Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What we have ears for, stories like these ...

I had the most delicious conversation tonight outside of Pizza Luce. This is the shit that ears are made for.

Old Knifey: My friend is moving tomorrow. It's my third friend to move this week.
Me: Psh. I've had 25 friends move in the 10 years that I've lived here.
Bob the hipster bystander: That's the quote of the night!
Random girl: I want to move right now. I've been here a week.
Bob the hipster bystander: That's the quote of the night.
Random girl: Seriously. I'm trapped here. I was traveling with my boyfriend and we were at the hospital. He went out for a cigarette, and didn't come back. He just disappeared. And we don't have cell phones ...

Me: Wait. What?
Random girl: Yeah. So I was sleeping on the streets. One night I checked myself into detox. I blew .10, and they were like 'Why are you here?' And I said: I just need some place to stay.

Bob the hipster bystander: I had a friend once who checked himself into Miller Dwan's Psychiatric Center. He told them that he really just wanted to jump into the lake. That's a way to get good drugs.

Me: So what happened to your boyfriend?
dI don't know. But yesterday two people saw him and said he's looking for me. So I know he's still here. I figured he'd left. I was going to go to Indiana for awhile.

Me: So ... how are you traveling?
Random girl: Walking. Rides. ...
Me: So who is this boyfriend?
Random girl: His name is (something vaguely biblical-meets-science fiction). He looks like Aragorn from "The Lord of The Rings." ... But shorter.

Me: So, how are you going to find him?
Random girl: Well, I left the address of the house I'm staying in at the bar in case they see him.
Me: This is the craziest thing I've ever heard.

Bob the hipster bystander: You know what? We're all in the exact same boat. All of us.
Me: Um .. actually, my boyfriend is in the bar.
Random girl: If my boyfriend was in the bar, I wouldn't let him out of my sight.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A few thoughts on 15 minutes-worth of 'Stand by Me' ...

It is a little creepy, watching a movie you loved when you were 11. A movie that you once believed starred the best batch of studs to ever cram themselves into a pair of straight-legged Wrangler jeans.

Seventy-five percent of the young boys in "Stand By Me" had their Teen Beat poses (leaned against a wall, hand in pocket, peering out of one eye beneath a swath of what we now recognize as hockey bangs) plastered to my Trapper Keeper/closet door/wall of my super secret fort under the steps next to the Christmas decorations. But it was Wil Wheaton that I claimed as my numero uno during the slumber parties of yore.

I think I picked well. In 2010, Wil Wheaton strikes me as someone I could be friends with, moreso than Corey Feldman, who is the human equivalent of a soul patch, or Jerry O'Connell, who always strikes me as Jason Bateman's deformed twin brother -- the one that got all the leftover, freaky parts that the fetus Jason Bateman rejected into a womby scrap heap. And River Phoenix, well ...


When I say that Wil Wheaton and I would be friends, I don't mean it quite the same way that I used to mean it when I would say, emphatically, Matt Damon and I would be friends, if only we could just meet! No. I now recognize that would have been the kind of friendship where I call him at 3 a.m. and slur loosely rhyming couplets into his voice mail, while he hides in a dark room Googling "restraining order"on his smart phone. And anyway, I'm over him now.

I like Wil Wheaton. He's geeky, genuine and charming, and seems to be a nice person. He's not hilarious, but even his LOLDOGZ tweets are okay by me. It stopped being a crush back when he was wearing the futuristic body condom on "Star Trek: TNG." Now I feel about the same way toward him as I do toward my freshman year Homecoming date.

I caught about the last 15 minutes of "Stand By Me" tonight on TV Land, admittedly I went looking after he Tweeted this. I got there just in time for the pig-pile-turned-leach-fest and was stunned that I could remember every facial expression, and every word that Gordy LaChance says. I must have studied him harder than I studied for my ACTs. It has been at least 15 years since I've seen
this movie. And oddly enough, on Sunday I skated over some train tracks and saw a light in the distance and said his famous elongated, mouth-distorted cry of "Trrrraaaaaaiiinnnn!" in my head.

It's a little ookie to look at Wil Wheaton as a freshly minted teen, wide eyed and noodle armed, with nothing on his person suggesting that he will ever be touched by puberty, and think: "I used to think you were so mint." Especially since when I look at him now, my first impulse would be to say: "Hey, kid. Get out of my yard." Adorable, yes. But cut his picture out of a magazine, open a glue stick, and slap this toddler on a binder so I can stare into his dreamy eyes during Social Studies? It's freaking bizarre.The good news is that I'm not a pedophile.


And while we're here: I can't be the first person in the world to notice that Teddy Duchamp:

... Grew up to be Chuck Klosterman:

Monday, June 28, 2010

Reasons to never eat again ...

This week goes down in history as the week that Chas probably has Lyme Disease week. It started with him limping around with knee pain. His doctor wrenched at his legs, contorted his body, diagnosed him with tendinitis, and sent him home with a bunch of geriatric-friendly knee exercises. Then the pain migrated to his hands, the arches of his feet, his ankles. It takes him 15 minutes to walk down the steps, all the while groaning like the antagonist of a horror flick.

