Saturday, May 31, 2008

'Sex And The City' ...

Weeks ago, L.A. Dave and I were talking about the release of this film and I predicted that it would make $50 million its opening weekend.

Last night, I contributed $9.50 to the take.

I went to a 6:05 p.m. show, thinking it wouldn't be pandemonium. It wasn't. But the theater was almost full, and I counted three men.

Movie-wise, it's fine. It's kind of weird to see the girls on a screen that size, having watched them on TV for so long.

But I, like every other woman there, simply had to know what happened to Carrie and Big.

And now I know.

Update, 6:07 p.m., Sunday, June 1: From the AP: LOS ANGELES - Sarah Jessica Parker and her gal pals have not lost their sex appeal. The big-screen " Sex and the City " — reuniting Parker and TV co-stars Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon — strutted to a $55.7 million opening weekend, far exceeding Hollywood's box office expectations.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

'Certain Girls' ...

Today, I am not a loser.

Today, you'll note, is May 29th. There are two – count 'em, two! – full days between now and the end of the month and I sit before you (well, I sit before my computer), gushing with pride because I am able to say that I read a piece of fiction this month. A whole book's worth. Three hundred and eighty four pages! And in just the past few days. It didn't take me a whole month, even. (Though, yes, the bookmark has not moved in Lamb.)

Regular readers know that for the new year Mercurie challenged me to read one book of fiction per month in 2008 because he thinks we just don't read for pleasure enough anymore.

Certain Girls is Jennifer Weiner's follow-up to Good In Bed, her debut novel from a good handful of years ago. She's since written other books (which I've also read), but I think most of Jen's fans were waiting for this sequel, eager to find out what happened to Cannie.

I won't go into great detail because Doreen reads this blog and when I finished the book today, I wrote to her to tell her that she can have my copy of the book. (It's well written and a sweet story, it's just not the kind of book that I'll read again.) So I don't want to spoil anything for her. But a theme in the book is bar and bat mitzvahs, so the opening sentence of this post is actually very clever. Just in case you hadn't realized.

Jen is a very good writer, one of those writers who can turn out books that read as though she just churns 'em out in a day or two, that effortless writing that keeps you turning the page. But she hates – understandably – the term "chick lit," especially when she's lumped into that category. Will guys dig her books? Probably not. But her stories have substance.

And now, of course, I get to pick a new book. I have many from which to choose. My neighbor (Hi, Rhonda!) loaned a Jodi Picoult book to me the other day. Maybe I'll give that a crack next.

There is a great pile next to my bed in various states of started (I used that phrase in an IM chat with New John this morning and it went over well, so I'm recycling it here). Time to turn some final pages and put them on the shelf.

For those keeping score at home, I've read two books this month! And the month ain't over yet. And I've been known to put away a book in a day, so I might just have another book post before the clock strikes midnight on Saturday.

Two books may not seem like much of a feat. Well, OK, two books isn't much of a feat, but remember that I'm a habitual user of Netflix and I have a job and I write two blogs and I subscribe to approximately eleventy jillion magazines and I talk on the phone once in a while and occasionally even leave the house to go see a play or something, so squeezing in two books is noteworthy.

What are you reading these days? I'm always looking for books to add to the pile.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chocolate ...

There is a big Entemann's truck parked in front of my house with a giant chocolate doughnut painted on the side.

Somehow, however, no one is bringing chocolate doughnuts to my door.

Still, it's funny to look out my front window, expecting to see a FedEx truck and seeing a giant doughnut instead.

Burgundy ...

The fog is burning off.

It's sunny this morning in more ways than one.

Whenever I can wake up laughing over the absurdity of my dreams, the day is off to a good start.

Monday was warm and sunny, my ideal summer day. Not too hot, but warm enough to make me want to laze around outside with a glass of lemonade. Not that I lazed around outside with a glass of lemonade.

Yesterday was cold. About 45 degrees. I wore a jacket and turned on the heat in my car. Typical for this part of the world: almost June and we need our heat. But next week, we'll probably need our air conditioning.

