Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Prime the pump ...

Sinus infections, I've believed, are the pussy's urinary tract infection. Every time I crouched on the can emitting painful pee one long-dash at a time and some friend wah-wah'ed that they, too, were diseased, blasted sinuses, I rolled my eyes. It's the twisted ankle on the day of the physical fitness test and the debilitating menstrual cramps in math class. Maybe not fake-fake, but definitely fake-ish. 

"Have you ever had a sinus infection before?" the woman asks me. She's taken my temperature (normal) and blood pressure (high). 
"No, but I've had plenty of urinary tract infections," I tell her, feeling that it qualifies me to self-diagnose this particular nuisance.  

Now I believe that they are all the same thing, all equally boring. Passages inflamed. Would you rather sit in a bathroom gasping and singing an alto groan, or would you rather look under the couch for your  knee-high slippers and feel the pinch in the pain part of your brain. Face puffy, like an alcoholic whose friend's know she is an alcoholic before she does. Cheek tender, jaw throbbing. Eating Advil like it's water. 

She hands me a kid-friendly chart with round faces in various state of grimace. 

"How would you rank your pain right now?" she asks. 
I stare at the chart and try to match my own expression with one on the laminated paper. I look at her. 
"I hate this game," I tell her. 
"I know, just play along," she says. 
What's 10, I always wonder? Is that a gunshot would to the head? Would a 1 be sitting in this chair right now, or would they just sterilize the needle, suck it up and remove the splinter? How can a person be anything more than 5 in a world where circular saws are hungry for flesh? 
"I guess I'm like a 5," I tell her. 

I spot someone I know in the holding pen. 
"Hey Christa," he says. "What's going on?" 
"Sinus infection," I chirp, relieved that this visit is the result of something above my waist. I can't imagine how I'd have responded a few years ago when I sat in these same chairs and waited for someone with a very expensive degree to remove the tampon that had floated beyond reach. 

His kids both have their own device and they're both watching their own program of beeps and squeaks and high-pitched voices. It's competing with televised Black Jack, a combination that would be really annoying if I wasn't so capable of blocking out sound and focusing on Dice with Buddies. Meanwhile, two college-aged boys have come in. One, it seems, is in line for the Emergency Room though there are no outward signs of what might be ailing him. Perhaps it's internal bleeding. The other has scored himself a guest pass. The former is nondescript. The latter is one of those lugga-lugga's. A beefy former high school football player who slops around in athletic sandals and sweat pants. A lazy lope and modern art on top of the TV stand, a pyramid of Jagarmeister bottles. 

"Do college girls want to sleep with that guy?" I wonder. "Or is he a consolation prize?" 

He might be part of a faceless pack squished on to a couch hollering about video game injustices. Or maybe he's the guy who scores the booze, invites the guests, greets them at the door, has a funny signature dance and cleans up their puke. Maybe he spends part of the night on his back deconstructing his roommates' relationship with his father and tossing a soccer ball into the air. 

There is something very "Price is Right" about when they call my name. I clean up the small campsite I've erected, unsure of how long I'd be waiting. A book back into the backpack, phone wedged into my pocket, water bottle in my hand, sling bag over shoulder and do a sort of quick shuffle to the nurse who is holding the door. I half expect my acquaintance to applaud or at least tell me "good luck." 

Finding out you have a sinus infection has little fanfare. 
Symptoms, the doctor asks. 
I had a cold and now it hurts all through here. 
Nasal discharge? 
I'm swallowing most of it, I tell him. 

He looks in my ear and tells me he'll be back with a 'script. 
Antibiotics and Afrin. 
"What's Afrin," I ask the nurse. 
She explains. 
"Is that over the counter?" I ask and she says yes. 
"But don't use it for more than three days," she warns. 
"Wait, wait," I say. "Did you say this is a nasal spray?"
I make a face that resembles No. 7 on the pain scale. 
"Sometimes," she says, "We have to do things we don't like in order to feel better." 

Remove packaging. Prime the pump. Insert tube in nose. Inhale while depressing pump. I hate getting stuff in my nose. My shower routine is a piece of well-configured choreography that results in no water directly hitting my face. Just seeing a Neti Pot is enough to induce panic. 

I prime the pump, insert it in my nose, depress and snort. It's cool and medicinal smelling. Like I just stuck a bunch of bandaids on my throat. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Shittons ...

In the past few weeks I've watched a shitton of movies and read a shitton of books. Read it and weep:


Jumbalaya: From the disappointing files: Chuck and I both selected the same menu item, which we never do, and ended up with something ridiculously bland and boring. Except for those shrimp, sausage patties on top. The waitress, who was awful, offered to give us a side of Sriracha which was kind of like putting more ketchup on your burger at McDonalds. This happened at my favorite restaurant and now I'm taking a break from it. Sorry.

