Monday, December 27, 2010

And remember - you heard about it from the La Choy Dragon.

This is probably hard to believe, especially for you, Matt, as you're so often nestled beside me on the couch reading while I talk back to reruns of Teen Mom, Google pictures of sphynx cats in sweaters and interrupt your deep literary thoughts with questions about rashes and weather forecasts. It may be hard to believe, but I used to read like a fiend. By the weak glow of my headboard's clip-on light, in the middle of math class, anywhere and anytime I had a free second to explore the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or track the whereabouts of The Talented Mr. Ripley, I was reading. But these days, distracted by life's distractions and no longer dependent on public transportation (you read a lot faster when the guy next to you is trying to sell you a seat on his space ship), my reading habits have slowed to a snail's pace. The backlog of novels and short story collections waiting to be read is older than a teen mom and spreading faster than this rash... but I'm making a dent. Currently on the docket: "Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street" by Michael Davis. And it's really good. I keep pausing to look up the old commercials Jim Henson used as the small-screen debut for some of the earliest Muppets.

This one is a 1965 spot for La Choy's line of Americanized Chinese food.
"For the campaign, Henson designed a lumbering, life-size dragon fully capable of locomotion. Counting the chef's hat that he wore as a crown, the La Choy dragon stood considerably taller than the actors hired to play against him. Operating from within the dragon, Frank Oz could swagger, flail its arms, shake its head, crane its neck, and, with assistance of an aide with a blow torch, breathe fire."

(Lauren, I know we used to eye this book with longing and envy when it was perched in the window at Unabridged. I'll send it to you when I'm finished.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The bells were ringing out for Christmas day

Hope you're having a great day! I'm not in St. Louis this year (first time ever), but I'm lucky to be with people I love, who've made me feel right at home. Plus, we got to open presents on Christmas Eve. No doubt six-year-old me is very, very jealous.

Anyway, to my family in St. Louis and friends in Omaha, Lincoln, Baton Rouge, Chicago, Kansas City and everywhere else, happy Christmas.

I've got a feeling this year's for me and you.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Triple-Meat Reflections

Over the past two weeks, we've found ourselves edging into the Christmas spirit along with everyone else. After all, 104.5 only plays "Do They Know It's Christmas?" 20,000 times between Thanksgiving and New Year's, and the tree is slowly dying and in need of some pre-Christmas appreciation, and there are presents to be wrapped (and more importantly, purchased), and now there is snow on the ground.

I am a Dundee locavore in that I eat pizza from our local Pizza Hut and drink wine from our local gas station. In keeping with our convictions and the spirit of the season, we ordered Cheesy Bites pizza on Friday night, paired it with some chardonnay from A.B.'s 66 and hunkered down to watch "It's a Wonderful Life." The pizza was acceptably greasy, the wine tasted only mildly of ethanol, and the movie was good, of course. Jimmy Stewart is even more endearing in HD.

On Saturday, we braved the wind and snow to see "A Christmas Carol" at the community playhouse, a tradition that had been shelved for the past few years. New Scrooge is very funny, but new Nephew Fred did a better job carrying the Christmas goose than he did an English accent, and new Tiny Tim wasn't nearly fragile enough. Two thumbs up on the fake snow that fell on the audience at the end, but a resounding humbug to the chorus, as not a single member made eye contact with me - not even once.

And finally, I would be remiss not to provide an update on the turducken.

In a word, it was gray... ish pink.

I swear I followed the cooking instructions word for word, making sure to fill the bottom of the pan with water and leave the netting intact, allowing it to serve as a cage for the animals during cooking. It was hard to tell if the delicious smells wafting from the oven were the turducken or the regular old turkey, so I assumed it was the turducken. Naturally.

But what slunk from the oven door, relaxing in a pool of polka-dotted grease, pocked with little blobs of fat, did not look appetizing. Not at all.

And what was inside amounted to a pinwheel of gray meats, swirling around a pinkish center. There was no telling where one bird ended and the next began, so it was kind of like a hotdog in that way. Serving it intact was next to impossible, as the layers collapsed at the touch of a fork. It tasted like a failed experiment. I opted for my mom's turkey. And while my brothers ate a good amount of turducken (which isn't saying much at all - they've been known to eat dandelions and birthday candles), we finally threw the last of it away a few days later, when it became clear that it was permanently unwanted - a Thanksgiving novelty now taking up space in the back of the fridge.

But Thanksgiving itself? It was good - really good. Matt got off work early every day, and I got to spend some much-needed QT with my family. Plus, the other food made up for any residual turducken disappointment. Next year we're thinking a deep-fried turkey. Or a Cheesy Bites pizza, just to keep things local.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I recently came to the realization that I am a work hoarder, a desk collector of memories trapped in a fortress of trash. Piling my keyboard on top of my phone on top of my notebook on top of a bunch of no-longer-needed papers is more or less akin to piling a cat on top of a cat on top of a cat on top of a cat.

There is one Italy memory in particular I want to write about, mostly because Matt has taken care of the rest of our stories/experiences in his brilliant Facebook photo album captions. But I’ll save that for next time.

Because it’s almost Thanksgiving.

This year, since work obligations are keeping us in Omaha, we’re hosting Thanksgiving at our place, and my mom, sister and brothers are driving up from St. Louis to join us. I’ve spent the past few days collecting a hodgepodge of ingredients – the side table in our dining room is littered with onions, boxes of orange jell-o, Tupperware containers of cubed, dried bread, and a pecan pie. Thank God my mom will be here or else I’d probably just combine all of those ingredients into one casserole, burn it, and feed everyone cold hotdogs instead.


In the process of trying to console ourselves over our less-than-desirable Thanksgiving arrangement (we’ve both come to associate Thanksgiving with going home, not staying home), we decided to invest in what had long been a holiday joke – a funny idea that never comes to pass. We bought a Turducken. Or so we thought.

Imagine my amazement when, after seeing mail-order Turduckens advertised for anywhere from $50 to $100, the Hy-Vee meat department told me they could order me one for $20. And it would be boneless – a pile of animals, each wearing the skin suit of the other. And therefore, it would be easy to cook and serve and sure, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be traditional, but it would definitely be magical.

Cut to Sunday evening, when I burst through the doors of Hy-Vee, wheeling a cart toward the meat counter, praying that it would be sturdy enough to accommodate such a large entrĂ©e. A duck is heavy on its own, but put it inside a chicken, and then stuff it inside a turkey, and then freeze it, and we’re talking pounds and pounds of pure feast. I walked up the counter and whispered, “I’m here to pick up a Turducken,” a knowing grin spreading across my face. I was about to be a spectacle of the best kind.

The butcher shuffled back behind swinging doors and emerged with a small package, about the size of a shoebox. “This must be the box of beaks that comes on the side,” I thought. Not so – this was the Turducken, or rather the Turducken roast. The picture on the front looked like a Swiss Cake Roll made of fowl. I tried to be grateful as I tossed it into my empty cart. I tried to sell it to Matt when we got home. “Doesn’t it look delicious?? And remember, my mom is bringing a backup turkey.” The mutual disappointment was palpable.

Tortilla chip added for scale (also, I'm eating tortilla chips).

But it’s almost Thanksgiving.

And so we will learn from our Turducken mistakes and eat the Swiss Cake Roll with a side of whatever my mom decides to cook using the ingredients I’ve purchased. I’m just looking forward to seeing my family, and to the times when Matt isn’t at work. Staying in Omaha for Thanksgiving may not seem natural, but neither does a duck inside a chicken inside a turkey. That doesn’t mean it can’t be good.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Every time you spell it this way, a dolphin gets run over by a jet ski."

