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Weekend Wonderfulness? April 30, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius, Other People's Genius.
3 comments

Weekend Whimsy?  Weekend Weedings?  Weekend Wows?

I’m on the fence about a name, but the idea is sound.  I am going to start featuring Etsy items that I think are fan-freaking-tastic in hopes that showcasing it here will drive some business to their shops.  I’ve been wading (Weekend Wading?) through Etsy in search of some truly lovely, unique, fun, fabulous, freaky and just generally blog-worthy items to share with you.

And I’ll tell you why.

Etsy is grating on my last goddamn nerve.  When I first joined Etsy, the site itself was less than a year old and its whole selling point–the entire reason for joining–was that it loudly and proudly proclaimed itself to be a handmade marketplace.  Handmade.  As in “things that someone made with their own two hands.”

Now, when you open a site to artists and craftspeople and offer it as a place where they can make money with stuff that they like to craft while watching TV, you’re going to get varying degrees of “good”.   Good quality, good materials, even good idea in the first place are fairly subjective.  There is some truly weird, wretched stuff on there.

Enter Regretsy.com.  I’ve mentioned how much I love this site.  If you can write something on the Internet that makes me laugh so hard that I choke and my husband has to come in from the other room and ask me if I’m okay and all I can do is point to the monitor and wipe my eyes, and you can do it day after day after day–dude, I’m a FAN.

April Winchell is the genius behind Regretsy.  She combs through Etsy looking for the gems to feature on her site, and while I can only imagine what tags she enters to find some of that stuff, at one point she realized that she was seeing a lot of multiples of things, as in hundreds of necklaces featuring the same brass octopus from Hobby Lobby.  Still, lack of originality, skill, and taste aside, she also noticed lots and lots of items claiming to be one-of-a-kind that were obviously not handmade, never mind OOAK.

One of my favorite reseller callouts ever. Click the picture to see the whole sordid affair.

So she started featuring them on Regretsy in the “Not Remotely Handmade” category.  Turns out that a bulk of the folks who read Regretsy are Etsy sellers too, and the venom in the comments section of those features was palpable.  I don’t know how or when it happened, but the fact that Etsy is chock full of resellers who are crowding out legitimate artists and craftspersons became intolerable.  So April opened the Regretsy forums as part of the Regretsy site, and it didn’t take much work at all for those of us who are Etsy members, handcrafters and lovers of one-of-a-kind pieces, and fans of general snarkiness to form an Etsy team.  We’re called “April’s Army” and while Etsy’s terms of service does not allow us to “call out” other Etsy members for reselling, the Regretsy forum encourages it.  So when we find resellers and copyright infringers, we can tell our AA posse and flag the shop so many times that it can’t be ignored.

But Regretsy isn’t just about snarkiness.   April has always been generous.  In addition to buying things to support shops that are doing good, she also keeps a small fund available to help out people who need it for whatever reason.  In fact, our team motto is a quote by April:

Cross stitch design by AA member "Prynsess"

The April’s Army Team on Etsy is supportive, which is what teams were designed for.  We help each other to get better as artists and crafters (lest we get featured on Regretsy!) and to build our Etsy businesses.  Which is all good.  Plus, the last week of every month we have an April’s Army shop on Etsy where members of the team donate an item or items to be sold through that shop with the proceeds going towards the Regretsy charitable fund.

Only 8 items left from the April sale!

Our first AA Shop opened on Monday 4/25 with over 100 listings.  As of Friday, there was only a dozen or so items left standing in the shop.  We got to give input on who we thought should benefit from the shop sales, and the Etsy seller For Jason was chosen.  Not only did our shop do well, but linking it back to her shop helped her sell out lots of her inventory as well.

Robin’s shop has been doing very well, and she still has lots of nice things in it.  Other AA members said her lip balms were out of this world, and because I hate pancreatic cancer with the fire that fuels a thousand suns and would love to see Jason kick it’s sorry ass, I have a couple on the way here.  I’ll let you know how they are!

So, while I do love to talk shit from time to time, I have always believed in doing good.  To that end, I bring you the first edition of Weekend Wonderfuls.  (Yes?  No?  Ugh.)  Here are a half-dozen handmade goodies from a few of my favorite Etsy sellers.  I invite you to click the links here and visit these shops, but also to take a cruise around Etsy and mark some shops of your own.  Mother’s Day is coming up…why not buy her something handmade?

Fun Laundry Glasses by MotherSeal

Chocolate Whoopie Pie Necklace by roscata

Purse in Carpet Bag Style Stripes by crookedsmilecreation

Cute Little Monster Felt Zippered Pouch by YouAreMySin

Saint Rectangle Magnet by mincingmockingbird

Mother is the Sweetest Word Bowl by antb

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Someone Needed a Vacation! April 28, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.
1 comment so far

For anyone keeping track, my last post was more than a week ago and I’ve since missed a People’s Choice Monday, two or three Madhouse Wednesdays, and a couple two tree WTF Fridays to boot. What can I say? Sometimes life gets in the way of my forming coherent blog posts.

Fresh from their children's choir debut posing by the baptismal font...Bug and Bobo! *wild applause*

First of all, last week was Holy Week and there was much singing to be done.  I sang on Thursday and Friday night, then on Saturday I spent four hours decorating the bulletin boards in the church hall for the Vigil.  Sang at the Vigil Saturday night and stayed into Sunday morning to help clean up, then went back to sing with the children’s choir on Easter morning.

Being a Church Lady is fucking exhausting.

I could barely keep my eyes open on Sunday afternoon.  And that feeling lasted well into Monday.  I don’t normally get that tired, but my kids decided to give me a cold just in time for Holy Week.  Either that or my allergies kicked in.  It’s hard to tell.  Whichever is to blame, I’ve been stuffed to my eye sockets with copious amounts of snot, none of which goes anywhere.  It sits there in my head and my ears just making me miserable.  It feels like my noggin weighs about 50 pounds.  I swear my neck hurts just from lugging my gigantic cranium around.

So Holy Week was a bust, writing-wise. Then the next thing I knew it was Monday and I didn’t write about my scheduled People’s Choice topic because I was high on bite-sized Snickers bars and Claritin-D.  Before I knew it I was distracted by shiny things and Cadbury Cream Eggs and Wednesday came and went and now it’s Thursday and I realize I haven’t even mentioned my trip to Newport.

*sigh*

Perhaps if I do this in chapter-type installments?  Good?  Okay, let’s hit it.  First up, let’s get those pesky Madhouse topics out of the way.  It’s a good thing I don’t get paid by the word for those posts, eh?

Madhouse Wednesday, April 20:  A Perfect Moment

I tried writing about the Madhouse topic on Wednesday “A Perfect Moment” but again, the topic stumped me.  I think it’s because I’ve come to realize that there’s no real perfect moment.  There are great moments and memorable moments, but to say that a moment is perfect means that it couldn’t be improved upon at all, and God help me I just couldn’t find one example of a moment being so good that there was just no way to make it better.

And that tidbit of wisdom didn’t make for a very entertaining blog post, did it?  Sometimes I can be succinct.  Deep, but succinct.

Madhouse Wednesday, April 27:  Hidden Talents

If I told you about my hidden talents, they wouldn’t be hidden, would they?

Kidding.  I kid you.

I was trying to think of a talent I possess that no one knows about, but I think when you have a blog, it gets harder and harder to think of things that no one knows about.  I mean, someone always knows about something.

But here’s a little-known talent of mine:  I am an expert packer.  Suitcases, the trunk of the car, a package for mailing, moving boxes, a piece of carry-on luggage…I can make it fit.  Whatever it is.  You give me the container and the stuff that has to go in it, and I can figure out the optimal way to get it in.  And I can do it fast.  I’m good with spacial relationships.  I can look at an item of clothing and tell you if it will fit on a particular body.  I can tell if tab A will fit into slot B without trying it.  And I can get everything you need for your trip into whatever suitcase you want to bring.

I’ll also kick your ass at Tetris.

Newport:  The Return to the Alma Mater

So two weeks ago tomorrow, Sister and I loaded up the Lexus and headed south for Newport, Rhode Island.  Home of the Newport Creamery, Salve Regina University, and wretched excess.

LOVED IT.

Sister and me on a road trip is always a good time.  If there was one fly in the ointment it was that both of us had been felled a few days earlier by some nasty stomach bug and weren’t feeling in tip top shape.  Not puke-y, just no appetite.  Ooky.  Urpy.

But that aside, it was awesomeballs to get back to Newport.  We hooked up with Bob and Jeremy and after a quick, meatless bite at Panera and a drive-through tour of What’s New Since We Last Visited Newport, we decided to tour Chateau Sur Mer.  Now, I’ve been through a few of the Newport mansions and it’s usualy pretty impressive.  Marble House, the Breakers, Rosecliff, even Hammersmith Farm in its less-gilded simplicity are gorgeous to tour.

I got the feeling that CSM is the red-headed stepchild of the Historical Society.

