Monday, January 28, 2013

Rated PG ...


There is an almost-16 week old almost-human shaped being bouncing around in my uterus. The last time we saw it it was shadow kickboxing and the tech holding the ultrasound referred to it as "an active little bugger."

In case that was too coy: I'm pregnant. Well, we're pregnant, but I'm the one who burst into tears, deep wrenching sobs, while watching "Peggy Sue Got Married" the other night. I knew it was coming, so I warned Chuck before I started. I also had the kindness to assure him throughout the breakdown that it felt good and not to be scared.

The immediate response among some friends has been disbelief. Like people think I'm joking. I think this is because I have never in the history of the world turned my hands into giant pinchers to better tweak infant chub. I'm not much of a cooer or face maker. I've never flipped up my sunglasses to watch a stroller pass, then clutched my ovaries and moaned.

Still, I like children and always imagined that someday I would like to make one or adopt one or have someone pass one to me and say "Here, take care of this for me. I'll be back never." I like the way their little feet look when they kick around in foot pajamas and their little mouths making little shapes. I like the idea that at some point I will be able to put this tiny person we made into my lap and say "Let me tell you about a little monkey named Chico Bon Bon." And when Chuck has told me things that he did when he was little, I've enjoyed the occasional what-if of seeing this recreated by something wearing an an early version of his face.

Maybe I've done a poor job of presenting my true self to the world. 

I hadn't realized how much I had isolated myself from a world where kids exist until I found out I was pregnant and thought: Huh. I've never actually been close friends, confidantes, with a pregnant woman in my life. I've never had a friend lean across the table, hand on her belly and say: "Let me tell you about the gunk in your drawers," for instance. I'd never actually discussed any aspect of pregnancy with anyone at all. Ever.

I've felt a little like Neil Armstrong every day for the past few months, navigating my new outer space. Of course I have friends who have kids and they tell me things I'd have no way of knowing or even thinking about knowing: Get your sandwich heated at Subway so you don't get Listeria! (Huh?) or Your migraines will go away at 12 weeks! (Not completely, but definitely dulled). People will direct you toward the super popular manual "What to Expect When You're Expecting," and I admit I downloaded it, even skimmed a bit, before I groaned and dismissed it as Bridget Jones dishing on darkening areolas. Pass.

Now I just Google on the a need-to-know basis. For the first few weeks I spent a lot of time at the grocery store searching "Pregnant Gouda" or "Pregnant Tuna Fish" but mostly just "Pregnant migraine."

In isolating myself from a world where a Bounce House exists, I've also glossed over a lot of photographs and conversations on Facebook. Minutes after I discovered I was pregnant, I saw a friend seeking consumer reports on high-end diaper bags. The other day I saw a passionate poll on whether school should start before Labor Day or if that's a sign of the apocalypse. I have at least two Facebook friends who are pregnant and one posted a study that favored drinking wine while pregnant and half of the commenters ripped her seven new assholes. So far, this is among the most interesting cultural study I've observed and I wonder where I'll fit into all of this.

I plan to keep my pregnancy off Facebook and then to just pop up one day in July clutching a newborn. (I'm sure this isn't possible. But if it is and I could stage a photo of a girl in a bloody prom dress passing the baby off to me in a high school bathroom, that might make a neat Christmas card).

So there you have it. Pregnant. Due in mid-July. Yes, seriously. That puts me on the same timetable as Kate Middleton, Kim Kardashian and Meredith Grey from "Grey's Anatomy." Buckle up, friends. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fecal matters ...

Our sewer line clogged again, which means some terrible things involving feces bubbling from the mouth of the basement manhole and buying bleach in bulk. This happened Sunday night. I noticed it when I went downstairs with a load of laundry, mostly underwear.

Our personal sewer de-clog team, THE name in the sewage de-clog biz, responds after I leave two messages. We choose them because they fixed it last time this happened. Less than a month ago. The Original Plumber tells me that they are having equipment issues. None of the trucks would start in this zero-below science fiction nonsense we are living in. 

"What does this mean for me?" I ask. 

