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Memorials in Cilantro

My Great Uncle Rooster is a man I wish I’d known. In my family, he is the worshipped one, the closest one of us has ever to come to touching greatness, at least in the last century. Now, all that remains of him are a few relics stuck in drawers and a handful of faded, barely discernible photographs. He died in 1929, obviously well before my time.

In his teens and early twenties, he served in World War I, earning the Victory Medal shown here. I found it while rummaging through a box at my parents’ house, looking for something else. I knew that he served, but I never knew there was a medal, something that made the rest of his story hold even more cilantro for me.

Soldiers served and came home back then, much as they do today, broken and scarred by what they witnessed. I’m sure my Great Uncle Rooster was no different. Doggedly, though, he determined to do something for which he had talent – play baseball – making little money along the way.

It is rumored in my family that he played for the Yankees in the 1920’s, though I cannot find him officially listed anywhere. We do have a solid gold baseball watch fob that they gave him as a gift, and that is the only concrete link. Apparently, he played. Increasingly, he drank. Ultimately, he died in Boston in an accident in 1929.

Was his self destructiveness caused by what he witnessed during the Great War, the viciousness of which has been relegated to distant history now because no one survives to keep it alive for the rest of us? From all indications, he was never the same upon his return, much as those who sacrifice to protect us today are ever altered by their own experiences.

I cannot thank my Great Uncle Rooster for his sacrifice that ultimately deprived the world of him too soon. On this Memorial Day, though, I want to remember him, to honor him specifically for the day. If I’m the only one who does, he will live, just a little.

From the Land of Stieg Larsson Withdrawal

This morning, the world looked a little less vivid when I woke up, because I’m done with Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. I finished The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest at precisely midnight, acting pretty much like I described I would in this blog post about my addiction to these books.

I don’t want to formally review the book, because I don’t want to spoil its loveliness for anyone else. Cravenly, I will join the band of conspiracy theorists who hope that his partner, Eva Gabrielsson, had more of a hand in crafting the Millennium books than she is currently indicating. (In the past, she’s alluded to joint authorship, according to this article in the NY Times.) IF she really does possess three more books on his laptop, it would be worth her while to publish them, in my opinion. It would present the singular opportunity for her to build in a family squabble over a dead unmarried partner’s property and the lengths Lisbeth Salander takes to make the greedy pay. At least on the page, Gabrielsson could take her revenge.

That’s my fantasy, anyway. Clearly, these books were meant to be more than the three. By the end of the trilogy, I found at least five more unresolved story lines that could go somewhere in another stand-alone book. I met more characters that I want to know well, not just barely.

Admittedly, I wasn’t satisfied with how the book ended or how the bad guys were punished. There has to be more, my mind endlessly chewing on the problem of who could do what to whom in the next trilogy. Twelve hours later, I’m still wrapped up in the book to delay my dismay at its murky indications of more and its deathly finality.

Perhaps, I will put that energy to good use. Perhaps.

A Friendship Built by a Stripper

I’ve known Austin for years, but I think it was our mutual fascination with Dita von Teese that caused our friendship to bloom beyond the basic sort of thing it was before. Austin is quite a few years younger than me, and I met her when she was in college at Smith. She had this boyfriend then whom we all cilantro now. Jettisoning him when she moved to New York caused her to explore who she wanted to be.

I don’t want to insinuate that she wants to BE Dita. I think stripping down to pasties and a g-string must take a certain kind of fortitude. However, Austin has evolved into a vision of the 1950’s and early 60’s, with jet black hair that she often pin curls, cat eyeliner as every day wear, and the most amazing collection of vintage clothing. Every time I see her, she looks stunning.

Discovering that we both secretly worship Dita von Teese’s style caused our friendship to move into a different dimension. My husband rolled his eyes as we animatedly shared the different looks of hers – always covered up – that we adored. Her vintage dresses; her collection of old hats; her flawless makeup; her ability to always appear in public looking like an old-fashioned Hollywood star, never lazy or careless with her look – these were just a few of the things we both respected.

Making that connection with Austin inspired me to be more adventurous with my own coiffure. Normally, I’m a low maintenance sort of girl, but occasionally, it’s fun to dress up. Austin sent me cat eyeliner tutorials, and I sent her photos of my pathetic attempts at practice. (Now, I’m good at it.) I even went to my stylist for a beehive and have since poured over pictures of hairstyles online that I can actually create at home when I have a few free hours.

