Thursday, August 30, 2007
All this busy nonsense is starting again. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

Monday, August 27, 2007
Last Saturday night, I met up with some extended family members on the Upper West Side. We walked around for a while, watched the skate dancers in Central Park, then headed over to a nearby family-style Italian joint for dinner, drinks, and chat. (Note: Family-style here means that you order, say, the chicken parm, it costs $40, and you get like six or eight pieces of chicken and everyone shares.) Dinner was great, and I don't really know how, but somehow we all wound up getting a round of drinks on the house. (I think maybe we waited a long time for our food, but it really didn't seem all that long.) So a plate full of Italian food and two glasses of Malbec later, I was feeling pretty good. I had been invited to a party way down in Tribeca, so after dinner, cousin Eric and I cabbed down to check it out. Actually, I wanted to take the subway, but Eric said no, the subway will take too long, so he paid for a cab. It appears that my little cousin Eric is doing quite well for himself these days, which is not to say his older cousin Amy is not, but she sort of works for an educational non-profit in the Midwest, whereas he deals with very for-profit investment bankers in Manhattan. So yeah. We took a cab.

The party was called for 8, but that seemed insanely early for a Saturday night party, even by Midwestern standards. We walked into the bar at around a quarter to ten and the place was more or less empty. We found Evan (my brother) and Alaina (his, umm, betrothed), and they looked a little bored and a little pissed, but that is probably because they had been there for an hour! And when they got there (less than an hour after the party was called for, mind you), there was no party going on. Instead, there was Asian speed dating. Yes, Asian speed dating. And no sign of a party. But they hung around, and the speed daters left, and then it was just them and a few other people and the pinball machine. Oh, and the dj, who played Top-40 music at like jet-engine decibels. Ugh.

We all stood around for about an hour screaming into each other's ears, because the music was too loud for any normal conversation. I watched Alaina play pinball on the 1980s Playboy pinball machine. Eric's roommate showed up and they started drinking. I was still kind of woozy from my two glasses of wine (yes, I am a lightweight, thank you for noticing), so I didn't want to drink any more, and I don't think Evan and Alaina did either. Finally Randy (my other brother) and Carly (his special special friend) showed up, and we started screaming into their ears as well. But we really didn't know anyone else there, and I was kind of waiting for Andrea to show up so we could chat, even though it was getting late and also getting obvious that chatting was not going to be an option at this bar. Finally, at like 11:30, she showed up, we screamed into each other's ears for about ten minutes, and then I started to wind down big time. It was loud, I was tired, it was cold and drafty in there, I couldn't really talk to anyone, and my throat was hurting from all of the shouting. Maybe I'm getting old or something, but there was a definite moment when I thought, I should not be here. Unfortunately, almost everyone else seemed to want to stick around, but Evan and Alaina (who had been there since Asian speed dating, remember) were ready to go too, so we walked to a Dunkin Donuts on Canal Street, had very sweet lattes and a few munchkins, and cabbed back uptown to their apartment.

So yeah, I don't know if I'm getting too old for this stuff or what. Although, to be honest, I can't imagine that hanging out in a cold, empty, loud bar would have ever appealed to me. It definitely does not now.

Saturday, August 25, 2007
Woo. Yes, it's been ten days, but it seems like the world was against me in my efforts to write anything here. Before I get to that, the trip was good, and everyone is well, and fun was had, and sushi was eaten. When I got to my parents' house last Thursday, their interenet connection was bad, and soon it went from bad to non-existent. So there was no internet for a day or so. And then the connection was so slow and spotty that it was taking forever to do anything. And then I went to my cousin's house to see my new baby cousin (who is so tiny and so cute) and I kind of forgot about doing anything else. And then I drove back on Thursday (as in two days ago), and hit an awful thunder-and-windstorm during the last 30 miles and drove into a dark town with almost all of the lights out and up to our house, which also had no power. We had no power all day yesterday, which wasn't fun but wasn't awful, aside from having to trash the contents of our fridge and freezer. Finally at 11 last night, we got our electricity back. It sucked, but considering the early estimates were for us to be without power until tomorrow night, I guess it could have been much worse.

And now I'm catching up and cleaning up, but there are things to write about, so new posts all week, I hope.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup. I had been wanting to see Crowded House in concert for years. In fact, the first time Paul and I went out, he asked me what band I would like to see play live (among bands that could potentially play live), and I said Crowded House. And last night, I went to Ann Arbor to see Crowded House! Of course, Paul is not much of a Crowded House fan, so he did not go, but my friend Coreen went with me, and it was a great show! Here you see the immensely talented Neil Finn singing one of their slower numbers. I can't remember exactly which one, but I know it was slow because I was able to see the stage and actually get a photo without heads in the way, because when they played the uptempo stuff, everyone stood up like it was a goddamn Fall Out Boy show or something.

