos. ... I can't stop watching him take these photos, and thinking about his bravery in unabashedly announcing to this store: I'm a boob man. I can't wait to look at these boobs again later.

That's when I remembered that I was sitting here about 60 pages deep into the memoir "Whip Smart" by Melissa Febos, her story of being a dominatrix. The difference between me and this amateur photographer, however, is that I'm not a pervert.

Postscript: When I left the store, Camera slappy was sitting with his mom in the coffee shop.

In the Cult ...

You have your celebrities, I have mine. And mine are pretty not on Gawker. Tonight I was walking through a tunnel at UMD and came face to face with Craig and Connie Minowa. I looked at Craig and said "hi." I was following a pack of people who were going to his show. They didn't recognize him. He said hi back. To me, this is probably the biggest celebrity that I could meet.

I freakin' love Cloud Cult. More than ... Lady Gaga? Black Eyed Peas? [Insert famous name.]

Seeing Craig Minowa felt like a super secret victory, especially exchanging pleasant pedestrian hellos.("I'm not licking you, Craig!!! You're lucky!) Especially since no one else was around, and I didn't maul them or say anything stupid.

At tonight's concert, I just wanted to write an essay about what Cloud Cult means to me. This band is totally ... sy/fy. They ooze into you like voodoo. It's like an old-time flick where music totally affects everyone in this hyper hyper something way. Like magic and aliens. In your soul, from the inside out. Seriously. It's worse if you see them live. If you don't cry, you're an animal. I cried. I would have bawled, if I didn't have an emotional latch.

So this was my second Cloud Cult concert. I'm hypnotized. I want to quit my life and become a Cloud Cult prophet.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jumble bumbled ...

"Hey," he says, leaning over and fanning a paper in my face. With him wafts a smell, like he was sampling grocery store colognes again: Lemon Pledge tempered with nail polish remover and and 409. "I finished this last night in 10 minutes."

"The crossword puzzle?" I say, suspiciously. That's impossible. He might know the three-letter name of a former Notre Dame coach, but I'm sure he's never heard of an obi.

"No, no," he says. "The Jumble." Points to the scrambled-word game, where designated letters help spell out a hilarious caption for a crudely drawn comic.

I rip the paper out of his hands and look at the clock: 6:54 p.m. Four minutes later it was not only solved -- A HEARING AID -- I'd had time to consider the way Busch Lite affects the brain. I imagined a porous ham floating in a pale yellow liquid. Globby hunks eroding from the mass, and creating a chunky stew.

Ten minutes. Psshh.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Questionable content ...

In the fan fiction I write about my life, there are 20 extra hours in a day, and I only waste 6 of them on Horatio-vision.

In other news, here is how I spent my past week:


Spinach and Chick Peas: This is another one that falls under the category of things that I know will be good, but I don't expect to end up on the list of things that will be repeated. Saute spinach. Fry up some bread chunks, toss in some garlic and cumin for a spell, throw the mix into the food processor with some red wine vinegar to make a bit of a paste. Return the paste to the pan, add two cans of chick peas and some tomato sauce, add the spinach and some smokey paprika.

I served ours on bread that I buttered and grilled up in a pan. Awesome. So, so, so good that I forgot it didn't have cheese. For realsies.

The House of the Devil: So much good in this film set in the 1980s and swathed in mom-jeans, headphones and walkmans the size of a case of microwave popcorn. Sam, a college sophomore, is desperate for cash since her dorm mate lives in squalor and likes to hump random dudes, then sleep away the day. She responds to an ominous ad for a babysitter and ends up way out nowhere in a gigantic house on the night of an eclipse. Long slow shots, traces of Rosemary's Baby, and a lot of gross scenes with pizza that probably weren't meant to be gross.

The Time Traveler's Wife: Have you ever noticed that Rachel McAdams gets engaged in every film? I think it's because she has that fresh girlish "I just got engaged" look about her. And bouncy hair. Anyway, I totally cried.

Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel by Audrey Niffenegger: by Audrey Niffenegger: Phew. I think we can all collectively agree that we were a little nervy when we heard Audrey Niffenegger had a new novel. Readers, at least the ones I like to talk to, are a judge-y bunch of nitpickers who all loved The Time Traveler’s Wife and hated the idea that this writer would face-flop into a bog of suck on No. 2. Rest easy, my friends. Her Fearful Symmetry isn’t better than Niffenegger’s debut novel, but it doesn’t inspire the sort of disappointed fan letter that begins: “Oh, Aud. Why couldn’t you have pulled a Harper Lee and been done with it?”

Full review here

A Common Pornography: A Memoir (P.S.) by Kevin Sampsell: A contender for one of my top three worst-favorite books of the year. This one is noooooot goood.

Full review will be here. Unless Jodi objects to some of my questionable content.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Three stories about people who crack me up ...

Tuska is thrilled. Off to her right, a class A mullet has walked into the bar. She's discretely motioning that we should all catch a glimpse of this. Sure enough, it's like this guy stuck his head in a skunk puppet. Righto. So we all have a good chuckle and Tuska motions to Prinz to get aloada this. Prinz pulls out her Blackberry, turns the screen to Tuska and says "This mullet?" She's already gotten a photograph.


"Hotrod's in town," Chuck tells me. "He's over at W's house. They're working on their sitcom."


"Hey. Pista!" A b-stocking capped stranger is yelling to me from his car at an intersection.
I walk closer and see its Cork1.
He reaches into his back seat, and hands me a jar of a chunky yellow fluid. He's just traveled in from out of town, so I naturally assume this is diarrhea in a jar, and I scream. Then I realize it is like a salsa or something. and according to the label, it tastes good on eggs. By then he had driven away.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The questions ...

More fun than actually sitting down and starting to write the novel in my head, is interviewing myself about the finished product, in my head.

Q: Where did that opening scene come from? It was so ...
A: Horrifyingly awesome? I know. I wanted something equal parts gruesome and hilarious. I considered asking a friend who is a former EMT for a highlight reel of some of the whackest toilet-seat heart attacks and antifreeze overdoses he could remember. Instead I just watched a bunch of clips of "Tom & Jerry" on Hulu, and that gave me plenty of inspiration. I was looking for an opening that would make readers laugh and barf at the same time.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The scoop ...

I used to love digging in the drawers in my parent's bathroom. It was limbo for dead peachy Clinique blushes and petrified caterpillars, mascara wands in a previous life. There was one tool that was especially fascinating: It was a 7-inch silver wand with a tiny scoop -- like a Barbie-sized melon baller -- with a tiny hole in the bottom. I was told it was a zit popper.

You would place the melon baller's opening over the ripe blemish, and push. If it was the right sort of acne, it would pop, shooting a white line onto the bathroom mirror. The pubescent body's version of silly string. I couldn't get it to work this way, unfortunately. But visualizing it was a 3D visual extravaganza.

I have no idea if that really was a zit popper, or if someone was playing a cruel joke, knowing a zit popper would keep me occupied through graduation. And if it was a zit popper, I wish I had it here right now. There is something growing under my nose, and I want to par-tay all over the nearest mirror.

Raw eggs and ham ...

Here is how I spent the past week: 


I made two things this week with the word "casserole" in the title, which Chuck considers evidence that my West Duluth indoctrination is now complete. If I start calling these "hot dishes," I'm going to need Princess Kay and Garrison Keillor to come here and kick my ass.

Skillet Tuna Noodle Casserole: This was a deviation from your standard glop that includes clumps of Cream of [Fill in the blank]. This was an upgrade that required a mix of milk, dry white wine, and flour to give it that Minnesota consistency. It was the liquor saturated onions that made the meal, and also the crunchy bread crumbs on top. Like. Also, I didn't use a skillet. I hate skillets [read: am afraid of] more than I hate woks [doubly fearful of].

Grits and Greens Casserole: This one wins the over-achiever award. I thought I was making something medium good, and it turned out to be amazing -- albeit not very filling. I think we both had thirds on it. Grits with salsa and cheese sandwiching a mix of kale, onions and garlic. My god.