My mind is already overloaded with the realization of how often one uses the pipes in one's home. I don't really have leftover space for a stranger's alternator, or AAA Membership, or freeze dried ignition keys. He responds, but I can't really make out his garbled words. Seems he is trapped in a terrible cell phone range, another burden he throws down for sympathy. 

It's looking like we are going to have to let the yellows mellow and do the browns on the town. 

***

Chuck has the day off of work and texts me wondering about the best public restroom in the city. I have an answer to this. It's a hidden alcove in a public, albeit low-traffic place. It's always empty, always clean, and it is a great place to while away the hours, perhaps leisurely reading "Anna Karenina" and enjoying an apple. I won't reveal this little nugget, you all might ruin it. But here's a consolation prize: I will say that in the multi-stall, little privacy category, Target isn't bad. As an added bonus, it smells like baby aspirin. 

Duluth isn't really my jurisdiction for public restrooms. Stops along I35 between Duluth and Minneapolis are, though. In Forest Lake, you can top it all off with gourmet coffee; In Stacy, you can help things along by purchasing fresh produce from the adjacent market. 

***

In the chaos of not-flushing, relying on quick bursts of water for tooth brushing, and grabbing a bag so I can shower at the Y, I forget my purse at home. There I am: Dirty-haired, penniless, lacking identification, a home under shit siege and now ... hungry. I flap a packet of Brown Sugar Oatmeal, my pathetic desperation meal, at JCrew. She sees my distended stomach and parched pout and cobbles together a three-course meal for me: Gourmet crackers and fancy cheese, Jello and a sucker. She offers more oatmeal and apple sauce. 

I believe she would have clasped me to her bosom, would it have provided sustenance. Friends. 

"Did you get enough?" she asks me later, her kindest tone. 
I nod; Maybe I purr. 

*** 

I shower at the Y and I do it in that golden space of time where it can count for both Monday and Tuesday. I've belonged to the Y for the past 13 years and there have been spans when I haven't set foot in the building for months while continuing to pay membership dues. I used to justify this by simply being a lifelong fan of YMCAs in general. Now I'll forever justify it by remembering the Great Shower Incident of 2013. 

Dirty, full of borrowed food, a home under shit siege. The shower is a Power Blast. Something car wash-ian. The hot, high-pressure stream is both a massage and sanitizer. I lather myself into a 3-inch foam. I rinse it off and do it again. 


I crawl into bed that night and hold my forearm near Chuck's face. 

"Smell it," I say. 
He does. 
"Smells like ..." he says. 
Neither of us can place it. I think the word is "clean." 


*** 

We dine out so we don't dirty dishes. We try to thoroughly empty our bladders while we are still in public. The person who used the unisex bathroom before me didn't flush. "Animals," I say aloud. If I wanted an unflushed toilet, I'd just go at home. 

Back at home we avoid the living room, which is next to the steps that lead to the basement. We don't flush. We brush quickly and use hand sanitizer when necessary. 

I count my remaining pieces of underwear and panicking. I'll have to submit to a pair with holes unless I can get to Target soon. 

*** 

The Original Plumber is MIA on Tuesday. Chuck and I take turns calling him. In the meantime I line up another de-clogger who, when told this had already been done once this month by the Original Plumber, gives me a the vocal version of a sneer. 

"Doesn't he guarantee his work?" the plumber asks. "Why would you pay us to do it. He should re-do it for free." 

The frozen trucks, I explain, and the New Plumber acts like a dad who catches you sticking something weird in your ear. 

"He's hiding from you," he says.  

I make an appointment with the New Plumber with the understanding that if I can get the Original Plumber on the case, I'll cancel the New Plumber. He is cool with that, seeing as he doesn't understand the math behind us paying two different people to do the same job. 

Then: Connection made with Original Plumber, appointment with New Plumber cancelled, Original Plumber flakes again, our basement is really starting to reek. 

***

After another power blast at the YMCA I eat a giant salad, lazily, at the Brewhouse while reading a book. Afterward I catch one of Duluth's best-known bands playing a dub set at Red Star Lounge.  Finally, reluctantly, I head back to Shit Central, timing my return to be close to Chuck's. 

