Thursday, April 29, 2010

Three Little Words

 "The French like nothing better than to take to the streets. Doesn't much matter what for; one thing you learn quickly in France, there's always something to be against: the new government, the old government, the European Union, fewer teachers, fewer holidays, regulations about how much bacteria you can put in your cheese or how much wax you can put in your chocolate. You name it, someone thinks it's a terrible idea. Nobody is offering a viable solution. That, presumably, is next week's job. Today, it is just the joyful frenzy of a collective 'non!' "
--Lunch in Paris, Elizabeth Bard

Generally speaking, Luddites get on my nerves. I only know a few -- which stands to reason -- how would you even meet one, in an era where all Invitations to Socialize arrive via facebook or twitter, and then the pictures are posted there (where we all confer about whether or not we had a good time)? I like this system.

But in the last couple months, it's all been rearranged. And I have been out on multiple occasions with multiple guys, on multiple occasions, who don't have computers in their homes. On purpose. If you can imagine. They didn't get stolen or anything.

And last night I realized how lazily reliant I'd become on Social Media when one of them said, after an arduous evening of helping Chef DaveO and Jenn move a bookcase, seemingly appropos of nothing, "I'm Pro Same Sex Marriage, by the way."

I thought for a second, Well, maybe that's his way of telling me he's gay? God knows I've been wrong about that at least once before, that I know of. On the one hand, I was thinking I should probably say something supportive and affirmative in solidarity. On the other, I was thinking: If he was on facebook, I would've already known all this. Even if his orientation didn't specify "interested in Men," I would still be able to see if he was a fan of Bette Midler. I wasn't especially overwrought at this possibility. As far as I'm concerned, I can always use another homosexual in my life (and God knows, in my house, where I am very short on Design Gays). But my gay husband laid down the law the other night, after we were chatting up a lovely couple at the McSwankertons', "NO. You have enough Gays. You can NOT have ANY more." (We hardly have any Art Gays, I protested, but he still wouldn't let me bring them home.)

This whole getting-acquainted-in-person-like-an-Animal thing was clearly NOT working out. It's so ambiguous/ambivalent. In response to all my girlfriends' relentless quizzing, Nope, there's been no physical contact that would indicate clear heterosexual interest. This is something that bothers them endlessly, and me, not at all. He tracked me down and called me up the day after he met me -- and that was without the aid of facebook, or twitter, or blip, or LinkedIn, or anything else. Good enough for me. Because I would never have done that. Whatever the perceptions of my degree of forwardness... might be (vis a vis lucky halftime rituals, for example), I don't typically chase boys, and I am not a kiss-on-the-first (or fourth) date kinda girl. There's no intense moralism behind any of it -- it's just a combination of being insanely lazy and wildly commitment-phobic, crossed with my Rainman-aversion to most any human contact. Most of my Ex-es have been in my life a decade or longer, and they would be the first to tell you that there was nothing about me that came easy on that front (initially), and that they have earned their privileges.

So, he continued his thought, after a long uncomfortable silence. "You said you couldn't believe I was a Republican?"

That's true. It turns out, his comment was just another bullet point in this ongoing case he'd been making. Because he'd already explained that he was pro-choice, while clarifying his position on several other stereotypes he suspected I would find politically objectionable. What I was thinking was: Yeah, that's another thing Facebook would've told me right up front. It turns out, he's mostly just a fiscal conservative -- like me and nearly everybody else I know -- so big deal. I can't really think of an occasion where I've ever allowed politics to stand in the way of getting laid, but I didn't say that out loud. I suppose I seem like someone who has greater courage of conviction than I actually do. I wouldn't go out with anyone who watched Fox News, but beyond that, I have a keen respect for letting everybody vote their own conscience. As long as he's ok with same sex marriage...and the Food Gays running their fingers through his hair (since they've already expressed a keen interest in it, several times)...everybody should be able to agree to disagree at the polls, so to speak.

Last night, after walking back from bookshelf duty, we settled into the TV room, where I could open up the Pank, log onto Twitter, and make a cryptic joke to ChefDaveO -- while he flipped over to Rachel Maddow for the latest Arizona updates (see, he is a really bad Republican -- we both agreed we'd be perfectly ok boycotting the Grand Canyon this summer). I was giving him a hard time about how all the good updates on this issue were available on Facebook, complete with video links etc., when he picked up the remote and said, "hey, at least I know how to do this," and changed the channel.

He seemed so proud, I didn't have the heart to tell him he'd just canceled my "Top Chef" Tivo-in-progress. (No spoilers please.)

As I pulled up a few sites to show him that were particularly legally on point in Arizona, he then said the three magic words a girl like me can only dream of hearing, "What's a blog?"

Monday, April 26, 2010

Things I'm Wearing Right Now

While it's more fun to play Things That Are In My Stomach, sometimes I like to play "Things That I Am Wearing."

If I had a superpower -- besides Not Sleeping -- it would be that I Never Get Cold. I remember sitting on the deck in my swimsuit one day last spring when the BFF had on a sweater over a turtleneck.