The Switch Chuck and I were in Los Angeles when this movie was being pimped and everywhere we went there were billboards showing Jason Bateman holding a cup of his own jizz with a quizzical expression on his face. This movie is predictable, mindless and not quite funny enough, but serves its purpose.

Margaret: This is one of my favorite movies I've seen in a long time. It's long, which is usually a deal-breaker. When it comes to entertainment, I don't want to spend the rest of my life watching the same movie. I want a quick-hitter. In this one that girl from "True Blood" is indirectly involved when a pedestrian gets run over by a bus, her body ripped apart at the seams, and TB follows by acting out in a series of honest but destructive ways. Plus Matt Damon and Matthew Broderick have weird bit parts. And the fringe characters are super interesting.

Bride Wars: This was just on TV and I thought, "You know what? Fuck my plans. I'm going to watch this nightmare." Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway are besties who share a similar wedding dream. So when they get engaged at almost the same time, they have to decide who gets to have the wedding of her dreams and who has to settle for something less. They begin sabotaging each other in pretty awful ways. This is funnier than I would have imagined.

Splendor in the Grass (1961): Oh my god. This movie is a riot. It stars Natalie Wood as a lusty teen who has to keep her chastity intact by deflecting the meaty paws of her boyfriend. They're quite in love, though, and her mom tells her that women don't enjoy sex and her boyfriend's father tells him to find a lady on the side that he can stick it into. This all has disastrous results. So funny.

Drew Peterson: Untouchable Rob Lowe stars as Drew Peterson, the Illinois cop accused of killing off two of his former wives, most famously Stacey Peterson. Lowe's mustache is the only thing cornier than his Chicago accent. Considering the subject, this is surprisingly entertaining. The best part is that the real Drew Peterson watched the movie from jail and thought it was hilarious, according to the internet. Whatta asshole.

"Uprising: Hip Hop and the LA Riots": Ho. Lee. This VH1 documentary about the LA Riots is intense. I'm not sure that I really understood what was happening when this all happened in the 1990s. I was a teenager and my world was about as big as my high school. But now, watching it from start to finish is really unsettling. You'll cry when Rodney King is beaten and you'll cry when Reginald Denny is ripped from his truck and beaned with a brick. Your jaw will drop when you see gun fights in parking lots. And you'll wonder what the scope of these riots would have been in the age of immediate information. Anyway, this one is streaming on VH1's website.

Cosmopolis: I'd be hard pressed to come up with a duo that I'd rather see than Cronenberg's interpretation of Delillo. It's the story of the uber wealthy Eric Packer and his journey across NYC to get his haircut. Throughout the course of the day, he'll entertain in his cork-lined limo and take meals with his wife and bang his body guard in a hotel. On screen, this unfolds like a play and if I hadn't read the book I'd be all "what the." Plus, Cronenberg skips a few opportunities to really be Cronenberg. That rectal exam could have really been nuts.

Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis: A London lout wins the lottery in this madcap, kind of funny novel.

Full review here.

Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen: This is a sweet tribute to Jensen's father, who was involved with catching and prosecuting a major serial killer. Told in comic form. It's part true crime graphic novel, part love letter, part take on 1980s crime TV.

Full review is here.

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace DT Max gives the world its first birth-to-death telling of David Foster Wallace's life. You'll miss that socially awkward, unlaced boots and bandana-wearing genius all over again.

Full review here.

Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures: Emma Straub's debut novel is about a Hollywood starlet. It's very True Hollywood Story, minus the insight. It's a little darkly sweet, but after "Other People We Married," I expected more.

Full review here.

Dora: A HeadcaseThis isn't the greatest book in the world, but you should all read it anyway because Lidia Yuknavitch is the real deal.

Full review will be here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Blah Blah Beverage Week: Yoo-Hoo

Chuck has been talking about Yoo-Hoo for eons. Specifically: How the lunchroom at work has vending fridge full of it, has for years, and no one ever touches the stuff. Yoo-Hoo became kind of an inside joke, a relic from the 1990s that still existed in this one time capsule.

Recently, out of nowhere, it enjoyed a brief popularity. The Yoo-Hoo was moving. People were drinking it. He did some research and found that it doesn't have an expiration date so no one was going to, like, die from it. Probably.

I started to get real Yoo-Hoo curious after that. I'd missed its heyday. Back then my preferred Snapple brand drinks were fruity, not chocolatey. I started looking for Yoo-Hoo everywhere: Gas stations, Walgreens, the grocery store and Target. I knew I could just have Chuck bring one home from work, but that would be cheating. Like buying a chicken wrapped in styrofoam and plastic instead of actually wrestling the thing to the ground and suffocating it with a pillow made from its own feathers.

