Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How To Get Wheel Chaired Off A Plane And Avoid Walking Like The Suckers

There are things I recommend and things I don't, and one of the things I don't is getting yourself into the situation I got myself into on Sunday night. I should say we got ourselves into, because I was not alone in this. Here's the truth: I was sitting at dinner with three other people on Sunday evening about 5:00 pm, and we've ordered six plates between us--three were appetizers and one was a salad but still, six plates of food and this is to say nothing of the four beers. (One each). It's not like we've ordered lightly, either. I've procured a sandwich that has beer-and-coffee-glazed ham, brie, and some sort of leafery, on a toasted onion bun. Noah has mushroom stew over blue cheese grits. On top of this we've ordered buffalo wings and a delicate little number called Tater Tot Casserole with gravy on top. So you see, we're eating less like people who want to live to see tomorrow and more like people who don't believe there is one. There we are, at this cute little spot on the beach, and the waitress comes to see how we're doing and we tell her we need boxes because it is going on six in the evening and WE ARE GOING TO DINNER LATER.

"You're going to dinner later? Oh my gosh," the waitress says, and then she begins to laugh at our stupidity and we would be laughing with her were we not too busy looking down at our lamb corn dogs and blue cheese grits and feeling queasy.

To be fair, we had dinner reservations for a late 9:15 pm at Mozza. I don't know what, we think we're socialites or something. "That'll be really nice,"  I say ahead of time. "To get some cocktails around seven and have a late dinner. Like Parisians or extremely classy college students." Instead, because this was the day after a wedding and some people don't check their clocks, like ever, we end up getting to the cocktail joint for a four o'clock happy hour and then thoughtlessly continue to the spot where we had already planned to get lunch, blissfully unaware that it's dinner time until we have consumed a Texas portioned meal.

I have wanted to go to Mozza ever since I first heard of it's existence, a promised land like Eldorado, but Mozza was in LA and we were always in Orange County. Now, however, the gods have smiled and there is a Mozza in Newport Beach and here's what you do: you make a late arrival and pretend to be famous people and not a group of four idiots, or maybe hobbits, who are showing up for second dinner still satisfied from first dinner. You order a bottle of wine and you skip the appetizers. No matter what you do, you order the clam pizza. Then you slowly go to heaven or have a Harry Met Sally moment, and you bang the table and you weep. The other pizzas we had that night, I could take or leave but the clam pizza, with the white wine and the garlicky super deliciousness and the red chilies was just heaven. Then you ask them to call the paramedics before you order the butterscotch budino topped with salted caramel because you are about to go into a food coma and you will need to be revived.

Speaking of paramedics. You know what I recommend even less than second dinner? Forgetting to take your Dramamine until it's too late and you are taking off from John Wayne airport at an alarming 75 degree angle. One you will never get used to it, no matter how many times you have taken off from John Wayne you are still convinced that the plane's nose is going to flip backwards over the tail and you're all going to crash land on your heads. Then they reach a certain altitude, cut the engines, and wait to see how it all works out. Meanwhile the pressure changes are having party time with your sensitive inner ear areas. Imagine the woozy swoop of an elevator starting and stopping, over and over again, for forty minutes.

It feels that the ascent from John Wayne takes an hour, an entire hour during which you are bombarded with pressure changes and swervy curvy turning plane maneuvers. Then you start to feel sick. Really sick. You are terrified of puking but then you reach the place where you are begging sweet Jesus to allow you to barf your Mozza--the same Mozza whose take-out box everyone commented on as you were boarding and asked you to sit next to them and share and boy are they glad you didn't--because you're sure you would feel better. And the stewardess comes with cool towels. She puts them on your neck and your forehead and then hands you one and tells you to put it "between your girls", which is nothing less than a thoughtful touch. And finally, when you start to feel like maybe you are not going to die, you know what happens? You come in over the Rocky Mountains on a warm and windy day and the plane bumps and skips, not like a thing that is meant to glide on the air but like you are in a bathtub, and an angry toddler is picking you up and slamming you into choppy waters again and again. It goes on forever. You keep trying to ask your husband when the goshdarn plane is going to fudging land, goshdarnit, but you feel so sick and so certain of your impending doom that you can only moan, over and over, "dear Jesus dear Jesus dear Jesus" and you are not taking anything in vain here, you are praying to the powers that be to save your sorry life. You never were a good flyer. Always a little nervous and now this. Now the pilot decides he wants to reenact the crash from Lost and you are so motion sick it's like you've been hand selected for some god's wrathful revenge and all you've had to eat is rancid meat soaked in cream.

