Monday, December 27, 2010

Career Change! I Am Going to Be an NFL Announcer.

I am not really a football person, which I blame on my father for not really being a Sports Dad*, but I am reasonably entertained by it despite never really being 100% sure about what's going on. It's a little bit like going to a really weird art "happening" where there are a lot of armless baby dolls hanging from the ceiling and one bicycle in the corner and then some guy runs into the room naked and starts shrieking, and you're there like "WTF" but everyone else seems to be in a really good mood and that kind of puts you in a good mood because it's nice to see people so happy In Times Like These and you walk out and your friends are like "so how was it" and you can't help but say it was really fun. Football is mostly like that for me, but it helps that I do enjoy sports where huge men in barely adequate padding collide violently in the name of shoving an object around. The problem with this corollary however is that I try to apply hockey logic to what I'm looking at in football, and let me tell you that this is an exercise in futility.

I'm also reasonably convinced that Rich is some kind of wizard, because he's always saying things like "they're going to send that guy over there and then this other guy is going to throw it to this other guy and then they will hand it off and then run it around that dude on the other team and then they will get a down" and it happens which is really exciting for me in the way children are excited by the Quarter In Your Ear trick. He also got me the Football for Dummies book which was probably pretty informative but was unfortunately written by Howie Long, who seemed to be operating on a "this is a girl book, and girls are mildly retarded and don't understand sports" theory, so I kind of made some disparaging comments about that stupid-ass haircut he has and mailed the book via BookMooch to some chick in Germany who wanted to learn about American football for some reason**. That gesture was very sweet but ultimately a failure, so I was kind of freaking out because I was like "I have to learn to enjoy football or I will spend every Sunday-Monday wanting to kill myself out of sheer boredom." The New England Surge swooped in to my rescue. Arena football is basically all red-zone play, so I got an up close crash course (literally; we had front row season tickets and caught a couple players) in football, after which the Surge promptly failed to pay their bills in somewhat spectacular fashion and folded. Oops. But I had the knowledge. Ever since then I've been filling in the blanks, and now I know what's going on a good 80% of the time and have even moved on to random trivia like how Hines Ward has a smile like fucking Pacman and Brett Favre is kind of an enormous doucheface***.

So anyway, I've been watching more football than usual this season, and I've decided that I should totally be an NFL announcer. This whole academia thing is kind of a Thank You Sir May I Have Another situation (I actually mispelled that as "Thank You Sire" which adds a whole other level of grovelling to the scene and I think makes it more accurate) and I'm basically going to make like four dollars every year until I die because I am too bossy to write irritating tripe like Fareed "Here Are a Bunch of Well-Researched Facts and No Conclusions" Zakaria pumps out and thus will have book royalties of about fourteen cents to back up that extravagant professorial salary. If I go into announcing, I won't have to go broke getting myself a Ph.D**** and I will be able to make a seriously awesome living by eating a massive plate of beans before gametime and pointing my ass at a microphone.

See, I've observed that these people do not actually do a lot of talking about what is going on and that when they do, it's the most ridiculous irrelevant drivel ever sent out on the airwaves. Said drivel seems to fall into one of two categories - babbling about the play that just happened, or openly jacking it over the player of the moment. A particular favorite of mine was the other day during the Packers/Giants game when a fumble resulted in some pretty great hot potato recovery action. There was a ref literally right on the sideline with such a great view that he directly blocked the camera angle from one direction. The call was made - ball stayed in - and the announcers immediately started talking about how they would accept the ref's decision.


Guys, no shit you're going to accept his goddamn decision. He's the ref. You are retired players who managed to avoid concussing yourself into illiteracy. You are not in this. How about talking about the Packers' and Giants' fumble recovery rates? How about talking about receiver stats? How about QB picks? No? Seriously, what is even the point of you?

