Tuesday, February 28, 2006

While I'm on the Subject, Here's Another Food Post

Every night we watch the Food Network lineup while we eat dinner, because it gets us in the mood and really enhances our dining experience. Also, it compels J to say things like, “You know, Emeril is the Dr. Phil of cooking.” So first we watch Good Eats with Alton Brown, followed by Unwrapped, with host Marc Summers. Who is definitely a robot. I need no more convincing. And am I the only person who finds the Unwrapped set diner just a little bit creepy?

What I love best about Unwrapped is the way they label food industry spokespeople as they explain everything you never wanted to know about Fritos. So they’ll have this talking head on the screen expounding on the history and nuances of toaster waffles or baked beans or whatever, and this is what you’ll see on the bottom of your screen:

Eggs Benedict Historian ... Gingerbread Specialist ... Peanut Brittle Expert ... Food Packaging Authority ... Macaroni Maven

For some reason this always makes me laugh. But I tell you what. The day I see a vacancy posted for a Scone Scholar, I’m submitting my resume, stat.

Anyway. Back to cheerless factory food production. Half the time I don’t want to eat my favorite foods ever again after I see how they’re made. I for one prefer to imagine my bagels lovingly hand-formed by a rotund, smiling, elderly baker (who’s wearing gloves, of course). Not expelled from some high-speed mechanical chute like bolts from the colon of a laxative-addled C3PO.

But as one who toiled for three weeks in the bowels of a cheese factory, let me tell you about a little secret I learned on the job. Some foods are so arcane and singular? That they use different labels on the same product. We slapped a Kraft label, Sysco label, and a local semi-generic label on the same 4 oz package of blue cheese crumbles. The store slaps the different price tag on it. (And no, I meant absolutely nothing by pairing the word “bowels” with “cheese factory.” It was just a coincidence.)

That eye-opening revelation in the blue cheese pit caused me to seriously re-evaluate everything in my life. Every guy I’d dated thus far? They were the same guy, but with different hairdos! Actually, scratch that. They all had longish skater hair and a tendency to get high and forget to call me back.

In a completely unrelated story halfway around the world, my best friend departed early this morning for Thailand. She will be volunteering for one solid month at this orphanage. Unfortunately, she didn’t have time to be fitted for her Mother Theresa uniform before leaving, so she’s stuck with polyester blend gaucho pants and t-shirts. Safe travels, C! And if you want, feel free to smuggle one of those lil’ cuties home for me. I need someone to run my errands and scrub my floors.

(I kid! I would never make orphans run errands for me. They don’t even have their drivers’ licenses yet. Sheesh!)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Shoppin' and Hatchin'

Today I went grocery shopping. And once again, the cashier commented on my purchases. “Wow, you eat so healthy. I try to eat healthy, but that stuff is so expensive!” I shrugged and said, “Well, so is cancer of the colon.”

Just kidding. I actually blushed, giggled, and mumbled some inane response like, “Well, I’m sure once I have kids I won’t buy all this stuff anymore.” Implying that I really don’t care what kind of hormones, trans fats, and chemicals I pump into my offspring, I guess.

Anyway, I’m used to cashiers commenting on my food purchases. “Wow, this is the healthiest cartload to come through here today.” “How do you make tofu?” “What does this yogurt taste like?” “What’s tem-puh? Or is it tempay? Tempee?” And, after warily examining my grocery items as if I were buying fancy, new-fangled lurnin’ and Baby Jesus in a Can: “Okay. I’m curious. Why do you buy organic anyway? I mean, is there really any difference?”

Now, I know they’re just making conversation. Being friendly. Maybe even feeling a little guilty about that platter of Oreos they had for breakfast. But it’s hard for me to imagine them commenting on a conveyer belt loaded with pork rinds and Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies if I were oh, say, morbidly obese. “Geez, do you think you need all these snacks, Fattycakes?” Or if I were purchasing lots of low-sodium products: “High blood pressure, eh?” Or dozens of bottles of booze: “Oooooh, someone’s got an intervention in their future!” Or hemorrhoid cream and Metamucil: “Pushing too hard on the ol’ shitter, huh?”

And I don’t always eat healthy. Take this morning at Perkins. I ordered hash browns, buttered toast, and two eggs, sunny-side up. But the cook must have mistaken “sunny-side up” for “cold, mucousy boobs.” Which was a real bummer.

But it reminded me of a story. When I was about five, my parents took me to visit my aunt and uncle’s farm. Probably right after I drew that picture of Long Nipple Cat and told Miss Barb about the baby boilin’. The farm turned out to be a wondrous cornucopia of domesticated animals. There were rabbits, and cows, and horses, and pigs, and—my favorite for some strange reason—chickens! To my delight and surprise the adults let me pick out some freshly-laid brown eggs from a few nests. We could take them home with us! My uncle warned me, “Now, be careful. Some of those eggs may have been fertilized.” Which I took to mean, “Some of those eggs will hatch beautiful fluffy baby chicks that you can cuddle and love and keep under the bed and call George.”

