Sunday, January 30, 2011

Daddy Mack will make you jump start my car ...

I took an embarrassing amount of pleasure in jump-starting my own car this past weekend, considering I've been a licensed driver for more than half of my life. I can change a tire. I think. I might be reconfiguring memories, but I believe I've done it twice. The trickiest part has always been getting the spare out of my trunk, where I hide my inner hoarder. But once I get the garbage bags, toaster ovens, bathroom scale, tupperware, books, CD cases and cappuccino makers tetris'ed on the shoulder of the road, it is typically smooth sailing.

The jump start took a bit of research. I can never remember if it is red to red or red to black, which puts me in the same position as so many action movie heroes in so many action movies.

So I Googled it, then checked at least four more sites to make sure no one was fucking with me. Posting false information about how to jump start a car on the internet could be hilarious for an asshole.

Then I took Chuck's car and parked it in front of mine. Popped the hoods. Connected the wires. Started his car. Squinched my eyes real tight. Started my car.

Huzzah! It worked. I am another step closer to being a fully functioning human being. And maybe starring in "Space Camp."


On Saturday night I went to see a Doomtree show, doing my damndest to not look like a chaperon for what I assumed would be an influx of toddlers. This was super cool and I made a mental note to see put myself in a position to potentially get my mind blown more often.

It was chaos on stage. Five rappers zigging and zagging. It reminded me a street-side magician, hiding a white ball under one of three coconut shells. Try to keep your eyes on Dessa, only to be distracted by Sims.

I love, love, love Dessa, with a voice as big as her hoop earrings and enviable lines: "I'm not a writer, I just drink a lot about it."

And here is what happened the rest of the week: 

Indian Samosa Casserole: Another win. This looks a little trickier than it is. But it came out just divine. Divine, I say. (In the Before picture, this looks like a pie).

Eastern European Red Lentil Soup: Just how many recipes for lentil soup does one person need? I guess it is like curry, and there would be an on-going quest for the best. This one is more bland than I expected when I made it rain cumin in the pot.

The key here is the dollop of yogurt. That was the difference between "Meh" and "Ohhhh. Daddy like."

Chuck has been dabbling in sandwich-making, and the one that is winning all sorts of awards here is the Croque Monsieur, which basically is a melted ham and Swiss sandwich with a blanket of melted cheese over the top. These jerks are absolutely fantastic and the opposite of vegan living. Obviously the picture is stupid.

True Romance: This falls under the category of "things we watched because David Foster Wallace watched it." I can't believe I had never seen this fantastic hodgepodge of genres. You have to like a movie where A-list celebs make a cameo, then die in a truly gruesome way. And they all learn a thing or two about love.

Mr. Peanut (Borzoi Books): Some of the writing in this book about wives and the husbands who want to kill them will knock your socks off. Some of it is loopy and huh? But for the most part, Adam Ross writes his words in the exact order that I want to read them.

Someday this review will be at Minnesota Reads.

Right now I'm reading: Of Human Bondage (Signet Classics) by Maugham and The Four Fingers of Death: A Novel by Moody and both will be tossed out the window as soon as Popular Hits of the Showa Era: A Novel by Murakami lands in my hot little hands.

With that, have a great Ryu Murakami brings a new book to America week!

Out a limb ...

The first thing I do when I see someone who is missing at least part of a limb is park my face in neutral. Unchecked, I'd go bug-eyed and blurt out "Whoa! How the heck did you do that!" Because a) I would want to know so I don't make the same mistake; b) I bet it is a pretty good story. Dare I say, the person's best story?

So the guy who sold me a car battery today was seeing the face of nonchalance. Like, whatever. No big. People lose limbs. But in my head it sounded like this:

I am looking at a person with half of a left arm.
I'm not being a dick by not looking at the remains of his left arm.
I'm using my eyes in exactly the same way I would use them if he had an entire left arm, a hand, and five full-length fingers at the end of it.
I wonder if he notices that I'm treating him exactly the same way I would treat someone with two arms?
Is this the best show of ambivalence this man has ever encountered?
Or by keeping my mouth a straight line and my eyes moving, does my ambivalence seem like a put-on?

If you think about it, it is surprising that more people don't lose more body parts more often. Think of all the things that spin quickly, have sharp edges, or are heavy enough to pin you into a position where it comes down to you or the limb. Not to mention the limb-leaching diseases and the amputee hobbyists.