I hate the cold so much, I spend a lot of time pretending it doesn't exist. It is a fact that I will only turn on the heat from December 1 to March 1st. An argument could be made that I'm just being cheap, but I don't apply the same rule to A/C which I clicked on last year around Easter and inadvertently sparked a facebook riot.

I hate the cold so much, I sometimes hate people who love it. I just ran across drafts from two blogs I wrote about a drinking-for-charity date on an unexpectedly snowy January night. I wrote one draft about the utter hideousness of what I wore (I sensibly dressed for walking two blocks uphill to the car; I may've been warm, but I sure was not Hot, and that irritated me all night -- made worse by the fact that dozens of people got that outfit on camera). The other draft was about how happy he was walking up that damn hill -- like a kid on his first snow day -- and how his obvious Joy was so adorable it kind of made me want to punch him in the face.

Today, I am cold and irritable -- exacerbated by the fact, in this case, that only my summer clothes have been unpacked and put away.

Which means, I'm wearing: a wifebeater; topped by an Austin Chile Pepper festival t-shirt; topped by a long-sleeve band t-shirt (the band is "Generation" -- I don't know them, but they gave me the t-shirt maybe 13 years ago, in my music critic days); topped by my Harvey Milk "Never Blend In" t-shirt. Over that is a mink ski vest (of course I don't ski, but it was a present... and it was just sitting on top of the washer/dryer which I guess is where the Movers dropped it).

Over that is my fuzzy pink "Race for the Cure" bathrobe, which maybe ameliorates the politics of the mink.

It's also possible I didn't mention that all the upstairs windows have to be open so that I don't asphyxiate from the oil paint fumes downstairs in the dining room.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Til Death Do Us Part

One of the solemn vows I have as straight-wife is that I step up to fill all hostess or date social duties for my gay husband when my gay husband-in-law is ill, or otherwise committed.

Now, of course there is a codicil that says anybody recovering from A Move is exempt from any and all social obligations for at least one entire week (possibly six months if the movers, say, happen to rip out any utility lines). Nonetheless, my gay husband somehow sneaked past the plumbers and painters on the first floor today (I haven't figured out a way to get them to announce guests yet/Murphy Brown style) and made it upstairs where he fell to his knees and begged me to come along for an evening with the Swanky McSwankertons.

Gesturing to the rooms full of unpacked boxes, I explained, "but I have no pants."  Modeling my Homebuilders Association t-shirt with the holes, I reminded him, "I don't have any shirts either." And footwear was limited at that moment to either pink garden crocs or birkenstocks.

I sorta pulled it together -- I don't think anyone could tell, for example, I'd washed my hair with soap  -- and my college buddy Phoef, luckily, had dropped some emergency party shoes at the foot of the stairs during the move.

We ended up having a lovely time -- great food, great company, and an impromptu concert on the grand piano from my husband (who knew?) -- but I caught hell when I got home.

There were a few designated straights who'd also requested my company this weekend, for various occasions of food, fun, etc. -- and I had turned them down flat. Politely, but without a second thought.  They took it a little personally that I did, in fact, spend a night on the town. Just not with them.

I had to explain -- as far as I know -- that's how marriage works.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Oh. Oh. Domino.

Moving is a very socially uncomfortable process for me -- standing around giving instructions while others conduct manual labor might sound like something a lot of people enjoy, but in reality, it's bothered me ever since college, where we were surrounded by what was known as GrayArmy. They were the people who ran the grounds and buildings and facilities, and always seemed just one sorority bitch away from putting our heads on pikes and mounting them on the Flame.

Half of this morning's moving crew liked me; half didn't. I dispensed cold beverages, and tried to be appropriately appreciative. I had clearly color coded and labeled all the furniture according to room and position, with corresponding labels on the other end. I had also had 17 or so friends deliver multiple truckloads in recent weeks, thereby completing about 40 percent of their work before today's crew even showed up. They made a lot of loud noises and comments suggesting they really, really did not like the process of lifting heavy things and putting them elsewhere -- which suggests to me that maybe they are in the wrong line of work. They brought their own music and listened loudly to "Domino" (with an occasional accompanying Motown-like shuffle.) I hate that song. It seemed to cheer them, but in retrospect, I should've considered it a portent.

Nonethless, I tipped them extravagantly and thanked them profusely (under nothing more than the general theory than I sure didn't wanna do their job), and as they drove off into the sunset, there was a really, really loud snapping sound at the end of the driveway. My pal Scott yelled out from the living room, "Uhhhh, I think you might wanna check on your boys."

"Yeah, how come they're MY boys whenever they've done something bad?" I asked.

A hasty jaunt to the curb, where a small crowd was gathering, revealed that they'd just taken out utilities to the block with the top of their truck. There were downed wires everywhere, which they tried to remedy by poking at them with a collapsible shower rod they'd retrieved from my downstairs bath. In a thunderstorm. It ended better than you might think, with them at least extricating the vehicle before anyone got killed or electrocuted. They left the severed wires just lying around.

I called their "Boss" who is really just an anonymous, androgynous  person named "Chris" who answers the phones and who said s/he'd "get right on it."

