Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pop Culture Curiosity Chapter 5: Electronic words ...

When the day came to adopt a position on e-readers, I didn't really have an opinion. Instead I pulled a move from debate club. I joined Team Nay willy-nilly and cobbled together a bunch of reasons to support why I was not going to be a person who had to re-charge her library.

Occasionally I would see a sexy Kindle commercial featuring a catchy pop song and think "Maybe I would like an e-reader." The immediate gratification of downloading a book; Holding a product that suggests a paperless future in my sweaty meat hooks. Then I would grab myself by the shoulders, and re-direct back to luddites-ville, our eight decorative bookcases in the basement and my fondness for dog-earring pages when I find a kicky sentence.

Chuck was opposed to the e-reader. He'd actually given it thought. How owning books would be more like renting books and how a dead battery could interrupt a reader's progress. There were a few other carefully constructed arguments. I shrugged and adopted all of them. Why the hell not. I didn't have anything else going on and it's way more fun when we hate the same stuff.

Then, suddenly, he changed his mind. He became Kindle Curious. Then he became a Kindle Owner. All of this happened really quickly. My only recourse: I could do a 180 on my position, thus revealing myself as a person who does not hold fast to what she "believes" in. Reveal that she had never "believed" in anything at all.

First of all, you should know that I am interested in electronic things but before I get to know them I go through a period of grunting and pawing at the device. I always imagine myself a little zoo-y in this way. Hairy knuckles beating on a plastic buttons and referring to myself as "Me." That's just how I picture it looking. When I describe it, I call it "Momming out." As in "I just mommed out all over the remote control."

My first area of confusion with the Kindle is that it seems a step backward from the technology I currently use to text message fan fiction about the song "Mr. Roboto" while simultaneously maintaining 6-8 games of Words with Friends. You don't touch the Kindle screen and move the words with the standard finger juice and peanut butter combo one uses to make action on an iPhone. The page-turning buttons seem counterintuitive. While the iPhone leads me to believe I might someday share laughs with a Cylon, the Kindle to me represents just how far we are from brain internet.

The other night Chuck and I were in bed reading.
Me: (Snorting. Turning pages recklessly. Putting myself in danger of an eyeball paper cut.)
Chuck: (Silent. Completely, spookily silent)

I know how this will go. Chuck gets into everything about six months to a year before I get into it. For now I think my plan is to be secure that I know how to use a Kindle -- yet mostly read books on paper. Kindle Limbo.

The Monday Memoir: Origin Story

My parents really wanted me. My parents probably didn't want my brother. At least no more than any unmarried 19-year-olds enrolled in junior college in 1971 want a screaming ginger dog-paddling in their amniotic fluid.

By the time I came around they'd had time to convert my mom to Catholicism, get married, turn my dad into a government employee, and make a wish list: They wanted a girl.

I did not disappoint in this respect.

I'm told they had tried for a long time to make me. And more recently I've been told that they continued to try for more babies after I was born. Disgusting visual aside, I'm selfishly thrilled that science failed them. Can you imagine the ignominy of being neither the oldest, nor the youngest? Brutal.

I managed to skate through my Pre-K years undamaged. This is not to say there were not hardships, growing up at 3922 5th Place Northwest.
  • I had a bedtime that prohibited me from engaging in the real fun of late-night television and I was discouraged from sleeping in the hallway on the fringe of the family's entertainment scene; 
  • Sometimes I had to wear a tutu and step-ball-change while wearing lipstick and red balloons of blush in front of an audience of strangers who were looking at me; 
  • My brother and his friends stole my bike and left behind a ransom note written in blood-colored ketchup; 
  • I was forced to put my head underneath the surface of water and use my arms to make stroking motions, my legs to kick, in a way that would propel me across a pool or lake; 
  • A German Shepherd was allowed to bark near me. 
  • I saw Darth Vader in my closet. Or maybe it was a dinosaur; 
  • My dad accused me of having a crush on a red-haired freckle face named Teddy Higgins who made weird faces while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance; 
  • It was considered a sign of weakness to spend 24 hours a day with my arms wrapped around my mom's legs, my face pressed into the back of her knees; 
  • My mom put my hair in rollers before we had our family photo taken for the church directory; 
  • My dad listened exclusively to Marty Robbins' records and Paul Harvey in my presence; 
  • My brother took the quarter I'd been given to play Pac Man, played Pac Man, then drew me a picture of a Pac Man board instead; 
  • I couldn't get my ears pierced until my First Communion; 
  • No one believed me when I heard my stuffed bunny say "Ouch." 
  • My Big Wheel got stolen.
  • I was dragged to cold ice arenas and wore a pin on my winter coat that said "I'm a hockey sister." 
  • We weren't allowed to eat sugar cereals or watch "Dukes of Hazard." 
  • I took out the garbage one time and saw a squirming mound of maggots. It was like alive Macaroni & Cheese.
  • The love of my four-year-old life hit me in the face with a rock and I had to have two blue stitches sewn into my skin. 
  • I had to wear a yellow rain slicker. 
  • When my brother wet the bed he got to sleep in his sleeping bag while his sheets were washed. However, the person who knew how to use a toilet -- and was three and a half years younger, mind you -- was punished for her adeptness on a porcelain perch and not allowed to sleep in her sleeping bag.  
  • I was made to camp in places where worms and snakes lived. 

Despite all this adversity, I wouldn't change a thing. All of this hardship has just made me the person I am today.

