Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reality Truck Column and Blog: The Year In Review, 2011

Since Facebook algorithms changed this year, easy access to links to the posts here (particularly via iPhone, iPad, smart phones, mobile access) seems to have fallen off.

So here are the links to Reality Truck, the column and blog, for 2011, in one handy location.


Post-Holiday Shopping with Mom...for Baby Grease... 12.28.2011

Car Talk 2011  BFF's car breaks down and we track down a craigslist replacement. No Camaro. 11.13.2011

Little Cuba, or: a Trip to the Suburbs involving a deaf mute, albuterol, INS, EMTs, asthma, and coconut ice cream. 9.29.2011

Rest in Peace, Vlad.  College Classmate/decorated war vet, dies of Cancer. 09.26.2011

Housesitting: Sometimes, Joel, you just gotta say....09.13.2011

The Office Move 9.11.2011

Check Engine Light.  9.06.2011  (Joe's car.)

Niece's Sweet 13  Rude babies nearly wreck surprise party. 07.24.2011

Active Ingredients, or, Summer Cold 2011. 07.17.2011

Bye Bye Birdie It's nearly curtains for cousin's parakeet, Baby. 06.12.11

Mom Talk Pretty One Day Mom attempts facebook and email. 06.03.2011

Hold the Mayo also known as: The One Thing I Will Not Eat. 05.30.2011

On the Half Shell  Reconnecting to oysters. 04.10.2011

The Chicken or the Egg: Which to Kill First  Or, things might not go so well at the niece's Montessori. 03.15.2011

Bitten or, my permanent memory of Jack, in the form of a jagged scar. 03.14.2011

Pink Socks and Candy, the BFF takes a trip to Africa. 03.05.2011

The Pink Tibetan Goat Hair Beanbag  otherwise known as the Design Fantasy that gets me out of bed every morning. 01.03.2011

The New Year's Day Parsley Miracle  01.01.2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Post Holiday Shopping with Mom ...for baby grease

"Why don't you tell us what you want and save yourself some disappointment?
No. I'd rather be surprised by a disappointment than happy with what I expected."
--Happy Endings

The January 2010 snowman at Bed, Bath & Beyond
Post Holiday shopping with my Mom is an annual tradition. It is exhausting. We go to places I would usually never go, see things I would never see, and hear things I would never hear. By the time we've changed her third cannister of oxygen, I am usually ready to hold my hands up in the same position of supplication I learned while shopping with her in toddlerhood -- the universal whine for "carry me!"

This year, we were both shopping for floor lamps (separately), and each of us had a price peak beyond which we would not budge. As she told the girl at the department store who insisted that the one we liked was not part of Clearance, "No, I wouldn't give that for it. I've been out of a lamp in that back bedroom for three years and I don't care to go another three."

Pickings were even slimmer at the Dollar Tree, where we were in search of red chargers, but definitely not in the market for grease.

That's what the gentleman to the right of us shouted to the checkout girl, 30 feet away, "Sweetheart! Hey! Sweetheart! You! You got any baby grease?"

Apparently, she heard what I did and clarified, "grease? You mean like motor oil? That's in aisle four."

"Naw," he yelled back, "baby grease", as if his renewed emphasis explained it.  ("Made from real babies?" I was thinking, having no idea what he was talking about.)

Observing her blank expression from across the store, he clarified, "grease like you put on a baby, y'know," adding in a conspiratorial stage whisper, "like for after where he's circumcised."

Clearly non-plussed (maybe not the first time she'd been asked this), she responded, a bit over-familiarly, "sheeeeyittttttt? You got a new baby? Another one? When you gonna figure out how to quit that?" Then she asked if it was a boy (which I thought the aforementioned circumcision would've made obvious), and he laughed, answering with a good-natured laugh, "yeahhhh, I reckon we can quit now."

We never did find any red chargers, but baby grease is on aisle seven.

We also did not buy a single CloseOut Santa, which is unusual, because her Santa collection is legendary, well into the hundreds (like shopping, this obviously skips a generation). I pointed out several, "this one seems nice? He's all in white...Do you have this one?"  Even at 80 percent off, she had no interest.

Finally, I asked, "where were all your Santas this year?" I had just been there Christmas weekend, and there were no Santas, no elves, not even a tree. Not so much as a poinsettia. While the only seasonal decor I allow in my house is a token sprig of mistletoe, hers has always been bedecked and bedazzled -- every square inch glistens with snow and sparkles and moving trains conducted by drummer boys and wise men that whistle and wind through Bethlehem and past the Baby Jesus in his creche. It is no small setup. Every year, she talks about divesting herself of her collections, but my brother and I -- with no interest in kids or heirs and less in seasonal decor -- are disappointing prospective recipients, and the topic is inevitably tabled.

There was a long intake of breath, suggesting it was a good thing I'd asked. And what followed was a lengthy huff about my stepdad and his endless complaints about bringing the decorations down from the attic, the amount of work this entails for him, and what a pain in the ass it will be for him to pack them all up and return them to the garage. It's all true. Every year, he grumbles and mutters from Thanksgiving to January, "Jeeeeeesus Christ, I don't know what we're doing with all this shit... awwww, for cripes sake, I said I'm leaving her if she brings one more goddamn Santa into this house." It's relatively good-natured -- just part of the ambient noise that seems to occupy their daily life -- and most of us tuned it out decades ago, the way he turns down his hearing aids when we're not saying anything of interest to him (which is always).  She hauls stuff into the house, he waits until she's forgotten about it, and hauls it out to the trash. It's a good system.

But not this year. This year she'd had it. "Bitch, bitch, bitch. That's all he ever does and I'm sick of it. Sick. Of. It. So I quit. We didn't even have a TREE," she said triumphantly with a twinge of sadness, as though she'd won an epic battle, but that it had cost her dearly. "Why didn't you just tell him to knock it off?" was my innocent question. This is obviously the Family Dance -- she hoards Santas and he complains. She gets more Santas and he gets to complain even more loudly; the acquisition makes her happy and the grousing makes him happy. My theories were instantly met with righteous indignation, progressing swiftly towards outrage at me for even asking such a stupid thing, and further implying that I know absolutely nothing about how Marriage works (which is one hundred percent true).

"You know I had to run into your father's first ex-wife last week" she said, my cue that the topic had changed and I'd better keep up. "Mom, you are dad's first ex-wife," I countered.

"Oh," she seemed puzzled for a second, then snapped,"Well you know the one I mean. She's married to some bald-headed guy now." Yes. I didn't know about the new hairless spouse, but I know she's the one he left my Mom for. As opposed to his current wife, which is the one he left the second wife for. (See also, our family's own War of the Roses).

