Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cleaning out my closet ...

This is a good old fashioned case of "cleaning out my closet." I've been slacking on my lists of foods, movies, and books since Los Angeles (holla). This means little in the scheme of things, until one morning when Chuck is at the grocery store with a hankering for Snobby Joes, and has no idea what ingredients to buy and can't search this little site from his magic telephone devise. Or I think: "Wait. Did I see 'Shutter Island' or not?"

So screw the links, attempts at Amazon bucks and blurry photographs taken in our dimly lit and hugely orange kitchen.  Here's some stuff.

Snobby Joes: "Don't tell me. No, do. What's the meat substitute here?" Chuck asked. Lentils! These are totally like sloppy Joes, but the heartiness comes from beans. So fun. I was actually super surprised at how good these were. I even resisted the urge to coat them in cheese.

They are from this vegan cookbook "Veganomicon" that totally busts the rep that vegans have of being humorless. Snobby Joes? C'mon. That's comedy. (Food comedy has different standards).

Apple-Peanut Butter-Caramel Bars: These were from the same cookbook and they were so super awesome. Huge crusty chunks of graham cracker crumbles, apple, peanut butter. Superyum.

"Greenberg": Soo ... yeah.

"I think we're Alone Now" This is a pretty shitty doc about two huge fans of Tiffany, the mall rocker of yesteryear. It ends up being super cruel, instead of anything else.

"Nightmare on Elm Street" Thus beginning my scary movie season. I'm going to cram as many into the next month as possible.  I'd never seen this, which means negative points on my 80s whatever cred.

"Shutter Island" The ending of this movie is like ... 45 minutes of the movie.

"Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen: There is nothing that I can say about Jonathan Franzen's superlative magnet that hasn't been said by everyone from the official newspaper of record, to our cultural spokeswoman Oprah Winfrey, to 4 gazillion unknown word geeks who are wondering if it is socially acceptable to shove this particular 3 pound novel down one's pants.

Franzen deserves every exclamation point, every "incredible," and every sheet cake decorated with his likeness. This epic, sprawling, detailed novel about pretty much everything in the world and is an engrossing collection of words.

Full review will be here.

Richard Yates by Tao Lin: I’m feeling pretty generous today, so I’m going to extend to Tao Lin a courtesy I’d ordinarily not. I’m going to humor him. For the duration of this post, I’m not even going to so much as roll a single eyeball over his whole “If you don’t get me, you’re obvs too old to understand me” bullshit. But please know this will end with my tongue bloody from restraint.
[Deep breath]

Full review here.

Drinking at the Movies by Julia Wertz: Julia Wertz is that little voice in your head cracking wise during situations that are absurd or even borderline tragic. Where plenty of (boring) people have learned to silence it, or at least self-edit, Wertz spits out these bits of irreverent nuggets:
“My life is the abortion Juno should have had,” the be-T’shirted and bobbed 20-something tells her friend in her graphic memoir Drinking at the Movies.

Full review here.

High Voltage by Kat Von D I'm going through a huge Kat Von D phase, not unlike my vegetarian cooking phase, addiction memoir phase, running phase, Swedish pop duos phase, learning to play guitar phase, Belinda Carlisle phase -- well, the last one is more of a lifestyle.

She's the Kat Von D'jour. 

Full review will be on Minnesota Reads.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Discombobulated ...

Time: 2:54 a.m. Sunday morning

(While sitting on the couch watching old episodes of "Miami Ink," and trying to write about Kat Von D in a way that doesn't sound like I think she communicates with me whenever I put on this-here tinfoil helmet. Also thinking of popping Vanilla Sugar Cookies into the oven.

Phone vibrates, and the screen reveals a dopey smiling photo of my former landlord. It is impossible that he is sober -- as it is after 11 p.m. and the world is still seemingly plugged in -- so in answering I'm sacrificing at least the top layer of my brain matter. But there is a chance he needs a ride home, so ...)

