LIVE BLOGGING: Homemade Pumpkin Puree Part One PLUS MUFFINS

Whew! It’s been a long time! WE’LL GET TO THAT LATER.

Two years ago, I live-blogged the creation of a butternut squash souffle, to much, uh, success, or what have you.

Now that it’s fall two years later, I’M LIVE BLOGGING THE CREATION OF HOMEMADE PUMPKIN PUREE AND MUFFINS.

FOLLOW ALONG FOR ALL YOUR FUN TODAY.

3:30ish p.m.: ACQUIRED: One 15-pound, oblong, pale pumpkin, a.k.a. “Pink Banana” from local farm/pumpkin-selling establishment.

4:19 p.m.: The Smashing Pumpkins’ version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” starts playing on Songza playlist. THINGS ARE GETTING HOT.

4:22 p.m.: Jamie successfully cracks open The Pink Banana. The real excitement begins!

4:39 p.m.: Jamie says, “Come over here and clamp my pumpkin!” Thusly, the Pink Banana is slaughtered.

4:53 p.m.: While romanticizing the idea of turning our apartment into a production house for pumpkin products/tomatoes/tomato sauce/body lotion/beer, Jamie said we would need to make a really dark brew and name it after Vincent. “Vincent… Porter Cat.” OMG. >^..^<

4:57 p.m: Kyle’s Smashing Pumpkins playlist ends. :(

4:58 p.m.: Northern Motown Dance Party time! :D

5:05 p.m.: Hey, guys – Jamie here. What Brittany forgot to mention was that we split our pumpkin slices into little quarters and put the first batch in the oven (preheated to 400 degrees, if you’re interested to know) about 20 minutes ago. LET THE GREAT PUMPKIN ROAST BEGIN.

5:19 p.m.: Cleaned pumpkin seeds while waiting for Pink Banana to roast. Tossed in olive oil, spread on foil, awaiting next oven cycle. Note to self: INVEST IN A COOKIE SHEET ALREADY.

5:23 p.m.: Jumping around to The Esquire’s “Get On Up” — when did it change from getting up to getting down? Or worse yet, getting LOW? ALSO IN THE TIME IT TOOK TO TYPE THIS, THE FIRST PINK BANANA CYCLE IS DONE GET READY YA’LL.

5:31 p.m.: …The Pink Banana needed a little more time. So.

5:41 p.m.: Trying this again. Flipped the pumpkin pieces to allow the flesh nearest the skin to become more tender, since I’m stupid and haven’t yet invested in a cookie sheet in the last… 20 minutes. I think the sides of the pan have kept the lower portions of pumpkin from cooking as thoroughly as their, um, northern brothers? This is coming out ALL wrong.

5:47 p.m.: Word up! The flipping technique was a slam dunk! Batch No. 2 is in! Blender is assembled! THINGS ARE GETTING REAL.

5:54 p.m.: SEEDS ARE IN FOR TOASTING.

6:30 p.m.: The first batch of puree is pureed! It looks like Nickelodeon created its first line of baby food (Which omg, why don’t they do?) but I think that’s a good sign. Onward!

7:09 p.m.: Whenever Chrissie Hynde sings, “Gonna use my fingers,” I always think she’s gonna say “Gonna use my toes,” next. Which would be weird, but not uncalled for, right?

7:41 p.m.: There are already nine-going-on-ten cups of pureed Pink Banana in our kitchen, and another pan of raw pumpkin is about to go into the oven. Holy fall foods, Batman!

7:43 p.m.: VINCENT P. CAT IS BACK IN THE BUILDING. He’s really excited about the porter idea! We’ll be nailing out the details shortly.

7:50 p.m.: Vincent said he would definitely pose for the bottle label, but he thinks that a cartoon rendering might be a little more whimsical. If we did that, would we go for, like, an angry Vincent? Or a playful one? What kind of feeling SHOULD my cat’s pretend future beer convey? These are questions that will keep me up at night.

7:52 p.m.: Oh, and all three of us agree that it should be a seasonal autumnal selection. Catoberfest. Oktobermeow. Autumeownal. These are all solid ideas.

8:40 p.m.: 12 cups of puree pureed. Final Pink Banana batch out of oven. Muffin production set to begin in T-whenever the dishes are done.