Now that I've been a copywriter for five years (Five years? Cue exaggerated pull on imaginary tie), I've learned that said profession can make your mind bigger and your world smaller. Bigger mind = full of facts and figures and detailed knowledge of artisan cheese, intellectual property law and everything in between. Smaller world = life revolves around a stark white Word document, a blinking cursor and a twisted love of stringing sentences together, deleting, rearranging, poeticizing, simplifying, and researching the ambiguous, complex and obscure.

Perhaps the most important residents of this really small world are the words themselves. And while I can't claim to handle them perfectly -- I've found more than a few glaring typos in this here blog (I blame sunlight, eagerness and/or wine, depending on the circumstances) -- I've become really possessive of each and every resident, however pompous or trashy they may be. When words are used and spelled correctly, they're like the mailman that hums show tunes and pets your cat. But, when misused or misspelled, they're like the neighbor that listens to Hoobastank in his garage and pees on the side of your house. The lesson? I guess it's to be kind to your words or else they'll park their Camaro on your lawn. And you will be embarrased.

I stole this post from The Oatmeal from a friend on Facebook. Words to live by, or to not live by, as the case may be.

(Image from The Oatmeal)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Food for Thought

I am not a foodie. By any stretch of the ketchup-drenched imagination. But that doesn’t keep me from appreciating other people who know how to properly appreciate food. Sort of like my tertiary interest in home design is not reflected in my own hand-me-down house. Sure, I hope to be a better cook someday, and I hope to one day create a home that doesn’t look like a small town’s basement-run preschool, but until then, I will appreciate the good taste of others. And when it comes to food, my current favorite food writer is Francis Lam.

Maybe it’s because Francis is slightly self-deprecating and completely willing to delve into territory to which I can relate (Halloween candy, that big hamburger/pizza hybrid at Burger King, White Castle chicken rings). But I think it’s mostly because he’s a phenomenal writer who also knows a shit load about food and can actually cook. As a one-trick pony whose trick isn’t even that good, I’m in awe of anyone who can be really awesome at two completely different things.

Lam’s topics vary from how-to’s (How to use that stale bread sitting on your counter or how to make your own bagels) and did-you-knows, to poignant profiles of Gulf Coast fisherman and glimpses into a world of gourmet consumption I know very little about. Plus, there’s just enough Adam Richmond-style food porn to satiate my need for detailed descriptions of fried cheese.

His latest piece about the executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission’s decision to eat nothing but potatoes for 60 days and blog about it had me snorting at my desk. Lam’s commentary on this guy’s slow descent into starchy madness is (Yukon) gold.

So, if you’re ever bored, or hungry, or in need of knowing something new, unnecessary and fascinating about mechanically separated chicken, I recommend checking out his column. It’s a treat.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Who's to say?

Saturday night, we stopped by Brandon's apartment for a mutual friend's art show, spiked cider and a few handfuls of Halloween candy. After whatever sporting game event program had ended, we caught the last 15 minutes of Saturday Night Live. Usually the burial ground for half-baked jokes and unbearably unfunny recurring characters (I would rather watch grainy home video of a horse being born than sit through another Gilly sketch), this particular 15-minute wrap-up was genuinely good. Actually, really good. Maybe it was the fact that I was gulping my cider (the roof of my mouth is now a roadmap of blisters), but I thought this sketch was particularly hilarious.

*Update – turns out Sex Ed began as Paul Brittain’s one-man show at the IO in Chicago. We were probably on the same bus at one time or another. He probably saw me sneeze into the binding of my book or fall asleep with my mouth open.

In other news…
For the past year, I’ve made a concerted effort to get to the gym in the morning before work. It eliminates that painful evening rush-hour battle wherein I debate gym vs. dinner and television. It’s easy to guess what wins out 106% of the time. On the other hand, when I go in the morning, I spend the rest of the day fueled by self-satisfaction, an overinflated sense of pride and maybe a bagel.

But morning gym requires preparedness – a bag packed the night before with shower accoutrements and work clothes. Surprisingly, I’ve had very few mishaps, and most of them have been minor. Forgot shoes? There’s an extra pair in the car. No shampoo? Use that free stuff in the shower. It smells like Tang and burns the scalp, but it gets the job done. However, today I forgot a bra, which is kind of important when it comes to work attire. My sports bra was sweaty and showed through the collar of my shirt like a fluorescent green spandex dickey. I debated going all the way back home, but that would involve driving with morning traffic too far in the wrong direction. I scanned the locker room for any abandoned B-cups. And then, finally, I went to Walmart, where at 7:30 a.m., the aisles are empty and the elderly greeters are exuberant. I found the sale rack and grabbed the first one I saw that didn’t look like the top half of a mermaid costume.

I bought nothing else and fought the urge to explain my quandary to the girl at the checkout. After a quick change in the store bathroom, I was on my way to work. Comfortable, work appropriate, $5 poorer but one bra richer. If you're ever rooting through my glove compartment, don't be surprised if you find it nestled between McDonald's napkins and insurance documents. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, there's a spare bra in my car.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I want to write about our trip, and I will. The visual element is kind of key, so this weekend I'll mine the thousands of pictures of me looking bewildered in front of ancient ruins for a few good summarizing shots.

But first, and more importantly, since this is a record of life events, good and bad, I wanted to take a moment to remember someone… and say goodbye.

Last Saturday night, here in Omaha, Jessica Bedient and her husband of only a month, Tony, were driving home when they were hit by an 18-year-old drunk driver. Jessica’s injuries were severe, and she passed away on Tuesday. Despite having his own injuries – and what I can only imagine to be an irrevocably broken heart – Tony is going to be okay.

And it is all so incomprehensibly sad. The kind of sad that you will never be able to wrap your head around…

I had the pleasure of working with Jessica three years ago, before I moved to Chicago, and she moved on to her current job with the University of Nebraska system. And I say it was a pleasure not because it’s just one of those things you rattle off when remembering someone, but because it was, without a doubt, a gift. Jessica was quite obviously winning at life, and all you wanted to do was stand by and cheer her on. She was so sincere, kind, gracious. Her patience was infinite, her humility inspiring, and her work ethic enviable. We spent quite a few Saturdays working side by side in an otherwise empty office, and while I was there because I am a procrastinator, Jessica was there because something was always driving her to be better – not just for herself but for everyone around her.

In our last conversation at a former-co-worker happy hour in July, Jessica – who I distinctly remember swearing off marriage until she was at least 30 – talked about her wedding with the enthusiasm and confidence of a person who, unexpectedly but gratefully, had found her soulmate. She didn’t give a crap about the details. She just wanted to get married.

And she did. And from the pictures that now adorn the blog Jessica and Tony’s families have started, she looked beautiful.

I say all of this from afar, as a friend/acquaintance. I can’t begin to imagine the pain her family is feeling. One life has come to a screaming halt far too early, and many, many lives have been turned upside down. You will be missed, Jessica, and never, ever forgotten.