Me: Hello?
Former landlord: Quick! How do you spell 'discombobulated'?
Me: What?
Former landlord: LOOK IT UP AND CALL ME BACK!
Me: What? Why?
Former landlord (who does not have such luxuries as internet, and in fact doesn't have internet so hard that he probably expects me to look this up in a dictionary book): I'm trying to impress a girl. She has a Masters degree. Call me back.
Me: How do you not know how to spell --
Me: I can just tell you. It's D-I-S-C-O-M ...
Former landlord: Wait. D-I-S ...
Me: C-O-M-B-O-B-U-L
Former landlord: Wait! My pen isn't working! ... B-O-B ...
Me: U-L-A-T-E-D.
Former landlord: Oh, that's how I would have spelled it.
Me: It's not very impressive to a girl when you call another girl while you're making her a burger at 3 a.m.
Former landlord: Oh, she's not here. I'm going to see her tomorrow. She's smart, Pista. She's real smart.

Friday, September 24, 2010

To the left, to the left ...

It seems cruel to tell this in a  linear order, so I'll start at the beginning and then blow the kicker:

Toonses seems to have had a stroke, or some other brain something. But he seems to be getting better because he can be coaxed into turning left with the right combination of treats and clapping.

Last weekend when I was out of town, Chuck noticed that Toonses hadn't been eating. And he was to only be able to turn to the right and in circles. Chuck Googled it, then bought Toonses some of the reekiest unhealthy cat food he could find to try to get him re-interested in the old face-in-bowl routine. That worked. He started eating again. But he has to walk in circles to get to the dish.

I swaddled Toonses in a Steve Urkle sleeping bag and took him to the vet on Monday. While we waited, he spun in tight slippery circles around on the metal table. He's having trouble with his back legs -- they work, but he doesn't seem to trust them. He looked like a commercial for kitten mittens, and if I hadn't thought they were going to Kevorkian him, it would have been hilarious.

I studied a chart on the wall. One of those "If your cat is (this old) in cat years, he is (this old) in people years." Though he is a pre-teen to me (12), Toonses is really creeping into the Greatest Generation.

The doctor checked Toonsie's eyes, watched him walk in circles, and stuck a thermometer in his little cat butt.

"Well, despite the fact that he just ran into that wall, he can see out of both eyes," the doctor said as we watched him perform a clumsy feline version of Ice Capades.

Something brainular has occurred. True. But there is no one in Duluth who does brain scans on cats (cat scans), and even if they did it would be the price of getting a pool in the backyard. And that's before the brain surgery, and on a 12-year-old cat ...

But. His eyes work. He's vocal. He's eating again. It's like, the vet said, there's something wonky in his personal navigation. The message for what he wants to do isn't translating. If he's had a stroke, he might be able to re-learn how to enjoy the simple pleasures of yesteryear: turning left, say, or tipping over my water glass.

I re-swaddled Toonses, and brought him home -- a six block trip during which he managed to empty his bladder on my leg. I didn't even mind. A) I expected it. Something about the open road just makes him want to unclench and free himself of his waste somewhere on my person; B) I was just glad there was an animal in that sleeping bag, and not the beginning stages of a creepy pet alter. He has a prescription for Prednisone, and, FUN FACT he is the second being at this address on that particular drug. I let them feed it to each other.

Two nights ago I got Toonses to turn to the left a few times. Granted, he also tipped over afterward. And last night he got up on his back legs like he wanted to jump on the couch, but he's not quite ready. He spends the rest of the time laying on a blanket in our closet.

In my unprofessional opinion, he's got another good five years in him. I've taken to calling him Zoolander. Chuck calls him Lefty.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Water works ...

NOTE: The contents of this post are extremely graphic ... even by my standards. But there is nothing here you wouldn't see on the Discovery Channel or Animal Planet or Jersey Shore. Because of this warning, I take no responsibility for phantom urethra pains or gagging. 

Of all the openings in the human body, the urethral sphincter is among the tiniest. So when a stranger, albeit a trained professional stranger, takes a catheter and jimmies it into this particular hole and then threads it into one's bladder, there is a certain amount of discomfort.

Of course, having a urinary tract infection for three months, the various stings and flames of this vicinity are pretty familiar. Still, there was a high-pitched whinny upon contact, and a sharp uvula-quaking in-take of air. "You have to breathe," reminded the kind nurse-sort who was playing doting hostess to my early-morning adventure. Then we both ignored the final dribbles of the last liquid I'd consumed as they spread all over the clinic's linens.