But I knew one thing for sure. Eggs don’t hatch unless the mother hen sits on them. When we got home I snuck one of the eggs from the refrigerator and placed it carefully on the sofa. I put a pillow atop the egg, and then proceeded to “sit” on the egg. Just like a good mother hen. I gently sat on that egg for over two hours, passing the time by watching Pinwheel on Nickelodeon.

But my baby chick wasn’t stirring. So I decided to ask my mom how chicken eggs hatched. Maybe I had forgotten an important step in the process. I had to play it cool, though. She had no idea I was sitting on that egg, and something told me it would be a good idea to keep my little project a secret.

“Hey mom. How do baby chicks hatch?”

I’m pretty sure my mom was cross-stitching more seventies-themed wall hangings at the time, because I seem to recall her having some kind of thread in her mouth when she answered, “The mother hen lays an egg and sits on it to keep it warm.”

I frowned. I already knew this part. “Yeah, but how does the mother chicken make the baby chicken? Like when we don’t want to eat the egg?”

Never one to muddy answers to the tough questions, she replied, “The rooster has to peck the back of the hen’s neck. That’s how they make a baby chick.”

A-ha! That baby chick was almost mine. So once again I perched carefully above the egg, this time reaching around to peck the back of my own neck repeatedly with my right index finger.

I’m pretty sure that egg ended up next to my Dad’s toast a few mornings later.

This is the kind of fond childhood memory that makes me really excited to have kids and start feeding them confusing answers to difficult questions. And Ding Dongs and Ass-Kickin’ Barbeque Popcorn with real butter flavor.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Kids Suggest the Darndest Phy Ed Units

I’ve been working with a local school district on a Carol M. White Physical Education grant (also known as the “Saving the World One Dodgeball at a Time” grant) and I knew you would appreciate an update.

First of all, I have no idea who Carol M. White is. Or was. One suspects that she a) is deceased; b) was known for wearing velour jogging suits and carrying a clipboard; c) single-handedly kept the whistle and lanyard factory in business; d) wore squeaky white sneakers with brightly colored laces all the time, even to bed; or, e) all of the above. Anyway, the PE team I’m working with is fantastic. They are everything you’d like a cooperative client to be and more. I love them so much, I want to marry them. And then be a polygamist.

Part of the pre-grant gruntwork involved surveying high school students about what new Phy Ed units they’d like to see, and yesterday I laughed so hard while reading the responses that I dislodged an important internal organ, peed myself a little, and threw my uvula out of joint.

But back to the survey. Most of the kids responded with relatively normal answers such as badminton, rock climbing, yoga, volleyball and the like. But a few kids contributed some unique write-in suggestions, including:

"anything dangerous"
How about wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the American flag AND a big Uncle Sam hat on a family vacation to Iran? Or there’s always the old standby: razor juggling.

I don’t know, but I suspect this might involve stalking and then beating someone up at La Petite Retreat Day Spa. While this may appear to be a standards-based approach to developing hand-eye coordination, it could lead to jail time. Which would perhaps facilitate more motor skill development, but could certainly impede graduating with one’s peers. So, it’s out.

Calories burned for a 110-pound student during a one-hour class period: 47
It could work. I know I would ace the final exam.

"Ninjutsi, Kenop, sai-chi, akido, and art ovui"
Don’t you get the feeling that this kid is a big fan of anime? And has a tendency to make up words after watching a marathon of Jet Li movies? And perhaps practices kung fu-like kicks and poses in his or her bedroom, in front of a full-size mirror? And lives in an imaginary world populated by talking robots and tarepandas and live action samurai with shintaro? And needs a hug?

There is no mortar and pestle involved here, folks. And you don’t want to even know what the final exam entails.

"Foam Pit"
I myself prefer the bin-o-balls at the local McDonald’s play area. When they don’t yell at me to get out, that is.

Let’s not even bring the baby seals into this.

"Computer gaming"
Uh-oh, it’s the anime kid again. Will someone please expose this child to sunlight and fresh air?

"Listening to music"
Now with this, I’m not sure I’d reach my target heart rate unless I was listening to the songs “Cotton Eye Joe” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Both of which piss me off so much I want to smash things into tiny shards of micromatter, and then shrink myself down to the size of an atom so I can smash my micromatter into oblivion.

“gun range, paintball, sporting clays, hunting, 4 wheeling, and dirt biking”
Okay, but only if you’re wearing protective gear and are committed to reinforcing stereotypes about rural men.

And finally, my personal favorite:

"Michael Jackson Lessons"

I’ll wait a minute for you to visualize a Michael Jackson lesson. I’m not sure what this PE unit would entail, but I suspect it would result in lots of angry letters from parents. There may also be a field trip to Dubai, some monkeys, extensive plastic surgery, and a baby tossing competition.

