Monday, October 31, 2011

I want it now ...

There is no way that the children of West Duluth could ever appreciate the consideration I put into buying Halloween candy this year. This was serious business. I got:

1. York Peppermint Patties
2. Mini Candy Bars, including Snickers, Three Musketeers, Milky Way
3. Nerds
4. Peanut Butter Cups, Almond Joy and Reese's Pieces
5. Lick Em Aid

There is even some left after this past weekend, though I've been acting like Veruca Salt for the past three days with peanut butter-stained fingers and peppermint in my hair.

I'm told we will get 250-300 customers today. Last year I slept through the candy hours, woke at about 9 p.m. and it was over. I sat on the front steps with a bowl of sour licorice and waited for someone, anyone to come along. Finally I stopped some teenagers who were walking past and said: "YOU GUYS WANT CANDY?!" It was pretty pathetic.

In other news, here is what I've been making, watching and reading.


Peruvian Black Olive Sun-Dried Tomato Quinoa: This is a good, uncomplicated mix of one of our bulk favorites: Quinoa. Quinoa is magic. You buy it and it never runs out. It probably would have been better if I hadn't burned it, but even burnt it was good. How's that for a testimonial? I made it with just some sauteed spinach and little chunks of Soy Chorizo because Soy Chorizo is my favorite food.

Pea Tikki: Of all the crimes against food, this was one of my greatest. I found this recipe (AND ALMOST EVERY OTHER RECIPE I MAKE) on Finding Vegan. It comes with a nice back story about teaching kids about relatives who are gone by introducing them to the gone relative's signature dish. So what do I do? Create a version that looks nothing like the recipe-maker's version and in fact looks like a crudely drawn portrait of her pretty dish. Ah well. Still tasted good. It's a pea puree with some spice, ginger and seasonings that is then encased in potato. Ideally, it is like a gnocchi Twinkie. Mine, not so much.

Black Bean, Zucchini and Olive Tacos: I've certainly mastered the art of alternate forms of Tacos. This one has a mix of Zucchini, hot peppers, garlic, kalamata olives, and salsa verde. It can also be jazzed up with a mix of plain yogurt mixed with lemon juice, lemon zest, agave and garlic.

Chickpea Picatta: The word "picatta" has come to be a punchline here ever since the time I was making dinner, Chuck asked what we were having and I said "Oh, just a picatta." The word didn't mean anything to either of us. "Oh, a picatta, huh?" he asked. Since that time I've made plenty of versions of picatta and it has come to mean "something something capers."

I love capers. I remember my mom feeding me one when I was really little and being disgusted by this little nugget packed with olive-style flavor. Thirty years later, they are one of my favorite foods.

Night of the Comet: For what this is, it is great. A 1980s horror movie mostly set in the aftermath of a comet hitting earth, turning civilians to a red dust or -- inexplicably -- into zombies. Of course, our hero has shacked up with her boyfriend in a movie theater, which becomes a sort of bomb shelter and saves them both. (Well, briefly).

Two things: A) The star of the show is a very familiar looking woman, who I quickly learned was Kayla from "Days of Our Lives," which immediately brought back Kayla and Steve memories from yesteryear. How come some of my best memories are just plotlines from soap operas? And B) Chuck said in the middle of the movie "They need a montage right here." I agreed and suggested the song "Walking on Sunshine." True story: The next scene was a montage to the song "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" which is basically "Walking on Sunshine." Win-win.

Insidious: What a weird mix of when-it's-good-it's-good, when-it-sucks-it-sucks. The premise is great: Family moves into a house that can't possibly be affordable considering the husband is a school teacher and the wife fucks around on a piano all day. Their son goes into something like a coma after taking a spill in the attic. Weird stuff starts happening in the house, they move to get away from this haunted place, and then the medium tells them: IT'S NOT THE HOUSE IT'S YOUR KINDA COMA SON! Then it delves into something super hokey and stupid and vaguely comic.

This marked my first experience renting from Red Box. Now I'm all caught up on modern conveniences.

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin: This is a so-so biography of Steve Martin's life as a stand up comic. Mostly I leaned that my dad pinched some of his greatest comedic moments from Steve Martin.

The Marriage Plot: A Novelby Jeffrey Eugenides: I totally, totally recommend this novel about a love triangle set at Brown University, and then beyond, in the early part of the 1980s. This is now my favorite book of 2011.

Sophie's Choice  by William Styron: I got interested in this book when I read an essay by Styron's daughter about what it was like to read this book -- starting it as a child, then actually reading it when she was in her 30s. This is a great, great, great book that I totally loved.