Eggs Benedict: I just made this as an excuse to test Julia Childs' recipe for Hollandaise Sauce. The verdict: Pretty nervy. Kinda cooked egg yolks and lots and lots of butter. Not to mention my poached egg didn't turn out [didn't get the water to a decent roll]. So I had a bit of raw eggs slathered in raw eggs. I'm curious to see if I've been poisoned.

The September Issue: Is there anyone cooler than Anna Wintour? And I mean that in a lot of ways. But this documentary of the making of the September issue of the magazine is awesome.

Extract: Chuck brought it to my attention that I don't like comedies. I never realized that, but I think he might be a little bit right. This one, however, is awesome. Hilarious Office-space like story of an extract factory. Stars Jason Bateman, who I am very proud of for being a child actor turns respectable adult actor. I'm glad that one face on my Teen Beat wall of fame is still kicking.

I Don't Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I've Dated by Julie Klausner: When it comes to comedy writer, I've figured out the exact coordinates that need to exist in a piece: Women with an arsenal of adjectives, super clever metaphors, a Sinatra smoothness with topics that are of a vaginal nature, and the ability to boil down flings and relationships to extract the hilarity. 

Full review will be here.  

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Covert ops ...

Today I had the opportunity to run a covert operative with the a blue print that aped something out of a junior high girl's puppy journal. My friend's girlfriend did him a favor -- this time -- by breaking up with him as she taste-tested the regulars at the bar where she works. Much like locking a bulimic inside Old Country Buffet with  a spork and a handful of Ex Lax. This is no great loss to me: I usually affectionately refer to her as a white trash squirrel-face skank bucket. But my friend is in the dumps about it -- being traded in for a guy who works at the mall. I've allowed him to send me four emails a day that start out emo, quoting country music lyrics, then ride the rails in Crazytown with ideas for how to win back his girl. In one of these pieces of Lifetime Original Movie fan fiction, my friend introduces himself to the new boyfriend and calmly asks him to bow out. Man to man. Then everything will be okay, my friend is convinced.

In another, my friend has asked me to be the one to do an intervention with mystery dude.
"Absolutely not," I told him, and then said something that burned with newness when I said it aloud. "This is really none of my business."

More time has passed. More emails. One day I got 14 phone calls from my friend. Many of those came when he decided to drive up the shore "and think." On this day I thought of the women in Rom-Coms who piddle around the apartment listening to Gloria Gaynor, while giving themselves facials with Chunky Monkey and hitting refresh on G-mail. He's taken this to the next level, in a way I wish Hollywood would capture.

So obviously I'm not going to say anything to the guy. Get real. But I do want to judge his book by the cover and see what my friend is up against. Because my guess is a dude with S-posture and facial hair that looks like it was manicured by the grounds crew at a country club. Unfortunately, when I pulled up his Facebook profile, his photo was of a 2001 Ford Taurus. So now all I know is that he's like super into cars -- well, and white trash squirrel faced skank buckets, if I am allowed to include info I know about the company he keeps.
"You'll think he's cute," my friend said. "You think everyone is cute."

This is true and false. I do find most people more attractive than the casting experts at Maxim would sign off on, but I also have a super-serious mental category that takes into consideration whether a dude can read,whether I am going to have to explain my jokes to him, and what to do under the awful circumstances that he is a Jimmy Buffet fan.

Honestly, I was at the mall anyway. I decided to check in on this "King of the Hill" fan. So I found a sherpa and made my way toward Sears. Now, there really is nothing at our mall that interests me beyond Barnes & Noble. But here and there, I'll stop in, look around and think to myself: This place would be so great if everyday was Halloween, and my costume was whore.

Once you move in past the food court it gets worse. I walked toward Sears, which is the vortex in a wing of irrelevance, and began scanning name tags to find this douche lord.

