Friday, October 22, 2010

Printed bullshit my mom can't read ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Saturday is the Monday of weekends ...

Like sands through the hour glass, I tell ya. 

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

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

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

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

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

Kudos, Waldman.

Full review here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Underrated smash classic jazzdancy disco gem* ...

So, whoa, last week, huh? Phew. Still no word on if Toonses plans on haunting us. I have mixed emotions on it. In some ways ... yes, that would kick ass, and it would be nice to see his little puddum but not have to clean a litter box. But I'd prefer that he choose to do so only if is he not be physically or mentally distorted in any way. If he is a 9-foot tall cat, or is evil Toonses, hopefully he has just galloped toward the light already.

And also: I went to the YMCA today for the first time since May, and it has been completely remodeled and no longer looks like a good place to catch sweat-borne illnesses. It's shiny and glass and terrazzo'd. 

Here is what I made, watched, read, etc. this past week:


Seitan piccata with Olives and Green Beans:  This is like meat and potatoes, sans meat but still with potatoes. First I coated some chicken seitan with flour, fried it, put the meat-ish substance aside. Sauteed some onions (a last minute sub because our local supermercado doesn't sell shallots often enough to actually keep them fresh. That does not prevent them from keeping them on the shelf. This provides an interesting effect when you slice into one, and it is shriveled and black inside ... like your soul) and some garlic, then added veggie broth and white wine into that same pan so that flour residue assists in creating a sort of gravy. Then add capers -- with brine -- and some kalamata olives.

Take some mashed potaters, top it with the meat-ish like product. Add some green beans, and top it all with the gravy stuff. WOW! That's a lotta flava-flav, my friends.

Gorgonzola, Fig, and Spinach Pizza: Wowee Wow Wow. Lots of super exciting things happened with this bit of awesome. First: figs. Who knew? I didn't. I had to Google image to know what one looked like in its raw, not on my sandwich in a jam-ish consistency form. Now I'm a total new fan.

So this is just a pizza crust, with a sauce of Gorgonzola and milk, blended. Then toppings of figs, black olives, and spinach. And letmetellyou. These things all taste pretty good together. Baked for 20 minutes.

Salem's Lot by Stephen King: What does a player have to do to find a leg-numbing, breathing impaired, can-only-read-in-daylight-hours novel? It’s my second-favorite holiday season in the world-wide calendar, and I want this October to come with some g’damn goosebumps.

Good. Not scary. Full review here. 

My Hollywood by Mona Simpson: On their first date, Paul and Claire have already divvied the responsibilities of keeping their careers and managing a child: The former as a TV comedy write; the latter as a classical composer.

“50/50,” Paul tells her — which in retrospect becomes the laughable math of a man who will spend 14 hours a day with other writers, trying to create comedy. A sound stage where he looks more at home than when he is at home, and a steady stream Diet Coke coursing through his bladder. Claire’s not exactly hitting her quota, either, with deadlines for commissions to write, and milk to make. Not to mention she feels like a misfit among her mommy peers.

Full review here

Enter Lola, a Filipina nanny charged with watching their baby, William. Lola is trying to earn as much cash as possible to send back to her family in the Philippines. She wants better lives for her children, stresses on education, followed by career, all shrouded in virginity. So she mails money, mails money, mails money, subsisting on a single luxury: A cup of coffee a day.

My Hollywood is Mona Simpson’s juxtaposition of these two cultures: The Santa Monica wives with their absent husbands, diamond earring envy, and play groups. A posse that compares nanny salaries divided by duties, and plant “your kid might be autistic” seeds.

Halloween H20 - Twenty Years Later (Dimension Collector's Series): Oh, Michael Meyers. For such a leisurely-paced walker, you certainly can get from Point A to Point B pretty quickly. And you certainly leave a bloody wake.

Apparently, one must cast aside what they believe to be true about the Halloween franchise, the thises and thats of family tree and DOB-DOD action. Just nod and smile and use that same brain anesthetic that helped you give-a-shit about "Days of Our Lives" when you were in college and Marlena was possessed by the devil.

NOTE: Post title contributed by Funjamin, and includes six descriptors he used to tell me about a mix he made me on g-chat.

While my guitar gently freaks ...

I'm sitting here at 2:02 a.m. on a Sunday morning watching "Cujo" on AMC, and wondering if our basement has always made that weird clicking noise, or if a spirited young 200 pound Saint Bernard has taken over the storage space. 

There is a bit of irony in all of this. I'm on the low-to-moderate level of freaked out, yet I had set out to write about all the ways the tried and true scary things are failing me so far this Halloween season. My second-favorite season of all.

Watched "Nightmare on Elm Street," read Stephen King's "Salem's Lot." Watched "Halloween H20," and attempted "Suspiria," one of those 1970s cult classics, super dramatic with this psychedelic soundtrack that felt like rug burn on my ear drum. Ditched that one at halftime.

We primed TiVo with a bunch of fodder from the SyFy channel -- which is playing Halloween fare all month. Unfortunately, they are made-for-TV movies that are like off-brands of something else. That didn't stop us from watching "Mansquito." Frankly, the engorged proboscis is underused in modern film.

