Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Look Before You Leap, And Then Look Again


Lately I've been going to my parent's farm on the weekends to help them landscape and build-up their land as it transitions from fallow farm into vivacious vineyard. (insert cheeky emoticon here) And I enjoy spending my time designing the landscape and getting to know my parents as an adult. They're really fun people.

Sometimes I bring Jon along for the ride.

Jon grew up in rural Michigan but as he likes to remind me: "I did not grow up on a farm, I grew up on farm land." I, however, did grow up on a farm, though was never much of a farm boy. But farm boy or not, I am well versed in the ways of farm life. You don't need permission to do things that you might in an urban setting. You want to chop down or plant a tree, do it. You need to build a shed or barn, build it. That horse has a bum leg, shoot it. There's going to be dirt, bugs, an occasional slaughtering of a pig, you burn your garbage and you make, build and fix most everything yourself whether or not you know how.

That is true of my family's farm plus the added bonus of my parents' lack of regulation and/or cleanliness. Don't misread that--my parents are amazing, ambitious and have good intentions. Plus, they've got a great sense of humor which gets them to the end of each day filled with life. I fully recognize that keeping things tidy and in safe working order on a farm is an uphill battle. However, it's a battle they occasionally lose.

Examples from this weekend:

Example 1: The Shard

My dad likes to cook, though I have never known him to follow a known recipe. Sometimes he gets it right. Sometimes he get it wrong. And sometimes you eat glass.

Jon is always afraid to eat at my parents' house because, I believe, he cannot identify most of the dishes he's eating. But he's a good sport about it or pretends to be. This weekend the two of us were having dinner with my parents after a day of work. My dad served steamed broccoli, green beans with bacon, iceberg lettuce with tomatoes and green onions and braised beef with garlic. As Jon scooped up some strips of beef he paused, "What's this?" he said pulling a sizable shard of a broken ceramic bowl from the food.

My mom examined the jagged ceramic sliver inquisitively for a moment. Then, "JESS! You've got glass in the food. Geez!"

My dad looked at Jon, "You found the prize!"

"This was in his food, Jess," my mom said holding up the prize.

My dad offered a solution:"Well, just take it out then."

I shot Jon my "I'm so sorry but please laugh" glance and we were back to eating without anymore real protest. A moment later I stopped eating. I found another, smaller chip of the broken bowl on my beef. I shouted, "Stop eating! Everyone examine their plates. There's still pieces of broken bowl in this food."

My dad chirped, "Well I thought I got it all out."

"Why is it in there to begin with?" my mom asked.

My dad shot back, "I broke a bowl. The food's fine. Just pick it out."

My mother shook her head and chuckled. We all went back to eating. Jon picked through his food and because no one had discovered a rat turd or a tip of a finger in the broccoli, he cautiously ate that instead.

Example 2: Curdle Me This

Breakfast options at my parents' home is often left over food from the night before, which Jon and I were not going to eat (see above Example 1), stale cereal, which often contain weevils, or scrambled eggs with unfrozen lunch meat. I was trying to appeal to Jon and save him from further food shock. I offered to make him an omelet with unfrozen lunch meat and tomatoes I found from the garden myself. Jon was willing to get back on the horse, knowing I wouldn't steer him wrong.

"Okay Jon, to drink we have milk, water or peach Crystal Lite," I said listing off some of the options from the fridge.

"Milk."

I pulled out the milk and examined the expiration date. We were safe. There was still a week until the milk turned to cheese or worse. I poured Jon a tumbler of milk, gave him his omelet and turned to prep my own breakfast.

"BBBBBBBBBBBBBLLLLLLLLLLLaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaHHHHHHHHHH!" Jon screeched after taking a swig of milk and then slamming the glass on the counter. "That's not right!!"

I picked up his glass and didn't have to look too close to see the thick, curdled globs of milk sliding down the inside of the glass. "Oh, my God! I'm so sorry, I checked the expiration date."

"Well, it's expired."

"I'm so sorry," I said laughing.

"That is my worst food phobia."

"Did you drink it? I mean, swallow it?"

Jon dropped his chin and said flatly, "Yes."

I told my mom about it which made her squeal with laughter. "Poor Jon," she kept saying. Jon, I think, thought this was all funny, though not until much later in the day.

Example 3: Port-O-Let-Me-Be

Jon and I were at my parents' house this weekend partly because they were having a bluegrass band perform in their new event center, which, for now, is a concrete slab with a 40'x70' vinyl tent over it. It looks good. Really. And there's a courtyard area that we've been working feverishly on over the past few months that also looks good. Really. Really, really.

Okay, so the bluegrass band was performing and my parents opened up their tasting room and invited a bunch of people out for an afternoon of "music at the winery" and Jon and I were there to help set up. The day before the festivities were to take place, seeing the stress on my mom's face, I checked in with her to help streamline the points of the day.

"Mom, can you just run down the flow of the afternoon so I can get a sense of what's going on."

She ran down her list, "Well, let's see. We've got 200 chairs, and 25 tables and..." she went on.

"And how many people are you expecting, again?"

