Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Don't you own any gloves ...

Howdy rowdies. Just chilling here in my robe waiting for this snowstorm. I need a snowstorm, friends. I need the x-treme sportness of it. I want it to dump huge and I want it to dump hard. I want to open the front door and not know where the snow piles end and the sky begins. I want frozen nose hairs and for people to say "DON'T YOU OWN ANY GLOVES?!"

I didn't know I liked winter until we kept not having winter.

In other news, here is what I made, watched, read and whatevered this past week.


Hummus and Olive Pizza with Socca Crust: Well. This was certainly fun and easy and good and really jazzed up Mediterranean Night at our house. Usually we just have hummus, couscous, pita and a mix of veggies. I made this instead of getting pita and loved it. The Socca Crust is like the consistency of the bread at Ethiopian restaurants and it's made from chickpea flour, water and garlic. Baked, add hummus and olives. Bake more. Celebrate Mediterranean Night!

Pizza Quinoa Casserole: I used this recipe for the base, then added in some soy sausage, black olives and tomatoes to add to the pizza-ness of this pizza casserole. I liked it. Once again, it had that hearty hangover food-ness to it.

"Gross. I just got your robe in my mouth." -- Chuck, after getting my robe in his mouth.

The Artist: I don't know if this is unique to the audience that saw this at the same time as me or not, but no one laughed out loud. It was like: Silent movie, silent laugh shake. Super weird and deserving of a psychological study. Anyway, I liked it. I thought it was really clever and fun. Although my favorite parts weren't silent at all. Huh.

River's Edge: Crispin Glover forgets the meaning of subtlety in acting and lays it on obnoxiously in this story of a dude who kills his girlfriend, then brings bunches of friends to the dead, naked body to show them what he did. Glover's character thinks this is a good time for the friends to band together to spare the killer from ruining his life.

On the positive side: I really liked Keanu Reeves' jeans in this movie.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: Is the part where Indiana Jones fights off a bunch of men in a balloon drop, jumps out a window behind a rolling bullet proof decoration, lands on three awnings and then gets whisked away by getaway car, jumps into airplane then jumps out of an airplane with two other passengers and a life raft the most exciting moving in any movie or what?! (Then I fell asleep).

"I'll remember to mention you in my prayers," our 80-something neighbor through his car window as Chuck shoveled his sidewalk.

My Antoniaby Willa Cather: I wish this book would have been called, "My Lena Lingard."

Full review will be here.

The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale By Art Spiegelman: Art Spiegelman goes double duty, telling the story of his father, a Holocaust survivor, and the story of his shaky relationship with his father.

Full review will be here.

Great Grandma VH was from Altura, Minn., and a very good dancer -- perhaps a professional. "Burlesque? Cabaret?" I asked my mom. "Maybe a flapper," she said. Later, when she met the suave and lean and Dutch Great Grandpa VH, they really got into square dancing, costumes and all. For awhile they owned a trailer company on what felt like the out-skirts of town, but was really closer to town than my parents live now -- which is still in town.

Great Grandma VH was hugely into bird watching. She used to sit in her backyard and shoot BBs at the pigeons that she believed were scaring away the songbirds. She didn't hit them, she just tried to scare them away.

My new favorite TV show is MTV's super-clever "I Just Want My Pants Back," a sort of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" meets "Reality Bites" show for whatever 20-somethings in today-land are called. The writing is ridiculously funny. These weirdly employed or not kids Janeane Garofalo-ing one punny quote-worthy colorful bit of dialogue after another.

I feel the same amount of enthusiasm for this show as I did for "The Real World" its first season. It's a hit.

In case anyone is wondering how I'm doing on my New Year's Reading Resolution, I'm doing terrif! I'm even surpassing my goals of reading every month something I already own, something from 2012, something from the library and a graphic novel. Here are the deets:

Something Old: Underworld by Don Delillo
Something New: Growgirl by Heather Donahue
Something Borrowed: Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
Something Graphic: Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Something Old: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Something New: Stay Awake by Dan Chaon
Something Borrowed: The Adults by Alison Espach
Something Graphic: The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Brief and Mostly Historically Accurate Account of My Parents' Visit ...

We got this from my parents. I think my Grandma Smittley painted it in the 1970s when she and my mom went through their ceramics painting phase. Anyway, consider it another step toward Project Chaos Yard.

1. Big Apple Bagel in Superior for lunch. "Say," my dad says as we scooch into a table. "On the way up here we heard about this actress who stabbed her husband. Reese ... Reese ..."
"What?!" I say. "Reese Witherspoon?!"
"No, with her knife!" he says.

2. We drive up the North Shore along the Scenic Highway and Ma Pista scouts the horizon for kitchy shops, reading the name of the stores and asking my opinion of the store's stock. "Tom's Logging Camp" she says "Mocha Moose! Russ Kendall's Smoke Fish House," she says.

"That one's good," I tell her.
"What do they sell?" she asks.
"Smoked. Fish?" I say.

If I ever go fishing for a 60-year-old woman, I'm going to dangle a chainsaw-carved bear made from a tree stump from my line.

3. They're staying at the Radisson, though my mom loathes the Radisson and is convinced that the recent makeover was purely cosmetic and that they will never be able to get the smell of 1982 out of the carpeting. Either that, or there is just a conspiracy against her and they keep getting stuffed into the non-refurbished rooms that still have a sort of Pile of Coke on the Ironing Board-Dead Hooker in the Closet-ness to them.

Also: She doesn't really care about Sleep Number beds.

4. We go to Starbucks for coffee. She questions the business model of a place that allows customers to rent a table for the afternoon for the price of a medium latte.

"How do they make any money?" she asks.
As I am wretched at math, I shrug and drink about 16 ounces of caffeine.