8:43 p.m.: OMG. Now Vincent is REFUSING to pose for the beer bottle label because he thinks he looks “fat” in that picture we posted. I tried to tell him it’s just his cold weather fur coming in, but now he’s just moping around and refusing to look me in the eyes. UGH. #divacat

9:36 p.m.: Moist Pink Banana a.k.a. Pumpkin Spice Muffins are IN. THE. OVEN. How long has it been?  HOW LONG HAVE I BEEN ASLEEP?

9:39 p.m.: Just texted my mom to tell her to read my blog tomorrow so she could find out about these stinking muffins. This is a test. Did you read this far, Mom? If so, Jamie said, “There’s pumpkin EVERYWHERE.”

9:52 p.m.: Pioneer Woman. Why did you do this to me. Ree Drummond. I love you.

10:07 p.m.: THEY ARE OUT AND THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL HOLD ON JAMIE’S GONNA POST A PICKT-CHA.

 

11:27 p.m.: It’s been eight hours, 15 pounds of pumpkin, 16 cups of puree and more than two dozen pumpkin muffins, but it is finally time to close the book on this adventure. Check ‘em out:

 

Half of the muffins have a to-die-for cream cheese frosting dollop on them, and half just have a crunchy cinnamon-sugar hat. We doubled the recipe, and ended up with 24 regular-sized muffins and eight mini muffins, Jamie says, on account of our “watery yield.” From the pumpkin puree. But don’t let that ruin your appetite.

Eight hours ago, we were just driving back from a hike when we made a U-turn for an adorable road-side pumpkin farm. For just $6, we picked up that giant Pink Banana, and made it our lady. Our delicious, delicious lady.

I say, if you’re ready for it, this is an adventure worth tackling. Goodnight!

Remembering Mr. Watkins: Stream of Consciousness Sentimentality for the Best Teacher I’ve Ever Had

I can’t remember the first time I met Mr. Watkins.

I know I was in 8th grade, and I know I was auditioning for a play. HIS play — that is, a play that he wrote. “The History of the World Parts I and II.” It wasn’t an adaptation of the Mel Brooks comedy, as my Comedy Central-addled brain thought it would be before I tried out, but rather, a musical farce of various points throughout history.

I was cast as Cleopatra and a character called Rene DeFarge (I think), who would pop up in the French Revolution scene. As the Queen of “Denial,” I took part in a “The $100,000 Pyramid” spoof scene, where another female character and I tried to convince our friend James Cave (I have no idea who his character was) to love us. We sang Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m the Only One” back and forth at him while pulling him across the stage. Did it come out of a dream? I don’t know. It was a weird, awesome show.

But I don’t remember what our first interaction was. I can’t call the moment up in my mind. What I do remember, though, is that our first meeting spawned a relationship that I’ll never forget and that helped me become the person I am today.

Gary Watkins — Mr. Watkins — died this morning from cancer. He was a 9th grade honors English teacher at Seneca Valley Intermediate High School, and when I walked into his classroom on the first day of school in 2002, I felt really special. Not only because this was honors English in high school, not only because I knew him from being in his play the year before, but because having Mr. Watkins’ class show up on your schedule was like getting an owl from Hogwarts. It was surrounded with myth and lore and the kind of magic that exists only in the conversations where people describe what the world is supposed to be like.

To say his class was like a scene from “The Dead Poets Society” would be to cheapen it by likening it to something so flat as a film, but if you want a point of reference, it’s a pretty good place to start.

In a year, we covered eons of literature, poetry, philosophy, history and grammar. We read Chaucer, Shakespeare, Yeats, Keats, Tennyson, Eliot — the list is endless. He threw foam swords at us and forced shy students to act out fight scenes from Romeo and Juliet. He had us dress up in togas and act like philosophers. He drilled facts into our head that he promised us we’d never forget — and we didn’t. (When was the Battle of Hastings? 1066, duh.) He quizzed us on grammar every week, and taught us that if you’re going to use a modifier, you put it right before the word you’re modifying. It’s only logical, after all.

There are a million more memories and facts from Watkins’ class that I would probably get wrong if I tried to recant them to you now. They swim in my brain in a warm, yellow, old book-hued haze that makes me happy and occasionally provides me with Jeopardy answers or annoying ways to correct people.

