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Friday, April 23, 2010

Bon Appetit!

I have decided I'm going to make Floating Island this week-end. I have no idea why, except that "Julie and Julia" has been on cable for the last two weeks and meringue with praline floating in a sea of crème anglaise sounds WAY better than stuffing entrails into a duck. I have never really understood French cooking anyway. Who in their right mind would finish weeding their garden, brush the dirt off their hands and think "Hmmmm, maybe I'll just EAT the snails. If I pour enough wine, butter and garlic over them it'll probably kill the taste. And I doubt that a little Snairol will hurt anyone." Of course, they thought this in French, which made it all sound a great deal more elegant.

Don't get me wrong, I've eaten escargot. More than once and by choice. If it weren't for the snail it would be quite tasty, and it's served to the most discriminating of diners on lovely specialized plates with these strange spring loaded tong things. Remember the dinner in "Pretty Woman"? Yeah, like those. I guess the Frenchman who decided to see what would happen if he ate some of those puppies was also an inventor. Or had a bunch of scrap metal he was just dying to use.

My husband LOVES escargot. I find it okay. If it's served I eat it. If it's on the menu, I opt for the pate. People then invariably take it upon themselves to tell me that I shouldn't be afraid of snails, I should try one, they're really quite delicious. This indicates to me that they KNOW snails don't fall into any known food group, they spring to their defense before they've even been maligned. The snails, not the diners.

These same people will then taste my pate (and no, I don't eat foie gras on principle, I DO think that's animal cruelty) and pronounce it a little slice of heaven. Want to see something really funny? Take those same people to Canter's one night and watch the looks on their faces when I scarf down a liverwurst on rye with deli mustard. Preferably with a bottle of Löwenbräu.

So anyway, the hubster and I were married 25 years ago last Tuesday. As usual, we each waited for the other to mention this momentous occasion. I think something like this should be celebrated with a large party, preferably with gifts involved. The hubster thinks it's an occasion for hazard pay. I suppose there's something to be said for both of these ideas. So we did what we always do. We each waiting for the other one to say something and ended up saying nothing. I should be used to this by now. There WAS mention of the bottle of Famous Gate that's been waiting for a special occasion but then the hubster went down for his regularly scheduled blood donation and forgot to eat. So, by 8pm he was in bed asleep, my sons and I celebrated with a quart of Dryer's Cookies and Cream and Kate Gosslin getting booted from Dancing With the Stars.

I'm getting used to it. I guess.

But I'm still going to try the Floating Island, in honor of the now past event. The one in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". Making my own pralines seems to be involved but what the hell. It sounds like more fun than doing the laundry.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I owe my soul to the company store...

Anyone out there find themselves trying not to cry when they sit down at their desks in the morning? Just wondered. What I really love about this phenomenon is that your boss either doesn't notice the extent of your stress, figures whatever it is it has nothing to do with your job and you're just a menopausal bitch who should have retired six years ago anyway or that you're just an old, fat, uneducated and untalented woman who should be grateful they allow you in the building every morning and he's wondering how long you're going to annoy him by showing up so he can find an empty headed 18 year old bimbo to push around?

Well, I've been thinking about this. I have decided that I'm in the wrong line of work. When someone finally notices I have a soul and I can actually do something I'm good at, I need to be prepared.

There was an employee survey went around recently and we all received emails telling us that the results were in and boy howdy, were they ever awesome! 60% of the people who work here filled out their survey. SIXTY PERCENT of us GAVE THEM FEEDBACK! Is that awesome, or what?

And of those 60%, we all just LOVED it here! Because it was pointed out that the 60% of people here rated it more highly than the other people who work for other other companies who deal in the same product. There was some dissatisfaction regarding advancement opportunities, supervisor feedback, communication and streamlining but that's to be expected and proves that we're vibrant, interested and wholly satisfied with our life here.

So, let's see, that means FORTY percent, or somewhere in the vicinity of half of the people who work here didn't give a damn, right? No, we don't mention the infidels.

So I came to a decision. I want to be a spin doctor. How hard can it be? I mean, I can translate all of this information now so I know what it actually DID say, I think it would be loads of fun to read this stuff and come up with the crap they put out.

