Fangs for the memories

November 27th, 2014

Here it is FAAAANGSGIVING again and I have decided to let myself off the hook some this year. I was plotting and planning how to make an exact replica of Thanksgiving, but gluten- and dairy- and corn-free and I said you know what? I am just going to do what I’ve been doing here and play to my strengths. I bought a nice rib roast and it has been sitting in the refrigerator for almost 24 hours coated in salt.

I was that asshole at the store last night who was going “Sooo do you have any more oxtails or what?” No, they have TURKEY. I’m basically doing a very nice Sunday dinner, and I did a half-assed clean, and I feel very good about that. I enjoyed doing the big ten person thing last year, and this year I like the idea of having Morgan and her boyfriend and that’s it! It’s noon and I’m basically done.

This gives me time to recount the horror that was parent-teacher conferences on Tuesday. I am VERY VERY excited about Strudel’s teacher this year. She’s really pushing Strudel to do well. We were expecting to hear that there were behavior issues–the usual thing, talking, not finishing homework, but what we got was pretty over the top.

First there were the coffee cups. I’ve been enjoying a cup or two in the morning before I jump on the bus, or I even take some with me. I even program it to be ready by the time I wake up–such luxury! I can smell it in my dreams. Every day is a fucking coffee commercial. We have three travel mugs and a thermos, but generally the thermos gets used for soup. Two of the travel mugs are kind of crap, but we keep them because one is from a contract agency that P. was indentured to some time ago when we had a tiny baby and barely had two sticks to rub together. The other one has the name of the student org I was VP for in grad school. Memories.

My go-to, non-crap mug was dirty, so I opened the cabinet for a backup mug. There was nothing–the two old crap cups were gone.

“Why did you take the travel mugs to school?” I asked Strudel.

There is no “did you” or “what happened to” needed. I know what happened, and that yes, she did, and I don’t even want to know why. She started making mouth noises about what she was doing with them and that she knew where they both were–probably–and…I cut her off.

We are pretty fatigued by her elaborate stories lately. We had another talk about asking to borrow things, and even if objects appear to be sitting around for years the adults probably still want them. I so did not get that when I was a kid. My sense of time was so short and impatient. I didn’t understand that tools, etc, that sat around collecting dust were still wanted by their owners. So I kind of get where she’s coming from on this. I borrowed things if I thought I could get away with it. After about a week of nagging, both mugs came back home again, were cleaned, and went back to residing in the cupboard, waiting for a road trip or to be called upon as backup.

The mug issue reared its head again in our conference.

“She came in one morning,” her teacher said, “and she had a coffee mug, and was drinking out of it. Of course all of the other kids were shocked that she would be drinking coffee. I figured it was water.” (I knew it was coffee.) “I decided to just ignore it.”

“A sound plan,” I said. I spend a lot of time ignoring small stuff as well.

“Then the next day she brought in another mug. She left it on a table and went out to recess and I smelled it. It was coffee!”

I was completely unsurprised by this one, and to be honest, the biggest issue I had with it was borrowing things without permission, and causing a disruption in the classroom, because it’s a bunch of ten-year olds, not a tech start up. She drinks coffee at home sometimes–it’s not a big deal.

But her teacher wasn’t done.

“And then there was the day she came in with a ring in her nose.”

That one got me. “WHAT?”

“Yes, she had this ring attached to her nose somehow.” Her teacher pointed to one nostril. “Everyone was talking about it, of course. There was a rumor that people were saying: ‘Her mom MADE her pierce her nose.” My jaw dropped. “The other teachers were all talking about it, asking me about it. I just ignored it.”

“Oh jesus. Well that’s good,” I managed. P. was turning crimson and looked like he wanted to die. So basically he looked exactly how I felt.

“By lunchtime it was gone,” her teacher said.

The teacher had some nice things to say that were pretty much in line with what we already knew. She’s a good reader and a good writer and mather…but also has this unfortunate tendency to spontaneously fall out of her chair, which I’m sure is a big hit with her peers. She says she wants to be an engineer, but I am worried she’s going to grow up to be Amy Sedaris.

He and I were pretty subdued on the way home. “That wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,” P. said. I thought someone was really enjoying having the watchful eyes of her older sister at another school across town.

As we parked the car, we decided not to bring up the nose ring, and the coffee cups had been dealt with to our satisfaction. I made dinner and the three of us and Franny sat down. I couldn’t resist–I had to tease her a little.

“Your teacher told us EVERYTHING you’ve been up to, you know,” I said, shaking some hot sauce onto my food.

“Everything?” Strudel said in a small voice. “Like what?”

“I don’t want to embarrass you in front of your sister, but let’s say it had the RING of truth. Some of her observations were RIGHT ON THE NOSE.”

Strudel turned a crimson shade and grimaced like her father had been doing hour or so before.

“PLEASE don’t tell Franny what you’re talking about!” she begged.

“I won’t,” I promised. “If you can be good for the REST OF THE YEAR.” She agreed eagerly.

“I have no idea what’s going on here,” Franny said.

Amen, sister.

“I like the pole and the hole, and right now I’m as moist as a snack cake down there.”

November 24th, 2014

“The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet, and Doctor Merryman.”
–Jonathan Swift,
Polite Conversation

I’m wearing my Jerri Blank pants of “I GOT SOMETHIN TO SAY” but whether or not it’s of any interest is an exercise for the reader. I’m doing better, with some fine-tuning. I was thinking this weekend that I am kind of like a fussy sports car in that everything has to go exactly right, but really I’m more like a broken-down jalopy. So we’re immediately back to Jerri Blank.

What this jalopy needed was MOAR magnesium and potassium. I had slacked off on it since I’m in a shiny modern office building all day again, but yep, I need to be sippin on it all day like orange chalky drank. Whatever works.

I doubt anyone who is reading this reads xojane, which is Jane Pratt’s web manifestation, but you never know. I think I have a nostalgia for Jane Pratt product, she of Sassy-inventing fame. I loved Sassy, and I know lots of women my age have said things like it caused them to be feminist/green-haired/political/whatever but I don’t know if it changed my life.

