Sunday, February 19, 2012

Startin' Up The Old Blog Again

Hello, readers. And by readers, I mean "mom." I haven't updated this blog for lo these many months for no reason other than sloth and the feeling that my "writing life," such as it is, was being entirely sucked up by freelancing projects and that any shred of creative energy I had remaining would be better devoted to writing short stories full of bitter observations about domestic life. Since those short stories have failed to materialize insofar as I have failed to write them, I am getting back on the blog hobbyhorse to see what happens when an outlet for writing with no word limit or requirements vis a vis "accessibility," snark level, or common familiarity with obscure pop-cultural references is available to me. Also, I have been reading a book called "Will Write For Food," which gave me a minor case of the heebie-jeebies with phrases like "the more content you create, the more Googleable you become." Cripes. What I'm going to try and do is post at least weekly, focusing on the kind of food writing I enjoy doing most, and see if it works. This may at some point involve learning to actually use the features of Blogger beyond kindergarten-level. Tonight I'm making some Indian food for my family, so stay tuned for the inaugural CWTD post of the super-futuristic year 2012: "Chicken Dhansak." There will probably be at least one dirty pun therein.

PS the photo above was taken in a shipboard casino; beneath the disc of clear Plexiglas beneath my feet was a great pile of fake money and jewels.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day Eighteen: We Hope Jack White Has Prepared the Fold-Out Couch For Us

Hello, faithful Aeron-chair travellers. I haven't blogged the past few days because we were staying and visiting with Gainesville friends; I am (a) respecting their privacy (they did not ask not to be blogged - I am just choosing not to put them in the position of declining to appear on my stupid blog and making them feel shabby when they quite rationally do) and (b) trying to restrict my blogging activities to times when they don't interfere with other experiences I should actually be having. No worries on that count right now; we're in the Comfort Inn Music Row in Nashville, TN after a nine-hour-plus day in the car. We got a nice early start this morning and arrived here at about 5 local time.

Can I just state for the record: Tennesee, you are a lovely beauty-queen of a state. Of all the attractive landscape we've driven through in this Great Nation Of Ours, Tennessee is the current belle of the ball, unseating even stunning North Carolina. Rivers, mountains, rock formations, picturesque trestle bridges, the whole ball of scenic wax. We found our cheap hotel with ease and are just a short hop downtown. If it weren't 100 degrees out, it would be a nice half-mile walk to the very picturesque neon-cowboy-boot center of everything. But we drove, to a place called the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner. My Trusty Guidebook said that it would be a good place for the kids, and despite the fact that it's a chain (didn't know that before we went!), I figured the path of least resistance might be wisest after nine hours in the beige Camry. I also did not realize that there seems to be some sort of preseason football event happening in Nashville this evening, and the place was crawling with special-event-parking foofaraw and jaywalking fans. We felt right at home!

HUGE NEWS. Anyone who knows me even slightly knows that for the past year-and-a-half I have been mentally beating myself up for brazenly, a-holishly stealing someone's parking space almost one year ago this week. I've been passively surrendering parking spots to others in an attempt to atone but still felt guilty. This evening, I got a PERFECT, FREE on-street parking spot a block away from the restaurant. As I was waiting to back into the spot, another car was hovering and continued to hover as it seemed as though I wasn't going to be able to make it into the spot. I was, of course, parallel-parking being my one and only special talent. But here's the thing: the exact same circumstances arose, and the other party did not steal my spot! The universe appears to have forgiven me on this, the anniversary of my major sin. I am still truly sorry and will NEVER EVER EVER steal a parking spot again. It is simply not worth the guilt.

