Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Can I Get A Good Hot Cocoa?

Now that I'm living in Seattle, my caffeine intolerance is a bit of a hassle. Baristas look down their noses at me when I order decaf; I can almost hear their silent snorts of derision. Coffee is such a thing here, and I can appreciate that, but what I don't appreciate is the pretension that sometimes goes with it. I should clarify, not everyone is this way. (I am clarifying, carefully and quickly, because I already learned my lesson on Yelp when making general statements about this city's services/inhabitants. They really don't like it.)*

Most of the cafes I've been to so far don't even brew decaf. The anti-corporate activists can rail against Starbucks all they want, but guess what? Starbucks lets me order whatever I want, and then they make it without rolling their eyes. And they paint snowflakes on their windows! 

So my second choice has been, lately, hot cocoa, and let me tell you, no one can make it. It's been, simply, a cup of artfully steamed milk with a small drip of chocolate lying on the bottom. At my old job in Brooklyn (right next to the park and a billion different schools) I made hot cocoas all day long. The trick is, it takes a lot more chocolate syrup than you'd think. Enough that the people watching you make it wonder if they even want it anymore. And you must mix with a spoon; don't think the heavy steamed milk pour with do the job for you. Nix the latte art, plop on those marshmallows! 

Hovering parents were always fond of instructing me on the precise temperature of the milk, as we don't want to burn any tongues, do we? Like a hot cocoa was practically a loaded gun. Once a particularly horrible woman micromanaged her order so intensely that her kid then spilled hot cocoa all over the floor about two seconds after she put the cup in his hand. Enter me with a mop, at which point horrible lady taps me on the shoulder and says, "Do I have to buy another one, or can you just make it again?" And then, when I silently nodded and pushed the mop around a couple more times so that other customers wouldn't slip coming in the door she looked at her watch worriedly and sighed. 

And then I made the worst hot cocoa I've ever made, with way too much milk and not enough chocolate and a whole lot of spite but no marshmallows, and the boy who had spilled it took one sip and whined quietly to his mom as she pushed her brood out the door, "It doesn't even taste like chocolate." 

Perhaps this is penance for that. Because it wasn't his fault for having a completely horrible mom. But what am I going to do now to appease the hot cocoa gods?

(*But you know what? No. Seattle is NOT very Christmas-y. Grinches! Even Bob Dylan celebrates the season. With Polka! All I'm asking for is a few twinkle lights in my neighborhood.)


Monday, November 30, 2009

Costco, Seduced

My Thanksgiving was quite delicious this year, and happily without hitch or difficulty. Our good friends even had a baby!, and we spent some e-mail time cooing over the darling newborn pictures. I avoided Black Friday and managed to get all my Christmas shopping done with the help of Etsy, we put new tires on our Jeep, and as of this morning I've even got a job interview coming up this week.

It's funny how things like this work, all together, all at once, all at the same time that I baked brownies Saturday night. But, I suppose, I'm not the type to want good things to spread themselves out. The week I got married was also the week I was first published. Two sets of my friends got engaged at the same time and now their weddings are two weeks apart. Today in the mail I got a coupon for bagels and my credit card upgraded me to platinum!

But last week was a little dim. After this many weeks of applying for jobs and getting no leads, I was beginning to frown a little around the edges. And it turned out, the Jeep had a different sized tire on it than the other three.

We weren't even planning on getting a Costco membership; Joe's sister already had one. But then I saw the DVD section and I almost lost it. Gone With The Wind Box Set for $40?! The complete series of The Wire for just under $100! And things I don't even need to buy--like Six Feet Under for 12.99 a season--but I almost do just because the price tag is really just a form of brain-washing and I am its soft-bellied victim.

And--I convince Joe--think of how much money we can save on food and household items. And they take your picture and put it on the card! And we each get our own card! And there is frozen yogurt at the concession stand!

So we did it, and then yesterday we went on our first money-saving shopping trip. I felt like a teenager, because I couldn't help but giggle at all the ridiculously giant products. The ketchup almost made me lose it. And the image of me wrestling open a can of black olives that big?! But no one else was smirking, laughing, making inappropriate jokes; it was like being in church. People were buying it because they legitimately needed that much food. They had people to share it with; families, organizations, and yes, churches. This was serious money-saving business. If I, on the other hand, bought a giant jar of pickles, I was going to be eating it all alone. Joe hates pickles.

And so the big money-saving plan resulted in our purchase of the following: a box of 8 chicken pot pies, a bundle of 5 packs of crackers, 8 bundled cans of tuna fish, and a huge mess of granola bars. I wanted to get more. I wanted to be the kind of person that has stuff stored away, and you go to their house when the zombie apocalypse hits. But joblessness means practicality. Resisting impulse, assessing reality.

Hopefully, in the next 11 months we'll find a better use for the Costco card. I sure am tired of being practical, and I do love pickles.


