Oct 31 2008

Immigrant Halloween


monti halloweenI must have been about five years old.  We were living in a two-bedroom apartment in an unremarkable, dull brown complex called Royal Manor.  It didn’t look royal and it certainly didn’t feel royal, but I fancied the name and looked for opportunities to tell people the name of the place where I lived.

Royal Manor was housing for medical residents at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan and was filled with young families, like ours, whose parents spoke with funny accents, like mine.  Upstairs lived my friend Sapla who wore pretty dresses and gold bangles that jingled on her thin brown wrists.  I ate rice with melted butter at her house.  Sapla ate with her hand and I used a fork.  I also tried pomegranate seeds for the first time at her house.  To this day, every time I spend a meditative few minutes dislodging pomegranate seeds from the waxy white pith, my thoughts turn to Sapla’s mom, beautiful in her diaphanous saris, telling me they were called Indian Apples in a voice as thick and golden as honey.

One night our buzzer rang.  I jumped up, leaving my dolls in a shocked heap – frozen and wild-eyed – and slid to my mother’s side in socked feet.  She opened the door and there, in the florid yellow light of the hallway, stood a perfect fairy princess.  She was shorter than me – and much more beautiful, with long, wispy, white-blond hair, a poufy pink skirt, sparkly wings and a tiny tiara on her head.  She was holding an orange globe and she positively took my breath away.  I hid behind my mother.  

“Trick or treat,” she called in a tinselly but surprisingly loud voice.  My mother cocked her head to one side, put her hands on her hips and bent over to peek inside the globe.  I held my breath.

“Ay, ohkay, leetle bayllerina . . . wait, wait.”

My mother turned and strode into the apartment, leaving me alone with the fairy princess.  I lowered my eyes to her ball, wondering what my mother had seen.  She reappeared shaking a box of white peppermint Tic Tacs – the box that normally shimmied around her purse with a crinkly blue pack of Parliament cigarettes.  She was about to toss the Tic Tacs into the girl’s ball, when suddenly the door burst open and a jumble of children pushed their way into the hall yelling “trick or treat” in a rowdy chorus.  My mother calmly assessed the motley assortment of streaked face paint, vampire teeth, capes and wigs and, ever the pragmatist, proceeded to shake a few Tic Tacs into each expectant bag.

My cheeks burned.  I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I did know that these kids were at least entitled to a whole piece of unopened candy.  The children fled, their excited voices growing fainter and fainter, finally flittering away through darkened branches into the night sky.  

My mother closed the door and with a casual flick, turned off the light and laughed, “No tengo mas!”  She thought this was funny and my shame flipped to anger.  As I glared at her in the dark, she reached behind me, pulling my long black hair up into a ponytail, smoothing the sides, checking for stray wisps with her warm fingers.  She held my hair in her hand and gently led me to the front window where I plopped down, my hair dropping heavily around my shoulders.  She sat behind me – much younger then than I am now, remembering all of this – and curled her body around mine.

My mother and I waited in the dark for what seemed like a long time, peeking out from behind the sheer white curtains.  Shouts and laughter signaled the approach of more children and we tensed up and giggled as they ran up our steps and rang the buzzer.  We waited, covering our mouths, frozen for an eternity until they thumped back down the steps.  I looked at my mother and laughed, but I felt sad to see them go. I felt sorry for having tricked them.  I exhaled a cloud of breath onto the cool glass in front of me.  As I watched the foggy ghost I had made slowly recede, I mouthed those magical words silently to myself, feeling them in my mouth like a couple of slippery white Tic Tacs. Trick or treat.

Oct 30 2008

How could I have forgotten?

shapeimage_2Manny’s Tortas!  These are probably my favorite meat sandwich.  Go to the far back of the Midtown Global Market and there, to your right, you will find an unassuming stand dishing out Mexican sandwiches so satisfying and transporting you will hear the angels playing mariachis after your first bite.  The tortas are basically your choice of meat (go with the steak or pork) and all sorts of inspired, slippery and savory toppings (jalapeños, chipotle mayo, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, melted swiss cheese, onion, sauteed mushrooms) in a soft french roll.  Grab extra napkins mis amigos.  Ay Dios mio!

*My thanks to Nanook of the North who reminded me of my past ravings about Manny’s.  As it happens, Nanook is often the innocent bystander to my salacious and exaggerated displays of meat sandwich love.  Apparently she is able to look past my drool and wild gesticulations and actually remembers what I say. I love a girl who makes a good mental note . . . it’s all about mental notes in life, isn’t it?

