Sunday, February 28, 2010

Drivin Miz Daisy

"The word phobic has its place when properly used, but lately it's been declawed by the pompous insistence that most animosity is based upon fear rather than loathing. No credit is given for distinguishing between these two very different emotions."
--David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day

While I have a lot of phobias (some epic), there are some things that do not scare me at all. For example, public speaking doesn't bother me at all, and big parties filled with strangers don't scare me one bit. I just don't like them. Sometimes I feel like I need to distinguish between the two, so at least everyone knows the source of my freak-outs.

Riding in cars? That's a phobia. I'm not afraid of it (any more than I'm afraid a plane will crash -- I'm the only one on board hoping it will, so I can get the F off)  -- so, no, I don't think anyone else is more or less likely to wreck than I am; it's not a safety issue. It's just a phobia. It started around 16. As soon as I got a license, and it was an option, I became the designated driver. Occasionally someone new to the social circle will wonder aloud, "do you suppose it's a control issue," and somebody else will invariably answer (before I can even open my mouth) "Ya THINK?!"

If I said they've all indulged me for years, that wouldn't be the right word -- if I had a wooden leg, nobody would think it was "indulgent" to drop me at the door instead of making me walk across an icy parking lot -- so I will say, instead, they put up with it. At times, I'd imagine it's been inconvenient, and maybe at other times, it's been handy (like when gas was $4 bucks a gallon).

I have made a few exceptions over the years -- usually involving anesthesia, oral surgery, and a doctor's refusal to let me behind the wheel. Or, like last summer, when my BFF had to drive me to council meetings when my car was acting up -- but she always did her best to make it easy on me. "Don't worry Rainman," she'd say when she picked me up, "we'll get your toothpicks." To which I'd respond, "I'm an excellent driver. Excellent. Excellent driver."

My pal Lucy says she plans to just throw me in the back of her Range Rover and take me to Mexico, which she insists is just what I need. (And I concede she might be right.) She figures I'll forgive her by the time I wake up, which is when she plans to say, "Relax. You've had a lot of Ambien. You'll be fine. Now, here's a margarita.... And, also, I'd like you to meet Pablo." She's very supportive, and says she finds my phobic tendencies "humanizing." (Which always makes me wonder a little: "what was I before?")

I have read every book and talked to every professional, and I do know that the one thing that works is "systematic desensitization." That means control freaks like me don't get to what we want to do. Most anybody with say, a phobia of bridges, would prefer to conquer that fear of bridges, and then walk across. That isn't how it works. First, you gotta get across the bridge. (Now, this doesn't work with Loathing: if you simply don't like big parties, regular exposure probably won't cure that, and you're still gonna walk out with what Kevin Spacey described as his job description in American Beauty, " disguise my contempt.")

Everyone knows this Riding in Cars with Boys thing is something I've been working on since the end of last year, and the new thing is "positive reinforcement." So now,  everytime I take a little ride, I get a little treat. [A few from today are pictured. Notice my view from the Passenger Seat.]

Who knows? I hate phobias. I love presents.

The lettering on the back of the Ace Energy Drink reads "throw down an Ace. Ace will get you flying high and keep you in control."

So, Cheers! Gotta go! That's my ride.

Harriette's Kitchen

Ian took this photo in Harriette's Kitchen this weekend. Harriette has my dream kitchen, and my dream house -- which she and her late husband designed and built around a subzero and viking stove they found at an Auction. Her house looks like it would be more at home in Seattle than here, and would fit right in on the pages of Dwell Magazine.

If she were anybody else, I'd probably be consumed with bitter, bitter envy -- but Harriette is who I want to be when (and if) I grow up, and a picture here and there just reminds me it's good to have goals.

I'm posting a few more photos I took on the way to their place in the woods in a driving rain during this past Fall's Flood Season. High Water is on my list of phobias (I can't help but flash on poor 1970s anchorwoman Jessica Savitch drowning in her car, in a ditch, with her dog, who died too), but if you're lucky enough to get invited to The Woods, you go.  (You just don't watch The Strangers for awhile after you get back.)

The pictures don't do it justice. (Well, my pictures don't anyway. But I'm working on my photography skills -- for which Chef Tom has prescribed thyroid medication, because clearly, I come down with the shakes everytime I'm behind the lens.)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Then. Now. In BookLand.

 " My comic updates every day, because that is the expectation. I wouldn’t be able to not show up a few times a week at a regular job and still expect to get paid, and I don’t do the same on my site."
--Natalie Dee, crunchgear interview

I wish I could shoot the photo for the new book today -- at the exact same size 2 that would match the photo on the last book jacket in 1999 -- but at the moment, I have a very unfortunate haircut.

Today, I'm working on the Outline, and I'm trying to work faster than I'd like so the whole project can be wrapped up before the production guy who put together the last one retires.

Working faster now means something a lot different than it did in 1999. It took six years to put together that collection partly because I wrote a monthly column. I post everyday now, from either the netbook or blackberry, whereas that entire book was painstakingly typed out on a 486 and handed in on floppy disk, to beat... Y2K. The book did have a website (the kind you still cranked by hand) -- ably put together by A Guy named Bob, where you could read old columns and "buy the book" ... if you wanted to transcribe an address and mail in a check. I didn't have a blog (I'm sure some people did, but apparently I handed out columns door-to-door), and of course there was no facebook or twitter. According to the book, I did have a cellphone all the way back in the early 90s, and since I was (for once) an early adopter, it was the size of my Toyota. As was the fax machine (where we exchanged and transmitted information on real pieces of actual paper, if you can imagine).

I've changed houses (once), cars (once),  hair color (once), and boyfriends (don't ask), since that book.

I did have cable (I wasn't marooned on a desert island or anything), and I know that because there's a chapter about the one time I stayed home sick, had fever dreams, and insisted to everyone that HBO televises executions during the day. (I am pretty sure they still don't.)

Today I'm reviewing a decade's worth of old columns written in the intervening years between the last book and now, and seeing which, if any, make the cut. I'm finding that most don't. One I do remember somewhat fondly is about this Oscar de la Renta dress which is the only time I've ever ripped a dress out of the pages of Vogue and bought it.

Here's a little clip from May 20, 2001 (which indicates to me that at least in some ways, the more things change, the more it stays the same):
"I handed Hop Sing the 'emergency' gold card and dispatched him to the web. (And I can't TELL you how MUCH it pained me to do that - as the daughter of a woman who proudly views Crystal Light as an 'extravagance.')

The next Monday, I walked by his desk while he was on the phone with 'couture' at Neiman-Marcus, describing the Vogue clipping in front of him, just in time to hear him say, "That's not how it works, doll. I'm not buying tobacco here. You tell ME how much it costs, not the other way around."
   I never saw what the fuss was about designer clothing until this came into my life - and it's everything I love about art and architecture all rolled into one.
  I feel like a different person when I wear it. (I imagine I would also feel like a different person if I wore cowboy boots and a white-fringe jacket... but not in a good way.) I don't care if it takes duct tape and carpet tacks to get me into it (and keep me there), no sacrifice is too great.
  I wish it came with its own riding crop, because it makes me want to whip bad men and make them call me Miss Kitty.
The final challenge is the Guest List for the Party. Hop Sing is in a STATE that I don't want NewGuy to come. (After repeated questioning, it turns out that he really thought the two of them had 'a moment' at a party a few weeks back - when the guy reached out for my Kate Spade bag, a job usually delegated to Hop Sing himself. Yet, my faithful manservant handed it over, and apparently, he misconstrued that one moment as the 'Changing of the Guard.' He said he felt like he was 'passing the Torch.' He was 'handing over Martin Sheen's briefcase on the West Wing - the one with the Big Phone and all the secure numbers.') He's distraught that I'm not taking this relationship more seriously.
  Ultimately, I vetoed his appearance, reminding Hop Sing, "I just can't work and date at the same time. I need to keep my hands and mouth free." (May 2001)
Today, as I write the Outline, I am looking over the old book and figuring out what I will do differently and what I might do the same in the new book. A few things stand out:
  • I probably shouldn't mention ringworm as it pertains to kids I don't know.
  • I will definitely refrain from reprinting wedding toasts I have made.
  • I should make a note to check in more often with my friend, Stan, because he is hilarious.
  • I must never, ever replace a roof again. Even if a roof collapses around my ears, I must move.
  • I can stop being defensive when people insist I'll change my mind about having kids. Game over. I win.
  • I need to take more trips, because funny things (like food poisoning) always happen to me when I do.
  • I should host more baby showers (for the same reason). 
  • I should not muse aloud about the odds of which of my friends' marriages will make it and which ones won't (judging from the book, I'm only accurate about 70 percent of the time, and you know what, not one of them has thanked me when I turned out to be right).
Mostly, I am just wondering whatever happened to JenniCam? I had a whole chapter devoted to a conversation with my friend George about her, and the whole notion seems so quaint in the youtube era (to say nothing of jerkyourtube). At least George is still my friend.