While I have never been less confident in my life that someone was going to "get right on" something, a few minutes later, the Cable Guy pulled up outside. I asked if he was there to transfer my cable and wi-fi to the new address (as scheduled), or to repair the lines we'd just yanked out of the poles? He said, "Honey, I'm here to do whatever you need me to do, and I won't leave til I'm done." I felt like I should've blown him on principle just for saying that, but it would have been hard to come up with an encore two hours later when he was STILL up a tree in my yard re-building the neighborhood lines. (This was after I had to walk home -- to the old home --  in the rain to fetch a power strip for my modem, since my car was trapped by live wires. There's no possible way to convey how pitiful an image it truly was.)

The guy got in, got out, and he left me two new remotes (I'd mentioned mine had grown tiresome and outdated).

By the time the fascist gas company rolled in at 8:30 at night, I was handing out lollipops and ass-kickins and I was fresh outta lollipops. They were the one utility that gave me explicit instructions reiterating that if I did not answer the phone when they called, I would have to reschedule their inspection for another day -- no hot water, no stove, etc. til they got their inspection in. After an all-day wait, he called the first time at 7 to say he was on his way, and we all trooped to the front porch where he couldn't miss us -- and then called back at 7:30 to say he had to take an "emergency" call and I should plan on being home the rest of the evening.

Once he arrived, of course, he promptly red-tagged the furnace (here's a tip: don't ever let the gas company into your house if you can avoid it -- like all monopolies, they will eff with you at least partly because they can). Luckily, I'm not someone who uses a furnace much, even in the winter, so I don't really care when the "drip leg" gets fixed" and the dryer hose gets "caulked." By then, my proletarian sensibilities had dimmed. I didn't even feel sorry for him when he said, before heading under the house to inspect the furnace, "call somebody if I'm not out in an hour."

I just said, "they don't call it a crawlspace for nothin' buddy."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bye Disco Kroger

Tonight's the last night I live at the Disco Kroger. And, to be honest, I am in a state, and furiously counting my Rainman toothpicks.

When my college pal Mary called a few minutes ago to volunteer a spare truck to tomorrow's moving process, she asked what I was doing, and when I told her I was saying goodbye to the DiscoKroger, she responded, without a moment's hesitation, "You are such a freak." (Not many people can say that to me, but we've known each other since we were 17, so she's grandfathered in.)

My BFF is a bit more restrained, but the implication's the same. I think what she said was that, while she often accuses me of having high-class problems, this is what she calls a No-Problem Problem.

As she points out (fairly enough), since I can still step into the road and see the DiscoKroger from the new place, it is not entirely accurate to suggest that I am abandoning it. True, but it's not the same as having Kroger in my pantry -- where I can walk anytime I want and get whatever I want, at 2 in the morning. When she asked what the last thing I bought at two in the morning was, my instant answer was: Limes. I run out of them all the time, and it's a source of singular comfort to me that I can just walk next door at any hour of the day or night and get more. You'd think I have scurvy or something. (She brought several bags to Easter brunch, which did ameliorate the panic somewhat.)

My gal Rachel also adds reassuringly that since the new kitchen has twice the cupboard space, maybe I won't need to go to the DiscoKroger 7 times a day. I hope she's right.

God I hope she's right.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Timing. Timing. Timing.

Right now, I'm a woman with no home -- wandering between the purgatory of not entirely moved in/not entirely moved out. The facelift isn't finished at the new place, but the old place is slowly migrating over. I split my time between the two.

Unfortunately, life moves on without my permission. People expect to drop by. They must be fed. The fact that you have no shelter to offer them is irrelevant. (All my parents have visited copiously in recent weeks.)

Socializing does not stop.

Boys keep asking me out, and the temptation is to say No, give me a week and I'll be all settled ..... then I notice how extravagantly tall some of them are and I reconsider. I already got burned in January by not gettin' while the gettin' was good and Bobby Donuts disappeared , only to turn up a week later Drinking-for-Charity with the girl who had enough sense to say Yes when he asked her out. (I am still mad about that.)

On the other hand, where do they pick me up? Where do I live? There is no operating kitchen. "May I offer you some raw meat and an Ale 8?"

As my gay husband points out, our lives are based on the ILLUSION of spontaneity and unpreparedness (while neither one of us is capable of either).

What on earth do I put in the fridge of a largely empty house that doesn't seem contrived? I've asked this several times lately.

There were a LOT of recommendations.

Chef Tom's response was "chic, or homey?" My answer was "Marxist." His instant return text was: "pellegrino, white wine, a good block of cheese, Mexican coke, baquette strewn haphazardly on the counter, thrown there as if bored with it."

Yes. I  have been able to plausibly pretend that's how the new and empty kitchen looks --- just as soon as I threw away the moldy pitcher of Sangria leftover from Easter (triple bagged and hidden at the bottom of the Herbie) -- which comprised the entire contents of the fridge before it was staged, aside from the Ale 8 (for the interns) and raw meat (that's mine).

Beverages? It was agreed that Beer's more butch, but I don't drink it so I don't know what to buy. I think I have interns who buy PBR, but I'm pretty sure they're being Ironic... I don't know what the proletariat drinks, and I am the proletariat. (I know it's not Crystal Lite. Not if you ask my mother.) There's copious amounts of bourbon, but it just doesn't seem quite ... casual enough. Most everybody who drinks bourbon drinks it like they mean it.