Oct 28 2008

Sandwich Love.

shapeimage_2_3Today I discovered that, to my great delight, a small niche has been filled here in Minneapolis: the niche of a pizza/sub shop owned by a swarthy man.  In Boston, there’s a pizza/sub shop owned by a swarthy man every ten feet, so you are never too far from a meatball sub or a gyros or a slice of pepperoni handed to you on a red plastic tray held aloft by a pair of hairy arms.  There are many things I love about this city, but the pizza is not one of them.  Apologies, but, honestly, there aren’t enough Italian immigrants or surly small business owners with Nona’s secret sauce recipe for there to be outstanding pizza here.  Which is fine by me, because I’m more of a sandwich girl anyway.

I make it my business to know where I can find the closest and most toothsome meat sandwich at all times.  I have a handful of favorites throughout the city.  I’m like a sailor and my sandwich spots are my favorite whores in every port.  I may not visit often, but when I do I’m hungry and ready for action.  At the top of my list: a Goloony’s steak and cheese sub with everything on it.  Don’t ask questions – order it just like that – 6 inch or 12 inch is your choice.  I’m usually the only one in the place who is neither a United States postal worker nor a twenty-two year old hungover slacker.  The tatooed guys behind the counter are super attentive to me and my brood, always offering to slice the pizza into long witch fingers (my term, not theirs).  One caveat:  apparently the pizza is not that great, but I could care less.  It’s all about the steak and cheese baby!  (23rd and Hennepin)

Next on my list is the Longhorn sandwich at Blackbird Cafe.  If you’ve got the hungah and want a quiet lunch in a funky neighborhood restaurant aside all the old betties in their sensible shoes, this is where you need to go.  I can’t vouch for everything on the menu, but I would bet my incisors (note: critical for sandwich eating) on the fact that the Longhorn will leave you humming and smiling and rubbing your belly and maybe burping a little bit, but in a good way.  It’s a beautiful beef brisket sandwich in focaccia, drunkenly slathered with caramelized onions, tomatoes, provolone and horseradish mayo.  Die.  (50th and Bryant)

I have to give a shout out to the Reuben at Brother’s Deli downtown.  I had the good fortune of working in a rarefied glass rat cage high above this place and honestly, the Reuben, which I always wolfed down at my desk, was my staple and my standby and my savior.  When I was feeling healthy, I’d opt for the creamy, cheesy tuna melt, but don’t even go there.  These guys source all their meat and bread and God knows what else from New York, and if this isn’t the best grilled Reuben you’ve ever had in Minneapolis, I’ll give you my molars.  (50 South Sixth Street)

Next comes the bahn mi sandwich at Jasmine Deli on Eat Street.  I don’t speak Vietnamese, so it’s entirely possible thatbahn mi sandwich is redundant . . . like Club Sandwich sandwich.  In any event, this little gem is comprised of marinated pork or beef with onion, grated carrots, cilantro, jalapeño and a little mayo carefully tucked between two halves of a crisp baguette.  It’s fresh and colorful, spicy and sweet, crunchy and chewy, tidy and satisfying – overall, one very tasty byproduct of French imperialism.  (25th and Nicollet)

Of course you can’t talk about meat sandwiches without talking about burgers.  I love and adore the Kobe beef burger at The Bulldog and the Shaw Burger at Shaws Bar and Grill – both in Northeast.  (respectively, 401 East Hennepin Ave. and 16th and University Ave.)  The Shaw Burger is my favorite – thin patty, lettuce, tomato, bacon, cheese, fried onions and a “special” saucy saucaliciousness deliciousness sauce.  Oof!  Ridiculously good.  It’s a quality dive burger in a quality dive bar.  I also intend to try the Juicy Lucy at Matt’s Bar post haste.  And I have Wagner’s Drive-in in St. Louis Park in my crosshairs.  

Drop me a line if there’s a meat sandwich out there that would make me happy.  I need a good pulled-pork sandwich, some kind of sausage (hold the perverted messages please), and something Mexican – like a carnitas taco – to round out my list.  Share the wealth people!