"How did that happen?" I asked -- always mystified that in a Mayberry-sized smalltown with only two grocery stores and a handful of gas pumps, my parents have crossed paths less than a dozen times in the nearly 30 years they've been divorced.

"I had to wait on her." It turns out the new bald husband regularly patronizes the Christmas bake sale at my Mom's church, and my Mom had to sell her a Diet Coke. "Did you poison it?" I asked mildly.

"No," she said primly, "And I also did NOT slap her. And I did not say, 'well how have you been, you Old Whore?' which is what I felt like saying, and I didn't tell anyone anything about except our priest."

And what did he say? "He said that was very Christian of me, and he knew it must have been awkward."

I wondered aloud if she'd even recognized my Mom (it's been thirty years). "Oh she knew who I was all right. And she looks exactly the same. You know she was always so coarse."

"Yes," I agreed. "The old whore."

Mom's Parting Shots
Bed, Bath, and Beyond the Circle
War of the Roses. 2010.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Car Talk 2011

This has been the Year of the Car. Mine spent all Spring in and out of the shop -- new tie rods, a CV boot, and too many other things to count. It has to head back in soon for brakes, a serpentine belt, and a suspension system. I'm just happy it's held out this long, but the worst part  is, it's clearly contagious.

A few weeks ago, I got a text from the BFF that her car had quit about 75 miles from home, in the middle of the interstate. Though this is (not so secretly) my worst nightmare, I tried to pretend to be calm and helpful, finding her mechanic's number and making sure her Triple A package had the 100-mile tow plan, which is when she texted back, "I will just maybe live here. Forever."  I had to admit, this seemed like a reasonable plan. Sure, nobody wants to live at the Flyin' J truckstop. But people do.

While I called around to describe the engine symptoms and try to get a verdict, the tow driver picked her up. An always-look-on-the-bright-side-type, she was heartened to discover he had "both Metallica and Five Finger Death Punch in the cab," and she seemed downright elated he was letting her smoke. She thought it was a good sign that he called her "sweet pea," as in "you wait right here sweet pea," while he went to find the guys who were manning the weigh station.

I responded, "I think those might be the exact words of the Mechanic in The Hills Have Eyes."

It wasn't til this weekend that she told me she'd almost threatened to run off with him, after he'd enthusiastically described his considerable assets to her, including, but not limited to,  "a paid-for motorcycle, a paid-for boat, and a paid-for 79 Camaro." 

I said I was just surprised we're all not dancing at her wedding right now.

"PAID FOR!" was her answer.

"Which is exactly how he'd describe you post-wedding," I said.

"A 79 Camaro that can make it to Florida," she insisted.

I thought he sounded like quite the catch, even before I spent a week spent scouring the craigslist for a replacement car, where I discovered that people actually post ads that read, "transmission out, but OTHERWISE a great car." Um. Define great? Wouldn't that include a working transmission?

Camaro, you say? All the way to Florida? I wonder if he'd take it out in trade.

Check Engine Light
Pink Socks and Candy
2003: Car Trouble
My First Car

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Little Cuba

Tonight, BFF94 invited me out to dinner with a group of her friends I mostly hadn't met, but had heard great things about. They were all going to meet up at this little Cuban sandwich shop I've been hearing about for years, but had never gotten around to trying. It's in the suburbs, so nobody ever invites me.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Rest in Peace, Vlad

Last week I got a message from one of my favorite college buddies, Bob-O, that he and another pal would be in town for our upcoming college Homecoming. They're a little older than I am, so it's a Reunion year for them, but not for me. Even though it's less than an hour's drive, I typically only go for the big years: five, ten, 20, and eventually 25. But it would be great to see them I thought, and added the weekend to my calendar.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Housesitting: Sometimes Joel, You Just Gotta Say...

Last night is the first night I've spent in my own bed for the past two weeks. To say I missed it would be an understatement, even though the bed I was staying in for those two weeks was a Tempur-Pedic, and now I've decided I don't know how I lived without one this long. But I had to get home and check on my toothpicks...make sure they're where I left them. Count them. See if any are missing. Or re-arranged.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Office Move

I haven't written as much as I want to lately, partly because my office moved.

In terms of actual mechanics, one really has nothing to do with the other. Twenty years ago, even ten, I did sit at a computer at my office and write things. But that hasn't been true for a long time. I write long notes in an iPod and iPad (along with actual, honest-to-god notebooks and legal pads), but I do most actual writing on my little pink netbook, which goes where ever I go. And most of our work lives in The Cloud. (Although I am the only one who believes our words are just roaming around up there, in an actual cloud.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Check Engine Light

I'm driving the husband-in-law's car today. Mostly because his has gas in it, and mine doesn't, plus my tires are low, and his aren't. Every time I try to put air in my tires, I let the air out instead, so it's a good idea if I don't do that.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sweet 13

Pank runs in the family.
Today was my niece's SURPRISE 13th birthday party, but because it didn't start on time, the "surprise" aspect was desultory at best -- she was more or less greeted with a spectacularly halfhearted chorus of "oh, hey, look. She's here."

This was thanks to the two babies who showed up a half hour late, thereby delaying the arrival of the Guest of Honor. Her Mom stalled her as best she could once she heard from the latecomers (texting me to make sure everyone had their drinks and had duly written our birthday wishes out for the ensuing scrapbook) and killing the mood outright.  I think I got one photo of the birthday girl's "surprise."

Thank God I was seated next to G'Uncle Mike, on my left, with whom I could trade sarcastic asides. Decades ago, he and I sat together (with his husband, the Late Great Reg) at the wedding that pre-dated our niece as well, so we have some history for smartass and not necessarily welcome observations. My mom was seated on my right, threatening me with dirty looks every time I opened my mouth. For some reason, she kept rejecting the guest book concept to the nice lady who came around with it, "I already have a card. And I wrote on THAT." She finally sat down with the glitter pen and wrote a short note, but she dodged it for most of the party -- I can only assume the concept or execution wasn't up to her rigorous Martha Stewart crafting standards, because usually she's a good sport about anything Family.

My stepdad sat between us, and his significant hearing impairment ("deaf as a post"), combined with his social discomfort at being trapped in a roomful of people he didn't know well, meant everyone was treated to a series of uncomfortable pronouncements, all delivered at 72 decibels, including but not limited to, "SO WHOSE BABIES ARE THOSE ANYWAY? ARE THEY LESBIANS? YOU KNOW THAT DOES NOT BOTHER ME AT ALL. I WAS JUST ASKING," and "TELL ME AGAIN WHY THOSE TWO AREN'T SPEAKING?"