And what do you think the uniform would look like? White glove and shiny marching band jacket or … abaya?

You know, I normally steer clear of Michael Jackson jokes, because it’s a little like making fun of the Olson twin’s eating disorders and super-size shades. The punchlines practically write themselves. And I enjoy more of a challenge, you know? But when a high school kid specifically requests “Michael Jackson LESSONS” as part of a new physical education curriculum, well, I simply can’t help myself.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dude, Where's my Aquanet?

(A brief explanation of the ensuing madness: this is in response to a new "80s Likeness" meme tagging, originating with Mom-101. Let the ear-scraping eighties vernacular commence!)

Like, I would have to say that in the eighties? My hair most closely resembled the kickin’ fro on the beave magnet in the upper right hand corner. Also, I had a rad pink tie much like the one keeping blondie’s excellent forehead sweat-free and truly outrageous.

The thing that stokes me most about this picture of stellar 80’s local legend “Xciter” (other than all of the righteous plastic streamers) is knowing that, like, my way-cool husband chills out and plays video games with one of these mega-bad poon tamers every Friday night. Their bitchin’ XBox Live secret action hero names? Turbo Pansy and Action Wimp. That is like, so boss.

Another of these gnarly dudes went on to join the choice band “Tuff,” which, as you may remember, scored a bodacious hit with the totally tubular 1991 power ballad “I Hate Kissing You Goodbye.” Plus, they toured with such super wicked bands as Warrant, Britny Fox, The Bullet Boys, Dangerous Toys & Enuff Z’Nuff.

Does it get any more killer than that?

Wow. I have a sudden urge to slip into a Hypercolor sweatshirt and some stirrup pants, crack open a Crystal Pepsi, zone out in front of a few Kate & Allie episodes I taped on Beta, and then organize my Garbage Pail Kids cards and Strawberry Shortcake Miniatures collection. Yeah. That’s the ticket.

Because it’s hammertime, hosers. On a stick.

Props-o-rama to my solid homegirl Gina for the photo and wicked awesome dudette Kristen for the trippendicular challenge. Fer sher.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

True Story

First, I have to tell you that this morning's headline in my local paper reads, “Sex offender causes uneasy feeling.”

Damn. If I knew my local paper was The Onion, I’d have subscribed YEARS ago!

Okay, on to my story.

Last night, as I made my way back to the parking ramp to retrieve my car and head home from work, I was following a cute blond girl chattering away on a cell phone. She wore stylish boots, with next season’s black winter coat cinched around her trim waist. A hip pink bag was slung over her shoulder, chock full of bubble gum and lip gloss and a pastel iPod and pixies with fairy dust. Suddenly, a young man across the street whistled at her. “Hey girl!”

Because she was deep in conversation, she just smiled coyly at him and continued on her way. I, on the other hand, felt somewhat demoralized. It wasn’t too long ago that I was getting my own catcalls. Were they over for good? Did this mean I was…old?

I decided to zip across the street to ask this young man. “Excuse me,” I said. “I heard you whistle at that young lady ahead of me and I was wondering why you didn’t whistle at me.”

He gave me a slightly pitiful look, but one tinged with good humor. “Oh, I don’t want to be rude.”

It was worse than I thought. “Go on. Tell me.” I glanced down at myself. “It’s the sensible shoes, isn’t it?”

He nodded. “Yeah. You also have a pretty sensible haircut.”

I cringed and touched my hair. “But it’s such a snap to style in the morning!”

“That doesn’t matter. What matters is how you look to me. And that haircut might take you two seconds to style, but if it’s not giving me a woody, what’s the point?” He suddenly seemed concerned at my downtrodden expression. “But don’t worry! That’s so easy to fix. Also, you are wearing earmuffs. See, you’re substituting comfort for style, and that’s bad. But easily taken care of.” He reached over and pulled my earmuffs off my head. “That’s better! Look world, she has ears!”

I self-consciously looked down at my outfit again for other easy things to fix. “Oh Lord.” I chuckled at the bag on my shoulder. This one was easy. "It's my insulated lunch cooler." Nothing screamed “sensible, aging office drone” like an insulated lunch bag. How could I have missed this!

He laughed. “Well, yes, that and the fact that you clearly got it for free from the Defenders of Wildlife Foundation. Also, it’s kinda dirty.” He leaned in, as if to study my outfit more closely. “And? You smell a little like bran.” He leaned closer, sniffing and wrinkling his nose. “Is that…is that poop?”

I felt myself blush. I had indeed soiled myself as I walked out of my building, and I thought I’d be able to make it home without further incident. I was wrong. I went for a weak chuckle. “I am wearing Depends. I guess they don’t really trap the smell.”

He pinched his nose. “I’ll say. But I tell you what. Tomorrow I’ll smear some bacon grease in my eyes and as soon as I see your blur, I’ll give you a shout out. But you know what really would solve all your problems?”

