Bread of the Dead

I don’t really cook anymore. That’s why it’s been so hard for me to churn out any interesting updates; I don’t cook much and I don’t dine out. Food has pretty much become something that I do because I know I have to, not because I get any joy from making or sharing it. Or even bitching about it. What the hell? Saturday morning, I whipped up some breakfast for my roommate and me – roasted potatoes and black beans with queso – it was the first real meal I’d made all month.

There are a lot of reasons for this; my recent gallbladder surgery tops the list. Since there are so many foods that just don’t sit right anymore, I steer clear of most of my favorite dishes. Pad See Ew sans broccoli just doesn’t work. I’ve  tried it. I’d always thought it was the sauce and egg that gave the dish the mysteriously endearing hot crotch flavor that I loved so much – but a healthy dose of eau de florette is a vital piece of that puzzle. There ain’t no crotch with out it. Likewise, since I can’t have the grilled cheese sandwiches I crave, I’ll just gnaw on some tofu, because: why bother.

I thought I’d have it back by now. I honestly thought that I’d have figured out how to eat around the ingredients that cause grief and how to rig up all of these incredible recipe substitutions that would open up whole new worlds of flavor and color and dazzle me with carved zucchini garnishes and molded agar delights. I’ve blipped through tasteologie and open source food and the recipes that used to get me all jittery and full of boingy excitement now make me think, “Eh. Too expensive. Too much energy. I can just go buy some tapioca pudding at the store for a dollar and call it a day.” And so I do. Well, I would, if I could be bothered to go to the store. I feel a lot like Allie, from Hyperbole and a Half. Parp?

So what now? The heart-shaped doughnut pan will most likely get shipped off to Goodwill and the vintage cookbooks will hide out in a box for a good long while. I can’t bear to get rid of them completely, just in case the day comes around when I can’t figure out on my own how to chip up some beef-substitute and serve it all up on some toast. With peas. ‘50s style. Maybe one day I’ll once again get the urge to toss some saucepans around, but until then, you can find me playing Marvel Avengers Alliance. Special Ops 4 just came out, and well, you know…

(shamelessly lifted from hyperbole. read the archives, you won’t be sorry)
I wrote that yesterday. And I meant every single word of it. I’m fucking killin’ it in PVP. And I guess I meant it about all the other stuff, too; so much of my old life is, for all intents and purposes, dead to me. And I’m sad about it. And I’m frustrated. No denyin’.

About a week ago, I had some stitches removed from, umm, special places (that’s another story for another time), and to take my mind off the awkwardness of it all, I got myself into a conversation about crows, skulls, and the Day of the Dead. My dermatologist’s mother has, every October for the past 17 years, made a Day of the Dead-style altar commemorating her departed husband and friends. Mostly her husband. The mother also collects crow and raven art and dresses the skeletons of roadkill in fine leathers and beads. In short, she sounds like the kind of mom I wish I’d had, and seems to be a crone, in the true sense of the word.  Which is a damn good thing for the mother of a healer to be. Anyway… so I have bits of this awesome conversation bouncing around in my head, and Día de los Inocentes is the day after tomorrow, and I even though I’m not feelin’ it, I can still bake up one hell of a mean loaf of pan de muerto. Fake it til you bake it.

The entirety of this year has been pretty much marked by the metaphorical death of one thing after another, and the only right and true way to deal with that is to kick it up old school – pour some out for my homies, pass a nod to what has been, and get down to some motherfucking rebirth.

With cheese.

This Is Why I Don’t Have Nice Things

The other day, I was thinking about Crown Roast – that hoighty-toighty rack of ribs that shows up at Xmess-time, arranged all fancylike, with the bones pointing up and wearing little tufted paper hats. It’s a pretty elegant and festive meatpiece.  And I was thinkin’, If I were to ever make and eat a real, live Crown Roast, which I’m not, I’d be damn tempted to add a little somethin’-somethin’ to make it even festiver.

Somethin’ like a fountain.

Of BBQ sauce.

Smack-dab in the middle.

 

It wouldn’t be very difficult to rig up; circle the roast around a small stainless steel bowl, roast it up but good, put a submersible pump in the bowl (a clean one, please, not something you just pulled out of the goldfish bowl) and thread the cord between 2 of the ribs, fill bowl with barbeque sauce (you’ll have to water it down a bit, natch), and voila.