(Great) Aunt Eleanor served as the de facto hostess, trying to make everyone comfortable, dispensing hand sanitizer to all of us, but explaining, "I'm sorry I don't know you all. I have facebook, but I don't understand it, so I never see all these pictures you all are talking about. And I can't afford Twitter." I thought maybe that was just an "expression," and tried to clarify helpfully, "but Twitter is free." She looked at me goodheartedly, as one would with simpler relatives, and said,  "no dear, it isn't."

The first thing I asked G'Uncle Mike when he sat down was, "are those kids related to you?" (gesturing to the din in the opposite corner). After reassuring me that he'd never seen them before in his life, he asked why I wanted to know, at which point I whispered into his ear, "because they are assholes." I was filling him in on  how they'd showed up late (who shows up late to a children's SURPRISE birthday party? -- timing is everything -- even a stoopid baby knows that), when Emma's Mom somehow caught wind of the conversation and whirled around to shut it down. "You. All," she said in a voice that threatened she might separate us any minute, "That is NOT NICE." 

"Ahhhhh KNOW," was my response. "I texted you when that first baby walked in that they were being assholes, and I told you I was gonna be mean to them." Then I turned to Mike and said, "if these were dogs, you'd never reward them with all that attention; they get confused and think they should keep behaving badly."

She added something along the lines of, "well let's just see how you handle it when you have two babies..." then trailed off, realizing the absurdity of what she'd said. 

About that time, Emma was hauling the twins around the room, as she showed off her loot. I gave her a Starbucks card, and felt virtuous about not tossing in a carton of smokes -- as her second Uncle Mike pointed out, "it is Kentucky." G'Uncle Mike had given her a wonderful ceramic from the Late Great Reg's collection, filled with angel pins (which we threatened to use to puncture the balloons the little kids were punching and kicking all over the room). I think we both nearly misted up thinking of the glee Reg would've enjoyed at us invoking his spirit in such a manner.

Then he and I used the opportunity to remind Emma what a wretched baby she'd been -- crying all the time, at unimaginable volumes. "The Screamin' Demon," I'd affectionately called her. She didn't spend her first sleepover at my house til she was three (and by then she was a model child, and still is, though I am not optimistic about the teen years).

Emma then carried the toddlers over to us and held them out, "would you like to meet...."

"Nah," I said, pushing back from the table and raising my hands in the universal signal for  "I'm good, Thanks."  She then deposited one of them on my Mom's lap, where it promptly slumped over asleep (probably exhausted from all that crying).

"YOU CAN'T KEEP IT," my stepdad admonished her. "WE'RE NOT TAKING IT HOME."

Then my Mom leaned over and stage-whispered to me, "Stop being so ugly. Emma loves babies. That's why they're here." (It's true, she does and always has -- babysitting at every opportunity; approaching them at restaurants; creating imaginary baby families "The Butters," that accompanied her everywhere when she was little. All while I've tried to re-route her interests into technology, tiaras, academia... anything that I think might have a more productive outcome for her.)

"Yeah," I said. "Indulge that, why don't you? Cause that's not gonna come back and bite her in the ass."

Bye Bye Birdie

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Active Ingredients

I only get a really bad cold every few years or so, so when one hit last week, I didn't have any cold medicine in the house, specifically, Drixoral -- which I always found to be a pretty reliable over-the-counter remedy -- or actually behind-the-counter remedy. It's not a prescription, they just (presumably) don't want you to make meth with it.

fellow alum Lee described this July 4 photo as "a patriotic meth lab"
By Day 2 of the recent plague, I conceded home remedy defeats and dragged myself to the corner drugstore to ask the pharmacist for it. He was a young, non-helpful guy, who just said, "never heard of it," and handed me a box of generic sudafed. Too worn out to argue or inquire further, I came home and googled it, only to find it's off the market, and has been for some time. I didn't know, because I'd only averaged a box every five years or so.

Angry former customers had a lot to say about its removal, and I never did get a straight answer on the backstory, other than it might be possible to get some in Canada, and I noticed a few conspiracy theorists had some opinions about phantom lawsuits that they said were probably settled out of court under gag orders.

Geez, what do they put in that stuff? Seriously. I needed to know, in the hopes of re-creating it. The active ingredients are dexbrompheniramine and brompheniramine, so the BFF was dispatched to the Disco Kroger in search of anything that contained those. She painstakingly read all the labels and came home with Children's Dimetapp, and an assortment of capsules filled with Dextromethorphan, Guaifenesin, and Phenylephrine. Or as the husband-in-law put it, "you've gone Breaking Bad."

Because I didn't want to accidentally Heath-Ledger-it, I took out a little notebook and wrote down what I took and when I took it, observing the Dimetapp label that cautioned, "do not use to sedate a child or make a child sleepy." (That struck me as an advisory that might come in handy for the Moms I know.) Since it's designed for kids and didn't have a weight chart, I never did figure out the grown-up dose, which I suspect is a bottle a day. (I still have half a bottle left, so presumably I was taking less than Anna Nicole, which was what I was concerned about, since apparently I have a new phobia about celebrity overdoses, despite not being a celebrity, or a user of recreational drugs.)

The next few days, I survived via regular deliveries of soup, juice, and cases of Posh Puffs (with lotion -- which I now know are completely worth the wild extravagance). It took a village, and then some. Nothing worked. By Day 5, I had even unearthed my Mom's stash of Vick's VapoRub and fashioned a "poultice" with hot towels straight out of the dryer. It was just like that episode of Beverly Hillbillies where Granny insisted that she'd found a cure for the cold, and everyone who took it discovered that "in a week or ten days, the cold was gone."

All I know is, I had to sit out the July 4th funnelcakes and parades and festivals, making me feel exactly like I did when I was seven and came down with strep and had to miss the Christmas pageant. And I didn't even get the Lauren Bacall sexyvoice that usually accompanies the end of a cold. I just barked like a seal for a week, while eyeing (but never actually raiding) Cooper's kennel cough prescription.

Somewhere along the way, in my Dimetapp fog, I did think "Active Ingredients" would be a great name for a band. But it turns out, that is a band. (And I feel bad for any of their fans who actually landed here.)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bye Bye Birdie

I don't want a bird. I think they're nasty, dirty, creepy, difficult pets. (Unless you have one, in which case, I'm sure it's lovely and probably not especially diseased at all). It's the sort of thing you expect to have some control over -- which pets live with you and which don't -- but that's not always the way.

As we're in the process of transitioning an elderly relative into a residential, long-term care facility, the constant conversation has centered around "What will become of Baby?" She loves that bird, and while I really, really think the elderly should be allowed to take their pets with them to the old folks home, it isn't the way the world works (maybe it is at the high-end places, but this is merely a mid-range facility -- where, my guess is, the goal is to let you die in a clean bed, but nothing much more luxurious or extravagant than that).

