Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cookies 'n Cream.


I love ice cream to such an intense degree that I feel the need to make a different post about each particular flavor, and today I had myself a big ol' bowl of cookies & cream. It felt appropriate since the temperature has passed the century mark for the last day or two here in Portlandia, which seems a good enough reason to indulge in a big ol' bowl of ice cream, although let's be honest, any reason is usually a good enough reason to eat ice cream for me. I feel like cookies & cream is one of those classic flavors that gets forgotten a lot, in favor of flashier varieties like oh, say, any crazy flavor combo by Ben & Jerry's or some ridiculous combo from Coldstone, etc. etc. And then one day you decide to have a bowl of your regular ol' cookies & cream, or let's say maybe some butter pecan, and you realize, Holy crap, this is quite good.

Maybe I just view flavors like cookies & cream and butter pecan as classic flavors because they seemed to be ones which were frequently found in the freezer of my grandparents' house. Every Sunday of my childhood found my siblings and I having a big lunch, or 'supper' at my grandparents' house after church. The meals were always full of mashed potatoes laden with cheese and butter and some type of vegetable also laden with cheese and butter, along with some hearty variety of meat, and usually some of my grandma's 'cabbage salad,' otherwise known as coleslaw. But at Sunday supper it was always called cabbage salad, and I loved the crap out of that stuff. Maybe there was something different about it because of our family's loyalty to Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise at all times, but whatever it was, it was better than coleslaw. After this ridiculous gorging every week, my grandpa at the head of the table would lean back in his chair while my grandma started clearing the dishes and say, "Hm, girls, well I think there might be something in the freezer downstairs," and my sister and I would run down the stairs to their basement, where there was a huge honking storage freezer right at the bottom of the stairs. We'd lift up the lid and try to decide between the three or four cartons of ice cream which lay before us. There would also be some additional ice cream cartons in the freezer of the regular fridge upstairs in the kitchen, too - my grandparents weren't one to take their chances of an ice cream shortage - but there was always something special about the routine of going down to the basement freezer, pondering how many different kinds there would be in there that day. And a lot of the times, there'd be butter pecan, or tin roof sundae, or good ol' cookies & cream.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Weddings.




I LOVE THEM! My first wedding was my cousin Jen's. It took place in the church I grew up in and then at the classiest joint our small town has to offer and it also took place when I was an angsty teenager. I was lonely and whiney and convinced that this occasion would make me even lonelier and whinier, but then instead it was beautiful and touching and fun and peaceful and happy and ever since then I have been hooked. I have been to a few more since then - we got to go to one this week! - and have a few more coming up later in the year and although big family ones seem the most epic, I loved/will love them all. You get to dress up. You get to eat stuff for free. Depending on the wedding, you get to drink - a lot - for free. There is a cake. There are people you love, loving each other and loving life. Often, you get to see people you don't get to see enough. There is music. There is dancing. There is lots of photo-taking. I love them in all shapes, forms, and sizes and all sappiness levels.

We love weddings so much, we are starting to scheme up our own.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Southern Fast Food.

As I'm sure I've mentioned on here a few times, Kathy's & my plan post-Oregon is to eventually wind up in North Carolina. I am still feeling pretty swell about being right here in Portland, but there are occasions when my mind/heart swell for when I am permanently in the South and can enjoy certain things. Like all the unhealthy fast food.

Alright, so I've read Fast Food Nation, I've seen Super Size Me, I am concerned about how the low cost and also low nutritional value of fast food targets low-income minority groups, compounding their troubles. But I've learned that, while I like being educated, I also don't think I could ever be a purist about certain things. For instance, earlier this year I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, who I absolutely adore and usually agree with full heartedly and enthusiastically, but at the end of this book while I had learned a lot, I also realized that I could never not eat bananas. (Bananas were a no go in her strictly-locally-produced diet.) This was just a small point in her book, but one I really couldn't get over. Bananas are effing delicious! I know I am costing the environment tons of oil in transport from Latin America, but...they are effing delicious! In a similar way, you can't have a good road trip without a fast food stop, and sometimes nothing goes better with a late night and an empty belly than greasy fries.

Something about Southern fast food in particular really takes the prize for me. Perhaps because southern food in general always takes the prize for me, and so I get excited about even the homogenized fast food versions of it. I had lunch today at a Popeye's on MLK by the library bookstore where I volunteer on Tuesdays, where I have stopped a few times before. I am always by myself and always in a bit of a rush but something about that fried chicken po'boy and those red beans and rice makes me feel so darn happy. Of course, Popeye's belongs in Portland, Oregon as much as it belongs in Boston, Massachusetts, and although I'm not complaining, I also have respect for those glorious businesses which I rightfully can't get in the very-not-southern Pacific Northwest: the infamous Chik-Fil-A, who is so southern they are closed on Sundays. I even feel a little soft spot in my heart for places like Bojangles or Checkers and I've never eaten in them. Let's be honest, I am even a fan of McDonald's Southern style chicken sandwich, and that is a pretty wimpy imitation of Southern cuisine. And everybody's gotta love those neon yellow blocks that light up Southern highways, the good ol' Waffle House.