Obviously, by the time I got to this guy today he was over it. If this topic was still raw, he probably would be weird about it. Challenge me. Follow my eyes. Sneer and say "What? You never seen a one-armed man before?" He used what appeared to be a glorified thumb to carry the battery to my car, despite my assurance that I could take it from here.

"I can carry it," I said, not wanting him to think that I thought he couldn't carry it. To know that I'd say this to anyone at the store.

He flipped it onto his right hand, balanced the left bit against it.

"It has acid in it," he said.

"Ah. Then by all means," I said.

I was sent to a garage down the street to have the battery connected. A sort of back-alley place I'd never have found without directions. A garage-man's garage that smelled of cold and oil and metal with an AC/DC soundtrack. I love these kind of places where people are spending a Saturday doing what they dig: fixing stuff. Getting dirty. Listening to music.

And the conversations are interesting:

"My girlfriend got real weird on tequila last night."
"The pop machine is around the corner, but we're out of Sunkist."

The guys were funny and helpful and they fixed up my car and one of them was missing his two front teeth. But unlike the guy without the arm, he addressed it immediately, like within the first five minutes -- which I appreciate. He'd knocked a wrench against them, killing the teeth, he said with a big old smile.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egg eye on the prize ...

Whenever I learn about something new to me, then hear about it again soon after, I assume it is the universe nudging me to investigate. This *thing* and I obviously have some sort of dinner date with fate. I almost always listen to the universe.

This is how the Scotch Egg became my spirit animal.

First Chuck mentioned this food, which sounded like one of the more delicious way to regret the fragility of a ventricle.

Then a few days later my friend posted a photograph on Facebook of the Scotch Eggs he was about stuff into his Sharpie hole, and this bit of Space Shuttle poetry:

I heard that loud and clear: My Spirit Animal was on the menu like 2 miles from our house.

I made a special date with myself to eat Scotch Eggs at this diner that is less of a diner-diner and more of a place where they might add beets and fennel to the hash browns. True story, although I opted for the regular hash browns. Too much clever in one day makes me wonky.

And on a Saturday morning I was presented with this:

Two hard-boiled eggs wrapped in a silt of meat flecks and bread crumbs. Deep fried. With the aforementioned side of hollandaise. Hell, yes, it was good. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Meadowlark Lemon and the Case of the Tuscan Ragout ...

A curious thing happened this week: Twice I found recipes I wanted to try, and twice Chuck ended up taking the baton and making the meals for us. Usually I don't include foods he makes in my super-strict compilations of "FOODS I MAKE." This is because 1) When he cooks, it is like a show-offy basketball player, tossing ingredients willy-nilly over his shoulder, blind folded and between his legs into a steaming pan or wok. He's the freaking West Duluth Globetrotter. Saying: "I wonder if this would taste good with a touch of peanut butter ..." And wham. Delicious. So A) There is no recipe; B) Give me a break.

Also: I went in public twice this past weekend. Once for JCrew's birthday drizzle, then for a big ass bonfire in an area that cannot possibly still be considered Duluth City Limits.

So, here is the rest of my nonsense:

Sweet Potato Sheppard's Pie: This one is good because it has all my favorite root vegetables topped with a layer of sweet potato and Parmesan. It's super hearty winter food.

Tuscan Vegetable Ragout: This one wasn't so much "cooking" as opening a lot of cans. I'm not sure why we don't eat these flavors more often: capers, kalamata olives and artichokes ... Another victory from Vegetarian Times.

Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky: As I was reading "Infinite Jest," I was simultaneously reading "Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace," a straight up five-day dialogue between the author David Lipsky and DFW, taken from tapes made while D Lips was interviewing DF-Dubs for a piece in Rolling Stone that was eventually killed.

What a treat, this chance to eavesdrop on these two dudes as they kick it at DF-Dubs' pad, at airports, diners, long car rides, and a book signing at The Hungry Mind bookstore in St. Paul. It is smart, it is funny, it is silly, and at times uncomfortable. And there is a part in the afterword where anyone with a duct will shed real-live tears and re-mourn the loss.

Full review will be here.

An Object of Beauty: A Novelby Steve Martin: The weirdest thing about reading a novel by Steve Martin is hearing his Steve Martin voice narrating. It's that kind of friend's smart dad voice, a guy with his own library and couture reading glasses who can also bust out a head band that makes it look like he was shot through the skull with an arrow. That kind of voice. And it is not an unpleasant way to spend nearly 300 pages.