When God Was a Rabbit: A Novel by Sarah Winman: Good. Another new writer with a terrific debut. This one is a coming of age story about siblings with a powerful connection and a best friend and all these events. It's plot light, incident heavy and written in this really spare an interesting way. I love how this was written.

Full reviews on all of these will be on Minnesota Reads.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ghosts of Halloween past ...

I don't even remember my favorite Halloween memory. I was in a blackout state, so thankfully Chuck photographed the crime scene. I'd gone as something pant-less, though the exact title of the costume escapes me. I might have been a Walk of Shame. My hair was messed up, smeared lipstick, oversized men's button up mis-buttoned up.

I'd stumbled into the duplex, grabbed a handful of leftover Halloween candy and went to bed. I propped myself up on a pillow and bulimia'd all over the candy, cramming it into my face all while unwrapping the next piece.

Chuck had been at work and when he got home, I was still sitting up with wrappers all over my stomach and the light on. As he reached down to clean them up I woke long enough to say:


* I had to crop the photo for decency sake, since I'm wearing a sweatshirt sans pants, and unfortunately that meant cropping out most of the candy debris. Ah well, you get the idea. Fun Fact: I'm wearing that same sweatshirt right now!

Monday, October 24, 2011

That time someone thought I was a hooker ...

PHOENIX -- I was mistaken for a prostitute tonight by a very persistent john. Seriously. I had gone to dinner in a less-traveled downtown area, a nondescript Mexican restaurant next door to nothing. I finished licking a bowl of vanilla ice cream about 10 minutes before my bus was due across the street. I paid, clomped through the parking lot and waited to cross the road to the bus stop opposite the restaurant. 

A beat up red pickup traveling south slowed down as it neared me and the driver gave two short beeps. I ignored him and crossed the road. Then he did a U-Turn so he was headed north, on the same side as me, and pulled onto a dark avenue half a block away. I ignored two more short beeps, but an Uh-Oh that had started at the U-Turn was getting bigger. 

He pulled back on to the main road, headed north, and cruised past the bus stop very slowly. I kept my antennae on him while not giving any sort of gesture or look that would indicate a willingness to star in his own personal Shake Weights commercial. Beep beep.  

The driver kept rolling and made a left turn on to another avenue on the other side of the street and honked again. First I just walked quickly away from him, then I busted out a sprint across the street and back to the parking lot of the restaurant. He honked again, like he thought I was confused. No! I'm over here! Where are you going? 

I was pretty deep into the parking lot when he sped past the restaurant, faster now, and back the direction he was originally traveling. I watched him disappear and waited until I saw the bus coming to cross over again. 

Whether it is a legitimate question or not, you're probably wondering what I was wearing. At least Rad-Attack-Ack-Ack was as I texted her with the close call. A T'shirt dress, cowboy boots and a zip up hoodie. Truthfully, I'd probably wear the dress with leggings in Duluth, but Duluth isn't in the desert and in Duluth it never feels like the sun has singled you out for special treatment.

I hopped on the bus, and hopped off again at a light rail stop because the route would get me closer to my hotel. I sat down next to an older man who was quiet for a few minutes, then drawled: "Hey, cowgirl. Where ya headed?" 

I rolled my eyes at him and said: "You know what? I've already gotten mistaken for a prostitute tonight, so I think that's about enough." 

His tone changed immediately. Funny how some people are balanced on a thin barricade between creepy and a-ok. He told me that sort of thing happens all the time downtown and then over compensated his disgust with dudes. 

At the other end of the spectrum: I was the only person on a city bus today when the driver pulled over at a stop and hopped off. He left the doors open and the bus running and I think he said something about going to the bathroom before ducking into Walgreens. 

I sat in my seat, confused, and watched the door of the store. I imagined a wild card with a commercial drivers license coming along, yelling "FREE BUS!" hopping into the driver seat and spiriting us away to the mountains. Then for awhile I imagined myself hopping into the driver seat and making for Mexico armed with just a smart phone and a 17-year-old C+ in Spanish III. Then I decided to get the hell off the bus so that if someone did try to steal it, I wouldn't have to ride along. 

About 10 minutes later the bus driver came back and we both got back onboard. 

I thought we had shared something important so I confided: "I had to get off the bus so I wouldn't get kidnapped if someone stole it." 
He didn't respond. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Limes ...

