Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tales From the Coffee Shop

Overheard at a table near me at the my local coffee shop:

"I can't wait to see how Nader screws the Democrats."


Big, oafy laughter ensues. I swear there was knee slapping and back patting too.

Allow me to set the stage:
These ridiculous sentiments were spoken (rather loudly) by four gray haired geezers who were complaining about the price of coffee. You're at a COFFEE SHOP, dudes! If you want to sip the cheap stuff, go home and use the old percolator to brew some Folgers. Or better yet, add two tablespoons of instant grounds to some tepid water and knock yourselves out. Mix in the Metamucil and keep your potty talk to yourself. Incidentally, the conversation before the Democrat bashing went something like this:

"I think the best thing would be to have a toilet in the shower. That way I can sit on the pot [yes, pot!] and spray myself clean to shave off time getting ready in the morning."

Dudes, you're RETIRED and don't have a time card to punch in anymore. Your Rush Limbaugh cronies can wait. OK, now they're talking about how Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are demigods and that CNN is sooooo liberal. Then they shuddered and spit as if the simple act of saying the word "liberal" was akin to eating dirt from the bottom of a shepherd's shoe. It reminds of the mom in St. Elmo's Fire who whispered unpretty words like "cancer."

Pretend you are playing the childhood game of One of These Things is Not Like the Other. In this particular coffee shop there are laptops galore (mostly Dells from what I can see - poor fools don't know how easy life could be with an Apple), moms with toddlers strapped into Maclaren strollers, suited up business folks with crooked crackberry thumbs, and the random grad student who clearly stayed up late validating online resources for her thesis. Everyone looks like paying a buck and change for a cup of joe is pretty darn reasonable.

One of these redneck guys is wearing a black Members Only jacket with a baby blue collared shirt and tie. I'm pretty sure this look was never in vogue, even the oh, 27 years ago that the Members Only brand launched. Can one even buy those anymore? The other guy is wearing a turtleneck, Hollywood Polo Club sweatshirt, and maroon polyester scarf that's all pilled over. For some reason there's an 8-roll package of Bounty paper towels on the chair in between the men, as if it were a Braga Antonius Stradivarius cello flying along in the middle seat because the musician doesn't trust baggage handlers. What the F@#*?! A new friend, Bobby, just showed up. He's dressed like the Gorton's fisherman, and it's not even raining out. In fact, there's not even a chance of rain (we are in drought, after all).

I should also mention that these men have the thickest Southern accents I have ever heard. I am only understanding about half of the conversation. Yes, I am eavesdropping. Quite blatantly at that. Even Zora Neale Hurston couldn't scribe their accents in a way that would make any sense. These guys say "sumbitch" instead of son of a bitch like the way more cultured, erudite types say it.

Here's a good one:
"Alcohol's a drug that should be illegal. Sure, my daddy made 'shine back in the day, but that was different." (In the South people who are decades past their prime say "daddy" and "grand daddy" but refer to their moms as "mother" and other women as "sister." )

Yeah, buddy, the rules are always different when you need to tweak them for yourself. David Duke was pro life until asked what he'd do if his teenage daughter came home pregnant. Hypocrisy is so unbecoming, gentlemen.

I can laugh at these guys and make fun of them for the whole world to read (rather, both people who read this blog - thanks Mom and Dad!), but the truth is, there are likely more of them in the world than the likes of me. How will I diffuse this when my boys are with me and overhear this banter? Sure, I'm making fun of people I don't even know, though we teach tolerance and acceptance at home. All in the name of humor, not hypocrisy.
Tales From the Coffee ShopSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Food, Glorious Food!