I can’t remember how I met Mr. Watkins, but what I do know is the impression he left on my life.

Walking in to Watkins’ class was nothing short of embracing the physical manifestation of all that could be. If people call him the best teacher they’ve ever had, it was because he had optimized his nine months with us to run like a well-oiled machine. He knew how to crack open the brain of sheltered, suburban baby and make him think about the world in a different way.

For a formerly shy, fat, nerdy girl who wanted nothing more than to escape the monotony of planned neighborhoods and soccer practices, watching Watkins wring every drop out of life was inspiring and eye-opening. Yes, there were people in the world who wanted to think — who wanted YOU to think — about beauty and love and passion. He let me believe that there is a value in the world in writing something good.

And more than that, he made me feel like I had something special in me.

One of Watkins’ famous tricks was remembering where every student he ever had sat in his class. And he didn’t organize us alphabetically. Like a real life sorting hat, he had some strange method for placing each of us that made me feel like he must have been able to see us at a protozoic level, even before we walked in the door.

And with that, he made us all a part of his perfect mess. He let us you know that WE could be philosophers or poets or novelists, and that we could do it with every ounce of burning blood in our bodies.

I walked out of his class always wanting to go back — and I did. I would sneak up to his door and lean myself against the frame and just listen to his lectures until he saw me standing there, winked at me and kept going.

I went through the rest of my education looking for something to make me feel the way that Watkins did — like I had something to prove and there was room in the world for it. I wanted to live my life that way, always fighting for the right thing, fighting to know as much as I could and to do whatever I did the best that I could. To take my part of his well-oiled machine and put it out into the world.

I never found another teacher that could live up to who Watkins was to me, and I don’t know if I’m living up to the idea that I thought he wanted us to be. But as I think about him today, I can only promise that I’ll keep trying.

I didn’t go to a charter school or a magnet school or a private school or a place that you’d find on a list of the best schools in the country that attracts teachers like Mr. Watkins. I went to a public school on a back country road in rural, small town western Pennsylvania. But inside that school there was a castle, and inside that castle was a jolly, fat-bellied king, with a brown-grey beard and a twinkle in his eye. He was kind and funny, unless you interrupted a really good story he was telling, then he would probably throw your pizza against the chalkboard. But he always came back to teach, to guide, to believe and to inspire.

For all the fire, love and passion he gave us, at least we know he went out with a bang, not a whimper.

—–

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

What the Multiverse Teaches Us About What’s Meant to Be

Welcome to the Multiverse

To say I have any knowledge about physics would be a lie. When someone says “physics,” what rattles around in my brain are some fuzzy images of trebuchets and equations on the board of my 11th grade physics class. Also, how hot my Physics of Sound professor was in college. Yes, mmm, physics.

But! I was thrown into a science-induced giddy-fit yesterday when I read about the mighty, mighty MULTIVERSE.

The multiverse (for those of you too lazy to click on a link and read a four-page article, sheesh) is the idea that space is made up, not simply of our UNIverse, but rather, a mind-boggling number of MULTIverses. Remember how we’re always like, “Oh man, how big is our universe? We’ll never know!” It’s just that over and over and over again, like a series of sneezes sprayed out over the vast expanse of space.

What’s even cooler is that we’re also pretty positive that space is expanding, so more and more multiverses could be popping up all the time.

Even cooler than that? These multiverses could be made up of completely different properties than our own. Gravity? Schmavity! They’ve got Señor Bean’s Wonder Force! Or, whatever.

The author does a great job of explaining the point that humans exist, and exist on earth, and exist on earth in this universe because the right ingredients were plopped into a habitable zone, just far enough away from the sun to not burn up, and just close enough to not freeze over (unless, of course, you live in Idaho). With multiverses, the possibility exists for multiple habitable zones.

All of this just ups the odds that other iterations of life exist, heck, maybe even other iterations of you and me are out there.

Now, I don’t know about you (because I’ve only really talked to my cat about this) but I think that idea of the multiverse may be disquieting to some people. Does it put a chink in the armor of religion? That’s up for you to mull over, everybody else.

What I think the multiverse DOES do is give us some more insight into our own choices. Here. In this verse.

What’s Meant to Be, Will Be

A thing I hate is when people answer a question with “What’s meant to be, will be.” As in:

Delilah: “Hey Mom, are me and Raul right for each other?”
Mom: “What’s meant to be, will be, honey.”