Back to the pizza/sub shop I discovered.  It is called Ramy’s which is, coincidentally, the name of a very dear friend* of ours from medical school and a huge part of why I stepped into this dingy little hole-in-the-wall to begin with.  My new friend Ramy comes from the Boston area (go figure) and presides over his little shop with the fluttery energy of an anxious, well-intentioned new beau.  I ordered the lamb gyros and Ramy made it so carefully and lovingly that I was five minutes late to pick up Devil Baby from preschool.  I literally watched him pick out the best pieces of lamb from the sizzling pan he pulled out of the pizza oven and arrange them just so with a pair of tongs.  It was delicious and fresh and bore no resemblance to the monstrous football-size sandwiches that often pass for gyros.  The place is completely bare bones and the menu is simply taped to the counter.  As far as I can tell, the only patrons are some straggly kids from Southwest High School.  But I’ll be back because if we don’t support people like Ramy, who has everything staked in this little sub shop and is trying to make a go of it, then shame on us.  Who are we to complain as our options continue to dwindle leaving us with nothing but dreadfully insipid chains whose food is not real food . . . not love food, but money food? It’s hard to feel sated with money.  I’ll be back because I learned a few things about Morocco as I sat on the stool waiting for my gyros.  I’ll be back because Ramy’s sidekick, a bespectacled guy in a v-neck sweater whose only job was to ring me up, tried valiantly to keep the conversation going as I waited.  I’ll be back because there’s a chicken parm sub I need to try.  I’ll be back because it’s only a matter of time before I get a hankering for another gyros . . . (just east of 50th and France)


* Our friend Ramy lives in Boston and has been petulantly demanding that I provide him with a monicker that pops him some serious street cred but also highlights what a lovable fellow he is.  I am holding his monicker hostage until he comes to visit – out-of-towners do not typically get monickers on this blog because the chances of getting them into trouble with anything I write are slimmish.

Oct 25 2008

Hello old friend.


shapeimage_2-1_2The stars aligned themselves this week – just so – in order to bring us two of our favorite people:  my best childhood friend, Sweet Sue, and our hilarious college buddy, Duddy.  It felt like an embarrassment of riches, to have these two in town for work (and a bit of play) at the same time.

Sweet Sue has known me in all my fiendish glory since I was twelve.  We were silly, hyper, over-achieving Catholic schoolgirls together, we were awkward boy-starved, melodramatic journal writing teenagers together, we were crunchy, boozing, bar hopping, bored by our hometown college girls together . . . and now, as impossible as it is to believe sometimes, we are all grown up.  Women.  Sweet Sue lives in Manhattan. She’s a standup comic and a writer. Her life is technicolored and glamorous to me – a world away from my deciduous tree kid-centered existence.  We’re both busy – we correspond by email in intermittent flurries and then go dormant for weeks, months even.  We squeeze in good long juicy phone calls a few times a year and a visit every couple years.  There is no one, and I mean no one, who I’d rather loom with than Sweet Sue.  She and I raise loitering to an art form.  We once spent nine hours slothing it around Fanueil Hall in Boston and on the same trip, logged an ungodly number of hours in a nondescript park in Washington, D.C., happy as clams, moving from park bench to park bench, amused spectators to a tiny chunk of the world I couldn’t find again if you paid me a million dollars.  We meander, eat, sit, people watch, shop, and most of all talk.  We can certainly talk on a couch in a quiet room, but something about being out in the fray, with the world swirling about, that sort of allows conversations to unfold and skip along in expected and unexpected ways.  The volume on the world gets turned down, and we talk of life and love and loss.  We talk of clothes and hair and celebrities.  We used to talk about weight a lot – and then do nothing about it.  Now we talk about skin care – and do nothing about it.  Why is it so good for my soul to spend time with her?  Because I love her, plain and simple.  I just do.  And because when we’re together, the girls we used to be are there too, shimmering closer to the surface than in regular life.  When we’re together, it just doesn’t feel that different from when we were twelve.  I don’t think it ever will.

And after Sweet Sue’s short and lovely visit, I turned my attention to Duddy, who was Doctor Dash’s roommate in college.  He and Dash and three other guys lived down the block from our little blue house of girls on Saint Peter’s Street.  Duddy was the beautiful curly haired boy with the station wagon – the wagon that I conjure in my memory as having clouds of pot smoke billowing out of its windows as it sharked its way through the streets of Southbend.  It was so good to see him again.  We feasted and we partied and we laughed our asses off.  We talked about our kids.  Duddy has three beautiful children. In a way it blows my mind – but I also have this down in the gut certainty that he’s a great dad.  I haven’t seen him with his kids, but after seeing him with my kids, I just know.  And I’m not surprised.  What else were we doing in college, but in some ways preparing for this?  We were finding ourselves and figuring out who we wanted to be.  We were free and happy and in constant pursuit of a good time, a good buzz – soaking it all in, completely unaware of the blink of an eye that would take us to our real lives, our lives with a capital “L”. 