So I'm going to be an NFL announcer, not only because I am charming and attractive but also because my scant handful of what I will now be calling "color commentary factoids" about Troy Polamalu's hair and Manning's Manningface. I believe this will also help the lucky network that gets me corner the market on "female sports fans" who they tend to regard in much the same way they do unicorns. I plan to capture this market by being a female talking about sports without asking people about their fucking feelings on the damn field and also by reminding the programming people that women do in fact like sports and don't just fantasize about spraying the goddamn Febreze around after their husbands' filthy, filthy football parties*****, so maybe we should get some ads that don't treat women like vapid cleaning devices to be hauled out after the game. I would also start a campaign against the scourge that is pink team gear, because pink team gear is stupid, that's why. Want to support your team? Wear their goddamn colors. You don't see me supporting my country by wearing a pink tee shirt with the Presidential seal in darker pink and white on it, do you? No, I wear a fucking obnoxious extravaganza of red, white and blue with a taxidermied bald eagle hat like a true patriot.

Then, if I ran out of factoids, I could just start talking about whatever came to mind. I'd probably go with talking smack about the fans, because who doesn't like mocking fans? Weirdos, that's who. Have you seen the shit people show up to these games in? It's a judger's dream. And all of this would STILL be more interesting than the dreck currently airing.

The big question, of course, is whether I'd be able to make the transition to the pre- and postgame shows, and I think the answer is OBVIOUSLY yes. My secret weapon would be wardrobe critique. My theory is that all of these guys are being dressed by someone else, and thus cannot possibly be 100% confident that they are wearing the Right Outfit. There are two reasons I believe this. First of all, anyone who spends as much time as these ex-players and coaches spend in team-wear, be it a jersey or other gear, finds their wardrobe gradually consumed by teamlogonalia, all socially acceptable clothing being slowly devoured by tee shirts. Secondly, I refuse to believe that a man who once had the sheer balls to wear a sweater that said "BEARS" across it in public, repeatedly, would ever be able to assemble the relatively natty outfits Ditka sports on air. Once you go to a sweater that self-righteously tacky, you never go back. In any case, I plan to leap with bared fangs on this weakness the second someone disagrees with me. "I disagree, Jimmy the Shark is not now nor has he ever been a member of the Minnesota Vikings." "Yeah, well you look like you cut your hair with a Flowbee and your pocket square is a fucking mess." There is no counter argument for that shit. They would simply have to admit that I was right and let me win forever.

And then I will punch Frank Caliendo in the face.

* Though he made up for it in many ways, including teaching me how to change the oil in my car, being willing to light expired road flares with me for no reason during family holiday gatherings and reading a frankly absurd number of Nancy Drew books with me when I was a kid.

** I don't think Germans will ever not confuse me.

*** Not sure I actually needed football knowledge for that. If Brette Favre's vocal cords exploded in a gory, Sawesque extravaganza of chaos, I'm not sure I could even muster human sympathy at this point. See also: Lebron James, Curt Schilling.

**** Downside: no crazy robes and ridiculous hat. This is significant.

***** I pride myself on being filthier than my husband.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Don't Waste Enough Time on the Internet? Read These Blogs!

It's the weekend after Christmas, so I'm kind of catching up and relearning skills like Making It To Frank* On A Routine Basis and Not Having Panic Attacks About Phantom Due Dates. One of the things I have on my catch up list is posting something about various friends' and wish-they-were-my-friends' blogs. This way, you can read my FRIENDS' blogs and hopefully transfer ideas about content to ME so you'll be reading one of these and thinking "boy, look at all this awesome hilarity that Josie posted for my benefit!" And then I'll feel better about the blogger Tourettes that I suffer from.

Here Comes the Boogey-Mom
My friend Erin started this blog after her long-dormant writing bug came back with a vengeance. She's just starting out, but there have already been stories about Boston Terriers (and other dogs), her adorable children and the challenges of parenting, Johnny Cash, monsters, and witches. That seems like a pretty good deal for a fledgling effort, PLUS Erin is a great writer and knows the difference between they're, there and their, so already I'm gonna say you're ahead of about 95% of the Internet. Based on my knowledge of Erin, I am going to guess that other topics will eventually include fashion, bats, literature, and art, along with more about the kids and Gosh the Boston Terrier.