Nothing could go wrong with this at all.

…and we’re back!

So that happened…

A couple of months ago, I had my gallbladder yoinked out. Thus the whole lack of posts an’ whatnot.  It wasn’t a life-or-death situation or anything, but it was pretty traumatic. I’d not want to do it again.

My surgeon was great, and I had a lot of confidence in his technical skills (thank you internet research and doc review web sites) but like all doctors, he was overbooked and busy and didn’t really have time to hold my hand and walk me through the entire process as much as I’d have liked.  He also wasn’t much help with my dietary questions or really with any general healy-uppy info. In fact, like most health professionals, he was too hamstrung by malpractice fear to be able to say anything. Which is a load of crap. But whatever. Research was all on me – I talked with a few friends who had gone through the procedure, collected all the firsthand information I could, and then hit up the Internet to fill in the blanks.

Thing is, people who have average experiences don’t often post about them, and those who post about their good experiences tend to boast so hyperbolically that it seems they are lying. They have to be lying — nobody goes in to get a gallbladder removed and comes out with a handful of Spanish doubloons! So naturally, the vast majority of what’s floating around the intertubes is horror stories, probable exaggerations, and a slew of terrible misspellings.

So I’ll do the dirty work that nobody else seems willing to do – post about my kind-of sort-of average, no frills gallbladder removal experience.  For science!

 

I started feeling sick on a Wednesday afternoon. It was a stressful day, on top of a stressful week, that was a part of a stressful month, which was rounding out a very stressful year. So when my stomach started churning and clenching, I just thought it was just some more stress running around and gettin’ jiggy all up in there, but when the Mister picked me up from work, I could tell something was really wrong – when i got in the Zipcar, I started crying from the pain.  Which is something that I never do.  Don’t get me wrong, I cry all the time — when they cancelled Alcatraz, during the tender love scenes in Species 2, whenever I see those damn Sarah McLaughlin ASPCA commercials — but never from physical pain.

Even though I was feeling rotten, I made dinner when I got home – cooking is a thing that calms and relaxes me  and that very day I had gotten my long-coveted corndog maker and I was bound and determined to use it, come hell or high water! So I whipped up the most basic of basic  veggie corndogs (it hurt too much to whip up of any sort of creative corndoggery) and had a small glass of wine and then went right to bed.  At 2 am, I woke up writhing and moved downstairs to the couch and proceeded to not be comfortable for the rest of the night. Morning. Whatever.  At 7 am, the Mister came downstairs and convinced me to get myself to the emergency room.

I got Dilaudid!  That stuff is platinum! It was like getting a warm and fuzzy hug from the inside! Then, after some poking and prodding, the nice lady in scrubs said all signs pointed to gallstones even though none were seen in the first CT scan. So maybe it was hepatitis? Umm, no. I got another scan, this time they saw stones a’plenty. They recommended Immediate Gallbladder Removal, but scheduling and life and stuff and junk conspired against me, and I had to wait 10 days. Ten really long, annoying, uncomfortable days. But hey, at least I had Vicodin.

I’m kind of glad I had those ten days, though; I was able to do a bunch of research and order up a good supply of nutritional supplements and find people to pitch in and help me out.  See, the Mister wasn’t going to be around when I had my surgery, so I had to find someone to drive me to the hospital and back again, and some additional caretakers to help me through the first couple of days, watching movies and opening jars and such. Doing it alone would have been completely unpossible.

The big day came and my fridge was stocked with non-dairy protein shakes, applesauce, and mashed potatoes. I’d put fresh sheets on the bed and assembled an easily reachable collection of yoga pants and baggy t-shirts.  Craft supplies were procured and I had 6 seasons of Supernatural queued up on Netflix.  I was totally ready.

Jo Jo got me to the hospital at 6am, and I was under the knife by 9, and it’s all hazy, but I think I got home sometime right before 6pm.

Please don't tease the monkeys

I had 48 gallstones. Nasty little jerks.

Things have been quite different since the operation.