I wandered past the clothing and shoes -- tumbleweed -- and into appliances, and remembered that our dishwasher is broken. I decided to do some comparison shopping when Sears No. 1 asked me if I needed help. No, I told him. Explained our dishwasher situation. He gave me the phone number of their service line. Thank you. Still no sight of the character I will henceforth refer to as DL2010 (Douche Lord 2010). I moved on toward things that are electronic. I stepped into treadmill zone, and was approached by two employees within 27 seconds of each other. All blue shirts and helpful.

In the TV section, there were six Sears employees hanging out by the cash registers. I browsed record players; TVs; DVD players. It was like my life was a musical when they all asked me in unison if I needed help. By my count, there were at least six employees per costumer. And not one let me within a 20 foot radius without asking if I needed help. I gave every one of them the elevator, looking for the name tag, and dismissing them as a DL, but not my DL2010.

I didn't find our guy. But it is obvious to me that the white trash squirrel face skank bag is getting good service.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Wine ...

I grabbed for a bottle of dry white cooking wine off the shelf of our neighborhood grocery store, and came up empty. There was red cooking wine. Cooking sherry. A sign indicating that at some point in the past a person could purchase dry white cooking wine from this particular venue for something like $3.64 -- a bargain for those early mornings before the bar opens. No dry white wine.

And, for the first time since we moved to West Duluth, I realized I was trapped. I'd just come from my grueling six minute commute from downtown, a route on the highway that includes like three weird merging scenarios. Was I going to have to double back through that 55 mph traffic-less and tedious menace? Weave and bob through the streets and avenues, and later scrape shards of the zombie foot traffic from 4th St. off my bumper. Then it got worse: I realized the next-closest grocery store is actually in Superior, Wisconsin. Wisconsin? Wisconsin.

In our old neighborhood, we were triangulated by supermercados: Whole Foods to the west, The Mold Factory to the South, and Mount Royal Fine Foods to the Northeast. Or, bulk couscous and BO, meat art resembling the Shamrock Shake, and $18 cheddar sold beneath flattering light in a store where everyone looks like they stepped out of a Pier One commercial, respectively. Two of these stores are within walking distance of our old place; The latter should have valet parking.

"Why, this is like living in Lakeside," I thought between claustrophobic gasps.

White cooking wine is not the same thing as white vinegar, I learned after a desperation Google. I was hoping this answer had changed since the last time I Googled this same question. Like food scientists had stumbled onto a new bit of key information linking the two liquids, and maybe I'd missed the breaking news.

It occurred to me that I could make something else. Our neighborhood supermarket is rich in other foods. They have a produce section. They even have an area marked "Ethnic Food," although I am assuming the exotic supplies in that section lean toward lefse and bowtie pasta. I checked the shelf again. Nada.

Okay, I admit, it took me just this long to realize that a good substitute for dry white cooking wine would probably be dry white drinking wine. And if I'm going to be sans crucial ingredient, an alcohol-based one is probably for the best. This neighborhood is rich is liquor stores. I can think of three that I could walk to without building up a sweat. So I did that. Chardonnay with a screw top.

There is something sexy about bringing home groceries and a bottle of real wine. It suggests that tonight is going to be a good night. Soft music, an apron, the clack of heels on a hard wood floor. These are always my favorite scenes in the movies I hate. Unfortunately, I knew I wouldn't be taking pulls off the bottle when I cook. It was a Wednesday, and I didn't want to wake up with a Sharpie mustache and regret. My liver and kidneys cawing about who carried the brunt of the pain.

The great irony in all of this is that I was making a Tuna Noodle Casserole for dinner.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Time warp ...

While watching a scene involving Gary in "Thirtysomething":

Chuck: Has he been in anything recently?
Me: Oh yeah! He was in 'Singles.'
Chuck: That was 17 years ago.
Me: ...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Will meet for lunch ...

Here you get two weeks worth of food, books and movies for the price of one. This past week I learned a nice way to combat my hermit ways: Daytime dates. Saturday I went book hunting with the Rock Star, fresh from surgery and hopped up on steroids. I wanted to see her rage out, like lift a bus or something. No dice. Saturday night I watched people have fun on Twitter. Sunday I met up with Rnam and Em at my friendly neighborhood coffee shop. No hangovers. No social shame. Who wants a lunch date next weekend? 