"Hey," he says, flapping an 11-by-17 glossy flier like it's the American flag. "Doesn't this look good?"
It's a photograph of, as far as I can tell, cat barf, blood and pus covered in melted hair. Upon closer inspection, it is actually the hot new menu item from KFC.
"You want in?" he asks, like it's an exclusive invitation to join the Skulls.
"Absolutely not," I say.

It seems that he's in a sharing mood, because the next thing to land in my lap is a greeting card in an envelope addressed to my Former Landlord from a woman, the loopy handwriting on the front only accentuated by its lack of glitter. The text is PG Hallmark. A bit of Halloween-theme innuendo, with a punch line that basically says: "I was really talking about this. What did you think I was saying, sicko."And, of course, there is a personalized note. About seven sentences that say: "Hey. If you want to hang out again, here is my phone number. Text me."

"Ah," I say. "That's cute."
"Yeah," he says. "I'm glad she sent it. I couldn't remember her name."
"Are you going to call her?"
"Nah," he says. "She's too old for me."
"How old is she?" I ask.
"33," the 37-year-old answered.
I throw him an incredulous gesture, but it is admittedly a tired look that has lost its potency after all these years and all this incredulous-ness.
"She has kids," he whispers.
"SO DO YOU!" I remind him, though truthfully he has just the one.
"Yeah, that was kind of weird when she left and we didn't exchange any information," he says.

"You wanna go in on Chinese? I have a two-fer-one," he says.
"Absolutely not," I say. "In fact, I actually eat dinner with Chuck like every night. Homemade food."
"Really?" he asks, the idea as bewildering as "cenar con mi novio todas las noches."
"You know, I've been drinking good beer," he says, trying to relate. "You know, instead of swill."
"Oh, yeah?"
"Corona, Grain Belt," he says. "Grain Belt has this Nordeast ..."
He rustles through his things and waves a receipt in my face.
"What's this?" I ask.
It lists a single 49 cent charge for two limes.
"For my Corona," he says. "Top shelf."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pop Culture Curiosity: Friday Night Lights ...

A lot of my friends who know what MSHSL stands for, and one who probably doesn't, really dug "Friday Night Lights."

"Don't watch it at the Y," said Fannie, the one, when I told her I was going to whittle my way to cardiovascular excellence by watching it one 43 minute elliptical machine workout at a time. "I cried during every episode. You don't want to do that at the Y."

I tried it anyway. Trudging along, the pilot, as the OG QB1's helmet is sliced off his head. I spilled not a drop of snot on the console. But I did see that only watching it in an elliptical was going to require eight hour workouts and the Herculean strength of Tim Riggins' deodorant to fulfill. So I completely stopped going to the Y (again) and cozied into the couch for 55 as-close-to-consecutive-as-possible hours of Texas high school football.


"Friday Night Lights" is set in a small-ish town in high school football-hungry Texas. A place where a woman can spend 14 years as a stay-at-home mom, and parlay it into a career trajectory that goes from guidance councilor to principal to guidance councilor to Dean of Admissions at a university in less than six years. A town where a kid can bludgeon a rapist to death and, with his sidekick, pitch the dead body off a bridge and both a) recover from any sort of emotional ramifications by the commercial break of the episode where he is exonerated and b) never have word of the incident land in the news.

It is a town that caused me to Google two different versions of the question: "What is the legal drinking age in Texas."


"Friday Night Lights" was seemingly written by dudes who never imagined a future we would stream 55 consecutive hours of the show over the course of two weeks. It asks watchers to suspend disbelief so mightily that we should all earn a tryout with Cirque de Soleil.

There are little things, like: Wait, Tim Riggins. What grade are you in, anyway?
There are bigger things, like: Wait. Coach Eric Taylor has been coaching Jason Street since he was a kid. But Coach Eric Taylor just moved to Dillon, Texas. (This one comes courtesy of Jodi's eagle eye for  plot flow. More on Jodi's contributions later).
And the real head scratcher: Tami Taylor's rapid ascension from guidance councilor to candidate for a job as Dean of Admissions at a university.

Until about midway through the series, there is no evidence of technology. No cell phones. The only sign of online life is when Lyla Garrity is outed on a gaudy website for diddling Tim Riggins, soon after her quadriplegic boyfriend Jason Street learns that getting a bone dog could be detrimental to his urinary health.

In keeping with this sort of primitive theme, when Julie Taylor and Tyra Collette are forced into playing powder puff football as a punishment, it is revealed that none of the girls at Dillion High School are at all intuitive about what to do when a football spirals toward ones face. This lack of athleticism comes up again when Tyra briefly joins the volleyball team as a favor to Tami Taylor -- the new coach. (She's a renaissance woman, Tami Taylor is).