Meanwhile, I was being taunted by the tube. We've been watching reruns of "Friends" while we eat dinner and, fun fact, Chandler is like a serious Yoo-Hoo connoisseur.

When I was least expecting it, there it was, Yoo-Hoo, looking like swamp water in a bottle of cartoon. I found it in the lobby of the grocery store in a Snapple vending machine and I responded out loud in a way that might have seemed disproportionate to onlookers.

"Yessssss," I said with a classic fist pump.

I didn't drink it, though. I waited. You spend so much time looking for something, you don't want to just cash the thing on the way home from the grocery store, wipe your mouth with the back of your hand and hurl the glass bottle at the neighbor's mailbox. You want to enjoy it. You want it to be your Blah Blah Beverage Week finale.

The verdict: It's way better than it looks, mostly because it looks thin and water-y. It tastes like old school Nestle, when you used to heap spoonfuls of the powder into a Papa Smurf glass and guzzle it during an episode of "Three's Company." The after taste has just a hint of plastic to it, but its tolerable. I'm now on the hint for its elusive sister drink: Strawberry Yoo-Hoo.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

It's tricky to ...

We're on a pontoon in the middle of Gull Lake. The sun is cooking everything but two oversized misshapen circular marks over my eyes. We're listening to Ace of Base or maybe Run DMC, drinking summer-flavored beers wrapped in camouflage cozies. Dong and I are sitting a table and I've just abandoned a cover story about Kristen Stewart because, as far as I can tell, it was written before she and RPat broke up so the whole thing feels kind of false.

"Tell me a story," I say to him.

Dong is cute as a commercial. Lean and freckled, just enough product to push his hair into a peak. His calf muscles look like they should be charred on a grill and served with mead at the Renaissance Festival. He bites his thumb nails. He bakes like a dream. He claps to get people fired up -- he might even say the phrase "fire up!" -- and sometimes he laughs so hard that he collapses in half at the waist.

I've known him since he was among the top three colorers in the class. When he painstakingly perfected his handwriting to something that could be sold in a gift shop. When it was very popular for young girls to etch his initials inside of a heart. When he had keys to the high school gym, where he shot basket after basket after basket and subsequently became one of the greatest guards in Hiawatha Valley League. When he loved Jolly Ranchers. When his shorts were stained with drops from the Blizzards he made at work.  When he drove a car that continued to run even when he had removed the keys from the ignition.

"A story," he says. "Okay. On Thursday:"

He had to get something on his car fixed, he says, so he took it to the shop. The place was close to his gym, which is why he picked it in the first place. About a mile, he said. He felt lame getting a ride from one of the shop's employees -- it was only about a mile from Lifetime Fitness -- but there was a weird fence he would have to walk around, which made it a longer walk than it had to be. If only there was a hole in the fence ...

"There is," the guy told him and pointed out a spot where Dong could take a shortcut.

He worked out for an hour and a half, showered, and began walking. He found the spot through tall ditch grass and as he was cutting through his foot hit something that crunched like the exoskeleton on a bug. But bigger.

"It was a deer carcass," he says. "And I'd just put my foot into it. Not only that, but some of the innards, like, got splattered on me."

Now that's a story, I think, impressed that not only could he tell me something fantastic -- but it actually happened just two days earlier. I stare at his head and imagine that he's got one of these for every day of the week.


I went to a cabin near Brainerd with a handful of my favorite people. We ate cheddar-flavored things from boxes and dipped snack food into other snack foods. Someone brought a huge tub of hummus that everyone always seemed to be eating, but which never seemed to decrease in volume. We drank beer. We tried to play dice games, but lacked the capacity to understand the rules. We all kept mistaking the Starbursts for dice and the dice for Starbursts. We switched to cards and went around the table naming the mascots for Minnesota high school teams, which has become a favorite pass time (for some of us, and a loathed pass time for others). We went to bed very early by my personal standards, but late enough for the neighbors who assumed we would carry on all night.

Fannie and I went to Target and ended up at a Bloody Mary bar. Then we went out on a the lake in the pontoon and drank and ate more, still not making a dent in the hummus. Then we ate pizza and while everyone danced I watched a man in a Sauce Hockey T-shirt simulate sex acts with unsuspecting members of bachelorette parties. He left none of his technique to the imagination. So much thrusting. I have to imagine that at one point his older brother said: "Anyone can dance, brah. Just make like you're doing it."

