A quest to make sense of it all. Or a sense to make a quest of it all.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Don't come back for me; don't come back at all.*

This past weekend, I came a little too close to letting someone from my past back into my life. It didn't happen, but it did trigger some thinking. He's a cool guy and all, in the way that we all have our good points. He's hilarious and has great taste in music (for the most part). But he's not good for me. I don't think he knows much about how to value other people, and I'm too old to be teaching old dogs that kind of new trick. It's kinda funny; I used to think of him as being so wise and mature. Nah. Just several years older and carefully selfish. No, while I enjoy chatting with him from time to time, his presence is not one I want frequently or for long stretches. I doubt he'll ever be really good for any woman, and I know he's not good for this one. So I'm really, really glad that we didn't end up hanging.

I'm learning more about value every day, and what it's like to be valued, slowly and surely and deservedly, based on my real merits and quirks rather than a catch-that-butterfly! feeling.

Wanna know something about sudden lightning? It's painful and unpredictable, and it's over before you know what the hell just happened. I'm getting to really dig the cloudless sky I'm looking at. You can do a lot with that kind of weather, and at the end of the day, you're still smiling.

P.S. Several topic-posts on the way.

* Every now and then, a pop song can kinda rule.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hot wings and b-horror make everything better. Backrubs help, too.

Ok, so The Help (movie) was actually pretty good. I really enjoyed it, and thought everyone did a great job. Was it trite? Naw. Saccharine? Not really. Were there a couple overbaked humorous parts? You betcha. Does the score let you know what your reaction is supposed to be, in case you can't figure how you feel? Oh, yeah. Did a couple scenes stray from the book to make characters more dynamic and to inject more of a "you go, girl!" vibe? Duh.

It's still better than most of the other stuff that's come out this summer.

Now I can't wait to see Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. Even if it's not scary (and that may be one of the lamest titles I've ever heard), I know Guillermo del Toro won't let me down on lush sets and dreamy cinematography. Usually the best horror works by not showing the monster, but he flips that in a way I'm really into. He always shows the monster, and the monster doesn't disappoint. Remember this guy?

The back pain has faded, thanks to a lot of inactivity performed mostly on the couch. E-2.0 has been very helpful, providing killer backrubs, hot wings, and humor. (This pampering, after putting in over 100 hours at work over the past week/weekend thanks to a machinery malfunction and a big project. Not many people are that cool.) Last night we watched a gem on the Chiller channel, entitled Death and Cremation. It's a heartwarming tale wherein a bullied teenager gets a job at a crematorium and finds that the owner (Brad Dourif) kills people who piss him off, burns them up, and keeps their ashes. It doesn't take long for the teenager to join in. It's campy and predictable, but it's also a lot of fun. There's a sweet, soft place in my heart for Brad Dourif, and it isn't just because he's the voice of Chucky in the Child's Play franchise. Before I was aware of that, I saw him in John Huston's brilliant 1979 adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood. He's really, really good. For a special treat, rent the unfortunately discontinued Deadwood and watch him as Doc Cochran. The guy gets typecasted so much, it's like seeing a dog walk on his hind legs to watch him play a not-creepy character.

And who doesn't wanna see a dog walk on his hind legs? That's amazing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Decision.

Awhile back, Lindsey posted some prompt-sentences for short stories and I called dibbs on this one. I forgot about it until last night.

