Thursday, December 28, 2006
It's always over too quickly
No, those things really didn’t happen to me this Christmas, but I wish they had, because they would have been sort of funny and given me something interesting to write about.
My holiday season was kind of like a Hallmark card: cheery, only a little nauseating, but ultimately, a bit stiff. I say "stiff" because I pulled (or ripped, it really seems more like a complete rip) an important-feeling muscle in my lower back the night before a three-day celebration bender with family, much of which entailed riding in automobiles with poor shocks, excessive bending, impossible twisting, carrying of heavy packages, and repeated lifting of a chubby, wriggling, barking dog.
No, I have little reason for remorse, shame, or disappointment this holiday season. I received everything I wanted: a new teakettle, a decorative outdoor thermometer, good health despite consuming an excess of dairy, heart-warming new memories with friends and family (even though we arrived at my grandma’s after the drinking game had ended), and firm reassurance that my own moral compass is well-calibrated. All that last one took was a reading of Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.
Ladies? Mothers? Sisters in arms? Married or single? Don’t worry, there’s something here for everyone. For those of you with husbands, this book will help you fall in love with yours all over again and bring you to your knees to thank the merciful lord that you are not single and running into men like Mr. Max in bars. For you single women, let this book serve as a warning, perhaps a roadmap that will help you forge a battle plan should you run into a character like this.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
In other news, I finished Amy Sedaris’s book. Does she have an official fan club? Because I want to join. Not only that, but I want to run for president of that fan club. I didn’t even mind that my back screamed in agony every time I laughed. It was worth it. Buy this book, savor it, and make yourself a Fuck-it Bucket and an eye burrito.
Sidenote: did you know that “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was conceptualized and funded in 1965 by the Coca-Cola Company? My reaction to this news was to cast my eyes skyward, jaded and disillusioned, and utter, “A crummy commercial?”
And finally, a special thank you to Tammie for the key lime pie recipe AND the key limes. (How awesome is that?!?! Key limes direct from the sunshine state from a very cool blogger!) Unfortunately, I took this as a cue to attempt a meringue topping, which began to sweat brown droplets of sugary condensation and slide off the entire surface of the pie in a most unappealing manner after a few hours in the fridge, so I didn’t take a picture of it. It still tasted like Mardi Gras, fitting into your skinny jeans, and the last day of school combined.
Which is to say, GREAT.
PS: scone recipes from the last post coming soon!
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Bake it Like a Polaroid Picture
Anyway, welcome to my holiday baking post. I call it “Scones, scones, scones, scones, SCONES!” (sung to the melody of Sisqo’s “Thong, tha-thong-tha-THONG!”)
I even have photographic evidence that I was Martha Stewarting it all over the kitchen. Behold, MY SCONES!
(Lemon-Poppyseed. And please, get your m ind out of the gutter. That's ICING.
Note two missing scones with icing-like chalk outline. This serves to indicate deliciousness. And mayhem.)
The Cajones of these Scones. Full of calcium, good for bones! My favorite Monkee? Davy Jones!
(God help me, the rhyming! I can’t turn it off!!)
Lest you believe this baking frenzy was the result of a head injury resulting from a smash to the face with a metal folding chair sustained via my new weekend hobby of amateur cage wrestling*, I should fess up that not only were these bastards easy to make (easier than cookies? Yes, loyal and clever reader, easier than cookies. Way.), but they are also gifts.
(Hey, officemates reading this: Guess what you’re getting!!!)
I’m happy to share recipes with anyone interested. But if you ask my taste buds, the almond-chocolate chip and cherry cream scones would win first prize in a Best Path to Large Hips competition.
And finally, for those of you curious about that mysterious Tom & Jerry beverage I invoked last week, here’s photographic evidence that I wasn’t messing with you (though I also find that to be mighty enjoyable).
No, it's not the bag of C & H sugar. That asshole totally snuck into the shot.
Yes, that is freshly grated nutmeg because I'm kind of controlling about these kinds of things.
Thus, mealtime with my Children of Christmas Future should be fun and trouble-free.
Don't you think the five eggs add a nice, festive touch?
This is probably going to be my last post until after Christmas, since I’ll be strapping myself into a fun ride called Three Days of Celebrating with Friends and Family. So until next time, happy holiday of choice!
PS to my dear scone recipients: should you find a dog hair, or curly longish brown hair in your scone, I accept full and complete responsibility. That shit can happen when you bake without a hair net and your dog looks like a mop and sheds like a late-spring dandelion.
* An intentional entry in my quest to write the sentence containing the most prepositional phrases.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
A Post to Defenestrate
My Dad recently read us some of his students’ responses to various writing assignments, and because I have a mildly impaired sense of decency, I’m going to recycle them and share them with you. Mostly because my job can be about as exciting as a trip to Carpetland, and nobody wants to hear that noise.
Let us begin with one student’s take on 9-11. Remember, these are college freshmen:
“My mom always said, ‘you’ll always remember where you were when you heard the news of 9-11…’ I still remember. I was in fashion / interior design class and my teacher was like, ‘a plane hit the world trade center’ and she had the radio on and I was thinking, ‘what the hell is the world trade center?’”
But wait! There’s more:
“Things I’ve learned so far in college (an assignment): If your roommate is annoying, defenestrate them in September. In February, they are thirty pounds heavier.”
(‘Defenestrate,’ which means “to throw out of a window,” was the vocabulary word of the day.)
“My favorite oxymoron is ‘rap music.’”
I like that kid’s style. Now here’s another student’s response to a journal assignment:
“What is the real meaning of life? Fuck if I know. I’m only 18. Life seems like a waste of time.”
And my favorite:
“Today was an amazing day. I’m not pregnant.”
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Yes Virginia, Reality IS Often a Pale Imitation of our Fantasies!
Here’s a photo of the end result, although I’m not sure I’m in love with this year's theme of "hodge-podge of totally unrelated items:"
Every year I have visions of decorating the tree while It’s a Wonderful Life glows in schmaltzy black and white glory in the background, or maybe I’m listening to Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas CD--the gold standard for holiday music as far as I’m concerned. As one who worked retail (TOY retail) for seven Christmases past, I know my holiday music, and I have very strong opinions of such. The hippopotamus Christmas song? Akin to having knitting needles plunged repeatedly into my ear canals while being force-fed head cheese in the ninth circle of hell. (I have the same visceral reaction to Elton John’s best-known Christmas ditty—and I like Elton John.)
Back to my decorating fantasy. In these holiday visions, I’m sipping a delectable eggnog or piping hot Tom & Jerry when I take a break from draping lights on the tree. Large, fluffy snowflakes tumble outside the window. A cheerful fire crackles in the fireplace, and J and I share memories, chuckling fondly at tales of Christmases past.
Now let’s look at what really happened. Listless brown snowbanks melted into the gutters outside. My vision of crackling flames will have to wait until we either move to a home that has a fireplace or we decide to burn the kitchen table and chairs. The television was tuned to Comedy Central, which was running back-to-back episodes of Reno 911. It’s no Christmas Carol or Miracle on 34th Street, but it was a step above Christmas 1988, when my brother, sister, and I decorated the tree while watching Deliverance. (Nothing sets sugar plums a-dancing in your head like having “Squeeeeal like a pig!” on a horrific mind-loop before bedtime.)
I did pour myself a glass of eggnog in my futile attempt to capture that elusive craft-magazine Christmas vibe: Southern Comfort “Vanilla Spice,” which tasted like a glutinous, throat-constricting batter of pancake mix, corn syrup, and artificially-flavored vanilla pudding. My taste buds wept inconsolably until I promised to whip up a Tom & Jerry. We’d actually purchased a tub of the frozen drink base earlier in the day, but since I'm kind of cheap, I decided against buying one of the key ingredients (brandy) because, “We have a whole bottle of rum at home. It’ll taste fine with just that.”
So I poured boiling water into a mug containing a tablespoon of frozen Tom & Jerry mix and added some rum. Well, a lot of rum. To make up for the missing brandy. I whisked the mix into a frothy approximation of delight and grated some fresh nutmeg on top.
How did it taste? Hmm. Have you ever tasted sweetened nail polish remover? Neither have I, but I’m pretty sure it would taste like my Tom & Jerry last night. My dear husband, who felt our alliance had been tainted when I admitted to hating the pancake batter eggnog that he just had a religious experience over, could only smile smugly and say, “I knew it would taste like crap.”