Being cold, though, I decided I wanted soup for dinner. Having no soup in the house – and seeing as how soup isn't something you just whip up from scratch at 6 p.m. when you decide you want it – and seeing as how I didn't have soup makings in the house anyway – I went to the store and bought a can of pre-fab, sodium-laden soupy goodness. Beef barley, because it was that kind of day. Mom's is best, but Chunky will do in a pinch.

At home, I heated it and crushed in a handful of saltines, which I almost never have in the house, but which I bought last week (when I also wanted soup), and tucked in, trying not to burn my mouth.

New John and I were IMing and he wrote something that seemed very cocktail-party-esque ("I read this piece in AdAge today ...") which made me think of wine, which made me think of the wine we had with pizza a few weeks ago, which was a wine I always keep in my house, my everyday, go-to red, Ravenswood Zinfandel.

No, not white zinfandel. God no.

I rarely think to open a bottle of wine when I'm home alone. I open bottles when I have people here for dinner. But yesterday, wine seemed like a fine idea. So I opened a bottle and poured a glass and it was indeed a fine accompaniment to my soup (which was more like stew, because it's Chunky).

And then I poured a little more to take with me to the big comfy chair where I proceeded to read and not fall asleep immediately, which is a bit of a miracle.

And then English Teacher Dave called and we had a good chat.

But here's a little food-pairing advice that I learned the hard way: red wine and Ho Ho's don't mix.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Blue ...

Where does emotion come from, I wonder?

A combination of chemicals and thoughts all swirling around in a noxious conscious brew?

Today, I drifted in and out of a funk. For me, holiday Mondays exist outside of time. They never feel like Mondays. But nor do they feel like Sundays. They feel more like Saturdays, but with the cruel knowledge that work looms the next morning, a sort of Saturday/Sunday hybrid that way.

But the weather was nice. I spent some time chatting with my neighbors. I went for a walk. I took a little nap. I put away 100 pages of the latest book I've opted to crack.

I realized, once again, that sugar does indeed affect me dramatically. Within 20 minutes of eating it, I'm nearly comatose. Must nix sugar. Too bad it's so damn addictive.

So the day has been relatively level, emotionally. Yet tonight, I'm just going to throw in the towel and turn in early. It's weird how this feeling sets in, like fog rolling in across a harbor.

One night, years ago, many years ago, back in the days of Tom for those of you who remember him, I was lying on his couch while he got ready for bed. He walked into the living room to say, "Your turn" (he had a very small bathroom), and I just laid there. No inclination to move.

He laid on top of me, smoothed my hair away from my face, and asked, softly, "What's going on?"

I had no answer.

He made me get up, made me take out my contacts, made me come to bed. Put his arms around me, kissed my hair, and just let me be.

And I guess that's all I needed, because I was fine by the time we fell asleep.

They're just weird, moods. Many men don't seem to know what to do in the presence of emotion. I've been lucky to date a couple guys who got it: that all that's required is a hug. No words necessary.

Unfortunately, I'm between hugs right now.

So sleep will have to do, instead.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hoffmania ...

Philip Seymour Hoffman is a busy, busy man.

In the past few weeks, I've seen three of his films: The Savages, Charlie Wilson's War, and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.

Is there a role the man can't play?

If there is, he hasn't found it yet.

He's moved far, far away from his cocky prepster persona. Remember him in Scent of a Woman?

Now flash forward and think about him in Capote.

Yeah, that's what I mean.

He's great as the rumpled genius in Charlie ... and he was frighteningly detached in The Savages, but his performance in Before ... is the stand out of the year. Yet he was nominated for Charlie .... Go figure.

I was just mentioning to someone the other day (no, I can't remember who; I'm old!) that with certain actors, I can't buy their performances anymore. I just see "them" as their real selves. The first example that sprang to mind was Tom Cruise. You can spray his hair silver and stick in him the back seat of a cab and make him an assassin, but I still see Tom Cruise.

But with Hoffman, I buy into his characters every time. Maybe it's because I don't know much about him personally. He's not tabloid fodder. (Not that I read the tabloids. But that doesn't matter anymore, does it? The mainstream media has become the biggest tabloid of them all.)