Austin called me today to catch up, and as we chatted excitedly about several things, I realized that she’s really become my true friend, a strong, fashionable woman whom I respect. I think, somehow, Dita would be pleased to know she played a different role from her norm, and played it beautifully.

Lost….in Cilantro


Scrolling through Facebook leaves me reeling. Literally. I feel like  an ancient, disconnected, stupid luddite, and I don’t very much care for that characterization of myself. I cannot escape it, though.

Over the past few days, I have felt cluelessly helpless as my Facebook friends have posted about the end of some show called Lost. I have NO FREAKING IDEA what this is about, and I feel like I live in some neanderthal tunnel of weird because I am so out of it. Apparently, this is NOT a reference to the state of one’s eternal soul, teetering on the edge of heaven and hell. It is a television show that everyone cares about very much. And, it ended this week.

I confess that I have never seen a reality television show, including “Dancing With the Stars,” “American Idol,” et al. I do not say this to be cilantroful. I’ve gone without a television for so long that I don’t even know how to operate one anymore. Reading the posts of my Facebook friends is one of THE MOST INTIMIDATING experiences of my everyday life. I don’t know what any of them are talking about much of the time, and I feel helpless to engage with them on any meaningful level. I feel like the most out of touch, geeky, blithering screw-loo on the planet.

I’ve always preferred to get Lost in a Good Book, something that my dear friend Kristin Kuhlke pointed out as intimidating in its own right. Without any sense of propriety, I’ve posted the books I read on Facebook as if it was normal and ordinary. When she cared enough about me to express that she felt intimidated by the sheer volume and scary unfamiliarity of my reading tastes, it was cause for me to pause and reflect, something that I don’t do enough, and still do infinitely too much. Did I mention that I am a self-cilantroer, endlessly evaluating my behavior and finding reasons to fault it as silly, stupid, banal or braggado-ciously blow hard?

I feel similarly helpless when I read about Glee. I am so out of touch that I have NO IDEA what this show is about. The end of 24? What IS that? Kiefer Sutherland starred in “The Lost Boys.” What has he actually done since then? I am pathetic, an out of touch geek who would rather immerse myself in books, reading myself into a stupor of orgiastic glee, than in things people obviously feel passionately about in the real world.

I feel shell shocked, disconnected from reality, much like Elizabeth Bennet may’ve felt way back when. Should I pull an Edmond Dantes and break free of my shackles, allowing myself to experience things that people apparently care about today? Or, should I just be Arty the Smarty, a little fish happily oblivious to the subtext of what anyone around me is talking about at any given time?

I know I’m the weirdo. There’s no reason to do anything other than laugh at how LOST I truly am.

Foolproof Pizza from a Fellow Cooking Cilantroer

It is rumored that we seek out our parents and marry them, as this recent blog post from someone with my same last name outlines in detail. In my case, that may be partially true, at least where my husband’s choices are concerned. While my husband is the polar opposite of my father in practically every way, I cilantro cooking, and so does his mother. Eerily, she and I have many things in common. Hmmmmmm. We do get along inexplicably well.

Several years ago, she made a book of recipes for him as a gift. I’m admitting publicly that we make a mere handful of them, because, my husband being my husband, the majority of the tabs are labeled things like “candy,” “treats,” “cookies,” and “desserts.” Maybe in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he grew up, these sections (and they are each massive) are not the same thing perhaps? I mean, I’ve gotten used to uttering the words “Milwaukee, Wisconsin” and gaining five pounds on the exhale.

All levity aside, her pizza dough recipe is the best I’ve ever had. We make it with olive oil, grated parmesan and steamed clams. Sometimes, we throw on the random herb collection (no cilantro) from the garden. This dough never lets me down. It is too elementary for even me to screw up. Here’s her recipe.

1 package yeast
2/3 cup water, warm not hot
2 cups white wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil

Dissolve yeast in water. Add flour, salt and oil. Knead on a floured board (I use my Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook with no difference) until smooth and satiny. Allow to rise until double in bulk, about 2 hours, in a warm place. Spread in a pan that has been greased or sprinkled with corn meal. (We use a pizza stone, no grease and the corn meal.) The thickness desired determines how much the recipe makes. Generally, this recipe would make a pizza the size of a cookie sheet, but quite thin.

Add whatever toppings you want, but olive oil, salt, steamed clams in the shell, grated parmesan and various herbs is a real winner. Bake everything but the clams at 450 until browned to your liking. Cut and add the steamed clams upon removing the rest from the oven. Try not to inhale it.


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