Our meal was uneventful except for the fact that we ate it inside a trolley car that was situated in the middle of the Old Spaghetti Factory's dining room. Ike did not eat his macaroni and cheese, opining that there is a fine line between mac and cheese (desirable) and fettucine Alfredo (despicable, to Ike). Neither boy likes Spumoni ice cream, which makes sense, since it tastes like nothing identifiable and its name sounds like a synonym for upchucking. But downtown Nashville is as charming as can be, even in the throes of football idiocy. As longtime residents of a town - and state- populated by slavering football morons from September to January, we are able to see Nashville as if all of the NFL-related activities are painted on a transparent cel which can be mentally peeled away from the entire city, showing us what a swell place it is when there isn't a game on. The boys are pictured above on a typically superb-looking Nashville street, on which every other storefront is vending some sort of cowboy gear. They have decided that their fondest desire is to own cowboy boots, which dad has vetoed. Cowboy shirts, however, may be on the agenda tomorrow.

Also on the agenda: fried chicken, barbecue, and Mexican popsicles. And sleeping late. And stalking both Jack White and his lovely wife Karen Elson, who seem to have forgotten that they were hosting their best Wisconsin friends these two days and did not leave the key under the flowerpot for us.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Days Thirteen and Fifteen: Karaoke, Ukulele, Cake

The night before I had my Very Scary Hospital Experience was, in fact, full of frolic and amusement that DID NOT GET BLOGGED, which within the parameters of this particular trip is not to be tolerated. Especially when that frolic takes place at the FREAKING MOOSE LODGE. Of which my mother is a proud member. Shown above is a photo of the three youngsters in our party posing in front of the Moose Lodge's Bingo board. The Moose Lodge was not featuring Bingo on the evening of our visit, but EVEN BETTER it was both Taco Night and Karaoke Night. Nobody has to twist my arm to perform karaoke; afterwards, the audience may wish to perform hara-kiri. My niece Eileen and I signed up for two songs apiece and after essentially no arm-twisting whatsoever, both of my boys put their names in as well. Little did I know that karaoke at the Moose Lodge is a no-messing-around type of event. Every last person sang. The notion of a second song was just a silly fantasy, which is a crying shame since my second song would have been "Private Eyes" by Hall & Oates. Eileen performed the Carrie Underwood revenge-ballad "Before He Cheats;" Ike warbled "Eye of the Tiger" and brought the house down. Oscar's initial pick, "Seven Nation Army," was rejected by the karaoke dj as being "too hard rock," so he performed "Enjoy The Silence" by Depeche Mode to a somewhat baffled elderly audience who clearly did not get how extremely emo Oscar is.
I had no idea how much retired people dig their karaoke. People brought their own CDs. Country-western music was heavily represented, both old (George Jones, Patsy Cline) and new (American Idol C&W). This was perhaps the only karaoke sesh ever held where "Sweet Caroline" would have constituted a bold choice. At nine o'clock, all action in the Lodge came to a screeching halt so that a small xylophone could be sounded to herald a special prayer, accompanied by the illumination of a dangling star above the stage: "Let the little children come to me. Do not turn them away." And so on. After which a Moose approached our table and informed us that, because it was nine o'clock, the kids were going to have to leave. Seriously.
Yesterday was Oscar's ninth birthday. I was feeling a bit low-key, so while Oscar spent his special day watching a meticulously-crafted roster of videos, I flopped around on the couch, read an appallingly stupid book and ate foods high in potassium. Above you see Osk with his birthday cake, made by grandma, and the fireworks with which we marked the event out in the driveway. Little boys + fireworks = true love 4ever. Also, he was subjected to the traditional Bedford family ukulele serenade of "Happy Birthday." Today we are back on the road, heading north to Gainesville and then on to Nashville in our trek home, hoping to encounter cooler temperatures and fewer medical emergencies.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Day Fourteen: You Know You're Giving Me A Heart Attack-Ack-Ack-Ack-Ack-Ack