We spent the wee hours of Friday night/Saturday morning at the Emergency Room because he was completely unable to walk and as you know, I hate carrying things -- especially people, but mostly rubbermaids and heavy grocery bags. That was an adventure: Carson Daly blaring in my left ear; the misadventures of a woman and her baby's daddy being relayed via cell phone to my right. Within my direct line of sight: A man in a wheelchair moaning, pawing at his own head, and hugging a barf bucket. Please don't let him throw up, I asked of the lord. It's bad enough that the woman in the corner is wearing a half-shirt, when even a triple shirt would be risky.

A few hours later, Chuck left with pills to combat Lyme Disease, confirming what the internet had already told us. Now stuff like this happens:

* Drop him off in front of the movie theater, and I park the car all while wondering if maybe we can get a handicap sticker for the Ford Focus.
* Think about deer ticks, scratching off my top two layers of skin just because I dared to mow the lawn.
* Use the word "crippled" in casual conversation.
* Monitor the swelling of various joints, while using the word "boggy" to describe them.
* Someone -- not naming names -- wandering around with a single crutch pretending he's Dr. House. 


Also: My dear friend The Rock Star Amy Abts is skipping town for a new life in Seattle, leaving me all alone in Duluth forever. I'd like to right now link to all of the posts where one of my friends moves far away, but that would take a lot of hours.And by the time I got done thinking about Hank, Baby Blue, Oregon, Futbol, Lil Latrell, the Vixen ... I'd be awash in fresh snot. I'm going to say she's my 25th friend to move in 10 years. I'll be sitting here quietly listening to The Bird and the Bee cover Hall & Oates "She's Gone" and playing memory lane about one of my favorite people on the entire planet earth. Good lucky, Lamer. Enjoy the Bret Easton Ellis book you stole from me! (I kid).

Here is what else I cooked, read and watched this past week: 


Ricotta Stuffed Tomatoes: One of my favorite food groups is the "Foods-stuffed-into-another-food" food group. On this episode, ricotta, basil, corn, zucchini, etc., fill a big fat tomato. I really liked it, and it was easy, and I think it could stand alone as an itty bitty dinner.

Black Bean & Toasted Corn Tacos: The extra good yum of this is the corn, toasted in a skillet. I can't remember why this is good. It just is.

"The Human Centipede": In my on-going, life long quest to find things that are disgusting, this movie is the big winner. The one that finally made me think, Perhaps my on-going, life long quest to find things that are disgusting has finally gone too, too far.

The premise: A whacky German scientist has designed a way to create a three-person "human centipede" with linked digestive tracts. Not as grim of a proposition for the lead as it is for the next two in line, who are surgically connected by lips and skin flaps to the butt hole of the -pede person in front of them. He also severs knee tendons to keep them from fully extending their legs. So you have a train of mostly-naked 20-somethings, the lead being Japanese speaking, that is this scientist's pet.

The surgical scenes are no worse than when Dr. Sean McNamara and Dr. Christian Troy yanked cellulite from the thighs of customers on "Nip/Tuck." But the inevitable scene where -pede person No. 1 has to make a No. 2 is, perhaps, the grossest scene I have ever witnessed -- grosser even than anything I could conjure in my dark little brain. I dry heaved at least four times, fully intending to barf. And after the movie, I could not think of a single food item that I would be able to consume, potentially ever. Certainly not refried beans. (Oreo Cakesters were the eventual gateway drug back to real food).

So ... is this movie good? Am I recommending it? Hmm. ... It's hokey. Girls stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire, hokey. And it is funny-ish: Frequent shots of the memorial to the three-dog project the scientist first experimented with. And it's has some pretty terrifying parts, where the spazz-tastic science projects try to escape this calm-with a hair trigger mad man.

Right now I'm reading what is probably going to be my favorite book of 2010, "Anthropology of an American Girl." It's long, and every sentence counts, so I'm giving it the slow-go treatment. This makes me conscious of all of the books I'm not reading while I am licking the pages of this one, and I'm trying to ignore that. I hate when I don't get at least one review a week posted on Minnesota Reads. Grr. That said: "Anthropology of an American Girl" is so, so, so amazing that I'm not sure I ever want to finish it. Maybe I'll finish it next week. Maybe you should read it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Under the street lights ...

It has been about 20 years since I've stood under a street light with boys. Considering all the ways the world has changed for teenagers -- things like never knowing the frustration of a land-line's "busy signal," and the invention of energy drinks -- I like that this one rite of  puberty still exists. At least in our neighborhood.

The girl next door is 15-ish -- right at the apex of her primo standing-under-street-lights-with-boys years. Next summer, if I'm still up to speed on my social evolution, she'll graduate to hanging out with boys in the Taco John's/Dairy Queen parking lot. The year after that, she'll probably be drinking something blue at the quarry two blocks away, spending Sunday mornings trying to dislodge pebbles from her hinge joints; twigs from her hair.

Almost every night she skips onto the front porch, hoodie, jeans, bedazzled cell phone in hand, and squints up the street where, inevitably, the same two boys are loping toward her: one lanky, like there are extra elbows in there somewhere; one shorter, with better hair. I haven't figured out which one likes her and which one she likes, but for the sake of a tranquil summer, I hope both are the same person.