In other news:


Garlicky Leek and Artichoke Soup: I love when someone else goes through the trouble of writing out recipes from the current issue of Vegetarian Times on the Internet, so I don't have to find an alternative version to link to. Thanks, stranger. Anyway, I made this one. (The linkees photos is way better). I didn't puree my soup at all and I was careless with my dollop of pesto. Regardless, first this soup smells good, then it tastes wicked good, but it is a horseshit reheat. I tried to have leftovers for lunch, stuck it in the microwave, had two bites and then ditched it. But man it's good hot off the stove. Especially if you are an artichoke freak, which I am.

Sharp Objects: A Novel by Gillian Flynn: If you can suspend your belief long enough to buy that Chicago’s fourth-largest newspaper would send its cub reporter to a small town eleven hours away to cover the grisly murders of two girls, than the rest of Gillian Flynn’s novel  is really easy.

Full review here
The Good Thief: A Novel by Hannah Tinti: In "The Good Thief," Hannah Tinti has created the equivalent of a carnival moon walk for adults. It is an adventure story, complete with an orphan and everything: Ren is a one-handed klepto who has recently been sprung from a priest-run home for boys slash winery by a man named Benjamin claiming to be his brother who weaves a fantastical tale about their dead parents. He’s brought along visuals. Two partial scalps to prove the massacre.
Full review here

Ballistics: Poems by Billy Collins:  I don't read a ton of poetry these days, but when I do it is his. (Or Bukowski, or Simic, I suppose). He could almost be classified as a comedian, penning mini Laffy Taffy lines. He is a total treat, taking short stories about usable objects, scraping off the fat, and leaving behind something simple and funny. In the collection "Ballistics" more than I remember in his other books, he is very self-referential. He becomes a character in his own words, his poem becomes the subject of the same poem, he stops a piece in the middle to address the reader. The effect is totally charming. More often than not, I chuckled at the last line and then dog-eared the page. 

Full review will be here

The Ticking Is the Bomb: A Memoir by Nick Flynn: Fantastic writing. Bite sized chapters. I'm still trying to decide why I didn't love it. So don't start looking here for reviews yet.

The Stepfather Sean McNamara as a serial killer posed as a doting stepfather, with teen candy by way of a character from "Gossip Girl." And if there isn't enough tension in the plot, Dan Humphry's girlfriend in this one prancing around in her underwear whipping her hair around and making sassy faces.

Night of the White Pants:  I can't decide if this movie is more like "200 Cigarettes," "License to Drive," "Ferris Bueller," that Beth Cooper thing. ... Luckily I find it hilarious when the main character walks around in his underwear and an apron. I like imagining how this flick got made: Selma Blair knows someone who wrote a "one crazy day" flick filled with chaos. She agrees to be in it, and brings along another recognizable male actor. Sha. Bam.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Be like Sarah ...

Can someone find me this T-shirt? It is the only thing missing in my life. We don't have it in Duluth proper, and my Internet can't find it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

West Duluth Entertainment District ...

After dinner we adjourned to the Rumpus Room to listen to a Cure record and drink something that tasted like melted banana candies. The first one was delicious. I hoovered the second one. After one sip of the third drink, my blood sugar maxed out at Brimley levels. For the next month, no one is allowed to say the word banana in front of me.

Our new neighborhood has four bars within a mile. Chuck calls this the West Duluth Entertainment District. While I have been to each of these bars at some point in my life, I've never had the opportunity to see how they are different. From a distance, they all look like a 30 year class reunion.

It was karaoke night at our first stop. Alert: any rumors you might have heard about the death of line dancing are premature! This place was all loud classic rock and grape vines. Also a curious mix: The Housewives of West Duluth, former VFW regulars who have been displaced since the place closed more than a year ago, and muscle heads.

