I ate an entire bag of strawberry licorice, about five (dozen) Reese’s mini-eggs, and I am on my
second third fourth cup first pot of coffee, so I need to let off some of this ridiculous energy. A walk? Too predictable. Finish the laundry? Ugh. Go to bed? Uh, did you read the first sentence?
Then it came to me: RANDOM BLOG POST!!! Wheeeeeeee! Plus, I’m tired of making people cry when they read this blog. So, I decided to lighten it up a bit with a list of stuff (as in not people) I love – in no particular order — and the reasons why. This is by no means exhaustive, despite the ungodly length of this blog post. Which means – yay — a part two!
Better Off Dead. Yeah, yeah. Two dollars. You want your two dollars. Whatever. I want to punch that little bicycle-wielding punk in the teeth. He is not why this movie is funny. If I am having an enormously shitty day, I watch this movie, because it unfailingly makes me laugh. Especially when Ricky’s mom’s face blows up. Maybe it’s because my life is always better than Lane Meyer’s, no matter how bad it seems to suck at the moment. Or maybe it’s because Charles De Mar is way more philosophical than people realize. The proof? How’s this for advice on improving your quality of life: “Go that way. (Pointing downhill.) Really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.”
Then again, it might be this:
Monique: So you won’t tell anyone?
Lane: What? That you’re a Dodgers fan? (See, e.g., Baseball section below.)
The Princess Bride. This is my favorite it’s-raining-and-I’m-on-the-couch-with-my-blanket-in-my-pjs-drinking-hot-chocolate-eating-real-popcorn movie. The dialogue is smart, I love the sound of Peter Falk’s voice narrating the story-within-a-story, and it is just the right kind of cheesy: cheddar not Blue Stilton. It is so perfectly cast. (Why did Fred Savage even grow up? Seriously, between this and Wonder Years, he totally type-cast himself as a ten-year-old.) And, despite the film’s age, it doesn’t seem old when I watch it. This may be one of the few things about which my teenaged son and I agree. If you haven’t seen this movie, you should immediately stop reading, improve the quality of your life, and go watch it, then have fun storming the castle.
Coffee. I have a strange love affair with coffee. For as long as I can remember, I loved the smell of coffee. In fact, I loved it enough that my mother taught me – when I was about five – how to make a pot of coffee. (Apparently, my mother did raise a fool – or a sucker – because I actually believed she did this for me.) I didn’t particularly like the taste, though. It wasn’t until many years later – when I was in law school and desperately trying to stay awake through classes that met 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. four nights a week – that I learned two important things. One, coffee contains caffeine, and a shot of espresso is sufficient to keep a 5’2″ woman awake through a three-hour lecture on why the hearsay rule is nothing more than a preamble to about 36 exceptions that sometimes contradict themselves in painfully illogical ways. Two, coffee that comes in a can is really, really shitty – which probably accounts for why I didn’t like it until someone introduced me to real (or at least reasonably drinkable) coffee. Now, coffee is like a friend. I like sitting down at my desk in the morning, wrapping my hands around my favorite coffee mug, and reading the advance sheets and the legal blogs I follow. It lets me ease into my day so I don’t rip off too many heads, especially the one belonging to my assistant, whom I adore but who is often the (misdirected) object of my ire. This may be why she comes in at 9:30 a.m. Just a guess. I also like sitting in the local coffee joint on the rare occasions my husband and I can spend an hour alone together in the morning after we drop the kids off at school. At the rate we go, it’s like our own version of 50 First Dates. I’m not sure which of us has the amnesia, but as long as we keep finding each other through our sleep-deprived haze, it’s all cool. I’ll have a medium mocha, no whip. Thanks.
My Blanket. So, yeah. I have one. What? WHAT?! I had the same one from the time I was born until the 6th grade, when my cat had to be put to sleep. I let the vet bury her with it. I figured I was all grown up then, having dealt with the seriousness of death, and too old for a security blanket. As luck had it, though, my room was always a horrible mess. Among the various articles of clothing strewn around my bed was this rose-colored bathrobe. I fell asleep on it. It felt a lot like the blanket I just quit. There was no pill, no patch, no hypnosis to make me kick this habit. (I wish I could quit you, man!) So, I quietly cut out the zipper and rocked that bad boy. Then I got to an age when I might not be the only person sleeping in my bed. (No, I am not going to tell you how old that was, because: (a) my kids might someday read this, (b) I’d rather tell you what’s on my iPod playlist, and (c) WHAT!?) There was really no denying that my “blanket” used to be an article of clothing (what with the sleeves still on it and all), so it had to be ditched. It is very, very awkward to have someone decide you’re a psycho when you’re – you know – naked. Rest assured, the fates intervene again. In a somewhat ironic twist, the parents of an ex-boyfriend sent me a blanket from a place to which they’d recently traveled. It was meant to be decorative, but the minute I took it out of the package, I knew what was going to happen. I brushed it against my face, felt that familiar twinge of paradoxical excitement and sleepiness. Deal sealed. And – the double bonus – when casually folded and draped over the edge of my bed, zero psycho factor. Yay! That blanket made it until about three years ago, when it started coming out of the washing machine with pieces missing. Then, the fates brought me to Brookstone, where I discovered the wonders of something called the “Nap” blanket. I will have you know it is clinically proven to improve my sleep. See:
Chicken and Orzos. Go read this. Now, buy a whole chicken. About six pounds is good for four people. Stuff it full with shallots, lemon halves, fresh basil, fresh oregano and fresh thyme and two or three garlic cloves. (A note to anyone named Lisa or Matt: bulb of garlic ≠ clove of garlic.) Put the chicken in a roasting pan and truss the legs so the body cavity is tightly shut. Now, melt a stick of butter in a pan and add the juice of one lemon. Pour it over the chicken. Sprinkle generous, four-finger pinch of sea salt and two-finger pinch of fresh-ground black pepper all over chicken. Do not neglect the wings and drumsticks. Cover. Put in 400º F oven for 60 minutes. Uncover. Cook for another 15 minutes so chicken skin turns caramel-brown.
