Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The language of percents ...

In the middle of last week I remembered that thinking of Christmas presents for everyone isn't the same thing as actually buying Christmas presents for everyone. My niece's gift was tucked into my trunk between white Hefty kitchen bags filled with garbage -- medium sized McDonald's cups stained with blue PowerAde, Clif Bar wrappers, receipts -- from the last two times I "cleaned" my car. I sometimes forget that the laws of science apply even to me. That in order to have a gift for my mom, I need to drive to a store and exchange legal tender for said gift. I can't just will it into an artfully wrapped reality. No, Virginia, there is no such thing as brain Internet. Yet.

This ended with a feverish last-minute dash through stores and mall kiosks. A woman in front of me in line at Bath & Body Works is pulling sighs from way down deep. They start in her socks. She's tested every Cherry Apple hand sanitizer and every Vanilla Mocha Lip Balm sample she can press into her flesh. "You've got to be kidding me," she says watching a single apron-ed cashier give each individual customer a final positive Bath & Body Works experience. The chance to be mentally lubed, full body, in Sweat Pea scent.

I'm hot, too. Reeking of fruit combinations not found in nature. Still, I don't understand Christmas shopping on December 23rd and then bitching about lines and delays. Self-induced seizures from rolling your pupils directly against the surface of your brain. You have options, Deep Sigh. You going to get dangerous and complain about the 2-hour wait at Olive Garden, too?

Still, I find myself matching her sigh-for-sigh when I finally get to the front of the line and the cashier tells me, cheerfully, that if I buy three of their signature scents I get three for free. Leaving line. Shuffling to the wall of signature scents, sticking my nose into bottle after bottle after bottle.


We time our drive to Rochester to get a sweet-ass parking spot in my parent's driveway for the Christmas Eve party with the Pista side of the family, but late enough to avoid the awkwardness of trying to remember all the church rhymes of Christmas Eve mass. Word on the streets is that the Catholics have recently initiated some changes in wording that have church goers fumbling with cue cards throughout the service. I thought Brother Pista was yanking my chain when he told me. One of those "Oh yeah, and it's a costume party" tricks that would find me genuflecting my way into a pew dressed as a zombie French Maid.

This edict from the Pope seems to be a way of getting the flock away from the rock 'n' roll masses favored in hip suburban churches. To remind them of what is truly important: Not eating food an hour before taking communion.


We stopped at Target for new toothbrushes. We can never remember toothbrushes. I studied the faces of shoppers, mentally Photoshopping away 10 years of wear-and-tear, laugh lines and squint creases, looking for one person to nuggie while screaming "THAT ONE TIME ... BUNSEN BURNER!" I never see anyone I know at Target in Rochester.


Personally, I recommend having one of your aunts marry your high school track coach. My personal highlight reel unfurled over lasagna. I believe he was surprised to see that the back window of my car didn't have STRAIGHT TO STATE in balloon lettering penned in fluorescent washable marker. I never tire of his stories about long jump-this, triple jump-that 4-by-400 relay. I've always referred to him as Mr. M--. He might be sans whistle, no baseball cap, nowhere near a track. But he still seems like a Mr. M-- to me. And, subsequently, to Chuck.

"You know, you don't have to call him Mr. M--," my mom told Chuck. "In fact, it doesn't even make sense."


It's a Christmas miracle. My parents let us share the guest room, even the guest bed. This has been, in the past, an annoyance for me. We are, according to some, middle aged. We have a house together. We are at a point in our lives where there is little that would skeeve either of us more than to do anything more than sleep on a bed surface in my parent's house. This isn't a sexy and defiant college break for two bodies throbbing Morse Code messages, a genital and pheromone stereo of "Now I'm an adult." This is real life in a room decorated in browns and golds, paintings starring beautiful Native American women hanging on the wall. The work of my late grandfather, with some cues taken from John Ford. This is a maroon landline that was in my childhood home and a hope chest with 35 pounds of black and green tulle my Grandma Pista crafted into a freshman year homecoming costume. It's sharing space in cedar with my mom's wedding dress. This isn't sexy time. This is, if possible, stone cold, dead to the world, sleep. We might touch feet beneath the sheets, if neither's foot temperature deviates too significantly from the other's foot temperature.