Why do I hate it? Because it’s a mystical distraction from a reasonable solution, and frankly, it’s just annoying. If I ask you a question, I’m looking for an answer, not the second line to a Dr. Seuss stanza.

See, what Mom is doing here is avoiding saying something more constructive, like, “I don’t know and I don’t care,” or “No, Raul is emotionally abusing you and this thing can only end badly.”

But not to worry, Moms Across America! The multiverse is here to help. Rather than diverting responsibility to the cosmos, we can look to them for inspiration.

If we can imagine that separate universes can exist throughout space, all where separate habitable zones exist, where life-or-something-like-it exists, we can image ourselves in much the same way: microcosms of a universe, with tons of crap swirling around inside of us, and just a few places where the right ingredients can strike fire.

It’s why some people on your little league softball team were good little sports and some of you just wanted to stay at home and dress up like Elton John and perform “Tiny Dancer” for your parents’ friends.

Instead of believing that things just “happen for a reason,” never knowing what that reason is and relegating life’s events to mystical happenstance, we can believe what we already know. That inside each of us are a few tiny planets where life, love and passion can grow.

But, unlike planets, the human psyche isn’t necessarily subject to the kind of crippling physical side effects that sending a man to Jupiter might provide. We can make decisions that are contrary to our logic, intuition and feelings, and come out unscathed — at least momentarily.

It is impossible, however, to escape the consequences of our actions, no matter how far down the line they come. It’s why a lot of marriages end in divorce. Or they don’t end and are full of lies and cheats and other unsavory bits. It’s why people have mid-life crises and buy weird stuff they always wish they had, like boobs and bikes.

We all know the feeling of something being “right” or “wrong.” Playing host to the parasite that gives you those wrong feelings might be a sign that you’re trying to give something life that just can’t live within you. Try as you might, you can’t erase the properties that make you up, at least not without some kind of supernova.

Instead of saying, “What’s meant to be, will be,” we SHOULD be saying, “Take a good hard look inside yourself, Delilah. Is Raul the kind of person you want to be with? If you don’t know, maybe now’s not the time for you to be in a relationship.”

But I’m sure you guys already knew this.

The Part I Always Get Hung Up On

What gets confusing is when you think you may have convinced yourself that what felt wrong was right and that you should be doing it anyway, because just like eating ice cream for dinner, what makes you momentarily happy might not make you happy for the rest of your life.

How you figure out those long-term things that are good for you without entirely putting your life on hold is one you might not be able to figure out until you hit that mid-life crisis. If anyone has any advice in how to actually find those habitable planets, I would be happy to hear it.

I’m Not There and I Miss You So Badly

I guess I’m supposed to take solace in the fact that I saw you at Christmas. That we were all together then. I guess it’s kind of comforting, but I’m having a hard time doing that. That was then, this is now.

I guess you wouldn’t really want me to feel that way, to want to come home, but that isn’t really the point, because you’re gone now. You didn’t want me to throw you a birthday party either, but I still really wanted to and I thought about it a lot. I never did. It makes me feel dumb for not taking the chance. I know that doesn’t matter now. I’m sorry.

Everyone said that they really loved you at the Villa. They said that you loved to decorate the place for holidays and help out with meals, until you couldn’t anymore. I didn’t know that part of you there. What I remember is watching you sneak Pirouette cookies from the bottom of your pajama drawer and eating them with you while I sat on a chair next to your bed. You probably didn’t need to hide them. I remember knowing that you probably kept my high school senior picture up on your windowsill because you liked it better when I had long hair. Maybe that’s not it, but wasn’t it a little bit? That makes me laugh. I remember your hands. Your skin was like gold filament or copper paper. I remember eating this Jello you didn’t want one time and thinking it was weird but doing it anyway because it probably made you happy.

I’m supposed to remember you, not like you were when you died, but like you were when you were most alive. Or at least those times that I knew. And those “better” times are all I do remember. My memories of you recently could be tabulated and graphed. They do nothing to match the eons of memories circling my mind, pumping through my heart, making me who I am. I am so grateful to have them.