“What?” I licked my dentures eagerly. “What?!?” I was desperate. He held the keys to a future that would only be rewarding if whippersnappers like him found me attractive.

“You need to ditch the Rascal scooter.”

I felt my heart sink. How do you like that? Well, I had to draw the line somewhere. No way was I giving up the freedom of convenient, legless mobility for a few catcalls. “Sorry bud. That’s one concession I’m not gonna make.” And with that, I flipped my clip-on sunglasses down over my spectacles, settled comfortably on my donut pillow, and slowly zoomed away.

“Wait! Don’t you need help crossing the street?”

“You can get your Boy Scout badge elsewhere, punk," I shouted over my shoulder. "I’m an independent woman.”

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I knew I had a future in fiction when …

Recently, my family was digging around in my younger brother’s collection of school memorabilia and old homework assignments so we could humiliate him in front of his new girlfriend. Boy howdy did we have a laugh. It was so much fun that my sister and I started rummaging through our old stuff, too.

For awhile, it was all cutesy crayon drawings and homemade birthday cards and “recipies” I wrote in 1981 for things like “quick nut cake” (take flour—brown sugar nut’s one egg plan sugar mix Add anything Cook one hour Wath. When done stick toothpick in if hot cool.)


"Cheese saled" (tak eny kind of cheese and sherd. It the take some lettus and cute cumbers and parmison cheese and mix and serve).


"Candy bars." (First take Hershey’s chocolate and cool whip and nuts and mix then harden in blocks and freeze overnigt in morning take out and enjoy.)

Then I came across something a bit, well, ODD in one of my old kindergarten report cards. My teacher Miss Barb had written this in the comment section: “Jessica is a bright, talkative student. She continues to do well in school. But I don’t know where she gets the disturbing idea that parents who do not want their babies boil them alive!!!”

Yes, there were three exclamation marks. And no Miss Barb, none of us know where I came up with that one. I know my parents didn’t tell me this, because a) I lived through childhood, b) they didn’t boil my younger siblings, and c) if I had the kind of parents who told things like that to their children, I doubt I’d have gotten A’s in school. Or combed my hair on a daily basis.

But you know, I really shouldn’t be surprised by this strange comment from my first teacher. After all, it was also the year in which I drew this:

Now, who wants cream with their Monday morning coffee?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Plea for Sanity

Okay, I KNOW I said that would be my last post for a few days, but I couldn't help myself. It's an addiction, see. A compulsion. A reward for getting my work done today.

So this morning I turned on the television to determine, by number of local school closings due to the snowstorm, whether or not I’d be commuting to work today. Good Morning America was on. And lo and behold, Charlie Gibson, Diane Sawyer, and Robin Roberts were doing a “blind” taste test of frozen lasagnas. In honor of the Olympics, of course. Because a law has been passed that until February 26, everything will revolve around the Olympics.

And of course the cheapass Stouffers and Michelina's Italian-flavored death patties came in first. I was practically shouting at the screen: “Of course you liked those budget bastards the best! They contain the lifetime RDA of delicious sodium for eight people! And thanks to those saltcakes, you will be dead in two days! Everyone KNOWS that foods that will kill you in two days are the most delicious, you idiots!”

Ah, delicious sodium. It’s a well-known historical fact that mummy’s faces ended up all stretched-out like that because they had just eaten a fatal dose of sodium in the form of Tostitos and processed cheese dip. You see, they were having orgasms. In their mouths.

And then it was too late. Their bodily fluids had evaporated and they died.

Here’s another food that can kill you in two days: old boxed wine. I’ve been aging mine in the fridge for going on three years now, and it’s still delicious. Because bacteria makes mouths happy. And here you thought it was Twizzlers!

But back to Good Morning America. After the sodium-industry sponsored taste test, they showed a clip for an upcoming broadcast in which tiny cameras would reveal, for the first time, the insides of Diane Sawyer’s arteries, Robin Roberts’ heart, and…Charlie Gibson’s brain. Because Katie Couric’s colon wasn’t enough.

I don’t know about you, but this kind of crap makes me want to consume a deadly dose of cured ham, Salt n’ Vinegar chips, pickles, and Bloody Mary mix poured over bouillon cubes until I end up like Shrinky McCharcoalcheeks up there. I know, I know…they’re raising awareness so we all make appointments for important medical tests. But I dream of a world in which people schedule their own routine medical procedures and eat a high fiber diet without Katie Couric subjecting me to the smooth, pink interior of her poop chute. Together, we can make this happen. Won’t you join me?

Now, I’m off to watch some Olympics.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

My Trip to the Hoo-Ha Doctor (also an informal Thursday Thirteen for Tomorrow)

It’s that time of year again: the pilgrimage to the Hoo-Ha doctor! And I knew you would all be dying to hear about it. First of all, it was just a “Jiffy Lube oil-change” maintenance visit, not a “cracked transfer case” major intervention. I have nothing exciting like a pregnancy to report (sorry parents!) Rest assured that you will be the first to know if anything falls out of me, such as my colon or a baby.