I find myself grateful for this one concession. Almost as grateful as I am for the black out blinds in this room that keep the sun from boring through the window and burning a crop circle into the crown of my head at daybreak.

I don't feel that I've won, per se. Not at all. I feel like they have just acknowledged that this is my person regardless of whether we've filed paperwork about it at City Hall and crammed sheet cake into each other's gaping maws in front of an audience. Now if my mom can figure out how to use the Nook we got her, the planet will probably explode.


Christmas Day is nice. Chuck and I over-coffee ourselves to death on Folger's Crystals while my mom and dad trade off telling me stories about people and places that I've never heard, or at least never heard with this newfound interest in what went down before I was born. The trip my parent's took with my grandparent's to the Boundary Waters, but first getting hopped up on pitchers of Vodka Gimlets. It rained and rained. First one of my grandpa's knees went out, then the other went out when he began favoring it. He couldn't hoist his half of a canoe. My parents saw a moose. My grandparent's saw an eagle nest. My parents thought that sight paled in comparison. My great aunt was a party girl, always with a glass and a cigarette. She lost an eyeball (and the twins she was carrying) in a car accident caused by her husband. They hit a bridge embankment. She got a glass eye and eventually a new husband and never had kids. I used to make poetry chapbooks for her using wrapping paper, yarn and the cardboard from a box of Rice Krispies.


Gifts were exchanged. I am now a gift certificate to the Guthrie and Barnes & Noble, clothing, scarves and mittens, an Apocalypse-style crank radio and a Kindle richer.


We missed the party with Chuck's family, but caught his dad before his afternoon nap. We visited for awhile. I performed a commercial for life in Phoenix, Arizona. He showed us his growing gun collection.

"Do you want to hold it?" Chuck asked me, a size of his hand.
"Probably reminds her of the one that was shoved in her face," his dad accurately predicted.
"I don't think so," I said.
Chuck wiped his prints off the gun.
"Were those loaded?" I asked him later.
"I don't know," he said.

I passed out 15 minutes into our annual viewing of "Gremlins." We went to bed at 8 p.m., but sleep didn't take for me. I read 62 percent of the novel "Ten Thousand Saints." Now I speak the language of percents.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The gold standard ...

I am a texter. I text a lot. Like, change my cell phone plan, texter. And a lot of the text messages I receive are funny, to the point where if I type "Hahaha," my phone fills in a whole bunch more H and A combos and throws in some extra J's and more to make my laughter appear to be out of control, like I fell face first on my screen. It is at least a line's worth of hilarity.

When that happens, it is genuine. I actually think the comment deserves that length of Hahahas. For awhile I had a hierarchy system, the more hahas the bigger the laugh. The more random letters that fell into the mix, the more funny. A Ha! still counts for something. But it's just a quick burst that denotes funniness, cleverness, irony, or me not really knowing how to respond.

But I have a new marker of the gold standard of comedy and it is this:

 It is the LOLFace and it means I'm out-of-control cracking up, laughing my head off, going apeshit crazy with dizziness. It's something to strive for. When one of those lands in your phone, mission accomplished. I'm peeing.

In other news, here is what I made, ate and watched in the past few weeks.


Italian Pot Pie: I totally loved this mix of Indian flavors sandwiched between heaping globs of puff pastry. The crust is a way better swab for the gooey innards than any other crust I've used in a potpie.

Chocolate Mint Surprise Cupcakes: This has become the new annual Birthday cupcake. I made them last year, too, though last year's batch was a debacle and this year's batch was seamless. I even bought a piping bag (though I'm not sure how to clean it). Close your eyes and imagine this: Super chocolate frosting, vanilla cake, you bite into it and POW! A HUGE DOLLOP OF MINT INSIDE! Plus I won a cake plate at a Christmas party so the whole thing was displayed on a glass pedestal. 

Chickpea, Chard and Soy Sausage Soup: I think I've made this soup before. It's hard to tell when you find yourself regularly dumping chickpeas, greens and fake meat into a broth. Shrug. It's always good.

Heathers: Somehow I made it to age 36 without seeing this movie in its entirety, which is a little like saying "Wham, who?" Of course it fell under that circus-tent sized umbrella of Things I Was Not Allowed To Watch when it was released in the late-1980s, which I'm sure really rankled my scrunchies at the time.