Caitlin had kept her eyes closed for ten seconds, just like Dr. Smoltz had told her to, but when she opened them, it was still there, looking at her and not blinking.
Not that she expected her kindly therapist's advice for anxiety to work for this. Sometimes she stressed herself into small panic attacks, and she found that, usually, if she closed her eyes and took deep breaths for ten seconds, the panic would disappear and she could then set about rationally resolving a given issue.
But no amount of deep breathing was going to make that ring just disappear. Indeed, there it sat, on her dresser where Alfred had lain it and walked out when she was unable to say "yes".
She looked at it, dazed. A diamond flanked by two sapphires. She had to admit its beauty, but over the past few hours, it had begun to look froggish to her. Those sapphires looked like patient, wide-set eyes, silently wheedling for an answer. They stared at her, glittering and unblinking. Accusing? No. Just patient and expectant, like Alfred himself. He wouldn't force an answer from her, she knew. He would be sweet and supportive, through "whatever process you need to go through," he had said. And that was the biggest problem, wasn't it? What she couldn't explain, what had made her throat tighten up and refuse to cough out some kind of answer. His unflappable patience. He never got angry with her, never set his foot down. Here, he had presented her with a gorgeous engagement ring, a family heirloom. When she stalled and stammered, he just looked at her with that sweetness and nodded, asked her to think it over, and quietly left. If he had looked hurt, or slammed the door in anger, she probably would have gone after him and told him she'd marry him. But he didn't, so she didn't. Her reaction had been pure, classic Caitlin bull. And he hadn't called her out on it. Maybe he was at home now, banging things around and swearing at the cat, having genuine human emotions. But if he was, she didn't know it. And probably never would. Her eyes wandered over to the ring again and locked with the dark blue eyes already staring at her.

Taking another deep breath, she picked up her phone. Alfred deserved an answer.

Monday, August 22, 2011

There's a lotta holes in the desert.

My back hurts.

I mean, it hurts. Bad.

All I want to do is hang with Ben and Jerry.

While watching Youtube videos with names like "Giant centipede fights snake".

Or "best coyote attack ever".

(That one was pretty cool.)

*grumble, grumble*

Now I'm going to get on the couch. Maybe I'll face the back. I'll decide when I get there.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ever notice the background music in Fried Green Tomatoes? It does kinda make you hungry.

Tonight I'm joining forces with Rachel and Co. to go see The Help. I'm a little trepidatious about it. People are saying it's soooo good and touching, but when the general public says that, it usually amounts to trite and saccharine, which is pretty much what you can expect from a movie adaptation of a book that same general public has embraced.

I read it. It's aight.

See, the general public doesn't read much. That's fine; reading isn't for everyone. Periodically, a book comes out that's ok, but there's something maybe a little different about it that makes a few people say it's pretty good. Then someone like Oprah comes along and declares it, oh, enlightening or powerful or whatever. Then, it's an explosion and all these people who don't usually read are reading This Very Important Book and saying it's, like, one of the best books ever. Case in point, even comparing it to the incomparable To Kill A Mockingbird. Because people who don't regularly read for pleasure don't see the miles and miles between the layers, candor, and depth of TKAM and the too-safe-to-be-truly-provocative The Help.

I don't say that as a book snob, because I'm so not. (If anything, I'm a book slut; two covers and some pages between? Yeah, I'll hit it. You only live once, right?)I'm just sayin'. The same people who are going bananas about this book are the same people who went bananas about The Bridges Of Madison County a few years back. And they likely haven't read anything in between. If you've read five books for pleasure in your life and two of them are The Help and TKAM, well, you're going to compare the two and find them similar just because they both deal with race relations in the rural South. And they're both going to be AWESOME.

But, I read it, I did enjoy it for what it is (a tasty and largely forgettable snack consumed in between the somewhat heartier meals of Foucault and Melville), and now I'm going to go see the movie. Emma Stone usually charms my socks off, so there's that.


Also: dinner last night was wildly successful. I made flourless peanut butter cookies, and tried the chocolate cake recipe again, adding carob chips and milling the rice flour longer to refine it more. I decided to wait until Sunday to try the custards, because I want time to play with them and do a test batch. Maybe I'll get crazy and create a caramelized crust. Make creme brulee out of them.

E-2.0 went back for seconds, and took a plate home. Man, I'm good.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Can't we just get some ice cream? No. No, we can't.

Combining the regulations of a clean-eating diet with the regulations of a wheat-free, dairy-free diet is a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without the border pieces. Yeah, it can be done, but not without some frustration.

Especially for desserts. This new beast basically amounts to clean-vegan, two words whose combination summons mental pictures of organic celery dipped in melted carob chips (or something) and listlessly eaten by pale, shaky-handed waifs who keep telling you how great they feel now that they live on compassion rather than meat.