Omaha World-Herald article

Life is precious. Be good to the people you love (and everyone else for that matter). And please, please, please, don't drink and drive. It's never worth it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I move in water, shore to shore

We are back from a wonderful trip, and I am officially dead weight – just today. Tomorrow I will be better… energized, awake, able to focus on things besides sleep and the TV I missed while out of the country (where I only had access to CNN International’s ceaseless four-story loop and a few poorly dubbed episodes of The Hills). Before we left, I slapped a few songs together for an Italy playlist, but I actually only listened to my iPod once – on the train ride from Rome to Venice. The books were too good. The in-flight movies too… there. Just to give it a second life, here is said playlist. May it act as inspiration for things to listen to, or not listen to. As you can tell, I’m a recent fan of Phosphorescent. And Peter Gabriel covers Bon Iver! And then there’s that song Tune-Yards from the Blackberry Torch commercial. Anyway, here you go. A tiny, tiny list because I'm too tired to figure out how to make it bigger.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Looking back, mustering enthusiasm for things to come...

When not picking dandelions in the outfield at kickball, I’ve spent the past few nights sitting on the couch, thinking about blogging. So, finally…

A belated happy birthday to my dad, whom I miss more than I can ever convey, in writing or otherwise. In my dream last night, someone broke into our house, and my dad befriended him, offering him a job delivering packages. This dream can easily be traced back to my paralyzing fear of home invasion, but it also sort of makes sense in that my dad befriended everyone. The leap from random person at Saturday morning mass to fictional burglar isn’t too wide. Anyway, if you read my blog, dad, please just call the police next time. And I love you.

Speaking of dreams, Matt and I used to play the “if you could travel anywhere” game with relative frequency, usually over Chili’s chips and salsa. My anywhere was always Italy… a hologram born of Diane Lane movies and Olive Garden commercials. So when we finally got married and finally had some extra money to put toward a trip, we chose Italy. More specifically, Rome and Venice. The path to our ultimate departure has been fraught with miscommunication, itinerary changes, unexpected expenses and the anxiety that comes with knowing you’re not as excited as you should be about something you should be excited about.

We are worried we’ll get lost. Robbed. Thrown in prison for murder. We’ll run out of money. We won’t pack enough. We’ll pack too much. We’ll miss opportunity, squander time and waste something precious. For two naturally anxious people, it’s all too much to bear.

So I’m trying to be a cheerleader for this trip. We leave Saturday afternoon, and I haven’t packed yet. I mean, I’ve read about packing – tips for throwing away your underwear as you go to leave room for souvenirs. Shit like that. Tonight, I will get real, organizing my folder of tickets and printouts. Stuffing my frame pack full of black dresses, smart sandals and underwear that I will leave strewn about on Venetian streets like a breadcrumb trail, so that when we do get lost or imprisoned, we’ll be able to find our way back home. Hopefully satisfied with our anywhere.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cover letter

I've written about covers before, but I thought I'd revisit the topic, as I've encountered two stellar covers as of late. Kid Cudi's "Pursuit of Happiness" is one of my go-to songs for those times when you're going a lazy eight on the elliptical, back peddling slowly and watching a fuzzy episode of "Angel" in between swigs of water. But then my brother showed me a video of a singer named Lissie covering the song at one of her shows, and it's awesome. But switch out the elliptical for a nylon camping chair and the water bottle for a warm jug of margarita mix.

And then I think at one point I wrote about The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and included the trailer that featured Ultra Orange and Emmanuelle's "Don't Kiss Me Goodbye." Turns out iTunes won't let you buy that song on its own, so in a last-ditch effort to include the song on a mix, I found this cover by Max Hirtz and Andrea Brooks.

So, sure there are some really distasteful covers like all of those "Big Yellow Taxi" re-dos, or my cover of Jodeci's "Forever My Lady." But kudos to those who can do it well.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Canvas, totes.

Thus far, as it pertains to my life, my mom has been wrong about some things and right about others. When I wanted go to overnight Girl Scout camp and she refused to sign the permission slip or fork over the $30 for swim caps and s’mores, standing firm in her belief that if I went, some sort of evil, ambiguous harm would befall me, she was wrong. I would’ve been totally fine. The only thing that may have harmed me would’ve been the crushing load of way more friends.

When I wanted an Adidas jacket, the shiny nylon kind with stripes and toggles – the kind bad kids killed over and popular kids flaunted like engagement rings or master’s degrees, she again refused to humor my desperate need to fit in, this time claiming that said jackets would be out of style by the following winter. And this time, she was right.

Still, I was devastated. My consolation jacket was a little color-block Lands’ End number, all primary reds, yellows and blues. Feminine, no, but timeless – yes, sort of. At least more timeless than a purple parachute with a zipper. Timeless in the sense that I wore it time after time after time… after time. Until the red faded to pink and the yellow was stained with pencil lead and chocolate milk.

To me, my mom’s faith in that jacket, and the enduring nature of the jacket itself, represents the continuous presence the Lands’ End brand had in our unfashionably sturdy lives. Purely a mail-order business at the time, we could dredge the pages of the LE catalog for everything from navy uniform shorts to monogrammed bath towels, modest swimsuits and matching jumpers to be worn for parish directory portraits and again on Christmas. Everything was slightly preppy, somewhat bland and very utilitarian.

And then yesterday happened, and I got a catalog in the mail from Lands’ End Canvas, the updated version of Lands’ End aimed at people my age… people who no doubt grew begrudgingly accustomed to the brand in youth. The pages bear the matted look of an Anthropologie catalog. The clothes are sort of J. Crew-ish, without all of the impractical sequins and satin harem pants thrown in just to keep things interesting. It’s very all-American in a way I’ve come to appreciate as an adult, and the prices won’t make you want to run for the hills, where there are plenty of Wal-Marts (I’m looking at you, J. Crew).

I’ve always wanted to do one of those “look at these things I want to buy” blog posts, but it’s such a silly concept when you consider the fact that right now, in an effort to save for a vacation and pay various overdue bills, we are living hand to mouth (there are free sauce packets in our hands and saltines in our mouths). Why torment myself? Well, simply because I’m that excited to finally come full circle with Lands’ End. To once again understand the simple thrill of a canvas tote, the rough touch of a pique polo. We are at peace, my color-block jacket and me.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pa Pa Powerized Wheelchair

I've always appreciated Ryan Gosling. He had a good turn in The Notebook, he was convincing in Half Nelson, and he has a sincere "If you stalked me but never technically set foot on my property, I probably wouldn't press charges" smile. My sister took her Gosling love a step further, describing more than a few of her college crushes with "He kind of looks like Ryan Gosling." Sometimes she was right, but other times her Gosling goggles caused unfortunate lapses in crush judgment.

So Ryan Gosling is a good actor. And undeniably attractive. But I was late to the party in realizing he was in a band (Dead Man's Bones). The video for Pa Pa Power is pretty good, although the jury's still out on the Mad Men-attired hipster early-thirty-somethings that show up at the end and dance with the elderly people. I could've done without that. But gramps and the kids and Ryan can stay.

You can watch it here.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The USS Kirk

If you want to cry in your car in the 24 Hour Fitness parking lot (or if you just want an aural glimpse of genuine human goodness), listen to this.

"35 Years On, Vietnam Heroes Reunited, Decorated"

Thursday, August 19, 2010

For Spacious Skies and Subarus

Two afternoons ago, I left for a lunchtime errand of supplemental grocery shopping (hummus, bacon, cheese, oatmeal, wine and gum). It had been pouring since early morning - the sky was a raisinish color and the air felt two months too old. I popped in the last of a stack of audiobooks, Nick Hornby's "A Long Way Down" and sat in the Bag 'N Save parking lot. North London accents and rain go well together (even better than oatmeal and wine), and lulled by the wiper's rhythm, I had to force myself to go back to work. Plus, turns out the story is about suicide (well, at this point anyway), and you can only listen to suicide stories in the rain for so long before you need to watch a YouTube video of a Japanese family throwing their cat a birthday party.