'Before The Devil Knows You're Dead' ...


Dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark.



The Academy should just start delivering a daily Oscar to Philip Seymour Hoffman.

And chuck one at Ethan Hawke while it's at it.

And what the hell: an Oscar for Albert Finney, too. Then man's been nominated five times but he's never won. (I love him. He needs to act more. I never tire of seeing him on screen. Have you ever seen The Dresser? If not, do.)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

'A Face In The Crowd' ...

I'm shaking my head.

Where have I been? Why haven't I heard about this movie until this year?

It's The Andy Griffith Show meets Citizen Kane.

Why did Orson Welles get all the glory? Andy Griffith is great in this film. He's a long way from Andy Taylor.

It's freakishly prophetic.

Hugely powerful.

And a little frightening in its commentary.

See it if you haven't already.

Friday, May 23, 2008

'Atonement' ...

Predictable in many places, but it wasn't meant to be a thriller.

Keira Knightley wears the hell out of that emerald dress, though.

And the inclusion of the sounds of a typewriter in the score is the most interesting thing I've heard in a film score, maybe ever.

But I think I've had my fill of period war dramas for quite some time.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Whither Wordsmithing? ...

This question has been running through my head: What do I do?

Everyone always asks. You know the exchange:

"Hi, I'm Beth."

"Hi, Beth. Nice to meet you. What do you do?"

What do I do?

Professionally? What do I get paid to do? I get paid to edit. Well, I also get paid to write. But I get paid more to edit than I get paid to write.

Does that make me an editor or a writer? Both? Most people don't tick off two titles.

"Hi, Beth. Nice to meet you. What do you do?"

"I'm a writer and editor"? "I'm an editor and writer"?

Which gets top billing? The thing that pays me more or thing thing I love to do?

I think it's a weird question. Why do we ask? To discover whether we have something in common with someone? To size up whether we find them interesting?

It's not just small talk. If we were looking for small talk, we could talk about the weather.

I much prefer to tell people I'm a writer. But the answer to the follow-on question – "What do you write?" – suddenly makes me feel like a fraud. I write this blog, sure. I write another blog for money. I have a screenplay in process that's been in process for years. I've tried writing a novel, but I don't think I have a novelist's voice. Is a writer a writer even if they're not writing? Is writing a part of your soul or an active pursuit?

I edit everything I see, whether or not people want it. I edit signs. I edit menus. I edit words that flash across my TV. I find mistakes in manuscripts and books. I edit editors.

My friend Jeannie once told me to tell people that I'm a singer. I do sing. Telling people I'm a singer would not be a lie. But people expect "I'm a singer" to mean "I get paid to sing" or "I have an album" or "I perform for audiences."

I could also tell people that I'm a baker. People occasionally pay me to bake.

I am all these things: writer, editor, singer, baker.

So what do you do? Who are you?

'No Country For Old Men' ...

There are really only two relevant words: Javier Bardem.

Well, maybe there are two more: pneumatic gun.

This movie is a knockout. Brutal. Bloody. Well acted. I love Tommy Lee Jones's voiceover at the beginning. I love Tommy Lee Jones's monologue at the end. I love the final shot.

It's a very close second to There Will Be Blood.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Introducing The Band ...

Saturday night, I went to see my friend Jay's band, Everelle.

If you have a friend in a band, you know how it is: You turn out to see them partly because you dig the band and partly to pad the room, because if bands draw a crowd, bands get asked back, and if you're in a band, gigs are good. They, you know, give you a reason to be in a band.

So there I was, and partway through Everelle's set, I turned around and saw Lance, one of my other musician pals. He's the drummer for The Hoyle Brothers. He joined me at my table. As we tried yelling at each other over the post-Everelle band, Lance said, "You know, we could go in the other room where it's not so loud."

So we did. And he started talking to someone and I decided that it was time for me to head home, because I am old and it was nearly midnight. Jay insisted on giving me money for a cab. I protested. He crammed it into my hand.