Chef Tom added, "Maybe a cured meat of some if an unplanned picnic on the Left Bank could occur."

I typically don't even let a prospective gentleman caller see where I live for months, much less mid-move, but sometimes it's unavoidable, and it's one of those insane game-changers where the chaos and accidental intimacy somehow vaults you past first date straight to the fourth month of living together. Underwear on the floor. Three stages of drying laundry stretched across two bathrooms. It's savage really.

It's been so overwhelming, I've barely had a spare second to even write any of this up -- for every date I've actually mentioned, there've been half dozen that have had to go unremarked (in fairness, I usually stop after first dates, before the material gets very entertaining)-- which, everybody has agreed, is a good thing.

As one of my girlfriends observed, at some length, "Don't blogiterate these guys prematurely!" When I point out that they're not avid readers and that I purposely keep it vague, she accused me of poking the word "Lucky" in the eye Three Stooges style, adding, "they will FIND your blog. Their GRANDMOTHERS will find your blog. And unless you start writing in Farsi about endangered marine mammals, you need to remember: it's the Internet, NOT an encrypted C.I.A. file."

In my experience, it's all a negotiation -- better begun early than late. My willingness to negotiate increases in direct proportion to the hotness of the prospect, along with the depth of my affection and/or attraction. If I'm not getting material, I must be getting something  better in return. Like, snow shoveling in the winter.... lawn mowing in the summer... Herbies hauled to the Curb.... that kinda thing. I am more shockingly easy than one might imagine.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lilacs from Dad

These are the lilacs from the family farm Dad brought for me this visit. Better than this, he dug some up, and brought the plants along, so I can theoretically grow my own.

This is my first Pic with the New Camera -- which I am very excited about -- though I've always fairly disclosed that it has been User Error, not the camera, that causes my horrible photos.

This particular model promises to be idiot-proof. We'll see. It took me ten minutes to switch the lilacs from upside down to right side up. I notice it has "image stabilizer" stamped prominently right on it, which might correct for some of my evident episodic palsy that occurs every time I take a picture. What irritates me about it so far is that it's not wi-fi enabled so I can just transmit the damn things -- you actually have to plug a cord into it that goes to the computer -- like an animal.

My lack of gratitude for what is really a very cool new toy prompted a "GEEEEEEZ, you know I can READ" text today, followed by, "if you weren't so fucking picky about PANK, I would have brought it over and put it in your hands," followed by, "I went to FOUR stores."

That's fair, and has prompted me to reverse my initial position on the Lucky Gratitude Ritual. Sometimes it IS the thought that counts. Or at least Degree of Difficulty.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lights. Camera.

A couple weeks ago -- around the time of all the Big Games and the Lucky Halftime Rituals -- I came home for dinner one night to a bright, shiny package (very obviously hand-wrapped) by the Ex.

It wasn't my birthday, it wasn't Christmas. It wasn't even Valentine's Day.  And he couldn't  be making up for cheating on me, because we're not even together. The positive-reinforcement-ritual was well underway.... until I opened it.

And inside, was an electronics-store gift card... wrapped in a printout, of a picture, of a camera they didn't have in-stock in any of the local outlets ... but which could be ordered online (there was a print-out of a page of instructions). There was also a memory card of some kind, that was apparently supposed to go in this camera I didn't have. How many things did I not like about this present? If there's anything I hate more than shopping, it's online shopping. Nothing ever looks like it's supposed to look, and all the parts needed to make stuff work is always sold separately, but they never tell you that. All I saw in this present was: Great. Work. 

I would like to say I was still gracious, and appreciative, but who would we be kidding?

The next day, I handed the whole mess to the Intern, and the process was exactly as irritating as I predicted it would be. The camera in the picture appeared to be permanently sold out, and on the third try, we finally found one that went through (only to get an email five minutes later that said, "Your shipment has been back-ordered.")

Every day, I got an annoying spam-mail, tracking the camera's progress as it made its way here cross-country. Until Monday, when it was pronounced "successfully delivered."

Funny. They didn't deliver it to me. The interns didn't sign for it. I investigated further. The delivery confirmation note said "left on front porch."

Seriously? They left a digital camera on the front porch in a neighborhood that hits the police blotter every single night. I mean, I'm sure the camera isn't all that valuable, but it could probably be exchanged for some sort of pharmaceutical in that neighborhood. Perhaps a nominal amount of meth? (I'm not sure how meth is measured other than what I've seen on Breaking Bad? Would it be a rock of meth? A scoche? A smidge?)

I went to the UPS site, which encouraged me to file a claim. Only I wasn't the shipper, so I didn't have a log-in, or account (nor did I want one). There is no number listed no matter how deep you go down the rabbit hole (I squirreled away their local number when I accidentally captured it on caller-ID about 12 years ago when they told me to come pick up a package. Suckers. I had to get feisty with them once before when a Tweeds dress didn't arrive in time for a Derby party. They wanted to re-deliver it Monday. I had to explain Derby isn't run on a Monday.)