***

I call a new guy from bed on Wednesday morning. This place seems to actually have an office with a person who is paid to answer the phone. When Plumber No. 3 returns my phone call and does the requisite "Why not just have the Original Plumber come back and do it again?" choreography, I tell him I don't care about the Original Plumber. 

If I see him I might punch him. I don't care if we have to pay twice, it's worth it to be done with the Original Plumber's terrible cell phone plan, frozen equipment, job that lasts only 29ish days. 

Plumber No. 3 softens at this and seems to understand one can only not flush for so long. And so, after three days, he fixes it. He gags when he opens the manhole. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cashew. Bless you ...

Don't mind me. Just spending the morning waiting for the Roto Rooter guy to return my phone calls. It seems we're under shit siege again.

While we're here and it's inauguration day, I thought I'd redirect you to the fan fiction I wrote on the day of the last inauguration. It's really something I'm proud of.

In other news: Here's what I've been making, watching and reading. And happy shit stew to you, too.

IN THE KITCHEN

Lasagna with Lemon-Basil and Cashew Cheese: It will amaze and confuse you, how delicious lemon-basil and cashew cheese tastes. This taste gives vegan eating a good name. Anyway, just a pretty simple lasagna alternative that is really, really good.

TV MARATHON!
Homeland: The Complete First Season We really cranked through Episodes 1-13 of Claire Danes' cry-face. This show about Homeland Security's attempts to thwart a terrorist attack is totally gripping.

MOVIES
To Rome With Love: In my fan-fiction of the making of this movie, Woody Allen dug deep into his scrap paper heaps -- true story, I've seen the doc -- and pulled forth a handful of mini plots and thought "How many movies can I possible have left to make? I better turn all of these into mini movies with a common theme of Rome." I love Woody Allen, but I only really loved half of the storylines. BTW: You should see Ellen Page's Woody Allen impersonation. It's adorable.

Mulholland Dr.: This movie has changed a lot since the first and second time I saw it. I've only ever remembered the Naomi Watts parts and have completely forgotten all the other pieces of it. This is exactly what I wanted to be watching at 10 p.m. Friday night.

WHAT I'M LINKING TO ON GOOGLE PLUS
Meghan Daum has been one of my favorite writers since the late 1990s when she published an essay in the New Yorker about living in New York and her mounting debt and her freelance life that was so honest, funny, admirable, terrible and I wanted to write in her voice. So imagine my delight to find an essay on a Sunday morning by Meghan Daum about Hannah Horvath and Elizabeth Wurtzel.

BOOKS
Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne: A global weather disaster, a bunch of teens and kids end up locked in a super store to ride out the deadly hail and the air poisoning that leads some blood types to try to eat the faces of their besties. It's not the most clever YA disaster story I've read, but parts are deese. I just wish every YA writer didn't think that they have to turn everything into a series. I have no intention of reading Book 2 (which probably means I'll read Book 2).

Full review here.

Swimming Home: A Novel by Deborah Levy: I totally adored this shorty about a summer holiday at a French villa that is altered by an attractive and naked, albeit unstable, botanist slash poet floating in the pool. The story floats from episode to episode and includes the voices of a handful of clever characters. Meanwhile, everything is spiraling and its obvious something terrible is going to happen.

Full review will be here.

Peanut: A girl starts up at a new school with a new identity: The girl with the deadly peanut allergy. This is interesting for awhile, but it's hard to maintain the facade in this quickie comic book. It's okay.

Full review will be here.

Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde: A True Story by Rebecca Dana: I liked this memoir about a year in the life of a woman who spent a year living in Crown Heights exploring her religious -- or lack thereof -- background. Unfortunately, good writing, good thinking and a good eye are both dulled by regular Carrie Bradshaw references. Blerg.

Full review will be here.

The Boy: A Novelby Lara Santoro: A hot mess 40-something falls for a the smooth seductions of a 20 year old in this spiraling-out-of-control shorty of a novel. This is a delicious little book, best read in a single sitting. Beware: Your main character is wretched.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dispatches from Feline Nation: Week 71


Dear Orin and Hal,

The pounding starts around dawn. Hal, you take your tiny melon and 8 pound frame to beat down the barricades that hold our warped bedroom door almost closed. We've tried to slide an end table against the door. Recently we've added a laundry basket with a jar of coins for added weight. But just before full light, you literally beat your way into the bedroom.