I walked up to Lance and gave it to him, asking him to sneak it back into Jay's pocket. That Jay, always a Gallant, never a Goofus.

Anyhoo, I had threatened to blog about the opening band (I haven't and I won't; I figure, hey, they're getting up on that stage and doing their thing and they really believe in their music, so even if I don't dig it, who am I to rip on 'em?) and Lance told me to send him the link if I did.

And while we were on the subject of my blog, I asked him if he'd listened to any of my tunes. (He knows I've been recording.) But he hadn't, so I handed him a copy of my tunes. I always keep a CD in my purse. I never know when I might need it.

Monday morning, he wrote to say "I listened to your CD. I see no reason why you can't get a band together (piano/bass/drums would do it, with the right players) and start doing some shows. Your voice sounds great, you've picked good songs and I think it'd go over well at places like Katerina's. Do keep following that muse and letting folks like me know when you're out/about. This demo, methinks, would be enough to get you in some doors for performing, for sure."

To which my reaction was: "Gaa! A band?!"

Nevermind that I have no idea how one goes about putting together a band, but surely, I thought, it's too soon to take that step. Shouldn't I be logging more time in the studio? Shouldn't I be downing scotch and mustering up courage to perform at open-mic nights?

Of course, the answers to those questions are "Um, YES!" (Brian and I talked yesterday and will pick a day to record next week.) But friends have piggybacked on Lance's idea and suggested that I'll learn a lot by performing with musicians. So I suppose I can do both the recording/open-mic-ing and band-forming in parallel.

Just as soon as I figure out how to form a band. Suggestions are welcome. Do musicians post want ads? Or do I just accost musicians on the street? "You there! The one lugging the upright bass! Looking for a singer?!"

Sunday, May 18, 2008

'The Diving Bell And The Butterfly' ...

I saw this movie last week and knew immediately that I wanted to read the book.

Normally, it's anti-climactic to read a book once you've seen its film adaptation. But this was no ordinary film, no ordinary story.

I try not to know anything about a film before I see it. I don't read reviews. Sometimes, it's hard to avoid the trailers on TV, but this film was enough of an art piece that only those who sought it saw it.

Ciarán recommended it when I saw him in New York. Netflix delivered. In the opening moments, I thought about turning it off. But I persevered. To great reward.

I thought about buying the book, but I buy so many books. No, this time, I decided to get it from the library. It had to be ordered from another branch. I checked it out late on the last day it would be available to me, before it would be sent back to the other branch. I almost missed it.

I set the book on my bedside table, atop the book I've been reading since February, atop my latest purchase from Amazon atop the book I've been reading since February.

Today, I picked it up, just to read the first page, just to see if I was in the mood to read.

I proceeded to read half the book, and I've just finished the other half. I will return this copy to the library and buy a copy after all.

It is an exquisite book. And I am mindful that it is translated from the French. I'm sure it is even more exquisite in its native voice.

For those who don't know, Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor-in-chief of French Elle, suffered a cerebrovascular accident, known commonly as a massive stroke, at the age of 43 that left him mentally alert but paralyzed and unable to communicate conventionally, a condition known as "locked-in syndrome." Able to blink his left eye, he learned to communicate through a system, a "code," devised with a therapist. She began reciting the French alphabet, the characters presented from most-used to least. Bauby blinked when his chosen letter was recited. In this way, he was able to convey words, then sentences, and eventually, "The Diving Bell and The Butterfly."

My copy is 132 pages. I read the entire book in about an hour, wondering as I read if the time it took me to read his entire book was the time it took him to dictate a paragraph? A page?

In total, it took two months to dictate the book.

In every book I read, I hope for a hidden gem, a perfect sentence that inspires awe and envy. This book offers many such moments. Among my favorites:

"In that hothouse atmosphere, criminal records bloomed like orchids all around us."

"Capturing the moment, these small slices of life, these small gusts of happiness, move me more deeply than all the rest."

... these small gusts of happiness. I gasped when I read that.