I was not optimistic when UPS didn't answer, but, determined to never suffer alone, I called the electronics warehouse in charge of shipping the stupid camera in the first place. I spoke with "Adam," who proclaimed he was very sympathetic to my loss, to which, I responded that I did not care one bit for his sarcasm.

The first thing he encouraged me to do was "file a police report." I laughed out loud. "Yeah. I'm sure they're gonna race right down and find my camera. Which somebody left on a porch." I'm not a fan of blaming victims, but in this case, they'd be right: this was askin' for it. What kinda idiot does that?

Adam assured me he didn't think I was an idiot, and insisted this was not my fault. "Oh you got that right Mister," I said, "It's UPS's fault, but since they don't answer the phone, you are stuck with me til somebody makes this right." I didn't really think the electronics outlet should have to eat the cost of a new camera any more than I should, since neither of us had been stupid enough to leave it somewhere unattended. I was growing progressively less patient, partially because the office A/C has been out for a week and heat gives me Rage Problems.

He then read a prepared speech that included a lot of details about their loss and claims department until I finally interrupted with, "Young Man, I can not understand a word you are saying."

"Ma'am," he explained slowly, "I. Am. From. Pittsburgh."

Oh, I wasn't being xenophobic, I am just deaf from all those years as a rock critic, and Adam is a mumbler.

Then we enjoyed a nice "We are the World" moment, and he assured me he would get this resolved. I said I wanted my camera This Weekend, and not one minute later. (I didn't have anything special to shoot with it; I just thought it was important they have an established goal.) Honestly, I didn't believe a word he said.

But bright and early this morning, this shiny new pank camera showed up.

But after all that hassle, there will be no gratitude Ritual. No nekkid photos either.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I Wouldn't Give That For It

It is not possible to win a cost-argument with my parents, as evidenced by this "vintage" Playmate cooler that my Mom and stepdad refuse to replace. As you'll see from the "normal" red Igloo featured on the left, there's a push-button that releases the lid. On my parents' version (as you'll see on the right), there is a screw in place of that button, to keep the top on. At full retail, on the Igloo site, this model is $19.99. That's correct, for less than $20 bucks, a fully functional cooler. They want no part of it. It's like they've become Amish and a $19.99 button is the Devil's Playground (not to mention the kind of wild spending that would lead to a Lehmann Brothers-style collapse of their retirement).

It goes without saying that my "luxury" tastes (in everything from Kleenex-brand tissue to Fruity Pebbles) is an affront to my Mom's frugalista tendencies. I should also disclose up front that I deeply admire and respect her ability to stretch a buck. If it were not for that, we would've gone hungry as kids. But now that she is A. retired, and B. diagnosed with a terminal illness, I think she should treat herself just a little. I'm not advocating a Yacht Club, I'm just saying if it were up to me, I would splurge on this for her -- say, for some extravagant occasion, like Mother's Day -- but I know it would only make her cry. (And not tears of joy either.)

Paradoxically, my mother loves to shop, while there is nothing about it that I enjoy. I don't enjoy the hunt, or the sport, or spending money, or even the saving of money. I am the Purpose-Driven Shopper. If I am hungry, I will forage for food. If I am cold, I will seek outerwear. I don't know how to negotiate. I pay whatever the pricetag says if I have the money. If I don't have the money, I go without. My Mom is just the opposite. The bargain is what drives her. The lone annual exception I make is the annual Church rummage sale, where, after years of careful instruction from Mom, I can now buy Gap T-shirts by the pound.

So this weekend's visit wasn't just about a shopping trip, it was about my mother's missionary zeal to teach me to shop. I've learned not to express my novice opinions when I'm on one of her Expeditions. I used to point out what I thought was the occasional bargain -- say, 50 percent off -- earning nothing more than a snort of contempt when she'd examine the pricetag and, regardless of what it said, pronounce with authority, "I wouldn't give that for it." (As in, "it's fine, but I wouldn't give $3 bucks for it.") Retail is for suckers and trust-fund babies.

Our first night out was the HG show, where I found a good deal on a new oxygen trolley for her (seriously, I had to insist it was her Mother's Day present) and earned some approval ("it has ample storage, and folds to fit behind a car seat or hang on the back of a door.") The next day, I did ok at the mattress store and the tile store. I think maybe even I gained a grudging respect as I surveyed the bed, bath, and beyond clearance items and dismissed them as "overpriced." Then I lost it all when I picked up some shower rings I liked (marked down to $5 bucks) and expressed dismay that they didn't have two sets (since the clawfoot tub in the spare bathroom has to have a double set of everything). Clearly I had failed the test. "Haven't you thought of putting those shower rings you like on the front and then getting cheap ones for the back, where they don't show?" Well, no. I hadn't. In the first place, I thought $5 bucks was cheap. Second, the shower curtain isn't an invisibility cloak -- anyone who walks into that bath can see the entire thing, unless I decide to unscrew all the lightbulbs to save some more money. Clearly, I had a lot to learn.