 

The first 3 days of healing were fucking excruciating. I couldn’t get comfortable, I couldn’t sit down or recline or lie down or stand up. The very first night, I got stuck in bed – I was alone in the apartment and I had accidentally rolled off my tower of pillows and couldn’t get up. You just try transitioning from laying down to sitting up without using your abdominal muscles, not even to roll over. It does not work. And of course, my phone was downstairs and the front door was locked so even if I could have called somebody to come over and help, they’d not have been able to get in.  It took an hour to slowly creep and crawl my way into a position from where I could hoist myself up, and god, I don’t even want to think about that any more.

Life got better on day 4. I had a breakthrough – a friend took me out for coffee (lukewarm green tea for me) and my master plan was to walk all the way to the coffee shop (3 whole blocks!) and show off how well I was healing.  Well, the plan failed. I got about 30 feet down the sidewalk and stopped and asked to be driven the rest of the way. But still, getting out of the house, just that little bit, was enough to kickstart my brain and body into getting up and on with it. I was itching to get out of the house by day 6 – I’d been shuffling laps around the living room, much to the cats’ annoyance, and on day 7, I went outside and walked for about a mile.  It took over half an hour and I thought I’d die, but it was a good thinking I’d die; it was a thinking I’d die as an accomplishment.

 

Food is weird. Everyone I’ve spoken with has had a different experience; some can eat anything and everything with no ill-effects, while others don’t seem to tolerate anything above the blandest BRAT-type foods. Some have to stick to a very low-fat regimen, and others have increased food sensitivities or have developed food allergies. I’m kind of in the middle; I can eat nachos with jalapenos and the occasional mac and cheese, but it’s best if I don’t do that very often. For some reason, Indian yellow curry with paneer and potatoes is ok while Thai yellow curry with tofu and potatoes is not. Cheese is sometimes difficult to digest, but yogurt and sour cream are fine and dandy.  For the first couple of weeks, I was doing pretty well with a high-fiber, low-fat diet, but now too much brown rice or certain cereal grains spells disaster.  And I can’t eat fruit unless it’s peeled and/or cooked into oblivion. Apple pie ok, applesauce is fine, but even a couple slices of raw apples are right out. “Say goodbye to broccoli,” one friend told me, and he was right. Broccoli is now my kryptonite.

Although nearly everybody’s personal accounts of life after cholecystectomy were different, there was one thing that everyone did agree on – probiotic supplements are mandatory. So I got the best that I could afford, FOS-free, human-derived strains, the whole 9 yards, and I take ‘em every day. Every day that I remember, that is.  I also take an essential fatty acid supplement, a probiotic fiber supplement, and extra doses of Calcium/Magnesium/Vitamin D. It’s a shitton of pills.  My acupuncturist gave me a recipe for a congee that is full of grains and herbs and things that are all kinds of good for me. It tastes like chunky bathwater, but I try to eat it often.

 

That brings us up to now. It’s been a couple of months, and I’m still working on getting back to normal. I’m a very emotional eater, and since the gallbladder attack some of the things that gave me a great measure comfort are gone. Or changed. Or just…  different. Some of my favorite foods are now verboten, and on top of that, my main support system is also gone, and to be quite honest, I fell into a pretty deep depression. I’m still fighting my way up and out of that.

My abdomen is still a little swollen (I like to refer to it as “being post-surgical,” it sounds better than “I got all fat on protein shakes’), and I still eat gingerly. I found out the hard way that I’m quite allergic to surgical adhesive. Oh, and I have also developed a pretty bad Dean Winchester problem.  But I really do feel a huge sense of accomplishment in knowing that all the healing and stuff — I did it, and am doing it, on my own. I had friends nearby if I wanted them, and I had friends right there when I needed them, but the day-to-day stuff, I did that all by myself. It sucked, and I was in a quagmire of self-pity because I really should not have been alone, but as it turns out, I ended up ok.  Just some little pink scars on the outside and a few gnarly ones on the inside.

 

But I’m ok.