And my most favorite:

"Having turned down the hideous jogging suit provided by the hospital, I am now attired as I was in my student days. Like the bath, my old clothes could easily bring back poignant, painful memories. But I see in the clothing a symbol of continuing life. And proof that I still want to be myself. If I must drool, I may as well drool on cashmere."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

'P.S. I Love You' ...

Nevermind that the woman in the poster looks nothing like Hilary Swank. Women watch this movie because Gerard Butler is not only stunning, he also has a charming Irish accent and he worships his wife.

Oh, and he's a musician.

I mean, yeah, he's dead 'n' all, but he's a stunning, charming, accented, worshipful Irishman with a guitar. And he's ripped.

He's a stunning, accented, worshipful, ripped Irishman with a guitar.

In other words, he's the perfect man.

"Perfect" is subjective, sure. You might go more for the buttoned-down professional type. Or maybe the hyper-macho sports type.

But if you came home and found Gerard Butler in your bed, would you kick him out?

Yeah, me neither.

My cousin Patty called this movie "Vapid, but perfect for lying on the couch when you're already brain dead and in the mood to watch cute boys."

So that's what I was expecting when I put it on tonight.

I was not expecting to be so completely emotionally flattened by it. Because how can you watch a movie about perfect love and not compare it to your own life? How can you watch a movie about perfect love and not be painfully aware of yourself sitting alone on your couch, crying, a crumpled Wendy's napkin in your fist, wondering if you're ever, ever going to find anything that even comes close? How can you watch a movie about perfect love and feel sadness seizing your heart like a vice and not wonder how you can possibly still miss someone so much, even after all this time?

But there it is.

W Talk ...

My buddy Bill, fellow blogger and fellow newspaper-type person, pointed out on his blog today that W has 250 days left in office.

In honor of this "milestone," I thought I'd dust off the ol' George W. Bush Out of Office Countdown page-a-day calendar (a Christmas gift from L.A. Dave), and rummage around for some shiny gems from the past few months.

Of course, I was not disappointed.

Here, then, a smattering of Bushisms for your very much president-mocking pleasure:

"I would say the best moment of all was when I caught seven and a half pound largemouth bass in my lake."
— In German newspaper Bild am Sonntag about the best moment of his presidency, May 2006

"The point now is how do we work together to achieve important goals. And one such goal is democracy in Germany."
— Washington, D.C., May 5, 2006

"This foreign policy stuff is a little frustrating."
The New York Daily News, April 23, 2003

"My job is to, like, think beyond the immediate."
— Washington, D.C., April 21, 2004

"Sometimes when I sleep at night I think of [Dr. Seuss'] Hop on Pop."
— Washington, D.C., April 2, 2008, discussing education

"The relations with, uhh—Europe are important relations, and they've, uhh—because, we do share values. And, they're universal values, they're not American values or, you know—European values, they're universal values. And those values—uhh—being universal, ought to be applied everywhere."
— Washington, D.C., 2005

"The war on terror involves Saddam Hussein because of the nature of Saddam Hussein, the history of Saddam Hussein, and his willingness to terrorize himself."
— Grand Rapids, Michigan, January 29, 2003

As you know, if you terrorize yourself too much, you'll go blind.

And my personal favorite, to date:

"Because he's hiding."
— Aboard Air Force One, discussing why Osama bin Laden is still at large, January 2005

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Happiness Is ...

... my mom appearing at my front door, proffering a huge bunch of daisies because she knows I'm having a bad day.

Daisies are her favorite flower, "the friendliest flower," as Meg Ryan says in "You've Got Mail."

She wanted to bring me irises – my favorite flower – but the flower shop was out, so I got a big bouquet of daisies instead.

Sure enough, I feel better already.

(Click on the picture to seem them life-size!)

Why? ...

Monday, May 12, 2008

'Relative Madness' ...

As I did for Design Star last year (and hopefully again this year, when the time comes), I'm writing a show-specific blog for

The latest show? Relative Madness on SOAPnet.

So far, I've only seen (and blogged about) one episode, but there are five more to come, each tackling its own slice of the family pie. I will, however, be posting on other related – badump bump! – topics once a week, too.