We were unwittingly setting the bar for ourselves: the bar for friendship, the bar for happiness.  

Duddy and Dash knew me when I was young.  When motherwas not my identity.  When every thought, emotion, decision and perception didn’t emerge, slightly altered, through the filter of motherhood.  It’s almost inconceivable to me now that I was actually that girl once.  That I walked through this world freely, unconnected to these children that are now everything to me.  For these reasons I have always cherished my college friendship with Dash and our friendships with our other college friends.  It’s a cliche, but man, you really do pick up where you left off.  I hadn’t seen Duddy in ten years and it’s as if a day hasn’t gone by since we were all huddled around a keg in fishermen sweaters and flannel shirts.  At the same time, there’s this intriguing decade and a half long chasm filled with the stuff of our lives:  marriage, work, children, pleasure, survival, compromises. There are music, books and ideas to be shared. There’s a whole hell of a lot to catch up on.  And catch up we did. 

Dash and I are both transplants to this fair city, so we don’t have many old friends here.  We have friends that are starting to feel like old friends, friends that will some day be old friends.  Here’s the thing – our old friends are scattered around the country, so when we see them, the past  – our shared past – is breathtakingly immediate.  We tap right back into that fountain of youth because we haven’t had time to pile other experiences on top of it.  There haven’t been barbeques and kids’ birthday parties creating new memory growth rings that change our perceptions of ourselves and each other from when we were twenty-one.  I suppose that’s why these little peeks into each other’s lives as grown ups are so sweetly compelling.  We see our own growth in each other . . . and in each other, we are reminded of how it all started.

Oct 13 2008

Sweet Tomato Follow-through.


tomatoesWhile I’ve always got a bee in my bonnet about something or other, it is rare that I get a bee in my bonnet and actually DO something about it.  On my internet meanderings, I came upon a recipe for slow roasted tomatoes – so slow, in fact, that they roast for twelve hours – overnight.  The idea appealed to me immensely because I love tomatoes and a lot of my cooking, especially as the weather cools, happens to be tomato-based (chili, stews, sauces, etc.)  Furthermore, I love the idea of killing as many birds as possible with one stone and with this recipe, I would be able to sleep and cook at the same time.  Multitasking whore that I am, what could be better?  And finally, you’ve undoubtedly heard me bemoaning my non-summer and with it, my less than satisfactory farmers market attendance.  Not enough summer = not enough farmers markets = not enough tomato consumption.  

I adore farmers markets.  I love that you can show up with a cool double in your pocket and walk away with bags and bags of shiny and riotously colorful loot. I always feel like Lindsay Lohan after a shopping spree in Beverly Hills – giddy and loving all the bags cutting off the circulation to my wrists, anxious to get home and spill my booty out all over the counters.  

So last week, after having dropped off all three children at school, I find myself in Target to buy an alarm clock for Saint James.  As I’m staring at the dismal produce feeling depressed and ineffectual, I hear a voice in my head . . . it sounds like Yoda, but it’s not Yoda . . . it’s my wise friend Gigi and she is saying: Don’t go to Target when you finally have some time to yourself.  I stand up a little straighter, release the wretched cucumber clutched in my hand and make a beeline for the door.  I had two hours before I needed to pick up Devil Baby.  Plenty of time to jet down to the Minneapolis Farmers Market and back. And I could get some tomatoes. 

And so I did.  

The Farmers Market on a cool, overcast Wednesday morning is so different than on a hot summer weekend.  Less vendors, less crowded, but more authentic somehow.  Gone are the sausages and lemonade – the hippy dippy dresses and scented candles.  It was down to the skeleton crew: a few ruddy faced Hmong farmers and a handful of local growers selling honey, apples, squash, and other late season bounty.  I shuffled along behind old couples who whispered conspiratorially as they shook bunches of spinach and squeezed glistening peppers with gnarled fingers.  I bought some amazing looking heirloom tomatoes:  some blood red streaked with purple, a goth tomato if ever there was one . . . some small and yellow like ampules of honey . . . some chartreuse green, as tart and sinful as Scott Weiland’s genius pants . . . the last sparkling gems of the season.  I bought two big buckets of bruised roma tomatoes for my project.  I even bought some beans from a polite Eastern European young man who began his sentence with “I must say . . .” and then told me he liked my “look.”  I don’t know what he was talking about, as I was in a puffy vest and Chucks, but hell, I’ll take my compliments where ever I can scrounge them, thank you very much, including Jacques and his beanstalk.  