To wake up and watch this unfold is to see a feline reenactment of "The Shining." Except in the pivotal "Here's Johnny" moment, two adorable kitties leap through the crack in the door, over the lower shelf of the end table and the laundry basket filled with spare change and it looks more like a scene from "The Fox and the Hound." From Stephen King to Disney just like that.

Hal, you are our socially awkward cat. You aren't quite sure how to just be. You never ooze gently into a lap for some tender touches. You bounce and you kneed and you imitate Orin, but with a clumsy bumbling. I hear myself saying "Why can't you be more like your brother" but what I mean is "Find yourself." In some ways you have. You're our athlete. The one who copies the smart girl's essay on "The Scarlet Letter" and then repays her by keeping the chaperones at bay while she has her toilet baby at prom.

Orin, it's like you study Cat Fancy for flattering poses and then practice in front of the mirror. When you sense that you are about to get booted from a bedroom, you drop to your back and tilt your head, a pose that says: "How cute am I? I know you want to rub my belly." Chuck told me he woke up, opened his eyes and noticed you, Orin, on the bedroom floor quickly getting into position. It was as if his eye twitch activated your be-cute button. It is the most manipulative thing I've ever seen and I'm embarrassed how many times I've fallen for it.

The other day, Orin, you wooed the pizza delivery man. As we tried to scrounge up spare bills for a tip you pranced up to him and within 15 seconds he was cooing about the cat's "shool patch." (He has a lisp). He mentioned it twice before leaving.

Orin, you've gotten really creative about finding places to sleep. You jog into the room with your fur full of dust and lint and the white parts of your fur tinged with grey. All in a day's work of exploring storage spaces and other unknown crannies. You can't be stopped. Today your left eye is oozing with allergy, but you're not complaining. I used to find you in a heap on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night. Then you, Hal, joined in as the big spoon. As we speak, you probably lying in front of heat vent in the closet. In the case of a catastrophic world-wide weather event, I plan to follow you out into the world to find a perfect sleeping space.

The best of these has been what Chuck saw a few mornings ago:


Scientifically fascinated by your ever-changing personality quirks -- both of you, even though I express it more toward Orin,
Christa

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ice walker ...


I've lived my entire life in a place with capital-w Winter. I've had my nose hair freeze and I've relished the experience of bringing cold limbs and frozen digits into the house and releasing urine, that, at body temperature feels like hot apple cider running from my body.

I've gone sledding and ice skating and dug snow forts. But no matter how much I know about the cold and about science, I'll never understand the reality that an entire lake can freeze over. Ice so thick you can not only walk on it, entire villages with ice cottages and roads can be erected upon it. And people will sleep there, even dull their catastrophe instincts with Budweiser there. They will fish all day from inside a propane-heated tent or shack, and never worry about the cartoonish tent or shack-shaped hole it could make in the ice.

I don't trust it for a second. It makes my knees feel nauseated, like I felt standing on the top level of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, watching rides that jut out over the edge of the building. When I see a frozen lake with a truck parked next to an ice house, my brain redirects to the scene where the house is sinking like an elevator and the truck is tipping nose-first into the water. Some guy in Carhardts shrugging, like this is just a rite of passage.

"Get in," she says, scooping winter survival gear off the front seat of her truck and into the back. "Whatever you do, do NOT put on your seat belt."
"Are you sure this is --" I stutter.
She starts the truck while cranking away at her window.
I'm not Nancy Drew, but I know that her mouth is telling me that we can drive this truck on this ice, but her actions are preparing for us to sink.
"You could drive a tank out here," she tells me as we cruise along.
But it's a little warm, so there is a two-inch layer of water we're kicking up as we go along.