Everyday I Hate Rachael Ray: Holi-Golightly Edition

Stabby Yum

So, the holiday season is officially almost over and I swear to Maude, it’s about time. I cannot stand the thought of being in the same room as another peppermint-sprinkled cocoa nutty rum fudgeball. I’ve been sitting on the December issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray simply because the above-the-name header is COOKIE BLOWOUT. No!  No, Rachael, No!  No cookie blowout! But i guess it’s time to crack the spine on this thing.  It’s a flippy-over issue, and I’m gonna start in on the Holi-Day side. (Actually, she has it as just plain ol’ “holiday,” but I’m changing it to be consistent with the bottom half’s Holi-Night.)

In Rach’s notebook, she says “this issue is our gift to you.” No it’s not; the cover price is still $3.99.  Her follow-up claim is that they have made the issue into a big, fun-filled greeting card, but I opened it up to the middle and there was no long-winded overly rhymey poem about feelings, rose petals, and the undying warm glow of friendship. It also did not have a $20 check from gramma.

Further inside disappointments include:

  • p. 22 – butternut squash ravioli made with wonton wrappers. I really don’t think that counts as “sophisticated leftovers.”
  • p. 26 – the overall theme of this page is – Editors, where have you been??  First of all, pickled eggs and okra are not “kooky.”  And suggesting the use of Instagram or MySketch to give food photos an additional iota of va-va-va-voom is fine and all, but how about starting with some basic advice, like photo composition?  Also, who even needs to be told about Instagram?
  • p. 40 – A radish wreath?  Bitch, please. Have you seen what one day out in the open does to a radish?  It’s a weird, wilty mess. You don’t want that on your door, or anywhere near your house, really.  Oh!  The fine print says, “For a longer-lasting wreath, use hardy white pine branches instead of radish greens.” Because nothing goes together better than radishes and pine. This is the kind of thing you give to a neighbor you hate.
  • p. 45 – “Stuff your belly with [potatoes] to avoid overeating during the holidays.” Okay, now we’re talking!  Except, on the next page, all the ‘tater recipes are butter-butter-butter. And cheese.  I’m personally okay with that, but I think binging on Cheesy Chicken Potato Soup may not be the best way to cut calories.
  • p. 50 – Okay, maybe buying toaster waffles is easier than making your own from scratch, but think of the children…  Real waffles are so much better. Always.
  • p. 68 – the big holiday food spectacular. You know what? I just quickly flipped through this section and didn’t even glance at a single recipe; the layouts and photography were awful and I just kinda assumed that everything was gonna taste bad. Maybe they should have used Instagram.
  • p. 78 – OH MY GOD SO MUCH BROWN. I can’t tell the food from the tablecloth, and I’m not even sure I really even want to.
  • p. 85 – part of the Big Cookie Blowout!  Marshmallow cookies. These remind me of the time Wyeth and I wrapped marshmallows in sugar cookie dough and baked them, thinking that we’d get these awesome cubes of fluff-filled cookie wonderfulness…  That day, we discovered sugar cookies don’t work like that.  I’m still traumatized.
  • p. 99 – If you need to be told that you can add bananas to pancakes, you need to go live  -in Terra Haute- under a rock.
  • p. – 111 – oh, I guess we’re flipping over now.  Welcome to the Holi-Night edition.   I guess all the hot parties this season will be featuring meatballs on toothpicks and tomato soup shooters. Good thing I’m all partied out, get a couple ounces of soup in me and I’m all WOOOO-WEEEEE-WOOOOOOO-HEEHEHEHEHEHE-WAAAAH! And believe you me, nobody wants that.
  • That’s the only interesting thing in the upside-down part.

Do I dare hope for better in the New Year?  Not really.

Holiday Manhood

Spike

A long time ago, in a city far, far away, I worked in a fussy little gift shop. It was a nice little shop, but the owner was a bit delicate about certain matters. The dress code was about 3 pages long and specified things like “no exposed leg” and “tunics, if worn with leggings, must extend down to 2″ above the knee.” We were also quietly advised to avoid wearing anything bright red.

So anyway, one of the items we carried in this precious boutique was the metal dog pictured above. (You can get this one at Uncommon Goods. He’s a tea light holder.) It’s kinda hard to see in the photo, but look closely and you’ll see that he’s a boy dog. The horror!

We had to neuter him.

A few days after our puppy herd was, uh, culled, a brown paper bag mysteriously appeared on my desk. Written in Sharpie on one side was the cryptic notation “Spot’s Manhood.”