As for the roasted tomatoes, you slice them in half, putting them face down on a rimmed cookie sheet drizzled in olive oil, sea salt, pepper, basil, crushed red pepper flakes, or whatever you fancy.  Drizzle more olive oil and seasonings on top and throw the whole lovely mess in the oven for twelve hours at 200 degrees.  Oh, and don’t forget to tuck some whole, unpeeled garlic cloves between the babies.  I made one batch with basil, oregano, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and one batch with just the garlic, in case I want to use it for salsa or chili.  

The results are pictured above and are, quite literally, to die for.  The wrinkly peels slip right off leaving the sweetest most concentrated tomato goodness you can imagine.  If Mother Nature laughed until she cried and her tears fell on some tomatoes which ripened and sweetened in the sun and then you took all of that and concentrated it one hundred fold, this is what it tastes like.  Smear some on a slice of baguette with goat cheese and you’ll be running with the bulls of Pamplona.  I tossed a few of the tomatoes with pasta, olive oil, goat cheese, pine nuts and basil and feasted formidably with Doctor Dash.  I’ve got the rest tucked in my freezer waiting for a snowy Sunday afternoon.  

You want summer distilled to its warmest, sweetest, earthiest essence?  Do this.

Oct 10 2008

Eureka moments abound for Peevish Mama.

shapeimage_2-3_2As of late, I’ve noticed that the insides of my two front teeth are feeling a little, well, chipped . . . micro-chipped, like tiny slivers of enamel have simply fallen off, leaving them feeling a little rough and impossible to ignore with my tongue.  Of course, because I worry, I worried.  Is it my electric toothbrush, supposedly so forgiving for my gum tissue but perhaps too punishing for my enamel?  Is it my toothpaste? My gum?  Yes, probably my gum!  Trident whitening.  Truth is, my teeth are white enough – I just like Trident and the push-through foil packets. Maybe I need a substitute?  Yes, new gum, definitely.  And then the other day as I’m driving along in my minivan, I reach for my pint glass of ice water and it suddenly hits me.  Ever since I forsook plastic, I’ve been bringing glass glasses of water in the car and every time I go over a bump . . . shit, does it take a genius? 

And another realization from this very evening: I have always always always coveted a huge, throaty, slippery, rich, honeyed singing voice.  A voice with soul and ache that sounds like it has murmured through thousands of cigarettes.  Always.  If I had my pick of Superhero talents, that would be it.**  So tonight I was out with my betties, Nanook of the North, Crackerjack and Birdie for a much needed airing, having a full-on rumpshaker of a good time watching our fave band New Congress.  (En passant, Bunkers, aside from its unfortunately cheesy name, is a fabulous bar on Thursday nights.  It’s big and dark and New Congress draws a really quirky and diverse crowd.  For some reason I can’t put my finger on, silliness and good times always find us when we go to Bunkers.)  So we’re dancing and drinking and watching the female back-up singer and a new girl who popped in for some really sexy, heavy rapping, and we’re remarking how both of these girls, being on the let’s say, curvaceous side, would really benefit from losing the jeans and tight t-shirts and slipping into sexy little wrap dresses – showing a little cleavage, showing a little leg – and then you’re rapping like a bad-ass mother fucker . . . ah, what’s not to love about that?!?!  But they’re in their twenties and Lord knows, it takes some years to figure it all out.  And then I’m telling Nanook, that I’d love to be able to sing and she’s telling me she’d love to be able to rap, and I’m watching these young buxom beauties belt it out and I’m struck by lightning.  The bosoms are actually responsible for the voice!!!  Am I the first person who has thought of this?  It totally makes sense – there’s more flesh, girth, cushion from which to reverberate.  Kind of why a base drum has so much more timbre and soul than a snare drum.  Think about it, can you think of a singer with a really good voice who’s skinny and flat as a board?  Well, PJ Harvey comes to mind . . . Joan Jett . . . but those aren’t the kind of voices I’m talking about.  I’m talking about HUGE voices.  Maybe I don’t want a voice so much as I want breasts.   

