Saturday, December 27, 2008
Not the AA kind. The KU kind.
Sitting in the dark. Like an ANIMAL.
I had just read "See you in a hundred years" -- the chronicle of a yuppie couple who decided to return to 1900, for a year (in a gesture after my own heart, they picked 1900 at least partly because toilet paper had been invented then). It's not half the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is (a year in the life of eating locally), but it was entertaining, and I stayed up most of Christmas Eve finishing it, so I could give it to my stepdad for Christmas.
(Yes, I shamelessly read and watch and listen to most gifts before I dispense them. Hope you're ok with that if you're on my gift list.) Anyway.... The book was the subject of some discussion over the annual Christmas Eve dinner -- where we all decided we ENJOY our online, and blackberry, and other 21st century addictions.
So when the lights (and more importantly, the HBO) flickered this morning, my first thought was, "But I don't wanna go back to the land!!" I was just there. I don't liiiiike it.
First, I went straight downstairs to the mailbox. I didn't want to YELL at anybody until I had determined 100 percent that I had in fact paid my bill. (Turns out: I had.)
I needn't have worried. There's zero risk during a KU outage that you'll actually talk to anyone at KU. First you have to click through the language options. Then you have to ID yourself as an existing customer, with a phone number. Mine wasn't in their system.
I called back, and tried my OLD phone number (easily remembered because it was prefix + HELL), and they matched that to an address in the suburbs (as if). I called back again and they asked for my Meter Number. (Sure. Who doesn't have THAT memorized?)
Then I went out to the garage, fished out an old bill, FOUND the meter number and called back again... Only to discover that BlackBerry's keyboard doesn't let you enter a mix of numbers and letters. (A "C" for example, on the Pearl's QWERTY keyboard isn't where it is on a numeric keypad. Somebody REALLY should've fixed that glitch by now.) After I kept repeatedly pounding ZERO for Operator, the digital voice just told me the call volume was too high anyway and I should call back later.
Then I posted my outrage on Facebook.
That's where I learned a transformer had blown at the library. And shortly after that, the lights came back on. I'm told, by Facebookies, the crisis lasted a half hour. (The daily said it was a couple hours.)
Really? It seemed longer.
Luckily, I was able to crudely fashion this blog out of some twigs I found in the backyard.
Friday, December 26, 2008
He was interested in cooking from about the age of 5 or so. I didn't pick it up 'til college -- probably as self-defense because I still looooved to eat, and he and my parents were no longer around to feed me.
On separate paths, we both arrived at the same conclusion: that cooking is what makes us happiest. It's therapy. It's expression. I don't think there's anything either of us would rather do.
I always get annoyed when people say they "fancy themselves" writers, as if access to a laptop makes it so (yeah, I could "fancy myself" a surgeon, but no one's handing me a scalpel), so I never, ever say I "fancy myself" a chef.
I'm a cook. An avid cook, a devoted cook...but just a cook.
My brother's an actual chef. He went to school for it. He trained. He apprenticed with a nice Greek family. He also has a Master Baker's Certification (don't try to say that one too fast) -- which is unusual in that he can be both chef and pastry chef -- most culinary pros do one or the other; he's qualified to do both (as anyone who's tasted his desserts can attest).
He was so happy that my Christmas package from home included knives this year -- having relentlessly made fun of me this summer when he asked for the sharpest knife in the house and I sheepishly handed him a steak knife. He told everyone at dinner I'd handed him a rusty shiv I'd crudely sharpened from an old spoon. (I said I wasn't a chef.)
When I first walked into the house, I couldn't quite discern the delicious aroma that greeted me -- even less as the folks kept explaining it as "Pazzoli." Sounded Italian (rhymed with Fazoli), and I couldn't make it out. Finally I asked Brother to spell it. Posole. It's a traditional festive stew that includes hominy in Mexico and New Mexico. Around the kitchen, I could see evidence of an entire night's worth of meticulous prep work.