[comic from the the crunchgear interview with Drew "toothpaste for dinner" and Natalie Dee . Toothpaste for Dinner (Ambien Walrus) here]

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Gift Horse

Straight men can be so impossible... Endearing, but impossible.

I just hung up the phone with one who was trying to surprise me with a present, and I should say right off the bat that A. I love presents, and B. that his gift-giving instincts and execution are (now) without parallel. I should also say, he didn't come that way out of a box for heaven's sake. I trained him. Painstakingly. (He's the one who tried to give me the ill-fated I'm-Sorry-MacBook for ruining a vacation a long time ago.) It took years for him to be allowed to give me high-end, overpriced electronics -- and that was only after he'd finally demonstrated that he knew the difference between "extravagant" and "thoughtful."

He's at the electronics store again today, trying to decide between pink, and pink, which meant a lot of futile text-exchanges like this one "which tone of pink?" (Only a straight man would think "pink" comes in "tones.") You know. Pank. Not pink, Pank. "Oh. OOOkkkkkk. Thanks."  (Points for mastering SMS sarcasm.) I finally had to text over visual aids, and hope that the resolution on his iPhone is reasonably accurate. [The shoephone is the correct shade of pank (also known as "blush" or "bashful") and the phone booth is the wrong shade of pink. It's admittedly confusing, because I have a scarf that's the wrong pink that I wear all the time, just because it was a gift I loved. I was wearing it on New Year's Day at the DiscoKroger when I ran into a different Ex, and when I said I was surprised he'd spotted me from halfmile across the parking lot, he said, "are you kidding? I was blinded by the beacon of that scarf screamin' New Boyfriend."]

Our first Christmas together was spent in tears. And honestly, it was hard to see a big man cry like that.

By Valentines a month later, he had shaped up. The presents were silly-but-thoughtful. He knew the right flower, and the right color, and the right florist -- there is one in town you use if you're trying to be impressive, and another you use if you genuinely are impressive. He knew that it was better if they came to the office and not my house (although he brought along more for dinner). He knew -- as all foodies do -- that you do NOT eat out on Valentines Day or other major holidays (when you get the worst food and the worst service ever). So he took my list and did all the shopping at (what was then) Wild Oats -- which is definitely my least favorite part of the cooking process -- and then we had Naked Chef time (my most favorite part of the cooking process, but really: wear an apron if you're searing anything; there are definitely some places more than others where you don't want to risk a burn). This year especially, I would've died before I left the house Valentine Weekend mid-heartbreak, so he got me carryout from virtually every place we'd ever eaten, and picked up every menu item he'd ever remembered me liking. (Relax. There aren't that many. I prefer cooking to eating out.) And then he stood on-line patiently waiting for them which could not have been easy on Valentine Weekend. Of course, I wasn't even taking broth at the time, and of course, we all know it's not possible to eat a legitimate caprese salad out-of-season in February, but any man who works that hard to get you over another man is, at heart, a good guy.

The ex he was trying to get me over had already fallen on the pank-and-pank sword for the Christmas stocking, but wisely hedged his bets by just going with multiple "tones." I honestly thought everything was so adorable I even put the little moleskin notebook pics on facebook; everybody now knows about the aforementioned ill-fated scarf.

Unfortunately, he does too, which I consider the height of rudeness on my part, because I got all likkered up on Ambien one night as we were on the way out the door to work late (relax: he was driving, not me) and I took the opportunity to educate him on the many nuances of pink he had yet to learn.("THIS" is the right pink. "THAT" is the wrong pink.)  I still think it was a shockingly ungracious, ungrateful thing to say on my part -- because I am genuinely happy when anybody takes the time to pick out any kind of present for me -- but he seemed nonplussed, and if there's one thing I prize in a man above all else it's equanimity.

The DonutMule RingToss Classmate who was here a lot in the immediate aftermath of Storm2010 (they've apparently all gotten together and taken shifts) said he actually prefers getting a lot of direction, because it leaves him less room for error. He's a disciplined guy (a guy who runs marathons) in a very precise field and I could see that, but I honestly didn't remember ever giving him any.  Unfortunately, here again, is someone who's spent a lot of time with me post-Ambien. And what he said, in response to that was "does the phrase: 'you're petting a butterfly! not sawing logs!' ring a bell?"

...And at didn't.

Bobby Donut

 "Remy! Cheyenne! Time to go! We have a playdate with Wingspan and Banjo."
"Those kids woulda got their asses handed to them in my neighborhood."
--Baby Mama 
I just got off the phone with my pal Lucy who was very put out with me, and by way of introduction, it might be best to explain that Lucy is not her name -- it's just the affectionate title we bestowed on her many years ago, because it is short for Lucifer.

(Just as everyone knows Banjo is not my name, and it's not my real nickname from college either, which only a select few -- like Lucifer -- know. Trust me. She's not talking. The initial banjo story goes back to a concert Greg and I attended a few years ago, where I was very dramatically upset with the substitution of a banjo for a fiddle, and via a long series of reviews in print and online, it became what Greg refers to as the "banjo qua banjo" episode.) It is an excellent way to RSVP for a party. ["Beat it, Hoi Polloi. This seat's taken!" Pictured is the signage from my viewing spot at an event last night.]

The reason Luce was upset with me was because we hadn't talked for a few weeks and she assumed, erroneously -- from the blog -- that she hadn't heard from me because some gentlemen callers were otherwise occupying my attention. "Oh, I know you're all tied up over there with your Bobby Donut and all..." adding, "I'm not judging," and then amending that to, "well, even if I didn't approve, I still wouldn't judge."

What? Who?...Bobby Donut? And then she reminded me that she reads the blog every single day, and knew perfectly well what I'd been up to (despite the fact that those guys constitute only a few "episodes" from the last few weeks).

Sometimes, the version my friends come away with is not the version I think I've written about. It's sort of like how writer Larry David plays "Writer Larry David" on Curb Your Enthusiasm -- there may be a strong resemblance, but there's also a lot of improv and obfuscating to protect the innocent too. (Except I'm not rich, and I wouldn't drive a Prius, and a few other things.)

Linda was just reminiscing about the Storm of 94 the other night, and then rambled off about "what was that story about the gloves?" I don't know. I didn't remember anything special about  gloves. "Remember," she insisted (and I still didn't), "we were all at the movies, and you lost your glove, or maybe he gave you his gloves, or bought you some gloves..." Then she recalled it might or might not even have been that guy; it could've been an entirely different guy, and a different year. "Maybe ...Steve?" (As if that narrows the field. At all.) She went on at some length, and it sounds like it would've probably been a very romantic story if either one of us had had the slightest idea what she was talking about.

At any rate, Lucy was complaining about feeling neglected, and I had to explain to her -- in no detail at all -- that I have two friends who are going through tough times, and that's what I've been up to. I couldn't tell her who. Because I value their privacy. And I couldn't tell her what. So I left it at "famine, flood, plague, and pestilence" because that's what I could remember from the Bible. They're how I've been spending most of my time, I just can't write about any of it.

To which Lucy responded incredulously, "Whatttttttt? There are things you don't write about?!" And I had to remind her, "you mean like the time you....." and I rattled off a long list of indiscretions from the past 20 years that have never seen the light of print. (Yet.)