Because really, what else are you going to do with a bag of metal testicles than give them to me?

I had every intention of sewing the disembodied balls onto the leopard print purse I was using at the time – they’d have made an awesome metal fringe – but I never got around to buying/making the necessary jump rings, and then I quit my job and moved across the country and life happened and the purse full of Spot’s manhood sat in the back of the closet of forgetfulness for years and years.

Until last night.

spot's manhood

Turns out they’re the perfect compliment to the black/silver Gothmas tree.

A Book by its Cover

"Blurry Books 3" by Lorien Gruchalla

Y’all may know this about me already, but I’m cranky. And because of that, or maybe even to further that, I tend to surround myself with like items: Nietzsche, Grinderman, police procedural TV shows with curmudgeonly characters…

My overall view on “happiness” is threefold:

  • What we think of as happiness isn’t really genuine. We’re so inundated with expectations that we don’t even know how to accurately read our own state(s)-of-being.
  • Hedonists and narcissists, as a general rule, are overcompensating for something.
  • Chipper people creep me out.

Not to say that happiness is a bad thing, because I kinda like it. However, I do think the concept is ill-defined and even iller-understood. We substitute satisfaction and satiety, and we don’t allow ourselves the luxury of our own subjectivity. As a semi-wayward sometimes-student of the Frankfurt School and their whole Culture Industry thought tank hoo-haw, I’m hyper-aware of conspicuous cultural consumption. I notice what people are reading, I peek at iPod screens, I eavesdrop. It’s in my nature.

Relatedly, I can differentiate between an active and genuine interest in something and a generally kinda apathetic but still gotta be keeping up with the Jones’ attitude. I’m pretty damn good at it, the differentiating thing, and in keeping with that, I know when eyes are turned on me.

There is a point to all of this.

There’s a small gaggle of hipster/commuters who share the back of the bus with me. We stand at our stop in silence, board the bus, exchange 2-minute pleasantries, then dive into our Kindled bookworlds while we lurch towards downtown. Usually the chatter is friendly, but over the course of time, we’ve developed a bit of mocking sociable camaraderie. Our books, in turn, are generally humorously dismissed; mine are often called “grandpa books” (notably the Aubrey/Maturin series) and waved off as old-fashioned and/or irrelevant (most often by my own hand). A general sharing of titles goes something like this:

– “Oh that book made a great impression on me. — pause pause pause — In 9th grade.” (Herman Hesse’s Glass Bead Game)

– “If the men had therapists and the women had the internet, that wouldn’t even be a story worth telling” (Dashiel Hammett’s Red Harvest)

– “The Literary Equivalent of MacArthur Park” (Steig Larsson’s The Girl Who Did The Thing To The Stuff trilogy)

– “Seriously, people doing bad things in Thailand, whoda thunk it?” (John Burdett’s Bangkok Haunts)

– “There is no postman! Never was!” (James M Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice)

It’s really kind of the best way to start my morning.

I ran out of book the other day. I just finished Storm of Swords and need to take a break before diving into the next rapey-killy George R R Martin tome, and I’ve read all the shitty-but-guilty-pleasure James Burke stuff. The only things on my shelves that I haven’t read and re-read are a couple of cookbooks and some vintage paperbacks. And 1Q84, but that’s not anything I can take on the bus. Things die horrible deaths in my purse, and I don’t want to see this massive tome eroded away by wayward emery boards, uncapped lipstick, and whatever else lurks in the dark shadows.

My bookstore guy is pretty well trained; he calls me whenever vintage cookbooks come in, and he always sets aside any old Scribner paperbacks so I can take first crack at ‘em; he knows I’m a sucker for well-designed 1960’s cover art. He’s also kind of like a nerdy cross between Elvis Costello and Jason Statham. Plus he has big nerdy glasses. And when he’s working, there’s a constant stream of Joy Division and Dream Syndicate playing. But I digress.

So anyway, I was in the store, milling around, mostly not finding Brandreth’s Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders (don’t judge me; it’s not Twilight) and generally just wasting time because I couldn’t think of anything else to do on my lunchbreak. I was just hemming and hawing my way through the used literature section when Bookstore Guy came out from behind his perch and asked, kinda shyly, if he could recommend something. It was cute. I said “sure.”