One of the first rooms we saw had a nasty-ass lime-ish green carpet on the floor.  Sister commented, “Do they have dogs?”  I was more put off by the area rug that was on top of the horribly stained carpet.  It was threadbare and probably original to the house, but it looked like someone had just thrown it down on the floor and walked away.  It looked like a badly made bed, or like one of the curators had needed to hide a body quickly, used that particular rug to drag the deceased out a back door, and had to get it back down hastily before the next tour came through.

My OCD almost forced me over the rope to flatten it out, but I resisted.

The whole place was equally shabby and despite it being very chilly and windy out, it seemed close and stuffy in the mansion.  Which, in a place that big, is rare.  But that’s not the worst of it.

Sister and I kept getting a whiff of something.  Something ass-y.  Something funky and perhaps a bit unwashed.  Maybe with a hint of mold and an overtone of mustiness.  Not everywhere, not permeating the whole house, just a vaguely crotchy smell that you’d encounter here and there as you walked around.

I thought at first it was the house.  Old place, water damage, unused pipes…there’s a pretty extensive list of things that might stink.  However, as the tour wound on endlessly, we began to suspect it was one of the women on the tour with us, as her hair was kind of matted and unwashed looking in the back, and I’m thinking if her hair was that…let’s be kind and say “unkempt”…it’s not a reach to assume that her nether regions might be releasing a powerful and noxious scent.

Either way, we were all pretty glad to get out into the cold air.  I imagine we left just in time too, as I’m sure our giggling would have gotten us thrown out eventually.  In fact, when we caught a glimpse of a portrait hanging on the second floor landing and decided it was a guy in drag, we had all pretty much lost the thread at point.  It was time to go.

After the boys had a pre-show bite at Griswolds (and Sister and I sipped soda to try and calm our bajingo-assaulted stomachs) we dropped them off at the theater and made our way back to our little hotel to rest.  We stayed at the Inn on Bellevue and it was a charming little place.  A little shabby as well, but in a vintage/antique kind of way that was charming and not a “Fuck me, I’m not sleeping here, it smells like a dirty snatch” kind of way.

We were in Newport in the first place to visit see Bob’s big production of Two Gentlemen of Verona.  It was his first directing effort at Salve and we really couldn’t be more proud of him if we tried.  More theater companies need to hire him to direct.  And here’s why.

Right off the bat I had to question the choosing of the show.  Bob didn’t pick it.  Apparently the department head likes “themes” so all the shows this year had a Shakespeare theme.  Here’s my question:  why not pick a good musical with a Shakespeare theme?  Like, oh, I don’t know, Kiss Me, KateWest Side Story?

Despite this groovy poster from the original procuction, there was not one magenta nipple in the whole show.

Two Gentlemen is (in my not-so-humble opinion) one of Shakespeare’s stupidest plays, and that’s before you start screwing with it.  It’s full of plot holes so big you could chuck a baby through them, which is bad enough before someone bursts into fucking song out of nowhere; you know, like they do in musicals.  And then there’s the fact that when they made it into a musical, they kept the book in Shakespearean English and the songs in “modern” (meaning early-70’s) vernacular, which to me was just adding insult to an already weak play. The guy that wrote the music for Hair did this one, so it’s got a “rock opera” feel to it, but without the timeless “voice-of-a-generation” themes that Hair had.   I felt like it wanted to be Hair, or that the writers were trying to capture that kind of magic in a bottle again, but just didn’t quiiiite get there.  Okay, it didn’t come within a row of assholes of getting there.

So the fact that Bob took this show on in the first place is a testament to his bravery and vision as a director.  It takes a lot of imagination to polish a turd.

And Bob did it.  God love him, he put pulled off a show that the crowd liked and the cast had fun performing.  The kids were great.  They really seemed to embrace what Bob was doing with the show and their enthusiasm was infectious.  I can only imagine what they’d have done with a really good show to work with.  There were some excellent singers and dancers and the design was so vibrant that visually it was fun to watch.  And the music.  Oh.  The music was outstanding.  The band alone could make you forget that you were watching an amateur production.  It could make you overlook the fact that there’s not one memorable song in the show anywhere.

So good on ya, Bob.  I know I couldn’t have pulled that off in a million years, and I can’t think of many directors who could have.  And when you consider the roadblocks in his way which shall remain undiscussed here, it was a masterpiece.  If you’re a producer within the sound of my voice, HIRE THIS MAN.  He fucking rocks.

One of my favorite parts of the show is that I was seated right beside the parents of one of the leads.  His mom is an alumnus as well, and his dad saw me talking to Bob the Esteemed Director and asked if I too had a connection to Salve theater.  I confessed that I did indeed.  He said his son was a technical theater major, and I said, “Hey, so was I!”

He said “They just added it recently…there hasn’t been one in a long time.”  I agreed and told them that I think I was probably the last one before they stopped offering it as a major.  He said his boy had gone in as an education major but switched to theater.

“Me too!” I said, feeling a bit agree-ish, but I swear to God it’s true.  Then he asked the million dollar question.

“Do you work in theater now?”

*crickets*

I laughed, and dad got that crestfallen, oh-my-God-I’m-spending-two-hundred-grand-so-the-kid-can-throw-his-life-away look on his face.  “Nope,” I told him honestly.  “I don’t.”

Unfortunately at that moment, something happened and either the show started up again or I had to visit with someone…I forget, but I left the poor guy hanging on that little tidbit.  But at the next available minute I told him not to fret.  There were personal reasons behind my quitting theater that factored in, and also of the 7  of us that graduated with theater degrees, most of us (like Bob) are still active and working in theater or performing in some capacity or other.

I hope I made the poor guy feel better.

Anyway, Sister and I skipped the after-party because we are old.  We went to bed and rose with the birds for another day of basking in Newportness.  We had a lovely breakfast at the Inn (free with the room!) and then located a little yarn shop downtown to visit.  I got four skeins of yarn that looked fun to play with and then we decided to swing through campus to see if we could get into the new chapel and take a peek.

We could not.  Alas, for want of a butter knife, we were shut out in the cold.  It was so cold that Sister bought a fleece jacket in the campus bookstore.

All in all, the place is as lovely as ever.  More so, even.  And for almost $46,000 a year, it damn well better be.

We had a lunch that couldn’t be beat at the Brick Alley Pub before heading north again.  Bob and J were there, and Lennie and Devin who are a couple of our nearest and dearest beloved friends.  Bob’s mom and dad and sister came to town and there are no words adequate enough to describe how wonderful it was to see them again.  Just no words.  They were like family to me when we were in college and that has never, ever changed.  I love them like they are flesh and blood and always will.

"We're not really sisters, but we are really ugly."

We hugged and kissed and said our goodbyes while the theater-goers headed off to see the matinee and we headed for NH.  We made a detour in Plymouth, Mass. to pick up some Royal Wedding supplies at the British import store there.  Yes, Sister and I are going to watch the spectacle unfold live on TV tomorrow morning and you can mock us all you want.  We’re the Ugly Sisters Step and we loves us some royal wedding.

Of course during all of this, Larry stayed with the kids.  He took the day off on Friday so that I could leave first thing in the morning and had the trio all to himself both days.  He’s a good man, Charlie Brown.  (Which is also a better show than Verona, but not by much.  But I digress.)

CBS Presents How I Met Your Father

One of my Salve friends who was a couple of years ahead of me in the theater department posed “How did you meet your husband?” as a reader’s choice suggestion.

It was pretty simple, really.  I worked with his younger brother at Joann fabrics.

When I was done with touring and my plans to move to NYC had fallen through in dramatic and heartbreaking fashion, I picked up the shattered remnants of my life and came home to figure out what to do next.  Finding yourself isn’t cheap, so I took a job at Joanns and very quickly got promoted to management.  They’d have been stupid not to.  I worked as the fabric specialist and Larry’s brother was in charge of the craft department.

I got to know his whole family because they’d stop in from time to time.  His sister would bring his niece in for a visit.  She was a toddler then, but now she’s driving and babysits our kids, a fact that is still kind of weird to me.  His mom and dad would pop in if they were in the neighborhood, and because Larry was dating a girl who worked next door at the grocery store, he’d stop in to visit and kill time while he waited for her to get off work.

His brother frequently expressed his opinion that I should go out with Larry.  I assured him that I thought men were not worth the effort and I was quite happy with the idea of dying alone.  Not in a morbid way, but more in the way that you feel when you really don’t want to offer your heart to anyone to walk all over.  And besides, I liked not having to share my stuff.

But then I went to The Fair with another friend of mine and we ran into a couple of friends of hers.  Introductions were made all ’round and I small talk was made, and when we walked away she mentioned somewhat off-handedly that perhaps I’d like to go out with one of the guys I’d just met.  I said I was all set, thanks and let it drop, but when I got to work I asked Larry’s brother what the deal was with people fixing me up, as if I needed a man in my life to be either happy or complete.

He stopped putting stuff away and said it had nothing to do with that.  He said he was operating under purely selfish motives, because he knew if I married his brother that he’d have me in his family.