I remember toads in the backyard, the smell of dirt, running in through the cellar door to get hosed off in the blue bathroom. I remember meatballs on forks and TV trays and the smell of parmesan cheese and fried zucchini. I remember the soft wooden clang of the sliding cabinet drawers in your headboard as I jumped on the bed in your blue, blue bedroom. I remember Andes mints and cherry cordials and those dinner mints with the little white sprinkles on the bottom. I remember polka in the brown basement, paint chipping off the uneven walls as we ran in circles on the cold floor, stopping only for those stoplight ornaments you had at the ends of your light pulls. Was everything a toy then? I remember finding Pop Pop’s things, still around the house. And even though I never knew him, I could build his sketch in my mind. I remember wondering how close I was.

Everyone says you’re with him now, on Valentine’s Day. I know I don’t believe in that, and I know you didn’t know that about me. But for you, at least, I can’t help wishing that it’s true.

I remember the picture of you and him on your wedding day. You were so beautiful. And he looks like my dad. Or the other way around, I guess. Your hair is thick and your face is thin and round and your eyes are bright and happy. Were you laughing? I would guess so. That’s how I remember you: beautiful, strong, and hopefully laughing. Also hopefully calling somebody a jackass.

I remember you most as someone that I want to be.

I remember you calling me Petunia and me crying because that’s not my name. You laughed at that and I remember feeling that I shouldn’t feel bad but I still did. I laugh about it now. I remember you singing to me. That always felt good. I remember you telling me I was your only granddaughter, and not really knowing what that meant to you yet. Will I?

I don’t have the money to come home and see you being dead. I feel like that’s what you might call it, because isn’t that what it is? I know, I know, you wouldn’t care. I know you would tell me that it didn’t matter. But I know I won’t get any more letters from you in the mail. I won’t have to worry about visiting you when I’m home. I can’t shake the feeling that this is the last time I’ll get to have a memory of you. From a million miles away, it’s really hard to do that. I’m not sorry that I feel that way, because you should have known — no matter how much you wanted to protest it, you made yourself one of the most important things in all of our lives.

I love you, Nunnie, and I miss you a million times.

An Unabashadly Adorable List of Things I Learned While I Was Home

So this year, I had the luxury of being able to fly across the country to be home for Christmas. The experience was wonderful, warm, and not entirely unlike some yellow-hued romcom starring Kate Hudson and a handsome guy.

Beyond that, it was Home. That idea means something different to each of us, but for me, it is a very specific set of feelings and identity. Growing up, I had the pleasure/misfortune of never having to move — my childhood, adolescence and embarrassing teenage years were simply split between my mom’s and my dad’s. I grew up with the same friends, doing the same things and revisiting the same places year after year, to the point where the paths in my brain are so comfortably worn in, I can travel to them anytime I want, without a plane. Finally getting to be home for the holidays after a year and a half afforded me the kind of contrast Newt Gingrich’s campaign managers can only wish they had. (Also I went to college with the girl who wrote that article. Deep reference.)

So, here they are: the seven things I think are true that I got to learn at home.

    1. Keep your friends close…
      You’re going to need them when your family gets boring. And having a group of people you can lovingly make fun of while they tell you every time you’re being annoying is the kind of closeness you can find only in those who have seen you at your best and — more frequently — at your worst. They will, however, delight in spending more time complaining about ordering the wrong appetizer than they will in filling  you in on exactly how you managed to buy so many drinks last night.
    2. …And your siblings closer.
      If friends are moving with you laterally through time, your siblings are doing so linearly. Middle children, you have the distinct benefit of not only seeing the mistakes you could make play out in front of you, but also, of instructing your younger sibling to not make the same mistakes you did. This goes for everything from saving money to not dating anyone your freshman year of college to not overusing tobacco products. *Ahem.*

      Siblings!