5. For dinner we go to Eddie's World Famous Ribs in Superior. This is probably a relief to my dad. Usually when we pick the restaurant he finds himself staring at a menu wondering what part of the cow the polenta comes from. Plus, there is the time my mom ordered the GLBT sandwich from Chester Creek Cafe and we all snickered. We cram ourselves full of so much food. This is old school, right here. Super club. Salad, bread, and my shrimp is stuffed with cheese and crab meat.

"My mouth tastes like the 1970s," I tell my mom as we roll back into the hotel.

6. Brother Pista joins us at the hotel. He's in a sling from a snowboarding accident.

"Is it hard to drive?" I ask.
"No," he says.
"Is it hard to drive?" my mom asks.
"No," he says.
"Honestly," he tells us, "The hardest thing is peeing."
I scrunch up my face.
My mom looks at him for a second.
"Why?" she asks.
It takes her an extra couple of seconds to remember the Portrait of a Male Mid-Urination from her science textbook.
"Why do you think?" he asks.
"Oh!" she says. "Gross."

7. My dad and brother go to the hockey game; We ditch left in the skywalk and head to "The Artist." This is perfect, as Pa Pista seemingly prefers movies with words. The last time my mom and I went to a movie it was "Circle of Friends" and she has never let me forget that she had to explain to me what "English leathers" are even though I was a worldly 14 year old.

8. Brother Pista gives me a ride home. He opens the armrest in his truck and it is packed with two boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. I wonder what kind of life I lead that no one has offered to sell me Girl Scout Cookies this year and if it's too late to change that. I eat six between the hotel parking lot and our home in West Duluth. I eat them so fast that I only tasted .5 of them.

9. Chuck and I try to watch movies, but the combination of waking to an alarm clock on a Saturday and saying so many consecutive words in the course of a day has me wiped. I zonk out during two pretty shittastic movies. Then, oddly, I go to bed and find my eyeballs are willing to snooze, but my body wants to jam. I blame Scene No. 4.

10. We meet my parents for brunch at Duluth Grill and coo over their handcrafted ceramic coffee cups. Then we all hug -- did Chuck and my dad just shake hands? -- in the parking lot.

11. "Oh!" I say to Chuck later. "My parents were telling me about this actress who stabbed her husband. Reese ... Ugh. Reese ... What's her name Reese ..."
"Oh," he said. "I've heard this."

Friday, February 24, 2012

On ice ...

In March of 2007 I visited Lake Placid, N.Y., for five days. In traditional terms, this would be like meeting the titular Hungry Caterpillar for a leaves and apples lunch date or a fan of "Good Night, Moon" becoming an astronaut. One of my favorite stories growing up was The Miracle on Ice, as told by my mom, who I should note found it acceptable to read to us from an Edgar Allen Poe anthology before bed and also has a well-worn piece of fiction about how it is possible to get pregnant without having sex.

It's hard to recreate her telling without shades of Disney's version distorting the way I would remember it. The highlight of the story was never Rizzo's game-winner with barely two blinks left. The goosebumps probably took root at the part where the announcer yells "DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES!" and then spread like a fungal colony when she told me about goalie Jim Craig wrapped in the American flag, looking up into the stands for his father.

Fact: I know where I was when Herb Brooks died. I was driving my car down 10th Avenue East in Duluth. I pulled over to listen to the news on Minnesota Public Radio. This is either significant or not. I think the one thing Generation X learned from Baby Boomers is to immediately note your surroundings when the answer to a trivia question dies. (FYI: I was at the Pioneer Bar when Michael Jackson died. I also noted where I was when a pope died, but I've forgotten where I was or which pope).

I came into town after a long bus ride from an airport nowhere near Lake Placid. One of those routes that feels like it is entirely on back roads. This is what a country house in Vermont looks like. Backyard trampolines covered in snow and small iced-over ponds rather than highway signs marking the next exit for Gas Food Lodging. We passed a ski jump on the out-skirts of town, one of the weirdest highlights of any horizon. Just once I'd like to see one that is active. Paste my forehead to a cold bus window just in time to see a lean mean flash of red spandex, a flying W falling from the sky. Instead they always look like the opening scene of a movie about cold, quiet and desolation. A place where a person could go crazy, from the beard frost on up. Somewhere there is a cupboard filled with dusty cans of Hungry Man soup from Olympics past.

Whenever I am far from home I have to consciously remind myself. Imagine a map, imagine myself embedded in the map, imagine a straight red line connecting Duluth and this place: This is Lake Placid. This is Lake Placid. You are in Lake Placid. You are here.

Fact: I was sitting in an arena in St. Cloud one afternoon, the crowd gone, the ice just resurfaced. Two teams began pre-warm ups. Boys with ear buds stretching in this corner. Boys jogging beneath the stadium seating. St. John's versus St. Thomas, my alma mater. The coach of the former was on that 1980s gold medal team, a janitor told me. "I'll go get his autograph for you," he said.

I knew him as soon as I saw him. Men who have had success with hockey and then success after hockey have a certain look. An ease with dress clothes. Compact and casual. Warmth in cold places. Their grey is sharper than the grey of other former athletes. They have fewer wrinkles and brighter eyes. Boyish, but in charge. Polite. Al Pacino as Michael Corleone.

After I'd forgotten about the janitor, he climbed up the steps again and pulled a practice puck with the former player known as Bah's signature. When I left, the coach smiled at me. A great story for my family. I put that puck in my glove compartment at least six years ago and I bet it's still there.

I stayed at a hotel with a brand name in comfort lodging but which looked like a luxury chalet. All clean wood and big windows. An A-frame that looked out over Mirror Lake. If you've seen the movie "Lake Placid," and I haven't, this would be where the sea monster lives, a peaked skull cracking up through the ice in the morning, gleaming like the blade of a skate, then his bulky hunched back, goalie pads, a ripple then back to glass. It was close to the Olympic village. There was always a fire in the fireplace. Turtleneck optional. Reunite on ice.

Everyone dressed in fitness-wear, like they might be called to compete in the biathlon at a moment's notice. Old-style Scandinavian music played in the streets, accordions. There were quaint and specific shops. Say you wanted a fedora. Strange that the site of an epic moment American sports history is the closest I've come to Europe.