Monday, November 23, 2009

What Up With That: New Moon

Two things fairly dominated my weekend. The first was getting the theme song for Keenan Thompson's SNL skit, "What Up With That" stuck in my head for two days, as it still is stuck in my head. The second was capping off an otherwise enjoyable weekend by going to see New Moon on Sunday night.

I've already talked about my feelings on the Twilight series, book form. I saw the Catherine Hardwicke-directed first movie alone in an empty theater in Spokane after the Twilight craze was already full blown and still contagious. I subsequently read the books but, for me, it has always been that first movie that captured the best of overblown teenage melodrama on par with The Breakfast Club and Say Anything. It was lovelorn stickiness glossed over with a gorgeous and haunting Carter Burwell score, "I love you" a million times and still somehow barely stale, even amid sparkly skin and googly-eyed montage. It was teenage melodrama Art.

If the first movie took everything that was good about Stephanie Meyer's books and made it better, the second movie takes everything not good about the books and makes it worse. But what do you expect from a male director, much less someone responsible for the American Pie franchise. (If anything, Pie movies are the antithesis of what the Twilight story is; a boy fantasy full of pants-off shenanigans, while Twi-heroes Edward and Jacob are girl-swoon gentlemen all the way.)

And so, the Art is gone. Same goes for any continuation of the Carter Burwell score, which is heartbreakingly substituted with a generic Hollywood Movie mix that blends into the background. All the Hardwicke details are gone, replaced with terrible ancient-vampire wigs. Supposedly fashion-forward Alice Cullen is dressed in clothes only a grandmother would find stylish. Bella's night terrors? Laughable. Conscience-ghost Edward appearances?  Stupid all the way to their swirling-smoke disappearances.

The worst is that Twi-hards having gotten over-obsessed to the point of loving any film adaptation that stays true enough to the books, and not realizing that it isn't the books alone that make these films. Because the source material isn't The Grapes of Wrath; making a good film from them takes an artistic sensibility, a gentle-enough perspective, which Chris Weitz doesn't have. Doesn't anyone see what could have been?

It was just a year ago that Twi-hards successfully rallied to keep Taylor Lautner in the role of Jacob Black when producers wanted to replace him with someone more buff. They should have rallied around Catherine Hardwick as well. (I'll just unleash my rampant feminism here and say,) But a woman hardly ever gets that same kind of support.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Franco, Artist Slash Murderer

If you are wondering what I thought about James Franco's appearance on General Hospital this week, go here. was awesome! James Franco stepped on a guy's throat!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jon Foster, Reviewed

I was thinking of titling this post, I Hate Jon Foster, but then I had a moment of conscience, thinking but wouldn't you feel bad if you came across a website with a article that read I Hate That Girl Who Writes For StarredReview?

But since our readership is what it is, a fairer comparison would be like me coming across a hate-article written by my neighbor's cat. It's there, it doesn't particularly bother me, it's an eff-ing cat. Problem solved. I thereby re-title this post, I Hate Jon Foster.

No, I don't know him as a person, but as an actor he is ruining my Monday-night television routine. Because sometimes after How I Met Your Mother, I forget that I can change the channel and Accidentally on Purpose comes on. And really, the show is not good, but Jon Foster makes it worse. In its best moments, the show reminds me of how far we have come, socially, since Dan Quayle got so outrageously offended by Murphy Brown. Jenna Elfman plays a mid-thirties career gal who gets impregnated by a 22 year-old slacker, who then moves in with her and we're supposed to find this situation very, very funny. Except that it's not. Because of Jon Foster.

Yes, I have a history of hating actors for no reason at all. (See: Matt Damon.) And Jon Foster's brother is Ben Foster, who is lovely (Six Feet Under, 3:10 To Yuma) and I adore him. But Jon Foster has offended my eyes permanently with Mysteries of Pittsburgh, a movie that makes no effing sense. None. At all.

And not only that, but Monday night TV is starting to be ruined, and Monday night TV--in the midst of my life-changing cross-country move and resulting unemployment--is what has been keeping me alive and not just a wisp of sweatpants on the couch. So Jon Foster, get out of my face. And One Tree Hill, get rid of your two new boring characters. And Two And A Half Men, go off the air permanently, which is Joe's request more than mine.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Failed Roadtrips and the Mercury Grand Marquis

About a month ago, when my dad asked me to pick up a 2009 Mercury Grand Marquis that he had just bought here in Seattle, I started planning the roadtrip of a lifetime. The kind that Joe thinks requires a tour of the Grand Canyon and firebombing the roadtrip car at its conclusion. Because the Grand Marquis was the perfect car--not for the firebombing, but the trip itself--with a bench front seat, sprawling back seat, trunk big enough to fit two grown men, and an absence of road noise so sweet you could listen to music on near mute if you wanted to. The kind of luxury old person's car that you can be doing 110 down the freeway and not even realize.