They stand under the light for hours, hours. Sometimes murmuring, sometimes laughing. Shuffling. It is, on one hand, so sweet, so wholesome. Norman Rockwell's "Girl with Boys Under Street Lights." But  there is also this other level. Sexual tension in a slow cooker. Where a certain look can inspire journal entries for weeks; an arm, accidentally brushed, will feel phantom touches for an entire day. There is no rush or urgency. They've got an entire summer to get to the meat of it. As far as they know, they've got the rest of their lives. A teenager's horizon is so much longer, so much cleaner for not knowing the shit that can obscure the view.

"One of those boys is a wingman," I said to Chuck. "It can't be fun for him to hang out for five hours every night ... talking."

"What else is he going to do?" Chuck asked. "Maybe it's more fun than hanging out by himself at home."

Chuck used to hang out under this same street light, I should note. No word on which boy he was in the scenario. If I had to guess, I'd say he has been both. So have I.

There is such a ritual to this: Girl steps onto the porch at a certain time, wearing her summer uniform; Boys walk toward her with a casualness that must, must be a theater trick. They time their approaches so they meet beneath this light on the corner. And then they start talking. There must be something that happens at the end of the night, too. Curfew looming large, conversation quickened, boundaries pushed. After 4 hours, 45 minutes of small talk, things ramp up the way things always ramp up when there is a deadline, a designated end-point. They go separate ways, not bothering with a, "tomorrow?" because it's a given.

Twenty-some years ago, it was me under a street light. I liked the skateboarder, and luckily he liked me. First he would come rolling around the corner, down the sidewalk across the street his body slouched into a thin S. Vuarnet T-Shirt and baggy knee-length shorts made out of something water resistant. Teal Converse high tops, and bright white ankle socks. He was tan, and he had calves like lean chicken drums. Blond hair feathered on the sides, a spike along the part, wispy bangs. A gap between his front teeth, greenish-blue eyes. While he was relatively anonymous in the halls of his public junior high, he was everything to me. Kyle.

He would do laps around the semi-cul de sac. Circling, circling for hours sometimes. Sometimes he would skate away, and come back on his bike and circle some more. I'd watch from the front picture window. Sometimes hidden behind the curtain. Sometimes standing boldly at the center, leaning on the wooden frame. I'd watch him as long as he was out there, but we would both pretend we didn't notice the other one. Such an elaborate choreography.

Eventually, I'd go sit on the driveway and ignore him some more until he cracked, and skated to my house, stopping in front of me. Squat on his board, rolling back and forth as we talked under street lights. I remember bits of things we talked about, an inside joke about a tucan, and another about airplanes. Roxette, INXS, Beastie Boys. His favorite movie was "Aliens." He loved "The Three Amigos." At the end of the night, he would pass me a note folded into a triangle. One of my favorite day dreams was that we were in the woods, and some older boys forced us to kiss each other.

In his notes he pleaded with me to French him. Maybe as a birthday present. How much longer? Are you almost ready? I can remember the second it happened so clearly: His skin smelled like sweat and outside, and there was this foreign thing in my mouth. Like taking a too-big bite of something, or adjusting to a new retainer. And then it always went like that. A preliminary period of talk, followed by kissing, kissing, kissing. Packed against each other awkwardly in winter coats, pawing at each other through gloves, sprawled out on top of the pop-up camper or on the wooden steps that led into house. Jumping apart and faking conversation when my dad opened the door. For the next 11 months, we did this every night for three hours. I was 13, and then I was 14. I skipped phone calls and slumber parties, unwilling to be without Kyle.

I like knowing what is in store for this girl and these boys under the street lights, and exactly what it feels like to feel like that. All that anticipation for something you don't have the life experience to visualize or define. How she must walk into the house every night with a little smile, reliving the best part of the conversation, the one nugget he dropped that let her know he likes her, too. That eventually they can shake the wingman, they won't need him as an excuse anymore. But it's going to take awhile.

I feel like a fortune teller, with a better view of a young girl's future than she has of her own. Or, for that matter, than I have of my own.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Whiskey, cigarettes, and country music ...

Chuck pointed out that I've been going at this whole "starting an 80s ladies cover band" thing from the wrong angle. What kind of guitar player would want to join up with a band called Christa (Pista) and The, which is fronted by someone last seen covertly shot-putting an alto saxophone down two flights of steps so she wouldn't have to play "On Wisconsin" at the Minnesota state basketball tournament?

No, guitar players usually already have someone tapped to sing their songs: Themselves. So there is really no reason to add a me to the stage.

"Find a drummer," Chuck suggested. "Build from there."
"I bring nothing to the table, though," I told him. "Just a kicky band name, the voice of an angel, a sick amount of Belinda Carlisle trivia. ... And I can do the worm. If I'm drunk. And, well, sober."

As you know, Duluth, Minn., is ripe with music. It is impossible to swing a ukulele without getting it stuck in the natty Brillo beard of someone who knows how to play it. And it's hard to not get caught up in the sticky PBR swell and want to do it, too. Kind of like how, after the Summer Olympics, you might slip into a pair of white footie pajamas and make for a playground, convinced that you can do the Iron Cross.