"An Object of Beauty" is a kind of simple, smoothly written easy reader, the story of Lacey, a sassy young go-getter in the New York City art scene starting in the 1990s -- as told by her somewhat mysterious arts writer friend Daniel. There was a brief something between them that eased into a friendship. He starts her story with Lacey stuck in his craw, unable to write anything else until he writes about this irreverent, smart, enigma.

Full review here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Car emphysema and surly teens ...

Last night after Chuck went to work I washed and straightened my hair, slipped into my party pants and competed in another losing battle with lip gloss and mascara. All of my rowdiest friends were gathering for JCrew's birthday party at Pickwick, a bar that in my head, seems like a place to sip something amber while stifling any inclinations toward MTV's depiction of what drinkers do.

I got into my car, turned the key, and the old Civic coughed like it had emphysema.

I know what you're thinking: What a waste of shampoo.

This car problem didn't surprise me. It hadn't started earlier in the day, either, and so I had called my former landlord for a jump. He is my go-to for car troubles, naturally, because his fingers are wider than they are long and his head is thick and square.

He pulled up in an old white beater, 2-year-old daughter swaddled in puffy pink, out cold in her car seat; Older brother inexplicably sporting a walking boot on his right foot, the toe of a grayed tube sock poking out the front. Something something Achilles tendon, he told me.

The whole electrical transaction took about 2 minutes, and he sped off into the afternoon. I drove the car around for awhile, then went back home. Four hours later, it wouldn't start again.

Back on the couch, I called my former landlord again to see if he was planning on going to the party. I didn't imagine he was, as I doubt Pickwick sells anything by the pitcher. He's the sort of coupon cutter that lets the venue, not the birthday subject, dictate whether he attends. I was right. But he agreed to give me a ride anyway, thus saving the day again even though the day's first save didn't take.

Ten minutes, he told me. I have to finish this pitcher.

Faster than that, he was out in front out the house. Parked the wrong direction, car idling. It is not like him to be early, and it is especially not like him to be early without going apeshit on the car horn. Still, I put on my coat, zipped my boots, jumped over a few snowbanks, and walked around to the passenger side of the car.

I'd just about reached the door handle when I realized: Hey! That's not my landlord!

There had been a winter formal last night. I'm assuming because the girl next door had left the house looking like a bridesmaid from the mid-1980s. Now, hours later, it was the 15-year-old old's boyfriend parked in front of our houses. Slouched low in the driver's seat. Giving me an anti-authority sneer. I backed up, waved my arms, sign language for "Oh! I'm a dipshit. Sorry, dude." Then I yelled, exaggerating my annunciation, "I. THOUGHT. YOU. WERE. MY. RIDE." He just looked at me dully. Although I doubt these teens have any sort of cool cred among their peers, I often seem to do something in front of them that says: I may be 35, but I love that song "Firework" by Katy Perry! And these pants are from American Eagle! in a really pathetic way.

Back in the house I collapsed into an extended remix of snorts and giggles. My landlord picked me up a half hour later.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

In your head ...

When I was in second grade I had a dream that I was on an airborne school bus and when I looked out the window on the way home from school, my teacher was flying around with a red cape and at some point hoisted another school bus over her head. That was almost 30 years ago, but I can still see her tiny thin frame wrapped in a shiny unitard, a squiggle in the distance. A sky so pale blue it was almost white. And I don't need to lie on a couch and fall into hypnosis to know that this dream meant something about her super human place in my life: teacher of cursive writing, introducer of multiplication, director of spelling tests.

I love dreaming, the whole brain in free fall. Seeing old friends on a cruise ship and the endless search for doors. A crowd of cats that all look the same, and I must figure out which is mine. Spitting chunks of molars the consistency of oatmeal into my palms, experience telling me all the while that this is a dream, this tooth thing, and in this dream they will grow back. Understanding that I must bludgeon a person to death, but my movements feel slowed to an under water-ishness and the bat I'm using fails to do damage.

One time I had a dream that I was in a car in a parking garage with my unemployed friend. We were speeding backward toward the ledge, we couldn't stop the car, and then we shot through the railing and I woke.

We were both kind of a mess at that point and I think that dream was telling me a lot of stuff I already knew about co-enabling.

A few weeks ago I realized I wasn't remembering my dreams anymore. My disappointment was further fueled by Chuck's recall of his own. Every time he started a sentence with "I had this dream ..." I was actually jealous.

There are always writers somewhere talking about the importance of dreams in their work, and I'm not sure who said it this time or what I was reading. I decided to keep a notebook next to the bed, vowing that every time I woke fresh from some scene, I would scribble it in my notebook. The notebook stayed empty far longer than I was comfortable with. And then it started to work.

