Friday night music update, vol. 1

Current favorite song title: “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow,” by Father John Misty

Current favorite song lyrics: “Philomena,” by The Decemberists:

Oh, Philomena
You in a tawdry gown
Lean to your window
Let slip a ribbon down
A cure to your boredom
If only you’d let me go
Down, down down
Long summer days can lead to lazy vices
Boys all in idle, left to their own devices
Open up your linen lap
And let me go down, down down

All that I wanted in the world was just to live to see a naked girl
But I found I quickly bored, I wanted more, I wanted more

So I’ll be your candle and I’ll be your statuette
I’ll be your lashing loop of leatherette
Aw Philomena, if only you’d let me go
Down, down down

All that I wanted in the world was just to live to see a naked girl
But I found I quickly bored, I wanted more, oh, so much more

So I’ll be your candle and I’ll be your statuette
I’ll be your lashing loop of leatherette
Aw Philomena, if only you’d let me go
Down, down down
Go down, down down
Go down, go down

IMG_4266Current favorite album to listen to in the dark on a Friday night while writing and procuring a shiraz-stache: “Archive Series Vol. No. 1,” by Iron & Wine

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The culinary arts.

Lately, it feels as though my “artistic” energy has been channeled much more enthusiastically in the kitchen. I don’t consider myself any sort of great chef, but I just love cooking. It may be basic. It may be anti-feminist, and it may be novice, but goddamnit, sometimes nothing makes me feel better than making dinner for my husband.IMG_4246

As of late, I’ve been on a new recipe kick. Chicken pot pie. Chicken sausage jambalaya. Shrimp gumbo. (Okay, so I got hella enthused about Mardi Gras, and would have made my own king cake, were it not a weekday.) Butternut squash risotto. General Tao’s chicken. Greasy spoon-worthy grilled chicken sandwiches. The most authentic fried rice I’ve ever made. Tomorrow I’m trying my hand at eggs benedict. And I dream of crafting a good beef pho.

After sitting at a desk all day, Googling recipes and making lists, it feels good to stand in the kitchen and use my hands for a couple of hours. To expertly peel a head of garlic and know why parmesan works better in a dish than cheddar. To be able to have the timing nailed down so that the roasted potatoes and baked chicken are done at exactly the same time. IMG_4234To know al dente without setting a timer. To be able to smell the rice in the steamer and know it’s done before lifting the lid to look at it. It feels good to have recipes I know so well I no longer have to read the recipes or use measuring devices.

Sometimes I write, sometimes I paint. All of the time I read, and every day, I cook. Foodliness is godliness, and we’ll just say godliness is why my new jeans are a size 10 rather than my usual 8. *sigh.

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Write a short story that takes place in Argentina in 1932, in which a teacup plays a crucial role.

Isaac Ramirez was a black-haired, brown-eyed artist with fire in his belly and glass in his brain. He burned sharp and white-hot in all he did, including his work as a potter’s apprentice in his uncle Don Julio’s Buenos Aires kiln, Arcilla.

So when Mariposa Jones waltzed in to buy a flower vase, all blue-eyed and batted lashes, wrapped in layers of tulle lighter than air, Isaac Ramirez was taken. The stormy day rumbled bleak and gray, but she was a spot of light. Chestnut hair flowed all down her back and across her shoulders, bare and tan in the Argentine heat.

Why surely you have time for more than just a simple vase, said Isaac Ramirez. He produced a pot of maté tea from the back mudroom and poured a cup for the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen in his life, just to keep her there longer, if only for a few sips. Mariposa drank from the blue teacup and it soaked in the azul from her eyes.

You must come back here tomorrow, said Isaac Ramirez, heart beating like a gaucho racing across the hot, desirous plans, rounding up his courage like cattle. And I will have more to show you. Thunder rattled the windows and the air was thick with rain.

See that pillar there in the window, said Isaac, The one with the silver tray on top? If you see this blue teacup on it, you will come to me at noon, when my uncle is away. And I will show you a vessel far more suited for your beautiful flower.

Mariposa Jones placed her teacup into Isaac’s burning hand. And if I shouldn’t see the blue cup at all? Will you place your red one there to keep me away? The colors of her dress blew softly around her curves, higher and brighter than Benito’s pigeons, down in the square.

Isaac held out his own crimson cup, brimming with hot yerba. Thirst burned long in his throat, but he dashed it across the brick wall of the shop. Tea splashed everywhere, and Mariposa’s eyes went wide.

Today may be gray as slurry, my Bonita, but tomorrow, our sky burns blue.

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X Words

People say that the first letter of my name marks the spot. The spot where what? I ask, but nobody ever seems to have the answer.

Instead, I tell them that it’s a hopeful deletion. That my parents wanted to mark out my existence from the very beginning. That maybe they meant to call me Andrew but started with the X and only got halfway through some alternative yuppie misspelling of Andrew.

My name is Xander.

Every night I leave my gas station job at 11:07 p.m. I make sure the pumps are set to auto and lock the lottery tickets and the cigarettes up tight. The last of the roller-steamed hot dogs sweat in their foil deep in my coat pockets.

Rainwater pools on the sidewalks like black slicks of oil, reflecting the moonlight that shines overhead. It’s a bright night, and I can see human mounds huddled in doorways, hunkering in for the night. I’d seen a couple of them at the gas station earlier in the evening, taking a piss in the station bathrooms or smoking the last of discarded cigarette butts by the propane refill tanks.

“Keep tryin’ that,” I shout from the cracked window behind the cash register, “If you really wanna blow everyone to hell and back!”