You know what that adds up to? That adds up to someone hyperventilating. That adds up to you weakly moaning to the flight attendants this hilarious punchline: "I can't get off the plane". At which point they decide to call the paramedics and to give you oxygen because you keep saying you can't breath, you can't breathe. Then the paramedics, the sick bastards, will ask you to stand and move into a wheel chair even though you are insisting to them that you are going to faint and wildly searching the crowd to see who is holding the ammonia they're going to need to bring you around. When you tell the paramedics you are going to faint, they will reply that there is no way this is possible. Not with a blood pressure this high. How high? 144 over 100. You know that that is, Paramedic Bob? That is the blood pressure of a woman who has seen her fiery death in detail and lived to tell the story. That is the blood pressure of a woman who has managed to hold down Mozza while her sadistic pilot decided to do an air show rather than a landing.

So just a recap here. Things I recommend:

-Ipswich clam pizzette with garlic, chilis, and pecorino
-Butterscotch Burdino with sea salted caramel
-A nice light-bodied wine

Things I Do Not Recommend:
-Having second dinner
-Forgetting to take your Dramamine
-Taking your Dramamine too late and on an empty stomach
-Envisioning your airplane seat freed from the airplane and plummeting in a terrible death spin to earth some thousand miles below
-Hyperventilating and having the paramedics wheel you off the plane

Guys, it's just not as fabulous as it sounds.

Oh yeah, here is me with my sister-in-law Susie, in the one picture I took during three days in California:


You're welcome, mom and dad!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Three for Fall

Autumn is my favorite time of year to read. Well, autumn and summer. And also January. Ok, maybe every time of year is my favorite time to read, but you know there is something extra alluring about sitting down with a chai and a great book on these smoky, dusky days. Here are three books I'll always wish I could read for the first time. Again.

The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson


When I can't find a good book, it feels like I can't breathe. I'd been trying a variety of things--classics, popular fantasy, new releases--and nothing would take. Then along came The Family Fang and saved my life.

The third page (or so) had me laughing harder than the latest Chelsea Handler book--and I love Chelsea Handler. The Family Fang is so approachable, so witty and deeply entertaining. It is the story of Annie and Buster Fang, known in the art world as Child A and Child B. Their parents are performance artists who have been incorporating Annie and Buster into their oddball public stunts since they were babies. The book plays with some serious themes--as adults, Annie and Buster have trouble determining which events in their lives are real and which are for entertainment. But mostly it's just a great time when Child A and Child B each suffer a career mishap and land themselves back at home with their famous, crazy parents. I loved every page of this book. I read it slowly. Part of me wanted to stay with the family Fang forever, I was so wrapped up in their lives and having such a fantastic, hilarious, thought-provoking time there. This is one of the best books I've read in a long time.

The Rules of Civility, Amor Towles


It's kind of like if you took really good writing, the good kind of good writing, not the stuffy kind. Then you add all the romantic Manhattan sets from Gossip Girl, only if Gossip Girl was set in in the 1930's so it's even better. Ice cold dirty Martini's, extra olives, instead of fluorescent pink Cosmopolitans and your grandmother's pearls replacing Juicy Couture. Stockings drying on the radiator instead of hair dye and spray tans. Ok? And then you took a little bit of Great Gatsby--not the parts you're supposed to value as the Great American Novel, but the parts you might have actually liked if you weren't constantly having it's greatness shoved down your throat--the ambiance, the intrigue, the ingenue. Dress it up in the sleek, stylish working-girl story lines of Mad Men. Add a sharp-tongued heroine and fantastic rat-a-tat banter of a black and white starring Bette Davis--and you've got yourself a novel to fall into and fall in love with. I loved every minute I spent in this book, bashing around New York, New York with working-class Katey Kontent and her high society friends and lovers. If I developed a freak memory loss, where every day I woke up not remembering anything from the day before, it would all be ok as long as someone would hand me this book every morning, and I could read it anew. Maybe that's a weird thing to say but love makes you crazy.