Lobster with tomato and onion salad
Grilled London broil with green beans and naan
Steamed shrimp and roasted asparagus
Sushi with seaweed salad
Shepherd's Pie and steamed broccoli
Spinach lasagna with romaine and parmesan
Mole chicken with roasted garlic broccoli

There you have it. A menu from Chez Dirt & Noise. That's what we've eaten for dinner for the last week. We, meaning Bird, Deal, Mac Daddy, and I. I love to cook and I love to eat even more. It's no secret that I can out eat Mac Daddy any day of the week. My boys are out eating me these days, so the bag boys at Harris Teeter and Whole Foods are probably thinking I have a crush on them. Our family makes more grocery runs than any family in America. I'm also willing to bet that we consume more pickles (Claussen only!), blueberries, romaine lettuce, and Stonyfield Farm yogurt than any household in America.

I cook dinner every single night. All five of my burners and both ovens get a workout. And boy were the All Clad pans worth it. We sit at the table and eat dinner as a family every single night. Having dinner ready, table set, and wine poured is as close to a 1950s housefrau that I'll ever be. I can't say I swab on lipstick, tie a silken ribbon in my hair, and spritz on Chanel #5 but I do have a proper dinner prepared. Only candle light would finish this Hallmark picture, but as you know, fire doesn't exactly spell S-A-F-E-T-Y when there are preschool boys poking each other at the table. Alas, we save the candles for birthday cakes.
Sidebar: Am I the only one a tad woozy at the thought of eating a slice of cake that a snot-nosed three-year old just blew and spittled on?!

I cook one meal for all of us. Always have. Always will. My mom spent much of my childhood dinner times in a frenzy, cursing my father under her breath (it turns out for more reasons than dinner duties) because she put on a short order cook's hat when she entered the kitchen. My brother ate nothing but American ballpark fare for years, while my dad insisted on traditional Indian dishes and rice. Back when I was about 10-years old I must have subconsciously made a pact with my future husband and family to create a happy family meal time tradition. First of all, I'm not going to prepare two separate meals. Secondly, food is one of life's pleasures that is far more than sustenance. It is a glimpse into other cultures and rituals. Eating is an act to be be enjoyed leisurely, abundantly, and joyfully. One of the greatest gifts I can give my boys is a sense of curiosity. Why should food be exempt from their expanding world of wonder?

Bird and Deal devour sushi, especially toro (fatty tuna), which is of course the most expensive item on the menu. They get a kick out of eating seawood salad and had a blast trying sauteed sea beans. Bird even ventures out to add a droplet of Tabasco on his sunnyside up eggs from time to time. They eat dal, chicken curry, and palak paneer as voraciously as they chow down on grilled squash and tilapia with brown butter sauce. So far the only thing Bird won't eat is potatoes, no matter how I cook them or how much cheese is slathered on top. Deal doesn't enjoy snap peas, but I think that pesky string is too much for his molarless gums to chew.

In fact, Bird and Deal eschew typical kid fare, which has proven embarrassing on more than one occasion. They poke around pizza and generally pick off the black olives, pepperoni, and green peppers. Dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets are left alone to rumble in someone else's tummy, regardless what condiment is available for dipping. French fries are an afterthought. They'd rather eat the roasted red pepper and habanero soup and goose that we have for Thanksgiving dinner (Thanks to our dear friend and family chef, Uncle Ty!) than munch on nitrite-laden turkey slabs and canned green beans that you might find at the typical kids' table every November.

Bird and Deal have already developed an impressive palate, asking for manchego cheese, capers, smoked salmon, lamb with mint jelly, and hot and sour soup by name. I know their school buddies will influence them, and they'll saunter home asking why they don't get Lunchables in their lunchbox or whining that the other guys will never come over to play if we have Tandoori chicken for dinner. They'll get over it. Eventually my brother did, and he loves him some Cajun food now.

Sure, we go to McDonald's too. Once we went twice in one weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. But the boys get apples instead of fries and milk instead of soda. I am appalled at how many little tykes drink soda. What a horrid habit for the very young! We eat plenty of hot dogs, cole slaw, and meatballs at Chez Dirt & Noise too. My point is that we all eat whatever is on the menu. Everyone tries at least one bite of everything. So far there have been few dinner times the boys aren't inducted into the Clean Plate Club. I'm no foodie; I just love good, fresh food and view eating as an event to be shared and celebrated, not just necessary caloric intake to fuel the body and keep the small intestine cleansed.