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe 200-500 people."

"Oh, okay. How many port-o-potties do you have?"

She looked at me. "Oh, none. We've got that toilet in the shop though." The toilet in the shop, BTW, is a toilet in a shop. Full stop. And in terms of cleanliness, it's not a far throw from a rest stop toilet off some under-traveled interstate with no funding for upkeep.

"Mom, 500 people plus 1 toilet equals a mess. Please arrange for there to be portable toilets. I'd say five would be great but no less than two."

After some phone calls, she made it so. But the people that delivered the toilets parked them in the sun. Aaaannnnd, they were partially full.

Later I went to my mom. "Okay Mom, now you've got toilets but you've got them directly in the sun. It's going to be 105 degrees today."

"Oh, it will be fine."

Thankfully it was 105 degrees and people didn't have to pee. They were sweating it all out. Had it been 90, or even 95 degrees, people might have been privy to the shit ghost coming off the tepid sewage, hot-boxing in the sun.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Des Moines is French for "The Moines"

Jon and I were in Des Moines, Iowa for a long weekend to celebrate his cousin's wedding. Because I love Jon and I love the mid-Western lifestyle even more, I had zero qualms about going along. I did, however, fully expect to meet a bevy of backwards-thinking fatties sporting rude fashions. Not the case. The city was extremely clean, easy to navigate and had some stunning architecture. If it weren't for the humidity, I would live there.

Day 1:
Jon and I arrived to Des Moines (DM), checked into our hotel and hit the scene--the mall scene. First, we went to a mall near our hotel to look for a wedding gift and saw that the place was dead. Chris Rock once made a joke about malls saying something like, "There are two kinds of malls. Malls where white people shop and malls where white people used to shop." That would have been true of this mall if Iowa were not so Anglo--in which case that joke might have read, "There are two kinds of malls. Malls where white people shop and malls where more white people shop."

At any rate, we headed over to the new mega mall, Jordan Creek, just outside DM, which I thought is both a decent name for a mall and a tween's baby. We had dinner at a chain restaurant, grabbed an Orange Julius and went to see The Hangover. I loved Zach Galifianakis.

Then we found the Kum & Go gas station:

Day 2:
Jon and I slept in, watched some HGTV and took advantage of the complementary continental breakfast in the lobby of our hotel. But the breakfast wasn't good and I couldn't help but wonder, what's "continental" about oatmeal and coffee? In my house we call that, time to go to the store.
Later in the day we explored the downtown area of Des Moines, shopped and toured the capital building.

Looking up at the inside of dome in capital building.

Old staircase.

Foyer with Iowa and US flag.
Library with iron staircase.

That night we met Jon's lovely family at the rehearsal dinner at West End Salvage, which was located in a old brick building near an abandoned jail and retailed found and salvaged architectural elements, like turn-of-the-century church doors and stained-glass windows. It was by far one of the most amazing stores I've been to and because of all the distracting odds and ends for sale, it was a perfect location for what are sometimes awkward family gatherings. "So, you're also from Des Moines. That's great. Really, really just. A. Great. Thing. And. Uh, what else, what else...aren't these pressed-tin tables just the tops?"

Day 3:
Oye! Jon and I slept in and were a little hung over from the night before. Iowans know how to drink. Once we pulled ourselves together we grabbed brunch at a local hole-in-the-wall diner that boasted having the best hash browns in the world. They were good but were really just hash browns with cheese melted on them. Eh. They did have, though I didn't try it, a sausage rolled in a pancake, smothered in butter and topped with maple syrup--I guess that was an Iowa version of chicken and waffles.

Later we drove around and looked at real estate/open houses. There are two areas in Des Moines where you live if you have money; the Sogs or the Nobs (I think). The homes in these areas are considered "old money" and are serious manors. We saw one that was a 3-story, 6 bedrooms-5 bath with servant quarters (which is another house in itself) on 2 acres of land asking $459,000. If you live in the Bay Area, that might amuse you.

When we were done looking at homes we headed over to the massive Farmer's Market in the Court District which is just an area of parks and old factories-turn-condos (also cheap--under $150,000 for 1200 sq ft). We killed time by strolling around, going to the science museum (where I learned there are 5.3 pigs to every Iowan in the state) and then headed back to our hotel for a nap. The wedding was in a few hours, we needed to recharge our batteries.

I don't have much to say about the wedding other than it was simple and charming. The bride and groom added a Quaker element to their ceremony by asking their family and friends to stand up and speak about various aspects of a marriage (love, honor, humor, etc.). Jon had to speak about responsibility and though he was scribbling his thoughts on hotel stationary as we sped to the art gallery where the wedding took place, he was very thoughtful and eloquent in his speech.

Once the wedding was over we headed over the Art Center for the reception. The bride and groom had rented a photo booth for guests to take pictures--which I've seen at several weddings but still love. We had a wine reception in the sculpture garden of the gallery overlooking a reflecting pool. Dinner was baked salmon with roasted asparagus and garlic potatoes. Dessert was cupcakes (!!) which made me happy. Then I drunkenly explained to a lady who had obnoxious cleavage that, "I love cupcakes so much more than cakes. Cakes are nice to decorate and all but then you have to cut into them, serve them, the pieces are often uneven, someone wants or doesn't want the corner piece, etc. Too much to think about. Cupcakes are individual, pre-portioned and often simple and always perfect treats. No fuss. Perfect. Just perfect!"