When it snows in Lake Placid it seems too picturesque to be real. Flakes are just the right size and they fall at just the right speed and they land at just the right angle on hats and in hair. One night I saw two men stumble into a snowbank, hugging, but fighting, just outside of a bar. They rolled in the snow and took swipes at each other's faces and even the bloodied nose seemed pretty and certainly not threatening.

Five days, no car. My longest walk took me to a sushi restaurant, the other direction to a nondescript bar. I spent a lot of time alone and one night stayed up late enough to watch a Bam Margera marathon on MTV. Twice. By the time I fell asleep, I thought I actually knew him. When I think of Lake Placid, I always think of Bam, stocking cap, big grin, a skateboarder still pulling skateboard pranks, but rarely seen on this show actually skateboarding.

Lake Placid, a village in the Adirondack Mountains, isn't so different from Northern Minnesota. It had all the same ingredients, but in a different order. It was like a composite sketch of the space between here and Canada.

Fact: I always wanted to play hockey. That special kind of want reserved for things you know you won't get. So you want harder until the want is a caricature of want. At that time and in that place, girls didn't play hockey. Well, a few did and I can still remember their names: Becky and Kim. They were famous to me. Braids hanging from the back of helmets and even off ice they walked like they were still wearing breezers. I could skate, backward even. And I was an aggressive athlete, which is what happens when you chase your brother around long enough trying to knock loose the soccer ball that seems connected to his insoles. I bet I'd have been pretty good.

"Gymnastics or hockey?" my mom asked. A confident bargain. She knew I would pick gymnastics. If she had tossed out "Swimming lessons or hockey" I'd be sitting here right now with scars from years of helmet acne. Turns out I can't swim, spray an arc of ice with my powerful two-skated stop and my back handspring years ended the day I imagined how dumb this " ... and that's how I landed in the wheelchair" story would sound.

St. Thomas got a girls hockey team my sophomore year. Practices were at 5 a.m. By then I was more into not waking up at 4:30 a.m. than I was into nurturing my hockey career.

I was in Lake Placid at the same time as another member of the Miracle on Ice team and we were there for the same reason so I saw him often enough. He could barely walk 10 feet without someone asking him: "What does it feel like to be back here? Have you been back here before? What is this like for you?" He'd would say something thoughtful: How he had brought his whole family, a first trip to this place for three of his kids, and how they are finally getting the chance to connect the dots. Dad in 1980. Those goals. That medal. Those photographs. The movie. Then he would change the subject.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What it's like to live at our house ...

Me: Aw, nuts. We still have to do our taxes.
Him: WHAT?! I just painted the bathroom.

Say goodbye to Hollywood ...

My Saturday night started in front of a bar on East Superior Street with a party that was winding its way West to catch a Billy Joel cover band at Tycoons. It was just this side of chaos. Stand in a circle with friends, glimpse at the stage, catch movement out of the corner of your eye and realize the singer, fitted coat, sunglasses, is standing on a wooden structure above your head singing "New York State of Mind," or something similar. He leaps off, winds through the crowd, you lose him, he's singing "Moving Out" or whatever. Entertainment, good stuff.

In other news, here is what happened in the past week movie-wise, book-wise, etc.

Here my friend Millsy and I talk about cramming cats into carriers when they need to be transported from one location to another.

Battle Royale: This hokey Japanese horror movie is based on the hokey Japanese novel about a government program that strands teenagers on an island together and asks them to kill each other off, winner is the last one standing. It deviates here and there from the book, but remains similar, and without the opportunity to make hokey descriptive sentences instead relies on other hokey conventions. It. Is. Fantastic. The soundtrack is really great and has this sort of epic, summer blockbuster sound that seems straight out of an adventure story produced by Disney, though just the opposite.

Hipster Hal chills on Saturday night. He's all zonked on cold medicine.

Teen Mom 2: I confess. I wept when Leah and Corey split up. I thought those kids were going to make it. Now all my money is on Kailyn, who wins most improved between Season 1 and Season 2.

Otterbox Defender Series Hybrid Case & Holster for iPhone 4 & 4S  - Retail Packaging - Peony Pink/Gunmetal Grey: My God I love this thing. My iPhone is wrapped in a bullet-proof container. Clunky be-damned. I could now carry my iPhone while snowboarding(1) and it's totally cool for me to spill salsa on it or drop it into a puddle.

If only the Otterbox for Kindle was as exciting.

Here CHRISSIE! goes for the chin tickle at RT's on Friday night.

Lightning Rodsby Helen DeWitt: An idea man comes up with a way to deflect sexual harassment issues in the workplace. Anonymous women, called Lightning Rods, are rolled naked into a bathroom stall and the businessmen are encouraged to seek release.

DeWitt's novel is hilarious, but hard to describe in  a way that doesn't sound kind of awful and women-hating.

Full review will be here.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel by Milan Kundera: I re-read this because at one point it was one of my favorite books in all the world. Aside from a few favorite scenes, it did not live up to my TOP FIVE standards. No way, nuh uh. Not in a world where Jennifer Egan is making words.

Full review will be here.

"I don't make eye contact with myself when I look in the mirror." -- CHRISSIE! at Duluth Grill, Friday, over grilled cheese sandwiches.

"These are the things I do instead of cleaning the litterbox. Meh, 1:30 in the morning ... paint the bathroom," Chuck, 1:30 a.m., right before he painted the bathroom.

I asked this on Facebook and only got one solid response. Are we taking our Kindle's into the bathtub or is that a terrible idea? Because I really want to.

(1) I'm not going snowboarding.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cat butts ...

Hal has a cold. He's been coughing and wheezing and last night he sneezed once on my dinner and once on my arm. He's been zonking out and plays a half-assed game of laser tag. Orin had to show him how it was played last round and, well, Orin isn't the one you go to looking for advice on How to Be a Better Predator. One goes to Orin with questions like "Who sings that song from the 80s with all the synthesizers and moaning" or "I'd like to hack something, what should we hack?" or "Is this enough black eyeliner?"