On Cardamom and Cast Iron
This is Celia's blog, and look, I can't really offer you a lot of blogs written by wizards, but I think that Celia is a pretty good substitute. Celia posts about her family and their travels (as a Navy family, they have lots of those), and about her cooking. This is where the wizarding comes in. Celia is always talking to me about how she's whipping some kind of of magical concoction, oh and by the way it's vegan or vegetarian or gluten free and oh PS, she started with some kind of insane French recipe that was like 97% animal products and gluten, but she makes it healthy and delicious. Look, I don't know how she does it, so I assumed magic about seven years ago, and that's been working out really well for me so far. The pictures alone are worth a click, and the recipes are always great.

Scrittore Creativo
The Lucy has a blog! She started it in the middle of her MFA and then discovered that blogging consistently during a grad program while also trying to avoid neglecting home and hearth is actually really hard, but now that she is DONE WITH HER MFA HOORAY, she has rebooted the blog. She does really excellent movie reviews, amongst other things, which is great for me since apparently I really like reading movie reviews but never ever going to movies. Yes, it is weird, and no, I cannot explain it. In any case, Lucy also posts about entertainment in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area as well. I can vouch for Lucy's great taste, so this is a great guide.

The Bloggess
I discovered The Bloggess when I read a story about a Christmas miracle that happened on her blog. ...No, really. She was offering 20 $30 gift certificates to people who didn't have money for the holidays, and when they quickly got snapped up, people suddenly started offering to donate as well. $42,000 later, she had coordinated Christmas for hundreds of donors and giftees. How cool is that? I liked her style and kept reading older posts, and man, she is funny. You will laugh your ass off. It's just as valid a workout program as those idiotic balance ball shoes1

*I always think that everyone knows this, yet I always have someone pop up all "ARE YOU CHEATING ON RICH WHAT IS GOING ON" and I have to explain that my marriage is not in fact falling apart. Frank is my trainer, and he is awesome and everyone should go to him because he has some kind of voodoo magic that makes you love him even though he is kind of maybe evil. Also he has a tire you get to hit with a sledgehammer. It is like adult recess except with Frank and Diane supervising and no map tag.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Guerlain Owns My Soul

You probably know Guerlain because they sold a bottle of Shalimar perfume to every woman on the face of the planet at one point, and you vaguely remember some female relative or friend wearing it. My designated relative was my Aunt Cheryl, who is the epitome of glamour and probably to blame for some of my susceptibility to fabulous packaging when it comes to cosmetics. Here's the bottle you probably saw.
You just smelled the woman who wore this, didn't you?

Luckily, only the suspicion that anything my Aunt the glamourpuss would wear cost $1M Adult Dollars kept me from haranguing my parents for a bottle of this stuff. I was dealing in Teenager Dollars Earned at the Greendale Mall Popcorn Stand at the time, so I was in that weird phase where $20 still seems like a fair amount, but you also kind of get that it's not, unlike early childhood when you're like "I have $6, which means I can buy the whole ice cream truck. I am the richest person alive." You know, the more I think about this, the more it might have been better for all involved if I had worn down my parents and gotten a bottle of Shalimar, since I went through first a Love's Baby Soft phase and then a CKOne phase, the latter of which was less a "spritz, spritz, go" process than a bathing experience. I eventually moved on to Dior's J'Adore, which was less offensive generally but I still used in a volume one might consider more appropriate for stunning cattle. Sanity wasn't truly mustered until I moved to DC and discovered Sephora and Demeter perfumes, which are very subtle fragrances that smell like everything from "Wet Garden" to "Gin and Tonic." Now I have several perfumes I use - Lolita Lempicka's Fleur de Corail, Marc Jacobs Daisy, Miss Dior Cherie, Aquolina's Pink Sugar, Demeter's Salt Air, Michael Kors' Very Hollywood - which I like but Rich hates because (cuteness alert, danger) he "likes when I wear the same one because then when I'm not there my comforter smells like me." (Awesome husband for the win!)