He'd stopped in Lex on his way to their house and called me for directions to La Favorita (the best taqueria in town) and made a 45 minute detour to get there in driving rain and Christmas Eve traffic just to get the final few ingredients he hadn't already shipped ahead from Austin (and that was a big box). Multiple bags of herbs, peppers, garlic, spices, etc. loaded down the groaning fridge shelves.
My stepdad bragged how they were out in the garage earlier roasting the peppers with a blow-torch. (He would eat a shoe if you barbecued it and didn't tell him -- and my mom would be content to nibble on the laces -- but they try hard to be good sports about the fact that my brother and I were apparently raised by the wolves at Dean & Deluca.)
This was just the meal that was designed to tide us over till dinner...
Which we'd been instructed to get on the table no later than 5 pm. That IS dinner hour in their house. (They met in Florida -- land of the Early Bird Special -- so it seems appropriate.)
What I also know -- from attending many a social gathering hosted by my mother -- is that if she says 5 pm, that means everyone has a plate in one hand and a cold beverage in the other by 5 pm. If she has to greet you in the driveway and stuff a canape through your driver's side window to pull this off, she will. By 3, she was getting antsy when prep didn't seem to be getting underway. By 3:30, when we got started, she was edging into panic and offering the guests bourbon balls.
At first, I was only given simple tasks. "Could you cut the broccoli into florets...?" After I'd demonstrated reasonable proficiency, I got tossed complex assignments, with uncomplicated instruction, "can you make the bechamel for that broccoli?"
And I started to. Before realizing there was no cream, no half & half.
I was lost. He was nonplussed, and handed me a couple cans of condensed milk, describing it as an acceptable Eastern Kentucky variant of cream.
From there, we diverged significantly. His version of bechamel includes eggs, and tempering. Mine's just basic butter, flour, and cream. I made his version... and nearly accidentally served scrambled eggs along the way. And it was still the only dish I really accomplished.
Meanwhile, he busted out carnitas for appetizers (small bites of roasted chicken, on homemade tortillas, with an avocado tomatilla sauce that I still can't stop dreaming about; the sauce had been started the night before and he painstakingly educated me about each component of the flavor profile -- why I was interpreting the acid of the tomatilla as lime on my palate, the finishing note of watermelon rind at the end of a poblano pepper). I still don't remember all the steps that went into the brown butter gravy, but I now know to chill my roux in between before I return it to the pan.
At one point I disappeared from the kitchen and returned in time to hear him joking with my stepdad that in a REAL kitchen, you don't leave without yelling out "bathroom break Chef!" (and the Chef has to yell back "Aye!" before you leave).
I didn't know!
When only the appetizers had been served at 5, my stepdad was (half-kidding) yelling into the kitchen, that we'd better get a move on, "we're losin' customers!" But by 5:30, everyone was seated for a feast.
I was pretty embarrassed that my only contribution to the table was the very simply roasted broccoli, with the bechamel. But I took comfort from the fact that there wasn't a Ritz Cracker or potato chip anywhere near it, and that it in no way resembled anything anyone could call "broccoli casserole."
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
BUT there will be blogs, and micro-blogs (twitter.com/RealityTruck) here throughout the holidays.
If you want to see the actual columns when they come out in print, pick up an issue, or visit aceweekly.com (currently under renovation).
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Last weekend's visit was for the church bake sale. This weekend was for Mom's annual holiday brunch for her friends, family, and church ladies.
It was a Brunch & Book Signing actually. I was there to sign the books.
I show up where my mom tells me and do what my mom tells me, but I'm not entirely sure church ladies are my demo. Especially since I knew one of them had disowned her 40-something daughter when the daughter borrowed one of their family condos and - according to a nosy neighbor/spy - had an overnight gentleman caller. (With a Red Dodge 2500 in the garage.... From what we hear.)
The mom's response - to the 40-something daughter was: "we're not runnin a whorehouse here!"
I think she'd better skip Chapter 6... And 13.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
"I made my wishes clear.
And if the Crazy Fairy were here, she could grant them."
Oh for heaven's sake. Another day, another nutjob.