Then she and I ambled down memory lane and a partial selection of things I don't write about and why:
  • other people's diseases (unless somebody asks me to, like for a telethon or something). My parents are the four known exceptions to this. We actually have a Family Cancer Twitter (which I use when I need to update all the relatives en masse), because they are always coming down with something, at which point I am dispatched to unearth all the research ever conducted on a particular malady, and then hire (or fire) all the appropriate specialists. They are very accustomed to the fact that this will always translate as "material" and they have been known to interrupt medical procedures at moments of particular hilarity so that I can be sure to get it all down, and twitpic if need be. At my stepdad's recent surgery, I was photographing a page of his chart because I was having a hard time getting the correct spelling of all the terminology, when the anesthesiologist asked him, rather sharply, "why is she doing that?" Thinking it would be funny, my stepdad said, "Ha! She's my lawyer." When it was obvious from his reaction that the doctor didn't enjoy the same sense of humor, Pops attempted to reassure him with, "oh relax, it's just for her column." We were all a little surprised he woke up from that surgery.
While Lucy insisted a great writer actually would be far more no-holds-barred/forthcoming (except maybe for that time she....), she still managed to come up with a few more subjects I've steered clear of over the years.
  • I've never written anything I know about other people's money -- their surpluses or their lack (except for the one person I know who's a billionaire, though I'm also not even sure he's still a billionaire after last year's assorted market crashes). I don't write about my friend's marriages; my friend's children (without express permission); or PMS (because that is how you end up one tick shy of a Cathy Cartoon -- although I did tell Lucy I have always thought it would be a marvelous thing to put birth-control-pill schedules on my boyfriends' iPhones, and I suspect Apple could do a very clever boyfriend marketing campaign that would involve them narrowly averting crossfire or machetes during one of their girlfriends' homicidal rages: "there's an App for that!") I also don't write about penis size. The closest exception to that was the guy who literally turned and ran away from me last month at a drinking-for-charity event. And I didn't write about it per se, but his pseudonym in the column (practically a decade ago) was "Mr. Impressive." Once I realized it bothered him, I knocked it off, though I did continue to write about Spinners, and that most certainly did not make him happy either. We both had to compromise. I maintained that policy as a good rule of thumb from then on (though thankfully that's never come up as an expression in the last 24 years and that's all I have to go on).
He was the same as most every Ex, and every friend, and every relative, in that the only thing that gets anybody antsier than being written about, is not being written about. But I try not to say anything that would get anybody arrested, divorced, or disinherited. I rarely write about my boyfriends' parents unless they say it's ok, and I don't write about their children -- ever -- with the one exception being the one we all describe as my "almost-stepdaughter," whom I actually didn't meet until after I'd broken up with her dad. (And boy did she fill in a lot of blanks.) Now, I just love her to death, and she delights in running into me in bars and addressing me as "Mama!" We both agree this is hilarious because of course I don't look remotely old enough to have a 20-something daughter.

But I look at the ever-lengthening list sometimes and think, Man, what's left?!
And then I remind myself, there's always Ambien. And the next dog. Though I think Dogs on Ambien would be wrong.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Rules for Lent

 "Do you smoke after sex?"
"I don't know....I never checked."
--old saying 
The ban on swearing for Lent only works if everybody knows about it. First, it has to cost me (the fine is $1 buck per profanity, payable to the humane society at Easter), and Second, I have to be monitored, and busted when I lapse. It's not that I can't be trusted to live by the honor system, it's just that swearing is such a reflex for me, I would never notice it. A conversation with me is pretty much an episode of Deadwood, in that I have a social circle that has included both cops and marines apologizing for my language on my behalf, because I embarrassed them.

As I did last year, these are the exceptions I have allowed during the ban: ass, dumbass, and ass-clown. But not "asshole." (It's in quotes, so I'm not actually saying it.) My rationale is if it can make it into prime time or daytime TV, then it's fair. Anything with an F in it (which is nearly all my favorite words), is probably out.

It is ok to swear in front of me though (I've noticed several friends catching themselves, and then apologizing). I promise I am NOT the temporary equivalent of that one Alcoholic friend nobody likes -- the Buzzkill who can't have any fun if anybody else has a drink.

I'm more like the ex-smoker who just wants to stand downwind from your Marlboro. Go ahead. Indulge. I'll re-join you at Easter.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Rode." Not Taken.

written on February 22, posted on February 23; slightly materially relevant

The great and terrible thing about BlackBerries is that they don't just remind you of everything you have to do, they remind you of everything you've done -- which is how I know it was a month ago to the day that I might've met the Man o' Mah Dreams ... and dammit, I blew it.

He's a religious reader of everything I write in print, but kind of old-school, and a barely casual reader of what I write online -- still, there's still only so many schoolgirlcrushing details I'd subject anybody to anyway. I met him through work (which is more or less, how I meet everybody), and that's somewhat relevant, because if I had not been working at that moment (in addition to being committed and exclusive elsewhere at the time: me, not him), I'm not sure I'd have left that meeting with my clothes on. Or at least my skirt. There were admittedly a lot of people in the room, but there were big desks involved... with privacy panels, so, well, you get the picture. I say that purely to illustrate the magnitude of his charisma, as opposed to any propensity (which I certainly do not possess) for removing my clothes in public places (semi-public is another story for another day).

While being deliberately vague, I can just say that he was about the definition of my Type. Tall. Southern. And funny in a very charmingly self-deprecating way. A Bonfire of the Vanities bizpig type ("bizpig" is the word we used in my last carpetland job; I used it to his face, and to his credit, he laughed) -- but a bizpig with lots of balancing talk about life on the farm. I got the feeling he could castrate livestock if there was a need for it (and it felt good to have that in common with somebody...finally, a man after my own heart!)

I looooove offices because you get to place people in their natural context, without asking a lot of intrusive questions normal people might consider rude ("what do you do for fun?" "where did you graduate?" "how many children?" "when was your divorce finalized?" and "are you the sort of person who uses 'summer' as a verb?") Handily, there were pictures of his very attractive adult kids sprinkled around various shelves in varying stages of graduations and marriages (with their knockout young-Julie-Christie-looking-Mom, who might've given me pause if she hadn't been positioned prominently in every photo with her new husband: it is true, they all look a little like they've been "cahhhved outta cream cheese," but that's not always a bad thing). There were a few horses in the pictures -- not so many as to be pretentious, just enough to say "folksy" and "down-to-earth." And there was a big, big dog -- which of course I asked about -- siiiiiigh, a "stray" he "rescued." (There might or might not be a cute story that goes with that, but it might be filled with so many details that everyone could identify him from it, so just insert a lot of Xs and Os here, while I practice writing his name in lipstick.) There were some pretty adorable "drinking-for-charity" dress up shots as well. We had been to some of the same occasions over the last year, and I sure do not know how I missed him.

[He doesn't exactly resemble, but would remind you of character actor Brett Cullen -- if you knew who he was; he's not exactly a household name, but he is Number 5 on my Top Ten TooMuchSexy list. You might have seen him in Something to Talk About, as the guy who doesn't get the girl, Julia Roberts. Lucky for him, I say. He gets the horse. But between her and Seabiscuit, who could tell, really?]

He speaks with an actual drawl, with actual expressions like, "I don't know but what you're not riiiiight" ("so many negatives, why Mr. Butler, you do go on, ah can scarcely catch mah breath...." It translates to "I concede you have a point," but his way just sounds so.... dirrrrrrrty. OK, maybe I'm projecting on that one.) He even has an adorably Southern name that looks ridiculous when you see it in print, but wears pretty cute on a rugged man in person  -- something like Bobby (relax, I promise, it is not Bobby).

But if I had to be excruciatingly honest about one thing, I would have to admit that the singular most attractive thing about him was how very taken he seemed to be with me. (It's an adorable word, and not one I typically use, but it's what somebody said about him, to me, several days later...that he was "very taken" with me.) At the risk of immodesty, I already knew that he was, because A. I am not coy, and B. he had called me, the next day, on the telephone (like an Animal, yes, but also like a boy who knows what he wants and exactly how these things are done), and asked if I'd like to get together for something "a little more Sociable" than work. Just like that.

And just like that, I said No, casually citing the aforementioned commitment elsewhere (he didn't ask for a lifestory and I didn't give him one; I just made things clear as politely as I could). We chatted a little, amiably, but it was pretty awkward (I doubt he gets rejected often, for anything) -- and then I subsequently came down with a terminal case of what my gal Rachel calls "mentionitis," where I worked him into any and every conversation I had for the next week, in completely ridiculous and implausible ways. Like, I would be on the phone with my Mom and she'd be making ribs for dinner, and I would giggle and blush and blurt out something like, "oh did I mention I met this man Bobby and he loves ribs....He was telling me about this grill...." and it would just deteriorate from there, until I completely regressed to 12-years-old and practically started fishing around the closet for my old Bonne Bell Dr. Pepper lipsmackers.