This past summer, things have whizzed past "frequent urinary tract infections" and double-jumped "chronic urinary tract infections" and now just seem to be a permanent state of being. On my first visit with a urologist, he apologized that I had to go through this and said: "I know it can really affect your quality of life" vocalizing something I knew, but hadn't made a thought for yet. Basically I've developed a Pavlovian grimace to everything that happens or might happen in this specific southern region. Even the carbonation from s can of Coke or a PBR makes me recoil in horror when I consider the way the bubbles will leave my body. And that, frankly, is the least of my concerns. I can live without Coke and PBR.

Our friend Cath recently described for Chuck a scene from a college-level biology class where a petri dish filled with infection was dosed with a drop of Cipro that mangled the infection on impact. A perfect antibiotic for saving factions of the universe after a global catastrophe. Just not in the case in my body, where I imagine cartoon-ish images of cigar wielding germs bumping knuckles with tiny Cipro pellets. I've tried a gamut of drugs beyond Cipro. Fail. Fail. Ouch. Fail. Yet some UTI-ignorant soul always cocks her head and says: "Have you tried drinking Cranberry Juice?"

Yes. I have. The expensive organic kind that is so bitter it doesn't even register. It just attacks the tongue and leaves behind a dry fecal aftertaste. The drink has broken down my senses to the point where I something-close-to-almost-like-it.

It is one of about 9 gazillion things I have tried. I'm a model student in the world of urinary tract care and hygiene.

Fact: I drink upward of 90 ounces of water a day.
Fact: I go to the bathroom at least every waking hour. Before I go to bed, and when I wake up.
Fact: I void, then cuddle -- as a former Urgent Care doctor once eloquently suggested.
Fact: I monitor what I expel to make sure it is clear and not cloudy.
Fact: Sometimes I drink Cranberry Juice.
Fact: I do not sit on cold stones, which is a bunch of hooey but something my Norwegian friend swears causes UTIs in her adorable country.

The doctor showed me a glass bottle filled with about 10 ounces of fluid dangling hamster cage style. It was going to hurt, my hostess confessed. She'd had a catheter. The important thing, she told me, was to drink a lot of water afterward to get my pisser back to normal. Then they slowly emptied the liquid into my bladder. I watched on a grayscale monitor as the purse-shaped pocket darkened.

"Tell us when you can't take it and really have to go," the doctor said.
"I wouldn't need a gas station yet, but I'd definitely be looking for an exit," I told him.

When I finally conceded that I couldn't wait another minute, that I would actually go on the shoulder of the road, they cranked my bed from horizontal to vertical and handed me a hard plastic crotch sized box with a baggie attached. I drained my bladder, reluctantly, into this contraption. The inside of my body was filmed and photographed by one of the three people in the room.

The word "dignity" played on a loop in my mind. It didn't help that I had my gown on backward.

After that, they took a CT scan of my torso and I got a little snippy with a tech who asked me to remove my belly button ring. It's been there for more than 15 years. It might be soldered there permanently. I don't usually get snippy with people. Especially not medical specialists. But I also don't usually start the morning by getting catheterized, either. Frankly, that's a mood dampener.

I dressed, and threw a wan smile at a woman in the waiting room.

I limped into the urologist's office like a bruised and beaten rodeo clown about three hours later for the results from the tests. A woman clicked away at the computer and mentioned that they were going to be looking in my bladd-

"Nuh uh ohh you aren't," I said to her. "We did that already. This morning. I'm just here for results."
She shook her head.
"No," she said. "We're going in with a scope to look at your bladder."
"Again through the urethra?" I crossed my legs.

At this point I started weighing my options. What was a urinary tract infection, even a 90-day infection, compared to being jabbed in a place that has never known human nor animal contact. But I had come this far, so I stripped down into the gown and crouched into the stir ups. I was tended to like a newborn on a changing table.

This time when I got the decisive jab, I started crying. Real tears. I grabbed the doctor's sweater. This scoping seemed to last forever, and I'd lost the directions to my happy place. Every time the scope moved it was like being stung by a bee in a very tender place. Afterward I jumped off the table, leaving a trail of spilled liquid leading to the toilet, breadcrumbs for the next patient.