So my project is an 80s cover band that re-imagines my entire karaoke repertoire (which is eerily similar to the "Footloose" soundtrack. Coincidence.) Interspersed with stuff by my favorite shoe gazers, rarities by Minnesotans, and Fleetwood Mac. Something like Amanda Palmer, but with eyebrows. I take my fashion cues from the third-grade version of myself, and finally get to own a pair of Vans. Mostly it comes down to really wanting matching leather cuffs on both wrists and the chance to slay masses with my thoughtful take on Material Issue. Leave people wondering: "Did she just rap?"

I've decided to suck it up and go DIY: I'm going to learn to play guitar. Not the adorable punk uke that I used to pluck out "Mad About You" for Chuck at Schmidt Music. That would just be silly. An actual guitar-guitar for adults. Adults who decide that by the time they are 37, they want to be playing Debbie Gibson covers and complete Trip Shakespeare sets.

I've enlisted the help of a man who goes by the name "Old Knifey" to teach me to play. He claims that it will be hard. My fingers will hurt. Something, something practice that I kind of ignored. It will take a long time. I'm shooting to play a rogue show in a basement during Homegrown 2014. Mostly I just like saying: "Old Knifey, my guitar teacher, says ..." (He also claims to know how to play the uke). For our first class we are going guitar shopping. Unless I get distracted by a keytar, then the whole thing is off.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A barely perceptible dent ...

Wellsy, well well. Last week flew past. We had out-of-town visitors, meaning we got to test out both guest rooms simultaneously and sometimes use the L-shaped couch of leisure to almost its max potential.

It also means that I ate so much restaurant food that my Pavlovian response to seeing my own debit card is extreme hunger. (FYI: Chester Creek Cafe is rocking their Maverick Grits right now. Go grit some). Since I'm here, I'll add that Clyde Iron Works has a pretty awesome porketta sandwich that woke acne cells that had been dormant since the late 1980s. And, also, it's deck season at Mexico Lindo, where I only managed to put a barely perceptible dent into a 42 ounce margarita.

I didn't run a half-marathon and have decided to re-invent myself as an inline skater. Went apeshit all over the Munger today.

I'm reading a book that is so amazing that I dare not say its name lest I jinx it. But if all goes according to plan, it will be my favorite book of 2010.

And lastly: Is there a bigger cliche than an aging Gen-X'er cruising around with Weezer cranked on factory stereo of a Ford Focus? Because that would be me this past week. Something is wrong with my car. Not sure what, but it sounds like the soundtrack to "Battlestar Galactica."

Anyway, here is what I cooked, watched and read this past week.


Greek Orzo Stuffed Peppers: I really liked this. There is a microwave step -- to soften the red peppers -- that felt like cheating. But then it was like: What, am I Laura Ingalls Wilder? Why wouldn't I use this prominently placed kitchen appliance? So the peppers are stuffed with orzo, spinach, chickpeas, onions, feta, etc., and that stuff totally stands alone, too. Totally make this.

The Road Every single shot in this movie looks like it should be framed and hanging above our fake fireplace. But mostly I just like to say Viiiiiiiiiiiiiiggggggggooooooo! Someday I need to read a Cormac McCarthy book in its entirety instead of just counting how many words are in each sentence. Someday.

"Party Down" Season 2: My God. Would you people freakin' watch this so we can argue about whether it tops "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia? Streaming on Netflix. It's almost harder to NOT watch it. This show causes severe humor envy. Especially with the addition of Megan Mullally.

Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House: by Meghan Daum: In the early 2000s, Meghan Daum did something totally unprecedented. She busted past a bunch of dead male authors with flapper fetishes and Margaret Atwood to land a spot in my Top 5 Favorite Books of All Time list with her collection of contemporary essays:My Misspent Youth: Essays

[Unfortunately she followed this with fiction that smacked dangerously close to her own life: Woman ditches out on the fast lane, lands in Lincoln, Neb., meets a dude in a flannel shirt and lives in an old farmhouse. And in the process learns a thing or two about love. It was a total three-star meh-fest.]

Daum is back doing what should be doing, conversational nonfiction writing, with what is ultimately an essay-ish love letter to house shopping and the places where she has lived, "Life Would be Perfect If I Live in that House." 

Full review will be at Minnesota Reads



Sunday, June 20, 2010

The one where I absolutely do not run a half-marathon ...

Here I am in the spot where Chuck traditionally takes a photograph of me after I've finished running the Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon. Except this time I'm in street clothes with coffee and a stunning lack of regret about not participating. 

So let me put an end to the suspense: I did not run the half-marathon. Even I didn't know if I would until about 4:17 a.m., when I approached Lil Latrell -- who drove up from Lawrence, Kansas and was now standing in the hallway outside of the Winnie the Pooh guest bedroom -- and said:

"I'm not going to do this."

I thought I'd waver more with my yeses and nos. But as it was, first I was a no, then I was a yes for almost an entire day, and then suddenly I was an emphatic NO. There are plenty of reasons that I didn't run:

1. I didn't train at all. And in my life I've already proven that I can run great distances without training to run great distances many times over. This is no longer an interesting thing about me. It's a little like saying: "Look! If I ride my bike no handed, I can run into that wall at 14 miles per hour and crack my skull open. I've done it tons of times." The "I didn't train and ran anyway" story only needs one piece of anecdotal evidence, and since I'm still talking about the time I came in sixth-to-last place at Twin Cities Marathon in 2004, most other opportunities to re-write another version will fall short.