I tried to take him to the vet wrapped in just a blanket, a short drive on my lap. Toonses used to hate travel, but he got over it by releasing his bowels onto my jeans during the drive. I considered it like cab fare.  I expected a similar tradeoff with Hal. Instead he clawed his way free and I dropped him in the snow and he scratched the shit out of my hand and then I took him back inside the house for a do-over. That ended with me chasing him in loops from the laundry room to the storage room to under the couch to the main level and under the coffee table to upstairs where I finally trapped him in a hallway and carried him kicking and mewling and air-scratching to his carrier -- which he pushed out of before I could get it shut and here we go again. And again. And again.

Finally I had to call the vet and say: Do you have a later appointment? I can't catch him. I NEED HELP!

Chuck woke up to go to the bathroom -- his bladder likely triggered by my screams of Fuck you, Hal! Fucking A, Fuck you! Ouch! -- and found me standing at the bottom of the steps crying. I am just not good at handling animals in a way that goes against their will. They have teeth and sharp claws and wiggling is about my least favorite feeling. For instance, I'd never hold a frog. Chuck just walked down to the basement, picked Hal up, carried him upstairs and set him in the box. Easy-peasy. Show off.

I smirked when Hal got it right in the rectum with a thermometer. Little jerk.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mozza-what-who? ...

I have to blame this on the internet because the other answer is too horrifying for me to consider: Google has broken my brain.

Today I couldn't remember what Mozzarella was called. I could see it in my head. I could imagine it's texture and taste. I knew that I was searching for the name of a cheese that is a) not rare; b) possible to make in the comfort of your own home. I believed I was searching for the name of an Italian cheese.

The spot were the word "Mozzarella" lives in my head was empty. Like the word had left a handwritten sign in the window that said "Back in 5 Minutes" and was now lying in a hospital bed in a coma. I Googled "white cheese." Then I Googled "white cheese ball." All of this gave me plenty of ideas for my next Super Bowl party, but did not give me the word Mozzarella. It was only later, standing in front of a display of it at the grocery store, that I was able to remember the word.

What does Google have to do with this? I think I've stopped recording the sorts of information that I can find online. And I've begun erasing unnecessary data. This is like the beginning of a sci/fi nightmare, which I prefer to the scarier answers: "Medical Emergency" or "Age-Related Mental Decline."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mystery sweatshirt crust ...

Boy is this a bugger. On this page you will find some kitchen inventions and a case of mistaken identity ala is that cat barf? You will see evidence of my fondness for Japanese literature and watch me go AP English all over "Persepolis," the MOVIE.

Anyway, here is what I made, watched and read this past week. And some senseless photos.


Stuffed Peppers with Rice and PVC: I love stuffing things into peppers. It's like my hobby. This time it was this mix of basmati rice, onions and garlic, ground fake meat-stuff, grated carrot and a green pepper. It was good! But it also falls into that category we invented called "Starving for Dinner." This is what happens when dinner actually makes a person hungrier.

Oyster Cracker Crave Killer: I am a slave to crave and ridiculously open to suggestion. (This is why I always end up painting my nails "Pretty Little Liars" Purple on Friday nights and why Amazon Recommendations is my favorite way to stare blankly at a screen).

1. Friend posts status update about oyster crackers.
2. I start thinking about oyster crackers.
3. I simultaneously start thinking about this warm robe and that cold air I'd have to travel through to get the stuff to make oyster crackers, namely crackers and seasoning.
4. THEN! I get genius and wizard-like!
5. I find a recipe for a how to make a version of the Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning preferred by people who like oyster crackers and I MAKE IT IN MY KITCHEN!
7. Crave over. Still in robe.

Tuska's Thai Chili: My friend Tuska passed along her crowd-pleaser from a recent chili party. This is a mix of like everything in the world: Red and green peppers, kidney beans, broth, lentils, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, coconut milk, red curry paste, onions, garlic, every seasoning in the cupboard. Then add fresh squeezed lemon and top with peanuts. Good stuff!

Fake Taco Casserole: I invented this little mess using a recipe for vegan stuffed shells that had a photo so sexy and I was so hungry that I couldn't resist it. Unfortunately, there weren't shells at the store, so I had to improvise.

So: Take boca fake meat crumbles, sautee with onion.
Make noodles. I used Penne!
Mix fake meat with some enchilada sauce and taco seasoning and fake cream cheese.
Spread salsa and more enchilada sauce in a casserole dish.
Add meat and noodles and mix it up.
Sprinkle Daija on it.
Cover with tinfoil and bake for like a half hour, then remove tinfoil and bake longer.
Eat and reminisce fondly about grade school hot lunch.
Argue the merits of mom's goulash.

Tofurkey Feast: I've been a bit Tofurkey curious. The co-op has this box, a sort of MRE, called Tofurkey Feast that I keep looking at and thinking about. It seems like it calls for an event. And it's expensive, so I had to make sure I really wanted it. Chuck talked me into it when he said it probably is enough food to make a few meals. We decided it would be our Valentine's Day dinner. (When I bought it I told the cashier that I was tofurkey curious and she told me she gags when she thinks about fake meat).

It comes with an X. A sort of shrink-wrapped fake wishbone. You have to REALLY suspend your disbelief to imagine it as a wishbone. It tastes like jerky. Or, as Chuck said, a dog treat.

"I didn't get my wish," he said.
"I wished this would taste good."

Anyway, I'm going to say that I probably don't need to eat this again. At first it was charming: THE WHOLE HOUSE SMELLS LIKE TURKEY! And then it got gross: THE WHOLE HOUSE SMELLS LIKE HOT TOFU WEARING TURKEY BODY SPRAY!

And the chocolate cake that comes with it needed frosting. 
And, Orin was laying on Chuck's chest. Chuck pushed him off quickly, thinking the cat had barfed on him, but really it was just some tofurkey stuck to his chest. 