Let's see. Sixty percent filled out the survey over HALF OF US! YAY US! This is not mentioning the ALMOST half of us were either so disgusted or so uninvolved we didn't bother to fill the damn thing out or mail it back.

Of those who did send it back, there was a higher level of satisfaction here than there was among other companies in the same business, therefore, we ROCK. Translation? Of the people who filled out the survey the general consensus was "this place sucks, but at least we're not working for NBC".

Now, for the slightly trending dissatisfaction. No one thinks their boss listens to them or knows their name. They haven't been able to get ahead in all the years they've been there. And now we're too old because every damn job that opens up goes to some recent college grad who thinks it's really exciting to be here and is still at home in his or her old bedroom so they don't need a living wage. (Besides, there's a recession on, haven't you heard? You guys aren't going anywhere right now anyway, so that part isn't the company's fault). And it doesn't matter WHAT great idea you come up with your boss will "take it under consideration" and then present it to management as his own, while telling you it's not a feasible option.

Streamlining? DUDE! Mass layoffs. Which we found out about by opening up our Sunday newspapers one morning to be greeted with a three page article on it.The next day we all opened up our company newsletter via email to read about the Bazillion dollar year they had just posted. Guys? Do you really think we can't READ?

And, after the second bajillion dollar year, yep, well, you know, the economy sucks, doesn't it? So we're "streamlining". Again. And, after all, we're all so HAPPY!
Says so.

Right here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"...Everything is a pretext for a good dinner"

So I spent a day last week-end at a "Celebration of Life". My 92 year old uncle, he of the Mexican adventure, died, I would like to say peacefully but I actually have no idea, my cousin (his daughter) is a world class twit and neglected to tell anybody much of anything, for all I know he died fighting an oil rig fire.

I got the call about 10:30 a week ago, from my father. My cousin, the twit, had called him to tell him her dad had died and oh, boo hoo, she'd been trying to get a hold of me all afternoon but I wasn't answering my cell, or my house, or my office phones. No, I wasn't home that night, we scored tickets to Jimmy Kimmel that night, free yes, however the show ended with a live 30 minute set by "Them Crooked Vultures" and we got home about 10 minutes to 10. There were no calls before I left the office, and no calls on my cell. There were no calls on the house phone. Par for the course.

Okay, the funeral will be on Friday, at a place called Sunny Pastures or Golden Dreams or something. 5pm. That was ALL the information available to us. I'm thinking it's a cemetery and I'm gonna have to Google it. My father didn't know where it was either but we both wanted to finish "Castle" and go to bed. And so we did.

The next morning there was a message on my office phone, a cheereful "call me when you have a minute" that was left at 8:30 at night. I am NOT that dedicated. So, 'natch, I called her. Full of sympathy and understanding. What did she need or want me to do, she's out of town and, according to her, has the flu.

"Nothing. Everything's being handled. There will be a private service for family on Saturday so I wanted you and your father to know you need to come Friday."

Now my cousin and I don't exactly get along. We haven't since the gypsies left her on my aunt and uncle's doorstep, after finding out they couldn't sell that brat.

However, as funerals are a naturally stressful time, I decided to keep my mouth shut and not remind my cousin that, as she was brought home from the orphanage, I'm probably more closely related to her father that SHE is and said "yeah, fine, see you Friday" and hung up. I do NOT want to start anything now.

I remembered that "Shady Futures" was the retirement community my uncle lived in. I'd been there on visits and, except for steaming that my cousin chose to have the service smack in the middle of get-away day drive time, I pressed my suit, ordered my flowers and shut the hell up.

My uncle was an engineer. A flight engineeer, a legendary flight engineer. He knew Billy Mitchell and Eddie Rickenbacker and Howard Hughes. So I spent a fair amount of time tracking down a die cast model of one of "his" planes and then found a florist who charged me an arm and a leg but designed an amazing floral piece around the plane and then got myself in a lather because I was going to have to carry my flowers and fully expected my cousin to give me grief over that. I could hear it: "I said no flowers" "why did you bring THOSE?" or "oh great, I'll just go put them in my car".