I'd have a dream and using the light of my cell phone, I'd jot a few lines and then go back to sleep. These are funny to reread. Notes to myself from the great beyond. Seeing a videotape of yourself drunk. I'd remember I wrote something, but not remember what I wrote. The jotting became almost a part of the dream.

Here are excerpts from my notebook:

* A man explains the health benefits of milk and orange juice as digestive aids. He calls it "Radioactive."

* I kept using the word "rojo" to describe someone's hair.

* Steve Martin was there. I told him I loved "Shop Girl." "The book," I said, regretting that I'd not read more by him. "And, we'll, the movie, too," I added.

* (Two of my friends) were in this one set in a sort of house thing. They were getting ready to take a trip. I think (Half of the couple that is a boy) was chewing tobacco. (Girl) and I were good friends. She was confiding in me about something. Someone mentioned Christina Aguilara.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Two things that happened to me on Wednesday ...

The fast-food sandwich shop where I eat lunch every single fucking day -- unless I see someone with a glob of mayonnaise on their chin when I walk in the door or the smell of fresh-baked bread hits me wrong and gives me a case of the dry retches at that moment -- is running a promotion:

Buy a sandwich. Get a ticket with a mystery prize hidden beneath a silvery, scratch-off veneer.

First of all, I already hate lunch. It's worthless. It's boring. It's a waste of money and the only reason I do it is because I don't want to be that nameless girl passed out on a floor somewhere while strangers rifle through my text messages under the guise of looking for my identification. Dump out my purse and realize the only thing in there are wadded receipts and markers. Press their chapped lips against my face and honk on my diaphragm.

So the least of the possible evils is this fast-food chain sandwich shop, where I eat every fucking day.

I have these cards everywhere. In the pockets of my jeans. In my purse. Bookmarking pages.

This young girl came up to my table yesterday, stared dully into my eyes and said:

"Do you drive?"

If I gave the wrong answer at this particular sandwich shop, I could find myself abetting a teen-aged runaway. So I looked at her. Stammered something about being physically capable of driving a car, and even owning a car, but not having parked it in a convenient location, so if she's looking to meet up with her internet boyfriend at boot camp, she's out of lu--

"I don't drive," she said, and handed me a scratch off card for 5 cents/gallon off of gas.


I was trudging through the skywalk and a policeman was giving me a weird look. I did a quick mental rundown of the possible crimes I'd maybe committed in the past five minutes and came up empty. I might have looked suspicious. Big backpack. Huge purse filled with nothing. A hat pulled low over my eyes. Or maybe I was being paranoid.

Nope. Still giving me a weird look. Finally he said:

"Could you do me a favor? Could you go into the women's bathroom and see if anyone is in there?"

"Sure," I said. "Is this dangerous?"
"Nah," he said. "Well, it shouldn't be. Anyway, I'll be right out here."

Great. So he could finally hear what it sounds like when an innocent bystander is stabbed. I imagined myself walking in, kicking down stall doors, two girls attacking me with jagged fingernails and vice grips on chunks of my hair. The policeman shuffling his feet and whistling something by the Red Hot Chili Peppers while my bra is snapped and I'm given a swirly.

Anyway, there was no one in the bathroom and I was a little disappointed that I didn't thwart anything.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Like a musical, but ...

This past week I became an expert in Issue 382 of Vegetarian Times, damn-near exhausting the entire magazine with nary a dud. And because Chuck is sick, I was able to make eyeball-wheezingly spicy dishes that he could eat because of a thick coating of mucus standing between him and the body parts involved with taste. That is what I call success.

I also had good news on the YMCA front: They kicked all the U-18s out of the women's locker room. Even the ones that can't walk and talk -- yet still enjoy the acoustics of a shower area when paired with nonsense songs. Also: I learned that I can stream Netflix while I'm on an elliptical machine, which means knocking out plenty of strides/day while being distracted by moving pictures of my choosing. I wish I knew who to give a coupon for a free make out to.

My friend Lil Latrell sent us a bunch of brownies in a jar and I've been going apeshit on them. She wrote about sending them to another friend for her birthday on her baking blog.

And I finished "Infinite Jest." Yay.

Anyway, here is what I cooked, watched and read.


Sweet and Spicy Carrot Bisque: The magic ingredient here is banana. This was really tasty and really easy and just enough spicy. This actually cured Chuck's cold for about eight minutes.