First JCrew and I looked Green ... 

... then we moved a few inches and turned blue. 

Persepolis: I loved the graphic novels, but I think I liked the movie more. The protagonist's precocious side comes through in a more endearing way. And the movie, about 98 percent black and white animation, is mesmerizing.

Battle Royale: The Novel by Koushun Takami: Forty-two students trapped on an island. They must kill each other off and be the last one standing. This one inspired all sorts of daymares about what I would do in this situation. Answer: Hide high and hide far. Wait it out. Big time.

Full review here.

Stay Awake: Stories by Dan Chaon: This collection of short stories was mostly good. I haven't had a chance to think about it yet. When I do though, THOSE THOUGHTS WILL BE HERE.

I loved this piece by poet/ballet dancer Lightsy Darst that was on MN Artists. It was shared on Facebook by a friend. For as dark as parts of this are, the way it is written makes my bun twitch with dancer envy.

And this is my new favorite treat in my Google Reader. Composite sketches of characters from books, including Aomame from 1Q84.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dream vacation ...

There are two reasons I wanted to go with JCrew to a makeup consultation with a local rep from a trusted leader in beauty for over 50 years:

1. Scientific: This would obviously be a genre of shit show unlike anything I've encountered.
2. Educational: I'm at rookie level of drag-queen blush applications and maybe I'd learn something like, Don't hold your lipstick in your fist, Mister!

JCrew won the free consultation at a Bridal Show and probably asked me to go along as some sort of hint about my face. I imagined that we would walk into the home of a woman with gnawed samples filling the compartments of a pink Caboodles' tackle box, sit in a circle with our legs crossed and talk about what season we all are and how that makes us feel:

"I don't know, Christa. I know you want to be a fall, but when I compare you skin tone to this paint sample I really see a spring. You need to think more pink." 

She was pretty. Her hair looked like it smelled good. Her outfit was casual, but crisp and clean a poncho sweater and jeans. Her skin was smooth and soft, like if you touched her cheek you would leave your fingerprint. She led us to her basement, and office with its own makeup bar and a framed portrait of the company's founding member, which she gestured toward whenever she mentioned the company's standards: Family, no animal testing, recyclable packaging, negligible laugh lines. Classical music playing over the speakers.

At one point I got confused and put face lotion on my lips and wondered if there was every a better metaphor for my approach to the makeup arts.

She said things like: "I haven't had chapped lips in five years," and I believed her.
She said things like: "Some of my clients will pay me using three different payment methods so their husbands don't know how much they spent."

This woman was good. A no-nonsense businesswoman who talked about the flexibility of her schedule, and the next carrot in corporate climb -- the pink car. She also laughed at our jokes and referred to us with a cozy familiarity as "Miss JCrew" and "Miss Christa." She complimented JCrew's bling and cooed "I love diamonds."

I wanted all of it. Every product she had placed in front of us and her sweater poncho. The smooth hands that smelled like peaches and the mysterious absence of laugh lines. The red lip gloss and the 3-step face cleansing system. This whole foreign land -- minus the part where I hide credit card bills from my life partner.

"Well," I said to JCrew, setting a large bag of purchases on the floor of my car. "She's really good at her job."


Last night JCrew, Seadawg, Chuck and I went to a gallery party and saw one of my teen heartthrob musicians perform a private show for a small audience before playing a public show in front of a larger audience.

Chuck saw an empty Pellegrino bottle on a table and went up to the cash bar to get one for himself.
First the bartender started to pour him a pinot grigio.
"No, Pellegrino," he said.
Turned out the drink was from the musician's reserve supply of NA bevs, Chuck said when he came back to the table. "He was going to go in back and see if there was any left."
The event organizer came out and set the bottle in front of Chuck.
"It isn't his last one, is it?" Chuck asked, joking.
"Yeah," the guy said, totally serious.
So that is how Chuck became that guy, a scene that quickly spun into a sitcom in my head.


The larger event was teeming with nostalgic middle agers -- myself included -- clamoring for something from "Billy's Live Bait." Usually the median age at this venue is Gen Z wrapped in knit hats and scarves and it was decidedly late Gen X last night.

"These people take up a lot of room," Chuck said looking around.
"It's all the puffy coats," I said.
"I think it's all the emotional baggage," Chuck said. "And the colostomy bags."

The bouncers were digging the scene.
"I can't yell at these people," one said. "They're my parents' age."
The sound tech wrote on Facebook that it was a really tame crowd and I accidentally read the word as "lame."

It all ended with an encore of "Dream Vacation" and I grinned myself silly.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Shamrock the Casbah ...

Things got all mucked up this year with my annual Shamrock Shake and Fish Fillet dinner, my frosty sodium tag-team tribute to a time when I celebrated Good Friday with the hollowed, sunken cheeks of a person who was going to be deprived of Pepperoni Pizza for every Friday that fell within the next 40 days.

It started when I saw three girls sucking on green drinks earlier this week. It took me a second, then:
"Wait," I said. "Are those Shamrock Shakes?!"
"Already," I said. "My God! Shamrock Shakes!"
"My mom only drinks Shamrock Shakes once a year, always with a Fish Filet," one of the girls said.
I squealed.
"Me, too!"
It's hard. That fine line between wanting to be part of an elite community of people with a super specific yearly indulgence and wanting to be defined as THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD who has an annual Shamrock Shake and Fish Fillet dinner.

I immediately texted my cousin Drewcifer. Long ago I introduced him to this pleasure of the palate. Now, like someone who has saved another from the mediocrity of Strawberry, I feel forever obligated to connect with him over Shamrock Shake updates.

("I'm getting mine tonight," he texted back on Wednesday).

I decided Thursday, Feb. 9, would be the big day. That gave me two and a half days to fantasize about the vaguely gold fish-y orange square slathered in a tangy tartar sauce the consistency of Udder Cream and the neon slab of something like cheddar cheese if cheddar cheese bounced. French Fries and the cool minty drink of thick.

