Thursday, June 19, 2008

5:00 Fridays

It's time to get dirty! Ooh, Mac Daddy's getting all hot and bothered under the collar just reading that. He'll be totally busted if he's reading this at work. Not that he reads his wife's personal blog at work, when he is busting his ass being productive as all get out on The Man's time. I bet all his friends are jealous that his wife even makes mention of getting dirty. What man doesn't want to hear his wife utter those words? You know there are visions of a stripper pole being installed in our bedroom right now. I bet that's what he had in mind when I invited some women over to redecorate our bedroom.

But let's be real folks, my parents read this blog.

Today's happy hour cocktail is one that Mac Daddy introduced me to, with much cajoling...the Dirty Martini. The dirtier the better. It's about the only dirt this girl can take, unless we're dishin' it. Seeing that this is the home of Dirt & Noise, it seemed only appropriate to mark the weekend with the oh so tasty Dirty (& Noisy) Martini.

Hendrick's is the consummate summer time liquor. A luxuriously subtle cucumber infusion, mixed with the usual juniper, is downright sublime. A tasty treat year round, but particularly delightful in the heat of summer. Oh, what fun to be a food and drink writer! Perhaps only naming lipstick and nail polish would be more fun. If you have not yet tried Hendricks', run, don't walk, to the nearest liquor store and buy some now. Bring your American Express card because it's unlikely you'll have enough cash to cover it. So. Worth. It. We just found it on special and stocked up.

So here you go, a Dirty (& Noisy) Martini:

1 1/2 ounces Hendrick's gin (Nothing else will do! Trust me here.)
Healthy splash of olive juice (Splurge on the good ones, not the salad bar crap with the dyed red soggy pimentos. Bleu cheese or garlic stuffed olives are smashing.)
3, no fewer, olives skewered on a toothpick for garnish (fancy or plain toothpicks, I'm partial to the little plastic swords)

Mix the Hendrick's and olive juice in a sterling silver shaker with ice. Any shaker will do, of course, but a sterling silver one sets the mood in a Gatsby-esque way that plastic just won't touch. Shake vigorously until teeny tiny ice crystals form. Your hand will be frozen a la the tongue in A Christmas Story. Strain and pour into martini glasses and add skewer of olives.

Toast to the good life. Enjoy responsibly; eat a hearty snack while you imbibe. The drunken olives don't count as the snack.

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Everybody's All American

I grew up in a cul de sac neighborhood eating Ho Hos, hot dogs, and PBJs like all the other kids on the block. I played Atari and stayed up late to watch Friday Night Videos. I begged my mom for Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and Nike sneakers. I had a massive crush on Shaun Cassidy. I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout, even sold cookies door to door. I played field hockey and lacrosse. I went to prom, three times. I pledged my undying love to a sorority. I went to fraternity formals and tailgates. I was a school crossing guard and ran for class president. I oohed and aahed at fireworks every July 4th and eagerly tore into presents every December 25th. I ate up American history class (thanks to the fabulous Ms. Malone) and registered to vote as soon as I turned 18.

You could say I lived the all-American life, cliches and all.

I wasn't born an American. I was raised one.

If you want to get technical, I was born in Calcutta, India (a place the Department of Homeland Security fiercely scrutinizes in terms of immigration now). I've been in the States for 39 years. It is my home. While I look Indian, I am all American. I speak like an American, butchering a French accent as much as my classmates did; I even have a surprise Southern drawl if I have a few too many Yuenglings with my neighbors. I married an American (from the Heartland, doesn't get more American than that!). I have two boys who are first generation American. I have an American passport. To the world, I am officially American, on paper.

My children are 100% American, no matter how you look at it (or them). Sure, they are bi-racial, I suppose. I don't think of them in that way. Apparently many people do. Some people have even asked me if I'm their nanny. In typical Mac Daddy fashion, he says it's because I look too good to have had two kids. Ha! He just knows what to say to get him some hot action. This was a timely article in our local paper, considering an exchange I had with a neighbor Friday night.

Picture this: Four families sitting around the yard, chowing down some pepperoni pizza and cracking open some Miller High Lifes, children running amok, neighbors stopping by to say hey. The conversation turned to the movie "Star Wars." Mac Daddy proudly said he's never seen it (It's a point of pride and conviction for him at this point.). Oh, the crowd went wild, jeering him for being so out of touch with possibly the greatest piece of pop culture ever. I chimed in with "I hated Star Wars."