Meanwhile, I had a spot near the men's room and every time someone busted in or out, they threatened to nail me with the door. This was great fun. The door would whip open, Z would smack it with his hand and yell "ARE YOU OKAY!?" while eying the perpetrator.

Noticeably absent from the trip this year was Pole, who was literally on-site but something was mucked up and somewhere between intake and export, his food took on a liquid state. He went to bed at 8 p.m. and didn't make it to the pizza-dance-sex dancer party. Also of note: Fannie and I got the big bed.

Now I'm home watching "The Omen" and dreaming of lettuce.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Blah Blah Beverage Week: Alo ...


It tastes good. But, man, the chunks. I'm cool with pulp, even like a burlap blanket-worth of pulp. I think it's just circle chunks that skeeve me. I imagine I'm drinking Clean & Clear Morning Burst, an orange tinted face scrub with gelatinous bubbles that make your face extra awake for the day, in theory. 

My worst experience with drink orbs happened in Los Angeles, during arguably the most awful dining experience I've ever participated in. Dim sum, Chinatown, 2011. I don't remember the exact circumstances, but so many factors were working against us: a) we were groggy; b) we were eating lunch, which we never do; c) none of us could decide where to sit so there was all this shuffling and confusion; d) the food carts started coming around before we had even exhaled and everything was loud and in the feverish pace we just kept saying yes-yes-yes to everything until we were settled in to the right seats and calibrated to the decibels and admitted to ourselves that we were eating lunch with our mouths, a mid-day meal without eggs when it's sunny outside.   

One of those yeses was to a drink with extra-large balls of tapioca bouncing around like a living, breathing lava lamp. They were so big, they required a straw that seemed like it should have Super Absorbency stamped on the side. The first tug surprised me, this sort of pinball attack on my uvula. I knew what to expect with the second tug so I could approach this unsettling sensation. Still, hm. Sometimes it's hard for me to tell if I hate or love something, so I gave it another try and oof. 

I learned a lesson that day: I don't like tapioca drinks. 

The verdict: This stuff tastes good, as long as you don't accidentally use your teeth as a sieve or bite down when the debris comes charging through. For best results, open your mouth just enough to let the nuggets pass without touching anything and hurry them directly down your throat using the least amount of effort. Keep your tongue as little involved as possible. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Blah Blah Beverage Week: Fentimans Soda


"What's burdock?" I asked Chuck from the kitchen, where I was uncapping a bottle of fermented Dandelion and Burdock drink.

He laughed, then Googled

Burdock, for the initiated, is that spiky thing that sticks to your tube socks when you're hiking in the woods. Burdock is also that thing that, when mixed with dandelion, ginger and anise, tastes fucking amazing. This drink is like root beer. Or rather, like a melted root beer popsicle or root beer barrels. It's the anise you smell when you pop the top and also the taste that lingers.

This one comes with some helpful guidance from V-Nick, who I ran into at the store. Him: Dog food. Me: A basket full of science.

"I don't know if you've heard," I said to him. "But it's Blah Blah Beverage Week."

He led me to a corner of the store that I tend to not even skim: It's a luxury destination for crackers with the equivalent of a 1,200 thread count and mixes of fruit and jalapeno jam and chutneys, the gourmet rubs and marinades. After the Daija and before the Chik'n Scallopini on my shopping route. And there it was: Fentimans Dandelion & Burdock, putting all other Blah Blah Beverage Week contestants to shame.

I couldn't not get it. I wanted the answer to "What are you doing right now" to be a shrug and "drinking dandelions and watching 'Friends.'"

"Better chill that burdock drink," V-Nick texted me. "It'll improve the experience."

The verdict: Hot damn that's good.

Blah Blah Beverage Week: Joia ...


Well. If this isn't just the sexiest of beverage packaging. Joia says to me: You are willing to hike down a trail, across the railroad tracks, tiptoe on stones across a stream and climb a garbage barrel to hop a fence so that you can look at graffiti -- but you're probably wearing expensive shoes with soles made from recycled tires when you do it. You're wearing a decorative scarf, but you're comfortable wiping your hands on it.

This carbonated beverage doesn't have the pow of, say, Jones Soda, but it's better than Izze Sparkling Juice.

One time I went through this non-drinking period, but I was still a regular at a dingy bar where it was perfectly for someone -- maybe even me -- to liberate her bladder in the doorway after last call. I was able to drink tonic water and cranberry juice with a lime and catch a contact buzz from the people gripping 16 ouncers at my table. Something about the drink had all the festive with none of the day after pangs of social shame. I bet a teetotaler could achieve the same thing with a highball of this. Though, the aftertaste is a little that-time-Uncle-Ned-drank-your-Jessica-Simpson-perfume-because-he-had-cashed-the-vanilla-extract-ish.

