Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I See Your Fiction and Raise You One Cold Reality

I got up this morning and prepared for work by putting on clean pajamas, a cuddly robe and slippers.


Winter is coming.


I work from home. Where you might put on "office casual" clothes and yell at other drivers for a short trip every morning (after which you are rewarded with office donuts and marginally OK coffee), I shuffle down the hall, usually wearing whatever I slept in the night before and with at least one cat underfoot, trying to balance a large coffee cup, my breakfast and my phone long enough to get to the desk in the guest bedroom. I haven't spilled anything yet, but I have discovered that Henry the Ginger is the slowest walking cat in the long history of cats walking. Because he is species-impaired, his slowness is exacerbated by the common feline habit of constantly turning around to make sure I'm still behind him. Nothing I can do about that, I guess.


I have a (we'll call it) mild neurological condition, which makes that first cold snap of the year feel a bit like a week-long hangover. What the hell did I drink last night? Nothing? Goddamnit. I get head pain, neck pain, facial pain, ears ringing, blue toes (who doesn't love blue toes?), general malaise..."Everything hurts and I'm dying." The usual. Just...stupid crap, none of which is interesting or severe enough to take to the long-suffering physician for a whine session. Two fixes include the very strong pills and the application of heat and liquids. I hoard the pills and soak my suddenly dehydrated spine in hot baths, after which I dress in layers of slovenly casual until my body catches up to the idea that, yes....it's coming.


I admit to being somewhat resentful of the world-wide appropriation of the phrase, "Winter is coming," but I don't blame George R. R. Martin so much as I blame our rabid appetite for internet memes. I'm a Minnesotan. Much like the Starks, a prevailing truth in my life is that Winter is always coming. The only time it isn't coming is when we are in the thick of it. We live it, so screw you, internet.


During the acclimation period, my brain rejects foods that I enjoyed all summer, even if I just ate it one day ago. Grilled fish and steamed vegetables? Fuck you. I want beef stew. I use the temporary misery time to re-learn how to make hot tea and soup. The constant need for liquid and warmth intersect in the kitchen. I bake bread. Legumes du jour change from raw anything to roasted everything. Why do you think Minnesotans make so many hot-dishes? Any excuse to turn on the oven.


Because Winter is coming.


Almost like clockwork, one of my dear ones texts me from his home in Phoenix. He's excited about a particular frozen custard, and I give serious thought to buying a plane ticket so I can sun myself like a lizard on a rock in his back yard, the sight of cactus and palm trees awakening my inner joy, as it always does. I do love Phoenix. I become convinced that the only way I will ever enjoy frozen custard again is if I move in with him, but...logically, I know it isn't true. In a couple of weeks, I'll be used to the colder weather and life will go on as before. I'll have put away all of the short pants and t-shirts and I'll have dragged out all of the jeans and wool socks and knitted caps that help me survive. It will all be fine, in time. I'll go back to being one of those Northern people who roll their eyes at the idea that it must be unbearable to live here. I'll think, as we all do, that anyone who can't handle it must just be weak.


It is coming.


We're ready.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Memes. Memes Everywhere.

Like most Americans, I spent September 11th, 2001, glued to my television, only leaving the house to collect my children from school early that day because none of us knew what the rest of it would hold, and the only thing that made sense was that at least we should all be in the same place if something else should happen.


15 years, I have been watching this anniversary tick by. For a chunk of that time, I have been on social media, and watched all of my friends and family post their "Never forget" memes and tributes.


For the last 5-6 years, I have been rolling my eyes at most of them. Do actual humans living in the United States really think anyone could forget a day of collective trauma? Just...forget it? Who they fuck do they think people are?


I say these things knowing full well that it opens me to insult, and gawd-only-knows that else, but...what are we doing with the memes? What are we doing with the #neverforget and the #wherewereyou hashtags?


Who are we talking to?


So many Americans are convinced that their fellow citizens don't care, or can't be bothered to remember a day that changed all our lives forever. That, my friends, is insanity. Our nation has been governed by that day. We elect people based on their ability to be "tough" on terrorists, and we think nothing of having to go through extensive security checks at transportation hubs, or other places where large numbers of people gather. Forget it? Seriously? It's part of who we are, now.


Here's my take, as one of those non-patriot Americans refusing to post a meme today. I'm one of the awful shitheads that did not "like" your updated profile shot with the 9/11 overlay showing how you, personally remember a thing that is, quite literally, impossible to forget.