Think your family is a bucket full of crazy? You're not alone. Not everyone is Ozzy, but every family has its share of reality show-worthy moments.

Relative Madness rounds up the brood and shines a light on all the warm-and-fuzzy family goings on in our celeb-obsessed culture.

Come on. You know you want to watch.

Save your Proust for the bus where it will impress a prospective spouse.

Vacation? What Vacation? ...

What do you make of a job that has the ability, in the span of a couple hours, to erase the sense that I've just had a week off?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Cupcake, Thy Name Is Cuteness ...

People who know me know: cookies are my thing.

But tonight, I spontaneously spent three hours decorating cupcakes.

Do not be misled: This was no schmear-and-sprinkle hack job.

Tonight, under the tutelage of Karen Tack, I created cupcake art.

I've blogged about Karen and her partner in cupcake crime, Alan Richardson, in the past, but tonight, she was at Sur La Table on Walton, imparting her cupcake wisdom to the eager and willing.

I wasn't scheduled for the hands-on class, but Karen and I have been in touch since I interviewed her for a cookie-decorating story last year, so I met up with her this afternoon and she asked if I could stay and take the class.

Why not? What good is being on vacation if you can't elect to while away an evening turning cupcakes into sunflowers and sharks and spaghetti?

I took pictures of my creations with my camera phone, but a) the quality isn't great, and b) despite sending said pictures from my phone to my computer, most have yet to arrive, and, knowing Verizon, most never will. But I'll still be charged for them.

Anyway, here's my cupcake brood, a little worse for the wear after a ride home in a bakery box, but you get the idea.

Yes, I made these. (And so can you.) Isn't that insane? Karen demonstrated the techniques for each, then we went to our stations to craft our cupcakes.

The woman really is an artist. The book features Van Gogh's "Starry Night" rendered in frosting. Damn if it doesn't look just like the original.

Karen, however, has both her ears.

The point is, I'm a cookie girl. But I was able to churn out each of these with relatively little effort. Though as I piped the "fur" onto the Westie, I said, "If I ever make these for my kid's birthday party, he better only have two friends."

Of course, I don't have a kid at the moment, and I'm sure, with practice, I'd get much quicker at turning out a litter of cupcake puppies.

Note that the shark is about to eat the sleeping girl, who has black curly hair because I was born with black curly hair. And is the spaghetti and meatball cupcake not the most brilliant thing you've ever seen? The meatball is a Ferrero Roche hazelnut chocolate. The shark is a portion of a Twinkie "glued" to a cupcake then dipped in grey icing. The centers of the sunflowers are Oreo cookies. The ladybugs are M&Ms.

Karen is the cutest, sweetest, kindest, funniest (insert your favorite superlative here) woman ever. After class, we hung out in her hotel's bar for a couple hours, swapping stories and swilling wine like we'd known each other forever.

Do yourself a favor and buy the book (which is headed straight for the New York Times' bestseller list), or better yet, catch Karen at one of her many events.

You, too, will transform into a cupcake queen quicker than you can say "canned frosting."

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

In A Word: BLECH. ...

I try to eat healthy. Really, I do. There's little point in working with a personal trainer three days a week only to spend the balance of the days shoveling loads of crap down one's gullet.

Still, every so often, a girl needs to get the hell away from boneless, skinless chicken breast and salad.

Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, and Pete Yorn, to whom New John recently introduced me, was on my iTunes, singing a song about a burrito (the tune is called, cleverly, "Burrito"), and I thought to myself, "Oooh, a burrito would be gooood." Yes, "gooood" with extra Os. And an Andy Griffth accent.

So in the spirit of vacation and doing new and different things, I decided that yesterday would be the day that I would cease to be a Chipotle virgin. That's right: I'd never been to Chipotle. I'd heard the lore, I'd seen the stores, but I had never crossed a Chipotle threshold.