Verdict: I'd drink this again.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Blah Blah Beverage Week: LaCroix Water


A lot of people will tell you that you shouldn't quit meat and immediately start gnawing on soy chorizo.  You have to find delicious vegan meals that stand alone instead staring down a ladle of nutritional yeast-flour-water-Nature's Balance and mustard and saying to it: "Now you are my cheese." I'm not one of those people. I actually really like soy chorizo and globs of fake cheese. But my point is that LaCroix doesn't pretend to be anything more than bubbly flavored water drink and it more than succeeds.

I'd be willing to say that as far as sparkling mineral water goes, it's top shelf. I've steadily made myself through the whole menu of Lemon, Lime, Orange, Grapefruit ... and now Coconut.

This is a controversial flavor. It tastes like sunscreen. The old-school kind of sunscreen people wore back when it was a thing to oil up, lean back in a plastic lounge chair, and wait for a sun saute. It's the taste that stuck in your fingernails after a day at the beach. Chuck, my drinking partner, thinks this is a bad thing. Me, I love it.

Although I recently was in a situation where I smelled what this flavor tastes like and meant to jot down the trigger.

"Gah," I said to Chuck. "What was that?"
"Your conditioner?" he asked.
"Oh," I said. "Yes."

Still: My verdict remains that LaCroix cannot fuck up a flavor.

Blah Blah Beverage Week: Pepsi Next ...

I'm a huge fan of beverages. I consider them kind of a hobby. I am a sucker for cute packaging and pomegranate flavor. It's hard for me to see a commercial for Starbuck's Spritzer without then seeking out Starbuck's Spritzer. I'm more Gatorade than PowerAde and a fan of Vitamin Water, but not the zero calorie Vitamin Water, which tastes like someone else drank it first, absorbed the flavor and spit it back into the bottle. I'd rather just drink water-water, which is cool, because I love water.

For at least two months I've been on the hunt for Yoo-Hoo and when I finally found it this weekend my face almost melted (though I'm saving it for a special occasion). If I ever find Strawberry Yoo-Hoo, I expect the electricity will go out in the tri-county area. I like Soy Milk, especially Chocolate Soy Milk, but not as much as I like Chocolate Almond Milk.

We are in the era of the beverage. Seems like when I was a kid, the only options were a few brands of soda and the powdered Nestle Quick that I stirred into my milk. Now I've had the revolting sensation of sucking an eyeball-sized Tapioca from a sweet murky fluid and through an extra-large straw. I've enjoyed Kombucha until I drank it one time and it made my stomach feel drunk so I never tried it again. I've also eliminated Jupina, a pineapple flavored soda, because the taste -- which is almost perfect -- still isn't worth the caloric commitment.

So I've decided this week is Blah Blah Beverage Week. 


I'm a Coke girl. Always have been. Even when it meant the humiliation of failing the Pepsi Challenge at the grocery store in front of my Pepsi family. "Can I get a do-over?" I wondered in a panic. "This just isn't possible." I like good Coke, regular -- none of this diet bullshit. In college I would crack one, take that first fuzzy sip and exhale "Hm. Heaven in a can."

In comparison, Pepsi has always tasted like a Coke without soul. I'll drink a Pepsi only when it's mandatory and then I opt for the Wild Cherry flavor.

Chuck is also a Coke person, obvi, so when he recommended the flavored Pepsi Next it's something I can take seriously. Cherry Vanilla, he tells me, is pretty good.

I'd never buy it based on it's packaging. It looks like speculative fiction from the early 1970s of what packaging will look like in 2012. And frankly: Paradise Mango is a weird name for a drink, considering the other flavor is just plain old Cherry Vanilla instead of TV Marathon Cherry Vanilla.

Regardless, Paradise Mango has a nice bouquet. And its initial impact provides a mouthful of mango-flavor, which is super yum but also a little unsettling since there isn't even an orange-ish tint. The aftertaste is pretty bad. It lingers like Diet Pepsi, which is inferior to Diet Coke, which has its own problems. Ultimately the experience of drinking Paradise Mango is like finding out when of your favorite books is being made into a movie, but the movie stars Tom Hanks.

Chuck was right about Cherry Vanilla. It's another good cherry-vanilla based beverage in a world that cannot get enough cherry-vanilla drink. But we already knew Pepsi had its cherries in order, since the dawn of Wild Cherry Pepsi.