So okay ANYWAY the actual point of this was not to give you a detailed history of my perfume wearing history - though I bet a post about vetting perfumes would be interesting...hmm - but rather to explain that the hold Guerlain's Shalimar had on me as a young woman has now transferred easily to their totally spectacular eyeliners that I am addicted to partly because they are amazing cosmetics and partly because they look like I robbed Greta Garbo's vanity. The first one I got was their Terracotta Loose Kohl Powder in brown.
This stuff is magical. Admittedly, I can see how it might make some hesitant, because it gets applied right on the waterline of your lower eyelid with the little stick - you just tap it on - but it's so worth getting over that hump, because it gives you the perfect smoky line for day or night. The brown is just the right color for the day/night switch, though the black would probably be nice if you were getting ready to go out for the night. But you even care how good the makeup is? Look at that goddamn packaging! You own this and you're instantly a makeup professional, even if you can't put on foundation with two hands and a mirror. It is instant glamour for your dresser. It just sits there saying "this woman wears satin gowns for every occasion and smokes from a jeweled cigarette holder but never ever gets cancer because there is too much glamour in her system for it to take hold."

I've been totally obsessed with this stuff since I got it about a year ago on a recommendation from Apocalypstick Now. I am a total pusher, too...people will be like "hey, I need eyeshadow, any ideas?" and I'll respond with something like "sure, get Eyeshadow X but what you REALLY need is Guerlain Terracotta Kohl Eyeliner because it is magical." Probably bad.

A couple days ago, my Mom called me and she was like "hey, I'm getting a Sephora card as a gift, does thee think that I should get something else to complete the gift?" I, being a genius (okay, mostly a pusher), said "you should get a nice eyeliner, since [REDACTED] is an eyeliner master, plus it's a nice small item." Since my Mom isn't a big makeup person, I offered to find a couple options for her to pick from. WELL.
Yeah, Guerlain has a new formulation of eyeliner, and once again, it is effing magnificent. Needless to say, I ordered a tube of this Khôl Kajal* liner for myself, because what do you do around Christmastime but buy yourself stuff**? Again, it's a beautiful smooth product that goes on well and stays put without irritating your eyes, and once again, who cares, because it looks like magic! This one actually reminds me of another Aunt, my Aunt Karen, who went to Egypt with me and my Dad and who cheerfully obsessed with me over how the gorgeous ladies in their abayas did their eye makeup (hardcore, perfect smoky eyes everywhere). Kohl seems the obvious answer, but these women clearly had their ninja certification in application and probably didn't need slick packages like this to produce their looks.

I am such a sucker for packaging, man. Luckily, these products are also excellent cosmetics, rather than just nice packages, because I have definitely bought snazzy looking packages that turned out to be cheap crap. You should all go out and buy yourself some***!

* NB: I went to Sephora's website to check the name of this product, and I noticed that my "previously viewed products" section looks like a shopping list for a drag queen rave. There are five kinds of glitter, fake eyelashes, and random lipsticks (purple) on there. I think maybe Sephora is something I should not have.

** I am kidding, but unfortunately this DOES seem to be A Thing. All of these ads about "getting a little something for yourself" creep and gross me out. Feel however you want about Christmas - too much Jesus, not enough Jesus, too commercial, pointless, whatever - but it is a gift GIVING holiday. Gift giving is not the same as buying crap for yourself. I don't think I should have to explain this.

*** That's right, even you men. Guyliner is a thing now, didn't you hear?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Light" is Found in Twilight and Bud Light - Coincidence? I THINK NOT.

My friend Val was on Facebook going through the same guilt cycle all of us Late To The Party/Brain Cell Having Twilight readers go through. For those not familiar, it goes something like this:
  1. Twilight enters your universe. Someone gives you a copy, or throws it down in disgust in shared living space, whatever. You pick it up.
  2. (OPTIONAL) Allow it to sit, gathering dust and being shunned, for several days/weeks/months.
  3. Have minor hissy fit along the lines of "oh WHATEVER, I'll just get it over with so I can get this crap out of the house."
  4. Read entire book in three hours.
  5. Deny having read book or change subject when it comes up for four days to a week and a half.
  6. Finally snap and moan to your friends, "WHY did I read it all? Why why why?" in the kind of tone usually reserved for eating an entire bucket of Halloween candy after a slow kid-traffic year.
  7. Realize that all of your friends have gone through this same shame spiral.
It's a real problem, but the good thing is that based on the Law of Probability alone, your chances of being the only person in your friend group who has gone through this are extremely slim. If somehow you manage to be the only person who has read it, you should immediately buy a Cosby sweater and get a mustache tattooed on the side of your finger, claim you read it ironically, and commit yourself to full hipsterdom for about two years (minimum).