When the school district splits into two high schools, there is a racial shift. Dillon was so white it was almost blue. But East Dillion is multicultural. Still, the kids from East Dillon didn't just suddenly move to town. They must have gone to Dillon High School. Where were they the first three seasons? And why don't the kids from both schools seem to know each other when, logically, they have gone to school together all their lives?

And, what? No kid from East Dillon would ever go to Alamo Freeze?


I've just never really gotten into football. I guess I don't understand it. I did however fool Chuck into thinking I knew the bare bones. I listened to myself explaining the concept of a redshirt and thought "Oh my God, I'm smart. I'm really, really smart."


Season 1 sucks you in. Season 2 sucks you in, too, then suddenly cuts off in a really jarring way that is disorienting when you start, arguably the best season, Season 3. (This is because of the writer's strike).

Season 4 is an entirely different show. The old characters skip town for college. The new characters are hard to love, especially for people loyal to the old crew. You're only watching because now you're committed to the series and you've started to find yourself staring in the mirror and chanting: "Clear eyes, full heart. CAN'T LOSE!"


Early in the series, my high school friends and I started claiming which Dillon Panther we wanted to take to Homecoming.

Fannie likes Tim Riggings. She thinks they have the same haircut. "Sometimes when I walk past a mirror, I think it's him," she tells me.
Princess Linda likes Riggins, too. But she could also take Coach Taylor. I sometimes wonder if her greatest aphrodisiac is the whistle dangling from a neck.
I am 100 percent Matt Seracan, bulging Adam's apple, nervous stammer and five years in a yellow Lance Armstrong wrist shackle. Though I know that if I went to that high school, I'd have actually been dating Landry, which is not a bad thing at all.
"I guess I'll take Tyra," Princess Linda's husband Z conceded. I could hear him faux-grudgingly making the concession and giggled.


I like a good TV marathon. At the top of the list is "The Wire," which was the perfect example of the possibilities of dramatic television in the 2000s. At its worst was the time Chuck and I locked ourselves in the bedroom and watched so many consecutive episodes of "Weeds" that I could feel my brain recoiling when the theme song "Little Boxes" started to play. This was made more disgusting by the fact that we actually ate pizza in bed, which ranks somewhere near spending four days crouched over a hole in the dirt during menstruation, in terms of evolution. Note: The theme song to "Friday Night Lights" isn't terrible at all.


Around Season 2 I started working on my senior thesis about the program: "Tim Riggins as the Pacey of a new millennium." And that is how I got Jodi to start watching the show, by describing it as having a certain Dawson-ness. (A thank-you for the time she introduced me to "Pretty Little Liars," AKA "Best Hair Party on all of the TV.")

As we three watched the show, we kept a running dialogue on Google+ and THIS WAS SO DAMN FUN! It was like TV-book club.


As a non-football fan who rarely finds anything worth watching that isn't a reality show about pregnant teens, pretty sisters under the tutelage of American Hero Bruce Jenner, seven strangers, eight self-described "guidos,"  emaciated Vogue-hopefuls and chefs brandishing spatulas, I'm surprised that I liked "Friday Night Lights."

Really, it was all about the characters, a like em or lump em cast that included wholesome heartthrob Matt Seracan, Tim Riggins, whose abs distracted us from his booze breath, Dillon toughie Tyra Collette and the freckle-faced cutie Julie Taylor. Coach Taylor and his stare that says a thousand words, Tami Taylor and her reluctance to adopt the phenomenon known as "Mom hair." Lyla Garrity, the rich man's Leighton Meester. So pretty that it takes a season to understand that she is vapid. A sponge constantly adapting new extreme personalities. Buddy Garrity, who has the biggest face in show biz.

Truths of "Friday Night Lights":
1. Coach Taylor's team, whether they are Panthers or Lions, are always a second-half team.
2. If a new girl is introduced and is alternative cute, she will become Landry's love interest.
3. Chuck has the same flannel shirt as Billy Riggins, so now we call it his Billy Riggins shirt.  
4. As long as Buddy Garrity is alive, there will always be employment for former high school football stars.
5. This show excelled at making characters and their parents look eerily alike.
6. Chuck found a reference to Landry online as "The albino Matt Damon."
7. Chuck also found online that plenty of people had googled 'Buddy Garrity's sunglasses.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Now with fewer entrails ...