Some day. Some day, I will leave the sustainable, local, nutritional world of Burgerville, and head toward the land of endless fried chicken, lard laden biscuits, and iced tea made with ten pounds of sugar. Some day.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter.

There are some things I want to be able to say I like without feeling the need to explain why, and Harry Potter is one of them. I like Harry Potter. I like it because it makes me happy, and I feel that that is enough. The only few people I've met who actively dislike Harry Potter seem to be fellow literary types, and it doesn't interest me at all to talk about the literary merits of it. Although I hold a bachelor of arts in Writing & Literature and obviously understand the beauty & art of a well crafted piece of literature, I increasingly feel that the true purpose of books, or rather of fiction (other than educating people, of course) should just be to make people happy. I'm starting a literary theory & criticism class next week, and I feel that I could A) find it interesting & educational, or B) hate it, since "reading makes people happy!" probably isn't going to be covered in the class. But I digress. Like most Harry Potter fans, I love the books best but love the movies too, and having anything to be excited and silly about - like midnight releases of the newest Harry Potter movie - makes life better.

I started thinking last night as we waited in the theater about how long this phenomenon has been going on for me, and how in that fact alone it will probably wind up being one of the most important cultural experiences of my life. I started reading the first few books way back before any movie was made, staying up late reading in my bedroom in Pennsylvania, where all of my greatest and most intense reading experiences occurred, because everyone's greatest and most intense reading experiences occur when they are kids, and have the ability (and time) to let their creative mind wander out of control and become entranced in stories. The movie stars have long since taken over what my own visions of Harry and Ron and Hermione and Hogwarts were, but I've grown okay with that. And although not related to the movie that came out today, which I loved, here is one of the best things that has happened to me in the last few years: the last Harry Potter book was released; we waited at midnight to get our reserved copies at the Borders in Downtown Crossing in Boston, started reading on the T ride home. I think we had specifically asked off of work for the next day so we could read it, which is remarkably nerdy but just who we are. And aside from going out at night for a few hours (which I forced myself to do), for an entire day and a half, I did absolutely nothing but read a book. And I felt so inside of that book that the thought of doing anything else was hard to comprehend. For a moment, I was part of another world, transported in a way I used to do so easily when I was a kid in a bedroom in Pennsylvania. There is something about Harry Potter which melts away the entire world around me in a complete, impressive way, where thoughts of what I have to buy the next day at the grocery store or what I have to do that week for homework or what kind of silly drama will occur at work or if I'll get around to that huge pile of dirty dishes and huge pile of laundry in the apartment - they don't even begin to filter through my head for even a second, and that feeling - no matter what it is that makes you feel that, Harry Potter or no - is probably my favorite feeling in the world.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Our Man of Perpetual Sorrow, by Dan Savage.

I sadly do not listen to NPR, or This American Life, all that much. When I had long subway commutes in Boston I did spend many a ride listening to NPR podcasts, but since then it's been pretty wholly absent from my life. But Kathy is a good web savvy liberal and still listens to This American Life podcasts sometimes, and the other night a week or two ago when we'd gotten in to bed she got out her Macbook and had me listen to a piece from show #379, Return to the Scene of the Crime. This show included a musical number by Joss Whedon, which is pretty amazing and right up our alley, but she didn't have me listen to that, but to the last piece, entitled Our Man of Perpetual Sorrow, by Dan Savage.

I've tried to find Youtube or other such clips of it online, since the show was recorded in front of a live studio audience, but I've come up with pretty much nothing other than the full show which you can download here at NPR's website. It's free and easy and I urge you to go there, and click to about the 37:00 minute mark, and listen to it.

I cried while we listened to it laying in bed, but this was not too strange, being that I seem to cry easily at things. What was notable about it was the next day I got up, went to work, and throughout the day at work I would think about certain parts of it, parts where he said something particularly poignant or parts where his voice started to crack, and suddenly without control tears would spring to my eyes, again. In the middle of work. This was weird. For instance, I cried like a baby during the Michael Jackson memorial today, but thinking about it now, I still feel sad and moved but my eyes are dry. But this Dan Savage piece seeped under my skin in a weird way, probably for a variety of reasons. Because it is about being Catholic, and being gay, and about the awful pain of losing someone you love, and how to reconcile liking the feeling of being in a church, calm and quiet and holy, while knowing that you don't adhere to so many things the church stands for. It is an overall complex emotion and one I relate to in certain degrees. For instance, I knew in my mind that I stepped away from the Catholic church the moment I started dating Kathy, but sometimes when she mentions bad things about the Catholic church I get weirdly riled up and offended. Anyway, it's not really about me, or even the whole gay-religion thing, I think that just made the piece sting my heart even more. Savage's piece is really more about loss and coping with the idea of death, and it is shockingly honest and beautiful and I am mainly posting about it here because I want more people to hear it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

My favorite Simon & Garfunkel song.