So I hopped on Val's Facebook to be like "yeah, Mom left her book club copy laying around when I was on spring break in Florida and I couldn't resist," but then I had a stroke of brilliance and wrote:
It's because they're like cold Bud Light on a hot summer day. You know you're wasting your life drinking/reading them but they go down so fast and before you know it you've pounded down all the books/a thirty rack in four hours.
I kind of threw that out and then clicked away, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized...oh my God, Twilight IS Bud Light. Think about it.

Full disclosure: Just looking at that aluminum bottle makes me want to drink it. Those aluminum bottles are proof God loves us and wants us to be happy with our sub-zero, 0 Kelvin beer. Even though I KNOW it's Bud Light in there, the glorious cold beverageness promised by those cans gets me past the grossness of Bud Light. That is POWER.

They both, as established previously, are satisfying in a very abstract, objective way that has nothing to do with their actual beer- or literatureness. They're both shallow, cheap, American-made minor crimes against humanity. When indulging in either, you know you should be consuming something of much better quality from Europe or Russia or something, but these are available and much easier to consume. Both items sacrifice taste for cheap thrills, be those thrills the ability to drink more beer for less calories or sub-romance-novel writing featuring abusive teen relationships. Both names involve the word "light" despite being the monikers of clear forces of darkness.

What does this mean?

I can only assume that it is part of a massive conspiracy aimed at speeding up the complete decay of culture in America and someday the world. Luckily, most people outside America have the sense to turn their noses up at both of these items, so the evil plot is encountering resistance, but I think the signs are clear, people: we must resist the Evil Forces of Dumb by reading good books* and drinking good beer**. DO NOT AFFORD THE IDIOCRACY A SINGLE INCH!!

* If you need help, start with The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. You want the translation with the black cat sitting in front of a red sunset.

** Support your local microbrew!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I May Be Neurotic and Snotty, but at Least My Brain Stem is Functional.

I have a lot of martini related issues. A martini, without a qualifier, is gin-based. When you order a martini, someone should bring you gin in a glass with a whisper of vermouth and some olives. When you start adding qualifiers, then you have different things - "vodka" for instance, is a qualifier. Random mixtures of crap in obscene colors served in martini glasses are not martinis, they're not "-tinis," they're just random crap in martini glasses (alternately: sins against alcohol). This never ceases to bother me, and I know that this is a consequence of being a crotchety old person but I just can't shake it.

However, I may have found a coping mechanism.

Yes, that is a video of someone explaining how to make a "Disaronno and Ginger Ale on the Rocks." No, it is not more complicated than "pour the Disaronno over ice, then pour the ginger ale over it."

So now, every time I get fussy about people knowing how to put together a proper martini, I'm just going to think to myself, "at least I can figure out how to pour shit over ice." And then I will remember that there are a lot of simple-ass people out there, and adjust my expectations accordingly.

A how-to for "Disaronno and Ginger Ale on the Rocks." Good lord.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Daughter of Fortune, by Isabel Allende

My Mom gave me this book to read, along with a rave review. There are lots of good things to commend it, but there are also a few issues that can make for a jarring read.

Daughter of Fortune is about a woman who leaves Chile in pursuit of her lover, but ultimately finds her independence and makes her own life in the western United States. After escaping a regimented and formal life in the upper eschelons of Chilean society, Eliza is free to define not only herself but her understanding of family. The story is full of colorful characters and compelling. The story is a beautiful demonstration of the blending of cultures into America's famous melting pot, not only through Eliza's adventures but the parallel journey of her friend Tai Chi'en, a Chinese physician who helps smuggle Eliza to the United States.