So let it be written. So let it be done. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

How do you not humor that?  Purely selfish motives are something I can appreciate.  I told him to set  it up and I went out with Larry and we’ve been together ever since.  In fact, we just had an anniversary of sorts.  He proposed to me during the annual Passover network airing of The Ten Commandments, during the scene where Moses turns the Nile into blood.  Every year when it’s on, we remember.  “Why is this night not like every other night?”

You know that saying, “A true friend is someone who knows all about you and likes you anyway”?  Consider it a free bit of marriage advice to say that you should never marry anyone who is not a true friend in that way.

Larry knows everything about me, and he not only accepts the less-savory parts of my personality, he loves me anyway.  I never have to feel like there’s something I can’t say or do around him because of how he’ll react.  I don’t have to keep anything hidden from him, ever.  He knows who I am, what I’ve done, where I’ve been, and supports me in getting me wherever it is I want to go.

Folks at church will remark that he must be someone special to stay home with the kids while I work at my many ministries in the Parish.  I explain that that’s his ministry: to be my support while I do the things I have to.

He understands that being home all day is confining and never says a word when I have something lined up in the evening.  He cooks supper when I don’t feel like it, understanding that I’ve already made breakfast and lunch, so he takes that off my shoulders.  He’s never said, “You’re home all day…why didn’t you do it?” because he’s put in his hours here and he knows that sometimes coming up with one more meal is just more than a person can take.

I’m a fairly lousy at being a wife and a mother, but he and the kids are very forgiving.  In fact, the girls have been keeping their little brother busy this morning while I compose this beast of a post.

But now the time for distractions is over and I have to go get dinner in the crock pot if we hope to eat tonight, and then the monkeys are going to be hungry for some lunch before I have to clean the living room (again) before Dave’s therapy this afternoon.

Peace out.

The Insider’s Guide to the 603: Part 2–How’s Your Grinder? April 18, 2011

Posted by J. in Domesticity, FYI, Genius.
7 comments

I’ve been a lot of places and seen a lot of things.  I’ve eaten in truck stops and five-star gourmet restaurants, roadside clam shacks and artisan bakeries.  When you ask me what I remember about the places I’ve been, I might not recall names and faces or where I saw the world’s largest ball of string, but I can tell you what the place tasted like.

I’ve tangled with Louisiana po’boys and dished the hot dish in Minnesota.  I’ve handled handmade tamales in Arizona and licked Kansas City barbeque off my elbows.  I’ve kissed Flo’s grits in Alabama, but when it comes to Rocky Mountain oysters, Poops does have limits to what she’ll put in her mouth.

Of course we live in a fantastic time when I can have Memphis barbeque delivered to my house by lunchtime tomorrow if I really want it.  The local is less “exotic” than it once was, for sure.  I mean, I’m sitting here noshing on a couple of digestive biscuits with my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee because I fell in love with the damn things in Hong Kong.  Now I can get them in my local grocery store, which is a pretty damned awesome development, if you ask me.

Still and all, there are things that will always taste like home, no matter where home is for you.  In fact, even more than familiar sights and sounds, I’d go so far as to say that food is the number one thing that makes me feel like I’m really home.

New Hampshire cuisine is really New England’s cuisine.  We’re a coastal state so fresh Atlantic seafood is easy to come by.  We’re also a colder climate with a short growing season, so root veggies rule the day most of the year and perishables like strawberries and fresh tomatoes are brief, seasonal luxuries.  Real NH maple syrup is expensive but it’s worth every penny to have it dripping down a stack of pancakes on a cold Spring day like this one, and there’s nothing quite like the taste of that first, crisp apple picked right off the tree in the Fall.

So get yourself a nice seat by the window and take a menu.  Your waitress will be right with you.

New England hot dog rolls. Accept no substitutes.

Clam Roll

Fried clam rolls are a northern New England tradition, and we have a very specific way of making them.  The first thing is the clam.  Not clam strips, but whole belly clams are lightly breaded and deep fried until they’re just golden.   Personally, I don’t even need the roll at this point.  Just throw those bad boys into a paper dish and let me at them.

But the roll is important.  First, it has to be a proper New England hot dog roll, without which you’re already off the rails.  Buttered and grilled until crispy and brown on both sides, the roll is spread as wide as a Fall River prostitute and filled to overflowing with the hot, crispy fried clams.

You may go into an establishment offering clam rolls with a piece of lettuce in the roll.  They are probably flatlandahs who opened a restaurant up here and don’t know any better.  Shun them. 

Chowdah

Let’s get this out of the way right now, shall we?

New England Clam Chowder is thick, white and creamy and has clams, chunks of potato, and onions in it.

It doesn’t matter what Manhattan Clam Chowder has in it because it is just stupid.  There.  I’ve said it.  It’s fucking soup.  Or stew.  Or something.  Whatever it is, it’s most decidedly NOT chowder.

Chowdah is always milk and/or cream-based.  If you see a dairy-free chowder on the menu, you’ve stumbled into yet another flatlandah establishment and again, you should make with the shunning.  Maybe throw rocks.

And while clam is far and away the most popular chowder, around here corn chowder is also really popular.  It’s also milk and cream based, as chowder must be, but it’s made with smoky bacon and sweet corn in place of the clams.

Seriously.  Corn and bacon.  What’s not to like?

They may look like something from a nightmare, but if you can get past their scrotal qualities, they are quite good.

Steamahs

Steamers are simply steamed littleneck clams.  Well, I say littleneck, but some places use other varieties of clam.  Up here we tend to prefer the littleneck because they’re sweet and tender.

There are few things easier to cook with such a decadent end result.  You just soak the live clams in fresh water, scrub the shells to get any sand off of them, toss out any that are broken or open and then put them in the clam pot.  Add a bit of water (or liquid…some use wine and I like mine steamed in beer, but to each his own) and bring it to a boil.  When the clams open up, they’re done.  Dump them into a big bowl and serve them with an empty bowl on the side for shells, a small dish of the liquid you steamed them in to rinse them, a small dish of melted butter to dip, and a shitload of napkins.  They pull right out of the shells and then you use your fingernail to grab the bit of skin at the neck and peel it off.  Swish it in the hot water for a rinse and then plop it in the butter.  Slurp them down. 

American Chop Suey

If you’re not from around he-ah, you might call this something else.  But I have no idea what. I posted the recipe the way I make it here, but it’s one of those combinations of ingredients that everyone puts their own spin on.  But the basics are the same: elbow macaroni, cheap ground beef, and canned tomatoes.

Here’s an interesting side note for you: we will often refer to ground beef not as hamburger, but just hamburg.  As in “Pick up a pound of hamburg at the store.”  I have no idea why.

ACS was made famous during one of the Presidential primaries when a reporter ordered American Chop Suey from a diner in Manchester and loved it so much he had to have the recipe. He wrote about it and sang its praises.  Then Guy “I’m a Total Tool” Fieri from The Food Network did a bit for his show “Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives” from Manchester and featured this “famous” American Chop Suey as a New England delicacy.

And we all laughed because it’s just poor people food.  Fucking flatlandahs.

Boiled Dinner

Speaking of poor people food, if you’re a person of Irish-American descent, you’ve probably had this and called it Corned Beef and Cabbage.  All of New England smells like someone wiped his ass with a sweaty gym sock the day after St. Patrick’s Day, and this dish is why.

You put a corned beef or a smoked ham shoulder in a big pot of water and you boil it for hours and hours.  You toss in some cabbage, carrots, turnips, potatoes, and onions and when it’s all soft and falling apart, you eat it.   It’s salty, earthy, hearty, funky, and just generally delicious.  Put a crusty loaf of bread on the side and it’s a wee bit o’ heaven.

Your farts, on the other hand, will smell like someone is burning garbage inside a manure-filled tire for a minimum of 12 hours after consumption.

I could eat the hell out of a grindah right now. With a frappe. Damn.

Grinder

A grindah is very simply a sandwich made on a long, soft Italian roll. It’s called a “sub” or a “hoagie” in other places.

You usually get the best grinders in NH in a pizza place.  You can get just about anything on them and they’re served either hot or cold.

Soda

A soft drink. You’ll never hear a native call any soft drink “pop” or “tonic”. If it’s not a soda, it’s called by the brand name.

Tourtiere

French meat pie.  Like so many of those French-Canadian words, how it’s pronounced varies from family to family and region to region. We say it like “tood-care” in my family. It’s made from ground beef and pork, fried and seasoned with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, and cloves, and then mashed together with boiled potatoes and baked in a pie crust. It’s kickass served with gravy, but everyone who eats it has their own preferred method of dressing it.

One thing we all agree on is that if you don’t taste it every time you burp for two days afterward, you didn’t get a good one.

Fried dough like you get it at the fair, served piping hot as to guarantee a third-degree burn to the roof of your mouth on the first bite, and on a flimsy paper plate that lets the grease and sugary butter get all over your hands. And of course the napkins must be thin and inadequate as well for the true experience.

Fried Dough

Fried dough is one of those things you eat at The Fair, after you’ve had your mandatory Italian sausage grindah with grilled peppahs and onions and some of those big-ass beer-battered onion rings.

It’s just a piece of bread dough stretched out flat and deep fried so that it’s crispy on the outside and soft and chewy inside.  We don’t “do” funnel cakes as a rule, so this is our version of the fried bread treat.