*Caveat Lector:  this entry is the product of post-New Congress two o’clock in the morning drunken musings. Only grammatical changes were subsequently made in the cool (painfully bright) light of day.

**Actually, geographical travel in the blink of an eye with the ability to take twenty people would be my ultimate first choice power – super deluxe hotel in Rio de Janiero for Carnivale, anyone?  Sunburnt country villa in the outskirts of Sevilla, Spain (con picina y cocinera), anyone?  Sunset-to-dawn rave in a Moroccan desert anyone?  Tree house eco-resort in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, anyone?  Rowdy Karaoke bar in Tokyo with the Japanese national baseball team anyone?  Deluxe white water rafting trip on the Snake River in Idaho, anyone?  Beautiful chalet in the Swiss Alps for New Years, anyone?  Horseback riding trek through Patagonia followed by a decadent weekend in Buenos Aires, anyone?  You see, this power would not be wasted on me.  Week-long Indian wedding of two huge Bollywood stars, anyone?  Don’t even tempt me to go on . . .

Oct 9 2008

Predecessor Booger Meister Ragamuffins.


shapeimage_2-4_2This old house needs a fresh coat of paint as badly as Dame Judi Dench needs a bath after a sweaty tussle with one of her young lovers on a steamy afternoon in her Corsican villa.  Fighting against every hasty, lazy, short-cut-taking fiber of my being, I have decided to be a responsible homeowner and prep the walls before they are painted.  Meaning I am cleaning them – old school style – rubber gloves, huge sponges, buckets of warm water and TSP/90 (which, incidentally, is amazing stuff if you’ve never tried it).  TSP/90 takes everything of the walls: dirt, grime, greasy fingerprints, pencil, pen, spaghetti sauce, chocolate and most importantly as it turns out, boogers.  

Never have I cleaned so many crusty boogers off a wall.  Actually, before yesterday I can say with confidence that I had never cleaned any boogers off a wall.  I am no forensic pathologist, but I know a booger stuck to a wall when I see it.  Perhaps it’s all the years of public library patronage in my youth that makes me such an expert (you check out enough books from the library, and you are bound to come upon a booger stuck to a page – a disgusting but true fact of life.)  Seriously, I only cleaned the walls going down to the basement and the basement hallway and I must have scraped off twenty boogers.  What was going on with these children that they were sticking so many boogers to so many walls?  Was there only one culprit or did all four of them get in on the action?  And where was their mother?  Why didn’t she ever wipe a booger off a wall?  

Inhabiting a new house goes so far beyond moving in your furniture, redecorating, changing wall colors. It’s really much more elemental. It’s about substituting your DNA for your predecessors’ DNA.  Doctor Dash and I can still make ourselves writhe in disgust at the memory of the veritable paste of red beard trimmings I scrubbed out of the rim of the sink in our Boston brownstone.  As I gagged and scrubbed and cursed the name of the divinity graduate student who had sold us the brownstone, I kept calling Dash into the bathroom, so he could bear witness to the first truly selfless act I performed as a newlywed.  In our last house, it was the fridge that had me gagging.  It was coated, positively shellacked, in the hair of the old black lab who lived with the old man who lived there before us.  I still haven’t resolved how you get that much dog hair in your refrigerator, short of actually putting the dog in the refrigerator.  And here, apparently, the biggest DNA issue is boogers – walls speckled and spackled in boogers, everywhere you look, everywhere you touch.  Who needs stucco when you’ve got kids like those?  She should have put them to work on some chipped patches on the outside of the house.  Next time I pull out the bucket and gloves, I’m going to be prepared with a little tool, a booger scraper.  As God is my witness, people, I will get every last booger . . . if it’s the last thing I do.