2. In light of what happened on Saturday this makes me sound like an asshole, but it's a genuine reason that I decided not to run: I did not want to die. (I'm not saying the person who did die didn't train. I am saying that as a person who didn't train, I was upping the ante in a game of Battleship with the Grim Reaper). 

3. The 2009 half-marathon really sucked. From the moment I woke up and coated my lungs with air the consistency of Rubber Cement, to standing in line to pick up my clothes at the end of the race -- a scene that rivaled "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome," I was miserable. I could practically feel my uterus trying to find an escape hatch from my running skirt. Water dissolved on impact with my tongue. I was sweating chunks or sand.

4. Vanity. Pure vanity. There is always this day a few months after the event when Lil Latrell sends me an email that the race photos have been released. I type my number into the website, and find about six extra unflattering photographs of myself walking, grimacing, contorted into something barely recognizable as a human being. Last year I had the added bonus of looking like a transvestite. A person with my legs -- like a retired male soccer player with a taste for booze and fake cheese and TV marathons and good books -- really isn't going to rock a spandex skirt with any kind of femininity.

But when I look back on 2010, the official reason I didn't run: Blame it on the chillwave. The Glow-fi. A sudden interest in a musical trend from the summer of 2009 that had me Googling, Myspacing, and greedily downloading until about 2 a.m. Washed Out, MemoryTapes, Toro y Moi, Neon Indian ...

So after I told Lil Latrell (I couldn't tell if she was disappointed, or relieved that she didn't have to listen to me repeat "Ouch" with every stride from Mile 2 on) I went back to bed for two hours. Chuck, Latrell's friend Lady Longlegs (who had road tripped with her) and I went down to about the 12 mile point. I ate a cheese danish. Drank coffee. Rooted for my slimy friends. Wandered to the finish line and caught the end of the men's full marathon. Wept quietly, as I always do when people do something impressive that may result in a loss of toenails.

Through this all, I did not once regret not running. Not when I saw Latrell's medal. Not when I saw the zombie shuffle of finishers on Superior St. on Saturday night. Especially not when I saw the T-shirts, which I assumed would be enough to make me mug a drunk runner at the beer tent.

The best part is that right now I can go crank out 13 miles on my inline skates with nary a wince. Running. Psh.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Poison control center ...

Me: I need to figure out why it feels weird to spend $150 on jeans that I wear 300 days a year, when I'll spend that much on shoes that I never wear.
Chuck: First world problems.

In other news: here is what I cooked, watched, read this past week. Cheerio.


Asparagus-Ricotta Phyllo Tart: Why must I torture myself with phyllo dough? Granted, I finally learned how to manipulate it a little better, but I am just so damn clumsy with it. Not to mention that when it came time to eat this mess, it was like a present that wouldn't get unwrapped. But it was good. Hurray for asparagus, right?

Rhubarb Cobbler: Apparently we have rhubarb growing in our backyard. So, yeah. This was okay. Too much dough, not enough rhubarb. I do believe this is among the first time that a dessert has gone to rot in the fridge. This is totally not the recipe I used at all, at all. But for some reason I find myself linking to it anyway. I think it's blah blah anti-authority something.Anyway, I think we didn't eat it because Chuck kept saying the word "poisonous." But in a good way.

Lolita: Admittedly, I've never finished the book. But Kubrick's take on it is rich in hijinks and hilarity. Like a steamy Betty and Veronica.

The Lovely Bones: One part Lifetime Original Movie, one part Pink Floyd video. The saddest part was watching Marky Mark be the father of a teenager. Why, world? WHY!?

Remember that melodramatic moment in the movie "Fear" when he stands outside of that super posh house, staring at the place like it betrayed him. Pounding on his chest to create a self-induced bruise that he can blame on his girlfriend's father? Yeah. At that moment I never thought he would surpass the greatness of his brother Donnie, shirtless beneath a pair of Gap overalls, waving his hands and singing "Hanging Tough." I probably shouldn't try to predict things.

"Splice": For about 15 minutes near the end, this is the funniest movie I've seen since "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."

Wifey by Judy Blume: Admittedly, I remember very little from the 1970s beyond having panel walls in our kitchen, and matted mustard carpeting in the living room. So, luckily, I am able to see beyond the frustrations of sexually stifled housewife Sandy Pressman, and instead take Judy Blume’s hidden-in-the-hamper novel from the era for something better: Wifey is Pure. Comic. Gold.

Full review here.

Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis: The opening sentence of "Imperial Bedrooms" is enough to give an old Bret Easton Ellis-ophile chills: "They had made a movie about us." Shiver. Unfortunately, by the end of the first page, his 25-year reunion for the cold, drug-addled, pretty and pretty wealthy sociopaths from "Less Than Zero" becomes something that would look best hitting a wall at about 45 miles per hour.