I was compelled to add, “Gentle Readers” to that last part, but I stopped myself. Because how do I know you knit mittens and sing to puppies all day? You could all be ninjas! You could lift weights with your necks and juggle chainsaws.

So before the Hoo-Ha doctor came in, the nurse took my blood pressure, weighed me, and asked if I had any allergies beyond that already in my chart. I rambled on about my existing allergy for a minute and then paused before adding, “Well, also cats. I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to cats.” Which they’ll be glad to know so as to avoid using the cat fur-trimmed tongue depressor on me.

And then I was all alone in the room with my little sheet and paper buttmatt on the exam table that felt like a recycled schoolbus seat. I waited. And waited. I waited so long I compiled a list of activities / thoughts that you too can engage in should you find yourself in a similar situation:

  1. Read all of the wall charts, remarking at how well you can read them with your new glasses. Stare at the tiny writing while taking the glasses on and off, on and off. Wow! It’s amazing how blind you were before you got your new glasses.
  2. Compare own breasts to the “average size of lump” found based on various breast-exam schedules. Conclude that because own bosom is just about the size of the smallest average lump, you have nothing to worry about for now.
  3. Feel appalled at how closely a particular diagram of the uterus resembles a whole turkey.
  4. Consider peeking into the biohazard waste bin to see what’s in there.
  5. Touch the curtain next to you and then recoil in horror, as you are probably now crawling with the ebola virus.
  6. Empty glass of Q-tips on counter and use it to eavesdrop on nurses’ conversation through the wall.
  7. Study the graphic anatomy posters. Get grossed out and think, I really have a pudendal nerve? Pudenda is a real word?
  8. Consider tip-toeing across the room to read the pamphlet entitled “Why your pap smear is better than ever!” (Or something like that.) Then think, “Meh. Who cares.”
  9. Pick hangnail until it bleeds and immediately berate self for doing so in a germ-infested room.
  10. Take a short nap with your pants off.
  11. Sneeze. Conclude that you are probably coming down with SARS.
  12. Think about what kind of practical joke* you could play on the next patient and get distracted by gross posters again.
  13. Pity poor husband because these days, it takes a trip to the Hoo-Ha doctor for you to shave your legs.

I waited so long I could feel the tentacles of age creeping in, massaging new wrinkles into my cheeks and making my bones brittle and bendy. I began to wonder if they’d forgotten about me, and a tiny part of me actually wished they had, because that would have made an awesome blog entry, don’t you think? Finally, after three days, the doctor came in. (Isn’t it amazing how you’re reading this in the future?)

And guess what we talked about during the exam?

That’s right!!! My book! In fact, I talked so much that I had some of my own mouth stick action going on.

Shameless, aren’t I? My doctor seemed really interested and asked lots of questions about it, which rocked. After she pulled the exam gloves off she shook my hand and congratulated me. Which struck me as funny enough to write about it later.

This concludes the Hoo-Ha portion of the post. And now, a word from our sponsors.

Unless something hilarious happens this weekend, this will be my last post until Sunday night. Because like I’ve said before, helper monkeys don’t pay for themselves! And I’ve got scads of terribly exciting work to do. Plus, we’re having a winter storm tomorrow, so I’ve got hatches to batten down and food to hoard.

PS: a few other funny things have happened lately, such as my site getting banned by my friend’s workplace Internet screening tool due to accumulated profanity. Also, last night, I tried to be nice and give J a backrub while he trimmed his toenails, and he shouted, “AAAAAAAHHHHG! You’re sitting on my clippings!” Isn’t that gross? Thank goodness I had my pants on!

*Here’s one: Extend roll of buttmatt paper and use your favorite colored crayon to scribble whimsical hieroglyphics on clean section; roll back up to give the next patient’s appointment a fresh, “modern art” feel.

Oh, one more thing: a mysterious fairy blogmother nominated me for a blog award. Rules, procedures, and pudendums--I mean addendums--to the rules are here. If you vote for me, I'll let you name an inmate in my next novel. Ex-boyfriends are acceptable. Wheeee!

Monday, February 13, 2006

My Valentine for You

Whenever someone asks me to relate my most embarrassing story, I’m always at a loss for a moment. Because I have more embarrassing stories than Bai Ling has fugly outfits. Today I shall tell you just one of those stories. And nobody but you and I will know of it, because it was a solo expedition into HumiliaTown.

I was about 13, on a shopping trip with relatives at the mall in the Bratwurst Capital of the World when it happened. We were in the Deb store (which is pretty embarrassing to begin with), searching high and low for affordable, flattering clothing that didn’t appear to be sewn by malnourished toddlers in a Malaysian sweatshop until you got a really close look at the seams. Anyway, that particular Deb store had been established in space that was once home to a vast supermarket, or maybe a bratwurst-stuffing factory. Or at least that seemed to be the case, because the store was huge.