"Aren't these pressed-tin tables just the tops?" she replied (but not really).

After the reception, Jon and I headed to Blazing Saddles, the gay bar in town to check out the scene. It didn't take long to check out. We left after 15 minutes.


Day 4:
We did more site seeing today, including the botanical gardens, which were not all that impressive. Then we shopped, ate, shopped and napped, in that order. That evening I talked Jon into seeing Drag Me To Hell, which I found funny and scary. You should go. Now.

Before the movie we had about an hour to kill and were no where near anything with which to kill that hour. So we ate. We found this restaurant called Carlos O'Kelly's, which I was sure would be an amazing shithole. It was, kinda. The restaurant itself looked like a repurposed IHOP with sombrero stapled to the walls. It was not, however, a Mexican-Irish infusion as I had previously hoped.

THEN, in came this older, trashy couple; the man looked liked he's been riding a Harley for most of his life and drinking and smoking even longer, his wife looked ashen and had stringy hair and their hyper, buck-toothed, 12 year old boy reminded me of this Chris Farley character (at the 1:50 minute mark).

Actually, there was some debate among Jon and I as to whether this boy was their son and they'd had him at the prime age of 47 or if it was perhaps their daughter's kid and she dumped him on them so she could concentrate on her heroin addiction. Whatever the case, this boy was jumping all over Carlos O'Kelly's and the older couple didn't do a thing about it. In fact, we couldn't see any sign of protest on their part as this kid squirmed all over the seats, crawled across the table and banged his silverware on the table. Then came this interaction with their waitress, whose face read pure hatred of her job:

Rachelle: (walking up to greet table) Hello, can I--

Boy: (totally interrupting and yelling loudly while he wiggles around) YES! I already know what I want. I WANT A CHERRY PEPSI and (pointing finger in his dad/grandfather's face) he'll have a margarita and (pointing to finger in his mom/grandmother's face) she'll have a margarita too! And to eat I'll have (standing up on his seat) a pizza with Jello!

Rachelle: (trying to be polite) Okay, well let's ask them what they would like. (leaning in toward man) What would you like to drink, Sir?

Boy: I told you. I. Want. Cherry. Pepsi. Margarita. Margarita.

Rachelle: Okay, I'll get you a cheery Pepsi. (trying again) And for you, Sir? What can I go ahead and get for you today?

Boy: He wants a margarita and she wants a margarita.

Rachelle: Well, let me ask them what they want. You seem to know, but do they know?

Man: (inaudibly mumbling) ....

Rachelle: Okay, a beer. And for you ma'am?

Woman: (inaudibly mumbling) ....

Rachelle: And a margarita for you, then.

Boy: See, I told you! Margarita, margarita!

Rachelle: Yes, you were right for her but not for him. (trying hard to smile) But thank you for all your help.

Boy: (squirming wildly in his seat) Oh, and did you get that I want pizza with Jello!

Rachelle: Well, is everyone ready to order or can I go ahead and just get those drinks for you?

Man: (inaudibly mumbling) ....

Rachelle: Okay, I'll give you a few minutes and I'll go ahead and get those drinks right out for you.

Boy: Don't forget my Cherry Pepsi and pizza with Jello!

Rachelle: (grinding teeth) I won't.

BLACKOUT

They actually did have pizza with Jello on the kid menu.
__________


Here's a random picture of my Mom in Alaska last summer.
__________

I just love this video and love to hate the people in it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

And Now, A Word From Our Sponsors

Don't loose your dignity.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Really, I Had No Idea

Phil Spector's latest mug shot came out today and seeing it made me repel from my computer screeching, "He's bald!?" I had no idea. Really. I'm rusty--I used to pride myself of spotting a rug and think I was thrown for a loop because of the insanity of his changing looks. Let's go on a tour:
"The Clay"

"The Italian Crypt Keeper"

"The Gay English Director"
" The Poppy"

"The Drain Clot"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rip Taylor

This weekend Jon and I were eating at Lulu's on Folsom and I almost had a heart attack!!--I thought I saw RIP TAYLOR! Here's a picture I took over Jon's shoulder with my phone:

I can't imagine being star-struck by too many celebrities but here's a short list of people who would put sparkles in my eyes:

1. Grace Jones
2. Phranc
3. Susan Powder (I actually did meet her on my 30th birthday. She's crazy.)
4. Tommy Wiseau
5. Bryan Scott (Voice over star of 80's cartoon Kidd Video.)
6. Prince
7. Amy Sedaris
8. David Sedaris
9. Jackée Harry
10. Elizabeth Berkeley


Here's a cat that looks like Rip Taylor. (above)
The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Rip Taylor
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
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Here's a kinda funny Daily Show interview with Rip from 2000.