In today's blog post, space and time will be warped. I am skipping the account of day thirteen of the epic road trip to give you all my excuse for not posting on day fourteen: emergency hospitalization (SPOILER ALERT: I am just fine). Here's the story: I was out for lunch with Mom, Ron and the boys at a local Venice pasta joint called Luna, which features walls plastered with cheeseball Italian-American paraphernalia and mementoes. Having consumed a light breakfast in preparation for Luna's legendarily massive portions (which they do not bill as "family-size" - they seem to enjoy the bait-and-switch involved in making first-time visitors think they're getting a normal plate of pasta and then GOTCHA! An entire pound!), I dug into the garlic bread with gusto. Shortly thereafter, I started feeling something like the sensation of eating a peanut butter sandwich too quickly and having it get stuck on the way down (not that this happens to me ALL THE TIME or anything). Went to the ladies' to take a breather amidst several signed "Moonstruck" posters when I started feeling like I was going to pass out. Poked my head out the door and encountered Ike, who was en route to the men's. He went to get mom and Ron, who got me into a chair and hooked me up with an ice pack, etc. At that point, I was thinking I was having some heat-related episode, since the entire state of Florida is heated with molten lava during the month of August and as you all know, I am a delicate flower. Half an hour later, I was being spirited away to the Venice ER in Ron's ginormous blue pickup truck.
So the first thing that happened was that my blood pressure was determined to be through the roof. I think it would have qualified as "through the roof" even if we had been in the Capitol Rotunda. They installed me in some sort of exam room and I spent the next hour or so laying prone, staring frantically around that the cast of thousands running all over the place and sticking enough needles in my arms to make me a suitable villain in a horror-movie sequel in which I'd be called "Pin-Arms." (this is a Wes Craven reference; try to keep up) At some point, I was informed that I had probably had a heart attack. WHA???? (Imagine record-scratching sound-effect, if you are old enough to know what that sounds like). Suddenly, the bottom dropped out and I began to think this wasn't going to be one of those IV fluids, try to eat more cheeseburgers types of doctor visits of which we ectomorphs are so fond. They had me sign a release form that started with a cardiac catheterization but also extended to angioplasty and open-heart surgery, if necessary. I am not lying when I say that I thought, "I never imagined I'd have anything in common with Dick Cheney."
So they wheel me up to the cardiac catheterization lab, which oddly-enough turned out to be my happy place. But not at first. The initial five minutes or so of my visit involved the four dudes who run the joint standing around me on the gurney and marveling at my relatively-young age for having a FREAKING HEART ATTACK. Sample quotes: "37? I thought that must be a misprint. 73 is what we usually get." and, accompanied by head-shaking, "Too young. Too young." Because I lament every grey hair and age blotch I accumulate with the passing years, the irony did not escape me that here I was, being kvelled over for being so youthful, and not only could I not enjoy it, I was not even wearing a cute dress from Anthropologie while it was happening.
They gave me a choice: hang around (indefinitely) and be "monitored," or be catheterized and "clear this thing up once and for all." I asked Head Cardiac Cath Dude (who looked like Jim Carrey, but less manic) which choice gave me better odds of getting home that night to the kids and sleeping in my own bed, and thus ended up selecting door #2. As it turns out, getting a cardiac catheterization - not so bad. They did it through my arm and I didn't feel a thing. I also got to see my blood vessels on television, which is cooler than you can possibly imagine. Add in the fact that I was sedated (YES, I did sing the Ramones "I Wanna Be Sedated" on the gurney; would you not have been disappointed with me if I hadn't?) and the additional plus that there was NOTHING AT ALL WRONG with my heart or blood vessels, and you have a fairly kick-ass cardiac catheterization experience all-around. No heart attack, no Cheney-stent, no swearing off cheese for the rest of my natural life.
We now move into phase two of my stay at the Venice, FL hospital. Theme song: "The Waiting Is the Hardest Part." The m.o. at this point was three-pronged: get my blood pressure down, get lots and lots of potassium into me, and incrementally deflate the very cool, Janelle Monae-esque clear plastic inflatable bracelet that was holding my cardiac cath wound shut. Prong one took the longest, but prong two was the worst. Did you know that intravenous potassium KILLS? Take my word for it. The second-worst pain I've ever experienced in a hospital, including giving birth with no anesthetic, was having a blood-pressure cuff tightened onto my filled-with-IV-potassium left arm. (worst: getting arterial blood gases taken. Avoid if possible) Also, I was seriously exhausted but could not sleep due to (a) my headache, and (b) the mechanized blood pressure machine that kept going off to alert the staff that my BP was still insanely high. I turned down the optional morphine LIKE AN IDIOT. Eventually, everything settled down and they let me go home at about ten PM, feeling wrung out but relieved. My entire epidermis is covered with every imaginable variety of medical adhesive. I have an unanticipated piece of souvenir jewelry. My kids and husband are certifiably freaked out. So what are the take-aways from this experience?
(1) The Venice FL ER does not mess around. You would have thought my swoon was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to them. I had enough medical professionals in my room at one point to field a basketball team.
(2) My mom is (a) a hero for hanging with me in the hospital with no reading material for nearly eight hours, which I consider worse than what was happening to me. At least I was being distracted, and (b) such a hard-core dyed-in-the-wool conservative that she could not resist buttonholing various nurses and asking them if they didn't agree that my situation was a perfect example of why health-care reform is a terrible idea? What surprised me the most is that the nurses were all, "Oh, yes, I saw on Fox News that blah blah blah." I do not want to make my ER saga into a political discussion, but would just like to point out that after years of working for the City of Madison in a job where it is verboten for me to discuss politics with library patrons, it was very weird to hear hospital staff doing it. Even though Madison is a nearly uniform shade of blue and it's pretty safe to presume that every stranger wants to give Barack Obama a big, wet kiss, it still bothers me when library patrons put me on the spot with their political views. Even if I agree, I still try to respond with something like "It's interesting that you feel that way." It makes me feel like a therapist.
(3) For some reason, people kept asking me how tall I was. Every single nurse and doctor asked me this at some point. I am of a tallish but normal height. Plus, because my brain is warped by law school, I started thinking, "Isn't that a kind of leading question? How tall am I? Wouldn't it be more neutral to ask, 'What is your height?'"
(4) jokes of mine that fell flat in the heart-catheterization lab: (a) telling the doctors that I wouldn't object if they could come up with a medical pretext for shaving my head, since I've always wanted to see what it would look like; and (b) when the doctor asked for a "French 3 catheter" (apparently the unit of measurement for heart catheter tubing), I asked him if she shouldn't be calling it a "Freedom 3 catheter." HAR! Well, they can't all be winners.
(5) things that went though my head while swooning in the Italian-American restaurant festooned with signed movie posters: (a) wouldn't you think an Italian restaurant would not mis-spell Vincent Gardenia's last name? and (b) isn't it a stretch to consider a movie poster for "Dante's Peak" to be a piece of Italian-American memorabilia? Despite the fact that Dante Alighieri was Italian?
That is all. I apologize for the excessively long blog post but I don't want anybody to be worried about my health, which is fine. When I return to Madison, I do in fact plan to procure a book on how to format in Blogger.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day Twelve Point Five: A Controversial Coif