I've only written a half dozen columns this YEAR, and already the crazies are back. No sooner had the paper hit the stands this morning than some whack-a-do calls in and says (and this is a paraphrase), "I wanna leave a message for the person who writes Reality Truck..." wrapping up with, "tell her I'll show HER a GUN," and then something indecipherable, followed by his hope that we had Caller ID.
Why, as a matter of fact, we do.
Now, is that a threat? Maybe "showing me his gun" is a "euphemism."
He didn't say he planned to shoot me with it -- just show it to me.
Maybe he was kidding? This week's column WAS about how happy I was NOT to have accidentally shot my neighbor. His call was obviously a reference to that, but in what way? Is she a friend of his? For heaven's sake, I didn't even come CLOSE to shooting her!
Possibly, it was a joke... a prank...but anybody who knows my history knows stalkers with guns aren't funny.
Rob's question (since we had to disclose the call to him -- 'cause if there's anything your coworkers resent, it's Crossfire), was "what'd you say THIS time that'd get you shot?"
Nothing I can THINK of.
But after my unfortunate incarceration (of four hours) several years ago, where I got arrested on the say-so of a lunatic who'd stalked me for over a year, I always err on the side of over-informing every single person I know when the Unstables show up.
We didn't have blogs back then, or I would've been able to twitter the loon's vehicle and description to at least 43 people, every time I saw him.
I don't KNOW what the twitter-subscribers would DO with the info. In fact, when I click on them, usually it says their account has been "suspended for suspicious activity," but surely one or two would call the proper authorities if I was micro-blogging from, say, somebody's trunk.
This time around, I'm taking more precautions.
So, the guy's number is 494... OK, I'm not printing it here, but I DID give it to a LOT of people. And I bet they all even wrote it down. And if they wrote it on some selected restroom walls, well that's their biz. And sure, it's probably a throw-away phone anyway. I'm not NAIVE; I watched the Sopranos.
But I've ALSO seen CSI. I know they can find out stuff.
Last time, the whackjob stalked me, and somehow I was the one who ended up in cuffs. (And it was NOT a consensual, adult, all-in-good-clean-fun kinda thing either.)
Well, this time, I am NOT going BACK into that hole. Where they only have basic cable. And they make you sit in the front row.
And watch TNT Prime Time in the Daytime.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Do I write a blog, and turn it into a column? After I've heavily edited and rewritten a column, do I then kill the first-draft blog version posted here (which more or less happens in real time), and replace it with the print version? And don't EVEN get me started on micro-blogging (most of which appears to the left here and can be followed on twitter).
I don't know.
I suspect I'll find out all the answers when I get around to reading the Huffington Post Guide to Blogging -- but I can't see braving the Joseph Beth crowds this time of year... and I hate to order it from Amazon because I prefer to buy locally.
It's a dilemma.
This week, I took the Big Raccoon blog, and worked it into a column.
For now, the blog is where the more or less real-time postings go... Bear with me. There's another book waitin' for you (and me) a year or so down the road.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
"Coming up, we'll take a look at what SOME are calling a lip balm addiction."
-- Noon News Teaser
I enjoyed making fun of the noon news teaser ominously intoning the dangers of lip balm addiction. My facebook friends and I had a good laugh. One girl said she had lip balm in her car, office, nightstand, desk, and every pocket of every winter coat. Was she "normal?"
We said, Aimee, we don't use "labels" like "normal" here. This is a "safe" space. Andrew said he'd just picked up lip balm at the Rite Aid and they made him show ID. Several people had friends they KNEW with problems... Who wanted to remain Anonymous.
This went on for QUITE some time. (Probably because we were all supposed to be working and the prospect of 12 step lip balm programs were far more entertaining.) So tonight, I come home from the movies with my mom and godmother, and we begin to open stocking stuffers. And MINE is a 12-stick lip balm CAROUSEL.
- Christmas Cupcake
- Sugar Plums
- Spiced Eggnogs
- Peppermint Swirls
- Cherry Gum Drops
- Snowflake Sprinkles
- Strawberry marshmellow
- Holiday Hot Cocoa (!)
- Candy Cane
- Merry Sugar Cookie
- Ginger Bread Man
- Chocolate chip cookie
Each flavor conjures a different BonneBell lipSmacker or Kissing Potion memory from the tween years. Now, I just need 12 boys to kiss for the 12 different flavors.