But there was also "Dread," which is "Saw"-like in its "ever wonder what a hatchet looks like hanging out of someone's head?" way. Home invasion-turns-axe-gash-turns-sociopath-survivor.

There is also some made-for MTV fare in the queue. I'm guessing this includes bouncy-haired coeds in white tank tops caught in rain storms while some super awesome songs play in the background.

TMC is paying homage to Stephen King tonight. I caught a bit of "Pet Semetary," and now enough of "Cujo" to never look at facial froth the same again. If I play my cards right, I can catch "Graveyard Shift" before the sun comes up.

"I can't figure out what scares you," Chuck said tonight.
I thought for a second. Thought some more.
"Neck hair?" I responded.

I am failing to find the perfect controlled freaky-fest. I've bitten off 50 pages of the Peter Straub novel "Ghost Story." We'll see if it lives up to the hype, or if the hype was created by pussies.

Anyone have a scary book/movie/song/family portrait/neck beard that I need to check out?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I am trying to break your heart ...

I never guessed I'd feel relief. It didn't last long. Commercial-length maybe. Enough time to identify the lightened load, the proverbial "no pain ... better place," and then question the appropriateness of that relief. I had visualized every step of the process. From scooping Toonses up and carrying him to the car, to handing his lifeless body to someone in a lab coat. But never once did I consider the two-minute sigh of relief that it was over. No more of whatever had eaten at his brain, and turned him from a clumsy dog-ish character into an invalid over the course of a few days.

Of course, that feeling didn't last long. But it was there, like a giggle at a funeral.


We started carrying him places at the end of last week. Chuck would come down stairs with Toonses draped over his arm like a red fur stole. I carried him back upstairs to his beloved spot on a blanket in the closet. His body, 10 pounds lighter during his illness, dangling and weak. A single paw grabbing at nothing, trying to fill his broken-brain compulsion to spin right, even in mid-air.

I began wishing he would just die.  Lay down in a cozy space, roll your tiny cat head into your chest, and fall asleep forever. Please. And, extra credit, let Chuck find him.

The alternative made me sick: Wrapping him in a Steve Urkle sleeping bag, driving down the street to the vet knowing that I'd be leaving him. The fatal shot. His body going slack.But first, him looking up at me, his green eyes darkened and sad. Coming home with just an empty blanket. His little cat dish half full. His abandoned litter box. The layer of fur on his favorite surfaces, and redish lint balls caught in corners behind doors.

On Friday night I lifted him into his litter box. He tipped on his side, unable to stand. A bath in sandbox. A stream of pee wetting his fur, the dribbles of a leaky faucet, following by contractions of fur as he pushed out three small turds. First I wailed, then I bawled. His eyes were vacant and dark. I lifted him out, and carried him back upstairs. Then I watched him for the rest of the night.

On Saturday I got out of the bathtub and accidentally waded through a river of cat urine on the kitchen floor. I went back to the tub to wash my feet. An hour later, he had shit in the same spot.

A Facebook friend had written about how they were going to have to put their cat to sleep. They were indulging him in his final days. I imagined cozy laps, loving strokes, shared licks from their ice cream cone. Some final family photos, and all the things they wished they had said.

"Us,too," I wanted to write. "Except he won't eat or drink, so his final wish is to use the kitchen floor as his litter box. We're letting him. It's the least we can do."

I wasn't sure if this was crass, so I deleted it. Wrote it again. Deleted it again. Got off Facebook.

It was impossible to have a conversation without mentioning him. On Saturday night I reluctantly stopped by a party. The whole time I was worried Sir Spinner would loop toward the steps and fall. A furry Slinkie. I'd come home to find his neck broken, his tongue lolling out of his backward head. I updated a handful of friends who were sitting at a dining room table. The circles. The shit. Won't eat. My nose felt like I'd snorted ginger ale. My eyes leaked.

"It's so sad," JCrew said. "I mean he's been in your life for so lo-"
"Hey!" I said. Reached for a peanut butter and chocolate Rice Krispie bar.
"Oh, right," she said.
My throat bulged. I drank a beer. I left soon after that.

In a spare bedroom above the living room, Toonses clacked around in circles. His nails clicking against the hard wood floors. He sounded like a marching band of Gremlins. All night long. Down the hall to another room. Circling. Sometimes stopping when he tipped over, dizzy.

I feel asleep to the sound of this, this metronome, in the room next door. i kept thinking of the cat from "Pet Semetary." Church. What if Toonses went evil. Used his artificial steroid strength for a killing spree? Pounced in the bed, took a chunk of cheek off my face?

On Sunday I removed one of his paws from where it was tangled in the loop handle of a shopping bag from DSW. Two minutes later, he had gotten stuck mid-torso in the coffee table. He made for the wires behind the TV/TiVo/DVD player set up, and I intercepted him. He put a paw on the bottom step, tipped over. Looked at me, exhausted. He ran into the cupboards. He crunched into a grocery sack. He screamed, maybe finally in pain. Maybe finally alert enough to realize he was frustrated. There was a whole life of things to the left that he was unable to experience. He fell asleep on a grey slouchy boot.