I selected the best damn McDonalds in town, the one on Central Entrance that looks from the outside like a 1960s interpretation of what the year 2010 would look like, and from the inside like Olive Garden with a ball pit.

The last time I set foot in McDonalds: Chuck and I were looking for a public restroom in Echo Park. The human litter box shaped as a toilet that we had found minutes earlier was still fresh in our heads and ripe in our noses when we waded through a creek of unidentifiable water-ish something snaking its way from the bathroom at McDonalds to the middle of the restaurant. Still. We had seen worse, so, SOLD. Though he exited gagging, it was not as bad as the time he barfed after using a Porta-Potty at the Spirit Valley Street Dance.

On Thursday night I ordered the No. 5 with a Medium Shamrock Shake. I briefly forgot that McDonalds has been adding Whipped Cream to this drink since Lent 2011. I hate this. I hate it so hard.  But more on principle, fucking with my drink, than on taste, delicious. And that is exactly what I think -- I hate this, I hate this -- with every shiver pulse that cold crushes my brain.

I found a tall top table, set down my tray, opened "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," and began chowing my way through the personal party.

Then! A McDonalds employee walked up to my table and gave me an extra ice cream cone. For free. Twist. Chocolate and Vanilla. I set aside my meal and re-prioritized, meltiest foods first. All in all, the whole experience was more than satisfactory.

Except for this: In reviewing the Shamrock Shakes of yesteryear I realized that usually I wait until March to have my annual Shamrock Shake. I caved in early February. That's it. Over. It will be almost impossible to not see another person slurping green in the next month and a half.

I'm not sure I'm strong enough to wait another year.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sick envy ...

JCrew and I have been romanticizing the common cold the way a person romanticizes anything they have been away from for a certain amount of time. We're not talking about gasping, practically drowning on mucus or leaving a trail of cough drop wrappers between the pockets of our robes and the nearest bathroom, we're giving it a luxury slant. Like invalids in Jane Austen novels, lovely and flushed, weak coughs. The trashy TV time. The relationship between a couch and a prone buttocks. Magazines and broth.

"We should just go lick Kleenexes from a dumpster behind St. Mary's," I tell her, sighing.

Her boyfriend has had it. A sick so all-consuming that some days it looks like he has has been dragged into public and propped up on a stool like a forgotten puppet. Still, she has avoided this plague. We have, too, even though every day Chuck handles items that have been touched by hundreds of other people. Probably even some who don't carry Apple-scented hand sanitizer in their purse, no, the general population. People who lick Cheeto dust off their fingers.

My nose tingled yesterday. It felt like it was about to start running.

"It's coming," I said to JCrew. "I can feel it."
She looked at me and said: "Come here and give me a kiss."

What happened that night ...

A few weeks ago I was telling my mom about the time that my friend Princess Linda and I purchased a copy of "The Get Him System: How to Get the Boy You Want and Keep Him" from the back of a bouncy-hair, fresh face magazine for teenaged girls. I was kind of surprised, kind of not, that she hadn't heard it. We'd had the loot, sealed in a super discrete plain envelope, sent to Princess Linda's house because her parents were millimeters cooler about her receiving strange, unmarked packages in the mail. My dad would assume the package was from a kidnapper I was planning to meet at a truck stop, who would let me say the word "God" in exasperation, eat Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch and watch "Dukes of Hazard."

I realized that I'm still hiding some of my teenaged hijinks, things that happened almost half a life ago, out of what? Something engrained. Some sort of residual parental fear lodged next to the place where I hide the call-backs for Catholic mass.

As recent as two years ago my mom has botched a question about a curious set of events from my senior year. She's never known the facts and she's muddied the clues in such a way that when she asks me about it, she always asks about it wrong and so I am free to cock my head and say: "Hm. I'm not sure what you're talking about."

"Mrs. Linda caught you guys doing something," she'll say. "You were up to something. What was that?"
"Yeah, huh," I say. "Beats me."

Here I am. Thirty-six (and a half) years old. Living in a house with my forever person and he is my emergency contact. We've split the costs of furniture and animals. I haven't had a curfew in years and if I want to, I can wear Jelly Shoes, even if they look trashy. So what the hell. Why not. Here it is:

What Happened That Night

We were seniors in the fall of 1993. I don't remember what that felt like, but it must have been bittersweet. Our love interests had gone off to college. Their girlfriends had gone off to college, too, even further away than the boys. So though we didn't see the boys daily in the Commons anymore and wouldn't be cheering for them during basketball season, there was a bit of relief in knowing they were far, far away from those wretched blonde ponytails, both standout athletes -- my nemesis played hoops, Princess's played golf -- girls they had favored over us.

And actually, I was back together with my boy. As soon as his blonde packed up her collection of sleeveless T-shirts and nylon shorts, hopped on her basketball scholarship and rode away -- earlier than most college students, practice started before classes -- I was back on speed dial, my bedroom window fair game for midnight rat-taps.

This was not a problem. I believed in true love more than I believed in pride.

We called mine Bombilla Forma La Cabeza, which we believed was Spanish for Lightbulb Shaped Head. Her's was No. 34 and though he wasn't her boyfriend, he was not really the kind of person to let a girl think there wasn't a chance she wouldn't be someday. The boys were roommates at St. Mary's, just 45 minutes from home. Close enough for them to return on the weekends to a place where their personal highlight reels were still fresh in our heads. Close enough for us to convince our religion teacher that we should really take a field trip to the university. Tour it, you know? See what college is all about. A Catholic college. We duped the Cool Priest into renting a bus, filling it with teens, and sending us off on a tour that made St. Mary's admissions councilors salivate and gave us a free trip to a place where I spent my free time in a room decorated in golf and Pearl Jam hues.