Oct 7 2008

Again with the feet!

shapeimage_2-5_2                                            Photo by Kathy Quirk-Syvertsen

Everyone has their sleep rituals – the little noises they make before they drift off, the way their bodies move as they slip into sleep.  Last night Devil Baby came to our bed in the middle of the night, which hasn’t happened in a while, and I became reacquainted with hers.  I’m not sure what time it was, but having turned in at nine, I had gotten my chunk of sleep and knew I wouldn’t fall asleep again.  Not that I could have with the foot frenzy that was happening next to me.  Devil Baby flutters her feet around like a pair of crazed seal flippers.  At first I thought she was messing around, but I realized she was trying to fall back asleep.  As her little feet ran up and down my body, probing every nook and cranny, I felt like I was being frisked by a saucy and opportunistic Italian policia.  I blearily thought - Jesus, she’s like Helen Keller over here.  Then I thought - No, wait, Helen Keller had arms . . . she’s like Bonnie . . . Bonnie Consuelo . . . 

For my old friends who read this blog, even though you didn’t actually know and even though I didn’t actually know, we both sort of knew on some unconscious level that it was only a matter of time before Bonnie Consuelo sashayed onto my little stage here.  In middle school religion class we were shown a movie about one feisty armless woman named Bonnie Consuelo.  She was a petite brunette with a feathered-hairdo.  And no arms.  Nevertheless, she was a mom and able to do all the things a mom needs to do.  She insisted on wearing sleeveless shirts (I suppose empty sleeves would have looked a bit lackluster and deflated), and she was able to drive and shop and cook and apparently, style her hair.  She could even put on a belt.  In the supermarket, she pushed her cart around with her waist and slipped her feet out of her white open toed wedges to squeeze melons (a discerning consumer, Bonnie was) and place them in her cart.  The movie was supposed to teach us valuable lessons about overcoming odds, perseverance, acceptance . . . blah blah blah. 

Obviously, when you serve Bonnie Consuelo up to a bunch of mean girls on a silver platter, the message is going to get lost.  We were horrified and hysterical.  We couldn’t get enough of Bonnie.  At one point in the movie, Bonnie is sitting on a stool at her kitchen counter, cutting tomatoes with her toes.  They are juicy and messy and she is wielding a knife like nobody’s business.  All of a sudden a fly starts buzzing around (and if this isn’t the kind of unscripted coup de chance that directors dream of, I don’t know what is). Bonnie puts down her knife and snags that fly right out of the air with her toes, Mr. Myagi-style, and throws it in the sink.  She then resumes her tomato slicing . . . without washing her feet hands!!!!  We were jumping out of our skin!  Gross!  we shrieked. That’s so foul! Nasty, Bonnie, nasty!!!  We jeered and heckled.  If we had had food, we would have thrown it at the screen.  Our poor teacher.  Talk about missing the point entirely.

No matter.  It has taken me all these years of hard won growth and maturity to appreciate Bonnie Consuelo. Who else but Bonnie would be able to provide a small chuckle in the middle of the night after twenty-five years? My teacher would be so proud.

Oct 3 2008

Such a fuck up.


shapeimage_2-6_2Today was parent pick-up day at school, meaning there were no buses, meaning the parents were supposed to pick up the children.  I had it written in my calendar, I swear.  But in an effort to clean, I had momentarily moved it.  Apparently, if my calendar isn’t yawning open, shaking its calendar tits in my face  I’m a goner.  I’m like a baby who hasn’t figured out object permanence.  Where’s the ball?  It’s gone!  Forever!  Oh, there it is.  Now it’s gone!  Calendar shut means no appointments, nothing going on, nothing to remember.  Total Freebird. 

And I don’t even have the decency to have a good excuse.  What was I doing when I got the humiliating call from Lenore, the school secretary, who had a forgotten and baleful Supergirl sitting in her office?  I can tell you I wasn’t racing against the clock to file a brief, I wasn’t listening for a heart murmur on my cardiac patient, I wasn’t squinting down the eyepiece of an electron microscope, I wasn’t ladling soup at a shelter. I wasn’t kneading bread, or making a soufflé or cleaning my house.  No, I was downloading My Kinda Lover by Billy Squier off iTunes.

Oct 1 2008

Out of the frying pan, into the fire. Beck!!!


shapeimage_2-7We had tickets to Beck last night.  Not that I had any business going to a concert after the weekend I had.  But it was BECK!  Beck.  Beck.  Beck, I chanted softly to myself as I lay in bed at three o’clock in the afternoon, feeling as if someone had pulled my lungs out through my ears, dipped them in egg, dredged them in panko bread crumbs, deep fried them and stuffed them back in through my nostrils.  I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move.  If it had been anyone else, I would have called in sick . . . (actually, I would miraculously emerge from my cremation urn for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but that’s another level of physical addiction/obsession altogether).  Beck. Beck. Beck.  I needed to rally.  Big time. 