Verdict: Paradise Mango is worth trying because it's so different, but the aftertaste is meh. Cherry Vanilla Pepsi is as good as Wild Cherry Pepsi, which is the preferred beverage when the other option is Fresca.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Dispatches from Feline Nation: Week 51

Dear Orin and Hal,

I walked into the bathroom this morning to find you, Orin, playing in the tub. This is pretty standard. Something about this porcelain boat is intriguing to you. Whenever I open the bathroom door after a shower, I find you waiting on your toes. You always burst past me like you've been waiting forever to get in there and I always think: "Huh. This is what it would have been like to have a sister."

(The interesting side effect here is that you end up playing in the last bits of water to go down our perma-clogged drain and later when your body comes whizzing past me you always smell of Suave Shampoo and Suave Conditioner. This is strange because even though I have kneaded this soap into my skull, marinated in the conditioner, my hair still always smells like pork chops).

So there you were today, Orin, playing in the tub. I moved to close the door so I could make water and heard scratching above my head. There, perched on top of the door was you, Hal, looking like one of those koala bears we used to attach to the top of our pencils in grade school. I tried to figure out how the hell you ended up 8 feet in the air and determined your route must have been toilet to toilet tank to wooden shelf to amazing circus leap of faith.

Anyway, Hal. You looked terrified, hugging the top of the door like that. Who knows how long you were up there. Maybe all night, huh? Just waiting for me to creep in at 5 a.m. so you could scare the holy hell out of me. I can imagine you tried to retrace your steps and realized getting down was going to result in at least a dislocated shoulder.

I had to stand on the toilet to reach you and I eased you slowly to the ground. You seemed grateful  which surprised me. Usually you seem to need nothing more than for me to inject Ritalin directly into your eyeball. So I guess we had a little moment there, didn't we?

I'm hoping this rescue mission makes up for the fact that we have permanently separated you from your girlfriend, the winter hat my mom got me for Christmas last year. You found her in closet and tugged her by the flap into the bedroom. I see what you see in her. She's soft and furry, doesn't ask for much. When Orin tried to play third wheel, you dug deep into your toenails for a growl so primal, so Satanic, that I considered searching Amazon for a DIY exorcism kit.

Eventually you brought her downstairs to dance in the middle of the room. But this girl, Hal, this hat-girl, brought out the ugly in you. She made your pupils enlarge, your jaw clench and your talons glisten. Sweet Orin didn't understand that he'd been replaced as a playmate. And then when he did understand, he looked sad.

Sometimes, Hal, we develop feelings for a hat that fill us with passion. But it's the wrong kind of passion. It's a toxic passion that brings our worst traits to the surface. We mistake the boiling blood for love when it's really rage. I'm sorry we had to hide your girlfriend in a cupboard, Bud, but it was for the good of you and our whole family. Maybe we can watch a few episodes of "Teen Mom" together. I think when you see the relationship between Amber and Gary, you'll understand that we did the right thing.

I don't know, Hal. You seem to be going through the terrible twos and your teen years all at once. We're never sure which personality you're going to throw at us. The other night you snuck into the bedroom and laid between my feet as a I read. You didn't try to rip the blanket apart with your nails, you didn't try to sit on my neck, you didn't push your wet nose into my cheek.

"Hal's pretending he's the kind of cat that can sleep in the bedroom," I texted to Chuck.
"Don't fall for it," he warned.
I didn't.

Scared shitless you're going to drop from the ceiling and onto my head,

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Being sick in style ...

Symptoms: Throbbing head. Can't breathe. Craving for Menthol flavors. Would not be opposed to rubbing it on my chest, but cough drops will do.

Mostly I'm really stuck on the question "Where does snot come from?" I mean really. Is my life supply of snot in there already, waiting to drizzle out of face holes when the time is right? Or am I building it right now. Is there a little workshop in my body where a rusty machine has cranked awake and is now manufacturing gelatinous, meaty, diseased phlegm? Seriously. WHERE DOES IT COME FROM? And how much do I have to swallow before I'm officially considered a cannibal.

Kleenex: Yesterday when the dam broke and everything began to ooze I asked JCrew if she had a Kleenex in her purse.

"No," she said, incredulous. "What am I, 80!?"

Touche. But today I am on my couch so I have treated myself to an entire box of triple ply, complete with aloe moisturizer. Blows are frequent, with little time to recover and let the tissue dry for reuse on a different corner. Rather than surround myself with a bunch of triple ply, aloe moisturized snowballs, I devised a genius plan.

Tip: I'm keeping a plastic grocery bag within arms reach. It not only serves as a one-stop-shop for Kleenex tossing, I can also put my cough drop wrappers in there. This makes it possible for me to remain seated through an entire episode of ...