As I perused the racks, I saw very familiar-looking girl across the store. There were plenty of shoppers searching for bargains in Deb that day, and why I happened to lock eyes with this particular girl still escapes me. Distracted by our shopping companions, we returned to the tasks at hand. A second later I looked up at her again. She was still looking at me.

Where had I seen this girl before? She was about my age, so maybe at some school-related function. Perhaps a basketball game? I wondered if her school was in my school’s sports conference. I squinted.

She was STARING at me. Clearly, she recognized me from somewhere as well.

I thought I’d risk it. I would give her a quick wave. If she returned it, we’d meet in the middle and get to the bottom of the mystery. If not, well, I could just pretend to be waving at someone behind her and duck into the nearest rack of pants.

I waved at the familiar girl.

And immediately dropped my arm.

Because I was waving at myself.

Turns out the Deb store was SO BIG because they’d covered every wall in mirrors, the deceptive bastards. And I was seeing, and then waving, at my own reflection. No WONDER that girl looked so familiar! I saw her every morning when I popped zits and curled that horrible poof I used to have on the top of my head.


The embarrassing story has ended, go in peace. The End.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

My Three Jodies

In college I had three friends named Jody. One was cherubic and bubbly, with long curly black hair and a talent for acting. If Cherub Jody ever became famous enough to merit assaulting the public with her own fragrance, it would be called “Wholesome” and it would smell like peach cobbler, Christmas Eve, knitting shops, and well-behaved, clean toddlers playing with puppies. Cherub Jody transferred to Madison after our sophomore year, so I can say with some degree of certitude that she now buys organic food and perhaps subscribes to Utne Reader.

Another Jody was skinny and tan, with Girls Gone Wild flat-ironed blond hair. Her favorite hobbies were looking great in jeans, steering me toward illegal activity, and breaking up and then reuniting with her football-player boyfriend. I’m not sure, but I think GGW Jody dropped out after our sophomore year. Either that or I got tired of her shenanigans and just stopped returning her calls.

The last Jody also had curly hair like Cherub Jody, but a hard streak from being raised “up north.” Also because she learned in college that her dad had a secret second family. Which, as you may surmise, would give anyone a hard streak.

Once while visiting Up North Jody we attended a party hosted by boys who liked dirt bikes and beer can pyramids. As soon as we walked in the door the other Up North girls wanted to beat me up because I was wearing some new-fangled necklace that hadn’t hit the scene there yet. I know this because they said so right next to me, loudly. “Who’s this bitch? She must think she’s hot or something. Wonder what she’d do if I kicked her ass.”

Well, I would burst into a song and dance routine from the musical Oklahoma! and then distribute fun size Milky Way bars to everyone. Duh.

Anyway, I earned their respect by drinking half a bottle of peach schnapps, employing some self-deprecating humor, listening raptly to their relationship woes, and enduring lots of Guns ‘n’ Roses around a bonfire. If I could make them laugh with a well-timed belch or fart, that was good, too.

(Note to young people everywhere: if ever you find yourself in a situation where you need to placate or endear yourself to a bully, try my scientifically-proven Asskiss system. One sale now for the low price of your dignity at retailers nationwide.)

For those of you who read this post about my stellar observation skills, I was riding that Greyhound bus to visit Up North Jody. She’s the girl I met at art camp. We bonded over a comedian’s routine about how you can substitute a nasal, “Eeeeewwww, bugs, eeeeewwwww” for just about any Bob Dylan lyric. So Up North Jody was really a high school friend turned college chum.

But back to the Jody trifecta. I often wonder what’s happened to them. I can totally imagine Cherub Jody going on to make a well-balanced, cheerful wife and mother. I see her as a teacher for special needs kids. And I wouldn’t be surprised to find her volunteering with local literacy programs or community theater troupes and wearing reindeer sweaters without irony every Christmas.

Girls Gone Wild Jody is probably also a wife and mother, but one with a little more drama in her life. I see drunken brawls with her husband at his company picnic, followed by tearful reconciliations in the car. I imagine her children pushing other kids off the slide or pulling the legs off of insects at the playground while mommy calls daddy to check up on him for the eighth time that morning. GGW Jody has likely become the kind of woman the rest of us can blame for feeble feminine stereotypes and lines like this in movies like The Island: “Never trust a woman with your credit card.” Hahahahaha! Haha! Ha! Ha. Ha …… *cough*

Up North Jody is a social worker working with inner-city toughs, last I heard. But now she lives Down South. Which is Milwaukee, if you’re from Up North. She’s the one I miss the most.