So at fiveish, I made myself a nice cup of tea.  Then I had a little appetizer of Advil (for the aches) and Tylenol (for the shakes/suspicion of low-grade fever) washed down with copious amounts of limeade.  Then I took a few puffs of my inhaler (for the aforementioned crispy lungs).  Then I sat down to a lovely dinner of take-out from Convention Grill with my dear family (California burger with swiss and bacon, incase you were wondering . . . and a chocolate shake . . . and fries, of course).  Then I put on my purple jeans and my silver boots.  And suddenly I felt better.  I felt better than better!  I felt ready to bust a move and rock out to one of the little geniuses (the other being Prince) I’ve been wanting to see live for so so so long!

Doctor Dash and I went to the show with Pipes and our other friend who I will call Big (think Tom Hanks -he’s really just a kid in a grown-up body, although he has managed to become an orthopedic surgeon and snag a foxy wife, so I’d say that he’s a bit of a precocious child).  

Beck rocked.  It was a highly entertaining show on all fronts: sweaty, thrashing, screamin’ guitary, woozy crackly feed-backy, quirky without being annoying, and fully soul-satisfying.  An ocean of music – deep and vast and unpredictable.  I couldn’t take my eyes off him.  He’s such a smart little freak.  He played every song you wanted to hear off every album, driving home just what a prolific artist he is,  just how multifarious his sources and influences, just how far out his tentacles reach.  Exactly what you’d expect from the little man genius, who, incidentally is wearing his hair down to his shoulders . . . with BANGS!  He looks ridiculous.  He looks awesome.  And the little chickie on guitar could not have been more adorable. What a rockin’ little cutie-pie minx.  I wanted to be her.  Dash, Pipes and Big just wanted her.  Actually, I did too a little – ya, she’s that cute.  What a gig . . . sigh . . . I wonder if she smooches Beck and his Robin Hood hair.

We wormed our way to the belly of the beast (where I was nearly Marsha Brady’d by a young fool with flailing elbows) and danced with the youngsters. Well, I danced . . . and Pipes danced . . . Dash just kind of grooved.  And poor Big got poked relentlessly by some suburban office worker’s enormous cheap black purse.  You know what?  Time for a public service announcement:  Ladies, when you go to a show, do like me and simply slip some cash and your license in your back pocket, or do like my betties and take a little clutch with your lippy and the rest. But don’t bring your gigantic structured purse with God knows what in it and expect the people around you to like you.  For the love of God, leave the damn bag at home you loser mid-level human resources employee!  That prissy matron is probably the person who lost a heel on the way out.  Pipes and I just cackled at the forlorn, destroyed heel strewn on the ground.  Serves her right for wearing cheap stilettos to a concert.  You gotta be quick, nimble and UNFETTERED!  It could be a matter of survival if the shit really hit the fan and there was a stampede or something.  Man, have I digressed.  Back to the kick-ass concert.

I just wanted to shrink Beck and take him home with me in one of those mesh ball tea infusers tied around my neck.  I would put him in the little wooden dollhouse that nobody plays with and I would sooooo pimp it out for him!  I would cut up my faux fur to make him a super deluxe bedspread and some throws and I would put really cool wallpaper up and I would go to those stores where all those freaky crafts people go and buy really nice miniature furniture.  And I would cook him delicious feasts – none of this corn niblet in a thimble crap.  I would grill him perfectly seared tiny steaks. I would toss him lovely and fresh little salads in lemony vinaigrettes, whip him some perfectly creamy and garlicky mashed potatoes.  The way I figure it, I would need tweezers, a scalpel, a medicine dropper, and a tiny whisk to cook for him – and maybe an Easy-Bake Oven so I could make him tiny pies and fruit crumbles. And we would have so much to talk about and I would be such a good hostess that I would begin to neglect my other duties, and my husband and children would start to resent little Beck, and I would begin to fear for his safety, and it would be time for him to leave anyway because he puts out an album every year or so, and so we would share a teary good bye, promise to stay in touch . . . and his next album would be all about me.

Anyway, he rocked.  

[Note: the photo is from some dude’s Flickr stream.  Not sure what the legal ramifications are of filching some dude’s photo off his Flickr stream, but in my defense, I did harass Dash repeatedly to try to get a picture on his camera phone and it just didn’t work out.]

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