Sadly, I drank half of it—stubbornly—before my digestive system raised the white flag.
There’s a show on right now about a guy trying to survive in the wilderness on snakes, beetles and twigs. This is my cue to write out Christmas cards, so I’ve got to run.
May your decorating, shopping, wrapping, card-writing, and baking be merry. If you need help, here’s a cheery picture of Donna Reed to get you in the holiday mood.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Do I Smell Old to You?
Note the first piece of evidence in my compendium of aging: the presence of Flintstones-era CDs in my car, as opposed to the more Jetsonian iPod.
Now, I hardly had to look at the calendar yesterday to know I was officially a year older. I merely had to examine the evidence in the Specter’s dossier on my gradual cellular breakdown:
Exhibit A: As of one week ago, I own a compost tumbler. Because this is not an item I would have owned at age 22, I feel it’s safe to present as further evidence that I am getting funky-old.
Exhibit B: I got my first skin tag last week. It arrived to coincide with my birthday, of that I’m convinced. So in denial was I that I concluded it was simply a zit. Picking ensued. And now what do I have? A bloody skin tag. Thanks, Specter of Old Age.
Exhibit C: I recently purchased my first pair of binoculars, and they’re not for spying on the neighbors. They’re actually for bird watching.
Well, okay, maybe just a little spying on the neighbors.
But the birthday itself was fun. I celebrated with both friends and family and stuffed my face three days in a row. Let the post-binge remorse begin! I don't yet have a baby formed with my own DNA, but I have one helluva food baby made from ice cream cake.
Hey Star Wars fans (how’s that for an abrupt shift in topic?), here’s something fun: this was filmed at one of my favorite Wisconsin grocery stores, Willy Street Coop in Madison. I think I enjoyed episode three the most.
Finally, if the blog is quiet for a few days, it means I am either suffering from a work-related neurotic episode or working on my next novel. Mostly, it’s the latter. I’m trying to write from two very different alternating points of view, and it’s making me feel schizophrenic. It also sucks the clever out of me, so most of my original or mildly entertaining thinking is being diverted at the moment. At least it seems entertaining at the time, and especially after a few glasses of wine. So I could be wrong.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Hope You Had a Nice Tryptophan!
Another Thanksgiving down the hatch. I tried a few new recipes this year, thanks to Better Homes and Gardens and the Food Porn Network: Butternut Squash Lasagna, Green Bean Bake Revisited, and Nutty Brussels Sprouts. Thumbs up on all three.
The weekend yielded a surprise in addition to the usual driving, cooking, and visiting: I actually went out on Saturday night! I know, it was hard to fit a cute outfit over my oxygen mask and giant Medic Alert jewelry, but I managed. First we caught a very decent band (best cover of "Purple Rain" EVER) and later, I met a playwright that a new friend of mine had been wanting to introduce me to.
So how did it go? Well, within five minutes of meeting him I managed to insult his taste in music and spill my drink on him. (I was gesturing wildly with my beverage, holding forth on what an auditory laxative Michael Jackson’s "Man in the Mirror" is. But it turns out the guy likes the song. Maybe he even played it on the jukebox. Maybe.)
Ah, I love the smell of alienating new acquaintances in the morning.
Yesterday I did a little mildly hungover shopping with my best friend. Upon entering Target, I nearly ran over a woman that looked soooo familiar to me.
“Hi!” I shouted in her face with manic intensity. How did I know her? “How are you?”
She seemed to recognize me too, and responded with, “Great! Hi! How are you?”
I replied that I was fine, and we went on our separate shopping journeys. But how the hell did I know her? “I know that woman. But how do I know her?” I hissed to Cindy.
She shrugged and said, “You’ll figure it out.”
But I’m tenacious. I can’t let something go until I solve the puzzle. Aisle after aisle and I continued wondering aloud how I knew her: Did she work for one of my clients? Had we been at a meeting together?
No, I didn’t feel this to be the connection. And more unnerving: I was sure I knew her in a somewhat uncomfortable light. I racked my brain, trying to unearth every mildly awkward exchange I’d had with someone I may know professionally in the last two years. It took some industrial digging equipment, because there were many.
Was it someone I knew in a fiction writing-related capacity? Did she work for UW-O? No and no, although she had quirky glasses that gave her a distinct professorial look.
Alas, nothing was obvious. “This is driving me nuts!” I said to Cindy as we paid for our merchandise, my mind a thousand miles away from the transaction at hand.
“I know,” she said calmly. She’s going to be a good mom someday, with patience like that.
After I’d returned home it continued to bug me. But then last night, while watching Growing up Orangutan (have you ever seen an Orangutan baby? Adorable!!!!!) and continuing to plunder my mental filing cabinets for anything, any remote idea about how I knew the woman I recognized in Target, it dawned on me.
She was my gynecologist.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
The Poetry Reading
Anyway, my dad is a recently-minted English professor after many years in the criminal justice field. He read some of his autobiographical narrative poetry last night, kicking off with one of my favorites (reprinted with permission from the author Peter Martin, my pops):
The Summer I Was Seventeen
The summer I was seventeen I found a dead girl
in twelve feet of water in a stone quarry
in Waupun, Wisconsin.
I’d gone there early in the evening of a hot July day
after putting in a twelve-hour shift
for Green Giant Canning Company running blanchers for an
unending river of green beans,
Two men with a row boat were just pushing off in the quarry’s shallow end.
One of the men knew me and spoke to me.
“Pete, can you swim?”
I said that I could.
But I did not like the way this day was turning out.
The quarry was too small for boats, and I knew
there must be some terrible reason for theirs.
“We’re looking for a girl,” he said.
Scared, I swam alongside the aluminum boat
while one man rowed and the other stood looking down
Into the green quarry water.
I paddled along beside them while on shore I could see
a crowd beginning to gather. And a white
rescue truck with a red cross pulled up.
The man standing said quietly,
“I think I see her.”
My skin crawled but I dove down to find nothing.
Spring-fed currents moved across the quarry’s bottom
like cold black hands. I came back up
and we kept looking. While the small crowd watching grew.
“There she is,” said the standing man, pointing down.
I dove again, this time terrified because I knew I would find something.
Halfway down in the murky water
I saw her and had to fight the urge to swim back to the surface
where things like this didn’t happen in the summer I was seventeen.
But pride more than bravery pushed me deeper, and lying
on her back on the bottom I saw a very dead-looking
nine year-old girl.
Her lips and fingertips were purple, and her
frilly swimsuit, like her hair,
undulated in the cold current.
She was wearing tennis shoes against the sharp quarry stones.
I reached for one shoe and a wrist. Then pushed
off the bottom with my feet, looking up and away from the horror
in my hands. I broke surface and
heard at once a mother’s wail on the quarry cliff.
I handed her up to the men in the boat without looking at her.
They took her from me and tried to blow life into her mouth.
One man rowed and I
swam back toward shallow water and my parked
1953 Oldsmobile. I didn’t
feel like swimming anymore
that day in the
summer I was seventeen.
From this he segued into a few select poems about seeing—at age 15—a stripper shooting ping-pong balls from her vagina, the use of an Alka-Seltzer bottle as a sex toy, and the concept of human genitalia growing to epic proportions after exposure to weed killer.
So, you see where I get my classiness from. (Don’t worry, the poems were much more respectable than I make them sound, with redeeming themes about Coming of Age, Loss of Innocence, Determination to Succeed, and Mankind’s Sometimes Scary Urge to Mess with Nature.)
Bottom line: it’s always nice to sit in a roomful of people while your father talks about penises the size of Box Elder limbs.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
It’s a good thing I wasn’t wearing my San Diego Chicken mask.
Still, seeing such a skilled predator in action was exciting. Especially since we live on a city lot the size of a carpet sample. Although next time, Mrs. Hawk? I suggest the highly snackable house sparrow instead. I hear they taste like popcorn. Or, if you want something meatier, try a starling casserole.
There’s no way I can segue from that, so I’ll just jump right into my next topic. There is a restaurant in Milwaukee that has lately gained a very negative reputation—perhaps because within a recent two-month timeframe, police were called to the location something like 18 times. Primarily due to auto-related incidents (theft, accidents, and vandalism), although fighting in the restaurant was also a major cause of police visits. One of these fights involved forty people grappling and throwing plates, silverware, chairs, and punches. Things have gotten so bad that a city alderman is campaigning to shut down the restaurant entirely.