She drops me off and I feel trapped out here. The water is sole-deep on my Doc Martens. There are abandoned auger holes that have re-frozen. Mounds of dog poop make a sort of frozen wet stew, like defrosting the chili that has been stock piled in the freezer. I'm keeping myself warm by faking comfort. But my knees never, ever relax.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Browsing for unknowns (to me) ...


My resolution was to read more in a bubble. I'll never be able to completely avoid the overly blabbed about "It" book, but I want to be more of an explorer than a follower when it comes to reading. In order to do this, I planned to browse bookstores, touch more books, read things by people I've never heard of.

Interestingly enough: At first this seemed super hard and a little frustrating, which was weird. It seemed like it should be super fun. Eventually it was fun, after I found a method.

Based upon my research, here is a list that includes the frustrations/answer to discovering authors you've never read.

PROBLEM ONE
It's easiest to find something new to read on a display table or display shelf. But these display tables are engineered in a specific way to highlight certain books.  Like, there are scientists sitting around a conference table somewhere in Seattle crunching author's cred, the aesthetic appeal of the cover, what's trending right now on Twitter and creating the optimal table displays that will be universal to stores around the country, sell bajillions of books and create a Team Character A versus Team Character B division that also sells merch. Like T-shirts. I'm assuming.

Technically, anything I've not heard of should qualify as meeting the terms of my resolution. But if I pull from that display table, I'm doing just what THEY want me to do. See also: Sheep.

Exception: Indie bookstores in a city where you do not live. In this case a display table is just like having the store operator whisper suggestions into your ear.

PROBLEM TWO
There is a chain bookstore in my town and that chain regularly does what I am trying to do with its Discover series. Here are up-and-comers to watch. I regularly browse this section. Pulling from this shelf seems a little less sheep-y, but still a little sheep-y.

I like to think that these titles are selected by bookish sorts who sit around and playing "Which 'Harry Potter' character are you?" and trading hummus recipes. I'll even allow the suited social scientists to observe from behind mirrored glass. As long as these picks are originating from people who can carry a stack of books and push up the sleeves of a ratty cardigan at the same time, I'm cool with it.

But. There are a limited number of titles on this shelf. If you increase your parameters to include: 1. Must be written by a woman, and 2. Must not be set in the 1800s, or be otherwise set in a field, things are limited. Also, the changeover doesn't happen that often. Eventually the names start to look familiar even if they aren't really.

PROBLEM THREE
I read a lot about books so I have a lot of titles and authors churning in my head. In the new releases section, there is a good chance that I've heard of more than 60 percent of the books and that the rest of them have covers written in lipstick font, are set during a time of war, are 500-plus pages long or otherwise star some divorced dude who returns to his hometown and must take care of his ailing father while avoiding his high school girlfriend when he picks up meds at Walgreens.

Also: These are hardcover, which costs about twice as much as softcover. And since it doesn't really matter what I read, just that it is something I've never heard of, I should probably shoot for something less expensive.

PROBLEM FOUR
I never stopped to consider whether there should be additional guidelines when I have-assedly made this reading resolution. Like, should the book be relatively current? Something from at least 2010? I do, after all, post reviews on a website. Are Readers of Book Review Blogs interested in pre-2010 books? (I already post plenty of older stuff. But should I do it in a situation where I could just as easily find something more contemporary)?

And, more importantly, am I over thinking my resolution and is it possible that over thinking resolutions is one of the great flaws of resolution making? Last year I vowed to read, every month, something I already owned, something published in 2012, something from the library and a graphic novel. That didn't last into spring.

PROBLEM FIVE
If you decide to just start at the beginning and walk the aisles dragging your finger along the spines of books, skimming titles and authors, something strange happens. Titles and authors you've already read are the titles and authors that jump out at you. It must be some sort of brain function crucial to survival. Consider this: if you left the bookstore and walked through the mall toward that place that makes hot dogs wrapped in pretzels, and along the way you were drawn to the faces of every single person you passed instead of just noticing people you know, you could go insane.

And so it goes with books.

SOLUTION
The trick to this is to plop down in front of a random shelf and limit yourself to a designated space. Set aside enough time to leisurely tug away at spines, read summaries, consider the blurbers, read the first page, check the publication date, fall in love with the cover.