Oh for crying out loud. Here it is the middle of October and I've just now finished watching my first scary movie of the season and I'm nowhere near any sort of reading that describes entrails dangling from a human being. What the. I'm embarrassed for myself. I'm really going to be feeling this in February when I realize I deprived myself of a good old fashioned month long fright fest.

Anyway. Here is what I made, movies I watched and books I read in the past what-say month or so.

Easy Crock Pot Enchilada Casserole: I get a little skittish sometimes when I'm chucking pinches of both Italian and Indian seasonings into a vat. It's like: Pick a flavor profile, yo. But this turned out okay. Better than okay. I got to spend five minutes making a dinner that was magically ready to eat when Chuck woke up. One of greater instances of science: The corn tortillas become the consistency of cheez. I didn't take a picture of this one. But if you squinch your eyes real tight, I'm sure you can picture it.

Tempeh Helper: If you knew how much Hamburger Helper I used to eat, you would freak. What a blessed and inexpensive way sop up watery swill. So this recipe is a damn-fine spin on it, using Tempeh, a cheesy mix of Nutritional Yeast, Mustard and a few other things. Fun fact: I'm not sure I've mentioned this yet, but nutritional yeast has a the neon Rock Star effect on pee. True Story!)

Chik'n and Summer Vegetable Tostadas: This is just another one where we do what we do best: Put things on a tortilla. And as always it was good. Plus, I learned about Gardein Chick'n Scallopini, which is an exciting chicken-shaped non-meat that is much more visually appealing than Seiten. Liked it a lot.

Chickpea Frittata: I'm worthless at making real live frittatas, but this chickpea frittata was easy-peasy. Lots of veggies -- Broccoli, shallots and potato -- overlaid with a non-eggy egg-like mix made of tofu, soy milk, nutritional yeast, chickpeas -- covered with scallions and tomatoes and baked.

Roasted Tomato-Tabbouleh Soup: This is what we call "Hungry Soup." It's super good, roasted onions, tomatoes and garlic chopped in the food processor then mixed with some bulghur to give it a bit of heartiness. (About an hour later we had to eat again).

Scream  It felt real good to sit on the couch for 105 minutes and watch not-Friday Night Lights. This movie is brilliant in its super funniness, brutal killings and spook-o-meter.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: All of the world is into OASIS, a virtual reality where you can play games or go to school. When the jillionaire inventor of the system dies, he leaves his dinero to whoever can find it in this online mess of planets and hiding places. A good good geek out with a 1980s soundtrack.

Full review here.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: This one is a YA, but totally worth reading even if you aren't a YA. The heir to a drug store dynasty sees his grandfather murdered by a supernatural something, gets wonky and goes to the island where he grandfather grew up to find out what the hizzo.

Full review here.

The White Album: Essays  by Joan Didion: Joan Didion considers the end of the 1960s in this short collection of essays. I like Joan Didion. Except for when she's writing about something I'm not interested in. Then I don't care about Joan Didion. This one has at least four essays I loved, though. So.

Full review will be here.

The Family Fang: A Novel by Kevin Wilson: This one-sitter is about a family of performance artists who have, for years, been performing grand scale public performances at a mall near you. Things get wonky when the adult children come home to recover from A) an online scandal and B) a temporarily disfiguring incident with a potato gun.

This is cute with a few Heh moments.

Full review will be here.

Friends. I love "Two Broke Girls." This is a back-to-basics retro sitcom right down to its polyester waitressing uniforms, laugh track, and the kind of jokes we wince at while watching Archie Bunker tee off in syndication. This is for all those latch key kids from 1983 who were babysit by Jack Tripper and Oatmeal Cream Pies. This is rabbit ears and a wrench-shaped channel changers. This is from when people who had VCRs were obviously rich.

It's created by Whitney Cummings, who is my favorite comedian. The only thing wrong with her is that she has a boring Twitter feed. But that's because she thinks of it as a marketing tool and not a place to test drive the funny.

The premise doesn't really matter because it's Kat Denning's deadpan and ability to rock punk rock lipstick that really makes it shine. But the idea is that Denning's character Max is a Brooklyn-ite cupcake maker scrounging up cash as a waitress and nanny. Then a former trustfunder enters her life, and bed, and brings her horse and it gets all Laverne and Shirley.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

No-gurt ...

The more I think about it, the more sure I am that the following actually happened:

A few days ago I was at a grocery store picking up food for dinner, a trail mix of ingredients that appeared to have been harvested from an air filter. I also grabbed some yogurt. The soy kind. I like it's woody taste and it was on sale for 85 cents.