That’s not entirely true. It did introduce me to the concept of the reusable menstrual cup at an impressionable age. I think you do have to be at some kind of impressionable age to think that toting your own blood barge is a groovy idea. Also the idea that some women don’t shave. Ever. That was amazing, and I cravenly experimented with this bohemian lifestyle choice one winter. Unfortunately it led to a conversation on my one and only ski trip when my pant leg accidentally slid up and two inches of my offensive unshaven leg was on view for ten seconds that basically went like this:

Footballer: Do you think you’re like, a guy or something?

Me: No?

GENDER SHAMED! Also, this was freshman year, so it took a couple more years of rigorous Veronica Mars-sized trauma to go straight to the “FUCK OFF” or “I’LL CUT YOU BITCH” buttons. It is also important to note that I owned this PJ Harvey shirt and wore it well into my twenties until it smelled funny and become less a shirt and more a collection of holes. That was an important thing to do then.

Ultimately, I was kind of sad when I realized that Sassy was meant to have a clubby, inclusive, get-over-here-to-our-table-freak vibe that somehow felt exclusive to me. I imagined these writers were all sitting around braiding each other’s hair and drinking chamomile tea, and well, I knew I wasn’t there. They referenced each other by name in articles and I knew that they were talking to each other, not really to me. It was like reading a really nice slam book, but someone else’s slam book.

I picked up Jane Pratt’s next magazine, Jane, which in hindsight felt like the print version of xojane (albeit more milquetoast because of the nature of print vs. click mongering). I wanted a glossy estrojam but I couldn’t lower myself to buy the dominant, blatant paeans to capitalism and Pleasin Yr Man ™. I’ve done a total 180 on that one. I keep my ISSUES and GENDER and SEXUALITY and POLITICS out of my capitalism peanut butter. I haven’t set foot in a salon in months, sadly, but whenever I went I would go straight for Lucky or In Style. I want my lady mags STRAIGHT UP TRANSACTIONAL nowadays.

So sometimes when I am bored I will fuck off to xojane to see what Jane Pratt and her current stable of Manson Girls employees are up to. The site is being sold off, and it appears to be transitioning somehow, some say dying a rapid death due to commenter/click loss. I tried to comment for the first time the other day and was told my Disqus login was banned. Very weird! I had always entertained fantasies of writing one of their old-school-meets-new-school “It Happened to Me” confessionals, which was a hold over from the print days. Before, you know, those kind of tawdry confessionals were just a click of a publish button away. *cough*

But I dunno now, if I am randobanned, and it looks like the site is kind of dying. I think I’ll keep my eye on Jane Pratt, the way you do a batty old aunt. I still have the IHTM, I just want to give it the time it deserves, since I have to make dinner. It’s times like these I often think of Grace Metalious, so determined to write that she locked her children out. I don’t want to do that, but I would like to buy more time somehow.

In the meantime I guess I’ll just DEAL WITH IT.

“Life, love, stress, setbacks”

November 18th, 2014

FrannyNewPhone 10:06 AM: jmpjtm?tjtpwpwg

FrannyNewPhone 10:10 AM: Bloop bleep mgmp9jamdadwpw0egd-THEOWLSARENOTWHATTHEYSEEM-ngdjsme89fnhsh

FrannyNewPhone 10:11 AM: gojdamjwt67gdj2mjwtmgdje-COOPER-ngskjdfnhkjdsaghksfj.dcd.cd

Out Damned Spot etc

November 17th, 2014

SO. Great morning, really great. What I like to follow up a weekend of intense gastrointestinal distress with is a Monday morning of it. I have called off work and felt kind of wimpy about it until I went back to the bathroom. Again. I could not even make the hour commute to downtown at this rate. The other bus commuters have low tolerance to people shitting themselves, I hear.

I was putting on my work trousers this morning and feeling grateful that my brain is about back to 80%, maybe. Saturday was all derp derp march to fuzz. This morning I noticed my custom cut shirt that fit me perfectly a year ago now hangs funny and the darts stick out. I’d been a D-cup for…over 15 years? I am now officially a C-cup, which I can’t remember happening since high school. Also they don’t hurt MOST OF THE TIME. Or at all really. I’m going to tell you something, because that’s what I do: sometimes I will be sitting on the couch and I will think of my boobs and I will squeeze them REALLY HARD. Not to the point of damage or bruising or anything. Just much, much harder than I have ever been able to for like 1,000 years.

I demonstrated this to Franny recently, who was amazed. She thinks I am going insane (short trip). We are working on stamping out (bad visual) her breast pain as well. We’re getting there. She is not as consistent with vitamins as I am, but she notices that she feels MUCH better now on them.

P. came in while I was thinking these deep booby thoughts, standing in my bra and trousers, before I put my shirt on.

“Yeah, you’re looking poofy today.”

THE MAGICAL WORDS EVERY WOMAN LONGS TO HEAR. It’s like the honeymoon never ended in this house.

(Seriously though, it was true. I was wearing pants I needed a belt for last week and they were not tight but they were snug on the waist. I wasn’t really offended. It was just a fact. He is very frank about these things. On Friday night he said, “You’ve shrunk a little again.”)

I think there’s probably stages of Celiac for some people, and the one I think I am on is that I lose my mind a little bit if I get “glutened.” I become Detective Obsesso until I figure out what happened. And guess what? Most of the time it is not certain or clear at all.

I usually have effects fast, within an hour or two, so it’s pretty easy to chain back to when it happened. If I feel HULK SMASH ANGRY, have lesions on my scalp or upper back, and itch and fidget like I am a cartoon character with the DT’s, I know it’s corn. If I am pooping myself, have joint pain, and feel confused, it is probably dairy or wheat.

How did I get through life like this for so many years? I had severe joint pain on Saturday night, the kind I remember happening back to ’09 or so, and I used to just blame that on my quality of sleep. Which was poor, because, you know, wheat etc. I was running 5Ks 2-3 times a week then (in addition to other stuff like push ups, pull ups, and lots of walking everywhere), and eating healthy food (so I thought) and I felt terrible most of the time and could not lose “that last fifteen pounds” to save my life in spite of a rigorous training schedule.