And, "The serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."
And now: it's One Day at a Time.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
I was on my way to my mom's annual church bake/rummage sale, and had just passed the billboard for Liquor WORLD (presumably for those times when a Barn just isn't enough) when I took my impromptu detour.
Miraculously (and I don't use the term lightly), I didn't hit anything or anyone. The whole thing probably only took a few seconds and I even ended up headed back in the direction I was going anyway. It was still plenty time for my death, if not my life, to flash before my eyes.
I had time to think, "I don't want to die listening to Coldplay (smalltown radio selections are limited)."
I had time to worry about the state troopers finding the bottle of Xanax/ambien in my ripped, blood-stained pockets (valid Rx and labels mind you - I'm not a country music star). I never travel without appropriate pharmaceutical rations - I think of it like the cyanide capsules delta teams tuck in the back of their jaw to bite down on in case they're captured. Cause ya' never know. And cause it's better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.
I had time to be relieved my license, registration, and insurance were all properly up to date so if I killed anybody, somebody would be compensated.
I had time to regret not upgrading my Triple A to deluxe so my potentially mangled vehicle could be towed home.
I had time to wonder if Bluegrass Family Health covers a med-vac helicopter, because, please God, don't let me survive a crash only to be killed by the butchers who pass themselves off as medical personnel in my hometown (where you can go in for a hangnail and come out in a body bag).
Also, I hated to die with a full TiVo, and withOUT finishing this week's 30 Rock. (How did Liz's reunion turn out?)
You know. The usual.
After all that, the bake sale was relatively anticlimactic.
I did almost get into a tussle with a 7-year-old who got to a cool pink tote before I did. She pointed out I could still buy the red one just like it, to which I responded, "I'll fight you for it" prompting her answer of (and I'm not making this up) "Bring. It."
It was around this time when I overheard her grandmother wrap up a conversation across the room with the phrase, "so luckily I was licensed for conceal/carry."
And then I decided to content myself with a few pounds of bourbon balls for the day's haul.
Later I posted most everything on Facebook as status updated, eliciting a thoughtful comment from one guy who wrote, "I'm glad you're not dead, 'cause I like your writing."
Awww... Well, that's one anyway.
Out of 657.
And now I think it's time for a bourbon ball.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
When I said, "Someone's coming in my window. Gotta call you back," I realize now I should've been more specific.
I had been on the phone with my college roommate when I heard what I thought was a racoon scratching around on my second floor awning. When I went to investigate I found half a Hot Sorority Girl protruding through the window of my second floor hall.
The top half.
She looked surprised. But not as surprised as me.
"Uh... Wrong house!" she exclaimed.
Speechless (temporarily), I think I clutched my chest in the international symbol for "I am having a heart attack," before I could gasp out the obvious, which was: "Oh! You scared me!"
She explained a little further. She thought she was breaking into her place. Next door.
I knew I should give her a hand, but I was a little paralyzed. I couldn't think whether I should help her the rest of the way in, or scootch her the rest of the way out, and then go let her in the first floor door.
I was also stricken mystified as to how she'd gotten to the second floor. Had she and her fellow Hot Sorority Girls created a makeshift cheerleading pyramid and somehow boosted her that high? 'Cause that is EXACTLY what I did when I was her age (and all I'd lost was a Ferragamo pump; also, I was very drunk; + my friends JoAlice and Tad egged me on).
Anyway. She came on in.
Which presented more problems. Like, gosh, the house was a mess. I wasn't expecting COMPANY. Mostly though, I was thinking: this could be so much worse. I was relieved, for example, I wasn't naked. (Cause sometimes, in the privacy of my own home, I am.)
I was also glad I was alone, and just as glad she hadn't interrupted a booty call. Mostly I considered her, and me, fortunate that I had NOT yet taken my Ambien...
And really really happy I hadn't shot her.
I was imagining all sorts of headlines and news crews - all of them censoring me, looking dazed, while I explained that was "one BIG fuckin racoon."