There was a man bagging his stuff, obviously a regular as he was on a first-name basis with the checker. He was either a hippie or a Manson acolyte or a fiddle player or I guess he was just from Duluth. Once they hit 45, every man in Duluth looks exactly alike: Like a hippie, a Manson acolyte or a fiddle player. And he was taking his own sweet time with his greens and grains.

When the checker began ringing me up, she redirected my goods into a pile near Manson. I paid, began bagging. He was still bagging, too. He finished just before me and as he left he turned and gave me a look that seemed to say "I stole one of your yogurts. I dare you to try to tackle me and rip it from my craggly claw."

Sure enough, when I got home I was short a multi-berry.

At first I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Nah. Who does that, I thought. I'd have noticed. Wouldn't I? Until today. Today I decided it was real. That some bearded stranger is hunkered over my multi-berry soy yogurt as we speak. It's gone for good, though. Being a bearded man in your 40s in this city is like being in witness protection.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Booking ...

One thing I do miss about our old neighborhood is the daily intrigue. Perched up on that deck like a sentry. Fights and make outs and pizza delivery. Drinking themselves toward amnesia. The streets running with the urine of one million college-aged students.

I am a gawker. Like, big time. Sometimes Chuck has to remind me: "You are not invisible."

This neighborhood is quiet. Too quiet. The resident party animals are a young, young twenty-something couple across the street, and they usually have it on lockdown by 11 p.m. They also trim the edging on their lawn, sweep the steps and all sorts of other domesticated bullshit that leads me to believe they are qualified to host a Thanksgiving dinner.

But tonight, tonight there was drama.

Seemingly, a pickup truck came rip-roaring down Highland, opted out on the pause at the bottom and rammed into two parked cars before settling to a stop in a front yard. Both victim cars spun 90 degrees, one totally up on the boulevard and the other's back end perched on the curb.

By the time I'd padded down there in my socks there were three police cars-worth of personnel investigating, shooting photos of the scene. The driver of the pickup was long gone and every house in the vicinity was lights-out. Like no one heard a thing.

The guy who lives across the street from us -- we'll call him Gran Dammer -- played his hypothesis about how it happened. His son was tuned into the scanner iPhone app, which I will be downloading post haste.

"I love this shit," I said.
Gran Dammer nodded.
"He must have been hammered," I said.
Gran Dammer nodded.
Finally some common ground with the neighbors. For a minute. Then Gran Dammer didn't seem to care about my theories anymore and my jokes about how maybe the driver was our resident 80 year old OG because "He likes to get all crazy."

This morning it's the talk of the neighborhood.
"That motherfucker must have been booking," I heard the mailman say into his blue tooth.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On a Monday night ...

I used to be pretty hip to the Monday night scene. That's not true. I used to be pretty hip to the Monday night scene at the Pioneer Bar, which was exactly like the Tuesday night scene, the Thanksgiving scene and the Arbor Day scene. Similar in that each day required anti-bacterial soap, a colon cleanse and bleach gargle to exorcise. Still, I used to live a life that could not be dictated by the strong arm of a calendar. Monday, psssh. You look just like a Friday to me. Pour harder!

My friend the Rock Star AA has been staying with us for two days. She's one of my favorite people in the world and for a long time the only friend in this two-Perkins town who I hadn't met while wrapped in a cubicle. We met while working at a bookstore in Rochester, but before that our social circles had enough links to create thick chain, a decent hip-hop accessory. It would later be revealed that we actually attended the same babysitting clinic while in grade school. I can still picture those classes, and so I sometimes revisit it searching the room for the Drew Barrymore lookalike, looming over a plastic doll and crying "Annie Annie, are you okay?" Eventually we both moved here.

Last night we parked ourselves at a bar downtown for a meet -n- greet and what was literally a Monday night, around us, had all of the makings of a shit show.  There were bands, playing so loud we had to Helen Keller our way through conversations. A birthday party that included face painting. Clientele lined up to be caked with white paint, caricature red lips and eyes circled in dark liner. First they looked like juggalos, then clowns, then mimes, then Kat Von D. The bar owner tried to tell me a story about his niece but all I could do is watch his full red lips, the size of a plum, shaped into an exaggerated Betty Boop pucker and think to myself: You must take him seriously. You must take him seriously.

There were spankings for the birthday girl, havoc happened, outside of the bar hordes of smokers in packs and inside the bar decibels begat decibels.

"And on a Monday," everyone had to keep saying out loud.