I wish this story had a happy ending -- like I got up my nerve and called him yesterday and that we went for Starbucks and enjoyed a hearty mutual laugh about my stupidity -- but it doesn't. Instead, I ran into him this weekend at another Snooty Falooty drinking-for-charity function with the Swanky McSwankertons and he was with another girl.

(Yes, I already know you're saying "that doesn't mean anything, maybe it was just a date..." Please.Who do you take me for? I completed such exhaustive Intel within two minutes of them walking in the door, I would now feel comfortable clearing her for the CIA. They've been dating for about a month, and all the "it's a small world" details of how they ended up together the weekend I turned him down -- at an event I attended -- were enough to nearly make me throw up my $200/already-wasted-non-broth menu, if I had eaten any of it. I would also like to report that she was some sort of Hot Sorority Visigoth who obviously won't last til March Madness, but no. Yes, she was Hot, but she's a power player in her own right. I would also like to report that it looked like a casual date, but no:  they looked the way people normally do after a month of dating -- like the cocktail clothes probably didn't last the car ride home.)

I am not one to overly lament the path not taken, but I have to admit this was a pretty cruel moment. I am trying to be philosophical and remind myself that I typically share the same replaceability assessment of boys that Linda has of horses, everytime Sunshine gets repeatedly, expensively sick, which is: there are a lot of good horses out there, Sunshine. They're not unicorns. They're not exactly rare.

But dammit, I wanted to ride this one. (And that's another buck in the Lenten swear jar for the Humane Society; worth it too).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hard to Tell

With all the Twitter Porn Phish floating around for the last few days, it's hard to tell, which messages are hacked, and which ones were really sent to me by people I know. (Sort of like the Mardi Gras spam deluge that seemed so earnestly concerned with my Lenten choices of deprivation.)

For example, I got all three of these twitter direct messages from one real-life friend:

"Get bigger and have sex longer."

"You look funny here" (plausible)

"don't give up sex for Lent! Please! For your Queendom's Sake."

Frankly, they all seem helpful.

Scout Mistress

It is with mixed feelings that I greet this year's delivery of Girl Scout Cookies: joy (particularly as a longtime Scout), that my niece probably made about $437,000 for her troop --- combined with reticence, because I am still not back on solid food yet (though yesterday.... I did ... take some Broth, and sent the shawl to the dry cleaners), since this is probably not the test my frail digestive system should be greeted with after a two-week near-fast.

And what I have learned from this ongoing recovery time.... do not EVER "complain" via social media about "accidentally" losing six pounds (ok, it's actually eight, but don't judge me!)

Because I did sense -- for a moment -- that my many girlfriends there were on the verge of turning on me when that came up over the weekend, as I burrowed through the basement looking for my retired Size 2s. It was almost enough to convince me I might want to keep the news about the special Single Gal Golden Ticket Merit Badge (for maintaining the ...childbirth-free status of the ...ol' "pink telephone,") to myself.

But then, I remember, there is nothing that we girls can't overcome when we get together for a spirited rendition of  "Sisters, are doin it for Themselves." (I don't have a merit badge for that... but in all modesty, I did letter in it.)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Swearin Off

Did I ever get around to admitting I gave up swearing for Lent?

You won't be seeing much of me. Because everytime I get busted, I have to put a dollar in the tip jar that goes to Woodford Humane at the end of Lent. It might be safer to stay home...And not answer the phone....And not text...or facebook....or blog....or skype....

I am at a $7 dollar deficit so far -- and it could've climbed much higher if I hadn't gotten Scott off the phone fast, just now. He owns a construction/remodeling/design business, and compared to him, I practically breathe sweet cottony daisies of expressiveness.

I had to hang up before he could infect me. And bankrupt me.

Looking forward to seeing everyone at Easter ---I'll be seated in the row of fainting grandmothers. I'll be the Sam Jackson of Sunrise Service: "I am so mother$%#%^ sick of these mother #$^%%..."

DiscoKroger: MUST you mock me?

No sooner had I hit send on the blog describing proximity to the DiscoKroger as the primary determining factor for every real estate decision I've ever made, than alert FoodGay MichaelJansenMiller submitted this photo.

This traitorous photo. Yeah. Nowwwwww the Disco Kroger has the brown crowder peas that I so desperately needed for New Year's Day Brunch -- nearly two months after I needed them -- because, as everyone from the real South knows, they are the source of all luck that is to be bestowed all year long.

Instead, we had to make do with black-eyed peas... like Animals.

If anybody I spent New Year's with does not get lucky every day of this year, we can all blame the Disco Kroger. (Though at least it looks like they've had the common decency to mark them down.)

BackDraft, or HellHoles I Have Lived In

 "I was moving again. This time because of the neighbors. 'Oh no,' my mother said. 'They're not to blame. Let's be honest now.' She liked to take my problems back to the source, which was usually me. Like, for instance, when I got food poisoning, it wasn't the chef's fault. 'You're the one who ordered the lomain." 
--David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

I got through college and grad school the way most everyone else did -- with an endless cycle of rotating roommates splitting rent and utilities. After I finished my master's I had one of those "as God is mah witness, I'll never live with another human being ever again" moments, and I've stuck to it, save the occasional boyfriend here and there in the 90s, but those were more de facto camp-outs, not true live-ins.

My first experiment was admittedly pretty modest -- about all I could afford working for an engineering firm in communications (/making coffee). It was my quarter-life crisis.  I was stuck in the wrong job; I was stuck with the wrong boyfriend I'd inexplicably planned to marry; and where I lived seemed like the one thing I had a little control over. With a little paint and a lot of castoff furniture (a little something we call "early American, Want This?" in my family), it wasn't so bad.... (Oh what am I saying? It was a hellhole...with no air conditioning and no dishwasher.)

I picked it because if you really squinted, it was a little bit Mary Tyler Moore's apartment in Minneapolis/ and a little bit "Mare Winningham-in St. Elmo's Fire" when she has that soliloquy about how "I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I realized it was my apartment and it was my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and it was the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich I ever had." Or words to that effect (that's how I remember it).

I tried to love it, I really did.... but then the noises started.

I lived on the second floor, and every night, at 11 pm sharp, I could hear this... chanting, for want of a better word. It was more like a half-chant, and a half moan that built to a high-pitched whine -- it was the noise you imagine a tomcat might make if it were being strangled with a piano wire. It would go on for about 15 minutes, and then it would stop. And I mean: every night.

Even then, I was an occasional insomniac, who had to get up for work by 6 (engineers like their coffee hot, and early), so I finally got up the nerve to do what I thought I had seen Mary Tyler Moore do -- I took a broom and banged the handle against the ceiling.

Yeahhhhh..... That was a mistake.

I heard this frantic scutter, scutter, scutter, a loud crash as the attic door slammed open, and then the ominious sound of running as the upstairs neighbor thundered down the stairs... and then hurled his not inconsiderable weight up against my door. It gave a little, but held. I just sat there in the dark and held my breath till he got tired of pounding on the door and left. I called the landlord from the office the next morning and he chuckled, not-at-all-reassuringly, "yeah, the guy's ...eccentric." (That is not the word I would have used.)

Great. Now I was a hostage. Creeping in and out of my apartment under the cover of dark, trying not to make any noise that would rouse the beast. I didn't know what to do next. I didn't think he was doing anything criminal enough to call the cops. The landlord was no help. And I had no intention of taking matters into my own hands. Even in my 20s, I prided myself on trying to lead a drama-free life, and white trash screaming matches with a neighbor --inevitably involving law enforcement and camera crews from what I'd seen so far of Life in the Big City -- struck me as a good way to get off to a bad start.

A few nights later, I was lying on the floor in front of the windows wearing boxers and a wife-beater trying unsuccessfully to catch a breeze, when I heard sirens outside. Powerless from the heat, I just stared up at the ceiling where I halfheartedly noticed the lights were flashing red (fire, not police), too exahusted to investigate.