So, in the last week, my Mom has decided that Baby will come to live with them. I protested heartily. She has lung disease and is oxygen-dependent, and while I don't know much about birds, I am positive they are not for people with compromised immune systems and pulmonary ailments. When I conveyed all this concern to her, her response was, "Bullshit. I'm going to keep him on the back porch."

This sounded like a much, much worse plan. I might not like birds, but come ON.

"Mom!" I said, "Baby will die on the back porch. It's a hundred degrees out there in the shade!"

"You kids worry too much about nothing," was her answer. "It's screened in."

In the last couple decades of her life, my grandmother had a myna bird. It was a gift from my Uncle Bobby and Aunt Margie. I don't remember the details or circumstances of how he came to live with my grandmother, but he must have been more of a hand-me-down than a present, because the bird had been with them long enough to have adopted my Aunt Margie's voice, expressions, and manner of speaking.

Whenever anyone came in the front door, he'd shout, "Hell-OOOooooo FELLaaaa," and then he'd cackle as if this was the funniest thing anyone had ever said. The unnerving part was that it was my Aunt Margie's very distinctive laugh. Then he'd bark like a dachshund.

He had another few stock phrases (I don't know how gifted myna birds are supposed to be), but the main one was, "Stop it Big Dog! Stop! Stop!" Big Dog was the name of a long succession of miniature dachshunds that belonged to Uncle Bobby. (Or as we call them in my family, Dash Hounds.) I think there were four or five of them, but they weren't even named according to their sequence (Big Dog 2, or Big Dog Four). One would die, and then another one would turn up, and he would henceforth be known as Big Dog, with no memory or acknowledgment of the ones who came before him. I imagine "Stop it Big Dog!" was a constant expression in their house, but I mostly remember my very large, barrel-chested, gravel-voiced Uncle tipping him on his back and cradling him like a baby, while laughing and growling, "Bite Easy, BigDog! Bite easy!" as the dog pawed the air impotently and gnawed bad-naturedly on his giant fist.

I always thought that my uncle's Joe Cocker-like voice would've been far more amusing coming from a bird, but for whatever reason, he used my aunt's voice instead. I assume they only have so much range.

Uncle Bobby was a truck driver, and each of these dogs would be his faithful cab companion. On his travels, he smoked and collected pipes (which smelled fantastic and permeated the whole house whenever he visited), and the one I remember best had an ivory bowl carved into the shape of a naked mermaid, the kind you'd see on the prow of a ship. My grandmother did not approve of it. She didn't much care for the dogs either -- or any kind of pet -- so how we ended up with these people's bird, I'm really not sure. Pets are a fairly unsentimental commodity on a farm -- one she had little patience for -- but she was genuinely fond of that bird. (Their sons had a brief and disastrous history with spider monkeys for awhile, and thank God we didn't inherit those. The monkeys were followed by a series of temperamental Afghan hounds.)

When the bird arrived, his name was Bill, but he couldn't keep that name because he shared it with my youngest uncle who'd died tragically in his 30s (oddly, no reminders of him were allowed in the house at all; I guess it was just too sad), so the bird became Little Joe. Or L'il Joe. No one really called him that though. No one really called him anything.

At night time his cage was covered with a king-size orange sheet from Sears, but if the grownups were out of the house, he spent considerably longer periods of time under it. "Goooood NIGHT, Nasty Bird," I'd say as the sheet came billowing down around his cage and  I flipped on the TV, then flopped down on the sofa for Days of Our Lives.

"Hellloooooooo Fella!" he'd respond optimistically.


They Might Be Giants
Mom Talk Pretty One Day

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mom Talk Pretty One Day

"I went to France the following summer knowing only the word for 'bottleneck.' I said 'bottleneck' at the airport, 'bottleneck' on the train to Normandy...I'd hoped the language might come on its own, the way it comes to babies, but people don't talk to foreigners the way they talk to babies. They don't hypnotize you with bright objects and repeat the same words over and over..."
--David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day

My Mom is not my friend on facebook. She doesn't use it enough for us to actually communicate with it, so instead, she calls once a week or so, and fills me in on The Family in the 60 second version. The conversation rarely lasts longer than that, because as she puts it matter-of-factly, "I DON'T WANT TO USE UP MY MINUTES!" (What if someone better called and she'd wasted a conversation on me?) She'd never call me on her land line because "it's long distance!"  This way, I only get the Readers' Digest version of what's going on with my relatives. Most updates include some variation on "she's out of her mind," followed by stern instructions: "don't you EVER let me get like that." (Uhhhhh. Might need more specific instruction than that.)

On Mother's Day, I went with her to visit one of our elderly cousins, and innocently observed with mild, but cheerful surprise on the walk out to the car, "she seemed pretty sharp." The answer was, "That just shows what you know. She sits in that chair all day and talks to that damn bird. She won't read a book. She never even turns on the television." (She did talk to the bird the whole time we were there, but if talking to pets was the criteria for institutionalization, I would barely know anyone this side of the walls.)

After Mother's Day, I posted a few pictures from the day on her facebook page, which was followed by texts to me from my cousins wondering why my Mom won't be their friend, or why she never answers their messages.

I waded back into her account with the idea of responding to everyone, and as I roamed around, I was actually impressed to discover she has obviously been putting some effort into it. Everything about social media that I think of as second nature, I remind myself is a foreign language to most of her generation. (There's no room for Smug here: the first computer I ever touched was a Radio Shack TRS-80 that someone had handed down to the nuns, and I could never even figure out how to turn it on. Many years later, I was the first person in my office to insist this email thing was "a mess" that would "never catch on," and everybody better just stick to turning in their work to me on DISKS the way God intended).

I was proud of all her hard work, but the net results would be the same if you found me trying to translate a french newspaper on facebook; it's a strange, hybrid, baby-speak that sounds absolutely nothing like her.

I can see that she is trying to communicate with her friends via her wall, with brief missives like these:

"ok. ken. i'am here."


"i just wanted to see if i am getting anywhere with this silly thing. been sitting here for hours." This statement  is inexplicably linked to a youtube clip of  Jimmy Kimmel, Guilty Dog.

Then there is a post from me, "Hi Janet, Mom can't seem to figure out her facebook. She's doing great -- we just had a big dinner. "

Below that, she has written a note, "i am in town and trying to find a way onto my page but it keeps eluding me so at ten twenty i am going to bed!!! one day i will throw it out the window. if i happen to email you, hi! hope you are well!" This is paired with a link to google's page for "suggestions on navigation errors." 

Then she posts an answer to my cousin Marie's question as to how she was doing. "in town again. not too much longer to go. good. getting very tired. what is a thumbnail? i don't have one i guess. the computer says so anyway. GOODNIGHT WHOEVER YOU ARE!!!"