Fortunately, it's not that dire. In fact, everything I've made has been delicious. The only "Weeelllll, I wouldn't ask for leftovers" I've received was in regard to last week's chocolate cake, which was, in fact, very tasty but had a peculiar, grainy texture. I'm told that this is because I didn't use xanthan gum with the rice flour. I'm still hesitant about xanthan gum, mainly because I don't trust ingredients that start with "x".

Tonight's menu:

Grilled Lime and Basil Pork Chops
Mushroom Risotto
Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Reduction
Baked Almond and Raisin Custard*

It's not that difficult. It's just that a lot of dairy-free recipes are a slap in the face to "clean". A lot of recipes are the same recipes we're all familiar with, only they use margarine instead of butter, or, worse, Tofutti products. For the uninitiated, Tofutti makes dairy replacement products (sour cream, cream cheese, etc.) that are soy-based and use hydrogenated fats (trans fats). That stuff all the fast-food restaurants have been under fire about because it's undeniably horrible for you? Yeah, that stuff. Clearly, I can't use a product that combines industrialized soy (because I don't want breast cancer) and hydrogenated fat (because I don't want heart disease) to replace wholesome, delicious, perishable butter. But-oh wait-I can't use dairy, either.**

It's cool. I can be into forced creativity.

*Using almond milk, of course, which is actually pretty awesome.
** Don't think for a nanosecond that my own eating habits are changing. Asking me to give up dairy is like asking me to give up oxygen. I ain't the one who's allergic, dammit. But for shared meals, I'm taking one for the team.

This is probably the first of many Elitist-Meets-Allergic posts to come.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Give me flowers, because I dress appropriately.

(Spooky house on Pontotoc)

My vacation ends tonight. It's been wonderful; I've accomplished next to nothing over the past seven days. I've read a lot, written some, and worried little. Most of my time was spent in the front porch swing, absorbing sunshine and reading whatever caught my fancy at the time. I stayed up late, slept in late (well, late for me, a natural 7 a.m. riser). I spent very little time on the internet. At first, the decision to sort of digital-detox had me feeling a little anxious; what would I miss? I found the answer to that pretty quickly: not much. I slipped into relaxation easily, and stayed there. It proved to be very good for me. Not only was I more mellow than I've been in some time, all that stillness and quiet led to some big revelations about things that had been gnawing at me. Some old hurts were finally laid to rest, and some questions that had been nagging me just sort of answered themselves. Usually I travel during my vacations, and while I have a great time doing that, I always get home tired and not ready to go back to work. I go back to work tomorrow morning, and I'm looking forward to it. I feel refreshed and energized from my time off, and appreciative of the structure that shapes my working days: I rise at this time, I make my bed, I eat yogurt and berries, for this number of hours I work, I come home and wash off my makeup, I do some tidying, I eat, I talk to/spend time with my friends, I read, I go to bed. Structure is good.

The only out-of-the-ordinary thing I did this weekend was on my birthday. Engineer 2.0 and I hit the road Saturday afternoon and headed for Memphis. We arrived on the corner of 2nd and Beale just in time for a two-hour walking tour about Memphis history and its ghosts. The plan was to do the tour, then go to Ernestine & Hazel's, a former brothel that is now a bar/restaurant reputedly haunted by soiled doves of yesteryear. The tour was a lot of fun. I learned a few things about Memphis that I didn't previously know, and saw a couple of places that I would file under "Creepy, Legitimately". (Also a couple I would file under "Creepy, Kinda, If You're A Toddler.") I was a little disappointed that the tour didn't give more actual history, since, as anyone who's at all familiar with the basics of Memphis's past knows, it is pretty disturbing on its own. The tunnels under downtown weren't mentioned, nor were the mass graves for yellow fever victims. The Gayoso House and the popular steakhouse that was once used for storing the bodies of said yellow fever victims until they could be buried, weren't brought up. It was all very enjoyable, though. The tour finished up at Ernestine & Hazel's, which was unfortunately closed for a private party. The owners were very cool, however, and let us come in through a side entrance to go upstairs and poke around up there. It's kinda hard to get riled about the supernatural while you're with a group of people and joshing around with your companion, but there's definitely something spooky going on in that place. I can't wait to go back on a regular night and go back upstairs for a longer look. The place hasn't been renovated, but is still up to code. Meaning, watch your step and don't do jumping jacks up there. It's still sectioned off into the little rooms where the ladies once plied their trade, and it's very easy to stand there and imagine it as it once was. I don't think that kind of establishment can operate as long as that one did without some freaky energy settling into the wood. I look forward to returning, and maybe next time I'll be able to get my mouth on one of the Soul Burgers I've heard so much about. As touristy as Memphis can be, it says a lot that the locals like to hang out there.