Let me tell you, though. This is exactly what elementary school looked like to me. We had a similar hierarchy system, popularity that hinged on the whims of girls born with sisters who were so cool. In this scenario I would have been Winona Ryder, though it never occurred to me to poison anyone with blue drink. And luckily we all lived through it and rarely played croquet.

I can't remember the effect of the movie at the time of its release, but in 2011 it screams of Diablo Cody more than even "Juno" screams of Diablo Cody.

Page One: Inside The New York Times This documentary about the changing face of journalism, centered around the New York Times, is fantastic. And as soon as David Carr is introduced, he steals the show and it becomes more interesting to watch him both beat the shit out of sources and hold younger reporters to his teat. I'd like to see a "Bill Cunningham New York" about David Carr. It might be time to reread "Night of the Gun." I'm going to start asking myself every morning: WWDCD.

Young Adult: I really, really loved Diablo Cody's new dark-dark, super-dark comedy-ish time capsule. This one stars a super drunk writer of young adult fiction who goes back to her small hometown, one that has become unrecognizable under the neon din of chain restaurants, and tries to win back her high school boyfriend. I cackled like a maniac through the whole thing. And the soundtrack kicks ass. I haven't thought about the song "The Concept" by Teenage Fanclub since 1995-ish.

The Tree Of Life: Uh ... There were like 20 not boring minutes of this one. I had to recuperate with a hearty dose of Kardashian afterward. But I'm willing to hear why it was great.


Life Unexpected: The Complete First and Second Seasons So this is classic CW in it's fantastic hair, acoustic guitar backdrops and Pottery Barn-meets-Urban Outfitters-ness. It is the ridiculously hokey story of a 15-year-old girl who has grown up in foster homes and seeks out her birth parents, the super awesome 32 year old bar owner in flannels and ironic Ts and the radio show host neurotic woman. Regardless, I can't stop watching it and then grabbing songs to make super cheesy Spotify playlists that I hide from the public.


The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: You want magic, I’ll give you some magic: You spend a week reading a super-magical book with a magical premise, filled with mysterious circumstances, characters in whooshing formal-ware, secret spells and magic rooms and midnight dinner parties complete with a contortionist. You love it, seep into it, can see every magical illusion, every magical backdrop. 

Then, when it’s over, you can’t remember what was so big about it. There must be a word for why “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern went from a four point five-ish read to a three-ish post-read. Must be some sort of slight-of-brain. 

But while you’re reading, whoa. It’s a lovely way to spend a few days. 

Full review will be here

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A duet of medicine ...

Aside from the malfunctioning body parts that bring me limping, squinting, drooling through the automatic doors, I love going to Urgent Care.

"This sounds really dumb," I say to the girl working the desk, "but I have a headache." 
"That's not dumb!" she says, typing "headache" into my file. 
I'm adding texture to this accordion. Variety. Something new to break up the monotony of page after page after page of UTIs. There is nothing worse than a one-note patient. 
"That's not dumb," echoes the security guard who is standing behind her. 
"It's been, like, six days," I tell her, rubbing the side of my face where it feels like I was walloped with an ice skate, the cold blade splitting my right lobe.
"I have a headache, too," she tells me.
"Me too," says the security guard.
"I think I'm just hungry," the girl says. 
"Isn't it funny," the security guard says, "how you come here to get rid of your headache, and we come here and get a headache?"

There should be a word for when someone believes they have unearthed irony, but really it's just a sentence.


It's the waiting that I like. This undefined span of time between right now and when something will happen. An excuse to dig out my book and crank through 30 pages while drinking vending machine coffee. To yawn and look at the clock. I like it at airports, I like when I'm picking up pizza or prescriptions. It is time to do nothing, unable to do anything else because I'm busy. Waiting, it's perfect. 

Plus, I've grown up in an age ripe with TV medical dramas. I like to diagnose the lesions and sores of my fellow patients. I think I could perform ACL surgery with just gauze and an exacto-knife. It's interesting to note our breaking points: Where a person will cry "Uncle" in the battle against their body. A cockeyed ankle. A gash that won't stop oozing. This thing they're pretty sure is cancer. My rager of concentrated pain, it has it's own percussion section, on the right side of my head. That point where a person says, "Hm. I'm not going to be able to fix this with 800 mg of Ibuprofen and a 'Downton Abbey' marathon. I guess I'll go to Urgent Care."