The Monday Memoir series is a writing project that uses Tina Fey's memoir "Bossypants" as a template for my own life story. Tina Fey's memoir is very funny, by the way. But that doesn't mean that writing it was hard or that there are any real revelations in it. During The Monday Memoir I will write a simple, revelationless story, too. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Introduction ...

At about the mid-point of Tina Fey's autobiography "Bossypants" I lost that dewy baby chicken fluff of naivety and had a realization: It must be very easy for a celebrity to write her own story. Before Tina Fey pounded her first space bar on the old typewriter, she knew that she had an audience of teetering primetimers who would be satisfied with a few chuckles, a childhood photo featuring a shag haircut and couple of anecdotes starring Alec Baldwin that were exclusive to this flavor of book glue.

Easy peasy.

With that in mind, I've decided to start a new feature on this blog: The Monday Memoir. Using Tina Fey's book as a template, I'm going to write my autobiography. Each post will be triggered by a chapter of her book, either using the same first few words or an idea she sparks. I won't always post it on Monday.  Maybe I'll never post it on a Monday. I just love alliteration. And puns. Mostly puns. 

For the record: I actually think "Bossypants" is a riot. In fact, I wasn't going to buy it. I was just going to steal the words with my eyeballs in-store (like I did with half of Snooki's novel). But I just cracked up one too many times to put it back on the shelf. This made the man in stained sweatpants who brought his own blanket to the store look at me like I was crazy.

My cover:

Consider this the introduction. I'll be done with this project in 20 some chapters, or when I say my safe word: "Uncle."

Monday, April 25, 2011

Domo arigato ...

Chuck: Autocorrect just changed that last text to "I Kilroy."
Chuck: Guess I text too much about Mr. Roboti or something.
Chuck: Roboto.
Me: It's your favorite song.
Me: You slow dance to it by yourself in the bathroom with the lights out when I'm not home. I know.
Chuck: No. You blare it with the windows down when you cruise past the DQ.
Me: You roller skate to it in the basement.
Chuck: You dress up as it for Halloween.
Me: You wrote the lyrics on your lunch sack.
Chuck: You make it the theme of your 10th birthday party.
Me: You made a mix tape of it that only had that song over and over and over. But you could only fit 67 percent of the song at the end of Side B.
Chuck: You got the iron-ons of that song from the Scholastic book club and made your mom put them on your PJs.
Me: You wrote a short story that included a character named Mr. Roboto in your junior high English class, then brought your boom box to school so you could play the song during your presentation, but the tape was a little warped and it sounded like shit and you got a B.
Chuck: Your science project involved a caterpillar named Kilroy whose name was supposed to be changed to Mr. Roboto when he emerged as a butterfly. He never emerged, but you got an A anyway due to the sheer passion of your report.
Me: You signed up for the West Duluth talent show where you were going to wear tight jeans, a sleeveless shirt and have a comb sticking out of your back pocket. You were going to lip-sync and spazz dance to it, but your brother saw you practicing, said you were gay, and you started listening to Rush instead.
Chuck: You did the exact same thing you just described, except you didn't start listening to Rush, you kept listening to Mr. Roboto.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Salon Selectives head space ...

I guess the biggest thing going on right now is that I've decided to really master Gaga's "Bad Romance" just in case I ever do karaoke again. I heard it in the car the other day and I think I could really rip into it. One of the biggest mistakes karaoke artists like myself make is not updating the old catalog. And let's face it: I'm really kind of stuck in a Madonna-Belinda-Stevie Nicks-Denise Williams-Lita Ford-Salon Selectives head space.

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


Israeli Couscous with Saffron and Summer Vegetables: The photograph that Vegetarian Times runs with this recipe makes this meal look really tall and insufferable. I finally sucked it up and tried it, curious, mostly, about this saffron biz. It goes without saying that there are other things I'd rather spend $9 on. That said, this is a pretty wholesome, nice, healthy feeling and fulling mix of fennel, leeks, garlic, peas, Israeli couscous, arugula, kalamata olives, basil. Not a dud in the bunch. I'd eat this again. Although there are some dead spots in it if you don't get an olive or a ton of salt in the bite.

Coco Before Chanel: This is the story of how a saloon singer who favored men's-style apparel became a fashion icon by so over-staying her welcome at a gentleman friend's castle and mangling his work shirts. It's a nice little story of Coco Chanel staring the always-adorable Audrey Tautou.

Heavy Metal Parking Lot : This shorty, coming in at just 16 minutes, is a delicious slice of 80s heavy metal life. It's a quick documentary featuring footage of a bunch of teens pre-gaming in the parking lot before a Judas Priest concert in Maryland.

Mostly this movie just made me think of how this scene would never occur in 2011. Do people get amped for anything anymore? Like, so amped that they wear an entire zebra-striped outfit and talk about how THIS IS MY FAVORITE BAND EVER! The mark of loving a band these days seems more civilized. Head bobbing at most. Certainly not getting wrecked in a parking lot, stealing a videographer's microphone and going apeshit.

The Chronology of Water: A Memoirby Lidia Yuknavitch: Sitting on my couch. Listening to noninvasive, lyric-less music with headphones. Reading Lidia Yuknavitch's memoir "The Chronology of Water." I stop. Check the time. Two hours have passed since I last came up for air. Whoa. She just drugged me. Plopped me in front of a psychedelic screen saver and had her way with my brain when I wasn't looking.