I was most impressed with how well his voice has held out over the years and how tight the harmonies were. Their live performance sounds as good and full as their studio stuff. And Neil Finn's voice has not weakened or diminished at all. Aside from dropping an octave on maybe two or three higher lines all night, our man Neil was able to belt out all the old songs with the same tenor that he had 20 years ago. They did get to some of the newer stuff (hey, they have a new album: Time on Earth), but for the most part, they stuck to a lot of the old favorites: Don't Dream it's Over, Weather With You, Better Be Home Soon, Pineapple Head (a personal favorite), and so on. They didn't get to much off of Temple of Low Men, which I love, but they did play half of Woodface, which is probably my least favorite Crowded House album but does contain one of my favorite CH songs, Italian Plastic, which they unfortunately did not play. I was surprised that they didn't get to Mean to Me, but then I remembered the line in there about "her friends committed suicide"; their original drummer killed himself last year, so maybe they don't play that one anymore. (Though they did play Chocolate Cake despite a reference to Tammy Bakker, not to mention the lack of melody in that song.) Anyway, they are out on tour for the next few weeks, and if you have the chance, I would definitely recommend seeing them.

As for me, I am hitting the road tomorrow for a week in New York for some visits. By the time you read this, I will be couting the cars on the New Jersey Ohio Turnpike. Updates from NY? Yeah, probably.

Monday, August 13, 2007
I guess the downside to time off is that there isn't much to say. Nothing to complain about, no difficult situations to overcome, no people getting in my way. Some people might find that boring, but I am not bored at all. It's actually really nice.

I'm heading to New York on Thursday to spend some time at home before school starts up again. I was hanging out with some people on Friday night, and when I mentioned to the group that I was going to New York, one of my friends (who is older than my parents and retired, so it feels weird to call her my friend, but she's actually really great) asked me if I could get something in New York for her husband. I couldn't imagine what it might be. Then she asked me to get him a package of Hebrew National salami. Yes: Hebrew National salami. If you are not familiar with this product, it is salami, but it's kosher and all-beef. It is also heavily processed, kind of floppy (as opposed to hard salami), and not spicy like traditional Italian salami might be. It is sold in those round, hang-able packages like Oscar Mayer bologna. Each pack contains about a dozen perfectly round, impeccably sliced, pungent pieces. Every once in a while, there is an unevenly sliced piece, but it doesn't happen often and is therefore kind of a novelty. ("Look! I got the thin slice of salami! Mmmmm!) We used to eat it by the case when we were kids, as it was a lunchbox staple and my mom was not keen on my brothers and me buying the school hot lunch. We often ate it on rye bread, but sometimes we had it on Freihofer's white bread. I liked it with a little Gulden's mustard. My brother Randy used to eat it with ketchup. Thinking about that still makes me gag.

Anyway, I haven't really thought about Hebrew National salami in a long time, because who eats that stuff anymore? That, plus they don't sell it in Kalamazoo (though I think you can get Hebrew National hot dogs around here, because just this afternoon someone asked me if they were any good). But my friend's husband used to eat Hebrew National salami when he was a boy in Cleveland, even though he wasn't Jewish, and he loved it. They pick up a pack whenever they see it, but it's not that often. So I said sure, one pack of Hebrew National salami will be in my cooler on the drive home.

I wouldn't eat Hebrew National salami now (it just seems kind of gross), but my mom used to do this recipe with it that smelled awful but tasted really good. She used to buy a Hebrew National salami bullet (a small, whole salami), score it in small chunks, then pour over it a mixture of Gulden's mustard and orange marmalade. Then she'd stick it in a hot oven for an hour or so, and I swear it would smell like something died in there. And then she'd take it out and it would look like steaming sewage. But for some reason, it tasted great, and whenever she made it for parties, it was the first thing to go. I remember once we forced our cousin Eric to try it, and he was almost in tears because we wouldn't leave him alone, but then he wound up liking it a lot and eating half of the tray. I don't know if the lesson there is to try new foods, or that kosher food can be good, or that torturing younger, smaller family members is not inherently bad. Maybe a combination of all three.

And an interesting fact-oid: If I am reading this Wikipedia entry correctly, Hebrew National products are made right here in Michigan now that they are part of ConAgra.

Friday, August 10, 2007
Calm and quiet. This is good.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007
I had been invited to a party today, and I was seriously considering not going. It was over an hour away, for one thing, and it was kind of rainy, which means no outside fun. But, I did say I would go, and I felt some obligation to bring the box of turkey burgers I said I would bring, and I figured, fuck it, I'm off this week. So I did some grading, worked out, threw my bathing suit (wishful thinking) and the turkey burgers in the car, and headed north.