"That guy? One time he stuck his tongue down my throat and tried to bite off my ear," a woman said. "It was attack the lesbian night."

The Rock Star AA has a collection of Rock Star friends I'd never met:  music and books and about how cool it would be to have the keys to the city or one of those oversized checks people win. The Rock Star AA busted out some mime moves from her years of studying the art form. She was stuck in a box! Then she was knocking on the box!

"Gold Bond is like smoking a menthol cigarette through your asshole," someone said outside.

Outside a man had torn a plastic sack to look like a pair of saggy white underpants that he had pulled up over his jeans. The bag was filled to create the illusion of a nut sack that swung as he walked. It was starting to look like the makeup counter at Nordstroms just inside the door. Faces tipped upward while an artist smeared white paint across cheeks.

"On a Monday," we all agreed.

We left the bar around 1 a.m. and began walking toward my car. A man rounded the block, walking slowly. It looked like he was carrying a log and I turned around and said "What is that?"

"An owl," he said.
"Can we see it?" the Rock Star AA asked.

We moved toward him and there it was, a bird of prey tucked into itself and perched on his shoulder. It was low on energy, seemingly wounded maybe even dying. He had found it on Michigan Street and didn't know what he was going to do with it. Maybe take it to a Nature Center in the morning.

I Googled "Owl Food" and the Rock Star AA advised him on various bird organizations she is friends with on Facebook. He seemed like he was going to be wearing the owl into the bar.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Three conversations with my Former Landlord ...

Former Landlord (on the phone): Christa?
Me: Yeah?
Former Landlord: Can kids eat gum?
Me: ...
Former Landlord: (Taquito) just ate gum.
Me: ...
Former Landlord: She told me she knew how to do it and I believed her. I gave her a piece and SHE ATE IT!
Me: ...
Former Landlord: So I took another piece, broke it in half, and showed her how to chew it. It seemed like she got it. But then she kind of turned her head away and ate that piece, too!
Me: I think she's fine. Don't give her any more gum.


Me: If someone cut you open right now, it would smell like KFC.
Former Landlord: Until you quit smoking, you can't say anything about what I eat.
Me: ...
Former Landlord: You should try hypnosis.
Me: I've thought of that. It's pretty expensive.
Former Landlord: Nah. That's what (Baby Mama) did when she was pregnant. We drove to Sandstone. It was like $80 a session.
Me: Did she quit?
Former Landlord: She certainly cut back.


Me: You know, now that (Taquito) is two and a half, you probably shouldn't keep Playboy magazines out in your bedroom. I noticed them when I was babysitting.
Former Landlord: Yeah. Yeah, I know. It's just that I'm writing a Letter to the Editor.
Me: You're writing a Letter to the Editor of Playboy?
Former Landlord: Yeah. I was flipping through it and noticed this small picture of this guy. It was Joe Kapp, the former Viking. It didn't have his name on it or anything. Joe Kapp! He's my favorite player! You've heard of Tommy Kramer? Well this was Joe Kapp. Greatest player ever. So I want to tell them they should have had his name on the picture.
Me: ...
Former Landlord: I'll send you his highlight video.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Take me down to Kitty City, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty ...

I check my email in bed the second I commit to waking up. It's wretched sleep hygiene. The equivalent of washing one's face with a pepperoni pizza, or wiping back to front. But I like to know what I'm in for as I brace for the day. A shoe sale from Nine West? New fashions from Free People? A couple friends weighing in on a metaphor linking life with two cats to the bar scene in "Gremlins."

Today it is gobs of goodness. Jodi tells me that she has begun watching "Friday Night Lights," which is perfect because I can't wait to discuss my thesis topics: "Tim Riggins: The Pacey of a New Millennium" and "Dillon High School: How Come None of The Girls In This School Are Athletic?"

Chuck has also sent me two emails, tattling on the Gremlins we brought into our home through our own free will, though I've begun to rewrite history and imagine that we adopted them at gunpoint. It's the only way to explain it.  

The first email suggests that one of the demons has urinated on the main level of the house. "It was strong smelling when I walked in, and I can still smell it. I fear it is in the shoe closet." The second, subject "Cats Part 2" tells a story of cleaning the litter box for the first time in his life. A big clump falls out of the garbage bag. He goes to get our most vile broom to sweep it up and when he comes back downstairs Orin is inside the garbage bag taking a piss. "Dude. Can't you wait five minutes?" Chuck asked rhetorically. 