There’s lots of ways to eat it.  They’ll slather it with melted butter for you when you order it and you can sprinkle it with your choice of cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar, and I’ve seen some places that offer maple syrup as well.  Then there’s this new trend at some of your high-falutin’ “festivals” where you can get all kinds of toppings for it like *gasp* fruit or Nutella, but we all know that’s the flatlandah’s at work again, don’t we?

Jimmies

Jimmies are those little tiny candy pieces you sprinkle on ice cream or sundaes or a frosted donut.  They used to just come in chocolate or rainbow varieties, but now you can buy them in all kinds of color combinations to suit your needs.  Outside New Hampshire they’re sometimes called “sprinkles” or “shots”, but up here they’re jimmies and always will be.

Admit it: you just licked your monitor.

Whoopie Pies

Maine is currently trying to get the whoopie pie named the official state snack, which is cheesing off the folks in Pennsylvania who say it started in the Amish community and should be the official Pennsylvania state snack.  I think they call them “gobs” down there, but I can’t find an official source to confirm this.  Go figure.  Turns out there’s a whole big Whoopie War going on right under my nose.

I’m not entirely sure why states even need official snacks, but leave it to Massafuckingchusetts to take the Boston Creme Pie, the Boston Creme Donut, the Toll House Cookie and corn fucking muffins just for good measure.

So while the whoopie will certainly never be the official NH state snack by any stretch, it’s one of those things that is famous all over the region.  It’s just two soft chocolate cake-like cookies with a big dollop of frosting-type cream filling, but they’re hard to get just exactly right.  The cakes should be soft and moist but need to be firm and cookie-ish enough to hold together.  The frosting has to be light and fluffy with just the right amount of stickiness to hold the cakes together but without making them crumble or split.

Yes, I could give you my recipe for them, but then I’d have to kill you.

Frappe

First, it rhymes with “map.”   It’s not a “frap-pay.”

It is a delicious concoction of milk, ice cream, and syrup blended and sucked through a straw.   If that sounds like what you call a milkshake or a thick shake (which are both different than frappes in NH), you’d have the right idea.  If you think that sounds like a “cabinet”, please give my regards to your fellow Rhode Islanders, won’t you?

Well hells bells, that’s been a fun morning of culinary excitement.  Now I’m hungry.  Who wants grindahs?

Be sure to tune in on June 6 for my third and final installment in The Insider’s Guide when our round-table topic will be “You know you’re from New Hampshire when…”

My Whole Week Is Off By a Half-Step April 14, 2011

Posted by J. in Domesticity, FYI.
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Madhouse Wednesday came and went with no input from me. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say about “Eye Contact” so much as I spent the morning making eye contact with the inside of my toilet bowl and the better part of the rest of the day making full-body contact with my sofa.

Jesus, Mary and all the Saints, don’t I hate being sick. I’m not a good puker. Some people can just hurl up the contents of their guts, swish and spit, and go on about their day.

I feel like I’m going to die.

I don’t know what caused it. I do know that I’m better today but my guts are still a bit tender. And Bug hurled a few times last night, but she’s a good puker and just goes right back to sleep with no trouble. She stayed home today as a just-in-case.

And tomorrow Sister and I are heading off to Newport to see BFF Bob’s production of Two Gentlemen of Verona at Salve. I expect it will be a spectacular night in the theater and the idea of having two whole days off is making me downright intoxicated. Though it could be my lack of food over the last two days causing the lightheadedness. Hard to tell.

So Wednesday was a wash, and as much as I love y’all, WTF Friday is going to be a rain-out too as I’ll be having too much fun having a life to write about it.  Unless I encounter something truly what-the-fucky in Newport.  You never know, really.

Which will bring us back ’round to Monday again and part two of my Insider’s Guide to Life in the 603 in which I moderate a spirited roundtable discussion of the things we eat up hee-ah.

Ayuh.

A Dream Deferred April 11, 2011

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius, Other People's Genius.
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What happens to a dream deferred?

 

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore–

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over–

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

(Langston Hughes, 1951)

I am not a poet.  I’ve never really even been all that crazy about poetry to begin with and have NO interest in writing any in the least.  It’s because poets have a way of putting things that are non-visual into visual terms that I sometimes like, but mostly don’t.  In fact, most of the time I hate it.  There are only a few poems I really like and a bazillion and a half that I loathe.

This is pretty close to what a good week looks like in my head. Not quite as pastel, but close. Eerily close, in fact. Okay, I'm actually a little creeped out right now...

I see things that are not generally understood in a visual sense, as I said a couple of months back when I talked a bit about how I view the days of the week as it relates to my daily blog posts and reader traffic.  I conducted a terribly informal and unscientific poll and learned that most people in my circle of friends, if asked to close their eyes and visualize “a week”, get the image of a calendar page in their head.  Sunday on one side, Saturday on the other, all the same size squares, probably black printing on a white background.

Do poets think of non-tangible things like “dreams deferred” and “a week” in visual ways?  Did Langston Hughes close his eyes and write about what he saw in his head?  Or did he sit down and think of what a dream deferred might be like and that’s what he came up with?  I suspect a lot of poets do the latter.  They think of descriptive ways to describe things, but I wonder if what they write doesn’t ring true to me because I don’t buy the imagery.  Or perhaps it’s because I can close my eyes and see images of things that don’t have a physical manifestation of their own, and the poets I don’t like picked images that jar with my own.

Hell, I don’t know.  I know I like that poem in particular.  It’s on my short list. I’m sure Langston Hughes is relieved.  Or would be, if he hadn’t died in 1967.

I think we all have things that evoke physical, emotional, or intellectual responses in us.  Some people can close their eyes and “see” the music they listen to.  It has color and shape to them.  I can see emotions.  Sadness has a distinct shape, as does anger.  And not in the way you might logically think.  “Anger is red and pointy!  Sadness is a gray oval…”  Not like that.  I realize that I’ll understand how I’m feeling better in terms of what the feeling looks like in my head than by the actual descriptor.

For instance, today I’m feeling content.  It’s my birthday, and we’re having a bit of a wee thunderstorm right now.  I like thunderstorms and always have.  They’re fun to watch.  Dave is busy eating some cereal and watching Dora and thus letting me type in peace and drink my coffee.  I have nothing pressing to do today, I’m having a Chinese food for dinner tonight, and I’ll finish up with choir practice which is always a good time.

So if you were to ask me how I’m feeling, I’d say I feel pretty darn good today.  I’m content.  Satisfied.  I’m generally pleased with how the day is unfolding and I’m looking forward to the rest of it.

But while I’m describing how I feel, I’m seeing the form of my emotions in my head.  If I described what it looked like physically, it wouldn’t make any sense at all, even to me.  But I look at the form of how I’m feeling and instead of using solid terms to describe it like color or shape or movement, I see the shape of it and understand it’s physical form as an emotion.  What shape is it?  Well, it’s contented.  I know “contented” isn’t a shape.  But it IS, and that’s the thing.

I don’t think the way I visualize non-visual things is normal, to be honest with you.  And I’m okay with that.

This is what happens in my brain when you say "Poops, what's 13 x 7?"

I think it’s funny how my brain works.  For instance, I suck at math.  I can’t do math in my head to save my life.  Numbers come in and pop right back out.  I can’t remember math facts.  I’m lucky I remember my times tables, to be honest with you, and it’s why math was such a horrible subject for me.  Formulas, equations, rules…can’t remember them.  I try, but they don’t want to stay.  My brain doesn’t want to play with them.  I wouldn’t even describe it as a mental block, like when you just hate something so much that you go blind with rage and can’t even think straight.  It’s more like the math center of my noggin can’t get out of its own way.  It starts spewing out all the math I’ve ever learned and I can’t sort it all out.  It’s frustrating to know what I need to do to the numbers but to have them all get in my way so I’m tripping on them.  Fucking math.

This is what happens in my brain when you say, "Poops, can you knit a vagina?"

But let’s say I feel like making a pair of mittens.  (It happens.)  I can close my eyes and picture a pair of knitting needles and a ball of yarn.   I can picture the whole knitting process from cuff to fingertips and remember what I did in my head.  I can sketch out or describe in detail what stitches or patterns I used and how I made them fit with the thumb gusset or the top decreases.  I can picture color patterns and later translate them to graph paper.  I can open my eyes and write that pattern out from memory without ever actually touching yarn or needles.  I might have to tweak a few numbers here and there, but for the most part it came out of my head already figured out.

And yet I need to use pencil and paper to figure out 13 x 7 because for the life of me I can’t do it in my head.

Plus, 13 and 7 are both prime numbers and I don’t like them at all.  That’s an unholy union right there.  *shudders violently*

Seriously, I almost had to change the numbers to ones less skeevy, but I’ll leave them as a show of strength.

If I think of anything else weird about my brains, I’ll keep you posted.  Until then, I’m going to go let the contented feelings have their way with me.