An earlier statement reads, "i am alive and well. i am not trying to ignore anyone just do not know what i am doing. keep trying. i'll figure it out someday." This is linked to a google search of, which turns up all the people on facebook with the same name as her.

The last time I clicked to open her gmail for her, it inexplicably opened up into the email account for a strange name and a person I didn't know. "Mom, who is Mark?" Mark is a man they go to church with. "Why is his email on this laptop." She didn't know. As I clicked around, she eventually remembered that he had been trying to help her open her facebook one day after mass. My eventual conclusion was that he had, at some point, opened his email on her machine and inadvertently saved his password there. After logging out of his account, I asked her if she had accidentally been reading his email.

"Oh sure," she said, shamelessly. "I read it all."

Didn't she notice none of it was intended for her?

"Well, yeah. It was mostly these love letters back and forth between him and Annie."

Didn't she consider this an incredible invasion of privacy?

"Nahhhh. He's married to her now."

I asked her last night if she'd seen any of my brother's emailed pictures from his last trip. She hadn't, because she said, "my email won't open anymore. But Mark and Annie's popped up on there the other night, so I've just been reading theirs instead."

Prodded as to how she managed to consistently load their email, instead of her own, she answered, nonplussed, "I don't know. I guess I'm a hacker. Isn't that what you kids call it?"

At least my parents will never be one of those scandalous couples who ends up on Dr. Phil because they reunited with their high school sweethearts on facebook. Any hot senior singles with mischief on their minds are going to have to come right to the front door and knock on it. (They don't know how to check their voicemail either.)

It reminds me very much of David Sedaris's french class where everyone had to explain Easter to non-Americans: "He call his self Jesus and then he die one day on two...morsels of....lumber..."

Sounds about right.


Mom's Parting Shots
Bed, Bath, and Beyond the Circle

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hold the Mayo

"[He] brought me to his apartment, and without even inquiring, set to work frying in olive oil two eggs with the darkest orange yolks I had ever seen, then sprinkled them with a coarse sea salt and cut a slice from a thick, crusty loaf of bread...I was craving salt and starch. Eggs and bread. In the evening, we walked to a restaurant near the Acropolis. Without wasting a moment on that awkward and tedious conversation that will unhappily precede so many hundreds and hundreds of future restaurant meals in all of our lives -- whether to share or not to share and whether or not there are food phobias and dietary restrictions among us -- [he] simply ordered food for the table without even consulting a menu, and so set the standard for me for all time of excellent hospitality: Just take care of everything....I forever want to arrive somewhere hungry and thirsty and tired and be taken care of..." 

I am the farthest thing from a picky eater. It's not just a culinary position, but an ethical and cultural one. Even if I had a real food allergy, I would probably willingly die of anaphylactic shock before I would ever insult a host's offer of, say, Strawberry Nut pie.  If someone goes to the trouble of making something for me, by and large, I will eat it.  If somebody orders something for me, I'll eat that too. 

I've always hated green peppers, but I would never pick them off a pizza. Still, lots of people cook with them. The net result is, I eat a lot of green peppers. Big deal. At this age, I'm probably never going to cultivate any affection for them, but so what. I hate beets too, but hardly anyone cooks with them so it rarely comes up. Again, I wouldn't pick them off a salad. I file this under being "a Good Sport," (and I pride myself on being A Good Sport). About the only thing I will not eat is mayonnaise. If it's sneaked into some potato salad or something, and I don't have to taste it, fine. It's not a religion. But I do not like it. Everyone knows this. In its unadulterated state, it's culinary kryptonite to me.

Like anybody, I have tastes and preferences, but I generally never let them impede anyone's impulse or prerogative to feed me, which is what I love more than anything in the world (second only to: feeding everybody else). I make decisions all day, every day. I'm not working in a steel mill, but at the end of that day, I will still be hot and thirsty and hungry and tired. I do not always want to be the food boss.

Last weekend, the electronics husband was in town and inevitably wanted me to decide about dinner. The first decision was an easy one -- an absolute veto on going out. I would wither, dehydrate, and hook up my own IV before I'd stand in line with a crowd anywhere on a Friday night. This was followed by a flurry of texts and calls about what he could order and then pick up. Again, this would've involved a line (a line he'd have had to stand in -- not me -- but I'd have still had to make up my mind, and then wait on it).

The last time he picked up dinner, I wanted a Big Salad, so of course he brought home BLTs. Fine. I love BLTs. But these had mayonnaise on them. They usually come with mayo unless you tell them to leave it off, but they asked him, and he instructed them to leave it on. It was months ago, but I was mad then and I'm mad now. In the spirit of being A Good Sport at the time, I even tried to separate out the bacon, lettuce, and tomato and just make it into a Big Salad, but the mayo had touched (and polluted) every crevice. They really slathered it on. I ended up throwing it all in the trash, which he should've taken for the major Statement it was, because I am not someone who throws away food, let alone someone who throws away bacon.

His defense was that he had a vague memory that I had a thing about mayonnaise -- but he couldn't remember if it was pro or con. Then, he said, he remembered that he'd seen it in the fridge door, so, he reasoned, it must be ok. I had one response, which detailed, at great length, how many times in my writing career I've gone on the record about the only thing I will not eat. I had another response about how many years he has seen me go out of my way not to eat mayonnaise. And I had a third response, which was, "That. Is. Not. Even. Mine." He thought that was ridiculous, arguing, "What do you mean it's not YOURS?! This isn't college. We're not in a dorm. YOU are the only person living here." (That's just stupid. There's always Diet Coke in my fridge and I haven't had a Diet Coke in 25 years. Other people might get thirsty. And they might like a nice Diet Coke. I have it on hand because I am a Good Sport.)

So, when he called Friday, I had no faith in his ability to even procure anything edible. The whole process got so irritating, so fast, it was just easier to make dinner, with no input from him. In fairness, he would've picked up any dinner from any menu in town, or any ingredients from any venue I specified. I was just in no mood to direct.

All Spring, the gay husband and I have been undertaking endless date night culinary experiments based on whatever's fresh at the market. He doesn't care as much about cooking as the rest of us, but he has a fine appreciation for ingredients -- he hunts and gathers the most intricate flavor profiles he can find, then brings home the raw materials for me (or the husband-in-law) to transform into "food." His big finds last week were some unbelievably sweet watermelon (which became a watermelon/feta/baby arugula salad with balsamic vinaigrette) and Cipriani's pasta (which became a pretty interesting variation on bagels and lox when stirred into creme fraiche, capers, and salmon).  The consensus is, they're both dazzling, but easy dishes -- three ingredients each. The hard work (conceptualizing) was already done, so even factoring in a ten minute walk to and from disco Kroger for extra salmon and feta, it was maybe a 20-minute proposition to then come up with Friday dinner. In other words, no trouble at all. You'd think.