Spicy Shirataki Noodles: This caught my attention because they compared it to Thai Drunken Noodles, one of my favorite foods for voluntary tongue and lip inflammation. I haven't been to Thai Krathong, our local hot spot that makes an awesome batch of this stuff, for, like, evs. This didn't match their version, but it got me close enough to stave off withdrawal.

Kale Lasagna Diavolo: Lasagna. With kale. The goat cheese is really noticeable, which is either good or bunk, depending on if you like goat cheese. Or not. I don't like goat cheese and dug this just fine.

Chilaquiles: This was actually the grand-prize winning entree in VT's recipe contest, and it is a doozy. There are seemingly a thousand steps involved with making, essentially, a salsa with baked tortilla strips that is mixed with eggs and baked to this casserole consistency. I loved loved loved this one.

Cropsey: This was almost a super-awesome documentary about kids that went missing on Staten Island in the 1970s, and how it tied into this urban legend about a child killer, but the rookie filmmakers screwed it up by including themselves in the film. Boo.

Three O'Clock High: I remember the exact circumstances of seeing this when I was in grade school or junior high. A girl in my class showed it to us after school, and I was surprised I had never heard of something that turned out to be so hilarious. A sort of school-day-in-the-life of a nerdy kid who is going to get his clock cleaned at the 3 o'clock bell. Chaos ensues. Anyway, later that girl would not be allowed to hang out with me for circumstances having to do with her mom and dad's messy divorce, and my dad's job in law enforcement. To this day, she has ignored my Facebook friend request. (I had no idea until well into high school that we had a family feud).

Antichrist (The Criterion Collection) I didn't finish this sort of art pic because Chuck woke up and I didn't want to subject another living being to a film where Willem Defoe stumbles on a fox that has had its intestines ripped out and the fox says to him "Chaos Reigns!" Mostly this movie is like a musical, except for instead of breaking into song, the characters break out into rutting.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace: If you have any desire to read Infinite Jest, you should read Infinite Jest. It's good enough that even the boring chunks are tolerable.

I haven't written more than a lick about this yet, but when I do it will be at Minnesota Reads.

I'm currently working on Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace and An Object of Beauty: A Novel.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Infinite Friday: Friday No. 4 ...


Reading "Infinite Jest" is like being on a diet. Sure, it tastes good and is good for me and whatever. But I can't help eying all the juicy morsels I'm not consuming during this self-imposed book monogamy, and drooling. Just got the new Charles Baxter in the mail and there it sits in the looming shadow of one Mr. James O. Incandenza. Not to mention that Chuckles cleared out my Amazon Wish List for Christmas gifts, and there those sit, too.

I'm not sure how much longer I can take it. If I wasn't madly in love with the book, I'd have ditched out 600 pages ago.

Progress: I'm on page 958. I will finish this book in the wee hours of today. And then. I have no idea what happens after that.


This past week I actually raised my fists to the heavens and said "Screw you, David Foster Wallace!" And I meant it. I was, like, mad.


I also held the book lovingly to my chest and cooed. So there is that.


Remember last week when I mentioned that one of my favorite characters would be dead the next time I picked up the book? He's still alive. Well, alive-ish.


Hot stretch, cold stretch. Hot hot stretch. The kind of stuff that makes you forget the drudgery of U.S./Canadian relations in the Year of the Adult Depends Undergarments. There are so many great chunks of book here, filled with off-the-rails humor and description that I want to play "... and then remember that one time when Hal ..." for like an hour. On the other hand, I've also been reading the same story for almost a month, and have probably forgotten more than I remember.


The big question is: What to read next. F Scotty suggested a "palate cleanser," which is tempting. Bodice rippers and/or body horror or, like, Snooki. I've been advised that my follow up will be a disappointment, so I might as well not waste it on something I planned on enjoying. But part of me thinks that now that my brain is capable of leeching on to something this massive, I should take advantage of it and read big while I still can.


For as much as I'm ready to be done with Infinite Jest, I bet I'm going to miss it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Stationery ...

Oh ... Hey Radzo. 'Sup.

It's been awhile, huh. Since your birthday party. That was fun! You nursed about eight solid ounces of booze over the course of three hours. I was impressed. I can't do that. No. I'm like: One beer, two beer, and then it is just a blur that probably looks to an outsider as though I am using my trachea as a beer bong. I should probably just dump a bunch of PBR in the food processor with a gas station burrito, marinate the slosh in Lemon Lime Gatorade and dump it in my special barfing place in the front yard.