WTF Friday: It’s Complicated April 8, 2011

Posted by J. in Domesticity, Genius.
6 comments

I’ve mentioned that Dave has issues.  My perfect blue-eyed boy has had significant delays in gross and fine motor skills and has been late to hit all the major milestones that kids are supposed to get to.

I wasn’t surprised.  For example if there’s a time span for reaching a specific milestone in which a kid’s development is considered normal, the girls worked both ends of it.  Mary reached all her milestones early, where Emma waited until the last day minute possible to give it a go.  By the third go-round, I knew enough about parenting to know that he was going to do his own thing too.

Dave was around a year old when the pediatrician realized that he’d missed quite a few windows altogether.  He was evaluated by the Early Childhood Intervention folks and they officially evaluated him as delayed across the board.  Some low muscle tone, lack of development in fine and gross motor skills, and speech.  He started working right away with an Occupational Therapist named Deb who’s been with us now for almost two years.  She comes once a week and does targeted activities with him to help him develop.

At first we focused on gross motor skills, building up his core and getting him up and walking.  It seems like our one short-term goal was “to have Dave up and walking” for the longest time, but eventually and very slowly and gradually he got there.  Then the focus shifted more to his fine motor skills and the new goal was getting him to feed himself and gradually he’s been eventually getting more and more dexterous.  His sole goal now for a long time has been “to have Dave say SOMETHING.”

Dave’s never said a word, or even an approximation of a word.  The thinking all along has been that because speaking is a complicated fine motor skill, once his manual dexterity improved, his vocal abilities would come along as well.  It hasn’t happened.

So at his last checkup, his pediatrician recommended that he see a developmental pediatrician–a specialized specialist.  Yesterday was that day.  And I think I can say with some degree of certainty that it was more stressful for me than for him.

Dave was to be evaluated in great depth by a panel of experts in their respective fields.  The developmental pediatrician, a child psychologist, a speech therapist, and an occupational therapist.  We also had two students observing the process, the director of the therapy services center was there to grease the wheels, and our own Deb was there to put our little man through his paces and be moral support and an advocate for us.

Dave’s part was the easiest.  Deb took him over to another little part of the room and handed him a bunch of toys while they watched him do his thing, each with an eye on their own area of expertise.  The psychologist had him do a few short tests to see how well he can follow commands, and then while he played, the questions started.

Family history.  Do you or your husband have any problems with any of these skills or tasks?  Have your other children ever x, y, or been late doing z?  Did you look into the eyes of a cat while you were pregnant?  When did he do this?  Does he ever do that?  How would you describe this, that, and the other thing?

They asked me a million questions, and then asked ten more for good measure.

Finally, Deb took Dave up to the big play area/therapy room so that they doctors could really watch him do his tricks.  I stayed downstairs and answered still more questions about his current therapies.  And at the end of nearly two hours, they all came back downstairs and while Dave played with the toys, they gave me their evaluation.  Of sorts.

Dave still has significant delays across the board.  (Sound familiar?)  And they’re not a whole lot closer to knowing why, specifically why he’s not made any progress in the speech area.  Acknowledging that his current speech pathologist is one of the best in the state, they’re eager to find out the cause of the delay to see if knowing the cause might help the treatment of it.

Here’s where Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center comes in.  They think Dave needs to see a neurologist and a geneticist.  The good news is that he’s bright and intelligent and his mind seems to gather and process information appropriately.  His receptive language skills are good, and despite not being able to speak, his communicative speech through signing is also okay.  They look, I guess, at whether a kid can understand and execute commands appropriate to his age level, and can he make his own thought, needs, and wants understood.  The psychologist said his language abilities are a strength, so that’s a good thing.

But they both think that his problem may be a neurological one.  His brain knows what it needs to do, but his body doesn’t get the message.  And I guess there must be some neurological disorders that can cause that gap.  And they might be genetic.  Oh, and while you’re up there, we want his hearing checked by pediatric audiologists who work specifically with kids like Dave, and the same goes for a pediatric opthamologist, just to make sure he can see perfectly.  Not that they think either is a contributing factor, it’s more of a ruling-out thing.  Same with the barium swallow test they want to do as well to make sure that structurally he’s sound in the vocal apparatus.

So we’re looking at a day of blood work and questions and more tests, and God knows what up in Hanover. I can’t imagine any parent takes “we want to run a bunch of tests on your two-year-old” in great stride.  It’s jarring.  Not in any dramatic, oh-my-God-I’m-so-distraught kind of way because that’s just not how I roll.  Just a feeling inside that is less-than-peaceful because something is a little off.  Not quite right.  Unsettled.

As I sat in the car and tried to process the information, wondering what neurological disorder my boy could have and what does this mean for his future, the only thing I could do was be grateful that we’re not traveling to Dartmouth to see a pediatric oncologist.  I was relieved that we’re looking for the reason why he is delayed in speaking and not why he used to speak and has suddenly stopped, or why he’s uncoordinated and not why he can no longer walk.  It could be so much worse, and I’m grateful it’s not.

But the fear of the unknown is still in the back of my head.  A specialists’ specialist thinks something’s not stirring the Kool-Aid.  Is it fixable?  What does it mean?  Is he going to catch up eventually and someday we’ll never know he had these delays, or is he going to be Stephen Hawking?  And should we have done all this sooner?  Should we have been more aggressive in looking for the cause a year ago instead of hoping he’d show some progress eventually?

It’s complicated.

Don’t Be That Guy April 6, 2011

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius.
13 comments

I loves me some Facebook.  God help me, I do.  I think my friend Matthew summed it up best when he described it as being like a newspaper, but better because all the news stories are about people he knows.  I feel exactly the same way about it.

The problem with Facebook is that there’s no real way to know for sure if you’re contributing to it in a good way or if you’re just an insufferable Internet prick.  The Internet and the ways we use it are currently evolving and changing at dizzying speeds.  It’s hard to know when you’ve made a faux pas when the rules don’t really exist.  It’s not like there’s a Miss Manners of Facebooking.  Yet.

To that end, the beauty of Facebook, and GOD don’t I wish life had one, is the “hide” button.  It’s sort of the Facebook way of saying, “I like you okay and everything, but you keep posting shit that annoys the crap out of me and for my own sanity I just have to see you a lot less.  Nothing personal, man.”  Sort of like screening your phone calls.

I think everyone must have a personal list of Facebook faux pas that send them running for the “hide” button.   I know I do.  Wanna hear mine?

Facebook is a Party, and You’re the Turd in the Punchbowl

Faux Pas Number One:  Snow Tires

We all have things that are in-jokes between us and one or two other people.  Things that are freaking hysterical and are guaranteed to make us laugh whenever it comes up.  But in-jokes are annoying on Facebook because they make the rest of your friends who aren’t in on the joke look like assholes.

Snow tires?

Facebook is like being at a party.  You’re standing in a circle of people, some you are very close to and others you know more casually.  Let’s say that someone says something that makes you think of something else funny that happened between you and your best friend.  Do you turn to your BFF and just say “Snow tires!” out of the blue, watch him fall into convulsive laughter and snort a mojito out of his nose?  Maybe you do, if you’re like me.  But if someone at the party turns to you with understandable confusion and says, “I don’t get it…” would you wipe the tears from your eyes and say “Oh, it’s a private joke.”

You would, if you’re a dick and lacking in social graces.  At a party, of course, you would explain the joke so that the other people around you could share in it and possibly snort cocktails out of their nasal orifices as well.  And then later on they’ll say “Snow tires!” to each other and laugh all over again.

If your status update is a private joke between you and one of your friends, it’s rude to tell one of your other friends that it’s private.  If you don’t want to explain the joke, perhaps it would be better shared as a message instead.

Faux Pas Number Two:  please don’t worry too much/it only hurts when I breathe

Fucking emo hipsters and their fucking ironic sadness.  If you’re really so sad that you have to quote Fall Out Boy lyrics, perhaps you should get off the Internet and go for a walk.  Clear your head.  Get some sunshine on your face.  Take a fucking Zoloft.

Worse yet is when someone just posts whatever song is in their head and it’s lyrics could be somehow misconstrued by well-meaning friends.  “You okay?  I’m worried about you!”  “Call me, okay?”  “What’s going on?!?!”  Then the poster explains that it was nothing, he was just quoting a song.

I know that sometimes you’re sitting there and a song lyric pops into your head.  That’s cool.  It happens to me all the time.  Hell, I’ve got the Max and Ruby theme stuck in my head right now.  But if you think in song lyrics and constantly post them instead of words of your own because you want to show how in to music you are, you may have slipped into doucheville.

The exception to this is possible earworms.  Posting an earworm just to screw with your friends is a delightful bit of fuckery, and I’m all for fuckery.  Even if I get stuck singing “Gimme back that Filet O’Fish, Gimme that fish!” all afternoon.  Totally worth it.

Faux Pas Number Three:  It’s English.  Learn it.  Love it.

As a card-carrying member of the Grammar Police, I actually don’t expect everyone to have an A-plus mastery of the written word.  Facebook isn’t a doctoral dissertation or the Great American Novel.  I know (sadly) that composing coherent sentences doesn’t come easily–if at all–for some people.  I’ve found that people my age and older bring our everyday literary abilities with us to the Internet, where the younger generations who are technological natives leave it behind in favor of text-speak shorthand.