Ellis discounts the narrator of his most popular novel with a a handful of clacks on the keyboard of his Mac. (How do we know it's a Mac? There isn't a single interview with the literary Brat Packer that doesn't mention the gleaming computer machines on the desk of his stark Hollywood condo. The universe is, like, thrilled that he isn't writing on a typewriter anymore or something).

Full review on Minnesota Reads.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

It's all in the packaging ...

Is Sofia Coppolla's sparkling wine even really good? Shrug. But damn if I don't love these little cans of liquor with bendy straws glued to the side.

Thank you to my friends at Wild West Liquor of West Duluth, who have begun stocking this Capri Sun-style of booze since I put in a special request. They even have them on display. THEY EVEN SELL THEM BY THE CAN. Suck it, Red Bull.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A multi-media celebration of my friend Ben ...

Be friends with the kid with diabetes. Seriously. Because inside the front pocket of his backpack, it's like Halloween.

"Do you want a Lifesaver? Gum? Fig Newtons ..." No. 9 said digging through his haul.
"Nah," I said. "I mean, yes. I'll take a Lifesaver."

I would later come to call this bag 'o loot his "diaper bag."


I can't remember the exact moment that I decided No. 9 was one of my new favorite people. But I know I was eying him for awhile, like a coach looking to fill a gaping hole in a depleted roster. Sitting in a class and watching him Google "Donkeys wearing costumes" and the like, then pasting the images onto his Tumblr. He was a natural, with a scientific knack for noticing what made one donkey funnier than another donkey. A particular neck ruffle, or an eye patch. Other times I'd see him spill something on his sleeve. I don't know. Ketchup? Lick his finger. Scrub it off.


The deets: No. 9 is a 20-something who lives in Buffalo. He has been called "the future" because of his involvement with entrepreneurship. He sings like an angel. He uses 1990s technology for instant messaging, and wants you to, too. He has a fantastic laugh. One of those that goes of suddenly, picking up where it left off last time.


"I just love the number nine," he told me one day. "I don't know why."
"What about the number six?" I asked.
"Yeah. I like six, too," he said.


No. 9 was wearing a black T'shirt. The front featured the body of a mini headless karate man. If you squinched your eyes and cocked your head, you could imagine his head upon this foot-tall T'shirt-man. That day we were dance partners, we aped each other's moves or whatever. I kept staring at the little man on his shirt and giggling.

"I like things that are disproportionate," he said. "Like miniature ketchup bottles."
Pee Wee Herman's chair, I'd imagine. Tiny off-scale dishes. On his YouTube channel, he futzes with a giant remote control.


I have a pretty visual sense of humor, and in my favorite moments of comedy I am riffing with someone ... building a scene that becomes increasingly ridiculous. When I find someone who can do this, and do this well, I suckle at that teat. No. 9 said exactly the kind of things that I think are funny. Consider this text conversation we had en route to a dinner party.

No. 9: What if when we got to [her] house and it's a little hut on the side of the road. Awkward!
Me: And a midget answered the door.
Me: Or when we walk in, her grandma is taking a bath in a claw foot tub in the middle of the living room.
No. 9: And it's Cloris Leachman.
No. 9: Dinner is a fire-roasted goat. Which she sacrifices live during cocktail hour.
Me: Only if she can't find a virgin ...
No. 9: I wouldn't assume the red wine isn't goat blood.
Me: I wouldn't assume the cream sauce isn't breast milk.


I had been carrying around a mini cheese, crackers, and fruit tray from Starbucks for 10 hours. It was supposed to be my breakfast. Then it was supposed to be my lunch. Then I forgot about it until we were sitting in the front row of a play.

"Brie?" I asked him, pulling it out of my purse.
We cackled.
Within 10 minutes he'd gotten the strangers next to us involved in the conversation. Can one eat brie that has been out of the refrigerator for 10 hours?

One of the strangers was a scientist. He said: "I wouldn't eat it." Hinting that this would result in a poisoning that would have me spinning and spurting and sputtering like a double spouted sprinkler.

A few days later No. 9 got his own version of this magic tray, and ate it in a timely manner.

No. 9: Did you eat those crackers? Tasted like hardened doilies.
Me: I thought they were delish.
No. 9: I don't know what crackers you have in Duluth, but these are about as interesting as a box of hair.
No. 9: What kind of cheese do you eat with your boxes of hair? I like sage derby or Camembert.
Me: Camembert tastes like belly button.
No. 9: Stilton tastes like old man feet. I've heard.


"I heard we are going to be near an In & Out burger," I told my friend.
"Au. Ma Gaad," he texted.
The In & Out virgin had big plans to go off-roading with his order. None of this pedestrian menu business, he was tapping into to a super secret internet legend: the double double animal style. I think he had it written down.

I envied No. 9, enjoying this for the first time.


One day I got a text from him that just said this:
"Channel 19 is so weird."


I told No. 9 that I was going to have a celebration of him on this here website. He asked if it was like an obituary. "More like a nonsexual love letter," I told him.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hello. Again. Hello. ...

"Hello, old friend," I said damn-near aloud, walking into Urgent Care on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. Same barely comfortable snot-colored chairs; same overweight 2-year-old in camouflage pants channeling Satan with a purple crayon; Same plotline of "Guiding Light" playing on a 12-inch TV in the corner; Same sassy nurses delving into my personal life ("Why, yes, I did try Cranberry Juice.")