You’d think that this restaurant is of the George Webb-strain, serving omelettes and pancakes to drunk patrons at 3 in the morning, right?
Wrong. Can you guess what this restaurant is? If you know, leave it in the comments. No fair Googling. If nobody guesses correctly, I’ll post the answer by tomorrow.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
There will be no turkey because, well, I haven’t eaten meat since 2002. So let’s get a few things out of the way right up front. I think listing my Frequently Asked Questions should cover it:
Q. Do you mind if I eat meat?
A. Not a bit; that’s between you, your butcher, and your colon. Just don’t order veal if you’re sitting next to me, because I might moo softly whenever you take a bite.
Q. How do you get enough protein?
A. Twigs and bark are remarkably high sources of protein. Also, have I told you of my enduring love affair with all things dairy?
Q. What about iron? How do you avoid a deficiency?
A. I lick skillets and barbells, of course.
Q. What do you eat?
Quite a range of dishes, from sautéed plant stems with cardboard patties on whole-gravel rolls to garlic-infused paper straight from the shredder topped with a light sprinkling of wood shavings and capers.
Yes, I do occasionally whip up a dish that would inspire petitions, “Take Back the Table” rallies, and riots from small children and all of the men in my extended family. Take, for example, the broccoli pancakes and steamed cabbage with mushrooms that I made on Tuesday evening. I confess I made this because I’d been feeling cancer-prone and sluggish, probably due to my sedentary lifestyle, bad attitude, and mindless inhalation of something like 72 miniature chocolate bars during my annual pre-Halloween candy binge. Did J eat the broccoli pancakes? Well, let’s just say that with a little sour cream, salt, and shrill threats, anything’s edible.
Q. Do you still eat fish?
A. Ever since watching The Incredible Mr. Limpet, I can’t. I just can’t.
Seriously. Fish IS meat, Individuals Who Frequently Ask Me This. I do miss it on occasion (specifically, scallops sautéed in butter and garlic), but mostly, I now think of fish fondly—I wish this old friend well, but I don’t want to meet for drinks to catch-up. What do we have in common anymore, really?
Q. Will you eat meat when you’re pregnant?
A. Only if I am repeatedly kicked in the stomach and hear shouts of, “Hey ma! What’s a fetus got to do to get some hot dogs down here?”
Monday, November 06, 2006
Pom-pom hats, butter, and gargoyles. Don't forget to vote!
I’ve been very anxious lately; perhaps this can be attributed to the election tomorrow, but I suspect it’s because I’ve recently discovered that I live in a world where the Columbus Children’s Hospital will soon be breaking ground on the Abercrombie and Fitch Emergency Department and Trauma Center. Thanks to a $10 million gift, you see.
There are many jokes in there, but mostly a sense of resignation that one day, we will all be wearing ads on our foreheads. I’ve got ample space on mine, so I’ll probably end up with an ad for a drug named Flourahexamegazania, which whitens teeth, encourages a general sense of well-being, reduces flatulence, and makes the air around your head smell like flowers.
Other random thoughts and events:
I attended a literacy luncheon last Thursday and was inspired to become a tutor with the local Literacy Council. Um, hello, shouldn’t I already be doing everything in my power to facilitate literacy? Since I’m a writer and all? (Though you may not have guessed as much based on the grammatical cesspool that masquerades as this blog.) So this is a new development I’m looking forward to.
Watched an Australian western this weekend: The Proposition. An excellent study in creating multi-faceted, sympathetic characters. Plus, you really get a feel for how filthy Ol’ Timey settlers really were. On account of the smudged faces and clouds of flies around their heads.
Somewhere, at this very moment, a man is wearing a wide-brimmed hat rimmed with pom-poms.
Started my Christmas shopping this Saturday. I only bought myself two things. In pursuit of one particular innocuous gift-item, I was directed by a shopkeeper to a place that bars entry to those under the age of eighteen and only accepts payment in cash. Tell me. Have you ever found yourself wearing a peacoat, turtleneck, and Mary Janes in a store peddling gargoyles, patchouli, Ouija boards, crystals, dragons, and bags of herbs galore? Didn't it make you feel kind of old and square?*
Beginning this week, my best friend’s family is engaging in their own home-version of The Biggest Loser, pitting two related teams against one another in a battle to the weight-loss death. Well, not to the death, but I suspect they’re going to have fun dreaming up punishments I mean challenges for the “non-losing” team (that is, the team failing to lose more poundage) every week. I considered going along for the ride, since I could certainly stand to eat less and move more. But then I remembered that Thanksgiving and Christmas are mere weeks away—and with them, delicious feasts involving butter, cranberries, molasses, potatoes, sugar, cheese, and more butter. Since I’m a big fan of butter in its many forms, I feel trying to lose weight during this time may make me exceptionally crabby. And I’d hate to do that to J.
*This is the kick-off in my campaign to bring back the word "square."
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
A Halloween Tribute to My Daily Commute and a Portion of my Workday
Take a look, if you will, at the creeping miasma overtaking my city. Walgreens sits, as it has for years, stolidly on the left, innocently refilling Paxil prescriptions and offering a large selection of dental hygiene products. Oh, but do you see the sneaking monster being cobbled to life on the right? What is it? Can you make it out? It’s….ANOTHER WALGREENS, RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET!!!!! Move over, Blob…a crawling, oozing mass of ectoplasm is nothing compared to the hungry appetite of THE SPRAWLING WALGREENS, consuming local private elementary school facilities like popcorn with extra butter.* Coming soon to a busy intersection near you.
The desolate stretch of road … a staple in horror films since days of gore I mean YORE. What lurks beyond this dead man’s curve? A monster? Kim Jong Ill riding a nuclear warhead? Ghostly hooligans playing street hockey?
No! It is CHEMICALLY-ENHANCED LAWNS AND YARD SIGNS FOR POLITICIANS I’M NOT VOTING FOR!!!
(Fear, if you will, the absence of photo depicting this shocking display. It is because a massive, rusty, car-eating truck bore down on me and almost ran me off the road, just like in the most original of scary movies, and I was unable to pull over to capture the traumatizing scene.)
Next: Little Shop of Horrors is child’s play compared to …
Cramped Cubicle of Overgrown Houseplants!!!
It began innocently enough: a short cutting was potted. Water was administered. Positions were tested to provide ample light. Months later, THIS has begun curving and sending out leaves as they reach for me. One day soon I will feel a cool, photosynthesis-y tap at the back of my neck.
But wait; look to your right, at the view from my desk. The view from THE ONLY WINDOW IN THE ROOM. *shudder* If hell exists, here it is. I can almost hear the screams of marketing executives, graphic artists, sign designers, architects, and interior designers from my chair…
There goes one now!
And behold: if I look beyond these scenes of tragedy, I can tell the time AND feel an ongoing, residual sense of shame from a childhood cycle of sinning, stewing in guilt, confessing, and saying three Hail Marys and one Our Father as penance: It is...THE CHURCH STEEPLE! Mwah-hah-haaaaa!
The time has come to return home. Along the way, look, if you dare, at the murky waters of this gray lake. “The endocrine-disrupting chemical-laden fish is coming to GET YOU, Barbara!”
Happy Halloween. And now, I'm off to avoid encroaching Walgreens wherever they may be.
*Guess what? Yes, you’re right. I attended kindergarten at the Catholic school TORN DOWN on this very site to make way for the Walgreens. Since I’ve documented a history of religious buildings from my youth being torn down in recent months (as evidenced in my April 13 post), this really isn’t all that surprising to me. Pissed at your priest, rabbi, minister, shaman, or imam? Invite me over and they’ll be tearing down your place of worship in no time!
Thursday, October 26, 2006
The Real Me
Especially knowing that some clients, my supervisors, old high school teachers, my in-laws, parents, many relatives, and other co-workers read this from time to time, perhaps when they’re feeling masochistic or need a reminder that their own lives aren’t so bad after all?
I can’t blog about the really juicy stuff. I think you know what I’m talking about here.
That’s right. The story about why I never pursued a career as an accountant. It’s just too hot to handle.
I can’t blog about why I had a bad day on Monday because it involves an incident at work (which I’m still horribly embarrassed about), and we all know what happens when people blog about their jobs…they become the most successful bloggers on the net. And nobody wants that to happen.
I can’t blog about Family Incidents, because…well, let’s just not even go there, mmm-kay? I mean, we all go through this. Show me one person that’s never griped about their parents or siblings and I’ll show you a severely deluded, in-denial, pathological liar.