The point of this long pointless intro comes back to the audiobooks -- aside from a few floor peanuts and a stack of rest stop maps stuffed between seats, these CDs are the lingering evidence of the trip we took just two weeks ago. It seems like it's been longer than that, but the fatigue and three McDonald's pounds I found along the way are still holding on for dear life. Despite the after-effects and a mind-blowing Visa bill we just received (nearly all of it spent on gas, with a few scary motels thrown in for good measure), I wouldn't trade that trip for anything except maybe a new bed or a house or both.

Matt had originally set the week aside for a camping expedition with his friends, but said friends have responsibilities that we have yet to tackle (babies, mortgages) and the trip began to disintegrate, little by little, until it finally gave a little adventurous cough and died at the end of July. I volunteered to stand in, although the consolation trip would likely be less manly and exciting. Matt agreed to trade in his dreams of trekking up the sides of mountains for dreams of shuffling up to various quirky landmarks, as long as a few battlefields were thrown in to keep things educational. I agreed to squander away most of my remaining paid time off, and the deal was done.

One night at dinner we made a loose itinerary using Google maps to affirm or shatter any impulsive desires. “I want to go back to Montana.” “But that’s nowhere near the Alamo.” “The Grand Canyon is in Idaho, right?” “It’d be nice to see the east coast.” “Just as long as we can make it to Oklahoma in under eight hours.” What resulted was a mishmash of maybe-we’ll-get-theres. And, for the most part, we got there.

After a quick stop in St. Louis to sleep and fill our cooler with Diet Pepsi, we drove to Tennessee, our first stop being Shiloh National Battlefield. Not my choice, obviously, but I have known Matt for eight years now and have come to expect that most trips will include some cannons, some walking to other cannons, and possibly a historical reenactor or two. I can either sit in the car, or I can suck it up, learn something and maybe buy a bonnet from the gift shop.

So, Shiloh was first, followed by:

Memphis – Nice hotel, empty streets, huge onion rings and Ghost River hefeweizen at the Majestic Grille, a theater turned restaurant.

Vicksburg, MS – We stopped in Vicksburg to see Vicksburg National Military Park (another battlefield). Hot as hell. A gaggle of sweaty pre-teens. Cool gunboat.

Baton Rouge, LA – We’d decided early on that if we were going to travel in the southerly direction, a stop in Baton Rouge was necessary. After all, Libby lives there, with her husband Patrick and their two small, insanely well behaved Boston Terriers, Clark and Louise. We have a thing for Boston Terriers, and also a thing for Patrick and Libby, so it was definitely a highlight. They made us a delicious jambalaya dinner followed ice cream and an episode of Hoarders. We slept soundly and hated to say goodbye.

La Porte, TX – An unplanned detour to see the San Jacinto Monument. It’s a tall monument located in the middle of huge tanks of oil and next to a congealed marsh full of prairie chickens (according to the sign), fireflies (millions) and alligators (probably).

San Antonio, TX – Another required stop along the way. I’ve always been baffled as to why Matt had never been to the Alamo. He’s read everything on the subject, seen every film adaptation. I’d come to see it as my personal duty to get him there. Plus, it would give me a good chance to make basement jokes. New ones that they’d never heard before.

Our hotel was only a block away, but by the time we arrived in town, it was closed for the night. Instead, we wandered past a series of garish Ripley’s-themed tourist traps (and believe it or not, they almost trapped me on several occasions) down to the River Walk, where we ate dinner. Feverish in the heat and delirious from 10 hours in the car, we were coaxed into each ordering a Monster Margarita. Turns out the Monster Margarita costs $25 and comes in a stemmed fishbowl, emblazoned with the Texas flag. We were pissed, but 30 minutes later, we were drunk, and all was forgotten.

We went to the Alamo a total of three times. That night to gaze upon its stony glow. The next morning for a more in depth exploration of the grounds (it is smaller and more chaotic than I imagined it to be). And then again that evening, just to make sure we hadn’t missed anything. At 6:00 the following morning, we bid San Antonio adieu and headed for…

Gila National Forest, NM – Our drive to New Mexico involved traipsing across the vast expanse of West Texas. And by traipsing, I mean watching the Mexican boarder weave in an out of site while burning through the audiobook edition of “Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History.” It was roughly 600 hours long and obviously not chosen by me, but thoroughly enjoyable (albeit occasionally biased toward American settlers). And mountain passes are even more striking when you’re simultaneously listening to tales of the Comanche’s futile (and brutal) fight for their land.

Arriving too late to camp at Gila, we spent the night at a Motel 6, eating Dominos and theorizing about what exactly was going on across the hall. Meth lab? Children’s birthday party? An unsubtle coyote operation? The next morning, we set out for Gila, where we hiked to the park’s famous cliff dwellings. Feel free to disagree with me, but in my opinion, if you’ve seen one cliff dwelling, you’ve seen them all. And I’d seen some about 10 years ago in high school. Therefore, I spent the afternoon easily distracted by lizards and German tourists.

It was at this point that we reached an impasse in our otherwise solid planning. Time was waning, and we could either stay at Gila for the night or press on, attempting to cram as many landmarks, formations and battlefields into one trip. And so it was decided – we’d drive to…

The Grand Canyon – But not before taking a two-hour detour to the town of Tombstone, Arizona… a town of OK Corral-themed gift shops, old-time photo establishments, horse-drawn carriage tours, dusty museums and taffy. We toured the old courthouse and then ate dinner at Big Nose Kate’s, a saloon named after the first prostitute in Tombstone, Arizona Territory (and Doc Holiday’s girlfriend). We sat underneath a TV that played “Tombstone” on a continuous loop. The servers wore modified western prostitute outfits, pieced together from satin Walmart bustiers and fishnets. I stole a menu.

Again, the Grand Canyon – We managed to arrive before the day’s tourist boom, before the busses full of old people and rented Chevy Malibus full of French families on holiday. I single out the French because, as we began to make our way back to the car, we were replaced along the rim by throngs of French tourists. I hope the canyon was grand enough for them.

After leaving Flagstaff, we drove and drove and drove until we reached Amarillo, TX, where we stayed at a very nice SleepInn that will likely be the subject of my first Yelp review. And then the next morning, fueled by make-your-own waffles, we drove some more, making our way to…

Cheyenne, Oklahoma - Home of the Washita Battle Historical Site,
“where Lt. Col. George A. Custer led the 7th U.S. Cavalry on a surprise dawn attack against the Southern Cheyenne village of Peace Chief Black Kettle on November 27, 1868. The attack was an important event in the tragic clash of cultures of the Indian Wars era.”
(Taken from the National Park Service website).

We watched the video and perused the gift shop, where I manhandled plush buffalo while Matt bought a book. There rest of our visit was spent wandering around the battlefield in the hot prairie sun, swatting at dragonflies and reading little signs. The heat was brutal, and after walking most of the grounds, I made my way back to a picnic shelter. There I met a park ranger who informed me that the author of the book Matt had just purchased was to arrive shortly. We waited, and waited, and what ensued was well worth all of the waiting and waiting. Not only did the author show up, but he was accompanied by this guy.