After slogging through a two hour trip Friday afternoon and wandering around the retirement village for 15 minutes we finally found the social hall that was the site of the afternoon's festivities. My cousin had neglected to tell anyone where they were supposed to go and this is one of those places that's more like a little town. A security guard in a golf cart led us around the streets and got us parked in the right vicinity after stopping at two other community rooms, apprently she hadn't even told SECURITY where she had booked this thing.

We walked into a hall, set up with balloons and round tables. There was a table by the door where people were leaving pictures and cards and such, I placed the flowers there. They were the only flowers in the room. There weren't many people there yet, most of them still being stuck on the I-5. My cousin wasn't there. There was coffee and punch though. At the scheduled 5pm start she was just leaving her hotel. At Disneyland. a 20 minute drive away at 3am on a Tuesday. They were, however, staying at a "local" place called the Embassy Suites and had NO idea that there was more than one of them, how were they to know when they made the reservations that Disneyland wasn't even remotely close to "Running Streams"?

The room was set up for WAY more people than actually showed up. We sat around and drank coffee and punch and inhaled a cheese platter someone went to the dining room and appropriated.

My cousin showed up an hour late, appropriately dressed in black jeans, a black shirt jacket over a black sequined tank. She carried an armload of framed pictures which she studiously placed on the table by the door, every single picture square in front of a tribute brought by another person. She then took the mike from my uncle's biological daughter (from his first marriage) and announced we were all going to tell stories. Well, SHE and her husband were going to tell stories while her daughter let her three young children run around the room untying balloons. Someone would eventually get the mike, tell a story and she would then take it back and announce "oh, and another thing..." After 90 minutes of her stories and a few told by well meaning engineer friends who probably found each other's tales of cockpit adjustments hilarious there was a short break and my cousin plunked her bony ass at our table.

"Gee, I thought there would be more people here. I really expected to see Aunt Matilda, she should have come." Well, fortified by the pop top can of rose that had been distributed for the toast I look her square in her uneven brown eyes and said "did you call her?"


Seems she had the "flu" and only got through the letter D in the address book. "Um, Aunt Matilda's last name begins with a "C".

So, here we are, celebrating a life of someone who had enough friends to fill the L.A. Memorial Coliseum but only those who's last names started with the first FOUR letters of the alphabet were in attendance. "Who did you ask to take over the calls, I think they dropped the ball" I said, sympathetically. "Oh no one. I think this is a nice group, don't you?" See, I figured that she didn't make the calls because she was busy doing other things. Like arranging flowers and food. But, in her own, inimitable way, every single offer of help wasn't politely declined, it was pretty much thrown in the garbage. Now, fwiw, I don't like the twit, but I HAVE, unfortunately, buried a parent. So had many of us. Been there, done that, sold the t-shirt. There are things that need to be done. You know, like calling the people in the deceased's address book, letters E-Z. Telling them the actual address of the Leaping Lizard Retirement Community. Telling the people who work AT Leaping Lizard where to direct people stopping at the gate. Stopping by the Albertson's Market next door and picking up a deli tray. Calling a freaking FLORIST.

"I didn't know I should have food here" she said. JEEZ, was it dark in the CAVE? Now maybe it's not right, but food=funeral. It just does. How the HELL you get to be 53 and not know that? She sure as ate after my mother's funeral. OF course, I actually CALLED her and told her my mother had died. And her last name at the time begans with an "M" so I didn't even HAVE to. But then, we had a funeral, not a punch and cookies wake. If you're going to have a wake, you need booze, not wine in pop top cans. And, while I'm at it, you cheap twit, if you wanted to pinch every one of the CONSIDERABLE pennies your father left you, and I DO mean CONSIDERABLE, you could have at least popped for some cheap champagne for the toast to his remarkable life, for gawd's sake, Trader Joe's has an EXTREMELY servicable Proseco for under seven bucks a bottle and there's a 10% discount on six or more bottles. THAT ROSE WAS CRAP! My husband's on freaking UNEMPLOYMENT and I would have brought better booze than she did. Oh yeah, that's right, she didn't NEED anyone else's help.