I didn't do any better at the architectural salvage yard where you can buy sinks for 99 cents. All I can tell you is, I do not want to know what is inside those pipe joints. There was a stainless steel fridge in the middle of the floor labeled "sold" at $149 bucks -- which I promptly proclaimed a bait and switch. I will wager a guess that fridge has been sitting there with a "sold" sign on it since the place opened. I may be a rookie, but I'm not falling for that one.

From there, we went to a discount food chain, where we mostly have to agree to disagree (except about the half-price M&Ms). I don't necessarily object to the premise -- the prices are cheaper because you do their work, like bring your own bags.  DiscoKroger has figured out a way to get shoppers to check themselves out, and still pay fullprice at the UScan (which I won't use, because, I don't work for Kroger... would they like me to stock some of their shelves and mop their floors while I'm at it? Fine. Then take it off my tab at least.)

As for off-brand food, the disputes between my mother and me on this have been going on since she re-married. That's when the Great Crystal Light episode happened. That's when she caught a glimpse of the instant Lemonade in my pantry, and nearly fainted dead away at my profligate extravagance -- envisioning my future alongside the rest of the homeless, trying in vain to warm myself over the Rupp Arena heating vents. The stupid stuff wasn't even for me -- I only bought it to have on hand for my diabetic relatives. It was new on the market at the time (that's how long-ago this fight started), and they were treating it like high-tech electronics, i.e., something they might buy when the prices came down. Like they didn't want to get caught with an investment in Beta instead of VHS. When I asked innocently what I should've bought instead, my mom's (now legendary) response was, "a little RealLemon, a little Sweet 'n Low, you'll never know the difference."

Oh, but I think I would. My stepdad is a volume-eater -- it's like shoveling coal into a furnace. I get that it's not inspiring to live with that on a culinary basis. If he wants to eat "Oatie-Os" instead of Cheerios, that's fine, but I'd prefer to go hungry. Don't get them started on the time my brother bought $13 cheese. I have a feeling the whole town knows all about his Legend, and that whenever he crosses the city limits, he's like Clint Eastwood, and somebody whistles the theme from The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly. If my parents paid $13 for cheese, you can bet they would have to buy a new house to fit it all into.

What I am reluctant to confess for fear of jinxing is the fact that the next store was ... maybe... a game changer -- a permanent shift in our mother-daughter relationship. That's where I found the Magic Chair. Admittedly, I thought it was a loveseat. But it was exactly what I'd been looking for. One of my girlfriends has a similar model in her office (hers came from Crate & Barrel via eBay, I think). The FoodGays have one like it in their living room (and theirs came from the fanciest design house in town). Most importantly, I'm not sure, but I think there were tears of pride in her eyes when she saw the price. It took another couple hours to find a friend with a Suburban it would fit into, and a husband who was willing to pick it up and haul it over -- while the Junior Gays walked over to help unload it. (It does take a Village.) While it clearly was not a loveseat, once I got a better look at it, it was indeed, what Jupe described as "a Big-Ass Chair." And that is what I wanted.  I was happy. The price was right. And Mom was happy. I don't think there's ever been such a convergence.

But it is possible that Chef Tom stepped in and put an end to all this endless debate when he dropped off supper for us last night (boeuf bourguignon) and -- in response to the ongoing conversation -- threw himself under the bus. In an act of pure selflessness, he loved my Mom enough to let her know just what a deal we had actually gotten. He told us what he'd paid for their Magic Chair (at half price), and then handed my Mom his receipt from the afternoon shopping at the Snooty Falooty store. His find for the day was clarified butter.

I won't tell you what he paid for it, but I will tell you my Mom was wishing about then we'd bought a fainting couch instead of a Big Ass Chair.

Finally, the heat is off me, as I think I heard her mumbling rosaries for him all night long.

Eating Disorders

The Interns seem to think I have some odd disease or eating disorder which requires people to drop food off to me at all hours of the day or night, no matter where I am. Scurvy maybe. Or rickets (there's a whole story about why the BFF stocked the top shelf of my new fridge with limes, but they don't know that story yet.)

We worked a really long week of deadline nights and we got tired, but one thing's for sure: we never went hungry. I brought donuts in the morning. We picked up pizza across the street for supper. And we ran back and forth to the Boyz in the Hood grocery on the corner for Funyuns and these new Cajun-spiced potato chips (which are apparently sprinkled with crack). Then they got to meet Chef Tom when one morning he stopped in with leftover spatchcocked surf 'n turf from his GreekFest the night before. This photo is obviously stolen from his blog.

The crew is new, so they didn't realize (at first) that I'm in the middle of a two-month move, with two kitchens in varying states of chaos. (Need a spoon? They're in the other kitchen.) And that my friends have taken over my care and feeding. This week's fridge is stuffed with gruyere cheesecake, asian slaw, quiches, spatchcocked chicken, greek salad, magic stoner bars, and (no kidding) stuffed squid. (What did you think they were going to bring over? A bucket of KFC? What are they? Animals?)