On the weekend in question we arranged an alibi: slumber party at MJ's house. This was a solid excuse as MJ's mom didn't really hang with our moms. There would be no casual "So the girls had that slumber party, wow, girls, huh. All that giggling," conversations where we could potentially get busted.  By the time they ran into Mrs. MJ there would have been more slumber parties, louder slumber parties, and the lie would be lost.

We took Princes Linda's car, as her mileage wasn't monitored by an Olmsted County Trained Observer. It was a mini red hatchback that whirred like a blender. We called the car "Annie," after the orphan. We pointed it toward a boys dormitory in Winona, Minn., and 45 minutes later we were on the scene of our greatest scheme, though, truthfully our scheme resumes were as short as they were not all that naughty.

MJ called. Mrs. Linda had done the unprecedented: A slumber party check in. She'd called MJ's house and asked to talk to Princess Linda, who of course wasn't there. We had about 14 seconds to scheme again and scheme harder. Princess Linda called her mom back from the dorm room, pretending she was at MJ's house, not even knowing that someday caller ID would make this an impossibility for teenaged schemers everywhere. Mrs. Linda told Princess Linda that she needed to come home. Immediately. No dawdling. She expected her home in the amount of time it took to drive from Central Rochester to Northwest Rochester. Slumber party over. No reason given. Just the command. This was also out of character, as Mrs. Linda tended to have a bit of give.

Now I was stuck. I had no place to go. My mom still thought I was at MJ's, who hadn't cleared a slumber party with her mom because it was fake. If I went home with Princess Linda, it would confirm to Mrs. Linda that she had thwarted a scheme. If I went home there would be questions. I couldn't stay in Winona, I'd be trapped there for days, months, I'd have to enroll, which I planned to do anyway, but not yet. And there was Bombilla, my boyfriend, who I only got to see so often ...

He came with us. We ripped Annie along the two-lane highway in the dark and dropped Princess Linda off at her house. We took her car, combined our meager resources, and found a $30-something dollar room at the Super 8.

"We have to pretend we're in college and home from break," I whispered to him before we checked in. "They're never going to let a high school girl rent a motel room. We need fake names."

I don't remember what we did that night, but if I know me I spent the whole time sure that my dad was going to drive past the Super 8, see Princess Linda's car in the lot. He'd pull in behind it, grab a flashlight from the glove compartment, send a beam into the backseat, check the door handles for fresh prints, feel the level of heat from the hood and examine the tire tread for the sort of terrain the vehicle had traveled. He'd get on his knees and look under the car and make some deductions. When I got home he would call me into the living room, where he would ask me the kind of questions that trigger lie ticks on my face and I'd be dead meat.

We picked up Princess Linda the next morning for cross country practice and we did it in a way where it seemed like her car had never been gone. Ignition off, slouched down low. I dropped Princess off at practice and she told the coach I was sick. During practice I took Bombilla back to St. Mary's, turned around and picked Princess up from practice. She drove me home and I never heard a blip about it until years later when my mom started fumbling the facts and putting together weird theories about one time I didn't get in trouble but should have.

We did get away with some stuff. Coed slumber parties and a single can of beer shared between six of us crammed into a car. We didn't get arrested toilet papering anyone, like the boys in our class. But most of the time we didn't even bother trying to scheme.

Our parents had eyes everywhere.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Meat sauce in a broken bowl ...


First I went to brunch with CHRISSIE!

1. Bloody Meat and Cheese Glass: While that looks like a Bloody Mary, it is actually a glass filled with Pepper Vodka, Cheese Cubes, Pepperoni and Stuffed Olives. I think the best Bloody Mary requires a fork.

2. I signed some official paperwork that said it was okay to use my likeness in a talkie. And then it was no biz like show biz time.

3. Then I read Japanese horror, oozing with glee when someone took a sickle to someone's neck and they described the bloody gash as looking like a baby's mouth. Later someone got their eyeballs gouged out and a person who took a spray of machine gun bullets to the noggin was described as looking like "meat sauce in a broken bowl." I love Japan.

4. Pizza at Thirsty Pagan with Chuckles. We witnessed a band change its name over a Spicy Italian and Garlic pie.

5. Movie that I thought would be terrible but wasn't.

6. The tail end of a chili party, where people drank things like Phillips Snoshoe Grog, a clever Brandy-Peppermint Schnapps mixture, other people performed air guitar concerts and we talked about anally expelling tape worms.

7. Sure. I'll give CHRISSIE! some tender touches. (But not with my own hand).

8. Got pensive.

In other news, here is what I made, watched and read this past week.

Three Bean Veggie Chili: I made this and forgot to take a picture but it was good. I mean, it's chili. Mostly I just wanted to use those little fake ground meats and I wanted something to cover in a layer of Dorito-similar rice chips. It all worked out well.

Cauliflower and Chickpea Tagine: (This recipe is an adaptation of the one I used from "Urban Vegan" but it's close enough).

Cauliflower is so weird. Someone really should do a study on what happens to it in its cooked state. One minute it's all crunchy, the next minute it's like mashed potatoes. And in this dinner, a mix of Indian seasonings that becomes this not soup or chili, but mushy mix of Chickpeas, Cauliflower, Onions, Garlic, Carrots. It was good. And topped with Almond Slivers. It was good, but mostly just tastes like a relative of a lot of the food I make.

No Strings Attached: Instead of the obligatory apology for watching this movie (and admitting it publicly) I'm just going to say, you know what? This movie is truly funny. Hokey, yes. Predicable, of course. Does Natalie Portman's face look weird, double yes. Do I consider myself more Team Kunis-Timberlake, the duo who came out with a similar movie at the same time, yes yes a thousand times yes. But still. Whoever wrote this movie, an answer that is a simple Google click away, a Google click I'm not willing to make, is a comic genius.

Exhibit: There is a really great scene where four roommates, including one gay man, are all ruing their menstrual cycles. One of the roommates brings a steaming hot mug of whatever to Portman, singing "Tea for your vagina!" And then Ashton shows up with a Period Mix for Portman, which contains songs about bleeding and blood and "Evenflow" and more and IT'S REALLY FUNNY!