Jokingly, a friend said that hating Star Wars was practically unAmerican. Ha ha ha. We had a good laugh at that Chuck. Then another neighbor pipes in with, "Of course it's unAmerican. Look at who you're talking to."

Silence struck. All the fun and folly evaporated at that instant. I could feel my eyes on fire, my skin crawling, my heart racing, my teeth clenching, my brain reeling, my angry words swirling in my brain. I burst. How could I not?

I retorted with an emphatic, "Actually, I AM American."

"Well, not really. You weren't born here."

"That's not the only thing that makes someone American."

"Well, you're not American like I am."

"I didn't realize there were degrees of American-ness. I have lived here for 39 years. I was BRED an American. I lived all but one year outside of this country when I was a baby!" I was screaming now.

"Well, you weren't born here. You missed a year here." Was she seriously arguing this point?!

"Oh, I see. You absorbed all your American-ness in that impressionable first year of life.'

"Yes, that's it." Really?! Are you freaking kidding me? Does she really think this? Should I smack her or what?

"You know what? I actually represent the REAL America. The one that is based on the melting pot and freedom and immigration to a new world? You know, the one in history books regaling stories of Ellis Island and the first settlers? I am as American as they come and don't ever tell me otherwise. My family CHOSE to be American, never taking it for granted for one single second."

With that I stomped inside, fighting back tears. How could she question my identity?

In this day of mixed races, ethnicities, and religions among families, there are no easy physical identifiers anymore. Isn't that the beauty of our country? Is that not our brand? My heritage will always be Indian, and don't get me wrong, I'm damn proud of it. For starters, our cuisine and literary contributions to the planet far exceed America's. My neighbor likely sees that as not being proud of my country. Well you know what? Sometimes I'm not proud of my country. I'm certainly not proud of the numbskulls running it right now. What makes me proud is that I am free to state my opinion without fear of retribution.

I campaign fiercely in every election, taking time off from my paying job. Would I do that if I weren't an American who cared about her country and wanted to protect it? I am a proud American. Patriotic songs make me cry, and they did even before 9/11. When I was a kid I won a Mini Page contest for the Fourth of July. I took a popular car commercial of the day and drew pictures to go along with it as my way to depict America (Clearly advertising and marketing spoke to me from a young age.). I won the contest and got my picture and photo printed in the paper. I think my mom still has the clipping. She was that proud.

Now don't go telling me I'm not American.
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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Luke Russert would make his dad proud.

Mac Daddy and I should only hope that our sons turn out to be half as poised, gracious, bright, and warm as Luke Russert.

Some say you are not a real adult until you lose a parent. Luke was just a boy a few days ago; he has emerged a mature, gentle, affable young man. A lovely father-son relationship indeed.
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It's time we mess with Texas.

I've mentioned before that Texas leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, I've been there. A few times, saw about four cities. Granted, I was there for work and as a tourist. Never lived there. Do I have preconceptions? Am I biased? Guilty as charged.

But tell me you're not outraged by that button that the Texas Republicans sold and wore at the state Republican convention? O-U-T-R-A-G-E. Emphasis on rage. Shameful. Hateful. Disgraceful.

But this, this is why I hate Texas. Sorry, Julie. I don't mean it personally. I have many friends from Texas so I surely don't mean I hate Texans. Just the Republican ones.
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Moderate Schmoderate.

Don't think that I'm not sickened by this image. I almost didn't upload it lest I heave up the Kashi cereal and turkey meatballs I ate today (not at the same meal, mind you).

Look, it's no secret that I'm one of those crrraaazzzyyyy liberals who wants the air to be clean, water to be clear, children to have healthcare, soldiers to come home, and schools to actually have books. But you know what, I spend a lot of time doing my homework. Mac Daddy and I watch three news channels concurrently while we each surf various blogs, news sites, and polls on our laptops. Sometimes we like to go really crazy and quadruple surf on our Blackberries too. News is our porn. Our addiction. Our time sapper. OK, Facebook has become a time sapper of late too.

Granted, I don't do much to learn the other side. That is simply too infuriating. I leave that to Mac Daddy who can withstand AM conservative talk radio without driving over a cliff. Me? I'd slam into the next pick up truck I saw if I listened to that crap. As it is it's all I can do to not flip off the Range Rovers I see driving around these parts with "W. Still the President" stickers. Seriously, who are these people? Have they not taken off their Chanel sunglasses long enough to see the world around them? I suppose they live life with a flippant toss of the hand as they call for the "help" to fetch the kids and fold the laundry.