The next thing I heard was a loud CLANG -- which turned out to be a metal ladder banging into a brick wall -- and the next thing I saw was the top of a fireman's helmet peeking over my windowsill. He had come to "escort" me from the building, which was, apparently, on fire. Reassuringly, it was a very small fire -- originating in the attic (it hadn't spread, and none of us even smelled smoke) -- but the marshall had to kill the power and kick us all out for a few days while everything was investigated.

But they knew instantly what had happened, and one of the more loquacious firefighters was happy to fill me in.

As we stood outside, where it felt suddenly felt surprisingly cool in boxers and a wifebeater, he put his big coat over my shoulders and steered me over to the sidewalk where I could get off the broken glass that was grinding into my bare feet (beer bottles always littered the yard there). "Listen," he said.... motioning me a little closer. I leaned in.

"Do you know that guy...that guy who plays ...Mr. Edwards?" he asked, almost conspiratorially, clarifying helpfully, "the guy on Little House on the Prairie?" (It had been off the air for years by that time, but of course I knew the reference).

"Sure," I said. "You mean Victor French? I think he was on Highway to Heaven too," (I had never even seen that show, but suddenly, I was a gameshow contestant.)

"Yeah, well" (the implication being 'whatever') "your ol' neighbor upstairs has this, like, ALTAR built with that guy's picture all over it. And there are candles everywhere, so I guess he was like, praying to him or something."

It was the candles that had started the fire, he added, almost as an afterthought (and that was, admittedly, the least interesting detail of the whole conflagration).

A shrine?
To beloved character actor Victor French?
Of course.
The moaning. The chanting. The subsequent fire.
I probably should've suspected as much.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why I Live at the Disco Kroger

 "I have always been grateful though this is the next to smallest P.O. in the state of Mississippi."
--Eudora Welty, "Why I Live at the P.O."

I can think of many reasons real estate agents would hate me, but the number one reason is my unflinching, non-budging requirement to live at the Disco Kroger. I think they find it a little .... limiting... in terms of Inventory. Before I bought my last house, I actually circled the Disco Kroger on a map, and then highlighted (in pink, of course) the two-block radius around it. I was a little more specific than that -- I wanted a one and a half story, 3 BR, with hardwood floors, a front porch, a back deck, and high ceilings.

I thought that was pretty clear (I wrote it out on an Index card and everything, like an Animal; no one had email back then, or it might've been when I was still referring to it as a "fad" that would "never catch on"), but agents would call me every day and begin their conversations with, "I have exactly what you want... except for, well, it's a ranch, and it's in the suburbs, and it doesn't have a porch or a deck, and it's carpeted.... but other than that, it is exactly what you said you wanted."

When I would explain, slowly, how this was nothing like what I wanted -- for example, say, I wanted to buy downtown -- they would explain back to me, equally slowly, all the varied routes that would take me downtown, from this particular listing. "Whyyyyy, you just hop on the circle, and take such and so, and you'll be there in two shakes!" they would insist brightly. Well, yeahhhhh. I knew it was possible to get downtown from the suburbs; I even knew how to get there; that really wasn't the issue.

It was exhausting, and when I would relay all this frustration to my Mom (who worked in real estate -- as I think is required by law for every mom who gets divorced in my hometown), she would line up in total cahoots with them. "Oh honey," she'd say, "you just never know. Whyyyyy, if I had a nickel for every time somebody bought a cabin when they told me they wanted a Victorian...." The trail-off obviously implied she'd  give up real estate if she had all those nickels. "But, Mommmmmm," I would protest, "I. Do. Know."

I finally stopped taking their calls, and gave up the search entirely. I don't think they fully understood the depth of my commitment to the Law of Inertia. I was thoroughly happy to remain at rest unless acted on with equal or greater force.

Just when I thought I was going to have to enter a real estate witness relocation program, my pal Helen told me her next-door neighbor was thinking about getting rid of her house in favor of a condo, and asked if I'd like to see it. We walked across her backyard and into the neighbor's back door, and we had all the contracts signed a couple days later.  We ciphered out the whole thing on legal pads and an abacus I think. It was a one and a half story 3 BR with hardwood floors, high ceilings, and a front porch -- 1.5 blocks from the Disco Kroger. I did have to add the deck.When I sold it many years later, I moved a few streets over, to the other side of the Disco Kroger. I would tell everyone how I loved my new neighborhood, which was invariably met with an incredulous, "you moved two blocks."

So, I'm looking again, but only very casually -- same as last time. It depends on what's available (give or take a couple blocks).

The Disco Kroger is admittedly not much (you'll note that these Ben & Jerrys weren't even marked down), but I have faith... faith that someday it might grow up and be one of the new Fresh Krogers. That's what happened to Atlanta's Disco Kroger, which might or might not have been the same store as Atlanta's Murder Kroger. I am always getting the two mixed up.

And when it grows up to be the snooty-falooty store I know it can someday be, I'll be living right on top of it.

Mister Perfect: Location, Location, Location

House Hunting has been pretty hard work these last few weeks til it was pointed out to me today that I do the same thing with houses I always do with boyfriends. Which is to say, I'm a dabbler, a dilettante -- I want a little of this, and this, and this, but definitely not that or that or that. I most certainly did not buy my last house out of Love at First Sight --- I bought it out of Paralysis, when the one I really wanted burned down. It's just one big Swap Meet to me and I can never find everything I want all in one package. I needed a little perspective.

I'll pick say, the garage from this one... but then it doesn't have the big basement that the one two streets over has. I'll be wowed by the cook's kitchen in another, but the yard'll be too small for gardening. Dwell Magazine architecture is my style -- but it's impossible to find in my neighborhoods -- the closest I can hope for is Arts and Crafts. The light might be exquisite in this one.... but that one has a shiny new EnergyStar washer and dryer.

It is the same damn thing with Boyfriends.  

This one has the height I need and the six-pack that goes with the marathon training, but ...comes with two kids. I should of course admit up front that I don't care much about six-packs (and he's certainly not getting that from me), it's just a nice view. But I think of that the same way I remember this office I used to have overlooking a lake --- you know what? After two weeks, I didn't even see it anymore.

This one's younger and hotter than I am (life back inside the Bubble), but ...Clingy. (Get off my leg already pal.... or at least outta my car.)  

This one's tall, cute, and never-married/no-kids, but is... kind of a dick -- he did take out my trash one night last week, but he purposely put the Recycles in the Herbie, not the Rosie (if you can imagine). I mean, I am admittedly not the most devoted environmentalist (everyone's seen what I drive), but that's just the kind of thing I'd expect from a trust-fund baby like him. Picture a lot of stories about the family "compound" (not making that up), then picture the literal physical exertion it took for me not to roll my eyes every time that word came up. I suspect he's a fear-biter.

Still another one started out an adorable charmer who came with a soon-to-be-ExThis and soon-to-be-ExThat, both of whom turned out to be neither. I never judge anybody on baggage (fully equipped with a semi-load of my own) -- and this particular freight wasn't even bothering me as long as I knew what was up (so to speak) with whom and when -- til it was explained to me that the three of them will probably be very happy together till Death Do 'Em Part, at the earliest. There was no room at that Inn for me. Word on the street was a fourth was on the way in (I'm a little afraid of crowds! And I stopped watching Big Love when they added the Russian-waitress-bride.)

But the One who looks best on paper -- the definitive Upper East Side of Men -- is a guy who has been, for me, like finding your dream house... and then finding out it sits on a haunted burial ground, or a volcano that's due to blow at any moment, or that... there's no closet space.

However eco-unfriendly I might be, I am a devoted Recycler of Boyfriends, and this one passed everyone's muster years back. (I didn't have a choice about whether or not to integrate him into the social circle -- he knew, and does know, most of the same people I do, and has for several years. To be honest, they prefer him to me. And to be honest, if you knew him, you could hardly blame them.)

While he's still young enough to be up for a ... spirited game of Ring-Toss twice a day, every day (my minimum requirement), he has many (arguably less important) virtues too. He's kind, for example. He's a deeply, deeply good person. (He happens to be Nice, not that I care.) He is the guy who stands off to the side at parties and makes friends with the grandmothers and the pregnant ladies. Which is all the more surprising given that he is irresponsibly tall, and good-looking in a way that would make Jon Hamm blush with schoolgirlish envy. His southern manners extend not just to opening doors and pulling out chairs and gathering coats but to navigating the internecine mores of imperceptible tipping and lighting of cigarettes. He's like fuckin' James Bond with an Ashley Wilkes accent. OK, ok, so he can't cook, but no one who looks like he does will ever have to go hungry. He went to a much better college and post-grad than I did -- and worked his way through every minute of it. No trust fund (mercifully), he just slaved away so long and hard that he accidentally wound up so successful he never has to work another day in his life.