So Saturday night I just sat on the couch, folded laundry, and bingewatched three Parenthoods to catch up, my guilty semi-pleasure show. I am on deathwatch with every single character on that show. ESPECIALLY the character of Ray Romano’s daughter (wishful thinking). Also am mad that I actually enjoy watching Ray Romano now. WHAT KIND OF UPSIDE DOWN WORLD IS THIS.

Strudel was home alone with me since Frannie was off with her dad and P. was at his bimonthly game night. “These people are SO NICE,” she kept exclaiming. It seems like there’s much less yelling and crosstalking than in previous seasons.

“Do you like them?” I said.

“They’re kind of boring,” she concluded.

Word.

Speaking of boring, let me tell you what my life is like now. I will say first that I really like it! It’s working most of the time. 98% of what goes into my mouth, I have made myself from single components. Example: salad dressing. Sometimes salad dressing has gluten of some kind. Many, many products are now going gluten free. THAT’S GREAT! Problem: they are “manufactured in a facility where someone once whispered the word ‘wheat’ on the factory floor under a blanket at midnight.” (Cross contamination.) If this is not the case, sauces often contain dairy. Or corn. Or xanthan gum.

Well, fuck that shit. I make my own salad dressings now. I would often bang a vinaigrette together in the past, but now, I make a jar of something once a week, and that’s what we eat that week. Most dressings I make have about five ingredients, give or take. I make a riff on Annie’s shiitake sesame dressing, because we used to love that. I make classic French vinaigrettes. I made a great “Russian” for a noir night.

I am HUGE into sauces. Dressings, hot sauces, bizarro catsups (so good on hash browns). I have been introducing sauces slowly, at the rate of one per week, tops. On Friday I brought home some safe looking Thai sweet chili sauce (made with cane sugar, no thickeners), and that is the only thing I did different. I made one of my comfort food meals, which sounded great on a Friday night–rice and stir-fried broccoli and marinaded chicken thighs to make quick Thai barbecue. By Saturday morning, Strudel and I were both ill. I immediately thought of that new chili sauce, but then, P. hates sweet sauces, so he didn’t have any at all. WHAT WAS IT???

Okay so anyway. I am trying to figure out what happened. I think it went back to Friday night, since Strudel and I were sick by Saturday morning, and P. was sick by Sunday. But I cannot crack it. And the reality is, I will not be able to figure this out.

This is the part where I do the little dance of “I am so lucky that there are so many things I can still eat, and at least I don’t have crotch rot/ass horns/veganism.” And I am glad I am not trying to just jam my square peg into the round hole of most of the food that is available outside my doorstep. I’m aware that I’m probably going to live longer, and I am definitely living better. But it’s weird. I’m very aware that most of the social/leisure part of the world is now out of my grasp without moderate to extensive planning. I’m aware that I’m going to have sick days where I cannot leave the radius of my bathroom.

I’d like to write today (real creative writing, not this blathering) but I am still pretty unfocused. However, this flash fiction I started to keep myself busy this summer when I was working 15 hours a week is shaping up into something, and I am working on an outline for another novel, so that’s good. I’m trying to accept that I am 98% transmogrified into Kilgore Trout at this point and I will never write Serious Important Fiction ever. Because Donkey Surgeon.

HAPPY MONDAY!

Advice Thursday: February 3, 2007

November 13th, 2014

DEAR ABBY: My son recently got in touch with me after almost four years of absolutely no contact. We had a falling-out years back, and neither of us could seem to put things behind us at the time and move on.

His mother (my wife) died 3 1/2 years ago, and he barely made it back for the funeral.

He called after all this time to ask me for money. It seems he has fallen on hard times and needs my support. I am not sure I am in a position financially to help him, as I am nearing retirement and concerned about my own expenses. I also feel a little resentful that after all this time, the only reason he called was for money.

I’m afraid if I don’t help him, I will lose him forever. But should I give him money as a way to keep him in my life? I am torn about the situation. I want to be a good father and help my son, but what does that mean? – UNSURE IN NEW YORK

DEAR UNSURE: If your son is without a job, help him find one if you can. But do not jeopardize your retirement. Much as one might wish it, money can’t buy love. Until you and your son iron out what went wrong in your relationship, such an investment would not bring you the return you are looking for.

Malcolm woke up, as he did most mornings, to the sound of braying. Drunken braying, if there was such a thing. An experienced person could always tell the difference between a respectable donkey and one that was in his cups. And at this hour! The birds were just warming up, broadcasting their calls out to indifferent or sleeping ears. Grey light was just beginning to ooze through the skylights. It must be–

“Four-thirty,” a voice chirped from the speaker hanging out of his kitchen wall, delicately tethered by only a few wires.

“Are you still here, asshole?” Malcolm asked, staring at the ceiling.

“I’m always here,” came the response, followed by a particularly juicy hiccup. He heard a bottle skitter across the floor, kicked by that klutz, no doubt.

Malcolm rose from the warm spot his body had made on the plastic floor, and held on to the edge of the Formica counter to steady himself. He was relieved to see there was no wet spot of any kind under or on his person this morning. He looked across the clutter on his counter–ignored paperwork, magazines, dirty mugs, food wrappers–into the living room at his visitor.

“Do you ever wonder what it’s like to sleep in your own bed, Herman?” he asked.

“I hear it’s overrated.” An annoyed ear flick, a shuffling of feet, a twiddling of the thumbs of his creepy hands. Malcolm knew what came next. “Are you giving out refills, or what?” Herman picked up last night’s mug and jiggled it at his host, who lurched forward automatically to take it.

Malcolm hunted through a few of his flimsy particle board cabinets. They were filled with mostly empty boxes of stale crackers that he didn’t remember acquiring and odds and ends like wrenches and a dented party hat from some mandatory fun.

And a stock boy vest. Malcolm could not bring himself to think of it as his stock boy vest anymore than he could think of himself as a stock boy.