Do you ever wonder what became of the Jodies in your life?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Scourge of the Mouth Stickers

The other night I was driving home from work, rockin’ out to The Postal Service, when I felt the urge to see what local radio stations were playing. Because sometimes I just want to take that much larger a step toward ear damage and deafness. Which runs in my family. Anyway, WTCX was playing “You Might Think” by The Cars. I thought, hey, catchy beat, groovy synthesizer action, nostalgia factor…let’s listen to this for awhile. I had the stereo cranked so loudly that my parking pass was actually vibrating on the rearview mirror. I was bopping along just fine until the music went dead and we arrived at the part in the song where Ric Ocasek intones, “But you kept it going…’til the sun fell down. You kept it … going.”

And I seriously gagged. Because Ric’s mouth is so dry as he says those words that you can actually hear his cottony mouth parts sticking together. You can hear tumbleweeds blow past his tonsils. And there is a bleached cowskull near his uvula. Don’t believe me? Try it on your home stereo (and if you’re really brave, your iPod), but kids, be sure to ask your parents’ permission first. It’s not Freedom Rock, but crank it up anyway, man. You too will hear Mr. Ocasek’s tacky, parched lips click and stick together as they gum-spit the words that will later haunt your dreams. It’s enough to make one wonder if he’d eaten nothing but whole milk curd, saw dust, and graham crackers for a week prior to that studio session.

You know exactly what I’m talking about, people. Yes, you do. Once in awhile you actually have to hold a conversation with a Mouth Sticker. Maybe, after a long, thirsty day of speaking and chasing stale Triscuits with cold medication, you too have enjoyed a brief stint as a Mouth Sticker. I know I have, on occasion. And each time a Mouth Sticker speaks with an acquaintance, or voices the bridge in a popular song from the eighties, he or she is overshadowed in the listener’s mind by a giant imaginary glass of cool, refreshing water.

Won’t someone please build a time machine so I can go back to 1984 and replace the bong in Ric Ocasek's hand with a jug of iced Gatorade right before that studio recording session started? How about a time-traveling mailbox so I can send him a throat lozenge?


(And just so I can keep this going 'til the sun falls down, what songs creep you out?)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Well, Valentine’s Day (or ValenTIME’s Day to the people who also say “SupposeBly”) is less than a week away. I have no idea what to get the light of my life. Or my husband, either. I was thinking back to gifts I’ve received from ex-boyfriends, and frankly, now I know why they are all exes. Here is an assortment of gifts I’ve received in years past: ugly stuffed animals my dog wouldn’t even hump (and she humps everything—word to the wise: elbows in during sit-ups if Daisy is loose in the room), a set of tires for my car, a cliché—I mean a bouquet of flowers, a microwave, a Trenchcoat Mafia black leather jacket, dinner at a few suckass restaurant franchises, and my freedom (read: I was dumped. Twice. On two separate Valentine’s Days. But I did get a lovely glow candle as a parting gift once.) Well, looking back, the tires were pretty useful, but that’s like getting socks as a gift. Or a box of maxi pads.

I can’t remember a single thing I ever got anyone I dated, but those gifts probably sucked, too. Oh, once I made a guy a list of 100 things I liked about him. Now THERE are four hours of my life I want back. Kind of how you’d feel after watching a double feature of Catwoman and Battlefield Earth. And five years ago when I was first dating my husband I made him a scrapbook-collagey thing full of pictures from our life together up to that point. Because nothing says “I love you” like the clever application of pinking shears, stickers, and various novelty hole punches on construction paper. (Actually, what it really said was, “I’m cheap AND crafty!”)

But now I’m stumped. The desired gifts are of such a highly technical nature that I know I’d screw it up if I tried to “surprise” him. I mean, I tossed my cell phone into the trunk of my car when I could no longer figure out how to re-up my minutes, and I haven’t seen it since. I can barely figure out how to flip back to Iron Chef after watching a DVD. I’m kind of like my Dad that way. Couldn’t figure out how to hang up the cell phone, so he smashed it on the ground. Just doing our part to support the whole “descendent of apes” side of the story.

So anyway. Now most of our gift exchanges take the form of joint shopping expeditions. What better way to reaffirm a lifelong commitment to one another than to participate in a good, old-fashioned American consumer orgy? Sure, I could have said, “shopping spree,” but it is ValenTIME’s Day. And “orgy” is just more romantic, don’t you think?

Now I want to know: what’s the shittiest gift you’ve ever received (or given) on Valentine’s Day?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Chilifest Recap Plus Bonus Recipe

And now for the post-chilifest post. Last year I brought a veggie chili that brought the partygoers to their knees.