Anyway, that's the night we spent a lot of time talking about the GoGirl. (I like that it comes in pink). And you know, I still think about that product every couple days. Not that I want to use one. But maybe I just want to see how it works. But not anyone I know demonstrating, you know? Maybe like a stranger with a blurred face. Or some sort of Lego re-enactment.

Anyway, it would have been fun to stay longer. But I can't drink on Sunday because that would twist me into a headlock until what-say Wednesday. And I had a dinner date with the Mister. Oh! I think I was going to pass along the recipe to your unlactose-capable boyfriend, who perked up when I said the word "Vegan." Here it is. Although, be careful. I think if Jamie Lee Curtis knew about kale, she would probably quit Activia. Seriously. (I can DM you about it, if you want).

So ... I don't know. I guess I've just been chillaxin', you know? Reading, like A LOT. Making food. I went to the YMCA a couple times. Overheard a woman in the locker room say to her grandson:

"Hey! I told you! Quit hitting yourself!"

But first she said:

"If you don't get dressed, gramma isn't gonna take you swimmin' no more."

People are so funny.

Anyway, about 12 minutes ago I got jalapeno pepper juice in my eyeball. This happens to me, like, all the time. I knew there was a threat of it happening -- but I'd rather keep how I knew that would happen private, if you don't mind -- and so I washed my hands five times: Twice with Dawn dish detergent, twice with liquid soap in our upstairs bathroom, once with a good old fashion chunk of Ivory soap in the downstairs bathroom. Still, I went in for the ole eyeball pinch to take out my contacts and whoa. Whoa! My eyeballs burned like I'd had face planted into back to back viewings of "Beaches" and "The Notebook."

I wondered for a second: Has anyone ever gone blind from jalapeno juice? What if, when I stopped crying, I'd gone the way of Mary Ingalls. Am I a good enough listener to compensate for going down a sense? Maybe you can help me with this: when your boyfriend found out he was unlactose capable, did he become super tolerant of other foods? Was he like "Uff. No Gouda, for me. But watch me digest the shit out of this Summer Sausage."

It's a thinker, isn't it? Anyway, it's a moot point, as I find myself still visually paired now that the tears have dried.

So, whatev-skies. What have you been up to? How's it going in the new place? How about this new horoscope thing! Isn't that crazy! All of a sudden, Wham! I'm a Leo! How about you? I hope your day is terrif. We should see each other some time. Like ... in person, instead of just over thumbs up icons on Facebook.

Anyway, just wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know that I wouldn't be posting anything on my blog today.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Interactive in the face of tendons ...

On Saturday night Chuck and I went to see James Franco simulate self amputation at Zinema 2. I've been dying to see "127 Hours," knowing full well how the story goes right down to the clipping of that final pesky piece of arm debris.

There were a few other people in the theater, pockets here and there. And as soon as our hero hits the pivotal moment -- boulder trapping right hand in a cavern without a zip code -- things get pretty grisly.

If this website had a motto, it would probably be a variation on me screaming about how much I love my media with some artful yuck. So, first our hero drops his water bottle, losing his last drops of liquid, and I pretty much yelled "Oh No!" Then he begins surgery on his arm, another moment that had me squirming uncomfortably, giggling, and dry heaving. (Chuck would later mentioning neck pain from all the wincing).

Then I got distracted by the fact that no one else in the audience -- aside from Chuck -- was so much as covering eyes or looking away, let alone hanging into the aisle making retching noises.

I'm not sure if this means that we are interactive movie viewers, or if that was a crowd of surgeons. What gives, non-responders?


Chocolate Cocottes with molten hearts: We made these little buggers in some new earthenware dishes that my brother and sister in law got us for Christmas. It's just cake with gooey innards, but it was delicious. It definitely took three hands to make. (The fourth hand was in charge of making sure Pandora was kicking out something awesome). I like to think of the recipe as "taking back butter."
It's from Le Creuset Mini-Cocotte: 25 Sweet and Savory Recipes.

Wall Street: My favorite moment: Charlie Sheen is standing on his newly acquired balcony, henceforth to be referred to as his "pensive perch." He looks out at the New York skyline, smokes a cigarette and says either "Who am I?" or "Where am I?" It doesn't matter which because this is the quintessential 80s movie moment.

Die Hard John McClane isn't always super smart. But sometimes he is.

Solitary Man Cripes. This movie is so uncomfortable. I can only watch a 60-year-old man give the old elevator to barely legals through one eye, with the other squinched in a cringe. Also bizarre: This movie features a handful of comic actors including Danny Devito, Mary Louise Parker, and that girl from "The Office" in serious roles. On the other hand, I could listen to Johnny Cash sing "Solitary Man" all day.