He pulled out a copy of The Geography of Bliss. He said I looked like I needed it.

It’s bright blue. And it’s all about happiness, what makes it, how we interpret it, and a study of the social and cultural stuff that goes into finding it.

So, this morning I’m on the bus, nicely nestled in the wayback, and nobody was looking, and I pulled out the bright blue Bliss book as surreptitiously as possible and started reading. Almost instantly the other readerheads’ swiveled around, they were onto me… “That’s one really bright book.” “Wait! Bliss? Is that a self-help book!” “Are there at least dragons in it? Or mutants?” “Will this help you survive a giant squid attack?”

So now, I’m already very conscious of reading a book about happy places. The unasked question, am I in danger of finding mine? It’s hard to say, but with a literal busload of early-morning commuter cynics Heisenberging over me, I’m overly aware of my reaction.

My initial rejoinder is to affect disinterest. I tend to claim pure unaffectedness whenever a reaction is expected of me; it’s part defense mechanism, part unwillingness to let people predict my response, and part secret inside joke that’s funny only to me. So there is that. Reading this book has already become much more of a test of will than it really should be.

All that aside, the 35 pages I’ve read already are pretty darn good. But before the day is through, I will be investing in a Max California-style book cover. Who wants to join me at the porn store?

An Exercise in Futility

Spite

A couple of months ago, I started a pretty ambitious art project: a partial portrait in beads. I’d taken a black and white photo, blown it up all huge, gridded out the pixels, and made a beading pattern that would have made a vaguely 6×10 finished piece. My notably flawed math skills notwithstanding, I figured that it would take a couple bags of beads and maybe 10 hours to finish, and that it would make a nice gift for a friend.

I kind of underestimated things, though. I set the pattern out in blocks that were 10 beads high by 75 rows wide. Each block took about two hours to set up and bead. The finished piece would have been 16 blocks high and used 120,000 beads. Factoring in the amount of nightly free time I have to work on such things (not a lot), and adding in a couple extra hours here and there for reworks and distractions, I guessed I would probably have finished it sometime mid-2047.

Somehow, I managed to find the time to get the project just a little bit over halfway done and then some crap happened. Crap! And overnight, my reason for finishing the piece changed from a magnanimous "hey, I made a thing for you" to a spiteful "hey, I made a thing, and now you can't have it." And right about the time that the intention switch got flipped, I fucked up the piece. Irreparably.

I learned a valuable lesson – making pretty things into petty things never works.

After the fuckup, I kept working on it because I was bound and determined to finish, because: spite! Also, I wasn't quite ready to give up. A week later, I threw it away, and the following day, I started on a new one. This one, I thought, is just for me. I’m doing it because it’s a damn good idea and a damn good design and it’s something I want to start and finish and hang on my wall because I liked it.

Which was a great plan and all, but I fucked that one up, too. There is a lot of counting involved, and it’s hard to keep things straight when watching Criminal Minds and trying to also hold a conversation with Mr. Boyfriend. I’d count something, get distracted, answer a question, recount, make a quip, recount, get impatient, need a glass of water, recount, ad infinitum.

When I was stitching blocks of blocks together, I noticed a spot where two lines of beads did not match up and could not match up with out significant re-working. I’d already done some pretty stellar post-fixing and was feeling all kinds of crunchy about doing any more. It was too much to think about, I’d have to undo and re-do about 1,400 beads, which was just too, too much. Last night I took a good hard look at what I had worked on and decided that it wasn’t worth salvaging.

It’s tempting to look at all the lost time and all the changes of intention that went into making the piece — 100 hours, easy, and a lot of good thoughts at the beginning — and think that because I’d put so much into it, it deserved to be finished. But it doesn’t. Yeah, I spent some time, and yeah, I spent some brainpower, but all that’s really lost, though, is just $12 worth of beads. That’s all it was ever worth.