The last cabinet door he opened came off in his hands. He stared at for a moment, noticing the still-attached hinges with their protruding, stripped screws, before sliding it carefully into the gap between the stove and the counter.

“Coffee,” he said. That’s what was needed here. He remembered that he’d last seen it under the sink.

“Vodka!” Herman countered from where he slumped on Malcolm’s inflatable sofa.

“Did I ever tell you that my father made coffins?” Malcolm asked. A distraction: Herman was always up for one of those. Malcolm fished the can of coffee out. The lid was gone. He wondered where the lid had gotten to. It was important for some reason…

“No, you never did,” Herman said, rolling his eyes. He grunted and rolled around on the sofa, making its rubbery surfaces squeak lewdly.

Malcolm took a deep breath. He felt the story, often told, spinning up from a deep, old place. Sometimes he wondered that he could remember events that happened more than 30 years ago better than what happened last week.

“My father learned how to make coffins from his father. He would retrieve the wood himself from the distrohub, choosing the highest grade of wood for each one. He made coffins for rich men with custom inlays and would do the carving himself. It took so long that they were often paid for years in advance.”

“And you almost took up the trade yourself….”

“I almost took up the trade myself, but Mother had other plans. ‘I see something in you, Malcolm. You’re special.” He aped a mother’s voice, but realized it wasn’t what his mother sounded like. It was more like a television mother. A nice one. Herman liked it when he did voices. It was, at one time, one of Malcolm’s talents. He’d had a few good years giving voices to animated bears and whatnot. It was easy work with a script in front of you and no need to comb your hair, if you didn’t feel like it that day.

“I hired a coffin from your father but I don’t know where it is anymore,” Herman said.

I do, Malcolm thought. He made a non-committal reply and put the coffee pot on.

“I think you should just skip to the part where you met me,” Herman said. Malcolm made for the living room to do his customary pacing while he was waiting for his coffee to finish, but was pushed back by an appalling smell Herman had made. He opened the front door instead.

Malcolm looked out his door at the courtyard before him, morning sunlight streaming through the ficuses, and saw that the streetlights beginning to snap off. The small birds that always managed to get in sang feebly in the bushes, their chirps bouncing off pillars and walls. He heard the sounds of his part of the Village waking up: bottles clanging in collection bins, whoop-whoops rolling around keeping an eye on things. Mrs. Thomson across the way yelling at her poor deaf boyfriend.

The hologram in the center of the courtyard flicked off news and onto a pop singer, shirt hanging open, wailing into a microphone. They kept fixing the imaging base and Mrs. Thomson’s boyfriend kept smashing it again. Malcolm sighed and retreated from his doorway.

Coffee. Yes, that was the thing. Malcolm poured himself a cup and waited for it to cool. It seemed like all his life was now was waiting, just like when he was a kid, before he’d had his big break.

“Something almost happened,” he said.

“Eh?” Herman said, his eyes still closed. Malcolm watched as Herman’s hands ran over his pelt and crawled over his legs, hooves kicking. He hoped that Herman had not brought fleas in again, but it was pointless to say anything. Better just to roll him out of here and have the property management fumigate.

“So Mother took me to the big city for an audition. Bright-eyed children wanted, background in tumbling ideal. That was a big week for me. Father had just decided he could trust me with the planer.” He looked at his trembling hands, untouched by manual labor. He remembered his father’s–the scarred, enlarged knuckles, palms that felt like the sandpaper he worked with.

“Then you met me,” Herman said.

“Not for a couple of years. There were the commercials, and then the Children’s Mystery Hour–”

“Friday nights, seven o’clock.”

“–And then you came as a guest star, a crossover from your medical drama–”

“Donkey Surgeon,” Herman finished. “The start of our friendship.”

“I wanted to talk about Father,” Malcolm said, picking up his coffee.

“He was a good man, which is why I had him make my coffin when I had money. The only man in the whole Southeast who made specialty coffins.”

“Final repose for unique personages.”

Malcolm sensed movement outside. A skinny fellow, barely more than a boy, framed himself in the open door.

“Mr. McKee?” He edged into Malcolm’s doorway, a darker shadow with the glow of sunrise outlining him. He hadn’t seen this boy before. He had bad teeth and those fat modern sneakers that look more like medical devices than footwear, probably provided by management if he was to run errands and messages like this.

“What is it?”

“They want you at 3 p.m. today.”

“Just me?”

The boy hesitated, raised an eyebrow. “Yes?”

“Okay.” Malcolm nodded. The boy wasn’t moving and Malcolm stared at him, waiting.

“Mr. McKee? I saw you on Sky History. Your old show?”

“Oh yes?” Malcolm stood up a bit straighter and tugged his shirt down. He wished then he wasn’t wearing yesterday’s clothes, though the boy had no way of knowing he was.
“It was good, sir. You murdered every line.” Before Malcolm could reply, the boy retreated, leaving a streak of shadow, footfalls muffled from the lurid plastic booties he wore, and then nothing.

“Do you want to run lines?” Herman asked him, snapping him back to the room.

“For what?”

“Your appearance today.”

Malcolm shrugged. “It’s just remarks. Not lines. ‘Savings that aren’t a mystery.’ Some claptrap like that and then cut a ribbon, or pretend to cut a virtual one. What time is it?”

“The time is four fifty-three,” the dangling wall speaker said.

“I’m going to be late,” Malcolm said.

He took a large swig of his hot coffee. He felt it all the way to his stomach and he imagined it traveling in one burning bubble like some elevator down to hell. His jaw clicked as he recoiled from the pain of it. He’d be feeling that later. He pulled the stock boy vest out of the open cabinet and remembered then it had something sticky on the front, just below where his nametag was meant to go–cough syrup? No matter, on it went.

“Do you remember–”

“I don’t have time, Herman.”

“The last day of the shoot. You kids were supposed to ride me down by the river.” Malcolm stopped just outside of his doorway, impatient, not wanting to cut him off, but not wanting to swipe in late and lose some of his privileges for the week.

“Which was outside of your contract,” Malcolm said.

“It was outside of my contract, but I needed the go away money for my first wife. Ugh.”