My friend sent me an email first telling me that she'd had a dream that she told me we don't like the same books. We don't in real life, this is true, she acknowledged in the letter. Except Haruki Murakami. Still, she tells me, read this book. But first she tells me that it starts with a dead baby and then segues into incest, heavy drug use and sex.

It does start with a dead baby. It does have heavy drug use. There is, indeed, sex. And there is this unconventional sentence structure, poetic snippets, soul-squeezing scenes that left me dizzy. This is not my style of reading at all. Prosey-prose, heavy with metaphor. The kind of writing that sounds like it should be read aloud to a room full of people who will later deconstruct it like they are putting puzzle pieces back into a box. In the hands of a lesser writer, which is to say almost any other writer, this would be too written-y and self-conscious. But damn Yuknavitch has a way with words. She knows how to write a word like "bloodsong" and not have it sound like a workshop cliche.

Full review will be here.

Right now I'm reading: Bossypants by Tina Fey.

'Go sit on your own face' ...

I'm having a low self-esteem day. I'm not a psychologist, but I sense it has something to do with the fact that I'm trying to write a novel and it sucks. Hard. Disjointed. Lacking action. I should be able to write a novel. I read a lot of novels. I know how they work. I know how to make sentences, and sometimes I even write a good one. But when I think of this stupid novel sitting in Google Docs, I get wonky and panicked and pissy.

I thought it would be easier. And I'm not one for putting a lot of effort into things. I'm still, mentally, the high school version of myself. A natural at triple jump and pretty fast to boot. None of this was thanks to coach so-and-so. None of that non-stop practice. This was luck. Muscular thighs. Maybe even a brother who tormented me with a soccer ball until I learned to use his tricks on people my own size and so became a bit competitive.

I start googling MFA programs. I could use a structured environment, maybe. A good connection to someone who can help me. Remember. You have one life. You should do what you want. You should move to Riverside, California, one hour from Los Angeles. People do this. They get to wear sweatpants every single day. Trade mice for roaches. Read books. Spend Saturdays in Venice Beach staring at people. Write award-winning short stories. Get book deals. Get optioned for movies. Be Diablo Cody. Be Jennifer Egan. Drive a jeep. Grow your hair so long you don't even need to wear a shirt. Make enough money so your boyfriend can spend his time taking aimless walks, staring out windows and getting super weird with himself. 

No matter how many times I consult the novels of the people I'd like to be associated with in Wikipedia pages, I can't get the right mix of post modern absurdist Japanese horror comedy writing. I come off sounding like someone faking an accent.


I woke up at 3:16 p.m. The first eight hours were required. The last two hours were purely recreational. For the next three and a half hours I juggle: "The Chronology of Water," a memoir by Lidia Yuknavitch. Every few chapters I pick up my computer and monkey with words. Every few chapters I make a move in Words With Friends. Every few chapters I get a strange compulsion to go swimming. I do not, do not swim. But she makes swimming sound so ... something. I should go swimming.

I make myself a fried egg sandwich. Wipe mayo on the bread. Squirt ketchup next to the sandwich. Pour some orange juice. Wait for the fake bacon to look less like a cartoon drawing of bacon. Eat the whole thing with a fork and finish the book.


I take a bath, shave my legs, remove some gaudy yellow nail polish. I mangle the smallest toenail on my left foot. I think about how, without glasses or contacts, I am unable to see my own feet. I use all boy products -- Suave for Men and Gillette body wash.

I've been now waiting two hours for Chuck to wake up and talk to me. Every time I hear him shift in the bed I think "Now. Now he's putting on his jeans. Now he's coming downstairs." Then, nothing. He's just shifted. Finally I sneak into the room. He's awake. He's staring at the iPhone sized internet and I crawl into bed. His whiskers on the pillow sound like bubbles popping in a bathtub.


I go to RT Quinlan's to see my friend Hotrod's new band, Sexhawk, which promises to be super loud rock and roll fronted by a dude wearing women's jeans. Just like his last band, Bone Appetit. It is exactly what I expect.

"You SUCK!" this guy in the crowd yells.
"Go sit on your own face," Hotrod says into the microphone.
I turn and see my friend Tuska. It's been months. Big love fest. I also see Cork1. Some of my favorite people are in this room. 
Hotrod takes his shirt off, revealing the smallest nipples I've ever seen.
"Do those even work?" I ask his fiance later.
"They are small," she says, pulling aside his ripped arm hole to reveal a single pellet, smaller than a Tic Tac.
He pulls down his pants to reveal half of his tiny ass.
Someone throws a shirt on stage. Hotrod tosses it into the lights, where it stays until someone retrieves it with a pool cue. Everyone watches. The drummer is 19. The drummer's mom is on stage taking photos.
"BONE APPETIT!" Cork1 yells.
"This song is about f*cking a girl in your car in high school," Hotrod growls.


I Talk books with Tuska, talk books with DJ Walt D. I do a lap and decide to leave. I have cookie dough in my car that needs to be separated into cookie-sized treats and placed in my oven, and promptly administer to my PMS.


I catch a few minutes of Tori Spelling's new show and think to myself, "Oh Tori. Have some pride" while eating a giant chocolate and peanut butter cookie.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cake eaters ...

BriGuy took this photo of me feeding cake to JCrew at our friend Oregon's wedding a few weekends ago in Richmond, Virginia. I think this photo really represents our friendship. Sometimes I think she looks at me, sighs and wonders what happened to all her fancy friends. And then I cackle and say: "I'M ALL YOU'VE GOT LEFT, BABY! AND I'M NOT MOVING ANYWHERE! BWAAAAAHHHH!" And then she calls me a bitch.