Speaking of five minutes: I'm about five minutes from cuffing these little monsters and hauling them off to juvie. Last night when I got home, they had upended another lamp. There is evidence that one of them did a canon ball into the upstairs toilet. They seem skilled as the art of parkour and have developed a taste for Bread records and delicious cords from Apple.


"Sometimes I think that I could just love kittens so hard, I'd squish them to death," JCrew tells me on the phone. "It's not the same as dogs."
I'm wandering through the grocery store looking for ingredients to make a crock pot dinner.
"They're more vulnerable. When you pick them up with one hand, you can feel their rib cage," I say.
Doing laps between the paper plates aisle and frozen foods.
"But do you have that, too? That kill them thing?" she asks.
"Oh yeah. Like, I might strap them into their car seats and drive into the ocean," I say.
"Or, today, I imagined kicking Orin across the room. My foot connecting with his belly, and like lofting him."
"And their necks are so tiny, sometimes when they're asleep I worry I might wrap my hands around their throats ..."
I go home and throw enchilada ingredients into the pot, plug it in, wait six hours.


There is something in my sock. It's like cutting into my my arch. A stray staple. The exoskeleton of a critter. Finally, when I'm sure I've drawn blood, I sit down and take off my shoe. I remove my sock halfway and find a thick rainbow-shaped chunk of toenail.

It reminds me of my dad. We always joked that his toenails would get so long, we could hear them clacking on the kitchen floor when he was barefoot. He squared them off when he cut them rather than styling half-moons. Used a scissors to groom "so I won't get an ingrown nail," he explained illogically.

How did a chunk of toenail get in my sock? It's a mystery. It's also, technically, a 50 percent chance it is mine. Math aside, there is a 100 percent chance it is mine. Frankly, when it comes to toenails, Chuck is much more fastidious. Me: I can go two months without even remembering that I have feet.


The only thing more fun than busting through five seasons of "Friday Night Lights" is having Jodi bust through it at the same time. She's keeping me apprised of her viewing on Google+ and I'm responding to questions and comments like "Who is Buddy Garrity, anyway?" and "I think I hate Lyla."

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that watching TV in 2011 is really amazing, between the ability to consume reams of episodes in a single sitting, really pushing your investment in the characters, and the ability to connect quickly and efficiently with other viewers. It's a good time to be alive with eyeballs.


I drive to the point of the city that is almost furthest from our house just to get an Everything Bagal with a disc of microwaved egg product, cheddar cheese and bacon. At the drive through window, my order is taken by a man with a hilarious Irish accent. It's all very Lucky Charms.

"Is that accent real?" I ask the girl who hands me my delicious meal.
She shakes her heads sadly.
"I didn't think so," I mouth.


The kittens need a scratching post. They seem to think they have been hired on to demolish the carpeting on the stairs and sharpen their hooks on Chuck's record collection. At Target I find something called Kitty City, which is like a Tinker Toys collection of pipes, surfaces and scratching posts that can be easily added to for a complex arrangement of amusements for your pet.

I'm assembling this when JCrew and Seadawg stop by to meet the kitties.

JCrew loves animals. Like, italics on the love part, loves them. Case in point: She's recently returned from a trip to Ireland and about every other photograph stars sheep.

She takes them one at a time, holding them high in the air like they are her newborn nephews. Lets them wiggle free and drop to the floor. She cackles and chases them to the stairs. They don't even put on half of the show they are capable of, but it is enough to get the point across: These dudes are whack.


Chuck isn't thrilled with Kitty City. He imagines they'll use it as a step stool to reach higher points of our house. He was more interested in a scratching post than a village. But the cats like it. They bat at the dangling balls filled with bells, they hop from surface to surface, attacking each other.

"Just think of it this way," I tell him. "Every second they spend in Kitty City is another second spent not wrecking our shit."

This he can agree on.

Later in the night, Hal will invent a trick where he starts at the top of the steps, sprints down, leaps into the tent on the bottom level of Kitty City, sending the whole structure skidding a few inches across the floor. He leaps out, does it again and again until he has moved it about seven feet.

Orin, meanwhile, is sprawled out on one of the upper surfaces enjoying the ride. A king that is carried around by his minions.


Chuck has the night off, so we go to the symphony. We get the cheap seats up in the balcony, so high up  it feels like I'm spying on the orchestra rather than watching the orchestra. This is a nice opportunity to sit in the dark and listen to nice music. It's like soul yoga.


Back home. Back to "Friday Night Lights." We watch back-to-back-to-back episodes until 6 a.m. when I read a few pages of "Sophie's Choice" and then conk out.