When we finished a long, hard week, the crew and I went out for celebratory O'Rounds. While we were there, a friend of mine pulled up to the door and ran in a batch of cupcakes. The kids looked up, a little surprised. "Do your friends always bring you food?" I was explaining about the Move, and the dysfunctional kitchens, and the incredibly generous "takes a Village" spirit of my friends, when they interrupted, "yeah, yeah. We know all that. But now they're bringing you food, in a pub." Well. Yeah. I acknowledged, not quite getting their point. "...Where they already serve food," they clarified. A fair point, I conceded. But they certainly do not serve coconut cream cupcakes.

I do try to share the love though. Like today, I bought the crew a case of Ale 8s in the glass bottles they love. Between the caffeine, and the black plastic I put over the windows so I could turn the lights off and on to mimic sunrise/sunset the way they do in the poultry houses, I think this week might be even more productive.

I Come by it Honest

Right now, I'm in bed. Dehydrated. With a charlie horse in my left leg, and blisters on my right ankle.

I can hear my mom's laugh from downstairs -- where she is entertaining friends -- after having dragged my ass (and her oxygen tanks) from here to Hell's Half Acre all weekend. I finally went down and tossed some magic stoner bars on a plate for them, so I could go back upstairs to recuperate. She took one bite and said, "These aren't my Magic Cookie Bars; what's in them?" I told her that Rachel had added butterscotch chips to this batch.  "Oh," she said, "that's fine, that just makes them Magic Jerome Bars." It was said in an obvious tone that suggested, doesn't everyone know that?

Midway through our 14-hour day, she tells me matter-of-factly  in between the Tile Store and the architectural salvage yard and the hardware store --"you know, I can tell I don't feel as good this year as I did this time last year." Really? Because after eight straight hours of this, I'd already developed a tick in my left eye and was contemplating faking a seizure. It was all I could do not to grab a quick nap on one of the beds in the mattress store. I said, "Hell, Mom, I don't feel as good today as I felt yesterday." I just wanted to lie down. And take a few hits off her oxygen.

Last night, we went out drinking-for-charity with the Food Gays, and somehow ended up in an impromptu two-block limo ride back to their place, which was totally worth God-only-knows what it cost. Our driver sported an awesome grill and told us the various athletics staff he'd been squiring around before us. All I know is, it just felt so good to sit down, it didn't even kick in my Rainman aversion to someone else being at the wheel.

We came home and posted her new pics to her new Facebook, on her new laptop which she is still figuring out -- before she concluded, "Jesus Christ, why didn't I JUST get an iPad?"

 She updated her facebook pictures and read everyone's status updates, concluding that one of their neighbor girls is indeed, lesbian, after reading her exchange with her friend "Joe"... because Joe is listed as "in a relationship with Mack." Well, "I guess you were right," she said, as if that settled it. (I had always suspected the girl was gay -- along with her "roommate" -- in an idly bystanding sort of way where I wished they lived in a more tolerant accepting community.) I pointed out that gay-by-association was not necessarily an indicator. Mom just felt bad that the whole family isn't "out" on the subject. (She was ready to file adoption papers on all our gays before we'd finished dinner last night.) Then she asked me to look up several "YouFace" pages on her friends' grandchildren -- just to make sure they were staying in line.

She spent the rest of the computer time googling herself, where she discovered that, according to the Internets, she was a "lifelong alcoholic" but "was now three years sober," with "multiple books to her credit."

 By the time she slept off her big night out, we had a full schedule ahead of us -- in no way diminishing or even cutting into her "innocent commentary" time. First up, knock, knock, knock; pokes head in; aren't you wearing a coat? " Well. Not in my bedroom...? No."

Gesturing to my pink house slippers, she added, "are you wearing those, to town?" (No, but I thought they were acceptable for stairwell-wear.)

I knew it was going to be a long day.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Magic Stoner Bars

There will be no Lucky Halftime Ritual tonight. Too much work, too much midnight oil to be burned at the office. Instead, Rachel dropped off my mother's famous Magic Cookie Bars (now known as Magic Stoner Bars, for reasons I promise I had nothing to do with... yeah... I really need something to give me a few more panic attacks).

She and I sat on the deck and said a fond farewell to the Hot Sorority Visigoth and her boyfriend Tommy Boy, as moving day crawls nearer. We reminisced about the time their their roommate mistakenly broke into my second floor window... the Muffins of Attrition that followed.... and all the times we'd used the breezeway between our two places when we end up locked out or the Fed Ex guy drops stuff off.

You can't imagine how much it pains me to admit that these girls are every bit as nice and sweet as they are hot. As we were discussing the no-locks habits today, the tall willowy volleyball blonde said, "oh gosh, I hope I haven't been a bother... sometimes I just run up and down those stairs in my underwear doing laundry."

"Oh," I told her, "Not to worry," (as I envisioned my RingToss classmate's head exploding just six blocks away.) The very prospect is the only thing in the world the men in my life live for. Or as I told him the other night when he asked about putting a robe on to get something out of the downstairs fridge, "Don't worry honey, you don't have anything those girls want." He's a dog chasing a car, he wouldn't know what to do when he got it.  The neighbor laughed good-naturedly, in her sweet, sing-songy, blonde voice. The siren's laugh of the Young. The Hot. The Oblivious. My boys will miss my girls though.