On this day the waiting room is dry of fan fiction. Just an older couple sitting in adjacent chairs watching too-loud cartoons, inconclusive on which is the patient. A woman with a toddler, the patient must be the toddler, except the toddler is too cheerful to be feverish or to have consumed poison. The security guard has moved back to his post. The girl at the front desk hasn't eaten lunch. On top of that, there is no wait. Not only is "I have a headache" not dumb, it is the winningest complaint in this room's triage system.


I can hear a nurse and the doctor talking about the dearth of victims this afternoon outside the office door. They use the word "boring." The waiting room is empty. What a waste of wait. The doctor is in a good mood. He sticks something in my ear, then shoots its disposable rubber end into the garbage can across the room. He's a good shot. He looks up my nose and in my mouth, then washes his hands of me: Your gums are swollen, he says. This is a dental thing. He pats me on a back and gives me a handful of prescriptions: Ibuprofen, Penicillin and Hydrocodone. I toss all but the Hydrocondone down the hatch in the McDonald's parking lot with a blue Powerade in a medium-sized cup.


I'm always leery of Hydrocodone. The first time I took it I hated it. It was like not being drunk enough. Two and a half beers. I'm aware enough to know that I've started speaking in slurry paragraphs, but I'm too numbed to stop myself. I hate that feeling. I prefer my altered states to be extreme or not at all. These days I lean toward the latter with occasional exceptions. The second time I was prescribed Hydrocodone I found myself in a pleasantly relaxed state. It's not that the pain was necessarily gone, but I didn't care about it anymore. During that same prescription I popped one with a Sugar Free Rock Star to combat the drowsiness and for the next hour everything I said, and I said a lot, sounded like I was yelling it into a cave. So I really only take it if the situation is unbearable and I know I'll be nowhere near a motor vehicle in the next six hours.


I imagine this pain is like contractions in my brain. It is so intense that I'm surprised that I can still see. It strikes quickly and it takes at least 45 minutes for the Ibuprofen to cloak and rock the yowl back to sleep. During passive periods I assume I'm cured. It doesn't occur to me to take an Ibuprofen preemptively. Sometimes there aren't passive periods. I seem to spend the day swinging from one handful of pills to the next.


The receptionist at my dentist's office tells me I'm due for a cleaning anyway. Why not make it a two-fer? They will take a pick axe to my plaque and get to the root of my head pain. Deal, I say.

Whenever I am at the dentist, prone, mouth wide open, I remember this time I saw a veterinarian fix up the grill on a matted and scruffy dog saved from the house of a hoarder. The dog's teeth were stained to the color of coffee and he had lost a few. She scraped at the buildup with a sharp implement, there was a lot of blood, eventually revealing something recognizable as teeth under that mess. He was drugged during the dental work, his mouth propped open and his tongue lolling from the side like a pinkish ribbon. When he woke, he was perky. Perkier than they had seen him yet.

"You don't chew on the right side, do you?" the hygienist asks me. "Since you don't have a tooth over there."

I prefer to think of her as clairvoyant than to think of her as "CSI: My Mouth." In my head she says this in the dreamy voice of a woman surrounded by scented candles, peering into a foggy ball.

"No," I confirm in my most proud-of-you voice.

She tells me that because I don't chew on that side, plaque builds more easily. It isn't getting moved around by my food. I imagine a piece of chewed apple like a Brillo pad against my molars and make a note to pass this information on to my dad, who has recently lost the same tooth.

She tells me that she sees evidence of swollen gums, but that maybe the Penicillin is working because it's not that bad right now. I test my head and notice that it isn't quite as furious as it has been.


I really like my dentist. We both dig Woody Allen, and I intended to ask him what he thought of "Midnight in Paris" and if he saw the documentary on PBS. He reminds me of someone who would have gone to high school with my dad and then remained lifelong friends. If I'd known him when I was eight he would have called me Squirt and asked if I was still chasing all the boys on the playground. His wife would have given me a $25 check when I graduated from high school. He wouldn't seem as old to me now as he did when I was living at home.

He walks into the room, doesn't even look at me, and walks straight to the sink. "Let me get this straight," he says, "I can't even get tickets to the Elton John concert and you're, what? In the front row?"