The Adults: A Novel by Alison Espach: This coming-of-age story about a girl from Connecticut is really well written with great, but spare, instances of dialogue. Way to go, Alison Espach. Four Goodreads stars.

I am starting to wonder why so many stories and shows and etc., include a high school girl smitten with a high school teacher. Is that a thing? I don't remember having the hots for a teacher. I think we all thought one was cute and we considered some handsome older dudes, but I don't think we were sitting around imagining banging any of them.

Anyway: Full review at Minnesota Reads.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dispatches from Feline Nation: Week 20

Dear Harold and Orenthal,

Hey, guys. Ever since you came into our lives I've had front row seats for the Nature vs. Nurture home game. Pro nature: All that plucky morning joie de vivre. You must get that from your birth moms. We're accustomed to more blurry and shuffling around here. Performing that thing that is the opposite of a sun salutation. (Sun valediction?)

Most mornings I wake up to a variation on the following behavioral report from Chuck:

"Well, for awhile there Orin had Hal's back foot in his mouth."

Orin, you recently threw the greatest emo tantrum ever thrown by someone who doesn't play acoustic guitar. It started when you climbed from the floor, up the back of an office chair, across a built-in shelf unit and on to a window sill where you are not allowed for no real reason other than that we are mean and believe bigger rules mean better kittens.

Chuck removed you from your perch and you screamed. You screamed, Orin. Then you sprinted up the steps and into one of the bedrooms where you proceeded to wail at the injustice. Real tears. Real angst. Hal gave us a look like, "I can't believe you people," rolled his eyes and ran up to comfort you. It was all so dramatic that Hal, you skipped your bi-daily game of laser tag, presumably to teach us that you two are a team that cannot be bought with a single beam of red light dancing across the walls and down the steps.

We recently had the chance to go out in public. A date night. A reprieve from the daily grind of raising two toilet-curious beasts. Naturally, we spent the night talking about you.

"One of them," I said to our friends, "keeps taking our dirty clothes and putting them in the litter box." It's true. The litter box is in the laundry room and usually there is a dirty sock or a dirty T-shirt or, yesterday, my underwear partially buried in the sand.

"I'm not sure which one is doing it," I said.
"Oh, you guys know which one is doing it," GeoGrl said.
She was right. It's so perfectly you, Orin. An anonymous "Fuck you, and fuck your pink Hanes little boy shorts, too."

"They're driving me nuts," Chuck said, climbing into bed the other day. "Orin won't stay out of the window sills. I kept taking him down and he would jump back up. Then they started throwing curtain rods down the basement steps."

This meant a change in rules: You are now allowed, even encouraged, to climb on the window sills. It makes you guys happy and it makes us happy to not chase you with squirt bottles and the kind of clapping that keeps bears away in the woods. We do, however, draw the line at that move where you Superman from the mantle to the lampshade. I think that's fair. It's called compromise, Orin. Maybe your morning-cat mom mentioned it once before she prematurely booted you from her teat.

Aside from that, I love to watch the two of you cuddle on an office chair, bound together in a spoon. Shifting so you are hugging. Orin's little paw over Hal's little shoulder. Licking each other so hard. It's so interesting and intimate. Like young lovers who can't get enough of the tongues full of fur.

Cat Lithium Curiously Yours,

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The contract still intact ...

Last week Jodi's sister posted this video on Google+ that so charmed me that I can barely see straight through the cartoon hearts steaming out of my head. It's partly the song. "Everything Counts" by Depeche Mode. It's partly the little girl using a recorder to play chimes and the little boy plucking at the keyboard and the dad's intense face.

Sometimes I go weeks and forget that Depeche Mode ever happened. And then, when they creep back into my consciousness, I'm re-thrilled that this band exists.

For about the 1,000th time I've decided I only want to listen to Depeche Mode for the rest of my life.

In other news, here is what I watched, listened to and read last week.

Flashdance: I must have watched this 100 times when I was a kid. My mom had taped it on VHS, one of few movies we had, so it was in heavy rotation. Although I didn't remember the scene when young Alex, who looks surprisingly like Karate Kid, fellates her lobster dinner. Though I do remember the part of the scene when she rips off her overcoat to reveal a Playboy Bunny style tuxedo vest. Sometimes I look for clues to my mom's psyche as a young 30-something in the media she favored.

I wonder what it is about 1983 that made it not pervy for the 18-year-old girl welder-by-day to get hit on by her much older boss while she's working as a sexy-dancer-by-night. I'd like to see the movie from the perspective of his ex-wife, talking on the phone, pacing, cigarette smoke pouring out of her nose and she's screeching about the teenaged hussy who has her husband all hot and bothered.

I have a few more questions about this movie, including the elaborate props, costumes and lighting Alex is using in her stage show and if she dropped out of high school.

Communist Daughter: Soundtrack To The End: Chuck and I caught this Minneapolis band at a coffee shop on Friday night. I love the imperfect harmonies of the band's singers, who are really charming not just in stage banter but also in looks exchanged during songs. I would think that if you like New Pornographers you would like this band.

Also: I that night, I had cheese cake that had a crust made of cherry pop tarts. Theory, A. Practice, B-. I bet it was better two days earlier. Still, I was so pleased by the concept that it outweighs that B-.

The Barbarian Nurseries: A Novelby Hector Tobar: Through a series of no-communications, the Torres-Thompson parents independently go on the lam, leaving their young sons alone with the housekeeper, who has no idea what to do with them, tries to deliver them to their grandfather, and is mis-identified as a kidnapper by the parents, the authorities and the media.

I liked this one. But I've never wanted to actually reach into a book and punch people so fiercely.

Full review? Try Minnesota Reads!

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: A young girl comes of age amid upheaval in Iran, then is shipped off to Vienna to continue her schooling in a safe place. This proves to be a different kind of awful for the young girl who struggles to find her place. Loved it.

Full review will be on Minnesota Reads.