Anyway, I've been working on a post about that trip for what-say weeks. But I'm trying to do it in this super detailed and disciplined way, and since I'm neither it's a real chore. Hrumph.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Curve for men ...

My car has been smelling like burning plastic, which is a concern because my entire car is made of plastic. The smell was getting in my hair. The Civic has also been making a weird noise, which has only been an issue when my radio is off and the one time I dared to start my vehicle in front of my dad who made such a horrified face -- and was that a touch of disappointment? -- that I almost crumpled up my driver's license and ate it.

So I took it to this old-school garage in our neighborhood. Coke machine. Popular Mechanics. Burnt coffee and daytime television. It smells like oil, has dirty hands and there are no smoking laws. I love this place. It's the diner of the automotive world.

The mechanic explained to me his plans for my car in a Northern Minnesota accent so thick it was practically Winnipeg-an. The whole thing cost $10 and involved removing a mud flap that had singed itself onto an exhaust pipe, he told me on the phone.

My Former Landlord agreed to take me to the garage to get my car, cleaning a fast food bag off the passenger seat but leaving the wadded diaper and explaining to me the beauty of having a handicap flag for the rear view mirror. You don't have to plug meters.

"There's nothing in it," he said when I'd stared at the diaper uncomfortably long gesturing wildly. He pitched it into the backseat.

This errand was going to require taking me to the garage, then me driving my plastic car home. Him cruising to a drive-thru window to pick up a couple of horse-hinds-and-salt patties for his dinner, then to my house where I would leave my car. I'd driven Chuck's car downtown, our end point. (I now see there was a more concise option. But, see, I don't really play chess).

The car was a fog of cologne. I could taste it so clearly that I could almost hear it. A jug-shaped bottle was in his cup holder. Curve for men. 

He drove down the highway with a stack of junk mail pressed against the steering wheel like a map. Pages and pages of fast food coupons yielding nothing but disappointment. He balled up an expired sheet from Arby's and chucked it on the floor of the car.

"Garbage," he said shaking his head and missing a detour on I35.
"It's still Lent, right?" he asked. "McDonald's has its fish special through Lent."
"Isn't that just on Friday?"
"No ..."

We'd been thrown on to residential streets. He blew through a stop sign. "No cop no stop," he said. He lamented the missed detour again. Then, he flipped to being thrilled about being on a road he'd never been on "in all these years here." We clunked past old houses and old buildings and the radio played scratchy country music and when I shifted in the seat I kicked his front console and knocked a piece loose. An ashtray dangled by a thread and I put it as back together as it could be.

He dropped me off and went to McDonald's and we got back to my house at the same time. Again, he moved a fast food bag out of the passenger seat and I hopped in. He stuffed French fries into his face, driving with one hand, his loot in his lap.

"Man," he said. "That dollar fry has gotten so skimpy."

He'd bought two Filet-O-Fish and finished both by the time we were back on the highway. Before a dollop of tartar sauce succumbed to the gravitational pull of his pants.

"That's pretty good crap, I have to say," he said, wiping his hands on his jeans.

* This is all true and verbatim. I actually take notes whenever we spend any time together.
** Also: A few weeks ago I asked him what he was doing on a Friday night because I was feeling dried of blog fodder.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Where the deer and to alligators play ...

This was an exciting week that included three, count 'em three, date nights. We went to dinner twice, went to a play and went to a movie all in one week. I'm also getting used to having a hole in the back of my mouth and only occasionally get phantom tooth pains. Holla!

In other news: Here is what I cooked, watch, read and listened to this past week.


Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo: I judge my gumbo on how close I can get it to looking like what I imagine a Louisiana swamp looks like. This batch was nice and swampy. Good stuff.

 Eyes of the Mothman: I read a lot of Wikipedia pages and the difference between F-level fame and A-level fame is often found in these encyclopedic accounts. An A-level artist has a succinct page filled with the more noteworthy milestones. An F-level famer tries to match the amount of internet space taken up by, say, an Academy Award winner by filling in deets about their junior high rock band and the revolving door of idiot friends who quit the band before they achieved their five minutes of MySpace fame by covering an 80s pop standard in a more emo way. It's all very embarrassing.

That said, one would think that a documentary about Mothman would be a real thrill. All the intrigue, none of the Richard Gere. Wrong. This one starts out in the 1700s with the curse of Cornstalk. Townspeople and "experts" are interviewed and each repeat what other townspeople have said. "Cornstalk was a leader." "Cornstalk led his people." "Cornstalk led." The camera work is wonky. In junior high, Mothman blah blah blah'd.

About a half hour into this snooze fest I set my alarm and said "If they don't mention Mothman in the next 7 minutes, we're ditching this thing."

And we did.

Man on Wire: I traded it out for this one, the story of a Frenchman who did a high-wire routine between the World Trade Center buildings soon after they were erected. This required plotting and mapping and he treated it almost like a bank heist. He had a crew of misfits willing to support his cause and then he does it and it is perfect and beautiful and he ends up spending 45 minutes walking the wire and laying on the wire while street gawkers gathered. This is a lovely documentary.

Factory Girl (Unrated): I went through an Edie Sedgwick phase about a month ago when I was up to my goiter in all things Patti Smith. I put this bio pic in the Netflix queue and assumed it would get buried beneath other things I get super into for like 4 minutes. Then someone slacked on Netflix queue maintenance and it landed on our step just in time for me to be at home nursing a raging UTI.

