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Archive for August, 2011

Luck Be A Lady Tonight

Making bets is something at which I suck. If you’re ever around me, and I’m gambling or in any way placing a bet, I guarantee you a win if you bet the opposite of me. Shaking on it with me? You’re a shoe in for a pay day.

Unless you’re poor Michael Carnell. He and I shook on a bet last week over lunch. The loser of the bet has to buy the winner’s lunch of choice. At midnight tonight, Carnell is losing that bet. He’s going to have to buy my lunch.

I’m already drooling.

Have I mentioned lately that I have chef friends? I have already dreamed of calling my friend Nico Romo and asking him to recreate the James Beard dinner I had last December in New York. All the courses, from the hors d’oeuvres to dessert, many hours of pigging out and over one hundred dollars per person. Carnell’s buying, after all, and he didn’t have that meal. He escaped the pleasure of seeing me eat a snail and proclaim it yummy, only to see Nico gloat because he put cilantro in the sauce.

Or, maybe I will ask John Ondo to make our grub, though calling his food ‘grub’ is an insult. Once, I asked him to make a meal for MTM and me, whatever he wanted us to eat. He served up the most delectable steak I’ve ever eaten, topped with oysters, which I can’t stand – unless John makes them, apparently. I think I ran my tongue all over the plate. Another worthy gastronomic contender to claim Carnell’s moolah.

No no. I have the answer. Carnell is going to take me for a sushi lunch, omakase style. The chef could serve us anything, and I mean ANYTHING. Shrimp still moving in the plate, head and tail separate but together. Potentially deadly blowfish. Sea urchin roe, a yellow bit of gonad-goodness that has the consistency of snot. Sushi. Chef choice. THAT is what I want, and Carnell is going to buy it for me AND eat it.

Do you feel sorry for Carnell yet, Dear Reader? He almost vomited the only time I’ve ever seen him eat sushi. He calls it ‘bait.’ Too bad for him. Because I never win bets, I am going to gloat and celebrate and RUB IT IN.

What was our little wager, you ask? By midnight tonight, Carnell bet me that he could get me to 1,000 Likes on my Facebook author page. The sidebar on the right side of my blog shows where I am. (Last time I checked, I was at 876.) So, he has failed. He has lost the bet. THANK ALL THE HINDU GODS I do not have to eat what he will surely choose for me – Indian food, smothered in cilantro.

Unless………YOU want to help him beat me.

Too Much is Just Enough: Winning

He Wants to be Nursed?

Here I am acting like a 98-pound nurse.

Let me make this crystal clear, People. I am NOT a nurse. Regardless of how many times I have taken to the stage in nurse-y garb, I could never, ever do that job. I would fail all the sciences, and I would faint at the sight of blood.

Here’s the honest truth about the whole nursing thing, though. My bedside manner reeks. REEKS.

And, that’s not my most attractive quality when MTM feels puny, like I know he’s going to feel later. As I type this post, he is at the dreaded dentist getting two cavities filled. One whole side of his head is going to lack feeling for most of the night. Sure, I’m his girl if he wants me to heat up some soup and help him suck it through a straw.

(Okay, depending on the KIND of soup. I tend to burn the ones with cream. And, I’m really not so great at the helping part. I tend to get distracted and forget to hold the straw, causing MTM to end up with soup spewed all over him.)

I might be capable of turning down the bed for him and making sure a fresh glass of water is on his night table. If he wants to sleep, though, TOO BAD. Using the guise of ‘checking on him’ in good nursemaid fashion, I will probably go into the bedroom a hundred times to try to get MTM to talk to me.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you we got nothing but junk in the mail today.”

“I think I actually saw one of the college student neighbors peeing off their roof earlier.”

“Does this outfit make me look fat?”

“Stop asking for another glass of water. Why won’t you TALK to me??????”

My Mom would tell you I lack patience, and she would be correct. But, I think it goes deeper than my raging impatient streak. I don’t like to see anyone I love in pain. I feel helpless, because I don’t know what to do to make it go away, to help him feel better, to bridge the gap until he feels normal again.

Other than to make sure we have a copious supply of legal drugs in the house, armed and ready to use……………THAT I can handle. No problem.

Too Much is Just Enough: Legal Drugs for Legal Uses

How’s your bedside manner, Dear Reader? Maybe MTM will want to trade me for one of you………

Can I Bottle That Essence?

Right this minute, I wish I had Robin Shuler’s laugh in a bottle, one of those old glass perfume containers with the heavy stopper that scrapes against the lip to let a tease of the sound of her escape into the air. The electricity of her laugh makes me happy, whatever my mood, be it jovial or close to tears.

I wish I laughed with her kind of abandon. When she laughs, everyone knows it. The sound explodes from her in deep, heaving waves of mirth and merriment. No one can sit anywhere near her and not surf the waves of her laughter, too. She draws everyone in, scoops them up and carries them right along with her, uplifting what may be several sad souls in the room.