Sick TV: Right now I'm really into Bravo's "Gallery Girls." It's about young women carving a career in the art industry through a) shitty internships that involve filling a communal dog dish with fresh water or b) opening a clothing store-art gallery in Manhattan. There is relatively little conversation about art, but plenty about the party woes and frenemies  in this mix of preppy girls, mainstream girls and super duper hipster girls. I have a revolving cast of favorites.

In addition to sick TV, I plan to drift through wakefulness and sleep at will, hindered only by an inability to breathe through a cement-filled nostril and an inability to breathe through the constant companionship of two cats that want to eat my Kleenexes and be worn as scarves.

Drinks: I have orange juice, which not only has plenty of Vitamin C, but it is the leading cure for the superstitious and sick mind. Sick=OJ. I also have two bottles of PowerAde. I need fluids, obvi, and I need to punch this out with something NBA approved.

But the kicker, friends, is going to be this hot water, lemon juice, Cayenne pepper potion I just mixed up. Seems like a real game-changer.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Worth 16,000 words ...

Chrissie got us matching Ts so we can start our gang. "I'm getting really good with paint," she said. 

Here I am with Millsy! And that's Nels!

I believe that Chuck is recreating a photograph of CHRISSIE'S second-grader

Chuck looking adorbs

Showing off the front of the shirt

Old Knifey randomly dropped in. JCrew dribbles him a little

QT singing

Chuck's Fannie, me and Chuck

Chuck's Fannie perform's Mr. Roboto without looking at the lyrics

Chuck raps Gin & Juice

Knifey, me and Millsy

I think this is pretty accurate

Ladies I love

CHRISSIE! models JCrew's purse

Here I am with QT and the after bar

Saturday, September 1, 2012

24 hours (plus the breathalyzer) ...

For the past few years I've been weening myself of the whole BIRTHDAY! thing. I mean, I have been getting nutso about August 31st since the mid-1970s and, I don't know, maybe I don't need to spend that particular 24 hour cycle trying to shoot fireworks from my fingertips and sweating glitter. So I stopped doing the big bar birthday party and instead celebrated by eating enough DQ Blizzard Cake to equal 2 and a half pitchers of beer. And I planned to keep doing that every August 31st until I ran out of years.

But then I saw that Cloud Cult was playing Big Top Chautauqua on my birthday and I had to re-instate the whole BIRTHDAY! thing. It was glaringly obvious that the universe wants me to be a person who stops acquaintances at Target and says: "Oh, by the way, it's my birthday." (True story). I mean, why else would my favorite band in the history of the world be playing this cool outdoor venue during a blue moon? Please. Subtlety is obviously a lost art.

I didn't set my alarm for midnight this year. I didn't have to. I knew I would instinctively know the second I entered my 37th year. My phone did light up, though, with the first text of the day from CHRISSIE! We had head-sized slabs of ice cream cake and Chuck let me open the mysterious boxes that had been appearing on our doorstep all week.

What a haul! He got me the coolest assortment of stuff: A drinking glass that says Shit Show on it, a handmade leather Kindle cover and five graphic novels that deviate from my Wish List, including a True Crime Graphic Novel, a sub-genre I didn't even know existed.

I then watched four hours of reality TV backlog. I've got it pretty bad for "Gallery Girls" these days.

Facebook gives the a birthday all the pageantry it had in grade school -- times every person you know. It is so, so fun.

One of the highlights of birthday cheer was a texted video from my friend S'Fire who played an acoustic version of Happy Birthday. I watched it like seven times. I'm saving it for my day-changer files, one of those things that can flip the switch on a meh day and put it into awesome overdrive.

It's been years since I bought a physical CD, but since I was going to be driving to Bayfield I decided to pick up some singalong songs for the drive. I got Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" and Regina Spektor's new album. One of these would be able to suit my driving mood at all points of the trip.

Hear me out here: I like this little blue-hair bopper who sings specifically to high school girls and gives them a really sexy version of adulthood. A the sand-in-the-stilettos, broken chandelier, warrant-for-arrest frivolity and none of the "Here I am eating a tuna fish sandwich in a cafeteria without windows for the twenty-seventh day in a row, I can't wear nice shoes because of my bunions, I have a zit on my back and six dollars to last me until a week from Tuesday. Can't wait to curl up under my menagerie and watch 'Big Bang Theory' and have tator tots for dinner again" reality. In the world Katy Perry sings about, a hangover is just a messy ponytail and an excuse to wear extra large sunglasses. It sounds like a nice place to visit.

But what I really like is her song "The One That Got Away." This song, in which she gets a writing credit, waxes nostalgic about the boyfriend the protagonist used to make out with in a Mustang while listening to Radiohead. They got matching tattoos. She was June Carter to his Johnny Cash. But she heard he got the tattoo removed and now she has to come to grips with the fact that she's no longer his muse.