Well, we trooped out to the lawn and let the balloons go at sunset and piled in our cars headed for the local coffee shop. And sat quite comfortably in our suits and ties and dress shoes among the local car enthusiasts (because it was classic car night) and discussed what a horse's ass my cousin is. And then we discussed with glee many other times she had acted like a horses's ass.

All in all, it wrapped up nicely. But I still don't quite understand what's so wrong with a plain, old fashioned funeral? It's the only time I get good potato salad.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I don't think this one is getting a Clio...

I've been watching the infomercials again. Why I do this, I have NO clue. I'm sure that, on my deathbed (which won't be a bed but a desk chair, I imagine) I'll wish I had those four days back. But for now, they amuse the hell out of me.

I can't even imagine how much time I've spent watching the blond lady and that other guy making coq au vin in a Magic Bullet and a 500 watt microwave.

Since I switched from cable to satellite I get a WAY better channel guide and now I can actually SEE what infomercials are coming up. Well, I was hella bored the other night and looking for that bouncy rain stick thing that's supposed to turn your upper arms into a Vin Diesel wannabe. It seems to have disappeared. Damn! You don't suppose someone actually complained it didn't WORK?

Well, I found an exercise equipment sort of program listed at, I dunno, about 3am, and I lept for the remote. It's better than the rain stick. Seriously better. It's the "FLIRTY GIRL" exercise program. This program, complete with DVD instructions, is going to make exercise FUN! Because it has WAY cool music with a throbbing baseline. And you get to unleash your inner flirt.

Because, as we all know, we all need lessons in flirting, no one knows how to do it naturally. Can you see my eyes rolling? But then, I watched the whole half hour. Well, okay,it's actually the whole 7 minutes, they just repeat it four times. I've been going about flirting ALL WRONG. The knowing glances, the teasing comments, the sort of "will I or won't I?" attitude? I wonder how I got a husband because that's NOT flirting.

Well, back to flirty girls exercise. Being "flirty" involves moves my cat can't make. One stretches and shakes at a dangerously high rate of speed. Unlike, say, Richard Simmons videos, which usually show a lot of happy women of various shapes and sizes sweatin' to Eddie and the Cruisers, the flirty girls are all about a size -4. They have to be. One of the basic laws of physics is "An object in motion tends to remain in motion, an object at rest tends to remain at rest." Well, my ass has remained at rest for quite some time now. Although it didn't QUITE remain at rest, it grew, so I'm not sure how true the second half of that law is. However, it doesn't take Einstein to figure out that the first part is absolutely true, and if I ever got that thing moving like the "flirty girls" do it probably wouldn't stop for a week. Not to mention the damage it would cause to my lower back.

But...that's just the start of the flirting. After your rump stops shaking, you move on to the undulations. And only THEN to you get to use the equipment. But it's okay, you don't HAVE to buy it. It's not really specialized or anything, you can use something you have right there in your home.

A chair.

Yes, you too can learn the "flirty chair dance". Do I REALLY need to describe this dance? No, I didn't think so. Actually, you can't buy the chair, you do need to use your own. However, if you really want to, you CAN purchase the "flirty pole". And THIS will strengthen your upper arms and give you six pack abs. It will also give you a hernia and, quite possibly, an STD.

I'm thinking of starting a class action suit against the "Flirty Girl" program. I think I may have injured myself when I fell out of bed laughing. This brought on a severe case of hyperventilation. As it was 3am I tripped over the cat in the darkened living room as I staggered to the kitchen in search of a bag to breathe into and now the people who live underneath me think there was earthquake damage to their ceiling which was actually caused by my thudding to the floor.

However, I thought of a way to save yourself some cash if the idea of channeling your inner slut peaks your interest.

Add "Showgirls" to your Netflix queue. Seriously. Every time Elizabeth Berkley takes off her shirt just follow her moves. And, for a fraction of the cost, you too, can soon be a "Flirty Girl".

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mr. Edison, I may not need you after all.