Is there something, beyond meme-ing I mean, that you are doing today or any other day that will affect the lives of those who lost someone or were otherwise directly affected that day? Maybe you're part of a group that is raising funds/awareness for the badly needed 1st responder health care legislation? No? Helping victim's families with outreach? No? Orphan scholarships? Help for returning soldiers? Anything? Just meme-ing?


Huh.


I would not go so far as to tell anyone to take their meme and shove it up their ass, but I will say that if that is all you've got going on, and that's all you've done or have ever done in the 15 fucking years that real families in this country have been suffering real consequences, then yes...go for it.


Now, for the rest of you...thank you for seeing a need and filling it. Thank you for being a "high profile" person, such as a Jon Stewart or a Denis Leary (just two examples of thousands), and using your microphones to make positive things happen, even when shitbirds with a flag in one hand and a "never forget" pin on their lapels couldn't get off their crosses long enough to provide actual help to real people who survived. It is often those same so-called "patriots" who use their power to BLOCK help to survivors and families in their push to stay in mourning forever, or use the powerful imagery and emotion associated with a terrorist attack to further their own agendas.


Thank you for being a "low profile" person and doing the same.


Thank you, if you were a "low profile" person who accidentally became a high profile person in the pursuit of actual help for actual people.


Thank you if you are a "high profile" person happily working low-pro in the trenches to make things happen for people who really need it.


9/11 is still happening in this country, every day. Why? We've gone 15 years and because of our strong "patriotic" desire to re-live the trauma, we prevent ourselves from ever healing.


We can't stay in mourning forever. We must heal.  That is not to say we pretend nothing happened--quite the opposite, in fact. We need to acknowledge just how far-reaching it was, and I don't think we have, yet--certainly not on a national level. The people who died? Their families won't forget them, and neither will the nation--not for  several generations, at least.


The people who continue to live after losing a loved one (or their own health) to the attack or the ensuing rescue/clean-up or war effort? They won't ever forget it either, but we as a nation forget them all the time.


Let's change that.


Do something. Today of all days.


If you need inspiration, just use your Google. You have a Google, right? Search "help for 9/11 families" or any similar thing, and be amazed at how many people still need our help--help that a meme can't muster.

Here are a few to get you started.


Now,...put down the meme and walk away slowly.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

I Only Gained 2 Pounds at the Minnesota State Fair (And Other Damning Confessions)

A main topic of conversation in the state of Minnesota during the summer time is a thing called "New Fair Foods." For the uninitiated, this is when vendors who will be serving food or drink at the Minnesota State Fair come up with some exciting new dish that they will be serving exclusively at the fairgrounds during the 12 days the fair is going on. Local media is all over that information, for weeks. You can't escape it.


We eat it up. Literally and figuratively.


The new foods can be culinary extremes (this is how things like deep fried candy bars come into existence), or perfectly reasonable things like BBQ burnt ends (which I will eat anywhere, anytime, y'all...). 



The most appealing things fall somewhere in between "extreme" and "I already eat that, so why not?" Like candied bacon donut sliders. Bacon? Donuts? Together? Candied Bacon Donut Sliders? Of course I would eat that. Of course I would. Only a hateful person would not eat that.


Somehow I ended up not eating that.


Hey, it happens. You get to the fair, it's a sea of humanity, you look at the line at the place where that awesome thing is being served, or the sheer logistics of getting from one side of the fairgrounds to the other as you try to dodge a quarter of a million people (260,374, to be exact), and you say things like, "What's being served within 12 feet of the place I am currently standing? Because that's kind of where my head is at for effort."


And that's what you eat.


Well...sometimes. If I was alone at the fair, I would have happily moved through the madness and hit up a lot more places--it's just easier. I wasn't alone, and we didn't go nuts. Also, there were literally a quarter-million people there. You want candied bacon sliders? YOU go get them! I'll wait here. The other things is, I didn't prepare. Pelted as I was with information about the new foods, I didn't map anything out, didn't accept the sage advice of people who mapped it out for me (yes, this is a legit service provided by food writers in Minnesota in late August) and was basically a lazy lump about the food this year.


What can I say? I was there to see Rivers Cuomo in a sombrero, and I've been a bit of a food psycho for the last 18 months. Most fair food is....white food. Yes...that food shunned by people like me who enjoy losing weight. The short description is stuff involving flour, or sugar, or things that are breaded, or involve potatoes or corn. There are not enough "cheat days" all year to cover the dietary damage I would do if I ate very much of that stuff. I still ate too much (I gained 2 pounds! Damnit!).