I don't know if this is my problem, or the problem of the movie or the problem of the movie paired with Paula McLain's fascinating book "The Paris Wife." My tolerance for 20-somethings acting like assholes has really waned. Regardless of if that 20-something is turning a Campbell Soup can into art, flailing around with a cigarette and martini glass, or composing Blonde on Blonde or writing "The Sun Also Rises," or chucking ashtrays at people's heads. My bullshit o'meter goes nuts in the face of free spirits. Regardless, this was interesting and tragic, even if Guy Pearce's Andy Warhol seemed closer to Guy Pearce's Austin Powers. Twice I had to remind myself that I wasn't watching a comedy.

Hanna: This movie was like "Adventures in Babysitting" meets "Home Alone" meets "Run Lola Run" meets my pasty 55 SPF requirements. 

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton:
Gabrielle Hamilton’s food memoir Blood, Bones & Butter is a bit of a sleeper. It starts with pleasant and wholesome childhood memories in a big old house on plenty of acreage, parked under mother’s chin listening to her talk, watching her prepare huge feasts.

Then Whammo! It’s girls gone wild. Age deception, booze, drugs, alternative schooling, jetting off to New York City to live with her sister and steal dinero from the bar where she works. Wandering down the East Coast to hone hippie sensibilities, still keeping a toe in the food industry. Off to Michigan to study writing among peers she doesn’t really connect with and cater events among co-workers with whom she does.

Full review here.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford: This is a nice book to give to a stranger as a gift.

Full review will be here.

Right now I'm reading The Broom of the System: A Novel (Penguin Ink) (The Penguin Ink Series) by David Foster Wallace. So far this is my favorite DFW. It's like reading David Foster Wallace, except it's accessible and it doesn't take two months and I always always know what is going on. And the characters have great names and I laugh at least once per page. Is it controversial to think he was at his most likable when he was just a wee college lad busting out some rhymes?

Lovers Holiday: I'm totally digging two songs by Theophilus London that Chuck put on a mix for me. It's hip hop with all those sexy gasps that LL used to do. This is early contender for my sounds of summer.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bustin out we'd break their hearts ...

I was on antibiotics for six months for my chronic ailment(1). Now, finally off antibiotics, my chronic ailment immediately returned. Like a ninja. Like it was just waiting there, dormant, for the guard to look the other direction. Raise your hand if you're starting to think this is psychosomatic. That makes at least two of us. If this is true, I have a wicked strong 'somatic. Because I used the ladies room eight painful times in less than two hours on Friday while waiting for the sadist who once sent me to be catheterized to return my phone call. And then I paid for a weekends-worth of Cipro with about 1/4 cup of hot and diseased urine.

Today I woke up at 1 p.m. feeling medical. And I don't know exactly how to describe what I mean, but I'll try this: Like I'd been sitting in a bathtub filled with Nyquil. That's close enough.

Chuck has stolen into bed earlier than normal. He contorts himself in his sleep. A funny person when he is awake, he is also the master of unconscious hilarity. As if he knows that at some point I will look over at him, fist bunched under his face, mouth open, other arm thrown above his head like a bullrider, one leg here, one leg there, sheet like a malfunctioning toga, and get a good chuckle. He wants to make it worth my while. He's very good to me.

I read a bit of "The Broom of the System," exhaust the internet, and re-read some miscellaneous junk I'd thrown together late last night in a fit of uninspired writing-to-writeness. Huh. Not as bad as I thought. Drink coffee. Pop a Cipro. Find a pair of pant pants and decide to hit a few stops on the local gallery hop.

I consider a trip to a gallery to be a success if I can find one thing that absolutely thrills me. At my first stop, it's three true to scale birch tree trunks made of maybe wool. Completely realistic. Shavings bending off the trunks. One reached damn-near all the way to the ceiling. The artist wrote that as a cross country skier, she started noticing similarities between what was in her fabric bag and what she was seeing on the trails. Wonderful.

At the second stop I crack up over a student's sexy photography. He explained that sexuality is at the root of everything, murder, death, wars, happiness, creation. One shot features drops of water? on skin. One shot features a finger stuck into the center of a cherry pie. One shot features a banana, peeled, held at waist level. Not necessarily ground breaking work, nothing that hasn't been done in a teen comedy. But markedly different from anything else being shown. And, let's face it, funny.

"Let's each of us look around and pick out the one thing we would steal if we could," an older woman says to her two companions. "Then we'll show it to the others."

This is my kind of gallery game.

I make for the snack area. An assortment of cookies and coffee. First I eat a peanut butter cookie and flip through a Homegrown Music Festival field guide; Then I eat a Macadamia Nut Cookie. At age 35 I've noticed that no one notices if you take two cookies. And if they do, tough nuts.

Three college-aged girls have a hushed conversation that ends with one of them saying "So wait. Does that mean you aren't wearing any underwear?" 

The piece I'd steal is by a local artist, which says a lot considering this collection is pretty eclectic in terms of periods, subjects, medium and name recognition. She does fantasy-style illustrations that are so lovely and vaguely macabre. This one is of a woman in black, a tiny pearl at her throat. Neck thin. Eyes spaced wide. A side bun in her hair. She could be related to Coraline.