127 HoursDaddy like. See above. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Infinite Friday: Friday No. 3

In the early 00s, during what I now refer to as "The Lost Years," I fell on a curb and probably broke my thumb. It was post-bar hours. If I had a cell phone at this point, the battery had died. If it was a land line, the phone had been disconnected because I flaked on the bill. Again.

I was living downtown in what I thought was urban Huxtable-style edginess, and now understand to be a row house. Two blocks away there was an outdoor telephone in the parking lot of a liquor store. I'd ditched out into the night to make one of those phone calls you only make when your 'faced, and you hope you forget you made when you're not.

I tripped on the curb on 4th St. and 6th Ave. E., and jammed my thumb. I don't remember if it hurt, but I'm guessing it didn't. When it healed, I had an extra bump on my right hand. A freakish bulge in the webbing where thumb meets hand. I can't lift moderately heavy things like a sauce pan. And now, reading "Infinite Jest," this thing has an arthritic throb. It's a heavy book.

I thought it was a weather thing. Like, now I could use my hand to predict snow storms and humidity levels and barometric pressure. Until I climbed into bed with the book, propped it in the way in which I was accustomed to reading things, and realized my thumb was being overworked.


Progress: I am on page 620, and struggling with the opposite problem I had last week: Instead of hiding from "Infinite Jest," I am damn-near turning the car around when I forget to bring it with me when I leave the house.

In the past week, a kid's head has gone through a computer monitor during a rowdy game of Eschaton, a man's eyeball was gouged with a giant spike, his brother impaled by the old broom-down-the-throat trick. Hal's mom gets caught in a situation with Enfield's star player, and the on-campus smartass and arguably one of my favorite characters in the book, delivers the best response:

"I probably won't waste everybody's time asking if I'm interrupting."

I am now in the early stages of a street fight, and I know that by the time I go to sleep, one of my favorite characters will be dead. (Stupid spoiler in the Lipsky book).


I found myself in a situation recently where I really wanted to say to someone "Have you read 'Infinite Jest'? Because I think that really applies here." This turned into a piece of inner fan fiction where I am able to tell if someone has read this book just by the way they talk.

This book, by the way, is applicable to everything ever.

Some day I'm going to be telling whacky stories from this book that I will confuse as things that have happened in my own life.


I like this part of a review by David Kipen that ran in the LA Times in 1996. "Half the time you'll want to pitch the damn book clear into the next room, with or without benefit of doorway, but the other half you can actually feel your attention span stretching back out to where it belongs."

The "attention span stretching" reminds me of part of DF-Dubs conversation with David Lipsky in "Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself."

DFW: "We sit around and bitch about how TV has ruined the audience for reading -- when all it's done is given us the really precious gift of making our job harder. You know what I mean? And it seems to me like the harder it is to make a reader feel like it's worthwhile to read your stuff, the better a chance you've got of making real art. Because it's only real art that does that."

And then:

DFW: "You teach the reader that he's way smarter than he thought he was. I think one of the insidious lessons about TV is the meta-lesson that you're dumb. This is all you can do. This is easy, and you're the sort of person who really just wants to sit in a chair and have it easy. When in fact there are parts of us, in a way, that are a lot more ambitious than that."


And then from the random files of things that people say about this book that I like, here is Ron Currie Jr., also in the LA Times: "It pretty much reconfigured my sense of what's possible in a novel, which is to say it made clear there's very little you can't do if you're writing with conviction and confidence. And it taught me that it's possible to be funny and playful and earnest and intensely cerebral all at the same time. I hadn't seen too many examples of that sort of range before, and have seen very few since."


I can't figure out which member of the Incandenza family is my favorite.


Allow me to get a little sentimental here, but there is this second in a chunk about Mario Incandenza where he admits that he hates florescent lights -- just like his father did. David Foster Wallace hated florescent lights, according to this Lipsky book. So much that he held class in his own home, instead of on campus under those florescent lights.

I like seeing these little DFWisms creep into the characters. Writer immortality, blah blah blah.


In summary, this is all a big mix of a shitton of characters doing a shitton of things and acronyms and dialects, and then all of a sudden a woman gets her naked keister stuck in a bus window, gets a settlement because of the embarrassment, hires a 24/7 pastry chef, and gourmet desserts herself to death.
So smart. So slapstick. DFW is like a guy explaining the physics of tennis, then asking you to pull his finger.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How I burned the eff out of a finger and a thumb ...