I went to Best Buy (mine has a surprisingly good selection of music) and bought another Pete Yorn album (Nightcrawler; don't much like it, by the way, and not just because it's titled after a worm) and Miles Davis's Kind of Blue. Have you heard "Blue In Green"?! Ohmygod, it's life-changing. I could listen to it for hours.

Anyhoo, I popped into Chipotle for a burr-i-to (as Yorn sings it) and tried to understand the ordering process. It's kind of like Subway, but for burr-i-tos. OK, got it. I thought I'd go for steak, because a) who doesn't like steak? and because b) it's not chicken.

The man behind the counter began by putting a ginormous spoonful of rice on my burr-i-to-sized tortilla. Rice flecked with something green.

Cilantro, I thought, in the voice superheroes use when encountering their arch-nemeses. Me and cilantro, we don't get along.

Chipotle and I had already gotten off on the wrong foot.

Black beans or pinto beans was my next decision. Black beans, for sure. I love black beans. Though what he spooned onto my rice looked more like the end result of oil refining, not that I have an intimate knowledge of the oil-refining process.

But whatever. I was determined to see this thing through. Chipotle was out of the mild tomato salsa (how the hell does a Mexican chain run out of basic salsa?) so I skipped salsa and moved right on to "cheese or sour cream?"

Both. Duh. In the absence of fat-free salsa, a burrito needs some sort of lubricant, so sour cream becomes the fat-laden stand-in.

Guacamole? GOD no. The texture of avocado makes me want to peel off my skin.

Anything else?

Lettuce, I said, as my burr-i-to worker proceeded to ignore me and turn my pile of cilantro-flecked rice and bean sludge and steak cubes into a very rotund bundle.

It was hard-pressed to pass for a burr-i-to. It looked more like a potato. Or, you know, a po-ta-to.

He marked it with an S, for steak, and I proceeded to pay more than six bucks for my little bundle of cilantro-tainted joy.

The cashier, by the way, was the daughter of the owner of the gym I used to go to. (Oh, yes, that's right: past tense. I've joined a new gym. But that is another post for another day.)

I came home and peeled back a bit of foil, took a bite, and quickly realized that in Chipotle-speak, "steak" is code for "gristle."

I mean, I know it's fast food. I wasn't expecting Kobe beef. I was, however, expecting to be able to, oh, chew and swallow.

The cilantro was slightly less disgusting than I was anticipating, but last night was my first- and last-ever Chipotle experience.

But wait! There's more!

This morning, out for a walk, I noticed on the McDonald's marquee some language touting a new Southern-style chicken sandwich. Huh, I thought, and made a mental note of it. When I got home, a shipment from Amazon was waiting in my mailbox, and inside the box was a coupon for a McDonald's Southern-style chicken sandwich.

OK, then. This is the sandwich's glamour shot. Behold the golden-brown perfection. I headed to McDonald's, handed over my coupon, took custody of my sammich, and headed home to inspect my quarry.

McDonald's touts a "steamed buttery tasting bun ... ." I could forgive the missing hyphen (honestly, it's the largest fast-food chain in the world; would it kill 'em to hire an editor?!) if the bun was in fact merely buttery tasting or if the bun was in fact buttered. But no. The bun is squirted with something resembling what I believe is intended to be butter. The effect, however, brings to mind, at the risk of sounding indelicate, soiled snow. Mmm! Hungry yet? The "buttered" bun, it should be noted, also hosted two anemic pickle slices, pickle slices that could clearly do with a little time in the sun.

The chicken itself looked nothing like the picture, not that that's ever the case.

I reassmebled my "sandwich" and took a bite.

No. No, no, no, no, no.

Did McDonald's forget to add the magic flavor chemicals to recreate the fried-chicken experience? I think so.

I tried another bite, just to ensure that the first bite was not an anomaly, just to ensure that my tastebuds hadn't all gone on collective strike the moment I bit into the "sandwich" the first time.

Yes, in fact, the second bite was just as bad as the first.

Good thing I didn't pay for that thing. Into the trash it went.

And I ate a protein bar instead.

So, to recap:

Chipotle "steak" burr-i-to: BLECH.

McDonald's Southern-style chicken "sandwich": BLECH.