"It was the eleventh row," I tell him.

He looks in my mouth, requests some mouth photos, and tells the hygienist that I should be put on Metronidazole, another antibiotic. She tells him that I'm already on Penicillin.

He says he would prefer I take both. That they:
"Work in concert with each other," he says.

I love that. Work in concert with each other. It's such a great phrase. Very visual. Tonight! Live! Penicillin and Metronidazole! A Duet of Medicine! The hygienist slips me a new toothbrush, toothpaste and floss and removes my bib. She tells me the bone where my tooth was looks good.

We're all in great spirits. We're on the edge of a laugh. The final scene of the movie, where everyone is smiling really big and hair looks like it could bounce right off a shoulder. My teeth feel like you could roller skate on them. My pain has dulled to something manageable.   

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Top six ...

Here are the Top Six comments Chuck made during tonight's episode of "Top Chef" about the contestants and/or their food. I think it stands alone, even if you didn't see the episode. Also: No Spoilers!

In no specific order:

"I can't tell if she's really good or really terrible. I know I don't ever want to be in a car she's driving."

"How can she work with tequila if she's straight-edge? I think that black X is a lie."

"You're drunk."

"Some of these people are terrifying. I wouldn't want any of these people mad at me. I would want the Asian woman mad at me if I had to pick."

"I'm nervous about her sausage, too. I don't even know what that means."

"That venison looks so gross! That's something you'd see on the side of the road. I've seen that in the woods surrounded by wolf prints."

*Chuck did not know I was taking notes until the show was over.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rally faces ...

My favorite part of the annual Birthday Rally in Spirit Valley is the part where you go up to a bartender at the Kom-on-Inn and say: "I'll have what the mayor's having."

(A: Summit Pale Ale).

Chuck and his bestie The Great Archivist held their 39th Annual conjoined birthday extravaganza on Saturday night at one of the few untapped bars in West Duluth that hasn't yet played host to this event. That is one of the rules of the annual party.

This is my second favorite holiday of the year and my sixth consecutive year of attendance. This year was noteworthy for the set of headphones The Great Archivist and Geo Girl picked up at an auction earlier in the day and tried to pass off onto unsuspecting guests nostalgic for a time before technology, when you could kill off your friends and teachers with dysentery. We scored a pair, and I am going to plug them in and learn about the state capitols and Spanish.

It was a good night, good bar. Lots of people. I performed some performance art shamelessly swiped from Miranda July.

Notable events in previous years include: Chuck wearing a pair of goalie pads The Great Archivist burned off the wall, then Chuck and me making out in the backseat of JCrew's escalade until we got to Taco John's where we came up for air long enough to order Clam Chowder, cackling as we took turns screaming "Stir the Stew!"

Winning a U of Kielbasa during the Birthday Rally Meat Raffle, then getting strong-armed by an aggressive party guest who did not want to leave a Meat Raffle without meat. I traded her for a beer for me and the mister and then we hugged in the parking lot of Mr. D's after I dug it out of my trunk for her. Now we are friends because we both like to watch Tori Spelling on TV. Later that night The Great Archivist hopped on stage and was allowed to sing his version of "Big Balls" by AC/DC with the live band.

Dining at the Jade Fountain and trying a bite of someone's dinner that included oyster sauce and deciding that oyster sauce is really fantastic.

Leaving the original location of the 2009 party for last call at the Rustic, where the bartender must have  turned up the gravity all the way to the red zone. Revelers kept succumbing to it, doing the back stroke on discarded piles of pull tabs.

Last year Chuck got wrecked on Red Bull and I played video games. There was, coincidentally, a buffet that included chili or lasagna, something red and meaty, that had been on a table for the general public for an extended period of time. It was delicious.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Brains ...

I've had a raging headache for four days. It's just below my right ear, includes my jaw bone and is bad enough to recreationally Google "brain eating itself" in case there are cures I can mix up using the contents of our spice shelf and the tears of a grown woman.

"Well, maybe I'm just a person who gets migraines now," I tell Chuck. It happens. I've always assumed that since I'm a person who gets urinary tract infections that that would be my thing. But I suppose there is no rule that I can't be both. He's a little more level-headed than me, especially since he isn't busy constantly wiping his ear to see if grey matter is leaking from it.