Remove casserole dish filled with roasted root vegetables from 500 degree oven using two pot holders. Set it on stove.

"Remember that time I just took the lid off and burned myself?" Chuck asks.

Give him crazy look. Why wouldn't you just lift the lid off? It's not like the metal loop conducts heat?

Reach for lid. Lift. Hear the sizzle of fried flesh. It sounds like backstage at a diner. Look at Chuck in alarm.

"Why did you do that?" he asks

Stare at hand, dumb founded.

"I don't know. I thought you could do that." 

"You need to get cold water on that."

Blindly run hand under cold water for three minutes while crying into sink. This is visually interesting. Retreat to bedroom with throbbing pointer and thumb. Pain subsides. Finger pads numb. Matching dents in these fingers.

"I think I lost my fingerprints."

"You should probably go on a jewelry heist. Or become a cat burglar."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Surprise yourself ...

We had a straight-edge New Year's Eve for the first time, at least for me, since I was about 17. We both wore the closest thing to pajamas possible and went to "Black Swan." Back home for meat and cheese and math: We could potentially consume upward of 2,400 calories of crap and still not touch the multiple beers/post-drinking Taco John's super sponge tallies of previous years. Plus, then we could be super self righteous the next day while the rest of the internet dragged dead limbs and moaned about kick drum brains. (I still slept until 2 p.m. on Saturday, but it was recreational not medicinal). We went drunk hunting, a walk to the West Duluth Entertainment District, but turned back before we got to the action when it felt like the wind was making Swiss cheese of any exposed skin.

Happy New Year, y'all. I got big plans for the 11s. I'm not big on inspirational posters of shiny stadiums and sweaty runners or scenic vistas. But I really like this concise bit by Neil Gaiman from last year. It's the "surprise yourself" that keeps running through my head.

So. What I did this past week.

Hoppin' John with Collard Greens: What a nightmare. Making this was ridic with disasters ranging from a lack of clean cooking utensils to inadequate counter space to forgetting to make the rice and having to dash some into the microwave at the last second -- a kitchen appliance I don't really dig using. Then, of course, I burned the rice into something that looked more like a rice cake. The fake meat didn't firm up, so it was like flacid bacon in Play-Doh colors.

We salvaged it, though. Chuck dug out all the meat, and gave it extra time in the pan. I threw away the rice cake and decided we'd go without. And it ended up being some pretty good food.
The photograph, however, sucked worse than even my low standards for food photography.

Exit Through the Gift Shop: This is the best film I've seen in too long for me to remember. It was like the TV shot out a spray of brain glue and I couldn't take my eyes off the documentary about a would-be filmmaker who chronicled the hits of street artists in LA before eventually developing a logo and some glue and making his own mark and then eventually with this BFD of an art show that rivaled superman graffiti artist Banksy's art show. But his art is derivative. But people are digging it. Which means maybe this isn't a documentary, it's a mockumentary. But it's Banksy, right, so who knows. Awesome. 

Breakfast at Tiffany's: I think it's hard to focus on the Holly Golightly of the film when it is so easy to see the insufferable Holly Golightly of age 40.

Black Swan: I love the culture of ballet. The legwarmers, the music, the hair, the music and the way dancers exist in this box, hyper aware that their bodies aren't just soul vessels, but their bodies are the art, and so they deflect the external. Cakes, for instance. It's beautiful, it's gritty, it's painful and gross and fascinating. This movie is a great mix of all of those elements. Plus, Winona Ryder unintentionally provides some great comedy.

I Am Love: Let me preface this by saying this is a good movie. A wealthy Italian family with a textiles business. Grandpa announces he's passing the company on to his son and grandson at his birthday party. Poor, restless Tilda Swinton, meanwhile, falls for a super clever chef friend of her son. Antonio seduces the shit out of her with food. In one scene, she's at his restaurant with her mother-in-law and daughter-in-law and is served a dish of vegetables and prawns and her dinner guests fade into the background. Tilda is spotlighted going comically orgasmic over the food she is eating. She saws away at the prawn. Her damn near roll out of the sockets. She chews. She's so lost in this food. It's super hokey and self-conscious and feels like mocku-porn, except with a fork. Also: the soundtrack is really distracting. Other than that, it is a pretty interesting way to spend two hours.

I'm still reading "Infinite Jest" with an EFT of two more weeks. I'm chronicling this in a super non-literary way here