The results? Inconclusive. There is nothing physically wrong with me that they could find. I didn't think there would be: My mom has chronic UTI's, my grandmother had chronic UTIs. I imagine somewhere is an old bible filled with black and white family portraits including thin-haired ladies wincing. Although, the urologist told me, I have a freakishly large bladder. Like 20 to 30 percent bigger than normal. For some reason this makes me proud.

"I can't wait to tell my friends," I told him.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for me I'll be on antibiotics for the next six months.

"Sorry for the water works," I said to the urologist as we left the office. "Ha! Water works."

He just groaned.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Olive juice ...

So now I can do this.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A slice of Americana ...

We live on a little street that becomes exponentially more Americana the closer you get to our house. Arthritic trees, game board lawns, houses that look like crayon drawings of houses. Enough kids that things start to get a little "Children of the Corn"-ish after dark.

When we lived in the duplex, we were surrounded by a mix of lifers and renters. Our then-next door neighbor had skin the color and consistency of ripe fruit. He liked to lay out in the sun naked, tiger-stripped briefs balled at his waist like a clown nose. He drove a company van, he had a wife with a limp, he had feral grandchildren. Lifer.

And then there was a carousal of college students with different-but-same antics. Once a bunch of day drinkers spent all afternoon standing in the street, playing catch with a guy in the attic window. Once a kid went out to pee in the bushes, only to wake up the next morning in the wrong house. Renters.

Before that I lived next to a creaky old place with a steady stream of visitors. Regardless of if they were meth or Mary Kay dealers, they should have been able to afford better dental care. But that's another story.

Now that we have a permanent address. A communal flower garden, a roving pack of deer who bravely roam the neighborhood like a gang of smart ass teenagers. A shared alley where every day a mini van cruises through, honking in warning. I'm told we'll have trillions of trick or treaters, and that holiday decorations are a competitive sport on this block. My house is on the dog-walk route for various friends. I like to think of it all as being embedded in a sociological experiment.

We live next door to an 80 year old, an original gangster in the most West Duluthy sense of the term. I busted out a "Frank sent me" with favorable results when I had to get my brakes fixed. I think he was here the day the neighborhood started. I know he could beat me in a foot race. Sometimes he mows our lawn, and I don't even feel badly about it. I'm more like, "Impressive, old man. Now how about busting out the weed whacker and addressing our fence line."

Another neighbor has five cars and one driveway. He spends the equivalent of a work shift playing automotive Tetris. Juggling Grand Ams, a utility vehicle, and a classic car. He refuses to make eye contact with me. Actually looked pissed off to learn I had a name. He would be voted most likely to growl "Hey, kid. Get off my lawn" to a Brownie. I suspect that my 15 minutes of fame will come when NBC Nightly News puts a microphone in my face, and I tell the nation: "No, sir. I'm not surprised at all to hear (insert typical headline grabbing behavioral hiccup of a neighborhood sociopath here)."

Then there are the triplets. They are about 4-years-old, two blondes and a strawberry blonde. One morning they paraded down the front steps in a princess dress, the long, drab gown of a pioneer woman, and one in a ragged robe and pajama pants. It goes without saying which one is my favorite.

There is a single mom next door. Four kids ranging in age from legal voter to "where's my binkie." They are the gems of the block, oozing with intrigue. When the legal voter had a chaste, albeit coed party this summer I overheard a conversation about season two of Highlander, and knew their collective virginity was in good hands. There's a teenaged girl who seems to be considering all the irreparable bad decisions she can make before "Pomp and Circumstance." She spent the summer under the street light with boys, or playing Truth or Truth in the back yard. As far as I can tell, the tot is vehemently opposed to his mother leaving the room, and is best friends with a dog.

I've enjoyed the energy of the preteen boy, who always leaves the house either running or on wheels, and whom, unlike his older brother, has never given a very serious gaming tutorial to a classmate that ended with an awkward handshake. (It was a transaction that made me wonder why a certain population of high school boys will always walk like they aren't quite sure about why they have been burdened with arms). I paid the preteen $12 to mow our lawn, and he left just a few mohawks in the yard.

