Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Revolution















Hi-YAH! Hi-YAH! Hi-YAH!

That's the sound of me ninja kicking in the new year.

I'm all hopped up on New Year's jolly, inhaling some serious 2009 spirit, and snorting all the pleasantness that arrives in the mail with my brand-new calendar. Furthermore, I am injecting--directly into my veins--some fresh hope for serious life-altering situations that will make my 2009 better than my 2008.

So, let's talk about New Year's resolutions and how much I hate them.

I'm one of those people who always makes the resolutions and then falls into that depressive funk we call February. (I mean, Valentine's Day? Seriously? Why don't they just mail me a razor blade and a bucket? And March? Don't even get me started. It plays with my emotions. It's warm one day, and then it snows again. The national state of being for those two months should be "drunk.")

Slowly but surely, as the winter continues and my skin dries out, my resolutions unravel and I once again find myself in September wondering where the year went.

So, I'm not going to tell you about some doomed-to-fail resolutions for 2009. I'm not going to make big plans, and set goals, and end up kicking myself for not following through with them. People who distribute pamphlets, high school guidance counselors, and self-help authors can talk all they want about goals and deadlines and accomplishments. But, really, that's not how life works.

As my mom always says, "Just when you think you're getting somewhere, the washing machine breaks down. Then, the dryer." And while she was specifically referring to her own washing machine and dryer at the time, it really is a fitting metaphor for life. Almost everything is outside of our control, although we like to pretend it isn't. And I'm not talking about some religious idea of some mighty hand of God or anything like that. I'm talking about nature, disaster, the occasional broken limb, snowstorms, and rogue bullets. No one makes a New Year's resolution to avoid such things. We just assume we will. Instead, we resolve to drop 15 pounds, take up water ballet, pay off our credit cards, and find meaningful relationships.

I always assumed that by 2009 I would be married, thin, glorious, and successful. Why? Because that's what happens to people in romantic comedies. There are always a few setbacks that last a few months. The cheating ex-boyfriend gets a drink thrown in his face and our protagonist saunters away to Aretha Franklin. She is later seen in a montage peeling wallpaper, knocking down walls with a large sledgehammer, and dancing around with glass of wine in her hand. "She's an independent lady now. Glory be! And now she's a-gonna take this world by storm." And she does. A perfect man falls into her arms and we leave her on the couch in the fancy apartment happy, happy, happy, and well-adjusted. Who knew that all she had to do was throw that drink and knock down some walls?

This year, instead of telling myself to exercise more, or work on being nicer, or pay off those credit cards (all things I really need to do), I am just going to congratulate myself on continuing to breathe in and out. Because isn't the basic New Year's resolution making it to 2010?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Dad, Santa Claus, and Christmas Insomnia

















I found out the truth about Santa Claus because my dad overestimated my ability to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. I never could. My bedroom was right off the living room, and I could hear everything my parents talked about after their children went to bed.

"I'll eat the cookies," my dad said to my mom, "and you can drink the milk." And in that moment, I realized that for all those years I had been duped. No wonder Dad always insisted we put out plenty of rum balls. And Mom! She was no better, drinking room temperature milk to make us think that Santa had done it.

I had been thinking about the presents under the tree. Wondering if it were too early to get out of bed at 4. Or if maybe 5 would be better. It all depended on what time we could force our grandma to get up. She was, by nature, a late sleeper. But if we were loud enough, maybe she would take a hint.

Our parents were also going to be a challenge. Mom was easy as long as she got some coffee. But Dad? He made delaying the opening of presents a big, sick game. Sometimes, he insisted on pancakes beforehand. Sometimes, he wasn't joking. And then there was the inevitable trip to the bathroom.

My dad made an event of pooping, particularly on Christmas Day. Some people go into the bathroom, take care of business, and then leave. Other people, like my dad, fill in at least one whole number puzzle, read a fascinating article, and then do their taxes. When Christmas morning rolled around, Dad retreated to what he called his "Bat Room," locked the door, finished an entire puzzle book and read what we suspected was the dictionary. Meanwhile, his children sat patiently around the Christmas tree awaiting his arrival. (Which means we were pounding on the bathroom door and yelling at him to pinch it off.)

And so as I lay there contemplating all of these things, my dad got hungry and decided to eat Santa's rum balls.

I wasn't even that upset. I knew. I was probably seven or eight years old by then. But until I overheard my dad say it out loud, I still got to pretend it was all real. Part of the fun was waking up on Christmas morning, running out to the tree, and frantically reading labels to find the ones from Santa. I wanted to still look at the sky and try to spot the sleigh. I wanted to listen for hooves on the roof of our house. I wanted the magic.

But if there's one thing you come to understand as you grow older, it's that the magic goes out of Christmas eventually, whether or not you're ready for it. One Christmas morning, you realize that you went to sleep at your normal time and slept all night without one thought about present opening or Santa Claus. You don't put cookies out, your parents go to sleep before you do, and the only insomnia you have is caused by your cat gagging on the spool of thread she tried to eat at 2 AM.