Now you know, October is coming. Every October I get pretensions about myself and think I'm going to read Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker.

I never have.

But that's ok, because there is an author whom I'd much rather spend October with. Her books are deliciously spooky, overwhelmingly absorbing. They crawl under my skin and don't leave me for months. They haunt me. I was lucky enough to get to write a review of her latest one over here on Blogher.

My title over there is better this time, and you know why? Because they changed it.

Feel like buying a book? Maybe you will want to head over to your local Barnes and Noble or independent bookstore. Did you know that even used book stores often stock new releases? I mention it because I'm hoping to avoid more of this:

I loved you, Borders Longmont.

Happy reading, friends and lovers.Link

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Awkward, Unweildy Creations


In the midst of the Broncos game I swore, jumped off the couch, and ran to the oven, remembering the chocolate chip cookies that had been in it for the better part of thirty minutes. Why the hell am I even baking these things, I asked myself, drawing my charred chocolate crisps from the oven. It's like I think of myself as some kind of Martha Stewart meets June Cleaver, but in reality I am exactly what would happen if you gave Spike from Buffy and Balki from Perfect Strangers a home to clean and a bunch of children to take care of. The children would turn to smarth-mouthed monsters dressed like flamboyant singing circus freaks and the house is covered in something that might be blood. I decide to make cookies because I don't want to buy them, because store-boughts are full of hydrogenated oils and other bad things I can't name, other nutritional monsters in the closet, and then I spend three full weeks pulling the butter out every morning to soften it and putting it, melted beyond recognition and unused, back into the fridge at night. Finally I muster the energy to stir the ingredients together, a task which I find boring and tedious and only complete for the end product, and then I go and burn the damn cookies and when I wake up from my domestic nightmare-haze it seems I have feed the children Xtra Pizza Goldfish for dinner and not stopped them from coating it in maple syrup. And they've painted themselves again, Indy paints herself like she is the descendant of the Comanches, or Braveheart, or a Raiders fan, and most nights while I am busy burning the cookies and serving nutritionally insufficient dinners I am also busy forgetting things like bath time, or reading charts, because my mind is dreamy, drifting toward the book I'm reading, or the thing I wrote today, and really I am not suited for this at all.

Mothering is the only thing I've ever done that I haven't been good at. I'm not some sort of life prodigy, I've just been able to avoid doing things at which I suck. I don't do math and I don't play sports. I was good at school and spent a lot of time watching tv, and so you see, I succeeded at nearly everything I tried. I mean, I had the tv guide memorized like some kind of savant. I had a good-enough grasp on the Dewey Decimal system, that was all that mattered. Now along comes this mothering thing and truly, I'm an idiot at it. That and housekeeping. I've owned a wood dining table and desk for nine years now. Never once, in those entire nine years, did it occur to me that my wood furniture might need wood furniture polish. I just kept spraying it with Windex and blaming the poor workmanship for the fact that it went dull and lost it's slick lacquer. What I am saying here is that I appear to have the homemaking skills of Al Bundy.

Sometimes I feel bad for my kids. I wouldn't want me for a mother. I'm trying to think what I would want me for. I'm a poor drinking buddy. I don't get entertaining and boisterous, I get tired and pass out. Sure I had a few good moments over Labor Day flinging marshmallows at the neighbors with my sister, but that was an exception to the rule. I am a clumsy mother, a distracted wife. I could get really down on myself, but then there's this: I want my kids to be happy, damnit. Not perfect. Not successful. Not rich or high-achieving, not results-oriented. As adults I want them to know how to follow their souls, not the money. So Ayla told me she stepped on a cactus and I laughed, so what? I swear to god, I thought she said catfish. So Indy packs her own corn tortilla and Nutella sandwich for school. Who cares? She's the only kid in Kindergarten who can't read yet, she might also be the next Nigella. Or Missioni. I mean, have you seen her ensembles? She might be, I don't care if she's not. My kids know I love them. They are given room to explore. To make messes. To create art. Ayla writes in her diary and sketches a massive fudging grasshopper that I have allowed her to bring into the house, that might have peed on the carpet. Indy spins long tales about George Washington riding rockets and killing aliens, I don't think she's certain it's not true. I don't love them with cookies or well-ordered lives. This is how I love them: I allow them just to be. So I can't control what they think or do. It's difficult to control any person, especially if you are aiming to raise an actual human and not a drone. Between my moments of failure we find moments of grace. My children have an actual human for a mother. A complete and total failure. Not a perfect drone. My demands are not on their appearances, or their skills or performance. My demand is on their hearts, and it is only one: that they listen to it. That they honor it and stay true.