I came into the conversation mid-stream. A crakey woman with frizzy hair and a scratchy baritone was talking to legal voting age on the front steps. A young girl sat on the sidewalk, tugging at the grass, and a rusted white beater was idling, parked the wrong direction at the curb.

"He's not here," Highlander told the woman. "My mom is looking for him, too."
"Well, if you find him, have him call me immediately," she said. She turned to walk back to her car.
"Oh," she added as an after thought. "Does your mom know that (preteen) got caught shoplifting at K-Mart?"
"Yeah," Highlander said.
"And he smokes," the little girl piped up.
"And he smokes," the older woman echoed.

For some reason this made me like the preteen even more. Until I started considering all the damage the neighborhood's primo juvenile delinquent could do with a bic and sticky fingers. I pictured him using the $12 I gave him for Marlboro Reds and a Vikings lighter.

For the rest of the day, everyone seemed to be looking for the preteen. They busted out flashlights when it got dark. No one issued an Amber Alert, so I'm assuming they found him. Or maybe they believed he was better off at the quarry, with his canned goods, a pup tent, some firecrackers and a copy of "Tom Sawyer."

Chuck was driving to work after midnight and saw movement in the communal garden and was pretty sure it was the runaways. Until last night, when he saw two kids emerge from the flowery plot in the boulevard. They were wrapped in a blanket.

"Make out spot," Chuck texted me.

Monday, September 13, 2010

You're getting very sleepy ...

I have gone through these phases in my life where I have been psychic for a spell. It's not a who-do voodoo psychic, it's more innocuous. More this song is going to be on the radio than you, sir, will get a skull fracture break dancing in five minutes. I'm already a pretty intuitive person, and this is like intuitive on crack.

So it's always kind of fun. This foray into super heroism. No harm, no foul. I went through a pretty serious period in college where I started keeping lists of the things I just knew, and that list filled an entire sheet of notebook paper. They didn't happen every day, but often enough. And then it just went away for awhile. I'm not sure what any of it means, or why I am sometimes more tuned in to it.

I was sitting in a small group on the first day of Freshman English. We were sharing biographical info with our classmates and a guy I was partnered with told me his dad owned a store. I looked at him and said "[Name of the store]." It was very creepy and stalkerish. Unfortunately, this is the only event I remember, and I've lost the list.

Anyway, it's back. It started with an email from a friend who told me she had been hired to work at a theater, and I knew what theater it was before she told me. And then driving home the other night, I specifically turned on "Fresh Air" because I had a feeling Terry Gross was interviewing Jonathan Franzen. And, of course, I was right in both instances.

So it's all very boring, and nothing that will get me rich on the carnival circuit. But it is just this vaguely interesting thing. Like a mole in the shape of Mother Theresa, or a limp.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

24 hour tour ...

I've known my BFF (big fat fucker) Fannie McFanster since pin-stripped jeans were en vogue. We were matching freckle-faced gingers in the early '80s who looked enough alike to cause havoc for Fr. Tim and one prissy music teacher at our Catholic grade school. Standing in her house in St. Louis Park, 27 years later, I have the unoriginal thought: I wish the Fannie in a Whitesnake T'shirt could see us now. People who carrying tiny rectangular communication devices, drive cars we have bought, and can make our hair do pretty much whatever we want.

She's about nine brut champagnes deep, wielding a small soft brush, dusting my cleavage with a ruddy color and cackling, while she provides a tutorial on how to even out the V-shaped color differential between my upper neck and the snowy zone that never sees sun.

"I guess I didn't realize you were going to take me to second base," I tell her.

Ten minutes later, she's taught me how to contort my body into the yoga pose "Bird of Paradise." I look like the calligraphy version of the letter P, tottering around her spare bedroom. 