You also come to realize that Christmas is about those things that don't change, no matter how old you get. For me, there may be no Santa. There may be no magic. But there is still my dad, rum balls, and that huge stack of puzzle books by the toilet.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Let Them Eat the Dessert of Their Choosing













This afternoon, I skipped down to the farmer's market at Union Square on a mission that I am on frequently. The pursuit? That of a tiny pie.

What is a tiny pie, you ask? Well, it is a pie that is tiny. If you don't look closely, you might even think it's a muffin and walk right past it. But, no, it is a pie. A teeny-tiny, perfect little pie. I would probably swim through a tank full of large minnows to get a tiny pie. But that is because I enjoy pie very much. With the exception of banana cream, I cannot think of a type of pie I don't enjoy. (Put a bag over it's head, and I'll probably eat it anyway.) I even like mincemeat pie with actual meat in it. MEATY!

But we're not here to talk about pie. At least we're not here to talk about JUST pie. We're here to discuss one of the greatest debates that the world has ever known:

Which is better? Pie or cake?

Every time I mention the fact that I just enjoyed a tiny pie, people feel the need to tell me which side of the debate they are on. For instance:

The Mayor of Bethville: I just ate the most delicious pie.

Person: How dare you speak those words to me? Cake is clearly better, or my name isn't Hitler Von Stalincake.

And then we duel to the death, and I win because pie is better.

But let's rewind so that I can tell you that I do love cake. It's not like I sit around and wish ill will upon cake or those who love it best. I love it. I really do. I'm just very picky about it. Because here's the thing...

Cake has the ability to be terrible; pie does not. If it's a little bit dry, if the frosting is gross, if someone tried to swap the sugar for Splenda....well, that's a shame because I'm not going to eat it. Pie, on the other hand, is very rarely inedible. So, while I love cake a good deal, pie is what I prefer. I will explain further by using an elaborate and unnecessary metaphor.

Consider, if you will, that I am torn between two lovers. One who is very rich and is well versed in how to pleasure a woman. He buys me things. He takes me on vacations. And yet, I feel in a way that to him I am just another woman to be pleasured. And one day, during a very passionate moment, he hoses me down with whipped cream and attempts to lick it off without even asking me if that is something I am interested in doing. In short, he is fun and exciting, but he and I do not have a long-term connection.

But there is another lover who is maybe a bit scruffier. He has simple tastes but is interesting and nice. Maybe he isn't the fanciest man out there. He comes in a tiny pie tin that is covered with Saran wrap, not a fancy cupcake box tied up with string. And yet, it is scruffy man that I can trust. It is pie that I crave more often.

Pie is a stable food. There is reassurance in its crust, that whatever you find inside will probably taste good. It's really, really hard to screw up the filling of a pie. It's fruit. It's sugar. Pie can be as ugly as a mud puddle and still be delicious.

But with cake, you start throwing in leavening agents and layers. You have one baker who gets a little hasty with the mixing, and whammo! Disaster. Like my pretend wealthy lover, cake thrives on its prettiness. A flat cake is not pretty.

And don't even get me started on frosting. Frosting is a fine art. Whether you use cream cheese, butter, or shortening as a base, you are obligated to make sure that the deliciousness of that frosting matches the deliciousness of that cake. And alternately, that cake had better be as good as the frosting. I cannot tell you how many times I have taken a bite of a delicious-looking cake only to discover that some asshole frosted it with whipped topping. Or worse, left it uncovered, so that it dried out.

Pie has no such drama to speak of.

I suppose we could spend hours debating which is better. We could bring in diplomats from Cookie Town, Candyburg, and Puddington to share their opinions as well. And even one of those people who insists that he or she doesn't like sweets. But I suppose that it's best for now to continue to live at peace with the cake eaters. More pie for us that way.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Alone at Home













Today, I found an apartment. And it is mine. All mine. And, no, you can't live there with me because, in the words of the ever-wise Kevin McCallister, "I'M LIVING ALONE!"

There are two things I always wanted when I grew up. 1) An ice cream maker and 2) My own apartment. The ice cream maker was perhaps a bit easier to come by. It was only $14.95. The apartment was slightly more expensive but doesn't require ice, rock salt, and heavy cream.

I used to fantasize about finding my own place. Like a hideout, or a clubhouse. Our farm was filled with several abandoned sheds, and I just knew that one of them was secretly my home. I could hang curtains and haul in an old chair for reading in. And no one but me would know it was there. Unfortunately, all of the sheds on our farm were abandoned for a reason: they were falling down. Or filled with rotting grain. Or both. And so, despite my many attempts to find a secret hideout, I was stuck hiding out in my bedroom. Singing along to Roxette. Pretending I was a Goonie. Reading titilating romance novels. (Which, in retrospect, were more hilarious than titilating.) When I was in my bedroom, I believed that no one could hear my horrible singing. Or my Truffle Shuffling. Or my frantic page turning.

And that is what I crave with my new apartment: the ability to do whatever I want, whenever I want. To lay on the couch without having to make room for other people. To let my dishes sit in the sink overnight if I don't feel like washing them. To watch TV in my underwear: baseball in the summer, old movies on in the winter.

Of course, visitors will be welcome, as long as they don't drink too much Pepsi before bed. I mean it.