It's been awhile. I've gone UTI-free for so long that I didn't recognize the symptoms. It was like an ex-boyfriend showing up on my front steps with a goatee, dark glasses, and a messy British accent. An ex-boyfriend who used to rub jalapeno juice in my eyeballs until I cried blood ... metaphorically speaking.

Today I had to either cooperate with the sting, or have my trunk amputated. I opted for the former. I diagnosed myself for the nurse at the front desk, then waited three and a half hours for her to tell me I was right. I've done this so many times that I'm surprised they don't just hand me a gift certificate for one free Ph.D with my prescription.


"You can't find your insurance card?" the old woman asks me as I rip through my purse like I've just mugged myself.
I shake my head. Find a piece of paper. Hand it to her.
"This is your dental insurance," she tells me, handing it back.
More rifling.
"Where do you think it is?" she asks me.
I shrug, still digging.
"Maybe in another purse?" I tell her.
She gasps.
Rifle, rifle, rifle.

"You know," she says. "You should always keep your insurance card tucked in behind your ID."
"That's a good idea," I say, giving up. I start to put my dental insurance card back in my purse.
"NO!" she says. "Wait until I give you your ID so you can keep them together. ... You should keep all of your insurances together. Tucked in behind your ID. Even your car insurance."

After she'd fitted me with an ID bracelet, she took ahold of my hand again. Flipped it over like she was going to read my palm, and pumped three squirts of hand sanitizer into it.

"You touched my pen," she said. "Now rub that in."


I read a good chunk of Meghan Daum's new book "Life Would Be Perfect if I Lived in that House." It's a pleasant love letter to the homes she's lived in throughout her life. It's no "My Misspent Youth," but it'll do in a pinch.


"I was standing in the doorway texting and this big fat nurse came up to me and said 'You can't smoke here, you have to move.' I was texting, man. I wasn't even smoking. Yet.'" This kid is the life of the waiting area. Other complaints included:

"How come they get a huge flat screen in the Emergency Room waiting area?"


I eye my fellow triage patients warily. This is taking forever, and I have to believe that hacking toddler and the pregnant teenager in a wife beater are going to rank higher than "Ouch it hurts when I pee."


Finally, I get called back into the shit. I'm waiting in a nondescript office, when a nurse brings in a small flashlight, the kind used for intimate exams.

"Oh, the stories that flashlight could tell," I say to her. We cackle.


I leave the office with a prescription for Cipro, the barely legal drug with which I am most familiar. It's the side effects that really crack me up, including: May make you want to kill yourself, or others. 

I can usually skate through a Cipro session with just:
May give you dreams that seem like they were directed by Pink Floyd. And, May make you paranoid enough to think that the walls of the bathroom at the DECC Arena are going to collapse on top of you.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pffft ...

Oh. Hi. It's me. Christa. I've been going through my cell phone and emailing myself photographs of food. Looks like I haven't delved into a Weekly Review in ages. Here is a hodge podge of a whole lotta nothing. 

Here's what I've been eating, reading, watching. You could use my enthusiasm level right now to scrub a bathtub.


Spicy Bahn Mi: I've become obsessed with Bahn Mi. Like, to the point of walking into a Vietnamese restaurant in Superior, then walking out when I didn't see this sandwich on the menu. It became like this thing, like a great song or something, that everyone loves but I've never tried. So I sucked it up and made my own, always a risky prospect when you go in not sure exactly how it's supposed to taste -- mapping a recipe using a bevy of Google images and a vague idea of what certain flavors will do when they hit each other.

So this is mine: I made it with tofu instead of pork because ... blah blah blah hate cooking meat whatever. I really liked it; Chuck couldn't get past the smell of the Apple Vinegar I used in the slaw part. (Next time I'll try Rice Vinegar, just for kicks).

The post script to this is that I had Bahn Mi while I was in Los Angeles -- Culver City, actually -- and it knocked my socks off. At least now I know what I'm up against when I'm making it. Next time with pork. In other news: Welcome to my life, daikon radish.

Grilled Veggie Wrap: Chuck made this one. And I'm not sure what he did, but he turned beans into something the consistency of cheese in such a vegan-rific way. Nice summer treat.

Brown Sugar Toffee Cake: This will be a news flash to no one who has ever used their tongue: Heath Bar, crumbled, could make mushrooms taste good. So this cake got a lot of love. Futbol definitely gave this his seal of approval while he was visiting.

Tomato Mozzarella Packets with Polenta: Oh, gentle Jenny. Not only is this super good, it's super easy. Polenta, mozzarella, tomatoes, some seasonings ... served up in a poor man's Bento box. Er, wrapped in tin foil. Chuck didn't dig it as much as I did. He seemed to think you had to have each flavor on your fork to make it work. I scraped moz off the tin foil, and enjoyed it just fine. Although one serving is definitely not enough. I don't think Vegetarian Times has posted this recipe yet, but I think it's pretty self explanatory: take a bunch of food, throw it in tin foil, cook.