"Are you going to get another cat?" I was asked by an acquaintance. "When our cat died, we got a new one 10 days later."
"No," I said.
"It made things a lot easier," she said.
"No," I responded.

I'm not a cat lover. I am a this cat specific lover. Just this one. This vocal, opinionated misanthrope whose personality so perfectly matched ours. Not so much a pet as a roommate. The way he bounded down the steps like a teen-aged girl when he heard us come home. How we had to fight him for the best spot on the couch. The way we could tell he hated our former downstairs neighbor, seemingly rolling his eyes in  unison with our complaints. He was always slightly more dog. Social, and anti-social. Nocturnal. Laughed awkwardly when he heard the neighborhood cats mating, like a pre-teen who accidentally sees a sex scene while watching a movie with his parents. Afraid of grass and thunder storms. Judged us when we were drunk.

I'd chase him around the apartment.
"What are you doing?" Chuck asked.
"I want to hold him!" I screeched.
"Why?" he asked.
"HE'S MY PET," I croaked.

"The people seem to have gotten into the crazy juice again," Chuck imitating Toonses' cat voice.

When we moved into this house, Chuck took an extra cardboard box and cut half an oval into it. A giant mouse hole, like something from "Tom & Jerry." He wrote "Toonses" over the door with a Sharpie. On Sunday night I went to check on the little guy, and he had curled up in that box. And that right there was the steel toed boot to the diaphragm moment.


I couldn't breathe Monday morning. As expected, Toonses doused my leg in the car. A sadistic sort of last rites. When we got to the vet's office, I tried to face the wall instead of being the snot-soaked reminder to the other people in the lobby that this gig, this pet ownership thing, never has a happy ending. Never. One woman couldn't stop staring. Her husband had a pig on a leash. I turned around again.

We went into a small room in the back of the office. The doctor came in, shaved Toonison's little left arm, and injected him. Within seconds, his heart had stopped.

"He's gone," the doctor said. "You can stick around as long as you want ..."
I handed him over, and we were ushered out a back door.


Toonses loved to watch figure skating. Once ate a pair of glittery Sam & Libby sandals. I bought a replacement pair; He ate those, too. Became obsessed with a sequin scarf, which he dragged around for days like it was his best friend. Hated the Velvet Underground and The Postal Service, growled when we played these records. He went Sonny Liston on Chuck's dad's yappy dog, once. They had to hide Penny in the bathroom for her own safety. Celebrity doppelganger: Garfield. But more like Marmeduke. A clumsy little fucker. Especially for a cat.

He purred constantly. Every second. Always. A constant happy throaty vibration. Even in those last three days.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Adderall steam tent ...

I spent all but about an hour and a half of this past weekend in pajama-like pants and a sweatshirt, reading a Stephen King novel. Poor Toonses is in his final hours on the planet, and I'm a real downer right now. I'm not sure how people deal with things bigger than the death of a cat. Or, what I imagine is even worse, those hours leading up to it when he is so confused, can't walk in a straight line, and is unwilling to even eat. This is pretty brutal.

Distraction helps. I think the Top Chef spin-off "Just Desserts" might be the most amazing piece of dramatic television next to "Jersey Shore." There is a character with a mysterious forehead boil? And a Marky Mark lookalike who melted down over Atomic Fireballs, and possibly sleeps in an Adderall steam tent. Bravo, Bravo.

So: Here's what I did this past week.


Spicy Tempeh and Broccoli Raab with Rotelle: I am madly in love with the cookbook Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook. I've made like five things from it, and all five were good and the only dud was a decent dud and only a dud in comparison. I'll probably just end yakking about this book forever, so get used to it. It's my new insufferably thing of the month.

But the important thing is that this is good. I didn't necessarily have doubts about it -- but I wanted to do something with tempeh. It definitely overachieved.

Okay. So, chunks of tempeh are steamed with tomato paste, veggie broth, soy sauce, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and fennel. Then it all gets fried up, and sort of gets this Italian sausage taste to it. Add it to some pasta, then I added some garlic and some Swiss shard that I wilted with white wine. Gah. So good.

And look! It's our lucky day. Someone posted the recipe for you. Thanks, stranger.

Kick-Ass: Whoa. Whoever edited the trailer for this movie did it a great disservice. I was luke-warm on seeing it, but holy shittake. Fantastic. It's like Kill Bill meets one of my favorite books of aught nine "Beat the Reaper" by Peter Bazell. Not to mention that this is Nic Cage's finest moment since "Peggy Sue Got Married." The writing is awesome. The death-by-microwave scene is deliciously graphic, and the tween playing the part of Hit Girl is this parkour-licious slice of awesome. This is a movie I wish I'd written.

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain: This rock and roll food writer is possibly one of the greatest writers of our time. Unfortunately, this collection is a scattered mix of material that leans from awesome to meh -- sometimes in the same chapter.

Full review here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Tit for a tat ...


Funny you should ask, Kat Von D. I actually have decided what I'm gonna be for Hallween.