Monday, January 31, 2011

choreography saturday

My Saturday entertainment line up for this past weekend was as follows:

  • IWE Wrestling at the Armadillo Flea Market on I-45 and Airtex from 3-6pm.
  • Tango Buenos Aires at Jones Hall in downtown Houston from 8-10pm.
If high and low culture were weather systems, there should have been thundersnow in my life between 6pm and 8pm.

To recap the local wrestling:
There were masked luchadores. There was much spandex (the TMI of fabrics) stretched over lumpy frames. There were tag teams (chanted for Wrecking Crew and against Nemesis & Sin, if you need to know where I stand). The wrestling spilled off the mat into the crowd on numerous occasions.

The event was sponsored by H-Town Bail Bonds. Butofcourse. There were toddlers cheering. There was a mock weapons search of some of the wrestlers. I brought pen and paper to take notes...and found myself stuffing them into my bra whenever I needed my hands for clapping. Something I never do normally. Subconscious adaptation is what that is.

Our dear friend Josh (who calls me his SHEro for agreeing to attend and actually showing up), initiated us into the taunting chant ritual. Explained the beauty of the "unnecessary USA chant" and how intoxicating it is to the crowd. We jeered. We whooped.

In the interest of full disclosure I must add that I was 2/3 drunk. Which means I'd had 2 beers in quick succession prior to the festivities. I was hoping to maintain that state of inebriation; I was sure there would be beer there but no. Just carny food that wouldn't have made the cut at an elementary school festival. Nonetheless, that simple buzz went a long way to easing me into the world of fake sleeper holds and dramatic ref counts.

To recap the Tango Buenos Aires performance:
There were women in slitted dresses with brightly colored linings* that flashed repeatedly as they swirled and slid and did all the tango-flavored gyrations. There were sparkly high-heeled dance shoes that mesmerized.

And there were men in fluid suits moving with their partners in stupefying synchronicity. Apart and together, sliding and twirling. How they were not covered in shin contusions is a mystery to me. High heels and that much leg-slinging whilst spinning gonad-to-gonad ought to produce serious bruising. I can't vouch for the panted men but either the women were that good or they have awesome cover stick makeup.

Finally, there was a mock fight scene which recalled the event earlier in the day. Only this fight didn't involve any head-to-sweaty-crotch holds.

*Which reminds me of one of my favorite insects, the underwing moth. (source)

It's all about the mystery people.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

the need to feed

My daughter is a vegetarian, with vegan tendencies. She has never asked me to cook vegetarian to accommodate her nor asked us not to eat meat when she's around. And I mean never.

But I do anyway. I don't mind cooking meatless (or even milk-less and butter-less) so that she can join us for meals. The satisfaction I get from preparing food for my children is ri-goddamn-diculous. It's traditional in a way I find intellectually annoying; it triggers all sorts of food-as-gift/comfort/love warning flags. Emotionally, however...few things resonate with my very core in the same way.

That said, when she went away for a long weekend retreat, I almost fell over myself getting to the grocery store. I made a beeline for the meat section, prostrated myself before the steak altar and bought two beautiful rib eyes. I also cooked all sorts of other dairy-laden food. An orgy of animal products.

When she got home I immediately began to itemize all the leftovers in the house that she couldn't eat. A thinly-veiled, knee-jerk confession/apology.

She just starts laughing at me. She tells me that I don't have to do this and if I don't stop she's going to keep paring down her diet until she's gluten-free (and god knows what else) and I. just. snap.

Goddammit I love that kid.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

malaprop o' the day

I used balslamic vinegar.
Balslamic /ball-SLAH-mick/
For your Ramadan salad.

P.S. Here's your Little Big quote for the day as well:
The screen door was old and large...the screen potbellied below from years of children's thoughtless egress...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

little big follows my ántonia

Just finished reading Willa Cather's My Ántonia. A wonderful story. Here is a subject that held little intrinsic interest for me: Nebraska pioneers. But there I was, enchanted by the characters and the landscape. I love her strong female characters. I love that she wrote this in a male voice. Some particularly lovely quotes:

Grandfather's prayers were often very interesting...Because he talked so little, his words had a peculiar force; they were not worn dull from constant use.

Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen.

It was no wonder that her sons stood tall and straight. She was a rich mine of life, like the founders of early races.

Prayers said by good people are always good prayers.
A bottomless pile of good books is my definition of security and optimism. I started the next book in the stack, Little Big.

I'm not 50 pages in and I have such a crush on this book. In addition to the gorgeous prose, the text layout (see left) has me beguiled.* The small illustrated pull quotes (for lack of a better description) are utterly delightful. Form and function beautifully meshed. I gush shamelessly.

The main character at the beginning of the story is named Smoky. Which speaks to his invisibility, his anonymity. The woman he loves is called Daily Alice. She is six-feet tall and lives in place not seen on maps: Edgewood. This is her morning prayer:
O great wide beautiful wonderful World
With the wonderful waters around you curled
And the beautiful grass upon your breast
O World you are beautifully dressed.
Lastly, for today, a final quote from John Crowley's Little Big:
The gargoyle faucet coughed phthisically, and deep within the house the plumbing held conference before allowing her some hot water.
The simplest definition of the mystery word phthisic is asthmatic. It is pronounced TIZ-ik, or 'tis ick, if that helps mnemonically. It seems like every page holds gems like this. I've fallen in love with a book on the first date.