While chicken roasts, put a 6-quart pot of water on the stove. Make it salty like sea water by adding two four-finger pinches of salt. Bring to boil. Add one box of orzo. Cook about 6 minutes. (You want it still firm, because it will keep cooking with the chicken.) Drain. When chicken has been in for 30 minutes, put orzo in the roasting pan with the chicken. Add juice of three lemons and enough water to just keep the orzo moist. Cover roasting pan.
Serve with fresh vegetables, preferably a mix of string beans and carrots, a tossed green salad and garlic bread. (Then please see Handwritten Thank-You Note section, below.)
Thanksgiving. I love – LOVE – Thanksgiving. It is the only holiday that has escaped complete commercialization. It also involves cooking — and a lot of it — which I love a whole lot as well. I know the origin of Thanksgiving is not without controversy. I’m not celebrating Pilgrims or how white men (and women) came to the United States and brought a shitload of germs here with them that nearly annihilated the indigenous population. Or the irony of the Manifest Destiny as conceived by people fleeing ideological persecution. What I like is the sentiment — the idea of honoring the people in your life for whom you are thankful — by nourishing them. Not just with food (although there is plenty of that, most of it starting with butter, which might be the greatest invention ever), but also with conversation, memories past and future, and a “friendly” game of nickle-dime-quarter poker. Yeah, that’s right. You read Super System and now you’re a cash game specialist? Whatever. I learned from Grandpa and my girl Gina’s Grandma Mary. Bring your bankroll and a big appetite. You will need both.
Crossword Puzzles. I was nine or ten years old the first time I tried to do the Sunday puzzle in the New York Times. I think I solved two clues, and whether those were right is debatable. So, I’d wait until my grandmother or mother had done enough of the puzzle that I might guess some. They got sick of me ambushing their puzzles, so one of them bought me my own crossword puzzle book. From then on, whenever I was working on something for school (or later for work), and I got stumped, I took a break and worked a puzzle. Sometimes, I’d get only a few clues in and – wham – like magic, I figured out what stumped me. I remember the first time I finished the New York Times puzzle. I was on BART (which is a commuter train where I live). I was a freshman in college. I actually yelled out, “Hell, yeah! I own you!” I was on my way home to do laundry at my mother’s house, and I hadn’t yet showered, so I’m pretty sure no one paid any attention to the homeless-looking chick cheering for herself in the back of the car. I actually scheduled in crossword time as part of my study routine for the Bar exam. I’m fairly certain that that – and the ridiculous amount of time I spent with my study partner on a driving range – was why I passed on the first try. I got rid of all my angst, anxiety, impatience before hand so it didn’t crush me in the pressure-cooker that was the convention center full of wanna-be lawyers.
Handwritten Thank-You Notes. I admit that I am not as good about sending these as I should be, especially because I love getting them. Listen, if you shoot me an email or a text message to say thank you for something I did for or gave you, that’s awesome. It feels good to be acknowledged in any form. But, there is something so awesomely cool about opening the mailbox to find that distinctive envelope — usually a color other than white — bearing someone’s familiar handwriting. The first joy is that it’s not a bill. The second (and more important) joy is knowing that someone took the time to find stationary and a pen, to stand in line at the grocery store, post office or ATM to buy stamps, to actually put pen to paper and write out their thoughts, and to seal it up and send it. That makes the seven stops I made to find just the right thing really worth it. Or, it makes the 30 minutes I spent interviewing you (which 30 minutes are not billable) actually a lot easier to swallow, which inches you ever closer to the “hire” column. Food for thought.
A Wrinkle in Time’
Αεηπου σνδεν, πςντς Σ εηπιζειυ χρεωτ. Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything. – Euripedes
I found this book by accident in the library at school. I was in second grade. I remember two things from my first read: I wanted to be Meg so bad it hurt, because I related to her in a way I cannot describe; and, there were a lot of damn words in that book I had to look up in a dictionary. My mother made me look up the words because it was “good for me,” but I am fairly positive that she didn’t know what the fuck they meant either.