His name is Bob Evans, and he works at Target.
(But PS, shameless self-promo here, I put many such incidents in the book, if you’re interested. Also some good stuff about ex-boyfriends.)
Bottom line with that shizznit is that I don’t want to hurt my family members’ feelings or embarrass anyone. Plus, I don’t want to sound like a whiny, ungrateful sphincter, even though I often feel like one.
So why am I not blogging anonymously (or at least semi-anonymously)? Because when I started this blog, back when it appeared I was actually going to bust out of Rejection Land and enter the mythical nation of Can-You-Believe-it-They’re-Actually-Publishing-Your-Novel-You-Sure-Fooled-Them, I looked around at what other writers / new authors were doing, and I thought, Hmmm… they all have blogs that identify them by name. I guess I need to do that, too.
I’ve always been an independent thinker.
Anyway, I started the blog last November to basically give people a preview of my writing. In case they’d be interested in reading my book, I suppose. Or avoiding it at all costs, if my blog gives them the dry heaves and/or makes them want to fire their collection of miniature tractors at the computer screen.
But then a funny thing happened. I connected with some hilarious, talented, thoughtful, eloquent, kind, honest, smart, witty, compassionate, and intriguing bloggers.** You don’t always meet awesome people like this in real life (except for Caryn, Swishy, and Manic Mom, who were every bit as down-to-earth and fun as their blogs). So this has been an unanticipated, amazing benefit of this whole endeavor, which basically started so I could spew crap that’s been on my mind to complete strangers.
Which I wouldn’t do in real life, unless I’d just guzzled a pitcher of dirty martinis.
But I guess that’s what blogging is all about. Thanks for reading.
*Which may or may not be Jess Riley.
**I was going to link to specific bloggers that fit these adjectives, but then I thought, Holy Massengill, that’s waaaaay too hard to narrow down! I mean, have you seen my blog roll lately? Plus, it always sucks when you visit someone’s blog and they’ve done this, and none of the links are to your site. I mean, it’s hard enough not to develop an inferiority complex with amazing young people like these roaming the earth. Which, thank goodness they do.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Happy Gigli Day!
Well, I’m writing again. All of this can be attributed to three things: 1) I saw Michael Chabon read at the Wisconsin Book Festival last Thursday evening, and he inspired the hell out of me; 2) my Halloween party and the associated menu planning, decorating, and cleaning frenzy is over; and, 3) I’m having the Gigli of days. Which is to say, painfully bad. Bad to the point where I almost decided to never speak again, because every time I opened my mouth I plunged in with both feet. But these kinds of bad days can, on occasion, prove very motivating when you want to get words on paper. Or in your hard drive.
(Great. Now I have that inane “Bad Day” song in my head. Does anyone have a portable lobotomy kit on hand? How about a rusty spoon?)
So yes, we hosted our annual Halloween shindig with old college pals last Saturday evening, and my digestive system is still recovering. The menu:
- Two varieties of puff pastry tartlets: one stuffed with brie, cranberry sauce, and walnuts, the other with roasted squash, caramelized onions, feta, sage, and pecans
- Shrimp Cocktail
- Swedish meatballs
- Cider Cheese Fondue
- Spinach Dip with cubed bread and raw veggies
- Chips with salsa and black bean dip
- Crackers & cheese
- Mulled cider
- Pomegranate martinis
- “Partytime” beans. I know, it sounds like something a hobo would bring to Thanksgiving, but they’re not half-bad.
I have a feeling I’ll be eating Partytime beans for weeks to come. I apologize in advance to my husband and coworkers.
We usually watch scary movies at this event, and this year my friend Wendy brought a copy of the hard-to-find Black Christmas, which I’ve been wanting to see since I learned it basically set the bar for horror films to follow, including Halloween. It was directed in 1974 by Bob Clark, who also directed Porky’s and A Christmas Story. Try as I might, I struggle to find the connection between these three films beyond … Bob Clark. The film also stars pre-Lois Lane, pre-psychotic ravings Margot Kidder. She plays a drunken whore.
It was an incredibly thoughtful and moving performance.
My overall impressions: if you’re a fan of the genre and want to crack some easy jokes at Margot Kidder’s expense, it’s a must-see. If you yawn at mysterious calls “coming from inside the house!” or roll your eyes at sorority girls in peril, you may want to skip this one.
Anyway, the party was attended by our closest friends and the toilet didn’t break, so I’d have to say it was a success. As for my Monday, not so much.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
So many bloggable things happened since my last post: I spent two nights last week at a resort for a grant review session (ice cream drinks! Snow! Networking! Limited vegetarian options at a local supper club!); my partner in crime became ill with a severe cold, so much so that it that almost impeded his video gaming abilities; Daisy had her teeth professionally cleaned at the vet for the first time and now has breath like a field of sweet clover; my editor informed me that my novel may be released in May of 2008--the news of which led my dear mother-in-law to ruefully remark to her sister, “Well, I guess we'll just have to hang on and make it until then.” Meaning, live another year and a half. So thank goodness for large-print and audio books. And ventilation machines and other life support paraphernalia.
But I will have to remove some of the older pop culture references from the book. I don’t think anyone wants to poke fun at Steve Irwin anymore, however good-natured the punchline may be. *wince*
Oh! And I barely escaped with my life after a visit to my place of employment by two young men from the Unification Church. (Not to be confused with the Unitarians.) They were peddling overpriced suncatchers.
While I don’t agree with their religious views or the value of their wares of dubious origin, one of them did have a snappy sense of humor.
But here’s what I really wanted to tell you.
Recently my husband told me that as a child, I looked like “that guy on Welcome Back Kotter.”
Those were his exact words. Recalling my childhood fro, I grimaced. “Arnold Horshack?”
J shook his head.
“No, the Hispanic guy with the gap in his front teeth. Epstein!”
You be the judge.
Halloween, probably 1978. Would you trust this bunny? Unfortunately, my Epstein fro is being suppressed by this novelty headress. Also, what's up with the tail on my neck?
The officially licensed Welcome Back Kotter candy (and TWO prizes!), featuring Juan Epstein. Perhaps I had even received this in the course of my trick-or-treating that year.
In blue footy pajamas, Christmas 1977. Or 1978. Who remembers the seventies, anyway? Here we see a better view of the yard refuse masquerading as my hair. Unfortunately, the best pictures of my fro days are at my parents' house. One of these days I'll have to find and post one. Lucky you.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
A few weeks ago, a walnut-sized tumor began to grow on her hindquarter. By last weekend, it was the size of a large grapefruit. It had also begun to supperate. She only hobbled up and down stairs with great difficulty and would circle endlessly, whining, before collapsing on or near her bed. She'd begun turning her nose up to food, even fried eggs and liverwurst. The vet, already amazed at her longevity for a Springer Spaniel, offered options. But everyone knew that another surgery for such an elderly dog (almost 119 in dog years) would be extremely stressful for her. And since the cancer would likely spread, even once the tumor was gone, her overall prognosis was dim. So my parents made the difficult decision to put her to sleep.
My brother, sister, and I said good-bye to her on Sunday. By Monday night, she was gone. We'll miss you, Suka Bazooka. But we were lucky to have you for so long.
(I almost forgot to add that even on Sunday, she still hauled herself up to territorially piddle over the place on the lawn that my Dad occasionally uses as his own personal Zone of Urination. I think I referenced my Dad's efforts to lessen the burden on their septic system in an earlier blog post ... My Dad. Promoting Public Urination Since 1950.)
Friday, October 06, 2006
More from the "True Story" Files
Oh, the humanity.
The good news is that my awkward diarrhea of the mouth will prevent me from ever running for office. (Hmmm… “awkward diarrhea.” Can’t wait to see what kind of Google hits I get now!)
After I returned home I was forced to hide under my computer desk because guess who came to the door? That’s right, people distributing religious literature! This time it was the Baptists. Once they’d deduced that either nobody was home or the lady of the house was hiding under some furniture like the coward that she is, they progressed down the street and entered into a lengthy conversation with a neighbor who was outside making a racket with a leaf blower. Poor guy, he never heard them coming.
Anyway, they stood outside chatting for probably half an hour. What do Everyday Joes and Janes talk to the roaming Bible people about? Do they split hairs over different interpretations of scripture? Are they discussing how evil Harry Potter is? Are they talking about the price of tea in China? (Well, maybe if said tea was sold by godless Communists.)