My favorite part of everday is when we hold hands before dinner and say something we're thankful for from the day. Sometimes this is as simple as, "I'm thankful Daddy is home early to play before dinner." or "I'm thankful for a nice day." There are more poignant, touching lines like, "I'm thankful my family loves me." and "I'm thankful for a brother." It's no fun digging into brussels sprouts and pancetta all weepy eyed. I hope that Bird and Deal will carry this tradition on to their families one day. I'm pretty sure they'll lose it during their sodium rich Ramen Noodles and cold pizza fraternity days, but perhaps it will reemerge later in their adult years.

I'm betting that if Bird and Deal continue to don aprons and "help" me cook dinner, they'll be impressing the ladies when they whip up a mean roast leg of lamb and cauliflower gratin for a first date. That is, if the chick eats anything other than salad with a squeeze of lemon juice and laxatives. If there's anything I'm teaching Bird and Deal, it's that real women eat. And relish it.
Food, Glorious Food!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, February 25, 2008

Do you take (insert name here) to be your husband?

Mac Daddy and I enjoyed a glorious weekend away...sans kids! Thanks to Nani and Aunt Ginny, we were able to go to Florida to see our friend Chris wed his one true love. Chris is quite possibly the nicest human being on the planet. Not in that he's funny looking with a crooked nose and too full upper lip kind of way. He's actually just genuinely nice. And awfully attractive. I mean it. Cute. Downright hot even. He and his bride make a lovely couple indeed. You almost expect to see them as wedding action figures atop every lemon chiffon cake in every hotel ballroom in America.

We all know that weddings host a colorful cast of characters. Only an airport departure gate affords better fodder for the Olympic sport of people watching. This wedding was in Tampa, providing different color than the chicken dance Midwestern receptions, preppy Palm Beach weddings, and stiff British affairs I am used to attending. Tampa offered a certain fromage factor that I hadn't expected. Some of the cocktail dresses were skimpier than the tankini I've resorted to wearing since my stomach never regained its pre-baby tautness (at least according the modicum of hotness that I think is required to be appropriate for human eyes at the beach). I have dangly earrings longer than one chick's dress. To top it off, she had Crystal Gayle hair, and I kid you not, the hair was as long as the hemline.

I can't comment on the male guests because I can't say I noticed them. A bunch of suits and shiny shoes. No white socks or zoot suits that I noticed. It's strikes me as silly that the E! fashionistas even bother with best and worst dressed men from the Oscars. Black tux. White shirt. Shawl collar. Vest. Armani. Dolce and Gabbana. Whatever. George Clooney in a tux is the exception. HOT. HOT. HOT.

The wedding gents looked resplendent in their tailored-to-order Men's Wearhouse penguin suits. The bridesmaids were downright superb. First of all, the girls were lovely. Really lovely. The bride must really, really love those friends for choosing a dress with a universally flattering cut and color that the women can actually wear again without screaming, "I wore this in a wedding once, but the bride promised I could get more use out of it, and dammit I will!" It goes without saying that the bride was perfection. No back fat or cottage cheese arms spilling out of that fitted lace sheath gracing her trim figure. Quite the opposite as she looked divine.

I was a good 12 years older than any of the women I befriended. 12 YEARS. A generation apart. They were suckling newborns when I was sporting purple hair and lace tights a la Cyndi Lauper. Nonetheless we had a blast yucking it up, but I fear that at the end of it all they'll remember me as the old drunk chick who was trying so pathetically hard to be young despite a pending 40th birthday. Maybe the fact that this was only our fourth time away from our children (Ever!) was all too apparent. Funny how weddings bring out the immaturity in us, while marriage is one of life's biggest marks of maturity. Blame the open bar for that irony.