In front of a toilet. This year, my (vegan) Jamaican Jerk chili was definitely better received. But since I forgot to pre-cook the damn thing and had to wait 4 hours for my crock pot to soften the potatoes, most people were pretty drunk and/or had burned tongues from the other six chilis by the time they got to mine. Here's what happened while my chili cooked:

I don’t know what purple shirt’s name is, but let’s call him Mike. Here’s a shot of Mike gazing upon the wreckage of the once-bounteous antipasto platter. Perhaps Mike is wishing for more of the feta squares. Perhaps he is reflecting on how much he hates carrots, mostly because his father was a carrot farmer and endlessly browbeat Mike about entering the family business. But Mike was more of a cauliflower man and ran away from home at eighteen to join a caravan of food stylists passing through town. Mike and his father have since reconciled and swap recipes daily.

After the boys had ascertained that their caves were indeed, bat-free, they relaxed and let their hair down. Steve especially.

Here I am writing a pre-emptive apology for my entry in chilifest, plus detailed directions to every bathroom in the house and some of my favorite home remedies for intestinal duress. (Not really. It’s actually a “kick me” sign I slapped on someone’s back.)

Did you put this tiny, but very wet “kick me” sign on my back?

The band went all the way to China to find their four year-old drummer, whose slam-dance moves to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” would have made Johnny Rotten jealous.

An hour after this picture was taken I lost my voice. One second I was pipsqueaky me, the next I was a lumberjack named Biff. It still doesn’t make any sense to me.

Smile, blurry people!

A moment of beatific thanks to the Tequila Gods before the Channeling Ethel Merman / ABBA sing-along portion of the evening.

These dogs will be great for breakfast! Also, no party is complete until the mysterious, dreadlocked Green Ghost shows up.

Tequila is such a cruel master. But also kind of funny, Bob's smirk implies.

Ethel, there is indeed no business like show business. But somehow, I suspect this one is “Anything You Can Do.” Other hits from the night included: “I Got Rhythm,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.”

And the final shot in the InebriaCam series. As you can see, I had a bad case of Tequila hand. All the better to convey the queasiness of the night to you, my lovelies. Because guess what happened next? That's right. My chili was so delicious it made an encore appearance! Which means I missed the hot tubbing, but not the wonder and amazement that is Driving Five Hours While Hungover the next morning. So now that I've set your taste buds ablaze, here's my recipe for Jamaican Jerk Chili:

One 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes; Two 14.5 oz cans kidney beans, rinsed & drained; one 14.5 oz can tomato sauce (can substitute spaghetti sauce); 1 pound red potatoes, diced; 1 large onion, diced; 8 oz. tofu, diced; 1 Tbs brown sugar; 1 Tbs Jamaican Jerk seasoning; 2 Tbs red wine vinegar; 1/2 cup water. Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on "high" for about 4 hours, or until you've drunk much more than you should and have begun to accost a fellow partygoer because he looks like David Cross. Later, continue to express your amazement that he doesn't know who David Cross is. Call it a crime. Fail to realize that you're being completely annoying. Wander around, interrupting random conversations. Tell some people about your book (or children; this is an acceptable substitute). Make yourself another drink and rescue the little dogs placed high on a desk by children you don't know. Watch a cute adopted child learn to do the rock n' roll devil's horns with his hands for the very first time. Laugh at this and say, "Aawww!" Finish your drink and pour yourself some red wine. Check on friend who is vomiting on the gnomes from the front porch. Now, you're done! Time for some chili.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Fleet of Heads on Your Screen: Look Out!!! (Otherwise known as the author photo survey)

The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here! Okay friends and family, these are my top pics for the back of the book and other assorted marketing materials. I won't tell you which one is my favorite, but I DO want to hear which you like best. I am deeply indebted to Melody at Limelite Studios for making me look like a real, live, normal girl. Yaaay for Melody!

Picture 1: From the white shirt series.

Picture 2: Laughing in a chair. From the black shirt, bespectacled series.

Picture 3: In color here, but would likely be black and white on the book.

Picture 4: Another from the black shirt series, sans-glasses. You may want to duck to avoid the plane coming in for a landing on my forehead.

Man, I feel like a raging egomaniac posting these. I'm all, Look at me! Look at me! But I'd like to make this an interactive, cooperative experience, because that's always fun. Plus, if I look at my own head any longer, I will stop looking like me, and that will totally creep me out. So I need some help. Notice there are no "serious" pictures. Because no matter how hard I tried, I could not stop smiling. It's a good thing my book isn't about a life-threatening illness, suicide, post-partum depression, a broken engagement, death of a dear grandparent, or sibling estrangement! (Well, it kind of is, but WAY funnier!)

Anyway, I'd love to hear what you think. (In comments or via email, whatever flips your skirt, yo.)

Addendum: thanks to everyone who chimed in on the photo survey! You are all awetastic. My mom voted for #4, in case you were wondering. I'll be taking a blogbreak this weekend because I actually have plans that involve chili, wine, the singing of Ethel Merman show tunes if a certain person is plied with enough tequila, clove cigarettes, homebrewed beer, live music, a hot tub, 10 hours of driving, more chili, and quite possibly, a blue-tooth headache. We'll be bringing the camera, so there may be an interesting new post up by Monday morning.