Thanks For That

sacred heart of jesus w nutter butter wrapper
PHOTO BY BILL ROGERS/FLICKR

I had planned to dive into the Thanksgiving edition of Everyday with Rachael Ray, but I can’t find it.  I checked everywhere in and around my desk and nope, it ain’t anywhere. I did find two issues of Modified Monthly, though (that’s the magazine on which I practice my madd copyediting skillz),  an old Popular Photography that i had saved for an HDR article, and the latest issue of Imbibe

<soapbox> Imbibe is a great magazine. If you like cocktails like I like cocktails, I highly recommend subscribing. In fact, I highly recommend subscribing to pretty much any magazine you enjoy, even Modified Monthly. It’s cheaper — usually half-off the cover price. And it’s convenient; they just come to you like magic!  Like clockwork.  Like clockwork magic!  Subscribing also gives the business side of the ‘zine some numbers to work with when deciding things like size, paper quality, how many ads they need to run, and how many writers and photographers to hire.  Because I like reading magazines that are printed well and have a high content-to-ad ratio, with pretty pictures and writing that is relevant, entertaining, and informative, I subscribe.</soapbox>

Anyway.  No Rachael Ray. Which is probably for the best, because I’m really not a fan of Turkey Day, anyway.

The first time I made a Thanksgiving feast was, well…  I was 18, had just moved into my first apartment, and didn’t really have niceties like cookware or a wall calendar. So when that third Thursday in November rolled around, I didn’t think anything of it until about 2 p.m. when I realized, “Oh shit! I haven’t gone grocery shopping!  Also, I’m broke!” My roommate and I pooled our cash, scrambled up the street to the 7-11 and grabbed everything we could afford that we thought would make an acceptable Thanksgivingy meal.  With our combined eleven dollars, we got Minute Rice, carrots, some raisins, and Nutter Butters. And a couple Big Gulps, because it ain't a real dinner without Dr. Pepper. From that, we made something that fed all of our friends. Nobody seemed to mind the lack of canned cranberries or stuffing, and we all got pretty drunk on some purloined Grain Belt. It was a nice evening indeed.

One thing bothered me, though; everyone called it an Orphan’s Feast. And the subsequent Thanksgivings I’ve had sans family — which is all of them — have been referred to, at least once in the course of the meal, as an "orphan’s dinner."  I hate that phrase.  It implies that it’s a less-than event, something cobbled together for the poor unfortunates and unwashed heathens that have nowhere else to go. The reasoning seems to be that if not for the grace of the host, we’d all be standing on street corners, kicking rocks at passing cars.

I don’t think this is the case at all. It’s a gathering of people who want to be together rather than have to be together. It’s a gathering of friends who enjoy each other’s company with no strings, guilt trips, or trumped-up family drama. You can drink too much wine and talk politics and literature and not have to make up excuses to go out behind the garage to have a cigarette or huff some ReddiWhip. You can get up and go whenever you want. You can bring your best fuckbuddy and not have to refer to him or her as “an old college pal.”    You can show up in a tux.  You can show up in pajamas. You can bake your own turkey and stuff the damn thing with whatever the hell you want!

But even with the looseness of a chosen family, there is the Expectation of Damocles that continues to hang over everything – the comparison to the Family Dinner. Whether as antagonist or protagonist, The Dinner makes for a bad guest at any table.  Not the food itself; that part is awesome. I mean the expectations, and the comparisons, to every traditional family dinner ever.  There must be turkey; if there isn’t, there is "something missing."  This annoys me to no end — not just as a vegetarian, but as a free thinker.  There needs to be stuffing and pie and sweet potatoes with marshmallows and it’s just not a real dinner without them.

You know what makes a real dinner?  Nothing. There’s no magical checklist. There are no proper ingredients. You either have it — in whatever incarnation you choose — or you don’t.

So what am I doing this year?  Absolutely nothing.  El Boyfriendo will be off in a sunnier climate (EDITOR'S NOTE: Not unless the magazine pays me, I won't), and I have chosen not to avail myself upon the kindness of friends. I will be sleeping late, wandering around a bit in my pajamas, watching all the Criminal Minds reruns I can find (which is all of them), and maybe, just maybe, ordering a pizza.  Not because it’s the only thing I can think of to do, but because it’s what I want to do. If I’m lucky, I won’t have to put on a bra or brush my teeth for three days. It’s going to be a wonderful, quiet, boring long weekend … and for that, I am very thankful.

Just Do It Like the Picture, OK?