      We Three Bs: Bryan, Bret, Brittany (from left)

    3. Family is good. Really good.
      Make time in your life to reconnect with everybody — cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents. They let you step outside of yourself and hold a mirror up to you at the same time.
    4. Be happy for them, because they’re happy for you.
      So, maybe the cousin you got better grades than in middle school is going to make four times the amount of money you make, as soon as he takes his first breath outside of pharmacy school. At least you’re not going bald. It all balances out.
    5. Know when to speak up…
      If a family is supposed to be a group of people who care about one another and look out for their best interests, you have to know when it’s time to open your pie hole and put your foot down. The best thing to do is something we all learned in like, 5th grade: tell the person how his actions are making you feel. With the admonishments out of the way and your feelings on the table, it’s a whole lot easier to find that middle ground and potentially create positive change — if you really do care about each other.
    6. …And when to shut up.
      Maybe you know that one of your neighbors has breast cancer. It’s totally sad and unexpected, and it’s even more of a surprise when you and your brother see her and her husband walking around the neighborhood on Christmas morning. You say it’s great to see them again after such a long time and you ask them how they’re doing. “Good,” they say. “It’s the same old thing around here.” You smile and laugh and wish them a Merry Christmas — and let them enjoy their day.
    7. Love knows no distance.
      Whether it’s a niece who is finally old enough to remember your name, a best friend you haven’t seen in years or a grandmother you might never see again, if the love was there once it’ll be there again. Moreover, it was never gone, you just probably never think about it. I really believe that if you have a solid foundation with someone and haven’t done anything to smash it into tiny concrete bits, you can always go back there. It might take you some time, but you’ll find it again. If anything, I’d say that’s pretty good motivation to at least try. The feeling will be worth it if you do.

What’s weird and hard about all of this, is, like a movie, “Home” now comes to an end for me. It’s not something I can just rewind and watch again — I don’t get to just hop on a plane whenever I want and revisit these wonderful notions, all neatly packed into a visit spanning several days. The places, the people, and the feelings are all so tangible in those visits, but when I’m gone, they exist as shadows, blips on a radar, or that song you can’t get out of your head but don’t quite know all the words to. Groping in the dark, I find them, hold them for a moment and then they’re gone.

So what do we do — we “Homeless” — to keep all of those things alive? For me, it starts with recounting my list of seven. It will end when I see them all again.

Love you guys. Happy 2012.

I Spent 19 Hours Traveling and It Hurt Me

So coming home for Christmas, I spent 19 hours in some various form of transit. My airplane got delayed in my final layover in Milwaukee, because it broke down. We spent an hour waiting for the crew to pull out a new aircraft, and though I am extremely grateful that I got home safely, I was a very cranky little girl for an hour and wrote this rant. People who work at airports are so valuable, especially during the holidays, but I couldn’t deny you this irrational gem, could I?

—–

I think the idea of people being annoying is interesting. What makes us annoyed? Why can that annoyance inspire hatred? The kind that makes you say, “I want. Those people. To die.”

I’m sitting in the Milwaukee airport, and I can’t get over the feeling that everyone here is dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb. That’s why the puddle-jumping plane I’m supposed to take back to Pittsburgh is broken down, that’s why it’s going to take more than an hour to get a new plane out of the hangar and that’s why the stupid desk woman was snooty with me when I asked her if this meant our flight would be delayed.

Why is it never “Yes, unfortunately that is the case. Doesn’t that suck? I wish I had a magic carpet right here to fly you back home asap, my friend,” and instead, “Um, YES this will delay your flight??? The maintenance crew has some very IMPORTANT WORK that needs to be done???? They have their CHECKS???? Wouldn’t want you flying on a broken PLANE now WOULD WE???????” No, Grandmother Time, I wouldn’t want to fly on a broken plane, I just wanted to know if the people around here can get it together in less time than it takes to assemble a full aircraft from start to finish.

I’m convinced that every stupid person is on any given airplane, at any given time, always. This, I believe, is with the expressed purpose of destroying the sanity of any of the normal closed-mouth, non-talkers on the flight. You know the type: gender, age and race non-discriminating, this person takes to the plane like they year is 1903 and the Wright Brothers issued a personal invitation for the occasion. This person has some sort of awful rolling carry-on which he or she has refused to check, despite the fact that it is obviously too large for the aisle or the overhead compartment. The fact that the bag now bumps along the elbows and knees of every other passenger on the plane is unbeknownst to her, as she refuses to pick up the damn thing, probably because it has too many pairs of Pajama Jeans in it or something.

Obviously attempting to gather as much oxygen as possible, this person refuses to close his mouth. Why?