But despite all that, what he is NOT, is smart. And not in a "can't define irony" or "loses his car at the mall" kind of way -- it's just a profound absence of any critical thinking. Whatever was told to him last is what is correct. I haven't seen him marinate anything in Gatorade, but I have watched him eat riblets for dinner. He reminds me of my first Beagle. He reads dumb books and listens to dumb music -- as do we all from time to time, but this isn't his Guilty Pleasure, it's his way of life. If I listed them (to give you an idea of how awful they are), he might recognize himself (but that would presume he could get to a computer and find an ON switch). If none of this sounds like a dealbreaker to you, it's only because you haven't woken up to find a copy of "The Secret" on the opposite nightstand.

What I am thinking is that maybe the Ideal way to handle boyfriends is the same way we all want to handle real estate in a perfect world --- find a promising property that has most of what you want ... then get yourself a Piece on the Side (perhaps a nice unassuming Mensa member who doesn't think Rufino Tamayo is a hot sauce... who wouldn't mind talking a little David Sedaris and listening to a little Lucinda Williams in the backseat every-first-Wednesday when you're supposedly off at Book Club?) Isn't that why rich folks have cabins and cottages and vacation homes? (What? You mean it isn't?)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Givin' It UP

When I blogged on Mardi Gras that I was contemplating giving up sex for Lent (for the second year in a row), I had no idea the prospect would be met with such keen interest.

Well, I take that back. I did have some idea that there might at some point be some interest -- in local quarters (hyper-local) -- but I had no idea the sheer Economic Impact would be so widely evaluated.

The swift, decisive response from members of the social media community selling various "romantic aids," for example, was a little staggering. Now, I'm not naive about how marketing, promotion, and new media work. I know, if I mention ... say, Ambien, via blog/twitter/or facebook, I will immediately get a lot of  "people" in the sleep-aid industry who want to be my friends, fans, and followers. (Honestly, I do not know why anybody hasn't asked me yet to be a paid spokesperson, except for... well.... maybe the fact is they do not consider my last few relationships to be rousing endorsements... Sigh. Right there with ya, buddy.)

The Mardi Gras effect was a little different though. I certainly didn't use any obvious keywords, or tags, or headlines that would've red-flagged the blog (or the twitter that listed the link). It was all very PG-rated (not even PG-13) and euphemistic, right down to "clearing out the Easter Brunch crowd at The Denny's"" (even though that expression is so old and overused by now, everybody probably knows what that means). The point is, I usually write like I'm eluding either a Nun or a Standards and Practices censor. (There is no harsher mistress than Sister Catherine Regina, and I grew up with her as my Editrix.) I am a nice girl, a good girl... the kind of girl who would never use "pleasure" as a "verb." (Because: ewww.)
And yet, I got an immediate twitter response that said, "thankfully you won't be repeating last year's Lenten debacle," and then offered me (or I suppose, more accurately, anyone I might "encounter") some sort of "essential oils" that would allow me to "get the Power," (which struck me as oddly political).

There were several more in this conversational vein, and initially, I thought all the re-tweets and @replies were coming from people I knew (that is a pretty specific, detailed reference), until I investigated their twitter-stream a little further and found posts that offered helpful suggestions like "don't count on someone else to find your G-spot." (Uh. Don't worry.) There were also a lot of instructions about how to "get your orgasm back" (who knew it was missing?) and "reclaiming it" after 40 (which struck me as a recipe for an odd experience at the Lost and Found). They also encouraged "Kegels + tablets + [their product]" and I don't know what tablets they meant, but I'm guessing Ecstasy because I am very naive and inexperienced when it comes to recreational drug use and I don't think either Ambien or Xanax would end that equation the way they suggest it should end (because I am not naive about the P.D.R.)

It turns out, if I had discovered them a little earlier, I would've had an opportunity to win a Valentine basket comprised of their product, Godiva, and a "candle pack," (and God only knows what they expected me to do with those candles, but I sure hope it didn't involve a lit wick).

Even though I've been writing -- in public -- for over 20 years now, and I blog/twitter/and facebook more or less daily, it never ceases to amaze me when strangers address me with such intimate familiarity, and I always find it oddly disconcerting when they seem to know as much about my societal and social failures as the people who are actually involved in them.

Frankly, I blame this one on Spud. This is the logical extension (so to speak) of him characterizing my recent "halftime performance" (as it were) as something to "get through" (if you will...and I think you will...most people would).

One could, of course, argue (plausibly) that it's more accurately the result of me shooting my mouth off (if ya know what I'm sayin') in the blogosphere about that particular not-so-rave review, but come on. I think we can all agree that was the kind of thing that was just bound to get out sooner or later.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mardi Gras

Lenten Season has really never been a joke around my house, except for all those years in college where I insisted I was giving up Self Control.

I have a lot, and I typically do give something up -- and then I also add on a mitzvah (excuse the ecumenical inappropriateness) where I do good as well. 

Over the years, I have tried to give up caffeine (unsuccessfully) and all manner of sweets and desserts (successfully).

This time last year, I unilaterally gave up sex -- in that, I gave it up, without really taking a vote from the one and only guy who was going to be impacted. He was not happy. It even meant he missed Birthday Sex -- though he did get the Birthday Menu (blood-orange sesame seared ahi). My understanding was that the substitution was unacceptable -- but with all the oral surgery stitches, I'm not sure how much use I coulda been to him anyway. Love's one thing; dry sockets are another, and suction is the ONE thing the surgeon forbids (I couldn't even drink out of a straw). And this wasn't the typical Catholic-Girl-Everything-But -Abstinence -- there was no nudity until Easter (and boy that brunch crowd sure cleared outta Denny's in a hurry).

I wouldn't do it again. Different year. Different guy. And besides, I think I learned what I needed to learn out of that. (Which was "Ouuuuuuuuuuuchhhhhhhh.")

My mom is giving up chocolate and caffeine (near and dear to her heart). I don't think she's a quid-pro-quo Episcopalian, but ever since she's been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, she doesn't fuck around when it comes to religious ritual. She hosted the Valentine/Shrove celebrations at their parish this year --- a Bake Sale where all the men made Valentine Desserts and they were auctioned to the highest bidder. (My Stepdad made the wretched Yellow Bourbon Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting that I disastrously attempted for Spud's Birthday, and all I can say is, these people must really take a lot on faith  if they paid money for THAT, cause it was hideous) Then she staked my stepdad to a kissing booth and made $30 bucks there. He got her an exquisite diamond for Valentine's Day, so at some point along the way, I wonder if he noticed just how much his life depended on her dragging him through this current bout of esophageal cancer. They're a pair those two -- I guess nothing bonds you quite like repeated bouts with terminal disease).

I have a couple hours to make up my mind about what to give up this year. Suggestions?
(It won't be Ambien.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Texts From Last Night

For someone who was a very, very early adopter of Texting (and then Sxting) it took me a long, long time to get around to the site Texts From Last Night (today), and only then because a few people strongly urged me to try it.

I started texting way back when... gosh... I think there were still tin cans stretched between trees, and I had to tap out my messages via Morse Code -- I had a lot of cop buddies, and it was never convenient to call them, but it was easy to send a text "Black Hawk Down's at 2 at Hoodhill." They were the first ones to get me hooked, because I was all for anything that would allow me to circumvent talking on the telephone. 

Here again, I did what I always do with technology: first I resist it; then I embrace it; then I act like I invented it; then I go forth like a zealous preacher to convert the masses. At first, I didn't even want a BlackBerry. It was a Valentine present several years back from the Ex who was given to high-end electronics-as-apology (the same one I had to turn down the I'm-Sorry-MacBook from, because he was being extravagant, but not thoughtful, and he had to learn. Oh Yeah. I think we can all agree: I showed HIM.) We had a marvelous dinner together this past weekend and another last week -- devoting several hours of good food and delightful conversation to all the ways in which I'd been the best girlfriend he'd ever had (probably, the best girlfriend anybody's ever had) -- while he lectured me good-naturedly about the many, many tech upgrades I'd be enjoying now if we had just stayed together and he'd continued pissing me off (which seemed a pretty likely trajectory). Certainly my car would be bluetooth-enabled, at a minimum. I forget exactly how he put it, but the gist of one of the things he'd observed about me during our several years together was that if there is one thing I love, it's being right. And that if there's one thing I love even more, it's an opportunity to be self-righteous. (Totally and completely true.)