Despite my admitted lack of appreciation for history, I have a huge place in my heart for funny old people, and I loved Ed Bearss. Matt loved him for more cerebral reasons. Right there in the picnic shelter, for the two of us, his author friend and the park ranger, he performed his opening monologue about John Brown from Ken Burns’ The Civil War. Matt had his picture taken with them. And finally, we had to pull ourselves away. Meeting a celebrity can get awkward pretty quickly, so you have to know when to cut and run.

We were already behind schedule, having left Cheyenne late in the afternoon. Our goal was to make it to Kansas City in time to meet up with friends. Some Omahans had traveled southward to spend the day at Oceans of Fun for Monica’s birthday. We’d missed the oceans but were hoping for at least one hour of fun and perhaps a drink or two. But as the miles crawled by, the Garmin began to laugh at us, and we realized we wouldn’t make it… not before midnight.

As we hung our heads in sorrow (not so low that we couldn’t see the road or other motorists), we noticed a KOA campground and decided to stop. I’m honestly not sure where we were…

Somewhere in northeastern Oklahoma – we pitched our still-unused tent and sat, staring at our bug-glazed car, listening to the sounds of the nearby interstate, baking in the heat. We'd laid off anything other than water and soda since our ten-gallon Margarita experience and decided to search for beer. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you’re camping on the side of the highway in Oklahoma? A book, a beer and possibly a raccoon or two. I ended up driving five miles west before I found a Love’s Travel Stop that wasn’t bound by the oppressive rules of the surrounding dry counties.

Back at the KOA and slightly buzzed on lukewarm Bud Light, we left our belongings in the hands of fate and hobos, and wandered past a pen containing two emaciated buffalo up toward the Cherokee Restaurant – a Denny’s-esque relic with a trading post and rotating pie display. After dinner, I bought a car bingo game at the trading post, and we retired to our campsite where we sat, hashing out the events of the past week. Our favorite welcome centers, favorite side-of-the-road oddities, favorite motels, favorite natural wonders, favorite meals.

That night, we slept in pools of sweat and crickets. I kept one eye open, and sometimes two, for the escaped convict that would eventually kill us both and steal my car bingo game. I’m skittish enough in my own home, so sleeping under a mesh ceiling in a psycho trucker’s paradise was enough to keep me from any sort of REM-induced bliss.

We left at 5:00 a.m. for the last stretch toward home. At one point along the way, our horn got stuck and stayed on, blaring for all to hear, for nearly two hours before a kindly tow truck driver took pity on us and charged us $100 to remove a fuse. It was one of those things you tell yourself you’ll laugh about later, even though the physical act of laughter seems repulsive when the entire state of Kansas is giving you the stink eye.

Laugh we did… eventually. Like, five days later. A comical end to an amazing, albeit expensive – gas and hot dogs are expensive! – trip. Matt reached his battlefield quota for 2010. I got to see the Grand Canyon and the state of Oklahoma. We visited old friends and even older hallowed grounds. And perhaps more importantly, we learned the value of spontaneity and the beauty of riding together in contented silence… because there is so much to look at.

“When I think about my relationship with America, I feel like a battered wife: Yeah, he knocks me around a lot, but boy, he sure can dance."
- Sarah Vowell

Friday, July 30, 2010

Don't give the ghost up, just clench your fist

I watched a few episodes of “Tell Me You Love Me” when it originally aired on HBO, but never understanding where the assorted storylines began and how they ended, I ended up Netflixing it earlier this year. A few of the characters were pretty insufferable – and it’s definitely something you should avoid watching with mere acquaintances (it’s borderline Cinemax fair), but all in all, I found it pretty powerful and true to life as far as the human condition goes. Mostly, I loved a song featured in the last episode. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Killers, but this was my undoing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

To the left, to the left

My left hand has long been a simultaneous source of frustration and pride, an extra pinky toe you whip out for party tricks but later curse when your shoe is too snug. My great aunt Marge’s constant reminder of my good fortune rang in my ears throughout childhood, nostalgic but mournful.

“I was born left-handed, but the nuns made me write with my right hand. They forced me to be right-handed,” she’d say, looking longingly at her now vestigial left hand, wondering what could have been.

This of course brought to mind images of limp, useless right-hand claws contorted around a pencil, under penalty of ruler slaps or school yard laps, or whatever the punishment was at the time. I understood the root of her message – “Be grateful. No one is forcing you to be normal.” And so I let my freak flag fly at half-mast, tentatively exploring the seedy world of left-handed notebooks and scissors, softball gloves and school desks.

The scissors didn’t work. I had to teach myself to be right-handed in that one particular instance. But in every other area, I began to discover a subtle sense of pride in the quality that set me apart from my immediate family and 90 to 93 percent of the general population. My dad taped a newspaper clipping featuring the names of famous southpaws to my bedroom wall, and every once in a while I’d scan the list for reassurance, confidence and conversation fodder. Dan Akroyd, Tim Allen, Harry Anderson, Fran Drescher, Whoopi Goldberg (who also shares my birthday), Terri Garr, Dick Van Dyke. A lot of sitcom stars, a lot of funny people.

When it came to sports, my left-handedness became an excuse I dropped like all of the softballs that missed my special glove and hit the dust below with a thud. “I’m shockingly bad at badminton because I’m left-handed,” I would inform gym teachers, coaches and anyone else within earshot. “I only made one basket in five years of grade school basketball because I’m left-handed.” “That bowling ball flew out of my hand and on to your foot because… you guessed it.”

Truth is, I just suck at sports. Always have and, much to the chagrin of my outdoorsy, athletic husband, always will. But while I didn’t fool everyone, the mystery of what it means to be a leftie confused some gym teachers into giving me a passing grade.

Over the years, involvement in athletics became voluntary, and I opted for the hands-free variety, like running and sitting. I met more people, and therefore more left-handed people, and it just seemed less special. I thought of it only when I’d end up on the wrong side of a restaurant booth, elbowing my dinner companion in the ribs every time I lifted my fork.

Cut to yesterday when I saw the photo of Obama signing the Wall Street reform bill, his left hand twisted at the same painful-looking angle I’m now used to. “He’s doing that so he doesn’t smear his signature,” I thought to myself. This was followed by a “Hey! I forgot Obama was left-handed!” And then I looked it up, and five of our last seven presidents have been. The Washington Post points out that, statistically speaking, we should only have a leftie leader once every eight presidents. Are left-handers born leaders? There are lots of theories on why left-handed people are the way they are – and what it means when it comes to personality. Some characteristics are good (right-brained creativity), some not so good (you could very well be crazy and/or have an auto-immune disorder).

Whatever the reason and the result of this condition, Obama’s awkward bill signing was a good reminder of the pride I once took in my own uniqueness. Plus, with Michelangelo, Luke Perry and Seal in my corner, I’m in pretty good company.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Monahans are, by nature, cold people. Not frigid (although occasionally aloof), but actually, physically cold.

When I was younger, I mostly anticipated our weekly Wednesday night trips to Shoney’s – kids could eat free, and I would pile my chilled, metal salad bar plate high with reckless abandon. But there was a certain dread in knowing that once indoors, away from the humid summer air, the waitress would inevitably seat us near an air conditioning vent or a ceiling fan or the soft serve dispenser, and my dad would ask that we be moved.

While in hindsight it was a perfectly legitimate request – he was cold, and there were warmer spots available, the shame that came with getting up and walking across the restaurant to a new table was almost enough to keep me from enjoying my plate of ham cubes and syrupy strawberries.