Yesterday, after going to the Mote Aquarium, I took my older son Oscar to SuperCuts to get a mohawk. Reaction to this shearing among friends and family has been wildly mixed, a nearly 50-50 split between enthusiastic and appalled. I was initially surprised, but upon reflection have a greater understanding of the consternation. Here's the thing: crazy hairstyles and I go way back. I've been doing demented things with my hair since I was old enough to wield a jar of Dippity-Do and a curling iron. In junior high, my desire to resemble a punky Molly Ringwald drove me to use vast quantities of glittery copper-tinted mousse to craft my mane into an asymmetrical, glittery, immobile sculpture. So convinced was I that I was, in reality, a redhead that I resorted to henna and Clairol Nice N' Easy throughout high school to make my follicles align with my deep, inner redheaded soul. I also thought that I should have been named "Audrey" and used to put sweaters on hold at the Danbury Fair Mall's Benetton store under my "real" name, but that's another story.
After I let go of my redheaded alter ego, I spent the better part of a decade shaving, cropping, tinting, growing (my hair grows at the rate of kudzu) and then pruning feet of hair. Because Locks of Love is willing to work with wookiee hair, I have sent them my trimmings more than once. Nowadays, I look... normal. Have had natural-colored hair for as long as my husband has known me, and have sworn off the drugstore dye bottle. But my flirtations with crazy hair have given me more happiness and fun over the years than I can possibly express. If my husband did not have an opinion on these matters, I'd currently be sporting the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo 'do. Hair grows back. It's easy and cheap to change. If you don't work for a multinational corporation with a dress code or live in a Lubavitcher community, you have unlimited freedom to mess around with it. Oscar and Ike have wanted mohawks for years, and were insanely jealous of the one kid in their school who sported one last year. It's summer vacation, and we're several states away from anyone who knows them. It will take approximately five minutes on the back porch for Oscar's dad to shave his shaggy 'hawk down to the level of the rest of his hair, giving him the haircut he normally has (a bristly quarter-inch buzz). Famous mohawks nowadays include Rihanna, David Beckham and at least one of Angelia Jolie's passel. And besides: Oscar looks so freaking cute.
I think, based on nothing at all except personal experience, that kids need an outlet for sartorial self-expression. Oscar can have whatever hairstyle he wants in high school as long as his grades are good. And if it scratches his rebellious itch enough to keep him away from the tattoo parlor, I feel I've succeeded in some small way. I remember the first time I ever saw Cyndi Lauper circa the She's So Unusual album, sporting her half-shaved, half-orange-and-yellow hairstyle and feeling something click in me - like I had spotted my familiar in the pages of People magazine. Oscar has his entire life to wear a suit and tie and a high-and-tight. For the last two weeks of the summer, he is letting his follicular freak flag fly.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day Eleven Point Five/Day Twelve: Sonny's and The Mote