"I put on 26 pounds in 21 days," I overheard a tight shirt ripped dude telling his friends. "She looked at me and called me a fat ass! It was all muscle! My BMI was way down. Obviously I know a thing or two about nutrition. It's my career. It's my area of expertise. It's what I do!"

"Beer is the great equalizer," Chuck said. "It's like an episode of 'Jersey Shore' in here."

I sang "Kiss Me Deadly" for an uninterested audience that didn't even notice when I busted out the solo on air guitar. If a karaoke singer plays air guitar and no one is watching ... did she ever play air guitar at all?

Muscle face sang "Tiny Dancer."

"Next time, I'm doing Blink 182," he said when he limped back to his table for a round of fist bumps and other variations on the common high five.

Two regulars performed a Hard Rock morning show-style of banter. The hottest girl in the bar was missing a pretty prominent tooth. And that is when we decided to explore our other options.

"Who the phuck is this guy?" a girl said, nodding to Chuck as we walked into the next place, where it was also karaoke night. The DJ was crooning a Weird Al-ian version of the song "Eyes Wide Open," with the lyrics cleverly changed to "Legs Wide Open." (This sort of comedy is one of my pet peeves). This place was filled with emo teams and fake label purses. My rendition of "Holding Out for a Hero," didn't go over so well. The off-key lazy cover of something by, oh, I don't know, Flyleaf was huge.

Late in the night, all these teens started busting out the same choreography to some song. All over the bar, everyone was clapping, hopping, doing the cha-cha. It was like we had walked into the video for "Thriller."  Instead it was the "Cha Cha Slide." Obviously I'm not hanging out at the right bars, because I've never heard this song before.

"How do you know how to do this?" I asked a girl. "What song is this?"

"I don't know," she said. "But the song tells you what to do."

Later we walked back home, back to the Rumpus Room for Aftershock and Coke. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Gender bender ...

I came eyeball to waist with an out-of-place adolescent boy wrapped in white taekwando-ware in the women's locker room today at the YMCA. I was, thankfully, leaving and not, for instance wearing my sauna costume. We both just stood there dumbly starring at each other. I was pretty sure he was a boy, but he was at that age where he might have been a creatively coiffed girl. I am sensitive to this sort of thing. I don't remember doing this, but the Pista family photo albums indicate that I briefly used Bobby Brady as my hair inspiration. 

"Is this the boys' locker room?" he asked me.
"No," I said.
"CRAP!" he said, frustrated.
Definitely a boy. 

I did a huge wallop of a laugh, and immediately felt bad. I didn't want to embarrass him. In one of my shiniest memories, I am a fourth-grader with a feathered mullet, wearing a purple Lourdes T-shirt and Pollack-flavored jams, not-so-fresh from basketball camp at the high school. I'd run into my dad's workplace to use the public bathroom quickly while we waited for him. An old man was pushing a mop in the hallway and damn-near tackled me when I tried to go into the women's restroom.

"No! No!" he said, and waved me toward the men's bathroom.
When I turned and looked at him full on, he must have noticed my soft feminine features* because he slunk away.

"No biggie," I said to the kid. "There's no one in here." Then I directed him to the men's locker room.

That could have been really terrible. I'd hate to be the image of a naked woman that some kid holds on to until some weird Aftershock and Dr. Pepper incident in college lands him, finally, in a dorm-sized bunk bed where a frisky coed rips off her shirt and he says "Oh! So that's what naked girls are supposed to look like!"

* I actually don't have soft feminine features and never did. But maybe this is your first time reading this site, and are willing to suspend your disbelief. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Shake it like a polaroid picture ...

Last night I had my annual Shamrock Shake. I only get one a year, for reasons that I've long forgotten. It probably has something to do with how I absolutely have to pair it with a Filet O'Fish for optimal Catholic school nostalgia. And while I love that orange pre-fab slab of fish slathered in plastic cheese and doused in tartar sauce the consistency of curdled udder cream, the second one of the year always tastes like someone dared me to drink the water in a dirty goldfish bowl.