An hour later, the refrigerator repairman arrived. Not unexpectedly. Of course he was invited, because our fridge is busily planning a trip to the Great Appliance Graveyard Around the Bend. “Nice day,” I remarked (oh, the wit!), trying to make small talk while he unpacked some tools. “I know. I shoulda called in,” was his reply. After more repairman banter he studied the photos on my fridge and pointed to a holiday photo of my friend and her husband. “This the guy?” he asked. Meaning, ‘is this your husband?’ Nevermind the fact that I look nothing like the woman in the photo. Nevermind the creepy factor. Here's the thing: he was pointing to a Seasons Greetings! photo card. “Not unless I send myself a holiday photo card OF myself, and then tape it to the fridge,” is what I should have said. “Um, no,” is what I actually said, my wit exceeding—no, smashing—all limits heretofore restraining it.
And then he opened the freezer. “Hey! That’s where I store my vodka, too!”
True story, folks.
Let me leave you with this headline from Poland. Please click. You won’t be sorry.
Monday, October 02, 2006
bric-a-brac, paddy-whack, give a blog a groan
Which is fine, because who wants to read blogs written by normal people? Barbara Walters might, but I certainly don't! Anyway, I thought that today I'd create a "grab-bag" post of potential blog entries and notes I've jotted to myself only to find days, sometimes weeks later, after all meaning has seeped from the text. Usually these messages-to-myself are meant to go in my book files, helping me flesh out a character or theme. Unfortunately, when I re-read them, they often seem incoherent at best. Like what I recently found scrawled on the back of a receipt in my purse:
- Perkins whole pie incident
- Scuba sex show
- There's someone in the house sleep walking!
- Poop undies in corner
- Bucket of KFC
And check out these never-used "possible blog entry" tidbits from my (bad) idea draft folder:
- "Have you ever been out to dinner at the Applebee’s in Oshkosh on a very cold December evening and this crazy girl at the next table is loudly asking her dining partner, 'So which of your friends was the one who used to stick a carrot up his ass?' If so, I sincerely apologize."
- (Written after my last birthday): "Dad wanted to have dinner at this local restaurant called 'Green Acres' outside Dotyville. It’s an actual restaurant in someone’s ranch home…how awesome is that?!? Mom’s response was, 'But Peter, it’s her birthday. What if she wants to go somewhere else?' Dad’s reply: 'Yeah, we all want to go to Tofu Palace.'"
- "Have you ever farted in bed, and it was of such scope and substance that it actually woke your spouse up and made them cry a little? Nope? Okay, good. Neither have I. "
- "Milk and a vegetable at every meal. Pizza with baked beans and peas. And 2% milk in a scuffed-up Tupperware cup. Other things to rant on: Duct-tape diet"
- "Did I tell you I actually went Christmas caroling this year?"
- "Before I hit puberty, I talked so much I’m surprised I never sprained my mouth. Then I once dated a boy for nine whole months before saying more than two words to his parents."
- "Watching the Olympics always makes me want to work out. To better myself physically. To put down the Tostitos, get up off the couch, and start training for a marathon. It also reminds me of the time when my twelve year-old self announced to my entire extended family at a cousin’s birthday party that I would medal in freestyle swimming at the next summer Olympics. Never mind the fact that we lived more than ten miles from the nearest pool, I could hardly swim, I didn’t really like to swim, drowning topped my list of Worst Ways to Die, and I wasn’t from Australia. "
- "She felt as out of place as Christmas lights in May."
- "Poop shaped like a pretzel."
So there you have it. Bad blogging ideas that were never to see the light of day--unearthed to recoil from the light like the slugs they are.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Update for a Tuesday Evening
The bad news is that given her frequent head-shaking and ear-scratching, she may now have an ear infection. And given the compulsive chewing and licking of her paws, she may also have an allergy or two to boot. In fact, the vet suggested last week that her nose issue could have begun as a severe allergic reaction to any number of items: pollen, an insect bite or two, dust mites, something she ate, watching a few minutes of According to Jim, and on and on. Ugh. So it’s back to the animal hospital later this week for further clarification, just to be safe. (There are several veterinarians employed by this particular facility, so we don’t always get the guy with the Joe Pesci bedside manner.)
I also spent more on natural foods, canine supplements, and healing potions in the last few days than I care to admit. Apparently, one of the reasons I was put on this earth was to prove the adage, “There’s a sucker born every minute!” And I’ll be damned if I don’t get the most mileage from MY minute.
Also, I decorated for Halloween. I know, I know, it’s not even October yet. But I may actually have what is known in some socially-adept circles as “plans” for each of the next four weekends. And THEN when would I have time to arrange my gourds and teeny orange lights in an approximation of non-suckage?
Besides, I’m not the only Halloweenie in the neighborhood. I’m just the only one without an inflatable Frankenstein billowing on the lawn.
Did I mention we get over 100 trick-or-treaters every year? We become a chocolate dispensing MACHINE on Halloween. So with all of those visitors, I’d be risking an egging without some kind of spooky décor. And since our new siding just may be installed by then, I really want to avoid that.
In other news, I spoke with my editor (briefly) last week. Riding with Larry Resnick IS moving to Random House. But until our next conversation (scheduled for the end of this week), I won’t know more about the timeline or format. SOOOO…mystery only partially solved. But things look hopeful. I’ll keep you posted on the developments. As long as I haven’t had hip replacement surgery or started mainlining Celebrex by the time the book comes out, I’ll be happy.
And finally, my take on the slew of movies we’ve rented in the past week or two.
The Ringer: better than I thought it would be. I don’t know if I should be embarrassed to admit this. Probably.
Friends with Money: rent this movie tonight, but only if you enjoy witty, entertaining social commentary with a relatively happy ending. Otherwise, avoid.
Hard Candy: suitable for bonfires. Or perhaps an experiment involving the microwave.
Poseidon: Get ready to break it down Crow T. Robot style. (Or Tom Servo, if he was your favorite.)
RV: better than I thought it would be. Again, I’m conflicted about admitting this publicly.
Um, Hollywood movie people? Please make some good films soon. PLEASE.
Well, there is the next Christopher Guest flick. That's worth waiting for.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Daisy, for those of you unfamiliar, is my four year-old Cairn Terrier. She was brought home after Marley, my first attempt at owning a Cairn, broke my heart by dying of kidney failure at 12 weeks of age in the summer of 2002. Daisy can shake the snot out of a stuffed devil and makes the strangest gurgles and whines while chewing a purple rubber shoe that lost its squeaker long ago. She’s also a champion barker: at the ringing telephone, at dogs walking by on the sidewalk, at squirrels with the temerity to scramble through our backyard, at human sneezes, at the call signal for our local public radio station.
But her sweet side makes up for it all. She’s my buddy, and never fails to crack me up with her nightly sprints around the house, her “nyum-nyum-nyum” growl when she’s annoyed, the way she play-bows before a single piece of kibble on the rug, dancing around it before burying it in the couch cushions.
Did I mention she can throw a tennis ball back at you? No small feat for someone lacking opposable thumbs!
When I finally came downstairs on Sunday Daisy sidled up next to me as usual, hoping I’d drop a bit of cereal on the floor. I noticed that she had a cut on the bridge of her nose. Upon closer inspection, I spotted several raised blisters across the top of her muzzle. I figured she must have simply gotten into something in the night—maybe she’d been bitten by a spider, or perhaps she was exhibiting a severe allergic response to some weeds she’d been sniffing and rooting around in during our walk late the night before. Either way, I was confident it would clear up by the end of the day. She's a terrier! Terriers are tough!
I was wrong. By Sunday night her upper nose was a swollen, bleeding mess. She was lethargic, looking at me as if to say: just make it stop. So like the good little hypochondriac that I am, I got online to see if I could determine what the problem might be.
What an interstellar mistake. By the end of the night I was sobbing, determined that she had an autoimmune disease that would require lifelong, painful treatments and we’d have to say good-bye to her long before we should. I wondered how I could come home from work if she wasn’t there to greet me at the door, wagging her tail and flopping onto her back for a reunion belly-rub. I could visualize the empty, quiet house, her untouched basket of toys in the corner, the fact that I'd probably still find doghair on the furniture, maybe a long-lost chunk of rawhide wedged behind the fridge even years after she was gone--talk about your recipe for an intense crying jag. Good god it can suck to have an overactive, worry-prone imagination.