Do not feel like it is cheating if there is a little stamp on the cover that indicates this book was nominated for a big award. It's not your fault you never heard about it. You can't hear about everything.

RESULT
I'm reading Swimming Home: A Novel by Deborah Levy.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A lot of hundred people ...

Remember that time I stood in front of a hundred people and live-band karaoke'd the song "Folsom Prison"? And my mom got mad because I didn't win and she booed the judges?

I'm doing something like that again. Except I'll be dancing with a professional dancer and wearing a costume and probably more lipstick than the sum total of all the lipstick I've worn in my life. And in front of more like a lot hundred people.

This is 100 percent a four-year dream come true. Bonus: First rehearsal today -- awesome song, a cool vision -- and the choreographer didn't ix-nay my robot move.

Anyway. Here is what I've made, watched and read the past week.

MAKING FOODS

Fake Chicken Curry: Chuck laid down a challenge by telling me that he planned to ad-lib a fake chicken curry recipe. He'd bought the fake chicken, two peppers, peas and a bunch of basil. Then dinner plans switched to a jalapeno bar pizza. So the next day I was faced with the ingredients, the dinner plan, and a horseshit way with things like "ad-libbing a fake chicken curry recipe." So I found this, added the peppers and fake chicken to it, and made it and it was good. Boom.

A DREAM I HAD

A few nights ago I had a dream that the actor Marlee Matlin and I were in a cafe and she was confessing some deep lusty feelings for me and I was seriously considering her offer because it was obvious that she really, really liked me and I felt it was the least I could do for someone so obviously and painfully smitten.


MOVIES
Looper: Time travel, assassins and all sorts of head-spinning suspense. This is pretty cool, y'all.

Take This Waltz: Oh holy night. Michelle Williams plays a one half of a twee couple who accidentally has a meet cute with a guy while on a business trip and when she returns to Canada, it turns out that he lives across the street. This causes all sorts of rifts in a relationship that wasn't really rift-ready. This movie is so fun to watch, but I cried like someone had steel toe booted me in the soul. Yikes.

Jeff who lives at home: I pretty much hated this movie until like the last third of it when you realize it isn't a failed comedy, it's actually supposed to be a sort of cute and sweet story so it's okay that the humor was half-assed.

BOOKS
Bad News: Book Two of the Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn: The second book of the Patrick Melrose series is pretty much a dud, especially compared to the first one.

Now Patrick Melrose is in his 20s and has a drug problem and in this episode he has gone to NYC to pick up his father's ashes.

Full review will be here.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Thoughts from an artificially warmed massage table ...

1. There is an awkwardness with massages that I haven't encountered since that weird period in my life that included sexual activity, but did not yet include alcohol. Should I take my pants off if we're just going to be working on my upper back? The massager would say: "What ever is most comfortable for you" in which case I would not only take off my pants, I'd put on my pajama pants and robe. Do you get into the bed, do you immediately go face down? Or do you sort of perch on your side, a pose that wordlessly said "Hello, Lover" in the late 1970s. But I'm topless, so it would be the Hello Lover pose with a blanket pulled up to my chin like a lobster bib. Scrambling to face down as the door opens seems  so contrived. Like this whole experience requires a safe word and maybe the massager is wearing a nylon over her face.

2. There is a point of the massage where it is hard to tell what she's doing. She can't just be using her hands because this total coverage seems bigger than that. Yet, it's so directed, so specific that I can't believe she has, like, oiled up her arm to the elbow and incorporated it into the session.

She's waited until I've become completely sedated by the combination of her muscular thumbs and this rainforest soundtrack. My breathing has slowed and now she feels safe pulling up the bottom of her T-shirt up to just below her breastbone, tying it off, and ripping the velcro free on the the freakish rolling pin-shaped appendage, a body part so rare that doctors have no scientific name for beyond "Her Third Arm-ish."

3. My vision is limited to this toilet-seat shaped cushioned face hole my forehead is pressed against, so all I can see are her white Reebok Shape Ups as she orbits my upper body, occasionally stepping out of the frame to apply more scentless lotion to her three arms. (Or, rather, two arms and an arm-ish).