Being with her means trying not to get so caught up in her laughter that I forget to remember the sound, the uninhibited expression of it, the gutsy musical quality, delivered through an enraptured face and operatic mouth. I try to memorize these details, because I need them. Sometimes, recalling one of these demonstrations of her pleasure is the only thing that keeps me from crying in a day full of set-backs and frustrations, times when I have to keep a brave face when I want to crumble.

That’s when I open my mind and hear Robin laughing. It’s the closest thing I have to my little glass bottle. She laughs at things that were funny at the time, that I can’t remember now, that really don’t matter anymore.

All that matters is that she laughs. Whatever my disposition, I can’t help but laugh along with her, an elixir of gaiety to uplift any troubled day.

Too Much is Just Enough: Laughter

I Ate a Football. It Was Gluten Free.

One of the biggest things I miss about trying to live gluten-free is bread. White, hot, airy, delicious bread. It is my biggest cheat, the thing I sneak and eat, or stuff down my brazen gullet, with shocking regularity.

A little doesn’t bother me. But, last weekend, I had a bread orgy. I started eating it, and I could not stop. I had burgers. I scarfed panzanella, that gorgeous salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and bread, bread, bread. I ate pastry. And more pastry. And still MORE pastry.

Dear Reader, I paid for it. I will spare you the details.

My friend and guide son’s mother Kristen loaned me her Gluten-Free Girl book. I brought it home and scanned its pages, hoping to find reasonable facsimiles of things I used to eat. And, voila! There it was. In all its glory, the good Gluten-Free Girl had her very own recipe for Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread, a bread I adore so much I bought MTM the cookbook last year.

If anyone wants that blasted bread cookbook/instrument of torture, please let me know. But, I digress.

Forty dollars later, I had all the ingredients to make my own version of the gluten-free no-knead bread. Packets of potato starch and tapioca flour and a host of other powdery substances I never encountered were arranged across my counter. This girl who doesn’t bother to read instructions labored over ever syllable of every word for hours to get her little loaf of promised heaven to come out perfectly. I hovered over the oven like it was incubating the next Messiah. The house smelled like a delectable bakery. My mouth started a fit of out-of-control drooling. I could not wait to slather my bread with some salted butter and eat it scalding hot.

Hours later, I finally pulled out the cast iron Dutch oven, removed the lid, and – shazam! – I created a football. My glorious vision of no-knead bread was a dense, cakey, crumbly mess. If I had given into the urge to spike the thing in frustration, it probably would’ve made a crater in the floor.

Never fear, Dear Reader. My fall-back position will be to do what I should’ve done in the first place…….let MTM make the gosh-darn gluten-free bread for me.

Too Much is Never Enough: Bread

See How It Burns

It took an arsonist to unleash my memory of fire. Collecting charred bits of black from the driveway and brushing them from the porch was routine for me for a couple of weeks earlier this month, pieces of a house near me that was torched by a person who likes to see things burn, enjoys deciding when they will glow to become an inferno. At first, I didn’t realize that I was sweeping away blackened wisps of memory. It took me a couple of days to connect the dots between the neighborhood fire and the flaky detritus that was everywhere.

Memory can be like fire. Sometimes, it burns out of control and consumes us in the present before it switches to a merry glowing flame. Memory is the spark of creativity, when I remember to take notes. It can smolder untended for years before the right stimulants cause it to rage across the landscape of the brain, unbound once again.

I remembered my own brush with flame.

It was late when the pounding on the front door awoke me. Maybe I was seven or eight. My parents answered to find our next door neighbor, frantic and screaming. She washed her son’s tennis shoes, but when he said he needed them for school the next day, she put them in the dryer. Like our own ranch-style house, the dryer lived in an outdoor storage room off the carport, a room that also housed the breaker box for the electrical system.

When the rubber in the shoes caused the lint to back up in the tumbling dryer, it caused the dryer to shoot sparks, little bolts of lightning that had already started a small fire. We could hear the buzzing electrical sounds and see the firework-like show through a window. In slow motion, we noted both cars right under that window. My Dad and my neighbor moved them just as an explosion rocked the darkness of the night. Flames shot from the window, sending glass and wood shooting out into the driveway. In an instant, the fire transformed itself from interesting electrical anomaly to an all-consuming monster, with our house next in its path.

We were evacuated to a house down the street. I spent the long night wondering what I would miss, what I wished I’d taken with me in the seconds I had to make up my mind before I left my warm bed. Would my scrapbook still be intact? How would I find my diary? In one piece or ashy black chunk of unrecognition that used to mean something? Faced with losing my touchstones, I vowed to try to remember, to train my puny brain to recall as much about my life as it could. I used the fire to kindle the fires of my memory, and, for the most part, it has been an eternal flame.

Our house survived. The neighbors rebuilt. But, the fire that started that night still burns.

Within me.

 Too Much is Just Enough: Feeding the Flame of Memory

 

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