One touching exchange I was privy to by sheer happenstance was during the ceremony when the bride's mom reached her hand behind her and found the bride's father's hand rest in hers for a tender moment. The clasp was longer than a heartbeat but shorter than a lingering grasp. You see, the bride's parents are divorced and remarried. In that moment they shared their love and pride for their daughter, and that transcends all. My parents too are divorced, and I can guarantee that there has never been so much as a handshake since their split ages ago. I'm pretty sure that apart from conceiving me and my brother, there was no hand holding or embracing going on. All that baggage makes for shaky ground when it comes to my own marriage and raising my boys.

All in all, the trip was SO worth it (and not just because Mac Daddy and I could sleep past 8:00, enjoy the decadence of room service, and eat dinner later than our usual 5:30). We made new friends, laughed at the mating rituals that I don't miss partaking in, and luxuriated in wine, cafe con leche, and lots of laughs.

A memorable moment was when young, handsome Grant was questioning taking hitting-on-the-ladies advice from bald Dave and grayed Brandon (both of whom are handsome guys themselves). We got the inside scoop on air traffic control from a guy who's served two terms in Iraq and is poised for a third. One highlight was the 2-year old ring bearer who was adorable in his mini tux, though he was totally uninterested in bearing any rings. He was a champ despite staying up waaaaaayyy past his bedtime all weekend. When he was approaching meltdown mode I could have lent a helping hand...but I didn't. I was enjoying my time away from Bird and Deal too much to step in to manage someone else's toddler. Go ahead, call me selfish. You know you'd shirk the duties too.

And then there were the Ivy Leaguers who could be spotted the proverbial mile away. No uncharacteristic boozing going on at their table, only erudite conversation and quiet lulls. Meanwhile our table next to them was full of friendly bickering, catty conversation, and wine sloshing. The Ivy Leaguers were PhDs who left before the band played the last song. I guess there's a reason those guys are so smart.

Lastly, the minister was the big surprise hit of the weekend. She was earnest and fun, mind you, but damn, she was the most brazen, snappy woman of the cloth I have ever encountered! The Birkenstocks threw me for a curve. She was so candid and free spirited with Amstel Light in hand. I expect I'll never again discuss the topics of lost virginity or homosexuality with a minister. Hats off to her for being human!

Mac Daddy and I have vowed to take more time away from our kids. We came home feeling refreshed. We've been back for two days and haven't lost our patience, temper, or car keys once. We realize that we missed our silly family rituals and appreciate each other so much more than when we were in the midst of our Sisyphus life. It's the familial, group hug version of absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder-sex. G-rated, of course. And don't even think about bursting my bubble.

Happy Endings, as Neil Diamond says!
Do you take (insert name here) to be your husband?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

His Glass Slippers


A ringing endorsement from Deal, who doesn't seem to care that his frog Polliwalks will be a tish cold in 40 degree temps. Even with socks (Gasp!). He has given in (FINALLY) and agreed to wear them indoors. All the time. Even to bed. It's pretty sandy in those sheets.

I am firmly against the socks and sandals look but make amends for Polliwalks (except on 40 degree days). The granola fools who wore itchy wool socks from the venerable L.L. Bean and Tevas in college were all, "Hey man, relax. Save the manatee. Pass the bong, dude. I'm soooo fucked up. Dylan is like, so cool. He totally gets me. And, hey you! Yeah, YOU! Get your hands off my BMW!" Conformity and Hypocrisy at their best.

At least Deal's socks are not black, pulled up to his calves with sock garters steadfastly in place, and scrawny chicken hair legs bowleggedly walking around like the geezer getting off the Holland America tour bus in Tampa. The flame will indeed be extinguished if Mac Daddy sports that get up in his old age. I fully plan on embarrassing my children, but not through how I dress.

His Glass SlippersSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


"If I eat this pepperoni will it come out as pee?" Deal

"No, it will come out in your poop. Only what you drink comes out as pee." Me

Long pause, gears churning, eyes flickering side to side. Bird

"So what will happen if I eat ice?" Bird

Apparently Bird would be the one winning big money on the hit new game show, "Are You Smarter Than a Preschooler?"
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