Scissors 1
PHOTO BY TERESIA/FLICKR

It’s haircut time!  Oh, endless misery and woe… 

What I want is a 1990s-style graduated bob.  Short in back, long in front, with a good, strong angle.  And I want the bottom third of the bob layered.  No bangs, no fringe, and yes, I part it on the left.  It was that way when I came in here, it’ll be that way when I walk out. 

What I get, more often than not – despite proper diligence and crafty refocusing techniques – is a straight-all-the-way-round bob, nothing fancy, no frills.  And I’m not really looking for frills; I just want the back short.  There needs to be some hott clipper-on-neck axxxtion or I’m not getting my ass out of the chair.  The law has been laid.  Down

Having to argue industriously for a haircut is insane.  Especially when photos are involved: I mean, I bring in photos of myself, in the cut that I want.  Look, proof!  I have had this cut before; I can indeed “pull it off.”  I’m paying a (hopefully) highly trained professional to cater to my whims and to have them question my wants/needs/preferences is throat punchingly insulting, especially when it’s really nothing more than a simple trim. I’m not asking for a striking and stunning re-do; I’m not asking to get a foot taken off and the remnants dyed glow-in-the-dark; I’m asking for a cleaning up of what I already have, thank you very much. 

Nope, I don’t want to add volume.  Nope, I’ve not thought about getting a perm.  Yes, remember, I part my hair on the left.  The left.  My left.  YES, I’VE HAD THE CUT BEFORE, IT WAS CALLED THE ‘90S.  YES, IVE HAD THIS CUT BEFORE, OH LOOK, I HAVE IT NOW.  Why is it so hard? Whyyyyyyyyyyyy?

I’ve even been told things like “it’s salon policy not to go that short on women.”  WHAT?!  If I want a fucking buzz cut, I will get it because I’m paying you to give me one.  Also, since when is one inch past chin-length considered short?

Luckily, I’ve had a great stylist for the past couple of years, so I don’t have to deal with new stylist bullshittery very often, but there are times when I’m out of town or she’s out of town or schedules don’t quite meet up or, you know, whatever, and I have to try to find someone who will do my bidding.  It’s hard.  Makes me bitchy.

Eat Like a Goth

i am alone
ILLUSTRATION BY KARLA MARTINEZ LORIA/FLICKR

My acupuncturist and I talk about food a lot. She’s kind of a foodie, as well as a Chinese herbalist, and we share the belief that what one eats – and doesn’t eat – plays a large part in a person’s well being. On a recent visit, she gave me a stack of stuff to read about various things I can do to augment the treatments she is doing; a lot of them are dietary based. Wading through all of the info was a bit mind-bending, there was a lot of stuff jam-packed into a few paragraphs, and it’s written for an audience of TCM practitioners, not curious patients, so admittedly, good chunks of it went over my head. But the lists of foods to be favored and those to be avoided, those I got down pat. And the gist of it is – eat like a goth.

I can do this!

The Eat Me list was full of black beans, kidney beans, black sesame seeds, beets, molasses, cherries, figs, black lentils, rhubarb, black garlic, pomegranates, roasted barley, red onions, wild rice, strawberries… do you see the theme here? It’s all red and black! There were a few other things on there, too, like dark leafy greens and some purple stuff, but those are all shadowy, gloomy, and doomy-lookin’, too. Also, my favorite dark and stormy seasonings are on the good list – ginger, garlic, turmeric, cardamom, black pepper, and maple syrup. Small amounts of beef and chicken, specifically black chicken, were also suggested, but I think I will be skipping those. If I had a black chicken, it’d be running free around my apartment, scaring the squirrels on the patio, terrorizing the cats, and answering to the name of Mrs. Pendergrass.

Naturally, my first thoughts were of striped, stacked, and abstract dinnertime creations that would make Lydia Deetz proud. I’m picturing skulls made of molded black and red rices (those bone chillers ice cube trays will come in handy for this) on a bed of dark curly kale. And grilled kabocha squash with a ginger maple glaze landscaped with Truffula Trees of purple and orange cauliflower. Bloodshot-eyed beets stuffed with wild rice and lemon sauce. And roast figs floating in a balsamic/port reduction like so many shipwrecks in the dark North Sea…

Now all I need is a decent set of dinnerware.