I try to make my annual Shammy (pet name) a super special event. This year I planned out the experience four days in advance and then made sure I thought about it every day. TWO DAYS TO GO! ... TODAY IS THE BIG DAY!

It tasted like lying in the confession booth because I didn't really do anything bad -- at least not anything I needed forgiveness for -- since my last confession. It tasted like the state basketball tournament, and first having my drivers license. It tasted like Studio Line Pumping Curls, over-sized sweaters, leggings and Bass ankle boots. It tasted like Trip Shakespeare and curfew.

See you next year, McDonalds.

Key-riced ...

I come to you with the chipped nails, ripped cuticles, bruised finger pads and spasmodic hand muscles of a dupe who paid someone else a hot wad of fresh cash to clean out our apartment, then spent three hours fixing it myself for free. 

What is that word that means more than pissed off?

Chuck and I both fall into the category of "People who do not like to do things they don't feel like doing." As we were emptying out the old apartment, we realized that we could hire someone to actually give it a good solid scrubbing. That took a load off us both, mentally. All we had to do was move Chuck's plastic dinosaurs and collection of extension cords into the new house, and let someone else shear the cat hair off the base boards. This romantic reverie of hired help was spurred by the fact that the floors were littered with loose change, enough, we imagined, to pay for this single luxury.

I had a maid in mind. An old acquaintance, a fine karaoke singer who shares a nickname with a popular candy bar, who had in fact  moved into my old apartment. In fact, she had cleaned out that den of filth for a pittance, and did a bang up job. (Of course, I now see that act of herculean scouring wasn't extraordinary. She just didn't want to move into a place with its own compost heap growing in the hallway). Knowing that she has little income, and fewer teeth, I tossed her the job.

Lest I make myself sound innocent in this matter, let me fully explain the circumstances. The apartment was a mess. Not the kind of mess chronicled on A&E, but a mess still. Floors needed to be scrubbed, the bathtub had jumped three degrees on the Roy-G-Biv map. The cat hair, the change, the refrigerator smell had been almost completely absorbed into a hunk of cheese -- or maybe it was vice versa. On the other hand, all of the furniture was out, so it there weren't like La-Z-boys and dining room tables to negotiate.

I called her, she agreed, I explained the state of the apartment, and she still agreed. I said "Are you sure?" and she said "Yes." She has actually cleaned places professionally, so it isn't completely assholian that I'd ask her if she wanted to do it. It did feel super condescending, though, only because if someone offered me money to clean something I'd [insert vulgar cartoonish behavior involving a vacuum cleaner hose here].

She needed a ride. I picked her up. I showed her the apartment, told her what we needed, handed her toxic chemicals, and left -- telling her she could call if she needed a supply that I'd not provided. A half hour later, she texts me asking for me to bring her lunch.

About five hours later, I call her for an update. I had a small window in which I could take her home if she was done. She was not. She had two more hours, she told me. I told her I'll bring her money for a cab, and pay her the next day when we know how long she worked. She hemmed, hawed. Let it be known that she was going to want this money more pronto than that. Since I know her, I know where she lives, I trust her mad cleaning skillz, I paid her for seven hours with some bonus bucks thrown in and cab fare so she could get back to her place (a mile away).

I hadn't had a chance to go check it out, yet. Today Chuck woke me with bad news: We'd been had. The place was far from done. I'm sure that money has been drunk and flushed by now.

You're probably wondering why I didn't call her and scream swear words. That's easy: I'm totally not confrontational at all. At all. I built up a few tirades, practiced them on friends and family, and in the end said nothing to her.

Tonight I had to go finish what she started. Break down cardboard boxes, shine shit up, build garbage castles. My hands were lacquered with cleaning supplies, and I wondered if I'd be poisoned to death after ripping at a bloody cuticle with my teeth. I was there for three hours ... so I guess I get that part where it maybe could have taken her longer than I expected it to take her. Which might explain why she didn't finish. Her pre-paid meter ran out.

How about that? I started this post all pissed off, and by the end I've been able to rationalize shitty service. I'm such a wimp.