I stop off at Barnes & Noble. It seems that I've now run into the fact that Tina Fey has written a book enough times in a row that I probably should just read it already. I never really think about it concretely, but I think I like Tina Fey. I plan to buy it, but lose interest in standing in line. I make for Target, where I need to find a men's Converse black hooded zip sweatshirt because Chuck notices when I wear his and then does all this math-y nonsense comparing the sizes of our wardrobes and why it isn't cool to dip into his meager stash. Blah blah blah.

He texts me that he is awake before I get to the store, so I skip that errand.

Back at the house, he's raring. He's had his coffee. He's dressed. And wearing that g'damn sweatshirt, I might add. He wants to get out and about. We go to Target, where there is everything BUT a men's Converse black hooded zip sweatshirt. Instead we buy a shower curtain, Sharpies, Comet, paper. I get snippy with the kid ringing up the goods when he tries to give the Comet its own bag. Poor kid. More often than not he probably gets some sassy assface who says "YOU'RE GOING TO PUT CLEANING SUPPLIES IN THE SAME BAG AS THOSE T-SHIRTS?! WHAT IF IT OPENS, HUH? WHAT IF IT BLEACHES THOSE T-SHIRTS!"  

We eat dinner at 5 Guys Burgers and I win the contest where you tell your boyfriend that the song "Never Say Goodbye" by Bon Jovi is from "Slippery When Wet" and he says it isn't and you Google it and you're right. I never win this kind of contest. I take my cheeseburger with hot sauce.

We buy masking tape and shoelaces at Walgreen's.

We head downtown to see a super great play filled with dead cats and gunshot wounds. It is fantastic. Back at home Chuck conks out and I make more words for the internet.

(1) Urinary Tract Infections. But I get tired of writing those words. So "Chronic Ailment" it is.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Blanking on a biggie ...

I brought along a book when I got my taxes done today.* The old man who agreed to use the number pad on a computer in exchange for a fee that exceeded my tax returns asked me what I was reading.

"'The Broom of the System,'" I told him. "It's by David Foster Wallace."
"Ah!" he said, fumbling a bit. "Is that the new one? He has a new one, right?"
"No," I said. "This is his first book. He wrote it in like 1986. I'm totally not going to read the new one."
Chatter. Chatter.

He told me he lives at Barnes & Noble. Me too, I said. Loves reading. Me too, I said.

"Who is your favorite writer?" he asked.

I blanked. Like, totally blanked. I could not think of the name of a single writer who is my favorite. Jennifer Egan came to mind, but I've only read two of her books. That's hardly "favorite" territory. For some reason Chuck Palahniuk also came to mind. He's not a favorite, I've just read every OCD convulsion he's ever committed to paper.

And the more I panicked, the more impossible it was to come up with a name. I must have a favorite writer, I thought. It's there somewhere. Who is it?!

Now, nine hours later, I remember that I really love Ryu Murakami. And, speaking of Murakami writers, Haruki. Hear that, tax guy? A coupla Murakamis. But now that I think about it: Are either of them really my favorite?

What a failure. Finally someone asks me a question that I'd love to answer and I flunk.

* Know that I'm thrilled that you are so adept with your home tax kits and the way you bravely finished your taxes in January by yourself using your body parts to fill in blanks and complete simple math. That is very special for you. But I would do it wrong. I have done it wrong and that is why I once paid the IRS $1,700 for a hiccup from 2006.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Number one with a bullet ...

Yesterday I held a small pistol, mechanically altered to not kill people, in my hot little hand. I had been offered the opportunity to fire a blank and choose a stranger as the target.

"Can I shoot it at him?" I asked, waving the gun in this kid's direction.
"Yeah, yeah."

Without even thinking, I raised my arm up, closed an eye, aimed and squeezed the trigger channeling every bad-ass bitch I've ever seen in any movie. It roared. And frankly I freaked the eff out.

The target went back to what he was doing and I just stood there with my ears ringing and the gun at my side and my eyes wide. Someone laughed. And then I kind of doubled over in shock and exhaustion. Whoa.

"You actually fired AT someone?" Chuck asked later.
I nodded.

It kind of reminded me of the time we saw a lame deer in the middle of the road looking broken and I called the police to fix it. When the cop got there, he brought a huge rifle out of the car with him and when I realized he wasn't going to nurse the deer back to health from his own teat, rather he was going to "put him down," I was all "CAN I WATCH?!" And he said yeah.

I'm always interested in seeing something I've never seen before, and this seemed like it would be super interesting. Until I got back in the car and Chuck was like "You really want to see this?" which shook me back to the reality of WHAT I'd be seeing and away from just that I'd be seeing SOMETHING.

That's when I put the car in reverse and sped away from the scene of the crime. In my memory I hear the gunshot, although there is no evidence of that in my permanent record of the event. But I do remember sobbing as I drove.

And that's kind of what it was like having just fired this gun, albeit loaded with a blank, at a stranger. Without the part where someone says "Wait. Are you sure you want to do this? Because this is going to feel totally real."

I've shot a gun before. Like every girl who goes off to college, I had a boyfriend bound for the marine corps who had collected an arsenal of firearms. We went out to a gravel pit and shot at things rock piles or dirt or whatever. And then went to Dairy Queen or whatever.

So. I guess the moral is that I'm not going to ever be able to shoot a person. I got to keep the shell casing as a souvenir.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dimes ...

This past week was nuts. JCrew and I started it by making the Detroit airport our bitch and then I got a molar yanked out of my face and then UMD won the NCAA Frozen Four and Facebook went nuts and then I was surprised to find that some people weren't watching the game.  Wha?!