After dinner, we went upstairs and curled up to watch Fear. I spent the first half hour tossing and turning trying to get comfortable and just could not. My shoulder was all out of whack probably from a week of heavy digging in the garden, and by the time Marky Mark had gotten to second base with Reese Witherspoon on the rollercoaster, my whole right side had gone from a dull throbbing ache to searing pain. So, I turned off the movie and told him I needed to sleep off this horrible injury...and he had to get out. If I have to suffer, I have to do it in solitude. I need the room.

As he was getting dressed, he was obviously irritated with me -- not mean, but not exactly a Good Sport either. I told him I'd make it up to him, but I was otherwise unapologetic.

The next day, the BFF was appalled at my rudeness, and wondered aloud why I had to kick him out to get to sleep (there's a spare bed and sofa). The gay husband backed me up though, "yeah. I can see that," he said, as he gestured dramatically, "your pain would need to take up the entiiiiiiire house." It actually occupied more like a city block, but I didn't think I could plausibly get the neighbors to evacuate.

Now, consciously, I don't think my poor achy shoulder had anything to do with what was or wasn't for dinner. I certainly wasn't making it up, and it's still pretty throbby. I'm usually not the passive-aggressive type, I'm more the aggressive-aggressive type. Subconsciously, I make room for the possibility that maybe I just needed a Big Salad. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

On the Half Shell

photo courtesy ChefTom
Last night I ate my first raw oyster in thirty-odd years. The last time I had them was as a 12-year-old girl on one of our annual New Orleans family vacations, at either Messina's or Visco's (I think both are out of business now).

On this particular trip, we had already feasted on beignets at both Morning Call and Cafe du Monde, muffulettas at Central Grocery, and a crawfish boil at a roadside stand that also served cayenne-injected fried chicken. Despite our pre-teen status, we had all sipped Pat O'Brien's hurricanes out of boxes on Bourbon Street (just a taste). We had gone crabbing in the lake using shrimp for bait that was considerably nicer and fancier than any shrimp I'd ever eaten until then. And then we ate the crabs.

I bring all this up, somewhat defensively, by way of pointing out that I was not then -- nor have I ever been -- a fussy, or picky, eater. I was excited about going to an oyster bar for dinner. I wasn't exactly sure what one was, but I was certainly game.

I remember sitting in a row with our host family, pulled up to something like a trough. The "bartender" shucked the oysters and shoved them out to the waiting patrons as fast as he could. His name was Danny, and I was competing with my arch-nemesis (and host daughter), Laura, for his attention. I think the only garnish was lemons, though maybe there was cocktail sauce or even mignonette. Having sucked the heads of a countless abundance of crawfish at lunch, I was undeterred by their unfamiliar appearance and ready to have at it.

And then Laura threw me off, with a long-winded, complicated explanation of how to eat oysters ("you have to swallow them whole and whatever you do don't bite into it; slurp it, don't suck it" etc etc). She then slid one over that was about the size of the palm of my hand, and said, with more venom than good-hearted mischief, "cheers!"

I tipped up the shell and slurped for all I was worth, sucking down a few salty drops of ocean and the beginning of what would've been the oyster, when halfway through the operation, it became clear that its little valve (or whatever) was still attached -- about the time I bit down, despite the express instruction not to. It hurt my teeth so bad I saw stars, and that was nothing compared to the awkwardness of having my meal half in and half out of my mouth -- not going down, but not exactly coming up either. I was mortified. Bested by my dinner, I dropped the whole thing into the trough, and drank an entire glass of ginger ale to cover the tears of pain and embarrassment. I was slightly consoled when Danny shucked forth a practically microscopic little pearl and handed it to me later in the evening, though we'd been cautioned ahead of time that the oysters we eat are not the same oysters that make jewelry -- all I know is I got one, and more importantly, Laura did not.

Unfortunately, since I didn't get right back on the horse -- there were no more oyster bars that visit -- I never really got around to overcoming that initial incident. They don't show up on that many menus this far inland, so it's never been much of an issue.

So, when they appeared at last night's birthday dinner -- where I was surrounded by friends who wouldn't judge -- I had a taste from Chef Tom's oyster platter. They were salty and icy and spicy and slid right down with a slight clean taste of lemony ocean.

I think I'll have another!

 Spam a Lot

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Chicken or the Egg: Which to Kill First?

At dinner with my tween niece tonight, I was thrilled to hear her school has a bit of a farm-to-table project going: they're raising chickens and selling the eggs.

Unlike me, she's being raised as a city child (with the exception of horseback riding, which I don't count), and this seemed like a good development where she'll learn more about what food looks like on the hoof (or claw), as opposed to packaged up in the grocery store, or worse, as chicken McNuggets.

The plan's had a few glitches though. For the chicks they're supposed to be hatching in the classroom, somebody turned the incubator ten degrees too high one night, and then ten degrees too low the next night to compensate. Her mother and I were none too optimistic about the outcome, but she assured us "oh, there's movement."  And we felt worse.

"Those chicks might not be....ok," I explained. 

"Like, what do you mean," she asked. "Like they might have three heads? Because that would be awesome."

"Well they might," and I added, "It wouldn't be awesome. Because then you'd have to kill them."

"I'm not killing anything," she protested. (We'd already had a discussion over appetizers about how some of the dogs she knew from childhood aren't really "living on a farm in the country.")

Her mother clarified helpfully, "Not you personally." So I reassured her, "Right. Not you. 'One' will have to kill those chickens. You don't have to do it yourself, but yeah, they'll have to be destroyed."

"So you'd just kill anything that was deformed?" she asked, and I could see where this was headed.

"Emma," I said, "them's mean streets out there for a chicken with three heads." (It turns out she'd seen a stuffed two-headed calf at some point, and explained in great detail how the vet said the calf had died of suffocation because they were feeding the wrong head, and apparently it was the head it was using for breathing. It didn't exactly make sense to me from an animal husbandry perspective, but whatever. The taxidermied heads were, as one would imagine, "awesome.")

"What if it just has six toes?" she asked.

I allowed we could probably live with six-toed poultry... again, seeing where she was headed with this line of questioning.

"So where do you draw the line?" she asked.

"I don't know," was my answer. "That's an excellent discussion on moral relativism for another day."

She weighed this for a few seconds before responding, " extra head is out of the question?"

"Yes, Emma. An extra head is out of the question."

I just hope I don't have to be the bitter Aunt who visits the school for Show and Tell and has to clobber a nest full of baby chicks. 