And you know what? I am so glad I did. It was a party with the people I had been going to school with all summer, and it was actually really fun to hang out with them without having to worry about assignments or presentations or any other kind of class stuff. Plus, the party was at a lake house, and there was a speedboat and a jetski, and after we all had lunch, the rain cleared out and we got to go out on the lake. I had never been tubing or jet-skiing before, so I was really excited to try them both. I bellyflopped onto a tube, and was given only one instruction: hang on for dear life. Holy shit, that was some really good advice, because there were times when my arms were really straining to keep me on that thing. I don't know how fast my friend's son waas pulling us, but I held on for probably five minutes before I cut across the wake going way too fast, lost my grip, and skidded across the surface of the water on my face. Yeah, it stung a little, and my neck is just a little stiff right now, but it was a lot of fun! And I was really glad to be wearing a life vest, because within a few seconds I was upright and breathing fine without any effort. Three cheers for personal flotation devices. Oh, and my friends on the boat said my wipeout looked awesome. So that counts for something. My friend's son also said that he was going easy on us. I'm not so sure about that, but everything seems to be in place and functioning properly, so maybe it's true. I did lose my hair band, so within a few minutes of getting on the boat, I had a Jackson 5-worthy afro, but I'm just fine otherwise. And then I soon learned, after watching a few other people get flung off a tube, that all tubing wipeouts look awesome and really aren't so painful.

So then I was eager to jump on the jet ski. I had seen them for rent on a couple of different lakes, and I had seriously thought about renting one on a number of occasions, but they're always so pricey (upwards of a hundred bucks an hour), and I guess I could never justify it. But I hopped on (again with a life vest), and I guess I didn't realize how fast those things go, because within a few seconds I was over 40 mph. I don't know about jet skiing on Lake Michigan, but on this tiny, calm lake, it was great. In fact, I slowed down when I hit any wake because I was maybe just a little bit afraid to be bouncing all around like that, especially since I am a novice jet skier, and my friend who owns the jet ski warned us to be careful because the majority of jet ski accidents happen because first timers like me don't know what the hell they're doing. So I was careful, but it was fun, and now I sort of want one.

I can already tell that I will be really sore tomorrow, but I think it was worth it. The moral of the story? When you are invited to a party, you should go.

Sunday, August 5, 2007
You know how some people have to be the first to buy something? I am usually not that kind of person, but I find that with some things, I start to get antsy if I don't get it as soon as it is available. Recently, I discovered that a new Don DeLillo novel is one of those things. Falling Man, his latest novel, was released last month, and I ordered it as soon as Amazon was shipping it. Usually when I buy a book as soon as it comes out, it sits on my bookshelf for a while. (Obviously, I have not quite made the leap from needing to buy a newly released book to actually reading it.) But this time, I actually started reading it as soon as it came in the mail.

As a reader-writer type of person, I feel like I should love Don DeLillo. Academics love him, and he is just funny and snarky enough for enough of the general public to love him too. Critical success plus public success usually equals good. And in DeLillo's case, I think that holds true. But I don't know. Maybe it's me. I liked Falling Man, but I wasn't exactly blown away by it.

The title refers to the 9/11 photo of the man falling head first out of the WTC. You know what it looks like; you've probably already summoned it up in your head, but click on the link if you need a refresher. I guess trying to work 9/11 into fiction has become a bit of literary sport, as there are more than a few books and movies dealing with the subject. I have stayed away from the movies, in most part because I really don't want to see it fictionalized. Seeing it played over and over a few falls ago was enough for me. So I'm not sure what made me want to read this book, because, as I found out, I'm not particularly interested in reading about it either.

Which is not to say that DeLillo can't write, because he knows how to weave plot lines, turn phrases, and write character quirks as well as anyone. And to turn the idea of the falling man into a performance artist who is creating a different kind of terror in New York City is brilliant. But I think DeLillo can also be boring at times. (I couldn't even get through Cosmopolis, which is considered by many to be his worst effort. I wish I had known that when I started it.) Maybe it was the subject matter, but whatever the reason, I was occasionally bored with Falling Man.

I haven't read everything he's written, but apparently this is his best work in quite some time. Still, I would recommend White Noise or Underworld instead of this book (despite Underworld's epic length, reading it is quite worth the time and energy). If all of those 9/11 movies were interesting to you, you might find Falling Man interesting too. But I think for a lot of people, it's still too soon, and I think I am one of those people. This does not bode well for the paperback of Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close on my bookshelf, as it's also about 9/11. I don't see myself digging into that one anytime soon. But that's okay. New books are released every week, and I'm sure I will feel the need to buy one soon.

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