Over the past decade, that constant chill my dad experienced has crept into my bones and skin and fingernails with a vengeance. But not only do I feel cold, I’m actually cold to the touch. I’m a pet iguana that likes to sleeps in the microwave. And just as my dad almost always had some sort of extra layer present – a jacket in July, two sweaters in September, I too have my armor. I am obsessively, hopelessly dependent on cardigans.

If I am not wearing one, there is one in my hand, or stuffed in my purse. There is likely one in my car, one on the back of my chair at work and numerous others in my closet at home. The beauty of the cardigan boils down to several factors – it is not a parka, so no one will look at you like they look at those people who wear parkas in the summertime; it is portable; it can enhance an outfit without dominating it; and, if sufficiently substantial, it keeps your arms and torso warm.

Through the years, I’ve accumulated an Imelda Marcos-caliber collection, but for every one or two cardigans I acquire, I’ll loose one. I can only hope that those fallen soldiers are out there somewhere, keeping an office worker warm or a chilly moviegoer comfortable enough to stay for the closing credits. Or even keeping a Shoney’s customer from embarrassing her progeny by moving to the smoking section, just to get away from a drafty window.

Cardigan Hall of Fame

Most angst-ridden: A little navy, wool number I picked up at the Dodge Street Salvation Army store when I was a freshman at Creighton. Its label was stitched with gold thread. I wore it with corduroys and t-shirts of grade school sports teams.

Most worn: A gray v-neck I bought from Forever 21 shortly after moving to Chicago. I know clothing from Forever 21 is supposed to turn to dust when it hits water, but this has been washed and worn more times than I can count. And I am wearing it right now.

Most missed: Kelly green with green buttons from Francesca’s Collection. I loved it, and yet I didn’t love it enough not to leave it in a cab.

All-time favorite: A royal blue, merino wool three-quarter sleeved sweater from J. Crew. It has a small ruffle around the neck. It fell behind the radiator at my mom’s house during my brother’s high school graduation party and went missing for a year. Getting it back was like being reunited with a lost dog, if the dog came back wearing my cardigan.

Most wanted: Something dark orange with pockets for snacks.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The world just blinks

I know I'm breaking the cardinal rule of blogging by being themeless and scattered, but you know what... I really like this song (Frightened Rabbit has some strange, Scottish power over me). And my sister is waiting for me. Normal blogging will resume tomorrow! Or sometime thereabouts.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Then when?

It just so happens that we are two people who share one bedroom in a three-bedroom house. And because we are neither rich nor hospitable, we do not have a guest room. In divvying up the extra space (because what is marriage for, if not for divvying?), Matt claimed the larger end room for his library, and I got the smaller middle room for my little collection of belongings. My own meager book collection, my blue hobbit chair, my bank statements and trash, our shared stationary bike that sits lonely and neglected in the corner. I gave it a view of the neighbor’s yard to appease it during long bouts of slothfulness.

There isn’t much to do in my room unless you want to exercise or sit in a small chair, so I spend the majority of my upstairs time sleeping and wandering into Matt’s larger, more interesting library. Which brings us to the issue at hand: meth.

Tuesday night, I meandered past the library with a toothbrush hanging out of my mouth to find him perusing Amazon. More specifically, he was looking at a book on meth. A fancy book on meth with vivid pictures and menacing fonts.

“Is that the meth book I’m in?” I exclaimed, Colgate dribbling onto my t-shirt.

“No. Wait – what?” His look was a combination of fear and curiosity. Because small sections of our lives over the past few years still remain a mystery. I'd like to think he was in the circus.

“I’m listed as a source in a book about meth. Google me and it comes up on like the fourth or fifth O.”

[One time* I Googled myself and found that an article I’d written for my college newspaper surrounding the tragic drug-related death of a student and her boyfriend had been used as source material for a book on meth aimed at young adults. It seemed sort of text-bookish.]

Matt proceeded to Google, and there, buried between century-old obits for the Catherine Monahans that came before me and race times I have failed to scrub from the public record, was my name in the source notes of [book name redacted].

“How come you never told me?” Matt implored, his hands scrambling to find a pen and a piece of paper for my autograph.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal,” I said, waving my toothbrush nonchalantly. But sadly, to me it kind of was. The article I’d written was a journalistic high point among many, many low points – dozens of poorly drawn, very unfunny editorial cartoons. The other truth is that said meth book appears to have been written as a collaboration between babies and textbook robots. The cover bears the garish mark of Microsoft paint.

“Well, you should at least blog about it,” he said.

And so I did.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Just set that sack of 10 on my kick board.

Great article. Equally great comments.

When we were little, we'd be rewarded for making it through swimming lessons with a trip to the White Castle drive-through. I ate White Castle because I hated swimming lessons. I hated swimming lessons because I was chubby. I was chubby because I ate White Castle.

It was a vicious circle, much like a White Castle Chicken Ring.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I messed up my blog (aesthetically). After 3 years with the same template. Bear with me while I attempt to make things right again.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Live together, watch the series finale of "Lost" alone at a convent

Jeez, the events of two weeks ago seem eons behind me. This is what I get for failing to blog on a regular basis. Per usual, I'll just have to use exaggeration, distracting similes and falsified facts to fill in the missing pieces.

Lost. On Lost. On the TV show Lost.
I distinctly remember the first time Matt and I watched an episode of “Lost.” And by distinctly, I mean vaguely. We were visiting my family in St. Louis for one reason or another, and after a hearty meal of casserole, we found my brothers hunkered down in our walk-in closet of a family room, watching some new bullshit sitcom about castaways and polar bears. At that point, a third of the season had already passed, but we slowly, reluctantly began to tune in to see what this trend amongst fanboys and survivalists was all about. And so it goes that we finished the first season eager to watch the second.

And the second, eager to watch the third.

I was caught, like a wild boar between a spear-toting plane crash survivor and the ocean’s cold abyss, in the grips of an inexplicable crush on Ben Linus. And Matthias was similarly trapped under the spell of Kate Austen. If I were to guess, it was because he has been told, by numerous friends, relatives and strangers at restaurants, that he looks like Dominic Monaghan. And, in addition to playing Charlie on Lost, Dominic Monaghan happened to be dating Evangeline Lilly, who plays Kate. So, you know, of course.

For reasons mutual and individual – for him, the complexity, the adventure, the literary allusions; for me, the Ben; the Sawyer; the Desmond; the Dharma-issued canned peaches; the comfy, retro hatch; the moments so painfully poignant that a few times I found myself sobbing through previews for next week’s episode.

As it happens, Matt and I broke up just shy of season three’s end. And having watched it every week together since that first fateful encounter in the family room, it seemed fitting that we would watch the season finale together before going our separate, undetermined ways.

The episode? “Through the Looking Glass.” You know, “not Penny’s boat”? The one where Charlie dies. It was all very disturbing and meta for me. For the next two years, I swore off Lost completely.

I even changed the channel during Lost commercials. It, like Charlie, was dead to me.

And then we got back together. And not even a week after our wedding, a mutual decision was made. Although Matt had been loyal to Lost this entire time, we would watch seasons four and five in time for the premier of season six. Jumping back in was easy. My desire to watch was less about nostalgia and more rooted in a genuine interest to be part of it again. In among the helicopters, the mysterious cabins, the sarcastic quips and pseudoscientific ramblings.

Plus, if I hadn’t watched season four, I would’ve missed my favorite episode – “The Constant.” I’m sure it’s everyone’s favorite episode, but that’s just because it’s that good.