I chalk a lot of it up to the basic generation gap that exists when it comes to technology.  I know there are lots of young folks posting from their fancy-ass phones with only their thumbs.  I know that text-speak is useful when you’re sending text messages and keystrokes are at a premium.

The argument people my age make is that the things you post to Facebook (or write in your blogs) isn’t a text message to a couple of friends.  It’s a text message to all your friends.  And your friends of friends.  And grown-up people who are looking at you and wondering how the fuck you got out of the fourth grade with grammar and spelling that bad.  I don’t understand why anyone would want everyone he knows to think that he’s illiterate.  Especially if he’s not.

I know other kids don’t care.  “It’s just the Internet.”  Yeah, that’s kind of why I think it’s important.  It’s one thing if you’re sending a private text to a friend that no one else is going to see.  But your status update is going to be seen by hundreds and hundreds of people.  Possibly screen-capped and circulated if your fuck-ups are funny enough.  You just don’t know.  I know if I was planning on getting accepted to colleges and hoping for some big scholarship money, I’d be damn sure that I looked as smart as possible at all times.  If any of my Facebook friends were potential job contacts, I’d certainly make the effort.  Especially online.

Screen-cap FTW.

This grammar-gap is one of the reasons I know a lot of people my age won’t friend young people.  I love my young friends.  I am proud of the adults they’re becoming and I think the world is going to be in good hands someday.  Even if that world is populated with people with no real grasp of grammar or spelling.  *sigh*

And then there’s the grownups.  Those of us on this side of the generation gap.  Man, if you’re an adult who can’t capitalize, throw in a few punctuation marks here and there, or TURN OFF THE FUCKING CAPS LOCK KEY, you’re on notice.

Using text-speak when you’re a grownup is like wearing a bad toupee or having a facelift that’s too tight.  You think it makes you look younger and hip and cool, but it really just makes you look old.  And sad.  It’s sort of like dotting your i’s with hearts or smiley faces.  There’s a statute of limitations as to how long that’s cute.

Also, if you can take the time to add sideways hearts, smiles, hugs, rainbows, glittery-fucking-unicorns and a shout-out to your bestie or the love of your life, you have the time to throw in a comma where a comma ought to be.  If you have time to adddddd severallll extraaaaa letterssssss at the enddddd of halfffff your wordssssss, you have time to add a fucking period.

If you type in HaLf AnD hAlF, I fucking hate you right now.

Here’s the thing about the written word, and it’s as true on Facebook as anywhere else: grammar rules exist to make what you’re saying understandable.   And again, Facebook is like a party.  When your status updates look like they were pecked out by a meth-addicted chicken, you have just shoved three deviled eggs in your mouth and started talking.  I mean, if you have something to say, don’t you want us to understand it?  Speaking of that…

Faux Pas Number Four:  omg i am so bored right now

And now so am I.

Before you say something, have something to say.  I mean, I’m not looking for you to tap-dance and sing me show tunes, or dazzle me with your wit and brilliance.  Although, if you are one of those people who routinely entertains me with your online sideshow, kudos to you!  I have lots of friends who post infrequently because, as they tell me, they just don’t think anyone wants to hear that they just got a cup of coffee, started a load of laundry, or that their favorite show is on tonight.

I also have friends that chronicle every cup of coffee, load of laundry, and OMG GLEE! Guess which ones are currently hidden and which ones aren’t.

It’s hard to gauge how interested our friends are in our daily lives.  I get that.   I think there should be some sort of litmus test of interesting.   I imagine it would go something like this:

Boring Update:  Drinking coffee, yum.

Better Update:  Just poured bad milk into my coffee and didn’t realize it until I drank it.  FML.

Best Update:  Just poured bad milk into my coffee and didn’t realize it until I choked on a chunk of curdled milk.  I then vomited all over my keyboard.  Looks like I’m off to Best Buy later today.  (Sent from my iPad.)

If you don’t see any difference, I may have already hidden you.

It’s not like you have to somehow entertain the Internet every minute of every day.  No one hits them out of the park every single time.  Just don’t tell me when you’re doing nothing.  It’s as pathetic as just reporting “I’m updating my status now.”

omg i feel bad for youuuuu ❤ larry 4eva 🙂

Slactivists, UNITE!

Faux Pas Number Five:  If you don’t post this for one hour, the terrorists win.

93% of your friends would rather hear about your cat’s latest bowel movement than read crap like this.

Here’s the truth, sports fans: 93% of the people you are Facebook friends with won’t repost bullshit status updates about the pet cause of the week because they are smarter than you.

They know that 98.4% of their friends don’t want to read crap that was lazily cut and pasted from some other lazy-ass person’s status.

They know 87.25% of people know that re-posting fake statistics about who will and won’t post is 98.2% hot, steamy guano and 37.6% of them also resent the attempt at being made to feel like an asshole for not supporting special needs kids, cancer patients, or the right for gay midget astronauts to own those awesome fainting goats.

A full 96.574% of your Facebook friends are looking at you from behind their computer monitors wondering if you are that ignorant that you honestly think changing your avatar to a cartoon character is really going to do anything to raise awareness of child abuse.

I love that you hate cancer, support our troops, want to see an end to bullying and would like it very much if people stopped fucking children, and you just want us to be aware.

Know what? We already knew. We all hate cancer already. In fact, won’t you make this your status for one hour? Fuck cancer. Hell, shout it to the world. FUCK CANCER. No cutting and pasting required, though if you’re feeling lazy, knock yourself out. I bet you could get at least 45.89463% of your friends to “like” that comment.

Now, and here’s the important part, in addition to doing that, go and make a donation. Support a team or a person doing the Race for a Cure. Toss a couple of ducats to any cancer charity of your choice. If you’re feeling really motivated, you can knit or sew chemo caps or comfort shawls for people in treatment. In short, DO SOMETHING. If all you did was re-post that status, you’ve done nothing at all.

"If you don't post this as your status, I'm going to give you a wedgie and then stick your head in the toilet."

This post makes me want to punch someone.  You want to see an end to bullying?  Don’t be a bully.  Don’t insinuate that your friends aren’t caring enough about other people because they won’t cut and paste.  You know what kind of a person uses coercion to get their friends to hop on a bandwagon?  Bullies.

The greatest cardinal sin of those “re-post this for one hour” statuses isn’t even that they’re manipulative and mostly just plain stupid, but that they’ll show up all over my news feed.  I’ve had that bullying one show up seven times in one day.  Seven people posting the exact same status update.  How enlightening.

And for the love of sweet, hairy monkeys, before you cut and paste a “warning” message, make sure it’s accurate, up-to-date, and not a complete load of bullshit.  In fact, before you re-post a warning of any sort, cut and paste it into your Google search bar first.  See if anything in it is true or not.   One of the more recent “alerts” dated back to 2009, which is like 20 years in Internet time.  It’s ancient.  Let it die already.  But if you had checked Google first, you’d know this already.

My Politics/Faith/Practices Are the Only Valid Ones, and It’s My Christian/Democratic/Breastfeeding/Red Sox-Loving Duty to Bring You Around to My (Correct) Point of View

I was once taught that there are three things you never discuss in public: sex, religion, or politics.  I will add parenting to that as a fourth, if I may.  And if you are rabid in your support of any sports team, I’m going to make sports number five.

Man, no one likes a Sports Dick.

Faux Pas Number Six:  Matthew 7:15

How can I explain this?  I’m not anti-religion.  Religion fascinates me.  Yours, mine, his, theirs…why people believe what they believe is fascinating.  How people live their faith is interesting to me, so people who post about their religious practices in the context of their lives is awesome.  BUT:Live your faith.  But respect the fact that I have my own set of beliefs, and I’m as sure in them as you are.  Don’t preach to me.  We probably don’t believe the same things.  I’m good with that.  I wish you were, too.

And that goes double for those who think there are in some way intellectually superior for their lack of religion.  You’re not changing my mind or my heart, either.

It’s a faux pas either way you do it.  If you’re not preaching to the choir, you’re annoying someone, whether you’re faithful, fallen, or in-between somewhere.  You can take that to the bank.

Faux Pas Number Seven:  Obama is the Anti-Christ

You see what I did there?  As righteous as you think your cause is, you’re not changing anyone’s mind about anything, except for possibly your inclusion in their News Feed.

Faux Pas Number Eight:  Just say no!  Or yes!  Have it banned!  Or make it mandatory!

Know that as passionately as you feel about something, someone on your friends list feels just as passionately in the exact opposite direction.

Will any amount of rational, articulate argument make you change how you feel about your faith, your politics, or your parenting choices?  What, then,  makes you think your status updates will make your friends change their opinions?  We know how you feel.  But there’s a line of dickitude you don’t want to cross.

I think when we talk about divisive issues in real life, it’s easy to know when we’re pissing someone off.  We have cues that tell us when we’re getting close to crossing a line and making ourselves an annoyance.  So for the sake of friendship, we pull back.  We drop the subject.  We agree to disagree and have a round of beers.  It’s hard to know when to stop on Facebook, though.  My advice: don’t start.  It’s not that important.  Let it go.