After reaching nothing but a busy signal for an hour at my vet on Monday morning, we actually got a break: a ten o’clock appointment had cancelled—could we be there in fifteen minutes?
Daisy’s nose was even worse by then: the ulcerated mass of lesions had swollen dramatically. She was lethargic, lacking even the energy to bark at the grumbling coffee maker. I didn’t want to be “that owner,” but I decided to bring with us to the vet a printout describing the autoimmune disease I feared most, with the name of the condition (pemphigus foliaceus), key descriptive symptoms (ulcerated lesions across the bridge of the nose), and age of onset (four years of age. Good lord, Daisy’s four years of age!) highlighted in yellow. So I folded that printout and brought it in with us, because two hours of online research certainly trumps years of veterinary training.
After a long wait in the exam room, the vet whisked Daisy back into the bowels of the facility to shave her nose, which must have been quite the ordeal, given Daisy's general hatred of all things vet-like. (Also, we could hear her yelping down the hall.) He then prescribed some antibiotic ointment and pills and was hustling us out of there when I spoke up, “Um, I know it probably drives you nuts when people try to diagnose their pets' illnesses on the Internet, but you don’t suppose she’s got an autoimmune disease, do you? Her symptoms are a pretty good match.”
He shook his head, futzing with some paperwork at the counter. “Let’s see what the antibiotics do. Half a pill daily, and put that cream on her nose twice a day. It should clear thing up in no time. Come back in ten days for a follow-up if it’s not healing.”
Ten days? my mind echoed. Ten days of wrestling my dog twice a day to rub salve on the raw wound above her nose? Ten days of watching her suffer, of trying to keep her from scratching her healing wound?
“What can we do to keep her from scratching it? Should she get one of those collars?”
The vet acted as if I’d told him a knock-knock joke he’d already heard a thousand times. “She’d be miserable in one. The cream should help with the itching.”
Daisy was looking pretty miserable without one, but I chalked that up to the whole nose-shaving experience.
On the way home, I was optimistic. We had ointment! We had bug-fighting pills! I would order natural supplements and make her a homemade dinner! Staph infection, begone!!
Unfortunately, it’s now late Tuesday night, and while she’s peppier than she was yesterday, her nose is still a raw, bumpy, oozing mess.
I’d say it was pretty gross if she wasn’t my dog. I guess in that respect I think I can relate to parents. I mean, who cares about a little icky thing like vomit when the health of your child is at stake?
She’s sleeping at my feet right now with a white lifeguard nose and dream-twitches. I’m hoping that she recovers, and that we’re not looking at a shortened lifetime of steroid treatments and pain and tests and vet visits. The Internet is full of heartbreaking stories of animals in similar situations. I’m hoping she recovers because I think she’s got a lot of house sprints left in her, and a lot more barking at squirrels to do. And I’m just not ready to say good-bye.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Things to do this weekend. Regis Philbin not included.
Based on conversations with similarly antsy-friends and family members, I’m guessing that you too may have an urge to enjoy some Autumn activities. Perhaps you’re jonesing to visit an orchard and go on a hayride while crunching away on a wasp-infested caramel apple. Maybe you want to savor the last warm days of the year with a color-infused drive through Local Scenery of Note (argument with significant other included). Or you could just be looking for new ways to distract yourself from ever having to balance your checkbook again.
I’m here to help.
First, you could check out this film project in production. Click on “In Production” and then “Don’t miss the amazing story of Valen Sheriff!” Valen graciously read an early draft of Riding with Larry Resnick to make sure I wasn’t totally full of crap. (The main character of my novel, like Valen, has Polycystic Kidney Disease. I don’t. Hence, our connection.) Not only is Valen inspiring as hell, she’s also incredibly sweet and so pretty it’s almost alarming. The kind of alarming that makes you want to run out and get plastic surgery, liposuction on your pooch, and a complete personality lift even though you've never even had a professional manicure in your life.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to the film. Moving on to more film-oriented goodness, check out this Pittsburgh-based web series that’s way better than whatever you’re doing at work right now. It's called Something to be Desired, and according to them, it's like Friends, only funny. That made me laugh, so I knew I had to check it out. I did. I was entertained. Thanks to cast member Erik Schark for the tip! Bejeweled? You are being officially tossed to the curb in favor of something more interesting. (I was going to do a cutesy play on the title, but I thought it might trigger your gag reflex.)
Want to buy some soy candles that stink like punkins? Check out Pure Integrity or Rosegirls Candles. No, their candles don’t actually stink. They’re actually quite delicious-smelling. So delicious that after smelling Rosegirls’ Brown Sugar & Chestnuts my mouth watered and I almost licked my fingers. Plus, it turned out that I live in the same city as Rosegirls, so they delivered them right to my front door. For free! I received free sample candles from both companies, too. Did you hear that? FREE!!! I’m in smelly wax-heaven.
Want to read some funny shit? Well, since you won’t find it here, check out the writings of Laura House (I especially enjoyed "Jesus in L.A.") and Jill Soloway. Sir Awesome's Review Revue is worth a perusal. The To-Do List is pretty good, too.
As for activities that require you to bathe and get out of your computer chair, I might not be of much help unless you live in Wisconsin, where the beer flows through the streets like … um, beer, until the cheese binds it up. This weekend, if you’re in Wisconsin, you can help me organize our garage. Or you could go to the mid-September Oktoberfest in Chippewa Falls for some polka, or Fall-O-Rama in Waupaca, or Green County Cheese Days in Monroe, or Food for Thought in Madison or Pumpkin Fest in Ripon or the Whooping Crane Festival in Necedah or the Wine & Harvest Festival in Cedarburg. There are probably some nature hikes and shit happening somewhere, too. Nationwide, you could join any of the Walks to Cure PKD. Or you could just stay home and watch Angels with Dirty Faces on TCM Saturday night.
I’m ashamed to admit that I typed that to see what kind of Google searches would lead people to this site.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
It’s Tuesday Already?
On to the rest of the circus. Saturday my best friend and I attended the Wausau Art Festival, which was much more of an actual Festival With Capital Letters than we’d anticipated. We had no idea where to park or where the main festivities were happening. So we had to play lemmings for a while, following the rest of the herd toward the hum of electricity and voices. Luckily, we didn’t end up at a Baptist revival but at a place that served glorious fried foodstuffs and meat products on sticks and caramel apples and enough cotton candy to induce twitching until Yom Kippur.
The day was a success: clear skies, sun, moderately-priced yet fun home décor, live music, dozens of talented artists displaying their work, and I think I already mentioned the fried foodstuffs. So I should have known that the night would be a smashing disappointment.
The night actually culminated with my decision to never again patronize one of the major grocery stores in my city. But it began with something that seemed like a good idea at the time: hey, let’s make Bloody Marys! But we don’t want to go to a bar and order a Bloody Mary like a normal person. Mostly because we feel fat, our outfits might lead one to believe that Phil Collins’ “Don’t Care Any More” is our closet’s National Anthem, and our hair smells and looks like vomit on a school bus. So let’s make Bloody Marys in the comfort of our own home!
Since we didn’t have any of the key ingredients (the first sign of a bad idea), I had to leave the comfort of my home to seek them out in the community. So off I zipped to a local grocery store to buy tomato juice, vodka, garlic, Tabasco sauce, pickles, olives, celery salt, and celery. (We already had Worcester sauce. You know, to season all the dead animals I don’t eat.)
And guess what? The store was OUT OF CELERY. What kind of grocery store is out of celery? A grocery store that hates vegetables and the people who eat them, that’s what kind. And guess what else? I had to stand in line* behind the entire population of Houston, which had conspired to drive to Wisconsin to stock up on a month’s worth of groceries that very night at this particular store. So I got in line with my basket of Bloody Mary fixings, an eternity of space, time, and annoyance stretching between me and delicious, spicy intoxication.
But what was this? An empty check-out lane right next to this Soviet-era bread line? My heart soared as it did when I discovered I’d lost five pounds from the flu last winter. I left my place in line with a bounce in my step, dancing my way to the empty check-out lane. I was giddy with excitement. How could this lane be empty? I chuckled to myself at the failure of my fellow shoppers’ powers of observation. Ha! Ha! Silly sheeple, I thought. I scoff at your willingness to trade valuable time and energy for an evening shifting your weight back and forth as you wait in line to pay for your Lunchables and Captain Crunch.