The author has said that this book reflects her own struggle to understand feminism's role in her life, and there's a lot of value in reading about that development, even though I personally find the end result problematic. Eliza spends much of the book driven by her pursuit of her lover, Joaquin Andieta, dominated by the mental snapshot she has of him back in Chile. As she makes her way through the world, her dependence on his image begins to wane, but he remains a primary driver throughout the work.


Tao Chi'en has his own gender attachments, and spends much of the book thinking about his be-pedestaled dead wife, who is clearly a woman he saw as perfect in life, but has taken on an almost saintly glow after her death. Eliza winds up with Tao in the end, and this is where I think the feminst perspective takes a hit. Though the book has tracked Eliza's progress from being defined by the man in her life to being independent enough to make her way in the world alone, she winds up reattaching herself to a man who we know idealizes the women in his life excessively and is deeply attached to normative gender roles (for example, he pointedly searches for a wife with bound feet in the section about his life). I do not believe that feminism means the end of marriage or the abandonment of love, but to have Eliza wind up with someone so invested in the same gender expectations that kept her so dependent on and driven by men creates a problem for Allende's feminist credentials.


The other thing I found strange and jarring was the clinical quality Allende gave to the romantic scenes. It was a little bit like reading a doctor's account of a gynecological exam - very matter of fact and very physiological. This wouldn't be nearly as problematic were the rest of the writing so lush and beautiful. Allende's descriptions of Chile, the western US and China relay the feeling of the places with lyrical accounts, and her characters are full and well-developed. Why they have such unsexy sex is a bit of a mystery to me, and was quite jarring to read.

In the end, I'd call this the beach-book version of Gabriel García Márquez, which might sound like a slight but is not intended as such. García Márquez can take a lot of effort to read, and though it's some of the most worthwhile effort you can expend in literature, sometimes you just want a similar flavor in a lighter version. This would be a particularly good choice for people interested in the gold-inspired westward expansion in the US, as it provides an interesting look at the chaos of that era.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Will Not Google My Symptoms. I Will Not Google My Symptoms. I Will Not...

I was in the shower a week or so ago, doing my breast exam like a good doobie (though apparently not like a perfect doobie because I understand from several well dressed ladies that the new protocol is to do this lying down) when I felt a bump in my armpitular region. Needless to say, I immediately decided I had cancer and was going to die, possibly before the end of the weekend. I got out of the shower and went to show Rich my Bump of Death and he said "looks like a spider bite." I decided that sounded better than instant cancer, so I rolled with that. My girl Joanne also suggested it was a swollen lymph node, which was even BETTER because I'd been sick and have chronic battles with my lymph nodes, so I was like "ha ha! Obviously!" I made an appointment with my doctor to check it out anyway.

Between making the appointment and actually going to the doctor, I got all curious (and procrastinatey) and did the worst thing you can possibly do: I Googled. OH my God you guys, never ever Google "bump in armpit" or even "swollen lymph node." I know that everyone knows that using the Internet for diagnoses is a terrible idea, but I also have yet to meet the person who can resist the siren call of WebMD. All the information! Is right there! On the Internet! Oh, except pretty much none of it applies to you, and all of it is horrifying. I am particularly awesome at Googling symptoms like "cough" and "chest congestion." This is demented for two reasons. First of all, I KNOW I just have my annual flu/cold/sinus thing, and Google is not going to change that. Second of all, even if it does say I have something different, I'm going to treat it the same way I treat it every year: with tissues, TheraFlu, cough drops and my neti pot. The bump thing, however, was a whole other ball of wax. I decided I had four different kinds of cancer AND bubonic plague.

I got to the doctor the next day, and she took one look at it and said "you have a little folliculitis," (WARNING: do not Google) which is doctor-speak for "you somehow managed to screw up shaving and get bacteria in one of your pores." High five, self. The prescription was "keep it clean and dry and get better at shaving." SO SAD.

Things I learned:
  1. Never Google symptoms, no matter how curious you are or how hard you're trying to avoid writing a paper.
  2. You can be bad at shaving.
  3. I am bad at shaving.
  4. The Internet cannot be trusted.
I am passing along this wisdom to you so you can avoid the same panic. As far as the shaving thing goes, I guess the best I can do is admit that I usually shave randomly and quickly, and that's probably the issue. Don't shave like a crazy person!