The bums stare back behind slitted eyes and shuffle off to go stink up some other sidewalk. They’re already in hell. What do they care?

The hallway in my apartment building is totally dark. The bulb burnt out two weeks ago and no one has bothered to replace it. Yellow slits of light shoot out from beneath the closed doors that line the hallway. Everything is quiet, save for the static blare of a forgotten television in 2B. My apartment is freezing. I left the window open and rain water has soaked through the living room carpet. But the computer is on and cleanup will have to wait.

I log in to the chat room, fingers itching to get at those keys and into that world. I grab a wrapped up hot dog from my pocket and lay it out on the desk. A little ketchup from a fast food packet and it’s down the hatch. I’m hungry and tonight is going to be a long one.


This is already hell. What do I care?


I am an unknown quantity.

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True affection.

I always thought the moment when you realize you don’t love your husband anymore would be a little more climactic. I expected some sort of movie-like argument that erupts in the kitchen with glass shattering against a white wall. The calling of names and threatening of divorce.

What they don’t tell you, I guess, is that it’s a much sneakier event. Something that suddenly just creeps up on you one morning when he asks you to please throw a slice of bread in the toaster for him because he’s running late for work and you realize that the last thing in the world you want to do is put that bread in the toaster because you just don’t give a fuck anymore.

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Putting away childish things.

Last weekend, I spent most of a day down in the basement of my parents’ house, rifling through old childhood items and deciding what I should take to store away in my own grown-up basement, what should stay there for my sister and I to eventually divvy up, and what should get thrown away or donated.

Since my parents built a house in 2003, we moved when I was 15, and a lot of the boxes I went through hadn’t been opened since then. What teenager is really going to unpack and play with cases of Barbies? Not many. It was sad to think about how much of that stuff hadn’t seen the light of day in over ten years. I only dropped a couple of boxes off at the thrift shop, but ended up throwing away two garbage bags full of random high school trinkets, posters, and assorted memorabilia. It was just so nice to not feel so attached to things. I can literally remember high school and college like they were yesterday, and it’s really much nicer to hold on to the memories and photos rather than physical objects. 

I sort of kept and left things based on what my own kids might use or play with when they come visit grandma and grandpa, which is totally surreal thinking. But this is adult life now, right? That said, I did take home those pink cases of Barbies (complete with bitchin’ Barbie Ferrari) and a handful of other complete random items that I’m still somehow convinced hold meaning or that I “might need someday.” Will I ever need all those Mardi Gras beads? My Winnie the Pooh stuffed teddy bear? A plush fold-out chair patterned with stars and planets? Who knows? Maybe someday.

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One night at Versailles.

As I am keen to mention, my husband and I visited France nearly two years ago, and I think it may have been the pinnacle of my life. While the entire trip was amazing top to bottom (minus my near-mugging at the Hôtel de Ville in Paris but don’t worry…chick didn’t get anything, I took care of her), I often wish we could re-do our trip to Versailles.

Now, to be fair, I had unrealistically high hopes for Versailles. Yes I had seen Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dunst in college, but that wasn’t just it. Or, maybe it was. After all, I had the soundtrack to that particular film all queued up in a playlist on my iPod, which was tragically forgotten back at the hotel that day, But nonetheless, I suppose I was hoping for a bit more of the colorful decadence, sweeping beauty, and vast elaborate gorgeousness that I had seen on screen and in photos.

What happened, of course, is that the whole time you are in the palace, you are plodding slowly behind scads of other tourists trying to dial in the right buttons on their audio tours, guides sticking chintzy poles decorated with stuffed penguins into the air, and segmented rooms that are only mere recreations of what actually lies beyond the area where no one is allowed.

Also, Versailles was at the end of our two-week journey. I woke up that morning not feeling well. My body felt on fire despite theP1000917 chilly rain outside, which quickly seeped into my tired body. Foolishly leaving the hotel without a coat, I was forced to borrow Q’s big wool pullover, and thereby rolled into Versailles looking like some kind of dumpy ’90’s peasant. Also unexpected was the complete and total vastness of the property. Though we were chaperoning a class, everyone was free to wander on their own. Naturally, I decided I wanted to go see the Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s own little private estate and hamlet. There was half an hour to spare, but what nobody tells you, of course, is that Versailles probably has its own zip code. After two weeks of nothing but pounding pavement, my legs already felt like they were going to snap off of my hips, but I enjoy walking and the jaunt to the Trianon was obviously worth it.

P1000938Cue twenty minutes later when despite taking huge strides, Q and I were barely able to make out that we were even close to arriving at our destination. Once we got to what we thought might be it, there was additional admission required, and we didn’t have the euros to pay. Of course by that time, it we had to motor on back to meet the rest of the group anyway, so back it was, hauling ass through the dead and desolate gardens that had succumbed to the same harsh winter and late spring that had plagued America that year. I passed by rows of bare branches and scarce hews, knowing that the potential was there, the beauty and life were waiting, but I, as always, was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I still think about how grand it would be to spend one night at Versailles. A night where you can take in the majesty of the Hall of Mirrors without ten million people staring back in them. A night where you P1000949can admire the ornate ceilings and draperies and imagine life as it was in the 1700’s without being completely aware that there is a La Durée bakery built in to the palace exit. (Yes, I bought a little green box of macaroons there…whatever.) P1000942

The teacher we were traveling with blamed Sofia Coppola for all the madness, so I suppose I can understand. I know we’ll be back to Versailles some day, when the hews are a vibrant green and the flowers are blooming. Until then, I can look at these photos and listen to The Radio Department, all the while waiting for Apollo to pull the sun out from all this darkness. P1000964

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