Monday, March 14, 2011


It's been a long time since the days of college housesitting where every gig brought with it the prospect of new revelations. Did a dean like it rough? Why did the mild-mannered humanities professor stow a vast array of birth control options in her kitchen... behind towering pyramids of pink Whiska cans? (Seems like the cats alone would've done the job.) Which faculty members were so smug they didn't allow TVs in the house (presumably they performed masterpiece theater for the children after supper)? Who was on the road to divorce?

That was the last time it was exciting. Now it's just an occasional weekend here and there where everybody swaps houses and pets based on travel plans -- nobody looks for anybody's toy drawer or porn stash or naughty pics -- those already get swapped via iPhones over dinner. It's the facebook/twitter era: what don't we know?

This weekend I was in charge of three dogs and a few fish (who live on sophisticated oceanic-style timers anyway), so no special challenges were anticipated. I stored all my weekend's worth of work up in the Cloud, where I could pull it down as needed. In between, I figured I'd catch up on this season's Californication (since I always kill the Showtime once Weeds ends), and that'd be that. I was looking forward to raiding the lovingly stocked fridge, and maybe reading a new book I'd brought along.

Everything was going according to plan til the most senior, elderly dog wanted out at 2 am Saturday, which was no big deal, until he had a tough time negotiating the stairs to come back inside. But when I went to give him a boost (as I've done a hundred times before), "CHOMP." He clamped down on my right ear.

Blood spewed everywhere in true Dan Akroyd-as-Julia Child style. But, not to be undone, I quickly grabbed one of the dogs' "wee pads" and fashioned myself a turban/burka that would staunch the blood and at least avoid ruining the floors and furniture.

I needn't have worried, because the dog wouldn't come back inside anyway. I checked him lightly but thoroughly for injuries and he wasn't hurt; he just wasn't moving.

My first thought was: "I'll fashion a travois."  Seriously. That's because I remembered nearly every word of the 1960s children's thoroughly non-pc classic The Indians Knew, which taught other assorted miracles like painting from berries and that kind of thing. You drag the travois (a blanket between two poles) behind a horse, and haul stuff on the blanket. There, the plan pretty much fell apart. I had a giant quilt, but once I'd scooted him onto it, and then experimented with dragging him a few feet, I realized we were getting nowhere fast without the horse or the poles.

I tried carrying him, but couldn't get much of a grip because I was trying to dodge the snapping and keep the one good ear out of his reach.

The exotic fish stared out at the escalating debacle from their saltwater aquarium, judgmental and a little smug.

The other two dogs waited reproachfully in front of the fish, silently rebuking me for leaving the door open while I figured this out, having been chided by me, more than once, over the years, "In or out! IN OR OUT! We can't air condition the whole goddam world!"

While I knew nobody would have their ringers turned on at that hour, I did check twitter and facebook to see if anyone was up, but no one was except my BFF, who admitted she could provide little assistance from AFRICA. 

I'm sure many solutions would've presented themselves had I thought them through, but I went with what now seems a fairly stupid option. I dragged all the dog beds out to the patio and we all slept in the yard, (except for the fish). I bled copiously into the dirt, all night long, once my turban untied itself. This is consistent with my memories of  what "camping" entails. We watched the stars. They howled every so often at the neighbor cats. They wrestled me for the covers. Like me, they are most assuredly House Dogs.

By 5 am, my soul-sister "Evangeline" who just happened to live four doors down, had checked her facebook and sent a text, "BRT." I wasn't sure if that meant Be Right There, or was possibly a new variation on a BLT (maybe a Bacon, Rutebega, Tomato sandwich), I was just happy the Cavalry was on the way.

I instantly knew things must not look so good to an outsider when she said, "oh please, please, please let me take an iPhone picture." Flat NO. "I won't even get your face... just all the blood and dirt and your ear... hey, is that urine in your hair? You don't smell so good."

Luckily, she is both a dog person and a mom-person, which means, she's not easily grossed out, and she's prepared for emergencies. First things first, she'd brought along a giant towel, which we used as a sling to haul the dog's hindquarters up off  the ground, whereupon he then scampered right up the steps and trotted into the living room where he flopped down dramatically to take a nap and catch up on Showtime.

That left me. She plunged my head into the sink and irrigated my ear punctures with alcohol. That stung, but not half as much as it did when the alcohol trickled into my eye, and then we had to flood that too. I wasn't that worried about my sudden inability to ever wear earrings again, but I did briefly fear going blind. Then she polysporin'd the whole affected area, bandaged it, and decided she needed to wash my hair -- she was afraid I'd just re-route all the caked-on mud and blood right into the wound she'd just cleaned til it sparkled. (She was right; I couldn't really see at this point. Plus I didn't want to look.)

We finally settled on the orange Dawn dishwashing soap as shampoo, for its antibacterial properties, though she "made no representations, warranties or claims" about what it might or might not do to the color of my hair. I think I might've signed an indemnity waiver. She washed it; blew it out; and then "styled it" with an array of her preschooler's pink barettes and headbands to keep my hair from getting stuck in all the bandaging. I suspect she really, really wanted to shave my head, but somehow restrained herself.

After a day of treatment, it looks a little better. It actually hurts worse though. And I find myself wishing he'd at least bitten me somewhere more visible or prominent -- someplace that would earn me a little curiosity and maybe sympathy. I can't stick a big CAST on my ear. It's not like I'm going to go to a doctor. What's he gonna say? "Stay off that ear."

The good news is, my newly anti-bacteria'd hair is pretty shiny. The bad news is, some of it seems to be falling out.

Trapper John and Wild Kingdom

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pink Socks and Candy

I am unmoored since my BFF left for Africa yesterday. She was in London and Dublin for two weeks at Christmas and I did not get through that well at all. On about the tenth day, I was emailing her testily, "this is bullshit. When are you coming home?" (Eventually, I took to watching re-runs of Barefoot Contessa - in - London and Oprah-and-Gayle in Yosemite episodes, because as I always say, we are just like Oprah and Gayle, if they were straight, or if we were rich.)

Actually, I fell apart before she even got off the ground that time, because her flight got delayed while she sat for hours on the tarmac in a giant snowstorm. I wasn't so much worried about the snow or ice or flight conditions (though I should have been), I was just projecting my claustrophobia onto her, and hyperventilating in sympathy. As her battery ran down, I kept texting her "CALL ME ON THE SKYPHONE," (I don't even know what a SkyPhone is.) Several people pointed out, she is the most capable person we know, and would've flown the plane if she needed to. (Now I have a flighttracker app where I can watch her as a little green dot floating over the ocean. It's soothing.)

I can relax a little knowing she arrived safely; that she watched two Coco Chanel movies on the plane; and that it's night there now.