Here are my lazy-writing bullet-pointed highlights about the food, the drink, the show, and the rest of it...


  • The minute I walked into the gates, I made my traditional first stop: The Schell's Brewery stand. There, I stood in a very long line for a very long time to check out the new taste sensation that is Red Sangria Lager. It was worth every second. I am not a lager person--I like an IPA when it's hot outside, a stout when it's cold outside and the occasional seasonal thing during the hot-to-cold or cold-to-hot transitions. The Red Sangria Lager? I weep for the fact that it is a State Fair exclusive. Incredibly good, easy to drink, mellow, perfect summer thing. Please, Schell's, figure out a way to put this in a bottle. Please.
  • The second stop, also traditional and not fancy or new, was the James D. Payne Memorial State Fair Corn Dog. Once when we were living in Duluth, I went to the fair with a friend and he stayed behind, but he made me promise to bring him a corn dog because he ate a corn dog every year at the state fair. It was his thing. He said no corn dogs taste like state fair corn dogs. Being the dutiful wife (HA! That's a good one...) I had one of the vendors wrap the thing in foil and I presented it to him when I arrived at home, probably saying something like, "Here's your stupid corn dog." He enjoyed it immensely, and swore it was just like being there. In the four years since his passing, every time I go to the state fair, I get a corn dog. It's dumb, I know, but...they really are better at the fair.
  • By this time, I have a couple (maybe more...I'll never tell) of those amazing lagers in me and I realize that a quarter of a million people is like, no big deal. I barely care. Wooo!
  • My friend decides she needs savory food so we locate a brat for her, and I, with a lager in each hand, cannot eat another thing until I drink more because I don't have a hand free to lift food to my mouth.
  • We hang out for a couple of hours like this, waiting for a good time to head to the grandstand for Weezer. I think to myself, if I can maintain this exact level of drunkenness for the duration of their concert, that will not only make it a magical, perfect night, but also, I'll be some kind of a beer drinking wizard.
  • We eat cheese curds. They are deep fried, and perfect and I'm happy. I start to worry that I may need more Red Sangria Lager.
  • We head to the grandstand. We missed Fury Things, which is a drag, but sat down just in time for The Struts. My friend decides that their lead singer, Luke Spiller, is pretty much a fancy Mick Jagger who sounds like Klaus Meine while somehow looking like Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show. All of this is absolutely delightful.
  • Another round.
  • I take the obligatory crowd photo and post to Twitter with some smart-ass comment and a half-dozen hashtags, because Attention Pig Never Sleeps. Several minutes later, a guy behind me is looking at Twitter on his phone and reads my Weezer-related tweet out loud to his friends. They laugh. I decide not to be all, "Hey! That was me!" and base my decision entirely on whether I feel cute enough to talk to a boy at that exact moment. Meh. Not my best look. Pass.
  • Weezer takes the stage. They are perfect. Perfect, in the sense that of course they're not, and they could probably rattle off a few things that went horribly wrong during the show, but they were exactly as I expected them to be and everything sounded great. The only change I would have made is to have them sing all of The Good Life, because hello, but ultimately the show was so stuffed with great songs, I'm just being selfish. I have long maintained that Weezer is the coolest band in the U.S.A., and I stand by that statement. They're even more cool than I gave them credit for. Best show this year. I sang my ass off (and yet, somehow still managed to gain 2 pounds at the fair. What the fuh...?)
  • Would you be surprised if I told you that the beefy white dudes in front of us danced just like...beefy white dudes? Crazy, right? Totally unexpected.
  • Rivers/Sombrero combo accomplished, we spilled back out into the quarter-million (assuming some had gone home at that point, but hard to tell...) and I decide I must have barbecue. Now. 
  • We locate RC's BBQ and one, "Oh, there's brisket," later, I'm sitting down to...what the hell?? Somebody cubed the meat instead of slicing it. What cruel and awful person would do such a thing? Brisket sandwich, people...you slice the brisket, not cube it. My friend, a recovering Texan, just about had a cow. How ironic that would have been.
  • I notice the line to the Red Sangria Lager is much shorter now, but I'm shooed off to a shuttle bus which will take us back to the car and eventually my house, two places where Red Sangria Lager does not exist. *sigh*. Next year, State Fair...