We put a lot of trust into a stranger with extraordinary knowledge of nature soundtracks. If, by pinching the webbing between one's thumb and pointer finger, a headache can be cured; If, by massaging the area in front of one's ear flaps, a jaw ache can be relieved -- what's to say that this stranger won't take her drill-like thumbs, press into a little-known divot and knock me into a soap opera-length coma.

4. Afterward she greets me outside the door with lemon flavored water, but seems uninterested in rehashing what we've been through together. "How you cranked away at my shoulder ..." She nods, like she's distracted.




Thursday, January 3, 2013

So much tube time ...

I tell you what. It feels a little pathetic to make "TV Marathon" plural, like I did in this here roundup of things consumed since the last time I made a roundup of things consumed. I have been watching a lot of TV. A lot*.

As for the pesky New Year's Resolutions mumbo jumbo, every year I sentence myself to the same things: Read more, write more, run more. Then I throw in some vague shit just to make it interesting, like "Do an intensive study of something new every month!"

Anyway, here's what I've been making, watching and reading.

FOODS

Hoppin' John: I think I tried making this on New Year's Day a few years ago, but I don't remember a lick of it. Anyway, this was good except that I touched ham while making it. Have you ever studied a refrigerator of ham at your local grocery store? If you think about it too hard it can really get gross.

Anyway, this was good.

TV MARATHONS
Girls: The Complete First Season While it's been the year of Lena Dunham, my only access to her has been her super-weird and great indie flick "Tiny Furniture." This HBO series is four 20-somethings in NYC, presumably a much more accurate presentation of this time and place and, holy Hannah (literally) is it great. It's filled with exactly the kind of funny situations and dialogues that a few clever 20-something women could really go riff-crazy writing. (I'm thinking specifically of a scene where Dunham's character Hannah freaks out about the stuff what comes out the side of the condom).

Verdict: I can get on board with Lena Dunham. But I'm not above giggling when she has a snit over her book proposal appearing on Gawker.

Switched at Birth: Volume One I started watching this ABC Family series about two girls (one arty and upper class, the other deaf, athletic and from ABC Family's version of a rough area) who are switched in the hospital and go on to live with their non-birth parents for 16 years as sort of an investigative project and then I became obsessed with the show and watched all 30 episodes of the first season.

I think this is actually a really good, really well-done show (despite Lea Thompson) that really gives a voice to life as a deaf person. It includes ASL and subtitles. And the plot is gooey and delicious like lots of plots on ABC Family.

Parenthood: This started out as a way to get through workouts on the treadmill 42 minutes at a time and ended up being something I stopped watching at the YMCA and started watching on my couch. The show's pull was just. too. powerful. I'm still not sure why I watched every season, or what the particular draw is, or if I'll just watch anything. (Which I suspect).

Portlandia: Season 2: Here is how I feel about "Portlandia": My initial response is that I love it. It's hilarious. But really I only like about 25-50 percent of it and the rest of it, while still clever, is just bores right into your brain in a really annoying way. This is also a problem because you have to watch every episode back-to-back and you can't step away from it.

TIME OUT FOR A RANDOM PHOTO
MOVIES
2 Days in New York Hm. I really liked this. It's by the actor from "Before Sunrise" and "After Sunset" and it's this weird little Woody Allen-esque movie about a single weekend when a woman's family comes to visit her in NYC from France. The second weirdest thing is that I really liked Chris Rock, who stars as her longtime boyfriend. Although, 100 years ago I used to be really into Chris Rock.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: We watched this instead of "Gremlin's" for Christmas this year.

The Dark Knight Rises: And this is how we spent New Year's Eve. I kept drawing parallels to Star Wars; Chuck kept drawing parallels to Rocky 4.

Can't Buy Me Love: I love when you can watch a movie and know that when you saw it the first time, your biggest problem was that your mom wouldn't let you own a pair of Jelly Shoes.

BOOKS

That's Not a Feeling by Dan Josefson: A suicidal teen is tricked into residency at a behavioral school in a mansion in the middle of nowhere where students are taught an entirely new psychology and language. It's kind of funny, but not funny enough.