There is a road up to the foothills that surround the place I live. That road curves gently up, up to a small city park where a stage and shell turn a small, natural amphitheater into a bowl seating about 2000 people. This bowl is active during the summer. Concerts, fireworks on the 4th of July, the local high school graduation all take place here, in the open, under skies no longer as starry as they were before civilization and it's accompanying electricity washed out the inky blackness of the night and the stars and planets and occasional comet became dim place holders to the naked eye, some of them fading out all together.

I am reminded of this every time the tectonic plates defining the Ring of Fire, the place on the planet where I make my home, decide to settle in for a few more decades. The current shifting and settling of Mother Earth has me wary, and remembering other quakes, for, as a native Southern Californian, I've been through one or two. Or five. Those would be the big ones, btw, anything over 6 points.

Not quite 20 years ago, in the wee, small hours, during an unseasonably oppressive and hot January night, the Pacific Coast decided to yawn, stretch, and turn over it's pillow until it found a more comfortable position. Those of us occupying ground zero were, apparently, in her way. We were picked up and tossed like sacks of feathers, landing in heaps and in hallways.

Midway through this thrill ride you can count on the power going out. So there you are, barefoot, ankle deep in the shards of glass that used to be the contents of your dish cupboard and you can't see your hand in front of your face. You brace yourself and hang on to your ass. And, if you've done this before, when the shaking stops you stay put. Because the first aftershock will hit in about 15 seconds. When that one is done, you move.

So, way back when, there I was, braced in the hallway, yelling above the roar of the earth and the house and the items breaking as they hit the floor so my toddlers could hear me, "It's an earthquake. It will stop." And then, silence. Blessed silence.

Gradually adjusting to the dark, you pick your way through the mess, find some shoes and clothes and, if your lucky, the flashlight. And you big was it? WHERE was it? Well, okay. It's 4:30 in the morning and it's already hot. If you have an earthquake kit, you can't find it, because it's dark and it's somewhere under the potatoes and canned goods that just rattled out of your pantry. Such was our position in those pre dawn hours. The dining room, however, was arranged in such a way that it moved with the quake instead of against it. There was my purse, and the car keys, still on the table. The car had gas. And the car had a radio. Out the door trooped my little band of merry men. And stopped dead in our tracks.

Every few seconds there was a small burst of light as a transformer blew up. Towards the west was a faint, orange glow, which, it turned out, was NOT the sun (yeah, I know, it rises in the east but we'd just been through a major earthquake, cut me some slack) but the fires in the northwest, started by broken gas lines. But there, above us, around us, everywhere, the sky was white, every star in our solar system in our half of the earth's sky was blazing, not the yellow, candle like twinkle here and there we saw night after night but a white hot mass of light. It was the sky my grandmother saw as a girl, the sky sailors on night watch see from the middle of the ocean.

The news crews descended on us from the east. And, after the news was disseminated and the facts were sorted out they made their way over to the area west of us, the area hardest hit. And they took their cameras down streets where people were living in tents on their front lawns, in their trailers and motor homes as their homes weren't yet safe to occupy. They had emptied the food out of their powerless refrigerators and dragged the grills out from the back. During the day they drove into less damaged areas looking for ice and fresh milk. They started cleaning up their homes and property. They talked to their neighbors. And as the sun set, they barbecued the thawing chickens and roasts and they got their lawn chairs out and listened to battery powered radios. And they watched the stars.

Back to the bowl. On that lazy curve leading to the aforementioned bowl there is a wide spot with room to park without blocking the street. It faces due west. And during the times of the year when people aren't using the bowl you will find, in the late, late afternoon, a small gathering of cars. The drivers (and passengers if any) get out and lean against their cars and wait for the sunset. And when the last streaks of orange and pink fade into the indigo of twilight they get in their cars and go on about their daily business. The occasional young man on a motorcycle wearing gang colors, businesswomen, day laborers, a high school kid or two, the audience changes. But for those 10 minutes there are no boundaries, no class distinctions, seldom anything more than a smile exchanged and they're off.

Progress, I fear, isn't always everything it's cracked up to be.