I love staying at Fannie's house, where everything from the scented candles in bold neutral tones, the 50's-style refrigerator magnets, and the contents of her medicine cabinet are just cool. Like they were all hand selected, but effortlessly. She doesn't just buy things, she buys a certain type of thing that is all perfectly in character. And it's clean. So clean. She brushes her teeth, washes her face, snorts nasal spray, then wipes down the counter top in her bathroom. Whenever I'm there, I try to sample a bit of everything: Stuff that smells good and makes your hair shiny, face soap with tiny exfoliating grains. Her straightening and curling irons are overachievers, the TV in her room magically conjured a vintage episode of "Beverly Hills 90210" for me to watch as I got ready for my cousin's wedding on Saturday. 


When I was in my Totally Teal mascara phase, there was an ad that ran in Teen Magazine. A woman looking in a makeup mirror, with the catch phrase: Every day, you face your toughest critic.

I always used to read that and think: Yeah. Fannie.

This was probably more in my own head than in reality, the cocked look that she would give a shirt or a bow. But I have always had this feeling that I shouldn't show up on her doorstep with natty hair most-recently washed in a public toilet, or a pair of supersized sweat pants. Or as a Gwen Stefani blonde -- my resting state in the early 2000s.


I'm at a suburban strip mall. Definitely a shoe person, but more of a DSW-ite than a Jimmy Choo person. And so I'm clomping through the aforementioned store in a pair of kicky brown boots I picked up in this store in Los Angeles.

"OMG! YOU GOT THOSE BOOTS HERE!" the employee of the year shouts rushing toward me with what looks like it could turn into a hug. Other shoppers look at me, look at my feet, look at her. "I JUST LOVE THEM! THEY ARE LIKE TOTALLY MANHATTAN STREET BOOTS! FOR JUST OUT AND ABOUT IN NEW YORK CITY!"

I give her a stunned look. The coffee hasn't even infiltrated my bloodstream yet. And crikies, this is embarrassing.

I try on a pair of over-the-knee black boots, then self induce a leg cramp trying to take them off. Prostitutes make it look so easy.


My cousin K got married this weekend on a golf course in Ham Lake. The ceremony was near the putting green, with a view of a water hazard. Throughout the ceremony you would hear things like:


And a very disconcerting cry of "Fore!" which caused me to flinch and duck. I used to work on a golf course, and obviously I'm still struggling with a bit of PTSD.

The reception was held in a banquet room in this enormous club house. Another wedding reception was just a hallway away. I was leaving the bathroom when a 20-something from the other party busted down the door and barfed in the first stall. It was only about 5 p.m. Within the next two hours, I would overhear this same retching from another wedding guest. And when a huge group of people descended on my cousin's wedding dance, I imagined it was rogue members of the other group crashing.


Uncle Fester is I-don't-know how old. He's always looked the same. Shiny head, crakey voice, lines in his face more like a drawing of a face. He married my Great Aunt Jule when I was little, and together they had this really charming life. She has since died, and I hadn't seen him in years.

Brother Pista was chatting him up during an awesome dinner of Chicken Cordon Bleu.

Uncle Fester: I tell ya. I sure do like chasing the girls. But I none of my body parts work well enough to catch them.
Brother Pista: Ha!
Uncle Fester: Course, if I did catch them, I don't even know what I'd do.
Brother Pista: HaHa!
Uncle Fester: But I've still got my mind. So I can think about it.
Here I bust out laughing.
Brother Pista: I think you're making Christa blush.
Uncle Fester: She's not supposed to be listening to this.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Book binging and word purging ...

Well, friends. I am seemingly unable to write anything but lists of foods, books and movies I've consumed. I must have tales to tell. Like the time I went to Pridefest, and got oozy goozy over Leisha Hailey of Uh Huh Her's green cowboy boots and then spent hours on the internet trying to find a pair of my own.

I have a photo dump from our trip still in the hopper, and I must commit pen to paper for the story of the first time I got drunk, which will be part of a week of "and then I got drunk" stories.

There was also a birthday dinner, where we went to New Scenic and I ate my weight in Bahn Mi. (Word to Whiskey Marie: Yup. Damn good).

Oh. And Chuck and I are now vegans. Vegans who eat meat and cheese and eggs, but Vegans, nonetheless. 

But until then, here is what I've been making, reading, and watching for the past few weeks.