Let us be lovers we'll marry our fortunes together
I've got some real estate here in my bag
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies
And we walked off to look for America

Kathy, I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've gone to look for America

Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said be careful his bow tie is really a camera

Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat
We smoked the last one an hour ago
So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

Kathy, I'm lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike
They've all gone to look for America

All gone to look for America
All gone to look for America

Friday, July 3, 2009

Por Que No? Taqueria.



Dear Por Que No Taqueria,

You will never be Anna's. For one, your ingredients are way too fresh and your dishes way too authentic. Also, you are totally not greasy enough to compare. In fact, you are really so different it's hard to even compare you at all, yet your names both have "taqueria" in them, and so it feels confusing. But I have quickly grown to love you in a separate-from-Anna's way, and this is why.

1) Your Pollo Asado tacos are SO GOOD. Your Pollo Verde tacos are also real good. Seriously though, the asado. SO. SO. Good. It is happiness.
2) You have a fun name.
3) Your Hawthorne restaurant is full of really fun, bright, random decorations, all of which I love.
4) Your fun, bright, random decorations continue to the seating area out back which I just recently discovered, which feels very Southern-California-esque yet Portland-secluded-garden-y at the same time.
5) You always have an assortment of fresh fruity drinks in big jugs on the front counter which your employees scoop into glasses with big fun ladles, which are also ridiculously good. Your raspberry lemonade I had a month ago stole my heart.
6) You have a big table just for a crapload of hot sauces for the customers' choosing, including a crapload of homemade ones, even though I've hardly tasted any of them because the pollo tacos are perfect as they are, but I appreciate just having the hot sauces there.
7) That corner of lime you serve with the tacos - when squeezed over the pollo verdes? Sweet, glorious perfection.

That is mainly it. Every time I drive by you recently there is a big line curling outside the door and on to the sidewalk, and it makes me feel happy for you. You deserve it.

Best,
Jill

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Michael Jackson.

Okay. So I know you are probably overly media saturated with news about Michael Jackson, his debt, his kids, his life, etc by now. But I actually haven't been, because I've spent the last week working a lot and then freaking out about school/my life when I haven't been working a lot, and so haven't been paying much attention. I have heard, however, some pretty offensive jokes about him made at work the day after he died, and overall a bunch of people complaining about all the attention he's getting when he hasn't been popular for years and is in general just a weird freakazoid. And so since this is my blog and I can say how I really feel (as opposed to just laughing kind of awkwardly at the offensive jokes so as to not make a scene at work), I feel the need to give my opinion.

Michael Jackson is awesome, and always will be. Yeah, he was weird. Like, really weird. And you would be too, if you had his life. I personally believe he had a pure, sad soul that just constantly wanted to be a kid and couldn't be. Regardless, his personal life doesn't matter, in my opinion. What matters is that he was the biggest pop icon of our generation.

I've heard people say "Yeah, well he had some good songs in 80s," or "Geez, I didn't know he was still so popular." 1) He did not just have good songs in the 80s. His songs in the 80s defined our generation of pop music & continue to do so. People who say his songs didn't are probably the same sort who say the Beatles were overrated. These people either just don't understand pop culture or have an annoying underlying need to be different or indie or something. The Beatles' created modern pop music; Michael Jackson was the biggest thing since the Beatles', and it doesn't matter if you particularly like either, that's just the way it is. 2) Because of that, he was, still is, and will always be popular. If he lived a full life, he would have continued to sell out megaconcerts in minutes until the day he died. When I re-listen to songs like Beat It, Dirty Diana, Smooth Criminal, Bad...it just confirms it even more. The man was a genius.

In addition, any revolutionary knows how to adapt to change and somehow preemptively know what the next big thing will be and throw themselves into it. Which is exactly what MJ did with Thriller and MTV. Sure, MTV is crap now, but MTV isn't really the point; now it's just all about YouTube. We're a visual, media driven society obsessed with short-clip-thrills, and Thriller is really what started it all. Will there ever be anything as epic and widely known as the Thriller video? Alright, maybe November Rain comes close, but that's it.

On a personal note, Kathy always attests that the moment She Knew For Sure About Me was one morning way back when at a breakfast outing with friends in Boston, Man in the Mirror came over the radio, which Lord help me just makes me so happy every time I hear it, and I sang along/kind of danced along ridiculously to the entire thing. (Make that change.) So there you have it. Michael Jackson brought us together, and made my life a better place. So thank you, Michael, & I hope you find peace.