“Do we have to do this now?” Malcolm felt himself shifting from foot to foot, antsy.

“And you slipped! You slipped off the back. Do you remember, Malcolm? And then I slipped, I guess. I panicked. I had a little bit of what they called a–”

“Drinking problem,” Malcolm said. He sat down on the small plastic square that signified what would be a foyer in a more reasonably-sized residence and stared at the cracks and ground-in dirt. He looked out to see Mrs. Thomson watering her plants as she did every morning, humming loudly and tunelessly. He often thought it was a blessing her boyfriend couldn’t hear her, ever. “I landed on my feet,” he prompted.

“And I kicked. Very humiliating. They thought they had zapped that kind of behavior right out of me. But that day I was tight as a tick. I went back to the time before–”

“When you had just one name.”

“The time is now four fifty-seven in the a.m.,” the wall speaker interrupted. Malcolm felt certain it had developed a testy tone, or was at least speaking louder.

“When I was just Pancho, Malcolm! It felt so good to kick.” He stopped then, and looked as mortified as was possible with a face that could only approximate human expressions. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t say that.” He sat up partway then, leveling his head, attempting to make eye contact with Malcolm for as long as he could keep his eyes focussed.

“It’s okay,” Malcolm said.

“But then I connected with something.” Herman ran his hands over his muzzle. His horrible, crawling, superfluous hands that were a mistake, that science should never have given to him, regardless of how much the people didn’t know they badly wanted to see a donkey perform surgery on live television.

“My face. You connected with my face.” Malcolm felt his jaw begin to click involuntarily, as it did when he thought back to that day.

Eleven years old. Episode four. Jaw shattered and then rewired. He had been intervened with and then rebuilt just as Herman had, the difference being that Herman went from being a dumb animal to a star, and Malcolm went from being a rising star to being a trivia question on a quiz show. Herman was given human flesh and he was given metal plates and pins. His father out of his reach, after his mother had taken him to live in the big city to be near the television studios. Why did he never go back? He didn’t remember.

Work–he had to go to work. He stood, making himself dizzy. It was going to be a long day.

“Do you ever think about that? That was so long ago,” Herman said.

“Every day,” Malcolm said to himself, closing his door on his empty apartment behind him.

Last Name Ever First Name Dumbest

November 10th, 2014

My first week at work was uneventful, EXCEPT! On Thursday I managed to pull a boner and completely mangle myself. I once had a conversation with someone about how you know you’re not a little kid anymore when you can unknowingly cut yourself and find the blood all scabbed up much later with a, “Huh, how did that happen?” I thought of that conversation on Thursday.

I had one of those mystery cuts on the tip of my right pointer finger, I noticed, as I stood waiting for my evening bus. “Weird,” I thought. “I must have dragged it across something sharp.” It was pretty shallow and obviously hadn’t bled much. My bus came and I forgot about it. I felt my bag vibrate and fished around in my pockets for my phone–it was probably the big kid saying she had gotten on her bus as well.

I felt something on my middle finger of my right hand that felt like an itchy shock. Another tiny slice! It was bleeding a little as well. I began gingerly feeling around the new bag The Man had issued me to hold my laptop. My phone buzzed again and I went for it: ZAP! I fully gashed open my left middle finger.

I stupidly watched blood drip down my middle finger and begin pooling in my left palm. I had–nothing. Not a tissue, napkin, sock, or even a sweater. I was contemplating using my coat when the lady across the aisle handed me a big wad of tissues.

“Thanks!” I said. “I think there’s a sharp zipper or something…”

“There’s a knife sticking out of your pocket,” she said.

Oh god. I brought a paring knife in my bag on Wednesday and completely forgot about it, and it came loose from the pocket it was in, or maybe cut through the pocket, and I was repeatedly cutting myself with it. I was officially the dumbest person on the bus, and a creep to boot, because only creeps bleed profusely on the bus without even realizing it. Was I on the PCP? Did my elevator not go all the way to the penthouse? I imagined people were edging away from me.

I applied pressure by clenching a fist and noticed that I had blood between every single one of my fingers of my left hand, as if I had just ripped out my enemy’s still-beating heart and was about to take a juicy bite out of it. A lady in the back corner told me to apply pressure to my wrist.

My face was hot and I tried to make myself invisible. I accidentally made eye contact with the teenaged boy sitting across from me who finally looked up from his phone. He took one look at me and went right back to his phone. “Crazy old lady on the bus bleeding from hand” I imagined him snappchatting at his friends. I had to stifle the urge to flee the bus and get out into the cold air and cry a little, because your first week is always a long week and I was tired as well as embarrassed.

I could have a fresh start on a new bus, the next bus, I reasoned. But then it would take me much longer to get home because it wouldn’t be an express bus and what if I needed stitches or something? Or a brain transplant, at least.

So I got home and sat on the couch and felt sorry for myself. Nothing tires me out like embarrassment, I think. And now I have a Zorro “z” on my middle finger and something to cringe about when I remember it.

Here’s me and my sister with The Tigerlillies from last Wednesday. She got the DJ Morgan discount. It is fun to go out with my sister, especially when it involves an early evening!

Advice Wednesdays: December 17, 1991

November 5th, 2014

DEAR ABBY: I’ve waited almost a year after my mother died to write this letter. I am one of five children, and obviously the only one who even cares if the date gets put on our mother’s tombstone.

Is there a polite way of mentioning this to my brothers and sisters? I make minimum wage and can’t afford to do this myself or I would. Any advice would be helpful.– NO NAME, CITY OR STATE

I’m going to do something which simply doesn’t happen very often, which is recommend one of my esteemed counterparts: Cary Tennis. Just kidding! That shrublet couldn’t advise his way out of a three-foot-high noodle forest. And it’s important to keep in mind that in this scenario the noodles are cooked (al dente).

Who I really meant was Miss Manners. Miss Manners says it is rude to point out the rudeness of others. This can lead to quite a pickle, sometimes! But it’s important to remember that breaking this rule by both sides led to the Third Punic War. Carthage sent a fruit basket and Rome didn’t respond! Carthage really should have left well enough alone. But no! Elephants. Always with the elephants.