Orzo Lentil Pilaf with Feta: This is one of those too easy to be this good. A can of brown lentils, chopped up onion, and orzo cooked together until the orzo soaks up the water. Top with Feta. Easy awesome peasey. This is like an awesome go-round with cupboard roulette, except that it came as a real live recipe from Vegetarian Times. (Thanks, stranger, for writing up the recipe).

Pappardelle with Artichokes and Arugula: This one comes from Vegetarian Times, too. I didn't use Pappardelle. It's artichokes and sun dried tomatoes, then wilt arugula, then toss it with pasta. Except I accidentally used roasted red peppers because I didn't read the label and didn't even notice when I was chopping up the roasted red pepper that I was using the wrong food. All I could taste when I finally ate it was: Wrong ingredient. Although it was still pretty good. (Thanks, different stranger, for writing up this recipe).

Roasted Pepper & Asiago Chicken Sausage Ragu over Pumpkin Polenta: This is so lame, but I actually took a recipe from an advertisement in Eating Well magazine. They had me at Pumpkin Polenta. This is just a mix of sausage, black beans, onions and tomatoes, served on pumpkin polenta, which is made like normal polenta with pumpkin puree and asiago cheese. It was pretty good. I can't wait to just make pumpkin puree and eat it with roasted root vegetables. THAT'S GOING TO BE AMAZING!!!

Doc Hollywood: I guess the most confusing period of my life would be the one where I actively sought out photographs of Michael J. Fox for various voodoo-like collages.

The Joneses: Chuck told me the basic plot of this film, and I thought he was talking about something that actually happened: A "perfect" family with all the latest gadgets infiltrates a suburban community with the job of making their neighbors covet their golf clubs, clothes, video games, and foods. A lot hokey, but, whatevs.

Vanity Fair (Widescreen): Just once, I would like to have heaving breasts. I'm going to need a Halloween costume that requires a bodice.

Audition: Collector's Edition: This Japanese cult horror film based on a novel by Ryu Murakami has exactly the most terrible torture scene. Reading it, which I did (see below), is a far cry than the visual. The last 10 minutes of this film are epic. EPIC.There just aren't enough scenes in modern films where someone uses a sophisticated cooking tool to sever an Achilles Tendon. I mean, really get in there and saw away at it.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith: Zadie Smith is so so good at building a story, forming characters, and developing a mix of honesty, realism and humor. Although this might be to a fault: It is so genuine, that I’m not sure I’ll remember this one any better than I remember White Teeth. But it is a fantastic ride when you’re nose deep in it.

Full review here

Blankets by Craig Thompson: I feel like a dick for not liking this book more. It’s certainly something that is relate-able, considering the Midwest setting, and all-consuming young love. The familial relationships, and Raina singing a Cure song in bed. That this is a memoir-y novel type thing, that religion shaped who he was socially and sexually as a teen. A disinterest in the foundation of the plot represents a taste preference, of course. I guess if I’d done my homework better, I wouldn’t be dissing this book. I just wouldn’t have been interested in it to start with, and so I wouldn’t have read it.

Full review here

Piercing by Ryu Murakami: Delicious and visual words, but the apex of the novel is long with frequent perspective shifts that make it a little clunky. So it’s good. It’s just no Miso Soup.

Full review here

PISTA NOTE: I've, um ... kind of gone off the rails with all of my reading lately. So, the rest of these reviews are like a retaining wall right now in the Minnesota Reads queue. So watch for them in the coming weeks. But go to the site three times a day because Jodi just did a redesign that makes me want to inappropriately caress my computer screen when I look at it.

In other news, I'm now reading Jonathan Franzan's "Freedom," which should take me awhile. 

Lost At Sea by Bryan Lee O'Malley: I've seemingly forgotten the hair tugging, weeping, Trapper Keeper graffiti, poetry-fueled insomnia associated with the late teen years. Because the last two things I've read have starred shoe-gazing teens, and I'm completely unable to muster any empathy for them. In fact, I've rolled my eyes so hard that I swear I've caught a glimpse of my own gray brain matter eroding.

"Lost at Sea," a graphic novel by Bryan Lee O'Malley -- who I love! Scott Pilgrim! Wee! -- is emo bullshit.