We made it through season five with time to spare and watched season six with the fierce dedication of the loyal and DVR-less. When I found out my brother’s college graduation would put me in Boston the night of the series finale, I realized watching the very last episode with Matt wasn’t going to happen. In fact, watching it at all might not happen. We were staying at a convent, so hot water was a hope and expecting access to television was like expecting your potential rescuers to actually rescue you.

TWIST: To make a long Lost story short, I had the good fortune of running into a nun/Lost super fan at breakfast that Sunday morning. She graciously let me watch with her in the inner sanctums of the convent where there was, in fact, a very nice TV. And while it would’ve been nice to watch with Matt, I’m sure he appreciated the utter silence my absence brought – no one yelling “Lupetis is alive!” through a mouthful of Doritos or air kicking as Jack forced ghost Locke over the edge of the cliff.

The end? Nearly perfect. I have no qualms. Lingering questions, sure – that was inevitable. But that night, I drifted off to sleep in my convent bed with dreams of Ben Linus and the satisfaction of relationships, both real and imagined, come full circle.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What do you like to do?

I try not to give Facebook too much thought, which is difficult, as it caters to my shifty, flakey, shiny brain. A brain that is curious about the inane, and indifferent to most things meaningful. I was proud of myself for leaving my original (or maybe one generation down from the original) list of interests, movies, music, etc. virtually untouched for years. (I can say years because I joined Facebook in early 2005, when it was all college students and unsolicited poking.)

However, given the new format of the “info” page – with its word bubbles, links and pictures, I was forced to reevaluate my idealized self. Or, to be more accurate, I was forced to reevaluate my self-effacing self, which is actually a palatable version of my idealized self. But the thing is, Facebook now forces you to choose for a menu of sorts. And that is where I ran into trouble. Mostly in the activities category.

I can’t legitimately say that just plain “reading” is an activity for me. Reading is an accomplishment. “Starting a book” or “Reading half of a book” – those are my activities. But Facebook doesn’t recognize those choices (although it did give me the option of “functional illiteracy”).

I also tried to choose “microwaving” and ended up settling for “defrosting.” Not the same, but it least it has a picture (the glaring white insides of an empty refrigerator).

There are nine other people interested in defrosting, which is kind of sad and intimate. Brought together by compromise, torn apart by warmth.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Before you take to the internet.

I have long been a self-analyzer, a self-diagnoser, a self-helper. Not a hypochondriac, it's not the same thing. But whereas Matt can stand by in the face of a potential malady and let nature take its course, I cannot. I have to be doing something. I have to know that should I one day fall prey to an illness, a mental breakdown, a marinara stain on a white tablecloth, at least I've done everything in my power to fix it.

Of course, when I say everything in my power, I mean that I Google the crap out of it. But herein lies the problem. Because most intelligent people will Google a problem once or twice before moving on to more effective solutions. They call doctors. They consult real people with faces and voices. They figure their shit out and move on with life. The remaining people sort of get sifted to the bottom of the search result pile. It's a scary place that smells like Funions and hairspray.

The bottom of the pile is where people go when a neglected cockatoo has eaten their fingers, preventing them from dialing 911. Where pregnant middle-schoolers with iPhones go. Where people with shotgun wounds go to find out if some leftover bathtub caulking will stop the bleeding. The inquiries are thrown out into cyberspace and left hanging until someone equally clueless replies, weeks later, after the caulking falls off and the infection sets in. Needless to say, no one can help you here. They will only feed your paranoia, suggest dangerous home remedies, and do it all without using a single vowel.

The cure? Ignore or treat. Don't Google a symptom more than three times. And don't, whatever you do, put your fingers in the cage.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Here we go.

Heading to Vegas for the first (and likely last) time to celebrate Michaela's upcoming wedding.

I'll post when I return! (Dear God I hope I return.)

Friday, April 30, 2010

My kind’s your kind, I’ll stay the same

I wish with everything in me that I could relive a few distinct moments, in particular those instances when I was stalled in the midst of a hasty departure by my dad calling after me, “Catherine, let me make you a map.” I’d duck back inside to find him poised at the dining room table with a red Bic pen in hand, carefully studying a larger map of St. Louis. The fodder for his map. My map.

This was a pre-GPS era. It probably wasn’t pre-MapQuest for the rest of the world, but it was for us, when going online involved a 10-minute symphony of beeps, hisses and static as our little Packard Bell clawed desperately at the outer limits of cyberspace. Attempting to create driving directions would cause a definite crash and a potential seismic shift.

If I had it my way, I’d just jump in the old Geo Prism and rely on my memory to get me where I needed to go. I pride myself on a particularly keen sense of direction, and I rarely got lost. But my dad had the foresight to realize that my mind map might one day fail me – that I could potentially leave to meet my friends for a movie and end up at an abandoned strip club across the Mississippi.

The entire process was a lesson in patience. I had places to go, Steak ‘n Shakes to loiter in, Weezer lyrics to overanalyze, cigarettes to not smoke, memories to make. But first, I had to wait in the front hall, sighing and pacing as he drew arrows, sketched landmarks and wrote out street names in his patented all-caps font. The final result was so precise, so endearingly perfect that I’d soon enough forget my frustration over missing the first five minutes of Bowfinger.

In hindsight, I wish I’d saved at least one of those maps instead of letting them get buried and broken under piles of physics books and pools of sun-warmed soda. I can’t say I ever completely depended on them to reach a destination, but they were always next to me for the journey, and that part hasn’t really changed at all.

From Slate:
Wonderful hand-drawn maps from firefighters, club-hoppers, Boy Scout dads, grandmothers, and Alexander Calder.

(Image from Slate)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Happy 30th Birthday

Like the musical hotdog card hidden in your lunchbox says, we just make sense together. Thank you for keeping me in your heart. Happy birthday!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lights, psychos, Furbies, screaming babies in Mozart wigs, sunburned drifters with soapsud beards...

By far the funniest thing I've seen on SNL this season:

Note: I totally screwed up the quote in my headline yesterday. It has since been corrected. So embarrassed...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spicy Szechuan Chick Lit

Spicy Szechuan Style Vegetables and Chicken, you are my new favorite frozen meal. Always at arm's reach when the idea of putting things between bread seems too time consuming, too overwhelming, too involved. You taste frozen enough to remind me that I am at work, with enough zucchini to convince me that you are healthier than something with no vegetables at all.
Speaking of tasteless consumption, this post was actually supposed to be about a book I just read. The other day, I found myself saying to Matt, "I just want to finish this book so I can write a blog post about it and then never talk about it ever again." Having reached the finish line a few days ago, this post is way overdue.

For some odd reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to read Amy Sohn's Prospect Park West. I'd developed this slight fascination with Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood's parental culture simply because Gawker sometimes talks about it. I knew the book was an easy read, full of namedropping and metaphors comparing human emotions to expensive objects like strollers and shoes. The straw that broke the Manolo's heel (I don't think that worked, which is why I don't write chick lit) was the fact that it took me approximately forever to finish On the Road, a book that seventh graders can read in one sitting, while texting. All of this created the perfect storm that propelled me to order Prospect Park West from Amazon's marketplace for $6.

And here I sit, still debating whether or not I want my $6 back (it would be enough to buy three Spicy Szechuan Style Vegetables and Chicken meals). I'm no better for having read this fictional romp through an upper-class neighborhood populated by over-medicated movie stars and self-righteous super moms. The plot kept getting more ridiculous as the story lines began to overlap, sort of like the movie "Crash" if you replaced the racial tension with references to sleeping pills.