He suggests that this isn't necessarily a lifetime of migraines. It might be:

1. The shifting of my teeth, since I'm down a man. I've recently learned the identity of the tooth lying in our medicine cabinet. It's called "Tooth 30." I know this because my dad just had his pulled and my mom's is chipped. What the genetic is going on with our mouths!?
2. A side effect of the lingering cold I have.
3. Some sort of infection in a nearby ear-nose-throat cavity.

Other non-clinical opinions include that I might be "so dramatic" (JCrew) and that it is a side effect of my birth control pills, according to CHRISSIE!(1) a strong proponent of the rhythm method.

So I've been pushing the boundaries on what is considered an acceptable amount of Advil to ingest in a single day.

(1) In the history of this blog, I've never kowtowed to reader in this way. But the friend formerly known as "Radzo" asked me a long time ago to change her blog name. She requested Rad-Attack-Ack-Ack, which has been clunky as hell to type, but I did it. Then she decided she hated that, too. To which I say, "Blerg." After all that typing, I'm giving her one last blog nickname. She can like it, or she can go find another blog author with tens of readers to be friends with. And maybe that blog author will give her a name that is really, really special. So, Radzo, Rad-Attack-Ack-Ack, whoever the hell you are, you are now CHRISSIE! All caps, exclamation point.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Marrow popsicles ...

If PMS me was real me, every day would be like this:

Pull into the gas station and the minivan across from me has someone exiting on the passenger side. This long-haired boy or mannish woman windmills dangerously close to my hood. Like I'm invisible and so is my car. Like this entire area near the pumps is her dance floor. Because of this, I have to pull up super close to the pump. Can't open car door all the way, close. I squeeze out, arrange to pay with my card at the pump, can barely fit the nozzle into my tank because we are so squished here, parallel to this minivan. Nothing happens. I see the screen is prompting me to type in my zip code. I type 5-5-0, the 0 is a mistake so I hit cancel. I now see that truthfulness in zip codes at gas pumps is probably not a thing. But cancel cancels my entire transaction and the screen won't reset so I can start again: "See clerk" it tells me.

It's cold outside. Like marrow popsicles cold. And it's not getting any warmer in the next, like, 150 days at least.

"Do you know how to pump gas?" It's the owner of the mini van, who has the exact same face as the dancing passenger.
I give her a look I would never give someone. I'm standing here at a pump holding a gas nozzle. What do you think? I'm just going to wing it. Fingers crossed.
"Do you know how to pump gas?" she asks. "I can't get it to work."
"Go inside and ask for help," I tell her, not kindly. I can't even exhale because she forced me to pull so close to the pump, I'm not going to try to teach her new tricks, like: Insert card. Type in zip code. Remove nozzle.

I'm never like this.

I have to go inside anyway. I tell the guy that I was instructed to "See Clerk." He resets something. "I chose to pay at the pump so I wouldn't have to come in here," I think super loudly. I've budged in front of another customer. No big. It was a close race to the counter. I go back outside, squeeze between my car and the gas pump and everything works okay. I sit in my car and wait for the air to feel at least warmer than the wind outside and the whole time I'm still super mad about nothing.

Anyway, I'm better now. This is what I made, watched and read this past week(ish).


White Bean Chili: It is exactly what it is: A great big pot of white beans mixed with lots of seasonings and seiten and soy sour cream. Good stuff. The sauce ends up really creamy. I made a few alterations here, the main one being that I threw a veggie bullion cube into the boiling mess instead of using chicken seasoning. Chicken seasoning sounded ominous. I also sauteed the seiten before I added it to the soup because I hated the idea of boiled seiten. This turned out to be a waste of time.

Castaway on the Moon: This Korean movie starts out like a really embarrassing slapstick and then turns into something that is pretty great. In this corner, we have a ruined man financially collapsed who jumps off a bridge and lands on this weird island in the city. He can't get off of it because he is terrified of water (word) so he does a few things from the school of Tom Hanks' deserted island bible and a few things that are better. In the meantime, a very neurotic girl never leaves her room. She invents an online personae, sleeps in her closet and walks in place to exercise. She notices, through her telescope, this man on the island and they develop a friendship. She sends him letters in a bottle; he responds by writing in the sand.