Here we are still at my mom's on day twelve, taking in the many sights of Venice, FLA. Yesterday's as-yet-unrecorded event was our first meal at Sonny's, a Florida barbecue chain that my mom and her husband frequent and my boys LOVE. No small part of the appeal of Sonny's is the seizing of many packets of crackers from the salad bar and subsequent crafting of makeshift appetizers using said crackers and the multiple flavors of BBQ sauce available on the tables chez Sonny. Ike can be shown fashioning one of these humble amuses-bouche in the top photo above. I like to get a pulled-pork sandwich on garlic toast, which Sonny's offers with a side dish and drink for an insanely low price. This meal is delicious but makes one want to eat raw kale salad for several meals afterwards in penance.
Today, we went down to Manasota Beach in the morning; the trip was a bust. One of the kids had open cuts on her body, which were aggravated by the salt water. Another of the kids (Oscar) was more interested in the outdoor sand-removal showers than in the ocean itself. Only Ike saw the charm in the particular surf offered by Manasota, which I found just dandy: gentle swells, which could be floated in to replicate the sensation of being rocked like a little baby. *sigh* But insufficient to propel a boogie-board, so sub-par for the little-boy set.
Our afternoon outing was to the Mote Aquarium in Sarasota, which was just grand. Above, Ike is displaying the seahorse tank. He is, in fact, attempting to pose in such a way that the seahorses appear to be resting in the palm of his hand, which has become a photographic meme on this trip. We have taken numerous pictures in which one or both of the kids appears to be presenting some interesting sight like one of the ladies on The Price Is Right. They never get the hand positioning quite right. We saw, among other things, convict fish, sharks, cephalopods, pompano, a preserved giant squid that should be nicknamed Dirk Diggler if it isn't already, dolphins and two manatees, which are my favorites. They look so blobby and unformed, like a rough draft for some more articulated sea mammal. Oscar looks miserable in front of the manatees because a thunderstorm began mid-visit, and he spent half of the visit covering his ears and fretting about being hit by lightning. His spirits were lifted by his post-aquarium haircut: a long-desired mohawk, crafted by the fine people at SuperCuts. He now looks just as though his mother secretly thinks she lives in Brooklyn and pops next door to borrow a cup of sugar from Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Also, today we saw baby seahorses the size of fingernail clippings. AMAZING.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day Eleven: Library Geekery and Other Entertainments