* I happened upon a pdf text-only version of the book online. The whole thing. I'm not going to argue the merits of open source or whatnot, though I sympathize in both directions. But it's just the text and what a loss. The perfume and grit of the book is sanitized and the magic stripped away in Courier 10pt type.

malaprops and minimalists

A response in my inbox this morning held today's happy accident:

I'll get with them for clearfication.
There are few things that delight me more than a word usage mistake that make sense in its own wacky way.

To be fair, I'm not just a scathing commentator on others mistakes. I recently fell flat on my face in the pop culture tournament when I mixed up Ice-T and Ice Cube. This was like the gimme/$200 Jeopardy choice, I am told.

Today I also discovered, literally on the last day after 13 years, The Minimalist column for the NY Times, written by Mark Bittman. So, I'm watching his top 20 videos and sending myself emails with these subject lines:
  • omg make this
  • holy shit make this too
  • jesus christ this one too
  • more
  • even more
I'm not often greatly moved by food blogs or columns. There's lots of good stuff out there, to be sure, but a recipe and demonstration that makes me want to leave work and buy the ingredients? That's cause for celebration.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

a story, a video and a poem

Three random items. Fired at me in less than an hour from three different directions this morning. More or less demanded synthesis.


Woman survives 23-story fall in Argentina
Associated Press Jan. 24, 2011, 1:00PM

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Witnesses say they saw a woman throw herself from the 23rd story of a Buenos Aires hotel Monday and survive.

In this photograph taken with a mobile phone, a woman lies injured atop a taxi where she fell from the 23rd floor of the Hotel Panamericano in Buenos Aires.The woman landed in a sitting position on the roof of a taxi whose driver got out just before the impact deeply dented his roof and shattered the windshield.

The woman, a 30-year-old Argentine, was rushed to the nearby Hospital Argerich, where she was being operated on for injuries including internal bleeding and broken hips and ribs, Alberto Crescenti, director of Argentina's Emergency Medical System, told the government news agency Telam. He estimated that she fell nearly 100 meters (330 feet). The taxi driver, who gave his name as Miguel, reportedly said he saw a policeman looking up and that prompted him to get out just before the driver's side of the car was smashed by the woman's body.

Another taxi driver, Juan Carlos Candame, told Associated Press Television News that he saw the woman climb over a barrier and jump into the void.

The woman plunged from the top of the Hotel Crown Plaza Panamericano, where a restaurant overlooks the landmark Obelisk in downtown Buenos Aires.

A video:

A poem: (even better when it's read to you)

Tuesday 9:00AM

by Denver Butson

A man standing at the bus stop
reading the newspaper is on fire
Flames are peeking out
from beneath his collar and cuffs
His shoes have begun to melt

The woman next to him
wants to mention it to him
that he is burning
but she is drowning
Water is everywhere
in her mouth and ears
in her eyes
A stream of water runs
steadily from her blouse

Another woman stands at the bus stop
freezing to death
She tries to stand near the man
who is on fire
to try to melt the icicles
that have formed on her eyelashes
and on her nostrils
to stop her teeth long enough
from chattering to say something
to the woman who is drowning
but the woman who is freezing to death
has trouble moving
with blocks of ice on her feet

It takes the three some time
to board the bus
what with the flames
and water and ice
But when they finally climb the stairs
and take their seats
the driver doesn't even notice
that none of them has paid
because he is tortured
by visions and is wondering
if the man who got off at the last stop
was really being mauled to death
by wild dogs.

(source: The Writer's Almanac)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

queen for the day

There are lots of serviceable words in our language that have been overused and misused into verbal mush. Dysfunctional is one of them. Anyone who talks about their dysfunctional family as if they're unique should be smacked hard out of their egocentric little world.

That said, most people find their own family's brand of dysfunction understandably fascinating. Recognizing that mine is neither the worst nor the most entertaining in the world does not prevent me from declaring that in my little corner of the universe, I am Queen for the Day in the my-family-is-more-fucked-up-than-yours contest.

I just finished reading In the Time of Butterflies by Maria Julia Alvarez. A compelling historical novel, set in the Dominican Republic, about four sisters who lived under the regime of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. The real life dictator. His 30 years in power, to Dominicans known as the Trujillo Era, is considered one of the bloodiest ever in the Americas...(source)

After I finished the book, I called my father, who is also named Rafael Leonidas.

Me: Dad, did your mother name you after the brutal Dominican fascist, Trujillo?
Dad: Yeah.
Me: What the hell? Seriously, what could she have been thinking?
Dad: Well, it could have been worse.
Me: Really?
Dad: Yeah, she could have named me after Hitler like your Uncle Adolf.
Oh, yeah. My abuela named one of her sons after a Dominican tyrant and the other after one of the most evil men who ever lived.

Queen for the Day in the Dysfunctional Family Relay.

Sunday, January 09, 2011


Here I am 9 days into the New Year. I sailed right past Epiphany Day and a crazy quilt of events both foreign and domestic with nary a peep (though the cerebral commentary never stops).

As I lay in bed last night, listening to the laughter and murmurings of my grown children and their friends, I had a muted epiphany. That everything I'd planned and fretted about and worked so hard to achieve was mine. Barbara slept peacefully next to me. My house was warm (where it wasn't drafty) and smelled of good food. My job gave me satisfaction and enough income to have a future. My extended family is basically healthy and secure. My friends are true and they make my life richer. My children were laughing. Real belly-laughter laughing.

Now, don't think I'm losing my edge. There are always things. But for the moment, I just want this. Simple uncrafted, fucking Norman-Rockwellian bliss.