An Education This is what should have happened instead of the movie "Juno." I haven't loved a movie this much for awhile. Girl, striving to fill her life with art, lit, music, and nicotene falls for an older schmoozy dude who totally woos her. But, of course, there is something a little sketchy going on.

The Cruise: ... and in keeping with that theme, this is a pretty awesome documentary about a NYC tour guide, Timothy Levich, who speaks in pull quotes. Even his most  basic sentiments are gripping: "Your narcissism is mediocre." But then there are things like: "I am in a launching vitriolic way trying at any expense to grab the collars of people who have no idea what they're surrounded by, and trying to grab their attention in the middle of the greatest tumultuousness. And ripped lining is part of that routine." [Thanks to Chuck for posting these quotes on Facebook so I didn't have to do any research]. Anyway, watch this. And if you must, make it a drinking game.

And the Heart Says Whatever by Emily Gould:At some point we all sat around and wondered what the hell personal blogging would mean, ultimately, for the good old-fashioned world of the printed word. The kind that comes on paper, bound, with a flattering author portrait and blurbs from friends.
As an anecdote to that, I present Emily Gould’s book of personal essays And the Heart Says Whatever. The former go-go Gawker girl’s collection includes vignettes of being a sexually aware high school student wrist-deep in the trousers of an underclassman, to feeling like a freak-show at her college in the Midwest, to navigating the streets of the Lower East Side en route to gigs as a publishing assistant/hostess/shot girl. It is all tinged with the sort of romantic mooniness that comes with having an ex-boyfriend and/or making a self-destructive decision or two.

Full review here.

Sixty-Nine by Ryu Murakami: When it comes to dizzying collections of words, Ryu Murakami has long been the writer most likely to make me wretch with glee. He's a Level 3 sensory offender, twiddling away at a reader's gag reflex just because he can. There is a scene in his novel "In The Miso Soup," (my favorite) that is so engraved in my brain that it has almost become a permanent ear worm. The depravity and desperation of "Almost Transparent Blue" have stuck with me for more than a decade. His novel "Coin Locker Babies" opens with such a shocking sentence that it's a wonder anyone makes it to Page 2 -- unfortunately.

But with "69," his roman a clef about a posse of restless, political, literary, music-loving teens noodling away at Simon & Garfunkle's greatest hits on a guitar and talkin' about a revolution, Murakami takes his best tool and hides it in a garage for the duration of the novel.

This is to say, I didn't almost barf once. 

Full review will be here

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Voted best place to leave your ID ...

Dear Paul Hensler General Manager of Eurotal Fine Gourmet Coffees and Haagen-Daaz Ice Cream at Los Angeles International Airport,

Thank you for returning the ID I left on the counter of your cafe on the afternoon of May 27, 2010. I'm sure you can imagine that I broke the world record of "shit-shit-shits" uttered in a minute when I realized it was missing as I boarded my plane for Minneapolis, a session I repeated during my layover before returning to Duluth.

In the interim, I've been using an ID that expired in 2004. I'm damn-near wearing braces and a training bra in the photo, but luckily I've been able to purchase alcohol in places like Superior, Wis., despite this flagrant abuse of state-issued identification. I don't know if you've ever been to Superior, Wis. ... but if so, this will make a lot more sense.

I haven't experienced such kindness (re: the return of my ID) since I left it at the Ghetto Spur a few months ago, and it was returned with a note that said: "Sorry I carded you."

The next time I'm at LAX, I'm buying you a beer.

Big love,

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Quitter. Maybe. ...

For all of you sitting at home wondering where I stand on Week 9ish of Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon training, I have an important announcement:

I, Pista-face, am not going to run it.

Unless! Unless sometime in the next three weeks I manage to pull a 5-miler out of my ass, and run it at an acceptable pace. "Acceptable," of course being a very gray area that accommodates a full-fledged limp set to a banshee yelp soundtrack.

I have a whole fleet of not-very athletic reasons why I think I might not run, a list that includes a lung curdling cold on Week 3 that spilled into Week 4 and then that wretched Homegrown Music Fest, which always mucks up anything not directly related to PBR and hippies going apeshit on ukes. Then there was Los Angeles, where I ran once on a treadmill built for walking and felt like the precious chunky preteen blundering through gym class (who will someday, however, blossom into a lovely woman) in a made-for-TV movie about diet pills and the horrors of sorority life.

I went inline skating yesterday on the Munger Trail, which was meh. A father on a Sunday bike cruise, yanking a toddler around on a little trailer made so much wind when he passed me, that I almost biffed on his hearty wake. Slow going. And not very far. If I can't even comfortably skate 10 miles, I should definitely consider donating my ankle bones to science, like, right now.

I don't want to not run it. I have just a shade too much pride for that. I just remember that feeling last year at Mile 4 of being totally over asphalt, Asics, Dixie Cups and smell of chafing cream at its boiling point. How I knew deep down that if I took four more strides, I might give birth to my own uterus on Scenic Hwy 61. How my guts felt like I'd swabbed them with Brawny.

That's. Not. Fun.

Of course, there is that Jenny O turkey sandwich at the finish line. And Dipping Dots really only taste good through a heavy mouth paste. And the insufferable "wearing of a finishers medal" for the next three days. And the excuse to make as much smell in one single pair of tube socks.

So confused.