Oh my god. I have to interrupt that previous thought for something breaking. There is a girl in front of me doing her stupid hair with her stupid Photobooth camera as we speak. It’s 7 p.m. and we’re in the Milwaukee airport. Unless you’re trying to swing a date with the Neanderthal fry-slinger from Johnny Rocket’s, there is no one on this concourse to impress. She’s one spoke on a three-pronged wheel of death that has been following me from Salt Lake to Denver and now, here, Milwaukee. Mommy Dearest and her two iPhone equipped, Kardashian-wannabe daughters have been doing annoying shit all day. Complaining about Angry Birds and how they don’t have the newest Mario Game that their friend, Christina or something, has. Of course, they are tall and thin with long dark hair that they obsess over in various computer applications, iPhone and MacBook Pro non-exempt. To stay casual, they’re decked out in Victoria’s Secrets sweats and Ugg Boots, but they’re absolutely made-up, because striking that sexy, bed-head balance in the airport is a full-time job, ladies.

I have had the distinct pleasure of seeing them at several instances throughout my day, and I can confidently say that not one of them has done anything except Soduko or Facebook in the last 12 hours. I don’t know how they’re alive. They’re not even trying to watch anything on Netflix. Not one brought a book to read. Buntastic over here is literally looking through her old iPhoto albums. Reminiscing about good times, eh? Or do you just honestly have no ideas about other activities that don’t involve going out, documenting said instance and then reliving it via Facebook? I’m inclined to assume the latter. BUT WHO AM I.

Just a girl, losing her mind after a sleepless night, a three-hour drive at 3 a.m., more than eight hours of combined layover time and now, a broken plane. All I want for Christmas is a frontal lobotomy.

—–

[DISCLAIMER: I don't actually want any part of my brain removed.]

And When I Got Home, The Cat Was On The Concrete Cherub

Today I went for a walk. I left my apartment after my upstairs neighbor spent 15 minutes telling me about bears tipping over people’s refrigerators in Red Lodge, the place she used to live, and how it was a consequence of dumpster locks.

“Well that has to be frustrating,” I said, and she walked away from me. She probably had to make lunch.

The sun was hot so it was better to walk on the tree-lined streets where shadow shrouded the sidewalks. The leaves were trembling and yellow like a drink, but they just show up grey under your feet. For two blocks I followed a garbage truck, the mechanical arms dip down to the pavement like a ballerina to pick up the bins at the curb, just to flip them and shake them out like it was looking for milk money. The truck drove away from me, probably to find more cans.

The neighborhood around me is only a few blocks deep, so it can be hard to escape the main road where all the businesses and cars are, but you can if you just try. You have to enjoy it though, because it can end quickly.

I found a place where the pavement ends and two or three brown houses open out onto brown muddy stones. Behind them is a newer looking building that’s home to a Spanish-language church. I stopped at the street sign on the corner by the church to pull my yellow socks back up around my ankles. The street sign wobbled in the soft, wet dirt and I watched as, across the street and a muddy field, a crane lifted up some wood to the top of the skeleton of what I can only guess will someday soon be a new building.

I walked around to the main street to see what it was, but I still don’t know. I turned around, away from the cars, back to the dirt road. It’s just right there. At the end, staring at me, was an old house, nestled into a thick pillow of trees that get cut off prematurely at the edge of the property, like someone had built it there first and then someone else mowed everything else around it. It’s just right there, you can see it from the World Gym up the street, but who does? It’s like a secret that we all know but don’t acknowledge. But when you look at it you can hear something whispering. It’s fun to be in on a secret.

Across the street Habitat for Humanity is building a new house, but no one is there working on it just then. The foundation juts up from the ground and it looks like a swimming pool. I met the family moving in to the house back when they held a press ground-breaking for the house a few months ago. I imagined the family stacked up in the tiny pool, living their same lives in the bigger built up place. I got to see your house when it was naked.  It’s fun to be in on a secret.

I headed back through a series of construction signs reading, “Road Closed.” I always thought that applied to sidewalks, too, but you know what? It doesn’t. I passed a road crew scraping some wet cement flat in the space between the framework for a new curb. Grey, wet, flat. Whiter, drier, flatter. Two men kneeling there scraping get asked something by the more in-charge man walking behind them. I didn’t hear what the man asked, but the older black man kneeling on the right with a grey fluffy beard like the inside of a pillow stopped his scraping, looked up and said in a kind of slow, lisping drawl that makes you glad he’s out in the world, “It looks pretty good, but it still needs some work.”