What I said in response was, "hey, so, have you put on weight?" (Admittedly, he just went from a 6-pack to maybe a 3-pack, but I'm a girl who knows when it's time to change the subject. And how. I had more tricks up my sleeve if that hadn't worked.)

So, that first long-ago BlackBerry was completely his idea. He is an early adopter (and moved on to iPhone back when you still had to crank them by hand I believe). The first day, I hated it. The second day, I figured out how to send him a picture of a cool, obscure, performance car I'd spotted in a parking lot but couldn't identify. Five minutes after that, I figured how to send him a picture of my left boob (oh relax, it was a relatively empty parking lot). The next day, I discovered the joys of mobile porn (you just think I'm checking my email on line at the post office), and now you'd have to pry it outta my cold, dead fingers. RIM indeed.

Sxting was the compromise we eventually arrived at, which fell somewhere between my idea of exhausting each other half dozen times a day to the point of dehydration, injury, and possible death-- and his idea of remaining a functioning member of society who, from time to time, walked about the earth in a vertical and upright position. (BuzzKill.)... My Gay Husband, having known me from the age of 17 on, tells everyone -- a lot -- that I am the most stereotypical Gay Man he has ever met, just trapped in the body of a petite flower blonde. All I know is, don't put me in no closet, cause I'm comin out.

So, this poor guy had spent his late 20s/early 30s married to a woman who, it's fair to say, had... other priorities. Her focus was on, as I understand it (and I don't know the woman) Mergers and Acquisitions: status, money, house, cars, The League, etc. (all things I could give ...a rat's ass? about -- is that the proper term for mixed company? Because I so, seriously, did not give a shit about any of it). When he met me, after she'd moved off to a Swanky McSwankerton city that suited her better and he'd observed a decent interval of appropriate respect (an interval I feel sure was largely populated by hot sorority girls), he mentioned -- during our, by then, long-chaste courtship -- as most stereotypical ex-husbands do, a certain vague hope that... appetites... might be different this time around. Perhaps more mutual.  And I took one very long breath and said, "be careful what you wish for mister." (He never knew what hit him.)

I am still not really sure he had to travel that much for work -- the trips just always coincidentally seemed to follow minor (in my mind) bouts of chest pains and those three little words every woman wants to hear gasped out at the end of a long hard day, "Let me UP!"

The three little words he usually got from me (after the occasional call to Ask-a-Nurse)? "Walk it off."

So, it's fair to say that SmartPhones saved our relationship....and okkkkkk, possibly his Life, as long as nobody ever died of carpal tunnel (though if you ask me, I always did think he was a little dramatic; you know those Bonfire of the Vanities types).

It is in that context, of many, many years of happy texting, that I say: I had high hopes for "Texts From Last Night." And now that I've been, I'm just not that impressed. Maybe I hit it on a bad day, but they remind me a lot of grad school when my pal Greg and I would be sitting across a workshop from undergrads who started every conversation with, "Man, I got sooooo wasted last night...." And before they could finish, Greg would loudly prop his elbows on the desk and respond theatrically, "Really?! That is so fascinating. Tell. Me. More."

One text, for example, reads "Just lay there and not be pregnant." And the Editrix in me is immediately thinking, "LIE THERE! Not lay. Lie!" Geez, if they can't teach these kids the difference between transitive and intransitive, how on earth can they be expected to master birth control?

The punchline to 90 percent of the site content seems to be some variation on "...and THAT is why I quit drinking tequila." (Really? Cause, here again, that is so fascinating.) I do not know why there are beer bottles in your dishwasher young man, but I am betting I will not find the answer to be nearly as hilarious as you seem to think. A lot of the humor seems to be equally based on vomiting and scatology, and I have just never found either of those ...genres (?) even mildly amusing. While I certainly enjoy the use of the F word in casual conversation just as much as the next person, it needs a bit of context or else you just have Deadwood.

And for Chrissake, doesn't anybody know how to spell "its."

Here is a little tip: "It's" with an apostrophe will always mean It Is. It will NEVER mean anything else. I have taught college English, and I just don't know how to be any more clear about this. If you don't put an apostrophe in His and Hers to denote the possessive, why would you try to put it in Its? If it has an apostrophe, it means It Is.  Its without the apostrophe, will always be possessive.

Come on. I wasn't exactly expecting Evelyn Waugh, but you do not want to get me started on passive voice.

Snow Cream a la Doll

The greatest thing about the rare snow day in our house growing up (Catholics never call off school) was the Snow Cream from our grandmothers. I never learned to make it -- the primary thing I remember was that we were always required to wait several big snows into the season (the mythos being that the first few snows were dirty, but the later ones were more eco-friendly, less toxic).
Lucky for me, I have a Chef Baby Brother, and Chef Baby Brother has a food blog, and his memory for such things is much better than mine. Here is his recipe for Grandma Doll's Snow Cream. I feel far enough into SnOMGeddinIt now to risk it (which should in no way constitute any representations of safety, implied or otherwise, and the reader hereby holds harmless the writer from any liability resulting from any .... well, you get the idea).

 In His Words: 

The ingredients are simple. So simple any kid can make it. Good milk, sugar, vanilla and a giant bowl of freshly fallen snow are all you really need. Unless you're Grandma Doll. She made a stovetop custard for her snow cream and incorporated chocolate into it for a sort of rural Neiman Marcus-esque luxury version. I've been plumbing the cobwebs out of my dad's recollections recently and have now assembled a recipe for snow cream Grandma Doll style. While it's not truly her recipe, since we have the same blood I reckon it'll serve just fine.
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Cups cream
  • 1 t. Vanilla
  • 3 T. Cocoa powder
  • A giant tub of snow
  • Beat Eggs
  • Add Sugar
  • Mix well
  • Add cream,vanilla and chocolate
  • Bring to boil in saucepan
  • Cool it down
  • Fold in snow
You may want to let it set-up in the freezer a bit but I never had the patience. I'd just eat it the way the mountain folks did. As fast as I could get it in my mouth. Bon Appetit."----

This is how we do it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sine Qua Banjo

I am unfamiliar with "The Manhole" in New York City, but when the phrase "you have lovely meatballs" came up at today's annual Valentine/Mardi Gras Brunch, the response was "there's a compliment you don't often hear outside The Manhole in New York." (So I think it means...high praise? I'm sure going to use it in conversation every chance I get.)

As hostess, I try my best to mix and mingle and greet, but what that means is, I overhear a lot of snips and snatches of a lotta things I don't understand. At one point, for example, my BFF seemed to be moderating a discussion about Bernoulli's Equation and memory patterns as it relates to traffic, while an engineer, doctor, and various politicos weighed in. It should maybe be pointed out that I don't know what Bernoulli's Equation is, and I most definitely couldn't analyze it in terms of traffic patterns.

Another conversation (part of it anyway), seemed to hinge on the five stages of grief, but stalled out when nobody could remember anything beyond Anger, Denial, and Nekkid.

There was something about a Fifth Go-Go (and I think a consensus might've been reached that I had been one, before I could intervene or even suggest otherwise; for the record, I did not write 'We Got the Beat.').

No less than ten minutes into the meal and one fire had been started (that was me), and one injury had been sustained -- that was my grad school pal, and the reason I know that was that I walked into the kitchen as someone was saying "hey, Greg just bled through that bandage again... and he's getting blood all over everything" My answer was to point him in the direction of the TideStick (which is in the mug next to the toothpaste; who knows why he couldn't find it there on his own?), because -- as I pointed out -- I'm a Writer, not a Doctor for chrissake. (It didn't occur to any of us for some reason that all our doctors were just outside smoking on the back deck.) He evidently recovered, because as soon as I heard somebody ask "hey has anybody cracked into those red velvet cupcakes yet?" he answered, through a mouthful of cupcake crumbs, "why no, no I haven't. I wonder what they taste like."