Maybe, somehow, we'll be all right.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Remember That Time I Didn't Like Inception?

I saw the Harry Potter movie and I thought it was terrible.

I had an Insucktion-type blog ready, but when it came down to it, I couldn't post it. I just couldn't find it in my heart to take the mickey out of anything Harry Potter related, even a terrible, terrible movie.

. . . but can I just say that when Bonnie Wright and Daniel Radcliffe kissed each other like that, the director should have yelled 'cut', slapped them both, slapped them both again, and made them do it over, this time pretending that they actually wanted to? I mean, the first part, "Harry Potter and the Interminable Afternoon At Gringott's" was fine, but the second half, "Harry Potter and the Series of Awkward Encounters at Hogwarts", kind of lagged. None of the punchy moments were actually punched. Molly Weasley screaming her trademark line at Lestrange was handled with the same enthusiasm with which I shut off my 5:50 am alarm every morning. Ron and Hermione showed the passion of the brother and sister I have come to think of them as, thanks to the movies.

Remember when Gandalf came back from the dead? Remember when Braveheart rode his horse back and forth in front of rag-tag Scottish army, screaming about poetry and freedom and making our genitals cry? I thought that the "Harry's actually alive" moment had that same resonance and vigor. No seriously. It was really awesome the way Hagrid fumbled Harry and Harry ran away like a rat. It was just like the Braveheart moment. You know, if William Wallace had fallen off his horse and ran while the English shot arrows into his ass. It was like the Gandalf moment, if Stryder had shrugged and looked vaguely hungry instead of staring in the half terror, half wonder of true awe.

But man, the moment when HP7.2 really shone was that totally unexpected scene where-for a moment!--you thought Neville ACTUALLY HAD PLUMMETED TO HIS DEATH OFF THE BRIDGE. If you were not holding your breath and peeing your pants, check your probably-Nordic pulse. When the camera lingered over the place where the bridge broke off, not showing us the full depth into which Neville had supposedly fallen, I was totally buying it. How could I not? I was certain he was dead, but then! SPOILER ALERT: Neville's hand appeared on the precipice of the cliff and he PULLED HIMSELF BACK UP!! No way. No fracking way, guys. Mind = blown. I have never seen that shot in a movie before. So fresh, so original, so authentically riveting. And using up valuable screen time to make us fake-think a character who we knew was going to live was actually going to die--wow. I mean, wow. Writerly and directorial prowess right there.

Each scene of the movie felt merely a hurried byway to the cheesy, awkward, off-pitch and anti-climactic next. The whole thing felt disjointed, not unlike this picture:


In which Harry anticipates the upcoming alien probing with terror, Hermione reveals confused dismay that they've discontinued the Salted Caramel flavor at Pinkberry, and Ron missed the apocalypse memo and has been misinformed that this is not the ultimate climax of a seven-years-in-the-making drama, but rather a shoot for the Land's End catalog.

If Harry had shown anything approaching this level of emotion in the movie, I would have been thrilled. I don't blame Daniel Radcliffe. I've seen him perform live and naked. I know he's a good actor because, while watching Harry Potter and the Half-Turgid Member, I was so swept up in the drama that I barely even noticed said member at all.

Shoot. Now I've gone and done what I swore I had no heart to do.

Let's move on.

In case you didn't know, here is what actually happened to Neville:


Happy Labor Day weekend. Special thanks to she-knows-who for the Pomegranate-infused tequila and the San Pelligrino Limonata. I'm having a love affair. It sounds like Anthony Bourdain and tastes like paradise.



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