As we discussed at Easter brunch yesterday, no one's even figured out how to fit a man in the upstairs at the new place, with all the crazy dormer angles. Two have already almost knocked themselves senseless. "Here's what you don't want," Chef Dave said, "a sign that says 'watch your head.'" Where would you even put it, they wondered. The floor? Or the ceiling? Our excommunicated priest suggested maybe we could rig up chains, the kind truck drivers use. Crime tape was suggested as a possibility.

I hate the thought of downsizing boyfriends, but I hate the thought of closed-head-injury (so to speak) even more. Rachel advised I should go ahead and stick with my usual type, and hope they'd have enough sense to duck. "Hell," she said, "for the Lucky Halftime Ritual? They'll crawl."

My new neighbor is Ben. Ben has one ample sized dog. He appears to be a Young Republican, and yet he has a Jimi Hendrix poster in one window, which clearly indicates a deeply conflicted philosophical bent. A few weeks in, and I believe I can make him vote Democrat, and Call. Me. Ma'am.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Last Supper

After four years or so of festivities, tonight I served the last Birthday Dinner at the old place.

Birthday Dinners are my favorite meals to make, where I'll jump through any culinary hoops to make sure the Birthday Celebrant is happy, if it's within my skill range. Two birthday dinners requested Potatoes Anna this year -- which I had never made before -- and I was quizzed sharply about their absence tonight. (You have to ask for Potatoes Anna, to get Potatoes Anna.)
Tonight's menu was (out of season) caprese salad (the only salad this Ex -- the lucky halftime Ex -- will eat). Then seared ahi marinated in blood orange and sesame oil (if I observed April Fools, I suppose I would've marinated it in Gatorade a la 30 Rock, but I don't observe April Fools). We had sugar snap peas in lemon butter. And roasted fingerling potatoes with fines herbs. Dessert was dropped off at the door by one of my very thoughtful girlfriends who has stepped up and assumed the oversight and operation of my social life, so I can burn the midnight deadline oil at the office.

This would be the fourth birthday dinner I've served this Ex in this place, along with half a dozen at the last place before I sold it and moved. One year it was an entire beef tenderloin; one year it was a tenderloin salad with a barefoot contessa gorgonzola sauce; one year it was a center cut pork chop, butterflied and stuffed with walnuts, apples, and feta (that was the year we found out, the hard way, he'd become allergic to nuts). A couple times it was elaborate-yet-simple Italian menus, brought home from his many trips there. A lot of times it's just a re-imagining of surf 'n turf because deep down in his little Bonfire of the Vanities heart, he's a meat 'n potatoes boy.

This year was a good menu, and we ate it surrounded by packing boxes and bags filled for the Goodwill. I was a little wistful. I don't like this place, at all, but I do love this neighborhood more than any I've ever lived in. It's not unusual to make half a dozen trips to the Disco Kroger during dinner prep, for any of the 437 ingredients I've forgotten, always one at a time. It's my Pantry -- a Pantry that charges me, admittedly, but it's a pantry that's always open. 

After dinner, I ran out to the car to gather up his birthday surprises, and in the short time I was outside, he had finished cleaning the entire kitchen (though he does scrub throughout the process, as do I -- we're compatible on that one thing). The only question he had when I walked back in was, "where do we keep the baggies?" Uh, in the drawer, next to the fridge, where they have been for four years. I don't move 'em around.  "Oh, I'm sorry," was his response, "you must be confusing me with your thoughtful Ex, the the one who could cook AND clean."

Nah. I can keep em straight. In the kitchen anyway. As I finished reorganizing the leftovers and dishwasher to suit me, he joked, "oh, it has to be soooooo complicated" (knowing how much I hate that word).

The bickering continued as we walked up the stairs to watch Gran Torino.  "Seriously," I protested. "There is nothing complicated about me. How little does it take to make me happy?"

"About as little as it takes to piss you off," was the answer that came so fast, I suspected it wasn't the first time he'd thought of it.  I just meant that I am embarrassingly Simple to please -- it all comes down to ample food and Ring-Toss. That's about it. He conceded the point. And then he opened up his briefcase and started getting out presents. "Oooooooooooh, Shiiiiiiiiiiiiny!" was my response, promptly forgetting whatever he said next.

I just remember that over the course of Gran Torino, the BlackBerry text-tone went off seven times (I had set it earlier to hear it in a construction zone and forgotten to turn it back down.)  After the eighth, he said, "Fine. Check it. Then Turn. It. Off." Most of them were related to Easter Brunch coordination, and the others detailed the Food Gays' computer meltdown crisis -- which, for some reason, made him suspicious. "You just lost your book's entire hard drive," he said, "why would anybody ask you for computer help?"

"Oh, they don't want me," I reassured him. They just wanted the keys to my geek-husband, whom, I happened to know, was in the middle of moving, which is what I was trying to text back to them, while he kept continuously interrupting and distracting me.

I finally told him to knock it off (it's not the first time he's gotten The Tap), explaining how much they all already hate him for losing the Big Game for us on Saturday by skipping the Lucky Halftime Ritual. He'd better not push it. 

 "I know," was his answer. "I can't believe you didn't just replace me."

"How do you know I didn't?" I said.

"Because we lost," he said.