After the tour, we caught the trolley back to Beale and settled into one of the nondescript bbq restaurants there for a late dinner, then lazily meandered up and down the street, merrily chatting and people-watching. It's always quite a show down there. We sat in Handy Park and talked awhile, and then an older gentleman who was selling roses approached us and gave Brett two of them to give to me. He said, "You have to give these to your wife, I can't give them to her, you need to. She's calm, and she's dressed appropriately. Give her these flowers!" We laughed and I blushed and tried to correct his mistake, but he was already walking away. So Brett handed me the flowers and thanked me for dressing appropriately, and for being so calm. We were still giggling about it when we were approached by another gentleman, who told us that for five dollars, he could tell us how many children our daddies had had. This gentleman was considerably deep in his cups, so we declined the offer and moved on. It was pretty late by then, so we moseyed back to the fairly-swanky Courtyard-Marriott, stopping for a few minutes at the fountain in Court Square. The only other people there were two young folks pawing at each other on a bench. Other than that, it was completely deserted and still, silent except for the night birds chirping. This is the Memphis I love, sultry and historic and beautiful. When you catch her in her quiet moments, its impossible not to fall in love with her.

It was a lovely cap to a wonderful week. Now I'm getting my laundry done, looking over my planner for the next week's events, and watching the days fill in with obligations and appointments. I'm ready to go back to work.

And am I happy? Oh, yes.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Monday, August 08, 2011

Unexpected nostalgia.

For a little while, my life felt like how the first minute of The Cure's Just Like Heaven sounds. And who doesn't want to feel like that? It's all sparkly and fun. It's waking up in a great mood and having a big country breakfast. It's jumping into cool water on a hot day. It's that clear way the air feels after a rain.

Sometimes, that feeling comes with spectacularly, destructive bad timing, and it causes a hurt.

Then a while later, it doesn't hurt anymore, and there's just a sense of coulda-woulda-shoulda.

And that passes, too. Except for the occasional cosmic tugging you feel when you know, without doubt, you're being thought about by someone you used to think a lot of, and it makes you lift your head and look into space for a moment. I always look toward Memphis.

Then it's gone.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

2 days til vacation.

Not a second too soon. There's all sorts of goodness on my plate lately, and I'm enjoying it. But I can use a little break to relax a bit, get caught up on some pleasure-writing (which sounds dirty but isn't). And canoeing.

That's right! For my birthday/vacation week, I'll be spending a lot of time in the water, which is natural and right. E-2.0 and I will be "floating the Buffalo", which means paddling through mostly tame water with only an occasional canoe-flipping. And really, when it's so hot outside, getting tossed in the water is kind of the best part. I've done this once before, and it was a lot of fun. Other best part? No cell service out there in the boonies. Oh, I can't wait. Swimming, splashing, broiling under the sun, pushing my companion into the water when we stop for lunch. It's gonna be a hoot.

I'll also be doing something watery with Brandon. We haven't decided yet; maybe a separate canoeing trip, maybe a long drive to the nearest water park just for the hey of it. On the days I'm not involved in some kind of outdoors adventure, I'll still be outdoors, parked at Tasha's pool and slowly getting so dark as to be unrecognizable by my enemies.

Oh, and I'll be pulling together a few pieces I'm submitting to a bigger-than-Corinth newspaper. I've received some unexpected encouragement from one of the editors, and I'm really excited about it. *crosses fingers*

Just a blupdate. I'm working on...something about lard.