It's our first full day in Venice, FLA, staying with my mom and her ebullient husband, Ron. They have a pretty nice setup; their home has a big netted-in patio with seating and a pool (this type of thing is referred to around here as a "cage") and, as you see above, a tricked-out entertainment system that can only be described as SWEEEET. You can see it above: ginormous TV, Netflix on demand, all mod cons. Ron loves to watch tennis, so they chose their set based on what type of display would best allow him to scrutinize line calls. It also receives, among others, The Sacred Channel (Cartoon Network), although we passed a happy mid-day hour today watching "Junkyard Wars." Ike spent that hour diligently maintaining his faux-hawk, pictured above. I am both tempted and reluctant to equip him with the hair gel that would allow him to fully actualize his coif. I have informed the boys that if a real mohawk is desired, now is the time to get short. Dad is not present to object, and the noggins can be shaved clean in enough time to sprout a respectable stubble for the first day of school. No takers so far, but I'm working on it.
The first day in Venice would not be complete without the obligatory library trip. The Jacaranda PL is very close by, so we went brandishing my mom's card and checked out stacks and stacks of kids' books. I may have mentioned the fact that I have something like fifteen books in the trunk of the Beigemobile, so I was only inspecting the shelves out of curiosity. You can see the picayune number of holds sitting on the Jacaranda's shelves for pickup - presumably the number burgeons during the winter months, although if my own circ-worker experience is typical, all of the snowbirds are misguidedly trying to check out books at their own up-north libraries in the fall and asking daftly, "I'm going to be in Florida/Arizona/Texas for three months. Can you check this out to me for that long?". Um, no. Get a Florida/Arizona/Texas card. They have libraries there. I think.
On books and travel: so I don't have a Kindle or iPad, and will probably be behind the curve in getting one. I just love books as objects. Their heft, their covers, turning pages, seeing and feeling the accumulation of read pages and the dwindling of unread ones. Long books are heavier than short books. Trashy books have embossed covers, some with nifty windows through their outer jackets to reveal a cameo of the bodice-ripping portrait underneath. Books books books. I have been reading Justin Cronin's "The Passage" for a week and am on page 559. It is rip-roaring. Books I have seen others reading on this trip: "How To Win Friends and Influence People"; "Firefly Lane"; the new Atul Gawande; some piece of lady-friendly dreck by Kristin Hannah (more than once); lady-friendly dreck by Danielle Steele; "Killer Angels"; "The Catcher in the Rye"; two passengers on the DC Metro, strangers, one reading the first Stieg Larsson and the other reading the second. Yes, I have been keeping a mental list. Once, on a Caribbean cruise I saw a young woman reading a Chuck Klosterman book, "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs" and it made me unaccountably happy.
The thing is, at least the people reading the dreck - or what I snobbishly consider to be the dreck - are reading something. Lots of people can be seen sitting around on the beach reading NOTHING. Just sitting there, staring vacantly at the unchanging horizon for hours on end. Perhaps these people are just incredibly Zen and have bottomless reserves of calm and the capacity for deep contemplation the likes of which I will never, ever experience. Or maybe they have the brains of molluscs and require nothing more than the line of demarcation between ocean and sky to occupy all of their grey matter. So right on, Danielle Steele readers. Godspeed, people who desire to Win Friends and Influence People. And a big wet smooch to library patrons everywhere!