When my dad first called to ask me this favor I wasn't too keen on the thought--we had just moved, I had just traveled across country and still hadn't adjusted (still haven't adjusted)--and my dad has a tendency towards saddling you with more caveats than you can handle; e.g., the time he fixed my car by instructing me to "take this screwdriver, lean over the engine, reach down here and touch these two bolts together if it doesn't start." To my surprise, however, the car was all parts intact, which hardly ever happens when my dad asks you to pick up a car for him. Between my sisters and I, we've driven cars without windshield wipers, without headlights, without brake lights.

But before I could convince my roadtrip buddy to skip out on her normal life for a the 3-day trek across the west with no notice, my dad found an auto transport, which called yesterday morning to arrange a pick-up. Since our apartment is on a hill, on a series of skinny little streets, I knew a semi-truck wouldn't make it up here. We agreed to meet in the Whole Foods parking lot.

The guy from the transport company had his kid in the cab, and as we filled out the papers and inspected all points of the car before loading, the kid wandered around, scuffing his shoes on the curb, kicking rocks, passing time until his dad was ready to go. It kind of broke my heart, because all of a sudden I realized, that was me.

Twenty years ago, I was that kid, tagging along with my dad in his tow truck, amusing myself while he hooked up cars. Because we were always going with my dad to pick up cars, tow cars away, buy cars from auction, pick up parts, drop off parts. My dad sells cars, but he also fixes cars and tows cars. My sisters and I were dropped off at school in that tow truck. We accompanied him on flat tire calls, where my sister once met Andrea Zinga from KWQC-TV, and Detroit auto auctions, where we made friends with a long haul trucker name Zorro, talking on my dad's CB.

Standing there on the side of the road, I wanted to say something to that kid. It really brought me back, watching him. But I couldn't think what to say. I used to go with my dad to pick up cars, too didn't seem appropriate. Neither did, This builds character or You'll appreciate it later. I don't even know if I appreciate it! Except that, mostly, I do. My first year of college, when my friend dragged me along with her to sorority rush, I told the girl at Chi Omega, as an experiment, that my dad was a mechanic when she asked what my parents did. And it was the only sorority I didn't get asked back to. Funny, huh.

But, you know, it makes me who I am. Our family didn't tour Europe, we saw Wisconsin Dells. We practiced basketball in the back of our dad's shop. In high school I drove an old Jeep that my friends' parents didn't want to let them ride in. My first job was washing cars and doing errands around my dad's garage, and once two of the popular guys from high school came in to pick up their car and smirked at me covered in dirt, throwing a stack of old radiators into the back of a truck.

And also, because yesterday when I got back into our car with Joe, who had followed me there, the first thing he said was, "That kid reminded me of how it used to be when I went out with my dad." And I laughed out loud and thought how glad I was that I was married to this guy, and why we get each other like we do.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Reviewed: Random Little Devils, and TV

It's funny how many ads there are for Egg Donors in the "Jobs" section on Craigslist. Is that a job?

I'm reading job listings every morning, since I'm in a semi-jobless limbo of just having moved combined with a really yuck job market. But I'm starting to work everyday again, and by that I mean, that old devil the writing life. And that makes me feel somewhat normal again.

But it's a new normal, and hard to get used to, because I'm a creature of habit. A homebody. A girl crazy with nostalgia and comfortable old shoes. I hate moving, which you probably wouldn't realize about me considering I've moved six times in the last ten years.

So I'm trying to take comfort in the little things:

1) Becoming crazily obsessed with the ABCFamily network, including their 13 Nights of Halloween and the best show ever, Greek. And before you think anything, know that I am not ashamed...and maybe you, my friend, should be watching as well: Greek is hilarious, subtle, exciting and completely entertaining. You are missing out. I cannot even tell you how much you are missing out. (I heart Casey and Cappie! Eeek! Squeal!)

2) Ranting about what the frick happened to One Tree Hill. It's no secret that I watch terrible TV. I love it. I live for it. If terrible TV didn't exist, I'm not sure what other joy I would get out of the world. Formerly the mac-daddy of bad television, One Tree Hill captured the gold every year purely by continuing to give Chad Michael Murray, the master of the tortured brooding look, multiple broods an episode. Not to mention the sadistic character of Dan Scott, the ultimate Bad Dad!

But CMM is gone now, explained away by having vaguely, "moved somewhere" which is curious given his character's previous penchant for asserting over and over again how the tiny town of Tree Hill was where he belonged. But now he has been replaced with whining, overly-brooding characters: a sports agent with a stupid, tragic past they aren't quite letting on about but you know is going to be idiotic, and another character's never-before-mentioned-newly-reappeared sister, who broods and broods and broods and broods about her impending divorce (she just needs to "find herself" guys, and it's terrible that she's hurting her husband, but something is "broken" and she "can't fix it" and here is where is ends up again and again and again about ten times an episode and I do not care.)

3) Listening to the Brothers Bloom soundtrack, particularly "Penelope's Theme".

4) Shopping for slippers.

5) Re-watching Kill Bill. Re-watching Terminator 2. Re-watching In The Army Now. Re-watching Adventures in Babysitting.

6) Wondering what Keith Coogan is doing now.