Anyway, if I was somehow appointed the Miss Manners of Facebook, those would be included in my list of faux pas.

What are yours?

If the Booze and Cigarettes Don’t Kill You, the Coffee and Donuts Will April 4, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.
2 comments

I don’t know how professional writers do it.  I have a topic and a deadline and I’m damned if I feel like writing today.  Will you love me less if you know my heart’s not in it?  Does it matter if you’re not paying me?  Ah, that is the question.

Maybe today’s ennui is brought on by yet another round of snowflakes.  Yes, it’s snowing even as we speak.  At least they didn’t cancel school again.  I don’t know about your kids, but I think mine would have gone anyway and pounded on the doors demanding to be let in.  Enough is enough, already.

What was I talking about, then?  Oh yes.  Today is supposed to be about my Exciting Life in the Theater, most specifically the time I spent on tour.  I have no linear memories of touring and most of what I recall is in bits and bobs and I can’t remember all the who’s and why’s of it all.  Which is just as well, I think.  And understandable owing to the amount of consumables I consumed back in the day.

I say it’s a good thing my memories aren’t more sharp because I did manage to not name names.  I’m no longer in touch with the main players in this particular drama and since I don’t know if they’re currently deacons in their church or on the PTA or something, I’ll try to be discreet.

Oddly enough, I think the topic itself is kind of boredom-inducing because once the novelty of being on tour wears off it’s as tedious as any job.  In fact, it’s the hardest I’ve ever worked for a paycheck in my life.  Shit, if I’d have put half as much dedication into finding a cure for cancer as I did for making sure Peter Pan’s tights stayed the right shade of green, we’d be living in a lump-free world, people.

And part of why the subject seems boring to me know is that I realized some time ago that I’ve “outgrown” theater.  When I was in college it was the center of my life.   I knew every word to every song playing on Broadway.  I had no idea what songs were popular on the radio because I listened to show tunes.  I worked with theater people, ate with theater people, partied with theater people and went to class with theater people.  Nothing outside of that world was quite as colorful or interesting.

I don’t know when it lost its sheen, exactly.  But I know that my time on tour is a fairly short chapter in my life and it’s one of those things I think might be a lot more interesting to someone who didn’t actually do it and maybe kind of always wanted to.  It certainly sounds exotic and exciting.  I’ve been mulling life on the road around in my head, trying to think of the most fun and interesting things we did and funny stories that came out of life on a bus, and I came to the sad realization that my touring years weren’t the sunniest ones.

Touring, for me, was for the most part a lonely time.  Bear in mind that this was back in the early ’90’s…’91 through ’94 or so, so things like cell phones and the internet weren’t commonplace.  Mail call and packages from home were still cause for excitement and anticipation.  Phone booths had not gone out of style.  You couldn’t just pick up the phone and chat with a buddy back home when you got lonely.  You made new friends or you learned to like your own company.

My first time out was with Peter Pan and there were two of us who were new to the crew.  The rest of the guys had worked together for this company before and during summers at a regional theater as well.  I got the job on the recommendation of my dear friend from college, Michael, who had done the job before me, and the other guy (if I remember correctly) got the gig because he worked at the summer camp attended by the touring company’s owner.  Or something like that.  So from day one I was going in as an outsider.  Plus, Michael could be abrasive and edgy.  I loved him and feared him at the same time, and I think that perhaps some of the other guys thought that he and I were going to be cut from the same odd cloth.

I know now, hindsight being 20/20 and all, that I would have fit in better with the cast.  In fact, I usually did.  I had more friends among the Pirates and Lost Boys than I did on the crew bus.  You see, in college, I was the only tech major.  I was the only person in the whole college interested in pursuing a theater career behind the curtains as opposed to in front of it.  I had to take classes in dance, acting, and directing even though I knew I was never going to need it.  Because everyone around me was going the performing route, and my major course of study was centered around performing, I was surrounded by performers and not technicians.  College really didn’t prepare me for my chosen career, sad to say.

And while I’m thinking of it, please, for the love of God, don’t refer to any technician who has graduated high school as a “techie.”  We will refer to you as a “fucking dismissive asshole.”  I’m putting that out there just so you know.

Being surrounded by actors, singers, and dancers did two things.  It left me with a giant gaping abyss where my self-esteem about performing in public should be, and it left me unprepared for life on the crew bus.

Professional theater technicians live in their own world, and I didn’t really know that when I stepped into the theater in New York that first day.  I hit the ground running, shoving actor after actor into their costumes, pinning and altering and getting everything ready to go.  I don’t remember anything about getting that first tour ready to go except what the backstage area looked like.   I didn’t see much of the rest of the crew because my job doesn’t really depend on theirs and vice-versa.  Lighting and set crews work together, sound and stage crew, sound and lighting, but not costumes so much.  I worked more closely with actors all the time.

The majority of my time was spent in dressing rooms and changing areas.  Between Michael trying to teach me everything I’d need to know about surviving a tour, packing my road boxes, and trying to get everything show-perfect, I didn’t have much time to get to know any of the crew before we hit the road.

The hell of my job was that I worked hand in hand with the cast much of the time, but had almost no time to hang out with them socially because cast and crew were in a different place except at showtime and on rare occasions where we had a few days off in one city.   I did most of my work in the dressing rooms while the rest of the crew worked on stage and in the front of the house.  During the show I was backstage and in the dressing rooms.  But after the show was over, the crew ate together and partied together.  I won’t say it was an “us or them” kind of thing, because I think for the most part the cast and crew liked each other and got along well enough, but didn’t have a lot in common.  Our job isn’t showy, and as a result, most of the crew aren’t what you’d consider “show people.”  Though rest assured, we are like no people you know.

We didn’t listen to show tunes on the crew bus.  I mean, EVER.  We didn’t read quietly.  We didn’t sip Throat Coat tea, or eat salads, or try to catch a nap on the bus.

I triple-dog dare you.

We drank.  Beer, hard alcohol, and everything in between was consumed by the fuckton.  Substances were gleefully abused.  We ate things purchased from truck stops that would gag a maggot off a shit truck.  In fact, there was a bit of a competition to see who could find the nastiest, worst-for-you, sorriest excuse for a food item at every roadside stop we hit.  We ate in diners and greasy spoons and every place you could think where “with fries” was a menu description for everything.  The cast was looking for a restaurant with a salad bar; we were buying hot dogs off of one of those hot-roller machines and laying bets on who would get the worst diarrhea.

We listened to the Grateful Dead, Jimmy Buffett, Lynryd Skynryd, AC/DC, and the Doobie Brothers.  We stayed up very late drinking, smoking, listening to music and making less and less sense until one by one we all went to our bunks and passed out.

You did not “fall asleep” anywhere other than your own rack.  Bad things would happen.  Bad, bad things.  No, no one would probably write on your face with a Sharpie or shave something off of you.  That is child’s play.  The tamest penalty I ever saw meted out was when one ASM passed out on his back with his mouth open and all the guys stood around him with their dicks out and took pictures.    He’s quite lucky they didn’t make him the saltine in a circle jerk.

Trust me when I say you DO NOT want to hear what was worse than that.

There was a long stretch of learning to re-like things.  I still listened to show tunes in my headphones in my bunk, but I learned to love Jimmy Buffett and tequila shots as well.  And I do love me some chicken-fried steak.

Most mornings we’d have to go right to the theater and on days where we wouldn’t have time for a “proper breakfast” from a local establishment, the theater would supply coffee and donuts.  Always coffee and donuts.  Gallons of coffee and mountains of donuts.  Though I suppose with as much booze as we drank, we needed the caffeine and sugar to put us to rights again.  I’m pretty sure if any of us had accidentally eaten an apple our systems would have shut down.

So, the first two tours I did, I was with the same group of guys more or less that I started with.  There were occasional rotations in the lineup, but for the most part the core was made up of people who’d known each other for a long time.  I never really considered them “friends” so much as co-workers I had to live with.  But I was crew and that trumped any other consideration.  I was a card-carrying member with all the rights and privileges it bestowed.  And they were as proud of the fact that I could undo a knotted black shoelace in the dark in less than 10 seconds and change out a body mic in fifteen all while an actor is having histrionics about having a knotted shoelace or a wonky microphone as I was of their ability to replace a broken caster on a rolling set-piece mid-scene or handle a fresnel catching fire during the performance.  (That actually happened, by the way.  It was very exciting to look up and see fire where no fire ought ever to be.)

Then I did Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the whole dynamic changed.  I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that they’d landed a “star” for the lead role (the Marilyn Monroe part) and the Powers That Be felt that the regular crew was a tad too…earthy…to share space with the less-talented sister of a big country music superstar.  The crew that came on board was more diverse, had never worked together, and the whole tour seemed to be much more “cast-friendly” in my opinion.

Before Blondes there was a pretty clear vibe out there that the crew had jobs to do that were no less important than the ones being done by the actors and we needed our autonomy to get on with it the way we knew how.  In other words, get the hell out of our way.  On Blondes it’s like we were there to serve the cast in every capacity, so a kinder, gentler crew was needed as to not ruffle the “star’s” feathers and to stay out of the way of the cast.  Keep the cast happy.