This, of course, reminds me of when I was an older girl, almost a woman, when they passed the first phase of all the proper burial laws like you have today. My parents were up in arms then. In the old days, you could just lay a body to rest almost anywhere, really. As long as it was far enough away from the water supply.

The morning of the last truly grand funeral I was to attend, I am ashamed to tell you I was actually excited. It was my Great-Great Uncle Kilgore. I didn’t know him well and he lived in another territory, so none of us really knew him. It was set to be more of a catch-up than an occasion of deep sadness. Mother met him once when she was a girl, during some kind of trip to hand off a cousin for a wedding, but all she remembers is that he smelled like gin and wore a ushanka, even in the house. What man over twenty-four doesn’t, though?

Uncle Killy had made it to the other side of 100. How far in he was, we are not certain, because this was when they routinely burned down orphanages during quarantines and outbreaks. Mother’s best guess was 104, based on some signatures from a moldy old Bible she found in our attic.

We traveled for four days. I’ve forgotten most of the trip, which was uneventful, except for passing through two towns that had the painted sign of cat-on-HVAC on barns and garages, which meant that everyone was down with the gollywompers. In the second town the painting was only half finished, and Father said the sign painter must’ve died mid-brushstroke. How my younger brothers and sisters screamed with laughter as Father mimed clutching his throat and keeling over like the painter did! We didn’t want to catch what he had, not while we were on the road, let me tell you!

We made a pretty good guess then that this was why our neighbors never came back last summer. And that was all right with us, because we took over their garage to dry our weed in (the Andersons had already gotten to the house).

We got to Uncle Killy’s town and found it out of quarantine, which was a relief. Though if you ask me, the younger ones were just glad to take a trip anywhere, even if we would have turned back immediately. Mother marveled at the fact that the old gallows were in place, and that the townsfolk still clung to the tradition of decorating them with flower garlands every week the ground wasn’t frozen. It was the only detail she seemed to remember from her last visit as a girl.

We met our people out by one of the big barns that was nearly emptied of grain, since winter had just ended. There was a marvelous feast that night. Father told us to savor every bite since the canned meat, a delicacy, was hard earned by slaying some folk in another territory and digging it up from a secret underground cache. We children reflected on this as we surveyed the display of empty gold cans the meat was stored in, arranged into a pyramid, their labels long destroyed with time. The younger ones had never had MSG and it was a real treat. Mother reminded us that we should profusely thank our distant relatives for serving us like this. What showoffs!

A breeze blew through the barn, first announced by the flickering of the tiki torches outside the door. We children looked up from our dinners as the ropes creaked against the old rafters. My smallest brother said he was worried that Uncle Killy’s body would come down on us while we were eating.

“It’s lashed up good, dummy,” I said. This was no sibling rivalry. Sput really was dumb as a bag of hammers. The summer after that we think he fell down an old mine shaft or into a ravine. No one was certain and I’m pretty sure Mother and Father didn’t bother looking too hard.

“Was he really a bear?” Sput asked quietly. He blinked his beady eyes and paused with a bite halfway to his mouth. From where he was sitting, Uncle Killy looked like a dead bear on its back hanging from a net of ropes. I understood his confusion, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to smack him on the back of his head and take his meat.

“No,” Mother said. “They cut a bear open and sewed Uncle Killy up inside of the bear.”

“Why?”

“No one knows, Sweetheart,” she said. Liar.

We were put to bed in a different barn that night, thank goodness. I didn’t want to sleep with that creaking above me, especially since I was pretty sure I had seen something drip from the bear’s carcass onto the dessert table. The adults stayed up and caught up, doing whatever they needed to do to reconnect as a family–drinking, fucking, hammerfighting, and so forth. I think Mother was hoping to be knocked up by one of our distant cousins with bright green eyes. We were told if we woke up early to go play by the creek and not wake up any adults, as they were sure to have hangovers and/or concussions.

Sput was up first, and shook me awake. I was assigned to him and always had to help him when Mother or Father weren’t available or were working. I did have a pang when he disappeared later, because I knew that would put me in line to take over the care of Mother’s next baby and I didn’t relish raising another one. Sput was a screamer and a barfer when he was small.

“I have to go,” he said.

“Bye,” I said.

“Aaaaabby I will wake up Mother!” His whining was making the other kids stir, and I knew they would all need something too.

“If you wake up Mother you’ll be strung up next to Uncle Killy,” I warned.

His eyes went wide and he shut his stupid mouth for a minute.

“I’m scared of this place,” he said, barely above a whisper.

I wouldn’t admit it, but I was too. I crawled out of my sleeping bag and we walked out into the morning, his sticky hand in mine. I hadn’t gotten a good look at the meadow surrounding the barns yesterday evening, since we were quickly ushered inside for dinner. I could hear birds and enjoyed the sight of dew glistening on the new-sprouted hay.

I took Sput to the creek, downstream from the barns.

“Go here,” I told him. “I’ll be over there.” I pointed to a stand of pricker bushes that were thick enough to shield me from view, though they hadn’t entirely leafed out yet.

I had my skirt hiked up around my hips and was letting it rip when I heard the scream–a woman’s. It felt too good to stop so I gave it a few seconds more before I cut my stream off. I figured whatever it was, I probably couldn’t help anyway. I heard a crunching nearby and saw that Sput had run over to where I was, dinger flapping in the breeze, piss dribbling down the front of his pants.

“Abby! I see your butt!” he laughed.

“So what? Put your pecker away, dumbass.”

We rushed back to the big feast barn, where the adults now gathered, and I saw some kids were being held back or shooed. At twelve I thought I was too old to shoo. I was right–Mother let me come forward and stand next to her. Uncle Killy’s young widow wept, surrounded by some of our cousins.

“This is not going to end well,” Mother said, sotto voce. I remember focusing on her fresh black eye as she spoke. “Gather up the kids.”

The breeze from last night had stuck around, still licking its way through the barn, playing at the ropes, which had been cut and freed from their burden. Their frayed edges yielded no clue as to the location of Uncle Killy’s body or the bear that contained him: vanished.