Full review here.



How the Light Gets In by MJ Hyland: A 16-year-old girl becomes a foreign exchange student in Chicago to try to escape her terrible life in Australia. Except she can't stop doing things that upset the balance in the suburban house where she is placed.

This was a great intro to a writer I will now always be watching for new stuff. Full review here.




As I Lay Dyingby William Faulkner: You probably read this in high school. I didn't. But it was worth the wait. So great.

Full review will be here.


Carry Me Downby MJ Hyland: This is the better known book by MJ Hyland and it is a real piece of work. There is something off with the main character, a very tall young boy who lives to get his knack for lie detection in the Guinness Book. Meanwhile, some really strange shit he barely understands is going on between his parents.

Such confusing times. Full review will be here.

Never Mind: Book One of the Patrick Melrose Novelsby Edward St. Aubyn: This story of a day in the life of some upper class English people who are super awful is like my favorite thing I've read in forevs. Mind. Blown.

Full review will be here.

CAT PHOTO

NOTE
*I'm still having headaches. Now it's being called a tension headache, and it does fit that descriptor, too. I had a massage recently and it seemed so close to being cured if only the massager had slightly more powerful thumbs. They are still constant, but they have lessened in intensity. Having these headaches makes me want to sit around and watch TV. Sitting around and watching TV makes it hurt worse. There's the rub.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The year of the Dempsey ...


I haven't run out of Subway in disgust in a few months, my stomach churning because some customer had managed to make a mayo-mustard goatee and neglected it long enough for it to dry and even crack in places. (Admittedly: I've been taking more meals down the street at a place that specializes in peanut butter, jelly and Cool Ranch sandwiches).

Yesterday I walked into the shop and a man was sitting in the corner taking two-finger swipes from a container of Top the Tator and pushing it directly into his mouth. Then, his fingers, wrinkled with wetness, he would dip them back into the condiment. I looked just long enough to determine that this non-Subway sanctioned food was probably pulled from his gym bag and, as far as I could tell, there was no refrigeration system in place.

He was directly in the path between me and my 6-inch chicken breast on Italian Herb and Cheese. I consider it a bit of growth that I was able to take this image, stuff it into a back alley brain dumpster, and still order. Though I did take my sandwich to go.

***

I didn't even know I had this pet peeve: A guy at the grocery store told me "Happy New Years" and my entire body seized the way it does when someone says "Anyways." I was at this thing one time and the host kept saying "Anyways ... anyways ... anyways ..." and by the end of the night every "anyways" as accompanied by a piercing ding in my head.

"Happy New Years" sounds like a person got stabbed before they finished their thought, or else they are sentencing you to a lifetime of happiness. "Happy New Year's Eve" would have been cool, albeit clunky and kind of like holding the door for a stranger, then releasing it early. Or "Happy New Year." A single year is just more manageable. More complete.

(In 2013 I sound cranky about silly things).

***

Some people will act like you're secretly lying if you say you are actually looking forward to staying home on New Year's Eve, watching "The Dark Knight Rises" and eating lime chips soggy with nacho cheese. But, considering we've done a version of this the past three years, I'd say it's safe to say this is a lifestyle choice.

This is what we did.

Truthfully, I'm terrified of being out in public on New Year's Eve. You have to take a road to get home and I just assume that the roads are filled with people who are playing Space Invaders with their cars. It doesn't help that when I drove home at 9:30 p.m. things were already looking loose and all five of the police cars I saw were in lights-spinning chase mode.

Chuck got home from work just before midnight, saw the cats whizzing from surface to surface, and said "That's exactly what it's like outside if the cats were cars."

***

Snooki isn't a terrible NYE host. I mean that sincerely. She's really comfortable with a microphone in a way that JWOWW couldn't duplicate.

***

As a New Year's Eve gift, TiVo recorded "Can't Buy Me Love." This is how we ended up staying up until after 5 a.m.

***

Have you ever considered Patrick Dempsey's filmography? What a trip. Here's a blast from the past. BTW: If you look closely, you will see the tiny buds that will later become Dr. McDreamy.