The Future: Week 2 of gawking at Miranda July. She wrote and starred in this movie about a couple who is planning to adopt a sick cat (that can talk). The dialogue between the couple in this movie is so so charming and great.

Jesus' Son: Meh, I don't know. I think I really would have liked this story of this kid's fucked up relationship a lot better in 1998. Now it just felt like not enough ... everything.

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright: This book is either super sexy or like watching someone crash their life into the ground at 180 miles per hour. Either way, it's deese.

Full review will be here.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Uh oh it's magic ...

Recently a reader asked me a great question and one I took great thought in responding to:

As you know, I eat lunch at Subway every single day and almost always in-store, unless, as I've said, I happen to make eye contact with another diner on my way into the sandwich shop and that diner has either mustard, mayonnaise or a combination of both dripping from an engorged face hole. That's enough to put me off sandwiches, and actually food. Under these circumstances my stomach bucks and instead of feeding myself with food, I feed myself with the knowledge that I just saved upward of $4.

"Don't most of your stories start at Subway," Brother Pista asked at Thanksgiving before I started a story about something happened at Subway. I had no idea he was still reading my blog.

My favorite sub is a 6-inch BMT on Italian Herb & Cheese, with cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and jalapenos. I only eat this on very special occasions. Those "YOU DESERVE IT!" moments. I'm not exactly sure what is on this sandwich, besides a handful of meat that includes pepperonis the size of drink coasters. But I like how it tastes just a little more than I like how other subs taste, though not enough to eat it regularly because it is not on Jared's List of Acceptable Sandwiches. I tend to stick to Jared's List of Acceptable Sandwiches. This isn't a diet thing. I'm not a health-food nut. I just don't want to blow a day's caloric wad on my worst-favorite meal of the day. So.

On Mondays I always eat the Ham & Turkey. This is a pretty non-invasive lunch, tastes neither good nor bad. It's the special, though. And when I leave the shop I can safely say: "You can't afford NOT to eat it."

On Tuesdays I eat the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki. It is not on special, but I prefer it to the special -- the Spicy Italian -- which is not on Jared's List of Acceptable Subs. Although, if I am not going to eat in-store, I do not order this sandwich. Eating the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki outside of Subway is too messy for me to seriously consider. It's chunks of chicken, you know, and they will rain from the butt of the bread. Also: I never have them add the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sauce. I do not like how it feels, dripping down my forearms.

This is a risky sandwich. Occasionally one of the chicken pieces is fat and chewy, like it didn't quite make it through the chicken blender. When I encounter a piece of chicken like this, I spit it into a napkin, remember what I am eating, wrap up the rest of my sandwich and throw it away. Game Over. If I plan to take my sandwich to go, I order a ham and turkey sandwich. No muss, no fuss.

By Wednesday I really deserve the BMT.

On Thursday and Friday I mix things up, by either ordering a Ham and Turkey Sandwich or a Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki, depending, again, on whether I am eating at the shop. I might get crazy and order a Chicken Breast, but that requires a leap of faith. I have to really know that I have mentally prepared to suspend my disbelief that this is actually an edible filet taken from an actual chicken.

The other day I was at Subway, sitting at a tall-top table, my untouched Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki in front of me, a collection of short stories by Ann Beattie -- my Subway-lunch book -- and the song "Magic" by The Cars came on the store's radio.

The store's regular, a guy who sits there all day playing with his DS, and another friend began singing along. "Uh-Oh, it's Magic ... when I'm with you." I try to make eye-contact with this regular only about every third time I'm at Subway. I don't really want to become friends with someone just because we both eat lunch here every day. I'm pretty sure there is something wrong with him, and that there is probably something similar wrong with me. I don't really want to know what that is. But one time I saw him eating at the sandwich shop next door to Subway, and I admit that I narc'ed him out to the woman working the cash register that day.

So there they are, singing this song. "Uh oh, it's magic ..." And I thought how this moment really had the potential to get cool. Like, what if everyone started singing. The old lady at the table next to them, the business woman at the front of the shop, the employes in their green polo shirts. Everyone's heads bobbing twice to the left, twice to the right, in time with the music.

Instead it wasn't cool. It was closer to annoying. There is such a fine line between the two.