I bet by now you're thinking a) it sounds like she hated this book and b) this isn't the blog I was looking for. But believe me, I'm grateful to PPW for getting me through a slump when anything more intellectually stimulating was completely out of the question. If I hadn't been reading about playground politics and affairs between food coop workers, I would've been drawing finger pictures in bathroom mirror condensation and wishing I'd spent my $6 on a smutty read instead of frozen meals.

So now I'm back on the literary straight and narrow. Next up: Illumination and Night Glare, an autobiography of Carson McCullers that my sister gave me for Christmas. No condo board squabbles or chardonnay hangovers in that one. At least I don't think so.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Slowly, but surely...

I have begun dressing like an elementary school art teacher. One piece of the puzzle at a time, I now feel uncomfortable in anything that isn't garishly colorful and unflatteringly comfortable. One jumper and two dangly cat earrings away from a water color dinosaur.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Stove Sweet Stove

Growing up, we had a wooden toy stove - a really stark, simple toy with sliding panels that allowed us to keep important things inside, like plastic pots and pans, rubber WWF figurines and stolen cans of soup. When I'd outgrown the stove, disregarding the fact that my siblings had not, I made the offhand suggestion to my mom that it would make a good dollhouse. This was bullshit because anyone looking at it would agree that it would make a bad dollhouse. But I was still at the age where I thought building a slide next to the basement stairs and cushioning the landing with Easter grass was a brilliant idea, so, you know...

But my mom, never one to back down from a challenge if thrift is involved, went to work turning the simple stove into an equally simple dollhouse. It had four rooms and an attic with a removable roof. An artist friend painted the front butter yellow with creeping ivy. And before unveiling it to us, my mom filled the inside with Victorian-era Playmobile furniture that looked amazing but tasted really bitter if you licked it. Everything about the dollhouse was anachronistic and mismatched in scale, but we loved it and took special care never to let the people inside know that they were living in a converted oven.

The years gave way to other dollhouses - the kind with staircases, chimneys and porches, but the sturdy stove was the one to survive falls off shelves, dog attacks and small cousins looking for places to hide half-eaten pieces of cake. As far as I know, it's still sitting in the basement, waiting for the day when my robot children or cat children can lay claim to it. And at that time, I'll be able to say, "Gather round robots/cats, and I'll tell you the story of how a fake stove became a real home."

All of this is a segue to a piece in today's New York Times about modernist dollhouses. Intriguing for anyone who likes dollhouses (past me) and modern design (current me, in theory).

Modernist Dollhouses

Monday, March 29, 2010

“The whole world was tamed by men who ate biscuits.”

The weekend of three movies…

After finally returning the Netflix I’d been carrying around in my car for nearly a month (Herb & Dorothy and the last disc of season five of Weeds), I rearranged my queue to allow for any new releases. Up next in the docket: Julie & Julia and Brothers.

The older and more crotchety I get, the less interested I am in going out on Friday nights. After a long workweek, it just seems like an expensive way to ruin an otherwise productive Saturday. A sober Friday means spinning class and errands on Saturday morning, whereas a drunken Friday means no Saturday morning at all. Just groggy stumbling and scrambled eggs that I will regret eating two minutes after the last bite.

So instead, we took the classy route – we watched a movie about the life and times of a famed gourmet chef while eating Long John Silvers’ famed gourmet fried fish parts. When all was said and done, we were both satisfied by the hush puppies, but Matt was less than pleased with the movie. I, on the other hand, was able to look past Amy Adams’ characters’ vapidity and mullet to thoroughly enjoy the “Julia” parts, the scenes in which Meryl Streep is tall and talented and Stanley Tucci is short and good natured, true to form.

Movie 2: Crazy Heart, seen Saturday afternoon. This was originally a movie I felt I needed to see for street cred. Like it would cancel out the fact that I’d paid to watch Valentine’s Day two weeks before. And when we found out it was still playing in Omaha, we knew we had to hop to it before it was too late.

I’m glad we did because it was great – great music, great performances, about a dozen great shots of Jeff Bridges’ slack, sweaty, whisky-filled stomach. In one particular scene, Bad Blake (Bridges) is making biscuits for Maggie Gyllenhaal’s young son, and he utters the quote I used as a title. So, you know, good biscuit quotes. If you have the chance to see it before it’s out of the theaters, it’s worth the $10 (and the other $10 you’ll probably spend on the soundtrack).

Movie 3: After an evening at The Brothers, drinking good cocktails and playing one particularly bad game of darts, it took everything in me to get outside in the sunlight on Sunday and hobble around pretending to exercise. So when Dana and Brandon reminded me that we’d talked about watching Mulholland Drive that afternoon, I was all in. Just like fried fish and Julia Child go together, so do beautiful Sunday afternoons and David Lynch movies.

I have less to say about this one. It was baffling, as expected. After falling asleep thinking about the various plot points: dwarfs, decomposing bodies, the creepy synthesized score, Justin Theroux, cowboys and the logistics of fitting all things disturbing into one film, I gave in and sought the help of experts this morning. I’m not sure whether the various online analyses confirmed my theory, or whether my theory came out of smarter people’s analyses. Either way, no hay banda!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ah well...

After growing my hair out until it looked like a dog-chewed Barbie head, synthetic and gnarled, I got a haircut. It was supposed to look like this:

...but I forgot my picture, and my ability to describe things is less than keen. So instead, it looks kind of like this (the one on the right).

Or maybe more like this.

Life, via my hair, comes full circle.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On this St. Paddy's Day eve...

My mom is barely Irish… like, probably more Na’vi than Irish, but because she’s German and French and Native American (I think) and Brazilian (probably not), and therefore unlabelable, we opted to identify with my dad’s side of the family tree (or, as my mom’s ancestors would call it, the Tree of Souls).

We leached off his 100% Irish status from the time we could eat horseshoe-shaped marshmallows. This was particularly easy for me because I was round, pale and freckled and could have been an overfed extra in Angela’s Ashes. My sister and I took up Irish dancing in grade school, sleeping in hard pink plastic curlers, wearing heavy embroidered dresses, and performing reels and jigs at nursing homes, shopping malls and the occasional hotel ballroom. During an especially awkward stage, I played famed Dublin street hawker Molly Malone in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, my black fingernails clutching her wheelbarrow of cockles and mussels.

After years of tentative planning and speculation, we actually made it to Ireland as a family in 2004. We spent two weeks hauling our luggage from county to county, pointing at signs featuring our last name with the elusive “g,” kissing walls, leaning over cliffs and reveling in the place where it all began – at some point, in a town that now longer existed (having been incorporated into rainy Galway).

In sum, my dad’s heritage became an integral part of our family’s identity. He was buried in his green and navy shamrock tie, while the rest of us donned some sort of reciprocal emblem.

Now I face my first St. Patrick’s day as a Kraemer, having lost the distinctly Irish last name that served as my automatic pass into drunken conversations, my badge of pride every March 17. I have a bit more Oktoberfest clout, but a little less St. Patrick's Day credibility. I’m trying to face it like a man and remember that it’s what’s in your DNA and on your head (Kiss Me, I’m Irish antennae) that matter, but it’s still hard… like the Blarney Stone… or a rock.*

*A difficult traditional Irish dance movement. Also, a pun.


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