And then I saw the sign. “Alcohol-free lane.” The clerk smirked as my smile fell off my face and the lightness fled my step. I peered into the gaping maw of disappointment. So THIS is how it feels to be a Packer fan this season!
By the time I left the store, I’d witnessed an irrational argument between the man in line behind me and a clerk over this “alcohol-free” lane policy. I’d also grown eligible to collect Social Security and developed four new age spots, cankles, mild arthritis, high blood pressure, and inexplicably, restless leg syndrome. I have much to ask my doctor about.
So how were the Bloody Marys? Well, take my advice. Don’t add creamy horseradish, extra lemon, or lime-flavored pickles to your concoction. Just stick to the basics.
Later this week: fun things to do, see, taste, smell, or hear this fall. They have nothing to do with Regis Philbin, I promise.
*Is it “on line” or “in line?” Have I just fallen victim to another Wisconsinism?
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Another Quiet Night in the Neighborhood
Yes folks, it’s that time of year again. The time when you’re relaxing at home on the couch after a long day of work, watching a late night comedy special on HBO or perhaps a B-flick about humanoids from the black lagoon, when it begins.
You hear sirens.
You see four firetrucks. And two ambulances.
They are parking in front of your house.
Police cruisers screech to a stop, blocking the intersection across from your house and splashing red lights through your living room. In fact, everything is bathed in red strobelights. For a minute you believe your new garage is aflame. Maybe the vandals have struck again…this time, with arson! Then worry churns in your gut. Is it your elderly neighbor Wes?
And other neighbors, perhaps just strangers on their way home from dinner at the restaurant down the street, still bearing the remains of their fried dinners in small Styrofoam boxes, plop down on your corner lot retaining wall or congregate in front of your porch for the best view.
Because another awful event has swung to town, and it’s arrived on your doorstep. Almost one year ago to the day, it was a police standoff. Tonight, although the details are very sketchy (the fire trucks and ambulances are still parked around my house as I write this), it seems our new neighbors have had a small house fire.
The worst, the most shocking and gut-kicking thing, was watching a fire fighter carry our neighbor’s infant grandson out of the house to the ambulance parked in front of our porch.
The baby wasn’t moving.
As I watched that firefighter gently, almost reverently, carrying the silent, tiny baby down a sidewalk I’d swept only hours earlier, I felt a subterranean level of fear I’ve rarely felt. Thankfully, I heard that the baby is going to be alright. I wish I knew more about what happened, but that will have to wait until I read tomorrow’s paper.
So my light-hearted blog entry will be delayed. But this is certainly a good reminder to check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and hug your family twice.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Things I’ve Learned in the Month of August (Post #113)
- When you unpack your newly-purchased nectarines and place them on your kitchen counter to ripen, they will mold in approximately 28 seconds.
- When you ask the Food Service Powers That Be to at a local restaurant named after an automobile popular in the 1950s to substitute a Gardenburger for a regular hamburger and your waitress asks if you want your Gardenburger in 1/3 or half pound size, it’s a pretty safe bet that your meal will have once ambled around, mooing.
- Little Miss Sunshine is one of the most hysterically funny movies I’ve ever seen about drug abuse, suicide, family dysfunction, death, failed ambition, and dashed dreams. Seriously—go see it. It’s a heart-warmer. Greg Kinnear’s character? Best. Character. Arc. Ever.
- When the “news” (quotes intended to the fullest extent of the law) includes headlines with the phrases, “Never hug a Swiss Cow!” or “Bong hits for Jesus,” look around. You just may spot the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Or at least a spot of pestilence.
- Beware of large unleashed dogs. Even if they’re named Maggie and have a fluffy, shiny black coat and wear a cute, disarming bandana around their neck. Especially then. Just ask Daisy. She’ll tell you. Well, not in words so much…more through a series of canine yodels, whines, soulful looks, and a sorrowful limp while buttscooting across the carpet. (Please note: Daisy is not limping, nor is she buttscooting. But she is writing a strongly-worded letter to Maggie about the incident.)
- When the fate of your book is uncertain—and this can include everything from the agent querying stage all the way to a potential orphaning at your new publishing house—there is a great chance that you will develop several unattractive anxiety-related habits, including a state that can only be described as the opposite of hygiene, insomnia, poor eating habits (gnawing an entire block of cheddar while watching Meerkat Manor? Not healthy! Not attractive!), and an inability to maintain a normal conversation because your attention span is shorter-lived than either Carnivale or Deadwood (Damn you HBO! Damn youuuuu!!!)
- If you wish to remodel your home, know this: it will always take longer than you think. And there is a 98% chance that you will discover something unpleasant behind the walls, ceilings, or floors that will necessitate your parting with more money. This discovery may or may not include a tribe of Mold People or a series of bad construction decisions made by the previous owner while sniffing molten plastic fumes. But our garage is up! I can park in it and stack plywood against the walls like a real Suburbanite and everything. Hooray!
- Rats! Judging by the size of the poop pellets* littering our back doorstep, we may have a rat. (*They are the size of scuba tanks. Scuba tanks for giants.)
- Sauerkraut should NOT have the consistency of applesauce.
- I can’t think of number ten, because I’m fixated on number eight. I am so grossed out right now. Seriously.
The list is over, go in peace. Have a relaxing, labor-free Labor Day.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Hold the phone, stop the presses, pause the DVD, reverse sun damage, halt memory loss!
I. Am. Freaking. Out.
Okay. Deep breath. This is actually fairly common in publishing, I’m told. Editors change houses frequently; sometimes books and authors go with them, sometimes they don’t. I hope that I’ll continue to work with Jill, as I adore her. And I am incredibly lucky to have a terrific agent in my corner. I’ll let you know more as the situation develops. Or deteriorates. In the meantime, I will be arranging the following supplies on my desk: a paper bag, a vat of aspirin, a tub of TUMS, a case of whiskey, an MC Hammer CD (to remind myself that it could always be worse), and a framed picture of Tom Cruise (again, to remind myself that it could always be worse. I could be batshit crazy.).
Ah, what else. Oh, I sprained my ankle! Was I: a) rock climbing at High Cliff State Park; b) training for the Fox Cities marathon; c) assaulted by a gang of rough-and-tumble first graders at the park; or d) jumping three lousy feet from my stair-less back door onto our new driveway?
If you answered d), you win a prize! It’s an invisible gift certificate to TGI Fridays. Anyway, the ankle’s healing nicely, but it upset my plans for sharing a Very Special Blog Entry with you. I wanted to post some photos of graffiti recently spraypainted on an elderly couple’s garage, because I thought it would be entertaining and crime-fighting all at once. Unfortunately, I’ve had limited mobility for the last few days and haven’t made it to their end of the neighborhood.
Basically, one wall read “Ninjas of One!” and the other played canvas to a giant, top-heavy penis. The latter looks especially lovely next to the stained-glass angel hanging in a window. I still don’t know if the homeowners are aware of this recent burst of artistic tomfoolery, but I do know the city has arrested about five hooligans in connection with this latest rash of no-talent vandalism.
Speaking of tomfoolery, there was another incident of domestic violence across the street earlier this week. This time it involved vigorous shouting, slap-fighting, and chair-throwing between siblings and Dad on the deck, in full view of the general public. Months our new neighbors have lived in their home: three. Visits by the police in that timeframe: five.
Can I move now?
On a brighter note, last night I saw the cutest animal ever invented. A baby miniature pony. Seriously, it was so cute that tears actually welled in my eyes. I am still upset we didn’t have our camera with us.
And finally: 100 second-shifters at a cheese factory near my parents’ place recently won the $208 million Powerball jackpot. I love this! But I do feel for the first-shifters that weren’t in on the pool. (Including the parent of one of my childhood friends.) To dish how you would spend your lotto winnings, visit Eileen Cook's site.
Now, I'm off to nurse my angst-iety by looking at more photos of cute miniature ponies online.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
This Post is for the Birds
I hope I’m wrong, but you know me. Always suspect the worst. Especially after discovering four recent mosquito bites on my legs, waking up with a daily headache, and hearing my dentist say to me on Monday, “Oh, your tonsils are really red and swollen! Looks like a classic case of West Nile Virus.”
Which only confirmed my suspicions.
(Okay, she didn’t say that last sentence out loud. I added it in my mind.)