I’ve since read the book well more than a dozen times, at various points in my life, and I’ve loved it more or differently each time. As an adult, I loved the fact that Meg is the story’s main character, she is both emotionally strong and seriously intelligent (and not comically so on either front), and she has real relationships. She is a heroine who saves the day not by masculine strength or sexualizing herself but by simply being different. This is all the more incredible when you consider the book was written in about 1960! It was a welcome relief from the Sweet Valley High and Baby-Sitters Club crap littering the front of the library.
Pajamas. I have to dress like an adult for work, which generally involves pantyhose and heels. I am a fan of neither. (Although I wouldn’t dream of turning down a pair of Jimmy Choos, okay?) There is no greater separation of me from the stress of work than the emotional armor found in my favorite pajamas. Those pajamas make a serious statement: I am home. I am done working. I am not leaving the house unless it is on fire. I inadvertently taught my daughter this this lesson, because she will freak the hell out when you try to change her into anything but pajamas. She knows damn well what pajamas mean, and she ain’t buyin’ the whole we’re-just-getting-dressed-because-it’s-cold-in-here b.s. I’m trying to sell her. My son would go to school in his pajamas if I would let him. I think love of pajamas might be hereditary.
Baseball. There always seemed to be a a baseball game on in whatever house I was living in or visiting during my youth. My grandfather was a Yankees fan. My father was a Mets fan — I’m pretty sure just to piss off my grandfather. I started really paying attention to baseball for pleasure (as opposed to a male adult’s unwillingness to change the channel so I could watch Dallas) when I lived in Atlanta for a while.
I went to work as a temp for a variety of Turner-owned entities, like CNN and TBS. It was 1991, and the Atlanta Braves were red hot, so I got on the bandwagon. Actually, I hadn’t much choice, because work more or less stopped at TBS when a game was on. Also, I temped for a while in the graphics department, where I learned how stats get displayed on your television during a game. Still, it was remarkable and easy to get swept up in watching Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Steve Avery. Chipper Jones was everybody’s favorite, but mine was that little pip-squeak of a shortstop, Rafael Belliard. Dude had the wingspan of a turtle, but man he made some plays. I seriously think that inch-for-inch, his ability to jump off the ground rivaled Jordan. Or at least that’s what it looked like to all 5’2″ of me.
As religiously as I watched the 1991 and 1992 seasons, I never went to a game at Turner Field. In fact, my first live baseball game was at Fenway — which is really where you should watch a first baseball game, if only to claim surviving consumption of a Dirty Water Dog. The Red Sox played the Toronto Blue Jays, which meant I didn’t give a shit about the game. I did, however, get a thrill from being there, seeing the Big Green Monster in person, and feeling the energy of the live crowd. A short time later, I became a sincere San Francisco Giants fan and have remained so since. One of my favorite dates with my husband is a ballgame. I love watching games with him at home, too. It’s the one time we don’t chastise each other for swearing in front of the kids.
To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With. When I was about nine or ten, I had a Mickey Mouse record player. (You know, that spinny-table thingy, with the arm thingy, that had the needle-thingy, that made sound come out of the vinyl place mat with weird ridges in it?)
One of my favorite albums was a recording of Bill Cosby’s act, To Russell My Brother Whom I Slept With. There is nothing not to like about Bill Cosby singing, “Dad is great! Give us the chocolate cake!” about his father feeding the kids chocolate cake for breakfast because it has eggs in it. The classic “God Dammit” and “Jesus Christ” routine made me laugh so hard my face would scrunch up into a semi-painful expression and my body would convulse, but no sound would come from my mouth — just tears streaming down my cheeks, punctuated by frantic gasps for air. I cannot find a link to this album anywhere, but you can download it on iTunes. It is so incredibly worth every penny. In fact, you should send it as a gift to someone you know who’s had a shitty day. A handwritten thank you note will follow. (See above.)
The Point. My other favorite album for the kick-ass Mickey Mouse record player was The Point by Nilsson. It is the story of Oblio and his dog, Arrow, being banished to the Pointless Forest. (You may be sensing a theme here about my feelings about myself between about 7 and … uh … now.) It is a musical story, and if you don’t get a little misty-eyed during Think About Your Troubles, you simply do not have a heart. I’m actually somewhat surprised I didn’t end up with a dog named Arrow after the gazillion times I listened to this album. Instead, I had a dog named Cinders who went to live on a “farm” after my parents got divorced. Fuckers.
I don’t remember who bought me this record. I was a latchkey kid growing up if ever there was one, so there wasn’t a whole lot of supervision of my watching/listening/eating habits. I’m sure that explains a whole bunch. Still, no doubt my mother would have been thrilled to know this tidbit about how The Point came to be:
I was on acid, and I looked at the trees and I realized that they all came to points, and the little branches came to points, and the houses came to point. I thought, ‘Oh! Everything has a point, and if it doesn’t, then there’s a point to it.’ — Harry Nilsson
You can watch the masterpiece that was the made-for-television version of The Point, narrated by Ringo Starr, here. (There are eight parts. You’ll find them. I promise.)
Congratulations. You’ve reached the end. Would you like a blanket?