But this will be a long two weeks, for a million reasons. She's the one who keeps my Rainman in check ("snap your rubberband Rainman!" or "get off your hamster wheel Rainman!") Who else will drop by the cave and watch the Parking Lot Movie with me (and be able to identify all the rockstars)? Who else will care what new documentaries will be on HBO this week? Who else could drop by my classroom to wrestle the online access into submission? (Well, technically, there's an IT department, but they would laaaaaughhhh.)

Who will bring me pink socks and  candy? Whenever she sees pink socks on sale, she buys them and drops them off. I love my pink socks. And I can never have too many, because the dryer eats most of them. I hope I don't run out of them while she's gone, because I don't know where they keep the pink socks. They just appear here, like magic. (Once she brought me a "lardon needle" -- for threading more bacon into my recipes I guess -- and she's a vegetarian.)

She and BFF94 are the only friends I have who are willing to clear out Target's entire stock of Oatmeal Express and bring it back to me because I looooove Oatmeal Express, but haaaaaate to go Outside the Circle (and Target's the only place that has it). They are hunter/gatherers. I tend the homefires, and will cook whatever they kill. Preferably, Cinnamon and Brown Sugar flavor.

On her way to the airport this trip, she left a big bag of pink candy on my door. She knows cherry is my second favorite flavor (after coconut), and that when I was a kid, I somehow got it into my head that strawberries were what poor people ate because they couldn't afford cherries, but that everybody knew cherries were the superior fruit. That is why I don't like strawberries. I might know everybody's favorite flavor in our social circle, but only she knows everybody's second favorite flavor.

At any rate, the Pink Candy's almost gone.

I should've paced myself.
Also, my feet are cold.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Tibetan Goat Hair Beanbag

"If we had any questions, we could talk to the owners. She then gestured to a stained orange couch on which three elderly people of questionable hygiene were staring into space smoking cigarettes, their ashes cascading around a glazed ceramic ashtray on the floor, sometimes landing in it. Sometimes not...The asking price on this house was $425,000."

At brunch this weekend, one new guest asked the perfectly obvious and reasonable question, "did you just move in?" Lucky for him, I'm past the "embarrassment" or "shame" phase that a normal hostess might feel when asked such a question. He wasn't being ungracious or anything -- it was a thoroughly plausible query. While the boxes are mostly unpacked, he was sitting on a rickety kitchen chair in the living room, looking out naked windows onto a busy street. That's because, in nine months, I haven't managed to find a stick of furniture I want in that room, much less window treatments.

The Rainman in me has its own schedule, and I refused to move anything in that I don't love. Add to that, I can't move on to something new until the last project is done and The Cave isn't quite finished yet. It's very tight quarters in there and while there's no room for more furniture, there is one corner left where somebody could sit, and my well-considered Design within Reach solution to this is: a beanbag chair.

I probably watched 13,000 movies from one between 1972 and 1982. ("So easy for you to die dramatically Billy Jack! It's a helluva lot tougher for those of us who have to keep on trying!") The night after we watched The Blob, my Dad thought it would be funny to stuff my beanbag chair through the bedroom window at about 4 in the morning. Hi-Larious.

Mine was a hideous robin's egg blue, and my brother's was a buttery soft fire-engine red. They were both permanently parked in front of our giant wooden Magnavox, which had long since stopped working and had become an "entertainment center" for the working RCA perched precariously atop it, with giant navy bath towels swathing the surface in between (to avoid scratching the grain of the "wood?" to improve the acoustics? I don't know.) Over time, the tiny little pellets leached out onto the floor, and you could feel each one of them grinding into the rug underneath in a strangely satisfying Princess and the Pea scenario. The seams slowly strained, and eventually burst. Duct tape was applied, and then re-applied. At some point, they were retired. I don't remember giving my permission and I'm certain my opinion was not sought.

The first few I found were easily as hideous as the models from my halcyon 1970s memories, or worse: cheap plastic molded into the shape and design of baseballs, footballs, and bowling balls. Of course I was having none of that. I was thinking more along the lines of fine leather, or sheepskin, or flokati. Something shimmery or furry. I knew it had to exist. After a few months of futile in-store shopping, someone finally suggested that there is such a thing as online retail these days. (I'm sure there is, but I'm glad to say that, except for an annual visit to 1-800-Contacts, that's one Revolution I haven't kept pace with.)

The Tibetan Goat Hair Pouf from HB
I searched on TempurPedic + West Elm + beanbag and landed at House Beautiful's ode to the beanbag chair. They had some lovely patterns and fabrics and I skimmed along the iPod until I was stopped dead in my tracks at this: "the Tibetan Goat Hair Pouf by Maison de Vacances through Calypso Home."

In my head, that crazy cat lady Susan Boyle started singing "I dreamed a dream..." I never saw that show, but I sure as hell saw those clips on the damn "news" every morning. (I found her name by googling "crazy singing cat lady.") I guess it stuck. I'm humming it right now. It is the inevitable soundtrack that goes with a pink Tibetan goat hair Pouf.

It violates my one central law of design, which is that I am not allowed pink in the house. I can have pink computers and pink phones and pink shoes (where "pink is a neutral" according to my Spanish Heiress friend). I might have pink pajamas and pink house slippers and a pink blowdryer, but I can't paint rooms with it; I can't decorate with it; it's not allowed on the furniture; that kind of thing. You have to draw the design line somewhere. I'm not going to drive a pink car. I'm not Mary f-in Kay.

That absolute RULE is the cold comfort I used to console myself with once I saw the price: $1,365... For a beanbag. I thought Maison de Vacance meant, more or less, empty house, but now I think it's French for, are you fucking kidding me?


Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House
Tamales and Tablecloths
No Place Like Home
The Last Day of Summer

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The New Year's Day Miracle

Here is the FRESH parsley Chef Tom found growing out back on New Year's Day. It's a New Year's Miracle.

I thought parsley was supposed to be Lucky, and then I looked up The History of Parsley and now I'm not so sure. It seems to mean Death and Punishment, depending on the Variety. I liked this part: "Greek gardens often had borders of parsley and rue which led to the saying 'Oh! we are only at the Parsley and Rue' to signify when an undertaking was in contemplation and not fully acted upon." Hmmm. I don't really think that's a saying.

The article also says the person cutting parsley will be "crossed" in love. Oh well. I cut three batches of it for guests to take home, so I guess this won't be the year for Romance after all. (Damn, that was going to be my word too.) It does say, "only if the woman was master of the household would parsley start to grow." Now that is a saying.

This parsley is closely guarded by The Bitch Faerie, purchased back in funnelcake days by the FoodGays for my birthday, not knowing (at the time they bought it) how horribly rude the faerie-purveyor had been to me. She especially hated pictures, so, obviously, this photo is the first in the Series.