Nonetheless, we all owe it to ourselves to brush up on our candidate of choice, regardless the race: local, state, national. We spend more time choosing fabric for our living room drapes than we do learning about the candidates' policies. More thought goes into picking summer camps and preschools than who the leader of the free world will be. We stress and moan about where to have our kid's birthday party but pay no regard to who's running for city council.

And what's with this nonsense of women saying, "Oh, I just vote for whom my husband tells me to vote for." Insert flitty dumb giggle here. I hear this load of crap from many women who are educated, professionals, colleagues and moms alike. Women who have advanced degrees in things I cannot pronounce. Women who are younger than I am. This madness must stop. Are they afraid to sound, and BE, smart? Aren't we over this silliness?

If you or anyone you know is considering voting for John McCain, either because you've always been a Republican, your husband told you to, or you think it's a Hillary smack at Obama, read this. You owe it to yourself to at least know what your vote will get you. You owe that to your children and to your fellow citizens. Voting is a right, a responsibility. Don't take it lightly. Surely it warrants more time than toile or cabbage roses in the dining room.
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Monday, June 16, 2008

Everything I Never Needed to Know in Life I Learned from My Dad

My dad is not the kind of guy who sat around the fire goofing off with us. We didn't live in a house where anyone told jokes or pulled pranks. There were no feisty nights of Sorry, Life, or Clue. No rainy afternoons putting together a misty mountaintop puzzle scene. No games of catch, touch football, or tag. No one baked cupcakes and licked the batter off the mixer thingees. I honestly don't remember any tickling, wrestling, climbing fits of fun like Mac Daddy endures with our boys. No nuzzling.

What I do remember are lots of heavy moments. My dad, he's a stoic one. He's Indian. He's an engineer. He's mathy. Oh, and he's a man. All that adds up to a pretty stiff guy. He's smart, well-read, curious, world traveled, and savvy. He is also gentle, kind, and patient. Oh, the patience. He did have to raise me after all. A job he kind of got stuck with. With no manual. No support line. No life raft in sight. A job he never got thanks for.

While my home sounds like a pretty gloomy place, it wasn't all bad. It's not what I want for Bird and Deal, but it wasn't bad per se. You see, my dad's plate was more overloaded than a blue hair's at a Vegas penny slot buffett. Like all parents, he did the best he could. Based on how my brother and I turned out, I think he did pretty darn well.

He did teach me some invaluable life lessons without even realizing it. And you know what, I never did read that stupid self help book he gave me when I was in seventh grade, How to Be an Assertive Woman. I guess his worry was that a tiny, 85 pound 5 foot tall runt like me needed some sort of boost to keep up with the bully boys and Heathers. Looks like that assertion gene was already in my blood. Plentiful at that.

So here goes, Dad's Top 10 List:

1) When you find a job, you must love the work, enjoy the people, and get paid well. Two out of three is pretty good.

2) Study anything in college that interests you. A liberal arts education will teach you how to read, write, and think creatively and analytically. A job will teach you anything else you need. College is about an education, not a trade.

3) Do anything for your children. Sacrifice has no bounds when it comes to providing for your kids.

4) Learn to drive a stickshift.

5) Don't drive with the radio louder than the sounds of the road.

6) Work, and only work, will get you where you want to be. Luck is for the feeble minded.

7) Learning a foreign language is about way more than conjugating verbs and memorizing vocabulary.

8) Love your brother, for he will be all the family you have one day when your parents are long gone.

9) Don't work for someone who isn't smarter than you. You'll learn nothing and get frustrated in the process.

10) Learning doesn't stop after you collect the degree.

And so it goes that Bird and Deal will benefit from their Dadu's advice. Hopefully they'll take it at an earlier age than I did. Happy Father's Day, Dad!

And I would be remiss to not wish Mac Daddy a Happy Father's Day. If you look up fatherhood in the dictionary, Mac Daddy's picture would be right there. There is nothing hotter than him holding and cuddling our boys on the couch, rumpled in their Sunday morning finest. Bird and Deal have no idea how lucky they are. They have a daddy who is affectionate, playful, funny, smart, and truly loving. He sets the best example to teach our boys how to treat women, care for others, be good stewards of the community, and live responsibly. All with a dose of humor and conviction.

Lastly, let me say that this is our second father's day without Mac Daddy's father. We miss him. We miss his laugh, his voice, his gentle tousling of the kids' hair without even realizing he was doing it. He was a fine grandfather to our boys. Mac Daddy would make him proud.
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