Friday, December 10, 2010

TRUE LIFE: I Can't Pour Things

I feel like I'm a reasonably competent human being, but every now and then some fuse blows out in my brain and incompetence rules the day. This happens EVERY. TIME. when I try to pour things. This is something most people master in their infancy. I have special teapots that are spillproof that I rely on like the elderly rely on their oxygen tanks. The lid for one of these teapots broke recently, and I just stood in the kitchen over its shattered remains silently wigging out until Rich was like "did you bleed out over there or what?" I was busy contemplating my life without a pourable teapot and deciding whether I should just kill myself or try to duct tape glass together.

Let me give you an example.
I really like tea, and particularly chai, so I usually make a pot's worth. Here's how it works.
You buy delicious, delicious chai from World Spice Market, and you put it in water for 3-4 minutes. Then you add in some black tea (I use Assam not only because it is delicious but also because it sounds like a magic word) and let the whole thing go for another three minutes. Then the trouble comes.

After everything is nice and steeped, you have to strain it before adding in milk. This should require nothing more than the original pot, a strainer and some kind of receptacle. I wind up pouring from the original pot, through the strainer, into a BIG bowl so I cannot possibly spill, and then wind up frantically pouring the strained chai back into the pot like it's hot lava, because apparently deep in my heart I equate speed with accurate pouring. After the milk/chai mixture gets up to drinking temperature, I now have to attempt to get this stuff into a mug. This is the typical result.
Pictured: DISASTER

This is also usually when the cat shows up. I suspect it is because he sees disaster as something of a specialty of his and doesn't like me horning in on his turf.
Exhibit A

Now, a mug is much smaller than a mixing bowl, so I proceed to use the most deranged method possible to get this chai in the mug. I should probably just lap it out of the pot, but I'm a little worried that it would be the last straw for Rich and he'd be like "you are too weird to be married to" and then I would have to live in a box or something. I usually go with pouring it into a large bowl, then scooping it out of the bowl with a measuring cup and into a teapot, which I THEN use to pour the chai into the mug.

Is there some kind of training I can take for this? I often fantasize about taking one of those knife skills courses at Assabet VoTech but I think "pouring stuff" is something people master in infancy and thus not something they offer courses in. This is seriously so shameful...but fascinating, you know? I have pretty good hand-eye coordination and my manual dexterity is actually way above average, and yet you give me something to pour and it's like my hands have been lopped off at the wrist. Why would this happen? I can't believe I'm seriously asking this, but does anyone have any suggestions on how to not spill things all over creation?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb

I was in about middle school when this book came out, and it was one of the earlier Oprah's Book Club books. I still remember the buzz surrounding it, and I wanted desperately to read it. At that point, I'd read pretty much everything in the house - age appropriate or not - and blazed through lots of the Worcester Public Library's holdings, so I was thrilled when a copy appeared in the house. And then my Mom forbid me to read it.

I'm not sure, in retrospect, whether or not she was right to do so. I don't think it's clearly one way or the other. She's Come Undone is about death and rape and weight and being really messed up and trying to get away from all of that and failing. It's also about realizing that you crushed the few relationships that could have saved you, and about salvaging some of them. I think Mom probably wanted me to postpone reading it because she was afraid I would be upset by all of this, but the reason I'm glad I read it later in life is because I can get so much more out of it now. If I'd read it in middle school, some parts of it might have freaked me out, but I think it's more likely that I simply would have missed a lot of the beauty in the book.

Lamb is great at showing the beauty of error, and I think that's an important skill in writing because it helps you appreciate the full scope of human nature. Dolores Price is a powerful character. Her path through life is really a gradual wearing-down of her resistance to people and to love. What I particularly appreciated was the kind of odd family she eventually collects. It's a wonderful portrait of how rich friendship can be. The funny thing about this is that my Mom is the one who taught me that we have to love the people in our lives fiercely, and that our friends can be as close as family.