"The One That Got Away" is not a song for adults. It is for young women currently steeped in all the "before" footage. It's a romantic song that gives lends weight to that super-cute boy they ride into adulthood and then dismiss in a dramatic fashion. The truth, of course, is that by the time you crest age 25 the high school boyfriend is just a stranger who, at one time, knew a lot about your body and your taste in music. And if you're feeling nostalgic about him after that, you aren't really feeling nostalgia for him. You're feeling nostalgia for a time when everything was new and novel and every day of the summer was at least six hours longer than a traditional clock would indicate.

The radio version of the song is this kind of tinny up-beat pop song that doesn't really match the mood of the lyrics. Still, catchy. But: The acoustic version The One That Got Away (Acoustic). This is where Katy Perry really shines. You will believe with every fiber of your toe muscles that Katy Perry is in her late 20s and really, genuinely misses her Johnny Cash. It's really lovely and if I played guitar it would become my go-to song for campfire singalongs.

So, I really never got around to Regina Spektor.

I've seen Cloud Cult a bunch of times now and I think this was the best one, aside from the problem of what to do when the music starts burrowing into your soul. The seats are like church pews and the whole row was shaking with the movement of bouncing legs and bobbing heads. Eventually a foursome to our right simply couldn't take it anymore and they sprung up and danced with closed eyes and I swear it was like some sort of tent revival.

The vibe was really great and Craig Minowa was full of pleasant chatter about spirit and energy and stars and other things that make me roll my eyes outside of the Cloud Cult setting. The new cello player is really animated and exciting. They played a version of their song "The Ghost Inside Our House" that they worked up based on the way Trampled covers it and that was super cool. The couple in front of us decided they needed to stand, which gave us an excuse to stand, too.

Then the whole band was singing and half the band was barefoot. It was like someone had spun them all in circles and set them on the stage and told them their favorite team just won the big game. While this crazy fantastic cool moment was unfolding, Fannie leaned over and tried to convince me that stage painter Connie Minowa had ruined her painting by including a cheeseburger in it.

"See, she painted Big Top. That blue at the top is a tent and those are the lights and the trees and that's a cheeseburger from the concession stand," she explained.
"I think that's an egg in a tree," I whispered.
"No, it's a burger," Fannie insisted.

... turned out to be Fannie's boyfriend from eighth grade and his wife. I gave them a ride to the Madeline Island Ferry and for two miles I was brain deep in Chaos Car. But it was the perfect kind of random run-in that I love.

I left Bayfield feeling like Cloud Cult looked when they poured their guts on that stage. It was such a great day and there was a big moon and this Katy Perry album. "What if every day of 37 feels like this?!" I thought, secretly convinced that it would.

Then I hit Superior Wisconsin at about 1:30 a.m. and got pulled over for speeding. The deputy asked if I'd been drinking and I panicked. I told him about the two beers I drank between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and the two pulls I'd taken from Fannie's Gin and Tonic during the show. I was just starting in on the nail polish remover I'd used at 5 p.m. when I realized that this was all very stupid. I obviously wasn't drunk and if I had been I wouldn't have been driving.

He asked me to step out of the car for a field sobriety test. I understand that when people say they had two beers five hours ago, they really mean that they had 12 beers an hour ago. I had to watch a red dot move from right to left, then up and down. I had to walk heel to toe for nine steps. I had to stand on one foot and count to 20 out loud. Then, because he said I seemed impaired, I had to take a breathalyzer.

This was all very humiliating, the thing a lot of people miss out on because they do this choreography when they're actually hammered instead of not at all hammered. But by then I was wondering if maybe I was drunk and just didn't know it. I don't process booze well. The smell seeps out of my body on impact and then lingers.

"Have you ever done one of these before?" the cop asked as he booted up the breathalyzer.
"Yes," I said, immediately cursing the fact that the first thing to fall out of my mouth was, again, honesty.
This must have some sort of cliche dad-was-a-cop root.

The last time I took a breathalyzer I was drunk riding and I had to blow to see if I could take over driving duties Fannie, who wasn't drunk driving but also wasn't 100 percent sober. I remember watching the number on the alcohol-o-meter rise to .17, rooting it along because I didn't really know what any of it meant. The policeman gave me a disgusted look: "You can't sub in for the driver, you clown, you're worse than her."

Last night  I peeked over to see the number on the reader.
"What is it?" I asked.
"0.00," he said.

I still got the speeding ticket -- though it was a reduced ticket. He said it was a birthday gift, but I hope it's because he felt like a dick for making me compete in the sidewalk Olympics. Birthday=Over.

(Well, kind of over. I've turned this birthday into a full weekend affair).