Plus, two of the dead & sick birds were chickadees and one was a nuthatch, which immediately sent me into a spiral of depression. Why can’t the fucking sparrows disappear? Why does it always have to be the cute birds?
Despite my headache and overall feeling of shittiness (and did you know that another symptom of West Nile is excessive swearing on your blog?), I will attempt to lighten your day with a story about my parents. As I mentioned in my last post, it was my mother’s birthday this weekend. So of course we celebrated with the traditional telling of stories designed to embarrass their progeny.
Our family dog, Suka, is a fourteen year-old Springer Spaniel. She’s incontinent, deaf, arthritic, and apparently, very territorial. On occasion, my dad urinates in the backyard (they live in the country, thank god. You can do this if you live in the country). He claims this is for convenience and to lessen the burden on the septic system. (What you’re hearing now is the faint sound of me laughing.) He recently noticed that whenever he pees outside, Suka will immediately hobble over on her arthritic legs and pee over the spot where he just did, marking her territory.
So, of course my parents decided this was a prime opportunity to have a pissing contest. Literally. My mom bet my dad that Suka wouldn’t pee over her spot, opting to urinate only over my dad’s. My mom claimed that she was top dog, and Suka would respect that.
I’ll give you a moment to digest this.
And wouldn’t you know it, she lost the bet.
Moving on. Earlier in the day, I helped celebrate my friend Wendy’s birthday in Madison. (There was a twofer special on birthdays last Sunday.) A number of old friends joined us, one of whom had just attended a wedding the night before.
Do you know that in certain parts of Wisconsin, it is a great honor to be asked to “Drive Car” for a friend or family member’s wedding? To “Drive Car” means you wear a carnation boutonniere and chauffer two members of the wedding party (which can be as large as 15 couples in some parts of the state) from bar to bar between the ceremony and reception. Most of the time when you “Drive Car,” you get to drink, too.
I can’t tell what my favorite part of this concept is, but I do enjoy the dropped article.
It’s also common around here to “drive bus” or “drive truck” for a living. As in, “Doesn’t Henry Gellings drive bus?”
“No, you’re thinking of Jim Flood. Henry Gellings drove truck for Michel’s the thirty years.”
(Note the intentionally absent “last” between “the” and “thirty.” In Wisconsin, this is another word that is frequently implied but rarely used.)
Which reminds me. Is Barstool Racing common at taverns in your city? How about Pitcher Races, where the teams have names like “The Christ Punchers” or “Ueker’s Pukers” and first prize is … more beer?
Well, back to obsessing over my swollen tonsils. I’m going hiking tomorrow, so I do hope for a break in the malaise. If I get some good photos, they'll be on the blog shortly. I hope to be back to my regular blogging schedule in early September, after I have a good chunk of book numero dos under my belt. And after I get over my West Nile Virus.
Suka. She's a real pisser.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
One, I worked out yesterday for the first time in months because I refuse to keep buying pants larger than those now on my person, and at this very moment my right hip feels as if it may fall off, may completely detach itself from my body, and what a relief that would be. My torso feels as if it’s been stretched on the rack, and that’s not too far from the truth. Because I broke down and actually purchased the self-contained, boxed fitness system created by The Firm. If you’re familiar with the system, you’ll know that it contains a stepping / torture device known as “The TransFIRMer.”
I love that. It almost makes up for my inability to sit upright today. The only way it would be better is if they'd called it "The FIRMster."
Two, I finished my revisions and spoke with my editor last week, and it appears the publication of Riding with Larry Resnick may be moved to spring of 2008. In the meantime, I will be working on the next book and freaking out about a wide variety of things that will likely provide good blogging fodder.
So I’m currently sporting ill-fitting shorts (that I hope the TransFIRMer will eventually make somewhat less ill-fitting) as well as mixed emotions about the delay in my book’s release. But as a baby amoeba in the publishing pond, I am trusting in the literary powers that be. Neurotic, compulsively sharing* mess that I am, I’m sure I’ll keep you posted on the developments. But in the meantime, let the navel-gazing continue!
Actually, I can’t bend my neck to look at my navel right now.
Tonight, I travel to Milwaukee for dinner with my sister and later, my first work-related meeting in months. The first fact makes me smile and the second, well, it makes me frown in a slight way that tells you two things: a) I’m not so thrilled about working during my time off and b) I’m grateful to have this job at all. So, it’s kind of a reluctant grimace.
Also, this weekend we’re building our garage with help from my industrious and gracious in-laws and two of J’s burliest friends. I’ll be the one taking pictures, making snacks for everyone, and saying, “Boy! You guys sure are working hard!” every fifteen minutes.
It’s also my mom’s birthday this weekend. What to buy the woman that brought me into the world, two weeks late and ornery as hell, and actually speaks to me today despite the hormone-addled ogre I became between the ages of 13 and 16? Hmmmm…something tells me a fart machine just won’t cut it.
My mom is extremely practical. When asked what she’d like for Christmas one year, she actually replied, “Oh, I don’t know. A pot holder?”
So I got her a framed black and white print of a solitary tree in a snow-covered field. Unfortunately, I glued my bows on the wrapped package with some kind of industrial adhesive that leached through the paper and left unattractive scuffs on the picture beneath. My mom hung it on the wall anyway, which is a testament to her awesomeness. Plus, she still displays a bunch of crap I painted back in 1984: faceless ceramic Amish kids sitting on a bench, a quilted bear (also ceramic), an apple crate lid with a wooden goose, half-basket of dried flowers, and wooden “Country!” logo all glued on in an approximation of lameness, and an acrylic painting of more faceless Amish kids on a beach, feet buried in the sand and hands in pockets because, as I have limited skills in the visual art arena, I can't paint feet and hands. Talk about your cowsuckers!
Anyway, I’m open to suggestion, if you have any. A gift more impressive than those given by my siblings is a plus.
*As evidenced by the “My dad calls you a Polack!” phone greeting of my youth.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
A New Way to Waste Time!!
I actually came in to WORK today, despite being "off" for the next month because I needed to breathe air that has been conditioned to feel nothing like that which is striking down birds and the elderly OUTSIDE my building.
Regarding the book, the end is in sight. Revisions have been completed. Celebratory beer has been drunk. Next up? A final read-through, resubmission to my editor, and contemplation of book #2. Now if only it will cool off enough to allow me to regain access to the part of my brain that hot weather shuts down. You know, the part that writes sentences that don't suck.
Today I fielded a question from a fellow writer regarding whether or not she should submit her work to a particular literary agency. I went to their website, and goodness, all of the red flags popping up! It was like an exploding mailbox convention. Here's a line from one of their emails to an aspiring writer seeking representation, "explaining" why they don't share their client list: "Sometimes we think that there is a higher incidence of psychosis among writers than any other occupation."
Really? Wow! Gee, I'd be flattered to be represented by an agency that holds writers in such high esteem. I had to wash my hands four times after clicking around their site.
In other news, my best friend is in Norway, the crotch. Just kidding, Cindita--you know I love you. Also, I've been spending valuable writing time lately considering the top ten "essential" movies in each genre. Horror, comedy, drama, indy/cult, suspense, sci fi, documentary, etc. (Apparently, heat activates the part of my brain that likes to fart around and make useless lists.) Anyway, if you had to list the top ten comedies of all time, what would you pick? Comedy can be very relative; what's funny to you may not be funny to Bob Dole. In fact, he might find it offensive as hell. So take all of this with a grain silo of salt.
I'm still pondering my list, but my criteria includes a sense of timelessness: do people quote the movie extensively? Is it still funny decades after release? Is this a movie you should watch to participate in a cultural phenom, to experience a particular zeitgeist, to understand what the hell your nephew is talking about?
Here are a few I thought of: Best in Show, This is Spinal Tap, Caddyshack, Animal House, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Tootsie, The Life of Brian, A Christmas Story, Young Frankenstein, Office Space ... then you have your Annie Hall, Fargo, Garden State, and The Graduate types of films, but they could almost be categorized as that lovely hybrid of drama and comedy with the eyeroll-inducing name: "Dramadies." And then there are movies that have camp/over the top/kitsch value: Pee Wee's Big Adventure, The Jerk, Something about Mary, Orgazmo, Kingpin, Napolean Dynamite, The Big Lebowski, Airplane! and on and on. I haven't even begun to consider movies made prior to the sixties...I know, it's all so complex. So please, I implore you to share your list.
*Please note that listing Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit may melt the entire Internet.