My advice to you, NO NAME, CITY OR STATE, is to buy a Sharpie and decorate your mother’s tombstone any way you damn like. Future date it, see if she walks again. There’s a reason your other four sibs don’t give a rat’s rannuculus about your mother’s final resting place. It’s all you.

Noir Fest and Dinner: Quicksand (March 1950)

November 4th, 2014

Welcome to 1950! Get comfy, we are spending three more weeks here. I made this dinner on October 30th, but then shit got crazy with me quitting my job and P. turning 40 last weekend. Whew!


Once you pop, you can’t stop

So: I chose this film because I absolutely could not find the intended film for this night, Shakedown (1950) anywhere, either locally or online. I emailed Tony D’Ambra, briefly explained what I was doing, and asked him if he could recommend a comparable film from 1950. He kindly and swiftly replied with a whole list, from which I chose Quicksand. HE IS A CHAMP AND MY IDOL.

I got EVEN MORE THRILLED when I discovered that Quicksand stars Mickey Rooney! And Peter Lorre! Jackpot! This could make up for the last couple of weeks. I had heard that Mickey Rooney had a career slump during/after WWII, but I didn’t know he revived his career with a stint in noir. Whatever pays the bills, eh? I think today Mickey Rooney would be a Steve Buscemi type–the unattractive, sad sack underdog.

The plot is pretty linear, no flashbacks, but compelling. Remember that asshole who traded a paperclip for a house? This is like that, except it starts with Rooney nicking $20 from his boss’s till and ends with COLD-BLOODED MURDER. There’s voiceover narration, which always thrills me, and one really dumb loyal dame (today we would call her a codependent enabler), and a mercenary one (played by Jeanne Cagney). I think we were supposed to be unsympathetic to her character, but she was the only one making sense to me. I liked that there was a scene with him walking down the beach with Cagney and he was on the higher part of the shore! He still looked shorter than her.


Perhaps my career is under this shell

I would recommend this film, which is the first more obscure one I would recommend (Maltese Falcon is a no-brainer). But it’s outside of the official film festival. Whoops! Oh well.


The liquor tag reads “eau de vie de frambroise.” I am jealous. My liquor tags just say things like “scotch.”

Since we have jumped into both a new decade and spring, there is an article on pineapples. I am very familiar with pineapples since Strudel’s birthday is in March, and we eat them a lot then, as well as having pineapple upside down cake.

It’s a lovely motif from a badass graphic arts perspective, but then we have unidentifiable (at least to me) topless natives. Who bring the readers pineapple? I don’t know. Awkward.


Bitches be drivin, AMIRITE? “This is food-related sexism, let’s run it.”


Oh well if a dentist said it

There was another article, and I am kicking myself for only capturing half the name in my photocopy. I was fascinated by it, because it was written by an American woman with an Asian-sounding last name, Ruth Tao Kim Hai. I could find very little about her online anywhere, except on Gourmet.com. She was married to a Vietnamese man (named Andre M. Tao Kim Hai, who became a French citizen). It seems that she chronicled a couple of months of their travels through Siam.

I was kind of tickled by the article because she discusses what are today commonly known Thai dishes that must have seemed extremely exotic to the readership then. She opens with this:

Chinese food is to the Orient what French food is to America. If you have a visiting fireman on your hands, where do you take him to dinner? To a French restaurant of course. And when it was our turn to be visiting firemen all the way from Bangkok to Honolulu, we were invariably taken to Chinese restaurants. Not that I have anything against Chinese restaurants…but Hai and I wanted to find out what people in the Orient ate when they weren’t having shark’s-fin soup and and the crackling brown skin of roast duck.

Good for you, Ruth. She talks about squid as an apparent substitute for chewing gum, mee kroab, kung tom yum (“It was a soup of prawns boiled with ginger and red peppers, so hot as to make you forget the taste and even the existence of anything you had ever eaten. It took several cups of tea and a slice of cold astringent papaya to revive me.”).

Alas, there are no recipes, because many of the ingredients, like cellophane noodles, were completely unobtainable. Imagine that!

…Mee kroab, which I met that evening for the first time and will remember with fond recollections until we meet again. Unhappily, we aren’t apt to meet again until I can get back to Bangkok because the chief ingredient of mee kroab is not to be had on this side of the Pacific. It is made of tiny noodles the caliber of vermicelli and the length of young fishing worms, lightly fried and and lightly sprinkled with…other spices I couldn’t identify….life isn’t the same without it.

There was nothing about the couple on Wikipedia that I could find. There is a mention from a blogger and artist who knew them personally. They seem to have gone poof into history.

MENU

I think I got so distracted by all the exotica going on in this issue, I did not actually choose a hearty main showcasing a big hunk of meat per usual. Between a rice casserole and a fish salad we are covered, however.

Dinner:
Rice a la Grecque
Crab Louis
Oignions a la Monegasque

Dessert:
Pineapple Melba

Cocktail:
Bacardi Cocktail

Again, no cocktail recipe, so I relied on an ad again. I know I could always choose a wine, since there are always wine articles, but I rarely have cocktails and they seem so quintessentially midcentury to me.

This drink was nice! Kind of a sweeter daiquiri. My sister, ever the discerning cocktail critic in contrast to me, the Human Spittoon, liked it.

As I mentioned, dinner was kind of all over the place, which is how I like it sometimes. When I was a youth I used to go to the 24-hour fancy bar and grill and order waffles and cioppino at 2 a.m. This is kind of that dinner.

The rice, “rice a la Greque” was a throw-it-in-a-pot-and-bake-it affair, no risotto-esque babysitting. I liked this in spite of the fact that some stuck to the bottom. It was like the baby of a Greek omelette and a paella. I have all these lovely recipes that call for fresh sausage, which I tried to buy the “house made” from my local store, but their ingredients list was smeared beyond recognition, so I had to go for some precooked safe sausage like with the cassoulet. Tres bummer. But it was tasty! The recipe called for frying up some raisins in butter (awesome, I used oil) and tossing in some peas and sweet peppers at the last minute.