Fuck that.

As tiresome as drinking and partying and living on a few hours of sleep a night was, it was an even bigger culture shock to be on the crew bus where show tunes were allowed, no one smoked in the lounge, no one had any weed, and most of them would have no more than a beer or two (if any) before turning in for the night so as to be well-rested for load-in the next morning.

I thought that being on a crew where I wasn’t the newbie and the outsider would have been a more enjoyable experience. But I missed the guys that I knew wouldn’t have stood for any prima donna antics by the cast (no matter who they were related to) and who could party all night and still work all day in a manner so well-oiled that it’d make your head spin.  I wanted to work with carpenters who would inform the tour manager that they would not under any circumstances handle the “star’s” luggage for her because they were fucking carpenters and not her personal piss-boys.

I kind of missed the guys who needed a half gallon of coffee and a couple of jelly donuts to get their hearts started in the morning.  Requesting bagels and fresh fruit instead?  It was fucking weird, man.

We couldn’t even pull off the occasional kick-ass theme party.  One night the stage manager (who had been on Pan with me) and I thought a Margarita Monday was in order and laid in supplies and cranked up the Buffett.  In an hour, we were the only two left partying.   Which was just pathetic.  We said as much, rinsed the blender out with great sadness and nostalgia, and went to bed.

The last tour I did brought together a lot of the first crew I’d been with on Pan.  Same dynamic, same…everything.  Nothing had changed in them from the first leg of my first tour to what was now my fourth tour.  The only thing I noticed is how often they’d arrive at a theater in the morning still drunk from the night before. They still did their jobs as professionally as ever, but I think it was a lot easier for me to see how utterly abused most of them looked most of the time.  It wasn’t fun anymore.  It was sad.  And as much as I tried to get back into the swing of things and enjoy Frangelico Friday (or whatever the hell the theme was) at that point it was just done.  I had outgrown it.

When I came off the road for the last time, I knew I wouldn’t be going back out.

I had big plans to move to New York and try to make it there, figuring if I could, I could make it anywhere, but the plans fell through, as plans so often do.   And I wound up back here trying to figure out how to get my life back on track.  And how to get my liver to start talking to me again.

When I first came home, I missed doing shows so much it hurt.  I got involved with a local theater company and the experience was so bad…well, let’s just say that it made all the pain go away.   I’ll never do it again.  It’s too much work for no payout.  At least when I did costumes professionally I got paid and even when I was as green as a summer’s day, I was treated as a professional costumer who knew what she was doing.  The day a fat-ass bitch of an actress with 30 years of amateur theatrics under her belt deigned to tell me why my design was all wrong was the day I quit and never looked back.  Community theater can suck my dick.

It all seems a million miles away now.  I don’t miss the manufactured dramatics at all.  I rarely listen to show tunes anymore and I don’t even like sewing Halloween costumes for my kids.  I realize it was something that made me happy once, but then swinging really high on the swing set used to make me happy once too.  All part of growing up, I guess.

And now the snow has turned to rain.  April showers at last.  Can I get an amen?

WTF Friday, Second Edition: My Head Just Exploded April 1, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.
2 comments

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi.

I’m not one to call out another person as being completely worthless.  That’s not fair.  I don’t know her well enough to be sure that this bubble-headed twatmuffin personality is for real or if she’s a down-to-earth gal who is lovely and intelligent and works tirelessly on behalf of homeless Welsh terriers and reads to the deaf in her spare time.

I believe the words "literary abortion" are particularly appropriate in this context.

I know one thing.  Someone gave her a book deal.  Someone who knew that her name and chunky little mug on the cover would guarantee them gobs of cash no matter what was between the covers.

This morning I read that Rutgers (and by the way, fuck you, Rutgers) paid her $32,000 dollars to speak on campus.  They’re only paid Toni Fucking Morrison $30K to give the commencement address.  Snooki’s advice to undergrads:  “Study hard, but party harder.”

I’m sure the parents footing the bill for that “lecture” are impressed.  Way to go, Rutgers.

Am I the only one with a chapped ass at the idea that this functional illiterate and waste of breath is raking in cash hand over fist for being popular?  Am I the only one that is disgusted that she’s only popular in the first place for being a train wreck, and that the kind of popularity she has isn’t the kind that should lend itself to a book or speaking engagements?

Thank God for Amazon reviewers, though.  My faith in humanity was restored.  Please, enjoy these reviews of A Shore Thing.  If there’s any justice in the world, one of these reviewers will someday have a book deal of his own.

From Marxius:  “This is by far the best assisted suicide novel I have ever read. I was literally cutting my wrists as every page was turned. Bravo Snooki!!”

R. Casimiro raves: “I use to be Harvard inglish profeser. I reed this bok and now forgot how spel and use inglish.  Plot was nyce, had good story and hot chicks.”

A five-star glow from MeeBo:  “If you never ever buy a book and read it, this book shouldn’t be it! Every page you never turn will be a blessing. If you like cupcakes, you’ll love [the title of this book]. I’ve never used the phrase ‘literary abortion’, but I just did to describe [the title of this book]. It’s like having an aneurysm in your eye, and that aneurysm decides to get drunk on strawberry schnapps and have unprotected sex with the stroke that’s climbing up your spine, in a hot-tub full of skank-herp!”

I. Mackey raves:  “I never knew what it was like to stare into the abyss, until I read this book. I now realize the true depths of despair my soul can be driven to. Thanks, Snooki!”

My personal favorite from scripted:  “I picked up A Shore Thing as my read for a train journey from Atlanta to Charlotte. I had recently finished ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and ‘The Brothers Karamozov’ so there was nothing but this left in my must-read list. Twenty magical hours and three successive readings of the book later, I looked away from the book and saw the world anew through my Aviator covered eyes. I was hundreds of miles past Charlotte, tan lotion covered me from head to toe, and my mind was refreshingly clear of all I had learned from preschool through graduate school. Also, my money and laptop was not with me anymore. But it was a small price to pay, for I was transported to an amazing world and this book changed my life.”

I couldn’t agree with suaspontemark:  “I still pine for the day when Wicket W. Warrick releases his memoirs of the Battle of Endor, but until then, we’ll just have to settle for this excellent translation. It’s one of the cleanest in the English language, where the grunts and vernacular of the vertically challenged and girth enhanced Ewok Snooki come across in all their simplicity. Though demonstrating a remarkable paucity of thought, we’re endeared of this member of the species, and look forward to more as she gains her voice and hopefully develops a slightly higher IQ. Kudos to her translator, but it’s unfortunate that the editor had such a dull source. It’s entertaining, momentarily, to have exposure to the Ewok’s earth culture of drinking, whoring, and tanning, but that wears out quickly and we’re left with a book that is the 2011 version of Jessica Simpson’s wedding planning guide.”

Thank you for the laughs this morning, you magnificent bastards.  *mwah*

And to the people in publishing who decided to cash in on her fame with this piece of crap and to the brain trust at Rutgers for giving this little pumpkin-colored piglet yet another forum for her inanity…what the fuck?

 

 

 

WTF Friday: Still Not Charo April 1, 2011

Posted by J. in Domesticity.
2 comments

I wanted to extol the virtues of Charo today.  I really, really did.  I love her with the fiery passion that fuels a Latin sun.

But it’s fucking snowing today and even though I know it won’t last, it’s just sugar snow, it’s good for the garden…*sigh*  I just don’t care.  I’m sick of it.  I know.  I live in NH.  It snows.  It snows in the spring.  Having snow on the ground at the beginning of May isn’t unheard of.

Still, it gets to a point where it’s just not pretty anymore.  This kind of a snowstorm would have thrilled all of us right to our very marrow in December.  If Christmas was a couple of days away, I’d be dancing around the kitchen baking cookies and singing to myself.  The kids would be making snowmen and laughing and I’d be so happy at how fresh and frosted the world looks.

But it’s April.  The kids don’t want to go out and play in it anymore…they want to run around on the grass.  They’re sick of getting geared up to go outside and were liking that they only had to toss on a sweatshirt to go outside.  I’m sick of boots and snowpants and hats and mittens and mud and slush and…*sigh*  I’m just so sick of winter.  God help me, as much as I look forward to it coming every year, by this time it’s starting to wear me down .

I want to open my windows.

Yesterday I smiled at the tiny green buds on my lilac bushes.  This is what they look like today.

Yesterday I had an expanse of lawn that stretched from in front of the weeping willow all the way up the hill past the swingset.  Not today, I don’t.

Yesterday Buggy was rollerblading up High Street.  She won’t be strapping them on today.I feel as gray on the inside as these pictures.

It’s like the world heard the alarm and decided to wake up from it’s winter’s rest, but then hit the snooze button and rolled over.

I know it’s stupid to let a little April snow get to me.  But Spring was so close I could smell it.  I know it’ll be back up into the 50’s in a couple of days or so.  But for today, I’m cold and I’m gray on the inside and I’m just sick to fucking death of winter.