Also, there was this weird thing:

I went to lunch the other day and found a dime in a parking lot.
Later that day I found two dimes in an alley.
Still later I was leaving a parking ramp and got my change from the woman in the booth -- 50 cents that she repaid me in all dimes.

This either means that dimes are my spirit animal or that dimes are the new penny.


Chicken and Biscuits: Chuck kicked it old-school with this one, an all-you-can eat meat, cream and butter buffet just like the moms used to make. This was super awesome and retro and was exactly like as delicious as you would expect something that included chicken, cream and butter with vegetables to be.

Polenta Lasagna: Last weekend at my friend Oregon's wedding they served a small-plate buffet that was teeming with awesome. Shrimp and grits, lobster rolls, cheese and veggies and one of my favorites -- polenta lasagna. Damn it was good.

So I adapted something from Rachel Ray which was decent but messy. A layer of polenta, a layer of spinach and feta, a layer of polenta, diced tomatoes and artichokes and mozzarella. This could be fun to mess around with.

A few weeks ago Chuck passed off some leftover awesome pancake batter to his bestie The Great Archivist. I've thought about this transaction a lot since it happened. What did this exchange look like? How did it unfold? It's a weird thing to hand someone a buttermilk carton filled with batter. Right?

Today I got to see what this is like. Chuck and I went to breakfast with Cork1 and his girlfriend and the grand finale was the passing off of a reusable Ziplock container filled with beans, tomatillos, onions, chilis, garlic and beer and which were thrown into the crock pot or maybe a pressure cooker.

"What do I do with this?" I asked.
"Put it on toast," they suggested. "Or rice."

I went the toast route. This was a damn fine concoction. I can eat the heck out of that.

Meanwhile, in case you're wondering what I had for breakfast: Granny Apple Cinnamon French Toast from the Duluth Grill. Chuck suggested that I should wring out my pancreas after I ate it.

I'm only going to say this once about Glee: The Complete First Season: ikindalikeitwhentheteacherdances. thatsall.

The Art of the Steal: This was a pretty great doc about how a super awesome private art collection of Albert Barnes gets a bunch of politicos into a tizzy and they do everything possible to undermine everything he says about how it should be maintained in his will. This might make you hate people.

Bill Cunningham New York: This is one of my favorite docs I've seen in awhile, second only to "Exit through the Gift Shop." It's about NYC fashion photographer, a charming charming man who has been capturing the street scene for years.

The Fighter Sometimes I think it is like Christian Bale wants to de-sexify himself as hard as possible. He's the only person in the world who makes an accent yicky. So why do I still want to see everything he touches? 

The Paris Wife: A Novelby Paula McLain: I’ve always been super attracted to the Ex-Pats, boozing their blurry-eyed way through Paris in the 1920s. Falling into gutters and falling into beds. Being so so serious about this art thing and passing the salt and pepper to Gertrude Stein.
While listening to, yes listening to, Paula McLain’s bit of historical fiction The Paris Wife, I had a thought that I’ve never had in a decade and a half of consuming Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and the like. It went like this: Why, these people are idiot ego-maniac twenty-somethings with no pause button on the old immediate gratification trigger.
This understanding doesn’t make this story, told mostly from the perspective of Hadley Richardson, Ernest’s first wife, any less delicious. I mean, I lap up a modern version of this bad behavior every week on “Jersey Shore.”

Full review here

A Widow's Story: A Memoirby Joyce Carol Oates: I think I handled the grieving process better when John Dunne died than when Raymond Smith did.
Something about Joyce Carol Oates’ memoir A Widow’s Story, chronicling the aftermath of her forever husband’s sudden death, had me weeping before appointments, at Subway, and especially in bed. I don’t remember Joan Didion’s version, which proceeded this one by about five years and included a sick daughter, making me feel like someone broke my heart in half and dropped the pieces into a garbage disposal.

Full review here.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford: This one is an all-city read here in D-town. I haven't had time to think about it yet.

Right now I'm reading Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef which was super stupid when JCrew and I were both reading it on the airplane. I'm a few pages into Crime And Punishment but haven't committed to it. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pop Culture Curiosity Chapter 4: The One Where I Tap Into My Long-Lost 'Fame' Fan ...

When I went away to music-theater camp last summer at least two of my friends predicted a massive tap-dancing freak show hardly visible through the blur of sheer scarves and jazz hands. (Paraphrasing liberally here). That, of course, wasn't true. Sure, a few people could bust out serious "Les Mis"-isms and there were clever barbs starring Bob Fosse. But these were likable people who were just fluent in another language. A language that knows all the call-backs for "Rocky Horror Picture Show." 

I am not much into the verbalization of inner monologues in song. Except "Footloose." And about 10 other things I saw before I turned 13. Except "Dirty Dancing." I was never really into "Dirty Dancing." "Fame" though. Whoa. 

One thing I found disconcerting was the way the cast of "Glee" had taken over the Top 10 lists on iTunes. That's like ... a super strange 2011 fact. This is a special brand of inexplicable I've not experienced in the post Ice Age era. It's reminiscent of the record I had when I was four of Barbie singing a gender-altered version of John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy."

When I made this plan to delve deeper into pop culture's various shitpools I knew I'd have to watch "Glee." Or else literally become a Teen Mom. 