The onion dish called for a pound of the smallest onions possible, which I interpreted to mean pearl onions, which you can find in any grocery store, even the hateful ones. Strudel wanted to help me, bless her evil heart, so we sat and peeled 18 ounces of onions, which was about the visual equivalent of somewhere between your average cantaloupe and a soccer ball. We cried. We swore. Then I remembered the garlic hack and I tried that. It did not peel the onions, but it softened them up and made it really easy to peel the last layer, speeding up the process greatly.

Then you cook the onions for about an hour (90 minutes seemed too long) in a mix of vinegar and water. My kitchen was filled with Victorian smells and I was afraid it would be overpowering, but the final product, after being chilled in the fridge, is really an amazing side dish. I would serve this year-round. I am not the biggest onion fan. I like them a lot and I put them in almost everything, but I don’t really think about serving them on their own, but this is GREAT: sweet, tangy, sour, really balanced. This may be making a comeback for Fangsgiving. Partly to have something tasty but also something that does not take up a burner! The name–Monegasque–refers to Monaco.

Then, the centerpiece for my family, which are like 70% crabpigs. (Except for P. I panfried some sea scallops for him to have on the side and he was happy.)

Crab Louis!

I liked how simple this recipe was. It called for leafs, crab, eggs, chive. I think that’s about it. Also, Russian dressing, which is a matter of great debate on the internet. Some people say it involves beets and caviar, others say it is an earlier take on Thousand Island. I did a chili sauce/mayo/dill pickle variation, and I did not make it sweet in any way. It went down well and we’ve been eating the leftovers all week. I wish I would have had time to hunt down a Russian dressing recipe from this era in Gourmet. Searches for Russian dressing from 1950s publications were not super helpful either. Still, the one I made went pretty well.


Dressing pictured on the right

Finally, dessert. HOLY SHIT this was fun.

I made a pineapple melba, which called for gutting pineapples and making ice cream out of the flesh. Again, I love the notion that you can just go fuck off and fetch up your own pineapple ice cream recipe or that you already know one. What kind of 50’s housewife are you, anyhow?? I did a very modern thing and bought a couple of pints of Coconut Dream’s Pineapple-Coconut flavor. I figured the tropicalness of it all would work in a pineapple. I saved the flesh for a couple of days of crazy sweet fruit with our breakfasts. YUM.

I have one nit to pick with this recipe. To make good ice cream, you need quite a few hours, ideally twenty-four, between letting the custard chill and then letting the final ice cream freeze up. This calls for gutting the pineapples and then, I guess, letting the shells sit around. Pineapples have a very short window of deliciousness and prettiness, so I think my way was actually better in this case. No one wants to buy two times the needed amount of pineapples, and no one wants to look at brown tops either.

The melba sauce was a hit too and inspired some undignified bowl licking in the end.

Because I am pretty overwhelmed (but happy) with starting a new job this week, I am going to push my next festival date to this Saturday. Then I can cook all damn afternoon if I like! To quote my favorite podcaster, JOIN US, WON’T YOU?

Diane I am holding in my hand a giant pillowcase full of candy

October 31st, 2014


She was so happy.


Solving crimes with her best friend Mario?

The big one is off with her dad and I am told I will see pics on Monday!!

Halloween Pre-vue

October 30th, 2014

SO. My power flickered Monday with all this wind we’re having and my connection has been super flaky since then. I realized the flaw in my plans yesterday when I was trying to write and I was getting kicked on and off the internet, and I realized I don’t have offline word processing software anymore. I started a story about a man stuck on some crappy planet like Tatooine where people ride giant birds around and kept getting kicked out and my Pandora station that has me Pavlov’d into Get Ur Writing On was cutting in and out. Probably for the best, though, really.

Last night we carved pumpkins. We took two years off! Last year we all forgot and then all of the sudden it was Halloween. I think all four of us have been slowly grinding to a halt for a while now. Now we can actually do things like run errands in the evening and stay awake until 10! I even made savory (truffle salt, black pepper, garlic) and sweet (pumpkin pie spices) pumpkin seeds! Craziness!

Franny shaved her pumpkin down to do some kind of moon/silhouette thing and then it kind of collapsed. She got really frustrated and I felt bad for her. She turned it around and made a lightning bolt, which she was not thrilled with. But I like it.

P. made a crazy face with pointy goblin ears.

Strudel made a kitty. She informed us that other parents carve pumpkins for their kids and it’s boring. I am sure that other kids are allowed to carve. Maybe not at six though.

“Remember that year I cut myself?” she asked.

“Which one?” we said.

I made a spaniel face.

Frannie is doing kind of an On the Waterfront hipster thing lately, which I am loving.

Of course she is wearing her lipstick she made out of crayons.

Recently I dropped some shredded oxtail down the slot between my oven and counter. Edith discovered this, which saved me the trouble of fishing it out. Now she thinks that this slot is a magical meat dispensing vending machine, and often hangs out here when I am cooking dinner. She’s what’s known as “food motivated.”

Here is a little Strudel Halloween preview. Here we are at Men’s Wearhouse, trying on her rented suit.

“She looks just like Ramona Quimby!” the clerk said.

Yes she does. Heh.

And sometimes, disturbingly, like Michael Cera.

This is the last day of my job I’ve had for 3+ years. It was a hard run. For the first part I was in court and then for the second half I was really ill, and then finally part time this summer. I sort of feel like I was docked in a little hospital for the time I’d been with the company, since it was not fast-paced or really challenging like I am used to in the tech world. It’s not a slam–it was just very different culturally than other corporate environments I’d been in. I thought it would be a nice contrast to my free time, which involved being locked into a custody battle.

I think about how the last few years have gone–starting with the IUD (some people think hormonal birth control depletes magnesium and other vitamins. This is interesting to me because I had signs of mag deficiency back to 2008 when I had it inserted.), to barely recovering after having it removed to being launched into court and then getting sicker and sicker. On Monday I am moving onto a role that is very different than what I’ve been doing (drawing on my old writing/marketing background) and I am very excited for a new challenge!