I give each one a Mr. Yuk, who is normally reserved for making kids aware of poison, I know, but you should totally avoid this so-called food, too.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted ...

I am blissfully, mercifully, gratefully off this week!

No huge vacation plans, just seeing friends and doing whatever whim dictates.

Went to Cleveland this weekend. Some friends have moved there (to cute Lakewood, Ohio, which is almost an exactly clone of Oak Park) and New John and I met up for a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which, incredulously, lacks anything Zeppelin.

We also went to an Indians game and had what I think were just about the most perfect seats on the planet. Behind home plate, about 25 rows up. Ideal vantage point. The team lost and we drank the world's worst cups of coffee (it was chilly outside, definitely not beer weather, nor am I a beer drinker) but a guy who had clearly had his share of $6.75 beers decided to entertain our section with a running commentary of the action on the field which had everyone around him laughing. Hard. I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard.

So this week, I'm faced with a very blank slate. A few plans sprinkled throughout my days, but the thing I look forward to most is simply not working. At my job. I'll happily work at other things.

Like writing something more interesting here.

But for now, my second cup of coffee awaits.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Big May Mow ...

Today was the first mow of the year.

My grass really needed to be mowed a week or two ago, but I couldn't face my lawnmower in April. Because once I start mowing, I'm faced with mowing once – sometimes twice – a week until well into November. Seven months of mowing is plenty. I don't want to contemplate eight.

Mind you, I like mowing. I like the instant gratification of it. And I can always use the cardio.

But seriously: We can put a man on the moon but we can't develop a strain of grass that grows to three inches and then stops?

Today I tackled both the front and back yards. As I mowed out back, I ran across some tufts of fur, which reminded me that I witnessed a cat fight a couple weeks ago. I spied a flurry of fur outside my office window. There are several cats who wander in and out of my yard, My neighbor takes care of them, though they're not really her cats. But one of the tails was striped, which made me think I might be witnessing a raccoon-cat fight.

And then they both stopped moving, which made me think I might have witnessed a mutual raccoon-cat murder. Catslaughter? Racoonslaughter? Then they started brawling again. This time, I saw blood. Ah, geez. What's the protocol in that situation? It didn't seem to make sense to go outside and try to break it up. (I had visions of sitting in the ER, getting my first of five rabies shots, explaining to the nurse that I was trying to save a feral cat.)

Then they stopped moving again. Ah, geez. Now was I going to have to call animal control to retrieve carcasses from my yard?

And then they both got up and sort of looked around like, "Huh. OK, then." I smacked my window molding and they looked at me, then they both sauntered off.

The "raccoon" was in fact a cat. Or some mutant raccoon-cat hybrid, but definitely not purebred raccoon.

Anyway, as I was saying, I really love the instant gratification that comes from cutting grass, the chance to watch my progress unfold. And now that it's cut, the weekly maintenance will be pretty easy.

Though I wouldn't mind having a hunky gardener boy. And he could cut the grass, too.

(Insert rimshot here.)

Goodnight, everybody! I'm here all week! Try the veal!

P.S. When I was done with my big May mow (I love saying that: big May mow, big May mow ...), I snapped a few shots of my pretty tulips. When I moved into the house, my friend Joanne brought me bulbs as a housewarming gift – a brilliant idea. She suggested planting them in a place where I'd see them every day. So I choose a spot right along my front sidewalk, so I'd see them whenever I left the house and whenever I came home. I bought a bulb-digger thingee (I was taking my bulb-planting task very seriously and wanted the official equipment to do the job) and then discovered that my soil is like solid clay, so I used a small garden trowel instead. Which I bent in the hard soil. So I bought a better garden trowel and dug down and planted my bulbs, but not deeply enough. I know this because squirrels managed to dig up most of the bulbs and take one dainty bite out of each one before leaving them next to the mounds of dirt like so many discarded chocolates. But a few have stayed in the ground. And this year, I have seven flowers. And now I have them preserved digitally. And I get to see them every day because I made this picture my computer's wallpaper.