I was waiting for a time when I didn't have to directly pay for it. That would be embarrassing. And now season one is streaming on Netflix and that's more than enough time to research it. It takes four episodes for me to become addicted to something. It takes five episodes to erase the past four hours by wrenching a corkscrew into my eyeball and wrist-twitching out a fist-sized lobe.

Whatever. It's the weekend. 


My legs got goose bumps when this five-some busted out "Don't Stop Believing" in episode one. This could be because a) it was super cold in the house and I have sensitive leg hair; b) I love this song; c) my repressed inner "Fame" fan was clawing her way out of wherever I buried that little leotarded freak.


By the third episode I was unable to focus fully on the show. This could be because a) I took a Lortab and then couldn't find a blue enough blue to paint my nails; b) Instead of a short kicky routine to close the show, these people are bursting into solos in a way I that I find very "Bye, Bye Birdie." And not in the Ann Margaret setting a precedent for Belinda Carlisle way. More in a way that reminds me of having Annie's "Tomorrow" as a ringtone.


Am I missing everything if I say I would like this show better if they could hold it to one song/night and not even a full song? With more gymnastic-y choreography. I can see why people like this show. But, counter intuitively, the more episodes I see and the more developed the plot becomes, the less I am interested in it. Barring further distraction, I'll probably finish watching this season. Barring the flu and complete exhaustion of the entire world of moving pictures, I probably won't TiVo it.

I like to consider myself pop culture curious, but there are whole categories of things that go by unnoticed in a way that suggests I've never seen the internet. I'm dedicating this week -- give or take a week -- to introducing certain much-talked about things I've not experienced into my life. And then blogging about it. The whole series is here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stupid face hole ...

The horror movies were right: It is surprisingly easy to get a molar ripped out of one's face. It really is just a few tweaks of a professional's wrist and the sucker will pop right out. There is a swampy suck. (You will remember the sound from when you were in the prime of your tooth-shedding years).

I'd been having headaches for about a week and knew, just knew, it was my problem tooth. I could just picture that Dorito-hating weak link pinching something that leads to my brain and giving me these electric jolts through the right side of my head. When the dentist told me they were going to wrench it free the following week, I cheered. She looked a little surprised. 

"I hate that tooth," I said. "I've been waiting for someone to rip it out for years."

Today was the big day. I was actually a little nervous. Weird choice of emotion, I know. Here I was minutes away from diminished head pain and a souvenir tooth. Eyes on the prize, I told myself.

And then suddenly it was just out. An assistant explained first how to change my gauze, then how to shine up my tooth for optimal display. The dentist complimented my ability to eject a tooth quickly and efficiently from my gums, but not in so many words. I did a fist pump and agreed to come back to the dentist for a regular check up -- the preventative kind -- instead of just going whenever my jaw falls wrong on a piece of sourdough pretzel.

Then, two hours later, the Novocaine wore off. And then it was a different story. A slightly psychotic story that had me spinning in circles, wondering if I'd had enough Naked Juice to coat my stomach enough to take Ibuprofin. Unable to move my face into any semblance of an expression. Frankly, a bit pissy. Not that you could tell by looking at me, what with my face parked permanently in neutral.

I took advantage of this crankiness to be a bitch to a stranger for two wonderful minutes.

The only thing that got me through it was thinking of my Lortab prescription waiting for me at Walgreens. I'm not much of a Lortab person. I don't like how it makes me feel. Tired and nauseated. Foggy. Like I drank one and a half mixed drinks. Enough to know I'm altered, but not enough to get to the festive part of the buzz. I did like the idea of totally not feeling my face for the rest of the night. I was going to make a sacrifice. Embrace the narcotic pain reliever just this once. I was so ready for it. Made a few rookie jokes about Pink Floyd videos, even.

The dentist's office forgot to call in my prescription. I only sounded a little bit like I was crying when I left them a message -- after hours -- on the office's answering machine. Choking on "... call it in for me in the morning?" The song "When I see you Smile" was playing when the guy at Walgreens told me I was out of delicious narcotic pain reliever luck.

Seems like if this was the old west, whoever forgot to call in the prescription would now hand me a free coupon to yank out her molar.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chunks of atrophy ...

I have just returned from touring all over Virginia with JCrew and BriGuy. Norfolk-Richmond-Richmond-Rich-Nor-Norfolk with stops in Colonial Williamsburg and Outlet Mall Williamsburg. Our friend Oregon -- JCrew and I hadn't seen her for 5 years -- got married. It might be the most fun wedding I've been to; It definitely had the best food. Everything really ramped up during a food fight at the reception. Fortune cookies, cubed cheeses, grapes and eventually coconut-flavored cake whizzing between tables.

Airport nightmares yesterday. The old girl's still got a bit of a sprint in this clunky body. Did one of those terminal-to-terminal dashes, knocking over civilians with my bouncing backpack, flight crews pressing against the wall when they heard my approaching galloping. Spent the next four hours coughing chunks of atrophy that were caught in my throat. Finally settled on to the plane, JCrew performed a very dramatic bit of surgery, ripping a pair of trouser socks that had scab-pasted themselves to a blister on her toe.

This beats the alternative: Spending a night at an airport hotel in Detroit, which would make a great title of a very emo song.

I've glimpsed rock bottom, I thought at about 10 p.m. last night. Backpack as a pillow, restaurants closed, pants a little wet from spilling urine during the dash, reading a grim story in Rolling Stone that included pictures of a severed head and limbs. I never anticipated that this place would include such a monstrous craving for a cheeseburger.