The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel by Brady Udall. Brady Udall's novel "The Lonely Polygamist" is one of those pieces of fiction where you stare at the jacket summary and think: "Okay, Big Shot. You mean to tell me that you have written a story about a man, his four wives, 28 children and mistress? I dare you to pull off this circus stunt without burying me beneath a 2 ton clown car filled with the note cards I'll be forced to keep to differentiate these characters."

Auditionby Ryu Murakami: This novel is short at less than 200 pages, and it never lags, bogged down by fatty excess. Murakami opens with intrigue and continues to build toward a grisly finale that literally ends on the last page. It's not as sick as Murakami has been known to go, but it is sick enough to remind you of where he has taken his work. And once again, like the most memorable scene in his novel "In the Miso Soup," he has created a scene that will definitely leave an aftertaste long after the story ends.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

County fairs and facial herpes ...

For the second time this summer, I've left Los Angeles smearing face oil all over the window of an airplane and wondering when in the hell I can get back to that city. I think it's a little naive to describe a place where I've only spent a grand total of like 23 days of my life. But the phrase I probably used the most while Chuck and I wandered around East Hollywood is this:

This city looks like the county fair was held here last night. And I like that.

On Saturday night we went to Echo Park for a Lit Crawl. We got there just as the competitive reading ended, and went to the first bar that was on the list for a post-reading "victory lap." We went to a place El Prado, while I considered all of the writers who could potentially walk in the door: Was that Neal Pollack in a hoodie, signing a copy of his book? Doesn't Meghan Daum live in this neighborhood? I'd be here if I were her.

Eventually we jumped ahead to a place called Little Joy, where the bathroom stalls were their own version of a lit crawl and the PBR flowed like my period. We were there long enough for everyone to sort of take on cartoonish facial expressions, and then morph into El DeBarge look alikes. Then we jetted back to Cath's neighborhood and hit the White Horse Tavern -- where people half our age were uvula-deep in free hot dogs. Then off to Relax, site of the most-stunning night ever the last time we were in LA. It was like no time had passed: The Thai to English translation of American pop songs is still suspect on their karaoke machine; I was coerced into singing a song I didn't know well enough to sing. This time at least it was Weezer, though, and not "Endless Love."

We completed the trifecta with late-night kabobs with peanut sauce, and curry at Torung.


On Sunday we went to Mr. Pizza in Korea Town and ate something so interesting that if I rattled off the toppings of our 'za, you would think it was the shopping list of a junkie, god bless it. Suffice to say, the crust was stuffed with like a yam puree. Did I mention the tortilla chips sprinkled on top? This review in LA Weekly sums it up pretty well.  My favorite part from Jonathan Gold's review:

On the other rests a payload of bacon, roasted potatoes, squiggles of sour cream, industrial Cheddar, more beef and corn, and what seems like a handful of crushed tortilla chips — like a pizza that dreamed of becoming a plate of nachos but ended up flunking Spanish.
After lunch we jetted along the coast to Malibu. I did enough danger ranger in the water to get my shorts wet and make my skin taste like Pringles. So fun. 

Chuck and I took our last meal of the trip at In-N-Out Burger, which is everything I love in fast food. We had to flail elbows and fake facial herpes to get a table, but eventually we scored. 

Sunday night we tried to catch an 11 p.m. show at Upright Citizens Brigade, but the line was long and pubescent, and we didn't make the cut.


Our three flights home were uneventful, save for the part where we had to run a 5K from one end of the Minneapolis airport to the other to catch a flight that started boarding 5 minutes before we got off the plane.


I had one celebrity sighting in LA and it was a pretty cool one and I'm not even going to pretend that I'm above talking about it. We were wandering around Silver Lake looking for a comic book store, and wandered past this cafe. I was positive that I saw Craig from American Electric, High Voltage's sort of rival tattoo shop on LA Ink.

I figured it was probably a hallucination, since that day we had walked past High Voltage, and that I probably just had ink on the brain. I doubled back anyway for a quick gawk, and was then even more sure that it was him.

A few days later we went back to Silver Lake for brunch. I glanced up and saw a sign for American Electric like super close to where I thought I saw Craig. I didn't realize it was in Silver Lake when I first thought I saw him. So ... that's it. P-list celeb sightings for everyone!