(I thought there was another medical crisis when I overheard ChefTom say "thyroid medication," but he was just looking for something that would give us a steadier hand for our smartphone photography.)

And despite the fact that there was an ample supply of those cupcakes (and 16 main courses) -- with emergency backups in cold storage on the deck -- I was not surprised to be interrupted by my gay husband on a quest for extra spoons. "Why?" I asked, for no real reason, other than maybe I was frazzled by the fire and bloodshed. "So we can eat Rachel's cupcake frosting outta the bowl," he answered in a tone that kinda suggested "Idiot" -- and the next thing I saw was him and a half dozen of our closest friends huddled over this community bowl of icing, like something out of Quest for Fire. (They are, at least, to be applauded for not just using their fingers like Animals. And frankly, I'm surprised they restrained themselves.) This, despite the fact that the dining room table was, at that point, groaning under the weight of: caprese lasagne; meatballs; a spanish potato tortilla with sofrito; butternut squash soup with roasted prosciutto (which was clearly supposed to be a garnish, but we nearly gave ourselves gout); celeriac soup with chipotle cream; red beans and rice; and a few gallons of authentic New Orleans Hurricanes (all of which were, admittedly, quickly and summarily dispatched by the rest of our friends). The drinks were courtesy of our master mixologist, Jupe, and made me think (in RobertEarlKeen fashion), "Man, I hadn't had a Hurricane since Fifth Grade."

Because I don't smoke, but Chef Tom does, we were all fortunate to learn that one of the Hot Sorority Visigoths next door came home midday in an apparent walk of shame and "did not look happy." Ahhhh, Youth.... or as Greg observed, "we're all in here oblivious, and Tom's out there on the deck, seein' Life."

I overheard a few complaints about the directions ("it was a goddamn short story" -- that was Ian of course, because he's from Boston) -- which caused me to go back through my texts to see what I had sent out -- and wow, it turns out that was the LEAST of anything I texted post-Ambien, and I have no earthly idea of how or when I had time to pull that off because this place has been like a scene out of Noises Off for the last week --and I'm not sure where that reference came from because God knows I don't know a thing about Broadway, but apparently The Gays are rubbing off on me, which is, I suppose, what Fox News has been threatening all along.)

Which, of course, brings me to Party Favors (some of which, might've come from this "Manhole" place for all I know). It's not every mixtape that could pull off Berlin and Johnny Cash and Psychedelic Furs and Siouxsie and the Banshees and Chris Isaak, but this one did, and it juxtaposed nicely against Joe Ely's Love and Danger (which is an ultimate Valentine CD if you didn't know, and was a major soundtrack for The Ghost of 94.

Ol' Spud didn't make it to this one -- the sequel to his birthday brunch -- but Chef Tom said, "yeah my tribute to that was to put nuts and seeds on everything."

And yet again, I revise my opinion of PotLUCKs. They make me wanna change my word for 2010. Gone are the days of Durkee onion rings and the ubiquitous green been casserole and 42 bags of potato chips.
March's will include Chef Baby Brother -- in town for a short stay -- circa St. Patrick.

But I'm as Irish as Paddy's Pig, and as God is my witness, the mix tapes will be back.

Valentines From Jezebel

Mad Men Valentines from Jezebel

As God is Mah Witness!

Woke up to this damn lngering cold and the thought running through my head, "As God is my Witness, I will not let an inability to breathe through my nose (or swallow) ruin this Valentine's Day. No! Nor any of my folk."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

War of the Roses

A civilized divorce is a contradiction in terms. So Look, here it is. We can begin. When it comes to your wife, I'm going to urge you to be generous to the point of night sweats. Because the all important thing here is to get you through this as quickly and cleanly as possible so that you can begin rebuilding your life.
--War of the Roses 

For Halloween, I posted the trailer to The Strangers.
My favorite Valentine Movie -- and one of my favorite movies of all time, is War of the Roses.

It came out Christmas 1989 just as I was finishing graduate school, which was a little after my parents' divorce wrapped up (which largely occupied the last few years of my college career). I don't talk a whole lot about their split (since the injunction and all.... Just Kiddin Mom!), but it'd be fair to say they gave the Roses a run for their money.

It was complicated. There were family farms and mineral rights and tobacco bases and cars and equipment and college kids and dying grandparents to be divided up. My dad's coal business collapsed and he had a heart attack and spent one entire Christmas break in the ICU (sans health insurance). Every one of my college professors knew every sordid detail (some of it from a very chatty financial aid office, no doubt); my brother changed high schools; and I am not entirely sure that law enforcement did not get involved at some point. My grandmother who half-raised me was dying of cancer, and developed this inconvenient deathbed intuition where she somehow knew every emotional nuance and intrigue that was going on around her, despite everyone's best inclinations to lie through their teeth. Then right toward the end of all of it, the house we grew up in burned to the ground, and what I'll say about that is.... it is not an entirely bad thing that most photographic evidence of my circa 70s/80s hairstyles was destroyed -- to say nothing of a decade of bad poetry (which certainly was NOT backed up on the TRS-80s of the era).

It was more than a little operatic but we all survived -- which is not to imply in any way that we are one of those new-age civilized families that gets together at the holidays or goes on vacations together. We do not. We tried one experimental Thanksgiving together -- I think Mom probably saw it in a movie and thought maybe that's how things were supposed to go -- but it was just tearing off the Band-Aid slowly. Quick is better. My mother has her family; my dad has his -- and I have separate-but-equal access to both, as does my brother. We just ended up with four elderly parents instead of two -- and I am grateful to have each of them.

Which is all maybe a long way of saying just how much I loved War of the Roses, though I'm not sure how much of it was timing. I remember all the critics complained when it came out that the final scene went too far, but not for me. When Michael Douglas reaches out to Kathleen Turner, and she reaches back.... to remove his hand... (probably with her dying breath), it's one of my favorite movie moments of all time.

That, my friends, is Comedy Gold.

Golden Girls of the Half Pipe?

As with American Idol, I pledge that I will not watch one single second of Olympics coverage unless it is purely by accident.

I did see one commercial that promised "Golden Girls of the Half Pipe," which gave me a Princess Bride moment of "I don't think that means what you think it means."  I heard on "The News" (using the term loosely) some Athlete got a bruise and was treating it with butter....or maybe cheese (I think she should try some bag balm and horse liniment and that oughtta clear it right up).

I guess the whole thing's happening in... Canada (?) which brings back sketchy memories of my time in Montreal, where I had a hard time with the exchange rate (I kept turning into Rainman every time I tried to buy anything -- "a candy bar? bout a hunnerd dollars? y-y-y-yeah hunnerd dollars.") Luckily, my Seattle colleagues thoughtfully provided me with translations of all my conference materials "Pardon, mais le Francais c'est la langue des non circonsis transsexuals. Pouvons-nous aller a le lieu de drague?" And when I tried my own college French every chance I got "les Nips du Fromage?" it turned out that every concierge inexplicably spoke Japanese....and only Japanese. I don't have fond memories.

So what I know of the Olympics so far I learned from  Aimee Mann's twitter which I found about 2 in the morning, as I find so much that's good in life, via Kevin Depew's Twitter (from whom all good things come).

(I say with the benefit of hindsight that you can't build a relationship on Insomnia, but there are worse predicates, and you certainly can build all kindsa other stuff, as I've been quickly discovering).

So what AimeeMann said was "Oh, come on and LIGHT this thing already. What's that? Uh oh. No one is exempt from Spinal Tap cliches!" (among other things).

AimeeMann was the favorite singer-songwriter of my near-husband from my late 30s (he's the one I threw back so he could have kids, so I try to stay a little vague on him --- I think a lotta my 30something ex-es were into AimeeMann, so it's not much of an identifying factor). He was a good guy and is now a good dad, so it makes me happy to know AimeeMann turns out to be smart and funny and not just hot. (Don't think the same could be said of the wife he ended up with unfortunately, but she was willing to have his baby, whereas I wouldn't even be willing to hold one for him while he put on his jacket.) I admit I kinda judge people by who's on their "too much sexy" list.

Now, this whole thing Kevin Depew has going with Lake Bell, on the other hand.... well, I might have to think about that one. Though he gets points for writing, "Washington DC right now has more snow than all of Canada. Right out of the gate that makes it America 1 - Olympics 0."